Monday, January 26, 2015


Prototype for mini quilt "Return to Provence"

I have been quilting a little every day.  I am practicing, warming up, getting back in routine. Sometimes it seems impossible to get it all right, the way it used to be, but it is coming along nicely. 

The sample, above, was an unfinished prototype to try out design, fabric, threads for a mini quilt I made for the AAQI online auction almost two years ago, the last quilt I made, made with silk fabric and quilted with silk and metallic/silk threads.  I found this unfinished prototype after many hours of practicing, and decided to try and complete it, see if my "new" quilting looked good enough to merge with my previous quilting.

Happy to say Yes!  My quilting blended in perfectly, I had no trouble at all replicating the designs, scale, and quality from two years ago.  I am ready for a new project, and have been digging through books, fabrics, sketches made, samples quilted, notes here and there.  I will begin with something small on fabric I love.  I am still deciding.

While I was practicing and it all came back to me I realized that many of you have to do this often.  You are interrupted in projects, you have illness or injury or moves or crises that keep you from quilting.  Maybe you have long fabulous vacations or travels where you never even think of a sewing machine, but want to pick up with quilting when you can.  

First, be assured it does come back, and it comes back fast.  I had stiff sore fingers and hands briefly at the beginning, and sore shoulders from sitting with tense muscles as I was so not relaxed.  But, each day I relaxed more, muscles were better and more limber, and everything fell into place.  I have to use my left hand for a few things due to a bad right thumb, but now I am used to that too.  

Some things that I discovered while practicing:

  • Muscle memory is a wonderful thing.  Even if years go by, your body will remember how to quilt, your brain knows what to do, it simply needs you doing it to get it back.  Repetition, correcting errors, then repeating it the right way until it flows easily and is natural.
  • Use the right needle!  I started quilting and didn't realize I had done some alterations on jeans or something, or sewn on a knit fabric, and had a #80 Universal needle in the machine, not my usual #60 Microtex Sharp.  I was having no end of ugly quilting until I realized that oops, needed a better needle.  I was practicing at first with #50 Aurifil cotton thread on a muslin sandwich with wool batt, and cotton batt in the other half from some sample done for a class.  I used a #70 Sharp needle and it looked a ZILLION times BETTER, and as a result of my work looking better all due to the right needle, my quilting improved and I relaxed.
  • Cleaning and oiling the machine was necessary even though I hadn't used it for awhile.  It made a happy purr after all this, and I sewed on some folded cotton and used feed dogs to warm it up before I tried quilting.  
  • Work up to the hard stuff.  Start practicing with some simple wavy lines, echo them, or do a motif you can do in your sleep.  Then add some challenges, like trying to fit the background motif around an actual design.  
  • Play with thread colors, use some pretty fabrics for practice, and the correct tension and needle.  This all makes a huge difference; if your work looks nice as you practice, it makes you a better quilter.
  • I had to slow down the motor speed on my zippy Bernina.  I usually don't, and love its power and responsiveness, but because I was so out of practice I needed to shut it down to 3/4 power so I didn't tromp on the foot pedal and quilt 50 stitches, in one spot, in one second.  Sometimes even now when beginning to quilt each day I will slow the motor and later when I am warmed up put it back to full power and rely on my foot to get the speed right and be IN CONTROL.
  • I almost forgot to add The Slider so my quilt moved easily under the needle.  I didn't use it the first few days and kept thinking that this was harder than I remembered, my stitches weren't even, and it jerked and stuck when I tried to move the quilt.  Whoa, put the Slider on, and everything was easy again, like moving the quilt on ice.
  • When I was quilting the muslin sandwich for awhile I thought there was something wrong with my machine, the noise was so loud when the needle went through the quilt.  Then I noticed I was quilting in the area with the cotton batt, not the wool batt.  It was noisy, the puff of the design was very low and flat, and it was stiff and more difficult to move.  Oh yes, now I remembered why I like wool batt.
  • I am glad I have lots and lots of samples to look at, things I've quilted for classes, articles, myself just to see how something would look.  It really helps to have something to see to get ideas going again.  Inspiration is all around you.
  • Don't be afraid to make something again, something you made once and loved, but try the same pattern or motif in a different color or fabric.  I might make the mini quilt design part of a larger quilt with a chintz border.  It's something I've always wanted to make, something to see and enjoy hanging on a wall in my home.  And then too I'd love to replicate some of the quilts I no longer have, like "Blossom's Journey," below.  I love Trip Around the World and I love the border quilting, so much fun to do, very extemporaneous.

Border Detail, "Blossom's Journey"

Meanwhile.....Oliver needed brushing!  He was shedding like crazy, and I found a round hairbrush I had tried for blow drying my hair but it pulled way too much of my hair out, ouch.  I had to cut that brush out of my hair, ugh.  

Oliver loves being brushed, so after a few days with this brush it was filled with Oliver fur, and I carefully used a comb to remove it from the brush.  Gosh it looks just like a great little quilt batt, so I saved it and may add more and give it a try.  I shall make Pioneer style Quilt Batt from Oliver!  It's softer than wool and we'll see about loft, but very lightweight, like down.  And of course I know it is washable...........!

It is snowing hard here in Wisconsin today, and we are snug and warm at home, time to turn on the machine and see how my quilting is today.  I shall have to plan a trip to a quilt shop for the sort of Chintz I need and then begin my new project.  I hope the NE storm isn't as bad as they say it will be, and you all stay safe from its danger.  

Keep quilting, your work gets better every day!


Marjorie's Busy Corner said...

stunning work, Diane!!!

Diane said...

How wonderful that you are back at it, and all your incredible skill just needed a bit of practice to rebloom!

I am so thankful the 830 has a place you can enter the type of needle you have in the machine. I switch among piecing, quilting and embroidery, often with a week or so between sessions (darn full time job - it allows me the income for the hobby, but not enough time for it!). The sewing machine reminds me what's in there when I start up.

Jenny K. Lyon said...

Enjoyed your words on practice-so true. Wool batting, the slider, the needle, good thread, playing with color-all things that resonate with me too. So good to hear from you and that you are back in the saddle!

What Comes Next? said...

So nice to see you back! All kinds of good ideas and tips - thank you! Just seeing your work has given me so much inspiration, I can't wait to try out some of the ideas that are floating around.

QuiltShopGal said...

So good to see you back quilting and sharing on your heartwarming blog. I've missed you so. Almost as good as if we lived next door.

Beautiful FMQ and inspiration. I still don't feel I have the proper needles down, but your tips help and I will work harder to verify I'm using appropriate needles....and practice more too!

The news reports sounds like your area and others are going to be hit hard with this blizzard of 2015. I hope you have plenty of food and supplies, as well as wood/heat/power, so you need not worry about going outside until the weather gets better.

Oliver's fur may certainly make for a nice batting, or an interesting art quilt. Such a pretty color. I am so happy he is watching out for you.

Big hug,

Darlene of QuiltShopGal

Unknown said...

Diane, I am the lucky and delighted owner of Blossom's Journey, having prevailed at the National Quilt Museum benefit auction in Paducah 3 years ago. Rest assured that it has a loving home in North Carolina! You are welcome to come visit it ANY time! :)

P.S. No snow here!

Connie Griner

Sally said...

So nice you're back at your machine! Your blogs always have great information and thanks for bringing up things like slowing down your machine for the first quilting of the day, and that free motion quilting on cotton batting was noisier than on wool batting. You knew--I certainly didn't.

Barb H said...

I love the idea of using Oliver's fur as a batt, but beware of how warm animal fur is! Not good for making a bed quilt--it would be way too hot to sleep under--but perfect for a wall quilt maybe!

Diane Gaudynski said...

Jenny, it's good to be quilting again!

Connie, I hope you love this little quilt, almost was unable to finish it, but persevered and didn't agonize over it and I think I liked it more than some of my more planned quilts. It was a "challenge" quilt, and I had an assortment of fabric that I used to create the pattern. Thanks for getting in touch and giving this quilt a good home.....:-)

Sally, cotton batt is a great batt, and for some projects the preferred choice, as poly or blends can be, it all depends on what you need for that project. But it is noisier! If you are debating between two or more batts, layer a sample but use them all, just butt them up to each other, pin, and quilt. You'll know immediately as you cross over into a new batt if is is better for your quilting or not, how it handles, etc. When you make separate samples, which I do as well, you forget and get used to each one. Something to think about now that we have so many different batts available. It used to be so easy!

Ah, Oliver's fur - well, I doubt I would ever have enough for a bed quilt but a tiny wall quilt would be fun to try. I bet it would be VERY warm. I have to stop DH from over-brushing him as Oliver loves it so much but he needs his fur in the cold winter. He does thunder purring when he is brushed....what a sweetheart he is.

Anonymous said...

Diane, I am so glad you are back blogging. I learn so much from you and I still have the spiral bound book that you autographed for my years ago.

Janet said...

I just want to join the others in welcoming you back to blogging. I'm always inspired by your quilting and wish I lived closer and could (have) take(n) classes with you. Ah well, I just need to keep on practicing.

Ming said...

Hi Diane, it is so nice to see you back at quilting and blogging!your work is always so inspiring, and you are always so generous sharing your experiences and knowledge! Machine quilting is so popular now,but I still don't think that anybody can quilt like you. Please take good care of yourself. Love to you and Oliver. Keep warm.:-) Ming

Diane Gaudynski said...

Thank you all, your comments made my day.....!

BizzieLizzie said...

Diane - your second book is my absolute favourite of mine and one I recommend on our quilting classes - I know lots of our customers are big fans of your work so I've mentioned your blog on our FB page - looking forward to seeing your posts and being inspired by your beautiful work. Liz from The Cotton Patch in England.

Unknown said...

So very glad you are back at it. We missed you.

Debi R said...

Love your gorgeous quilting! Love your sense of humor!