Friday, January 15, 2010

The Right Foot

Sometimes the right foot for free motion quilting makes all the difference in the end result.

Anyone who has read my books or taken my classes knows I highly recommend an "open toe" free motion foot. This foot lets you see directly, in an unbroken line, to the needle. You can aim with this foot. It is invaluable in doing detailed, precise quilting where each stitch counts.

However, there are other kinds of quilting that can be accomplished more successfully with a closed toe, larger foot, photo above. The Bernina #29 foot is included with most models for free motion quilting. It lets you see around and through it because it is clear plastic, is built with a nice spring bounce so you can "feel" the stitches as they happen, and works great for larger, allover designs. The size of it helps disperse the puff around the needle and keep distortion problems minimized. It is a great little problem solver!

However, because I rarely quilt those large allover designs my #29 foot languished sadly in my cabinet drawer. I discouraged students from using it. It strains your neck to peer into the tiny opening to see, for example, precise intersections that needed to be hit in Apple Core or Diane-shiko. I even suggested cutting an opening in the front to give you a visual doorway to the needle.

However! This past year I have found myself reaching for it many times for a few important jobs. In the photo above I used it for long straight lines in an undulating vine in a border motif. It controls the batting so well, flattens it down around the needle and disperses the puff beautifully so I can get even smooth stitches. The foot is doing so much of the work for me. I love it!

After those lines were stitched perfectly with this foot I switched to my usual #24 foot for the rest of the quilting.

I also love this bigger #29 foot for stay-stitching raw quilt edges down. It smoothly rides over batting edges too and controls the edge so this becomes an easy feat to accomplish. I was tired of getting batting caught in the toes of my open toe foot, the top part of the quilt moving along and getting pleats stitched in.

Any long lines, even long cross hatch grid lines, work best with this foot.

Every machine manufacturer has a variety of feet for free motion quilting. Check them out, try each one to see what it does best. It takes a moment to switch them out and I love having the right tool for the job.

Below, my trusty #24 open toe foot that I use for most of my free motion quilting. It gives me incredible visibility plus that open unobstructed view to the needle is invaluable for relaxed quilting, and precise quilting.

Below, some recent quilting where I used both feet successfully. The long curved lines were done with my new friend, the plastic #29 foot, and the remaining quilting was done with my old best friend, the open toe #24 foot.

I did not use the magnifier for the long lines. I like to see the "whole field" and just aim for a point for smoothness. It doesn't have to be in sharp focus. Indeed, the magnifier doesn't work that great for this kind of work.

However, when I did the close background quilting, or even the precise Diane-shiko, I did use the magnifier. I love it. I have one especially for my Bernina, but there are generics available for all machines if you have eye problems, or just want to see what you're doing a little larger.

Take some time to find out what feet you have, what are available, and what works best for each particular type of quilting.

Keep quilting! Your work gets better every day.


Rebecca said...

Beautiful work. My mom just directed me to your blog because we use the same machine.

Will be following! Thanks!

Mary said...

In the top picture are you sewing with the quilt coming towards you? It looks backwards to me...I love my Bernina Feet! I discovered a new Button on mine to that helps with the quilting. My Bernina is a Patchwork Edition 140, pretty basic. Button #21. The stitching is more even.

Diane Gaudynski said...

I forgot to mention that I usually do my quilting "away from me," as shown in the top photo.

It is easier to pull the fabric and work smoothly away from yourself than to push and plow. In a marked straight line it doesn't matter, but in many freehand designs it is SO much easier to build them by starting at the bottom of the design and building UP, or away from yourself. Give it a try!

In the first photo, rather than turning the quilt (I try not to ever turn the quilt) I will quilt one of the lines in this double line design towards me, then the second one away from me. It isn't hard at all if you have a foot that lets you see behind it....and I do.

Explore your machines and see what they have that makes quilting better and easier. And also work with what is best for you. You are the final say in anything you do.

Sandy said...

Your work is so inspiring! I hope that someday I'll be able to do work that's even a fraction as beautiful as yours. :)

Diane Gaudynski said...

Thanks Sandy - keep trying to improve and it will happen!

Sandra said...

I also have a Bernina and usually use the open toe foot for machine quilting. Thanks for the tip about using the #29 foot to reduce the puffing that sometimes occurs around the needle. I will be sure to try this. I appreicate all the information you share.

Diane Gaudynski said...

You're welcome Sandra. I tend to get in a rut and use what I've always used and lose out on some better ways, tools, etc. It's good to experiment a bit. Most dealers will let you return a foot if it doesn't work out for you, but ask ahead of time.

Featheronawire Sally Bramald said...

Oh dear another purchase...I'm sure I've never seen the #29 with any of my Berninas. The freemotion couching foot seems quite similar though

Gwendolyn said...

That's great advice about the #29. I do use the open foot (at your advice) but could totally see how the closed foot will help with puckering! I'll have to try that as I do alot of larger background quilting! Thanks

Diane Gaudynski said...

I don't have the couching foot, have been meaning to try one out, but it might be a great option instead of the #29. It is for free motion, so should be fine.

This foot really does help with equalizing the area around the needle and preventing puckers and distortion. Note on my top and last photo how smooth the fabric is between the lines and I quilted them in opposing directions, and pinning was minimal.

Lyn Armstrong said...

Diane, that tip about quilting away from you is so useful, I will give it a try, thanks so much.

Sally said...

Always love the new info I get from your blog (in addition to your books, of course). What kind of a magnifier do you use--stand alone or one that clips on your machine. BTW, I was recenlty diagnosed with dry macular degeneration and think it's partially caused by watching so closely my piecing and quilting and not blinking. Remember to blink, blink, blink. And use eye drops. Advise from my doctor who knows I won't quit quilting. Sally

Diane Gaudynski said...

Sally, I use the Bernina magnifier set, comes with 3 strengths of optical quality lenses that slot into the little "arm" that comes on some of the models, all ready for the magnifier. Then turn the thumbscrew and tighten it in place at the tilt that is best for your eyes, your posture. Love them. I'll try and get a photo soon. I always take the magnifier off the machine when I do take photos so it doesn't conflict with what I am trying to show.

Yes, BLINK. Yes, take frequent breaks, look up, get away from close work. Don't go from the machine to the computer. Go up and down the stairs a few times, really. As I get older I can quilt for fewer minutes at a time before I must take a break.