Thursday, August 19, 2010

Templates anyone?

Lately it has become almost a hidden secret, something we are reluctant to admit.  Yes, it is ok to use stencils or templates in our free motion machine quilting!

The clamshells, above, are small, maybe 1/4" or 3/8" in size, and yes, I did them freehand, with no marking.  Sometimes a straight "horizon" line to help me stay level can be added, but grainline in fabric or a line of piecing usually is all I need to keep them nice and even, in a classic, traditional style.  Funkier clamshells, "relaxed" clamshells don't need to be level or the same size, so go for it with them, with no marking.

However, if you have difficulty getting them even, and want them to be even, don't forget about a template.  Anita Shackelford has a wonderful mini and larger template for perfect clamshells and for larger fan designs that works great.  She has many photos for you to see the applications for this template, including a Sashiko design based on clamshells for machine quilting. 

Click here to go to the page on her website, to see the examples using this tool.

I like the perfect spiral tool as well, and of course infinite feathers if you need some help getting that feather shape established in your brain.  Mark some, quilt them, do it over and over until you can do it with minimal guide markings and no marks eventually. 

Remember, it looks easy when you see others quilt feathers and such so effortlessly with no marking, but if you need marking and templates, it's perfectly natural and a very good thing to have in your repertoire to get those quilts done beautifully.



Elaine said...

I love what you said about minimal marking and then no marking. When I start quilting I usually use some marks, but as I go on I see my marks in my head and don't need to mark anymore. I must admit clamshells take a bit to get them right, but I've also done them with just a line to bring me up as high as I want them and then you just go from what's done. I love your quilting.

Diane Gaudynski said...

Thanks, Elaine, and you said it exactly right - you start seeing those markings in your head and don't need them anymore. But it isn't "wrong" to use them, as much as you need, to get the look you want.

Jean Etheridge said...

Your work is beautiful. I am totally new to freemotion quilting, so I am soaking up each and every word of this. I have quilted quite a few with a grid or straight lines, just using seam guides attached to the foot or the foot itself or seams -- or my eye. The marking of the quilt kind of has me baffled.

Jocelyn said...

Thanks for the encouragement. I do think it just takes a lot of practice whether you use markings or not. Your transitions are beautiful.


Diane Gaudynski said...

Jean, when I was beginning I did just as you are doing-- straight lines, edge of foot as my guide. Then I marked designs for freemotion for yearr, and now I use some things marked that I've drawn, some basic stencils like cables, and lots of freehand where I know what I want and fill the space as I go.

It's a progression, and your skill will improve as you quilt. Try adding some new thing in each quilt as part of the quilting plan and soon it will become easier.

Happy Cottage Quilter - thanks! It does take the doing of it over and over. I do it on real quilts, always have, so practice is part of the quilt.

I do warm up ahead of time and sometimes I take an afternoon and "play" at my machine, just getting better at a skill or design, or trying out ideas. These samples I keep, many pinned to my wall, so I remember to try them in a quilt.

It's a great way to spend a hot lazy summer afternoon, no pressure, just fun.

Unknown said...

Diane I free motion almost exclusively using stencils. I'm a beginner though with a long way to go and now free motion without marking has become a long tern goal! I've tried freeform free motion and it just bamboozles me - give me a marked design every time. I will admit that marking the quilt top is my least favourite quilting job - it can take a couple of days to draw up designs on even a small quilt - time which could be put to better use I think.

Diane Gaudynski said...

Blockhead, that is an excellent way to begin. Use stencils and templates and learn the flow and directions of free motion. There are amazing stencils available now, and line designs you can trace with a light box.

Yes, marking a quilt top can be boring, and is hard work, but it is very nice having that road map drawn out for you on your quilt when you sit down at the machine.

As you get more comfortable and relaxed, you can begin experimenting with some simple freehand (unmarked) designs to add to your stencils.

Leaves, spirals, simple shapes repeated work great. The smaller and curvier they are (well, not microscopic of course) the easier they are to quilt.

Be forgiving with your freehand work - it is going to have variations in it that stencil quilting doesn't have, but accept that and appreciate the beauty in the small differences.

Ming said...

This is interesting. When I started free motion quilting, I found that following the line was too difficult. I liked doodling my way, and I found that was easier and freer. I began stitching along the lines when I felt more confident controlling my machine.

I consider quilting clamshells is grid work, so I usually use June tailor's grid marker, the tool Diane you mentioned in your wonderful book, to mark the grid before I stitch. These new tools seem very nice too.

Diane Gaudynski said...

Ming, you are right too! After teaching machine quilting for many years having students begin with marked designs I found that a majority of new machine quilters found it more difficult to follow a line than to "doodle."

I changed my teaching methods after that discovery.

Now I have everyone try any means to an end - we begin with simple unmarked shapes that actually form a lovely design, then move on to marked designs, and many more unmarked designs but with guide marks to help you when working in a home machine.

It's hard to see and judge space and where you are going, etc., in a home machine, so those guides are important. Sometimes it's something as simple as a dot, so you know where you are in your own design you are freehanding.

There is no right or wrong. Everyone learns differently and finds that one type of quilting comes easier than the other, both unmarked and marked.

I came from a background of hand quilting, with marked designs and never even considered quilting without them until I began teaching. I researched how we learn, and adjusted my teaching so that everyone has a chance of success.

The difficulty is trying everything at once and not giving each method a full trial to know if it is your strong suit.

It's nice to be fully competent at all methods, as I happily am now, so anything is possible!

I use all these techniques in my work: marked, unmarked, backgrounds (some marked, some unmarked), and a combination with a bit of guide marking and mostly freehand.

Sue said...

Your quilting is gorgeous. My goal in life is to take a course from you and hope some of your talent rubs off on me!

Elaine said...

Diane, I took your class when you spoke at QUEST Quilters in Little Rock. I enthusiastically applaud your changing to begin with unmarked designs. I gave up trying to do marked patterns and did a lot of free-motion work with minimal guidelines. Now, finally, I seem to know my machine well enough to 'predict' how it will work, and suddenly things are coming together. This week I started quilting a large quilt with marked designs, and I'm so excited to tell you that it is going well! It's far from perfect, but if you stand back it looks good (ha ha.) I am re-re-reading your two books, practicing on eraser-board, and finally understanding better what you mean by 'listening to the machine.' I aim for a certain tone from the motor that tells me I am going the speed that works best for me. Thank you for inspiring me to keep with it!

Ivory Spring said...

Your clam shells look perfect, Diane. I have said this so many times, but I will say it again - you inspire me!

Diane Gaudynski said...

Thanks, Ivory Spring! And Elaine, good for you, so glad to hear you are listening to the machine, and quilting a real quilt instead of only practicing. Good luck with the quilt - by the time you are finished your quilting will be smoother, better, easier, prettier.