Tuesday, March 30, 2010

More from Class

On my recent trip to California I stayed on after the 5-day class at Empty Spools and taught a class for the Monterey Peninsula Quilt Guild.  The lobby of my hotel had ocean inspired decor including some gorgeous tropical fish in a huge tank. 

We learned clamshell quilting and after I explained all the places and sizes and options for this standard design, I did mention it is also called fish scales and could be used on pictorial quilts.  When I returned to my hotel there I noticed the clay pot on the table in the lobby, photo above, etched with this lovely design.  It's versatile and always works when you need a nice, even texture.

Below is a photo of clamshells quilted with #100 silk thread on a blue hand dyed cotton.  It gives wonderful texture but is still an "organized" design, pleasing to the eye.  If you find your lines start sinking at one end, every now and then draw a straight line for reference only to keep lines of clamshells level.  These are about 3/8" in size.  Larger ones are more difficult to keep even.

If you want funky clamshells let them go downhill, change size or shape. 

 Make them larger at the bottom row and decrease the size to create perspective, nice for pictorials.  Always begin at the bottom of the design, and build up, like building a brick wall. 

Below are some fast and wicked "relaxed" clamshells, done at top speed, for a very casual look.  Don't worry if they aren't rounded, they are supposed to be loose and casual.  You could do a nice pine cone with this design too.  They would work great on a busy print, providing texture, but not formality.

We learned many things in that 2-day class.  One, you must know your sewing machine and be able to adjust it, and get it to work properly.

If you have your machine serviced before any class, when you get it home check it to see it is OK.  Sometimes changes are made and you can't get it to free motion quilt correctly. 

If you haven't had it serviced, make sure it is working well for class, cleaned and oiled and ready to go.

Bring your free motion feet to class.  Bring the foot control.  :-)

If you have a new plexi surround, wash it thoroughly first.  They tend to be very sticky when new, and quilts will not move well or at all.  Warm soapy water, some white vinegar, buff it dry with a clean flour sack dish towel.  Over time and use the surround will get better.  If it gets sticky at any time, don't be afraid to wash it.

If you are taking a free motion machine quilting class and are a beginner or haven't done much, take some time ahead of the class to practice daily. 

Don't try all sorts of complex designs.  Instead, simple curved lines, loops, writing, repetitive shapes will help you get nice even hand movements and smooth stitches.  Try for consistency and try to get your machine to work at its best.

Start with one even speed on the machine, and coordinate your hand movement to this speed so the stitches look even and a good length.

For practice or learning motifs, I recommend a fine cotton thread in ecru or a very light color, even white, and a #70 Microtex Sharp needle (Schmetz).  Threads include  Aurifil #50, Superior MasterPiece cotton, YLI Soft Touch cotton, #60 Mettler cotton, DMC #50 cotton.  These are all excellent threads for quilting, top and bobbin. 

Wash some great quality muslin, layer it with a good batt like Hobbs Tuscany Wool or Quilters Dream Select cotton, and use ecru or a very light color of thread, top and bobbin, and start in the center of an 18" square practice sandwich.  Get the feel of it, the flow, attempt nice even stitches.

Even though you do not set the stitch length when feed dogs are lowered, a good looking stitch for this thread would be measured at about 1.7 mm.  If you don't know what it looks like, stitch some at this length with your walking foot.  Fine threads require a smaller stitch than the default setting.

Try sketching a curved line on your sample, and then quilt it on or close to the line. 

Most often I see much smaller stitches when there is a line compared to quilting with no marked line.  You should learn to get the same stitch length for both no marked line and with a marked line, and this takes some practice.

Try some echo quilting - quilt a soft curvy line and then repeat it a scant 1/4" away.

Don't "lazy susan" your quilt.  Keep it facing the same direction.  If you want to quilt to the west, simply do that, but don't turn the quilt.  This will allow you to quilt a large quilt in a home machine when you CANNOT turn it.

Play at your machine.  Relax, enjoy the process.  Don't be hyper critical, this is not the easiest thing in the world to do, but look at what you quilt and decide how to make it better.  Take a break, come back and try it again with that in mind.  It is a process; it doesn't all come easily, and immediately.  But keep at it!

Above, an example of beginning in the center with a simple curved line and then "playing."  Echo anything and everything to learn stitch control, visualizing space, and even stitches.  Have fun.  Remember, smaller, curvy shapes are the easiest.

I learned a lot in my classes, and hope to use the information to make future teaching better.  It was a marvelous trip, with great people, scenery, and delicious fresh food.  Thanks to everyone who took care of me, and made my trip delightful.  It's good to be home again, but I'm already planning my next class.

Keep quilting; your work gets better every day!


SewCalGal said...

Beautiful. Sounds like a fantastic class.


Quilt or Dye said...

Thanks for the hints at how to be successful in free-motion quilting. I find my technique to be hit or miss.

Anonymous said...

The last sample has a wonderful alternative substitute for feathers. I don't know about anyone else but I think I am all feathered out looking at feathers, and I haven't even learnt to do them successfully by machine!
Judy B

Diane Gaudynski said...

There are so many wonderful alternatives to feathers! Sit at your machine and try to come up with something new for your own quilts.

It's fun, it's relaxing, and sometimes you even have to laugh at the weird designs that appear out of nowhere in your quilt!

I've already started exploring ideas that will work where feathers have in the past. Can't wait to try them on a real quilt.

Joan said...

Thanks for all the wonderful tips I now need to go and READ - and then back to my machine and practise...so much to learn. I also have two of your books. I am practising on a small quilt..its sometimes wonky but I do know where I am going wrong thanks to your helpful tips and comments..and hopefully with practise I will work work it out, and not need to unpick anything!...Do you ever come to Australia Diane...Perth, Western Australia?? or South of Perth Western Australia...about 200kms? :) Ever hopeful. Today I have been reading - not sewing...but tomrrow I will sew and see how much I have learnt!

Diane Gaudynski said...

Joan, It must seem overwhelming, all the information and things to learn in machine quilting. As one of my excellent students said to me, "After much practicing, I finally sat down and begain machine quilting. I had a little conversation with myself and I was told by 'me' to approach it in small pieces, like eating an elephant one bite at a time." She successfully completed her quilt and now feels a sense of confidence that she can do this. Good luck!

The Cotton Club Blog said...

Diane, remember those wonderful little bendable, microfiber microbrushes someone in the class at Asilomar introduced us to for machine cleaning. They are now available at The Cotton Club - cottonclub.com. My husband builds and flys radio controlled airplanes and he too was excited about them. Since returning home, I have practiced every day. I took delivery of table and am sewing at the correct height for the first time in my life. It is wonderful! Thanks for a terrific class,
Cheryl L

Diane Gaudynski said...

Cheryl, I will post the info on the microfiber swabs soon, have to find them and take a photo. They work fabulously for the sewing machine, I have already used mine (Marty you would like these too), and my laptop keyboard. I love them and it's great you will be carrying them.

I think Peggy got hers at a swap meet in Yuma, and I just know I'll never get to it to buy some.

Congrats on the new table; it makes a HUGE difference in your quilting skills to have the correct setup.

Sandra said...

The thing that stands out to me from this post is "don't lazy susan your quilt". I have several lazy susan's in my kitchen and I hate them. Over time, items tend to get clogged and create drag. On my next quilt I need to keep this concept in mind. Thanks for the tip!

Diane Gaudynski said...

Sandra, I recently cleaned out my spice cupboard and threw out the small messy frustrating lazy susan, much prefer it without now. Glad my analogy helped.

M and M plus 3 said...

Thanks for the tips, I tried the clam shell tonight. I think I need to go smaller but your tips helped. I also had to look back to see what size needle you suggested since I broke mine right off the bat. I need to find your book so I can have it next to me while working. Do you have a class on DVD? That would help me even more since I'm a show me girl.

Diane Gaudynski said...

The size of needle depends on the thread you are using. For small scale designs like clamshells I like a fine thread, and then I use a fine needle - for me that's #100 silk thread with a #60 Microtex Sharp needle, or I like Aurifil Egyptian cotton #50 or Superior MasterPiece cotton, both with a #60 needle.

If you move your hands too fast, needles will break. Speed up the machine, slow down your hands and it will work better.

The smaller the clamshells, the easier they are - try them about 3/8" to 1/2" in size.

I don't have a DVD but of course it's a good idea for a future project for me. !