Even though it is spring and everyone is busy with a zillion spring things, take some time to play at your sewing machine with your quilting. It's something you put off, think of it as the dreaded PRACTICE, but for me it is always a little escape into the world of relaxing quilting.
It's not a project, you won't ruin anything, and you can work at one thing at a time and not stress over everything looking perfect. Concentrate on a design, or getting stitches/tension looking their best. Experiment with different colors or threads or styles. Hone your skill when you decide on what looks best. Repeat the design many times, spend some hours at one thing.
One of the things I notice about students is their impatience, and wanting to jump from one thing to the next too quickly. Settle in, say to yourself that you will really get to know a design. Change the scale, color of thread, use it as focal point, try it smaller as a fill.
I used a leftover class demo sample to sit and play awhile back, good quality washed muslin, wool batt, silk thread. I use the things I will quilt with in a real quilt for this practice time, this experimenting, this "what if...." session.
Above I used a class sample I had quilted already of headbands done in a variegated #50 Aurifil cotton thread, and quilted some small feathers around them. They then became a focal point design, and I could have added a few echo lines and then some smaller backgrounds and I would have had something new and interesting to add to a setting square or place in a quilt that needed "something."
Above, some spirals that went right into feathers on the outside. I tried to overlap them but didn't like the thread build-up that made it look messy, so if ever used, they would be isolated probably. I did some dark thread warm-up and then played a bit with some ink on that area.
Here is an experiment with some larger stipple shape I call in my mind "linear stippling" because it is long echoing shapes of the stipple. In the top left it started as triangles that I used to teach in Ripple Stipple, but the effect can be more loose and open, relaxed, but still very ripply. It is a usable variation on something I already know how to do well, a nice design I can save and use at some point.
Some tips for playing at your machine:
- Give yourself adequate time for a session. If it's only 10 minutes, oil the machine instead.
- Start with something you know and warm up until you feel loose and relaxed. Then try to morph that design just a bit, or add something to it.
- Take notes right on the sample because you won't remember. Color of thread, tension, needle, even degree of difficulty for you.
- Save the samples in a special place, box, drawer, shelf, so that you can find them later. When you are working on a quilt, get this out ahead of time and start thinking if any of your ideas will work.
- To refresh a skill done in the sample, rather than starting on a clean sample, quilt some more on the previous sample near the design itself. Your brain will take in the previous quilting, and key off it, providing the visual you need to recreate it after some time has passed.
- Your machine will like the time you spend with it. Now that I know I must USE my machines and not just store the ones I don't use frequently (yes I do have several, have kept them all over the years), this is a great way to keep them up and running well.
- When you return from quilt inspiration such as a guild meeting, a class, a quilt show, try some of the things you were excited about using right away or you'll forget about them. Create a lasting sample, and capitalize on the experience and sights you've just had.
I know when I got this sample out I had forgotten about my Giant Fronds, and saw them, immediately wanted to use them in a real quilt. And then the new bubble wrap design.....and more.
Hope this has inspired some of you to take a Sunday afternoon and spend it at your machine!
Keep quilting! Your work gets better every day....