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!