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machine quilting

thimbles1260 | Posted in Creative Machine on

It has been lots of fun for me to follow this chat!  I’ve done a fair amount of machine quilting which is really very much like what you are describing.  Those who are trying it for the first time may want to consider using a cotton fabric, batting and a muslin backing.  Insert all three layers in the fashion described and GO!  When I am meandering around on a quilt I think of puzzle pieces and try to follow that type of mental pattern without crossing over any sewing lines.  Large cursive “l” or “e” patterns are fun too.  Another idea is to cut out a simple shape and then go round and round that shape with each line of stitiching being about 1/4 inch apart. (Echo quilting). 

I loved your idea of trying a web or initials!  Does anyone know anything about “thread painting”?  I would like to know more about that……or perhaps I’m mistaken and that is more of what you were referring to?  


  1. JanF | | #1

    OH bummer - Ive just written a lovely long reply to you - suggesting you search for the work of Alice Kettle as a thread painting artist - but thought I'd better search myself to check - and of course that's lost my reply to you before I posted it!!
    Anyway - 2nd try!
    Thanks for your reply - I was wondering if u could suggest to me - and possibly any others who may or may not find the same phenomenum(gosh have I spelt that correctly?)happens when they are trying to meander with free machining. (Yes it is the same as free-motion embroidery).
    I have done this lots- but every now and again I sort of lose it!
    Its as if my mind goes blank and then Ive taken a wrong "meander" and have somehow run out of free space - or I've gone straight across a line I've just sewn - and even though I sort of see myself doing it - its as if I just cant stop!
    Is this my own addiction getting the better of me - or do others experience it? If so, what do you advise me to do?
    I sometimes find that when I stop, my meanders acquire funny little jerky turns - not attractive at all!!
    Although this may sound a fun reply - I do actually mean this - and would appreciate any trick/knack that you have perfected to stop yourself getting in this predicament!
    I fully recommend looking at Alice Kettle's work - the actual piece I have seen is huge - and I mean huge - hanging on display In one of Manchester's art galleries and is a sight to behold, just because of the sheer amount of work in it is awesome! (Sorry I mean Manchester in UK - just remembered I think there is a Manchester in USA?
    hope to talk to you again - I'm beginning to get the hang of the "Gatherings discussions" now!
    Thanks Janet

    1. thimbles1260 | | #2

      Good morning Janet,

      To get "lost" on a quilt is not at all uncommen.  As you say, the process is hypnotic and one can easily meander into places where there is no escape.  When that happens I simply stop, find a new place and start again or run off the edge and return to the quilt again further up the line.  Starting in the middle of the quilt and working around ever farther from the center seems to help me.  As far as the jerky starts, that's why I like to start/stop on the edge and then get restarted on the extra batting that I will later remove whenever possible.

      In regard to an occasional cross-over or loop, I take the "oh well" attitude.  I certainly try not to do it, but the average person will never notice it and I'm not quilting for a show.  I do think that I am doing it less often than I did so practice helps too.  Sometimes though, I think we take the fun out of a totally relaxing process by being too hard on ourselves.  My best advice is, relax and enjoy the procedure.

      1. JanF | | #3

        Bore Da! (Good morning in Welsh)
        I was pleased to hear from you - a common sense attitude to stitching - just what I like. I agree that "meandering" with the needle can be hypnotic!
        Do you know I hadn't really thought about just stopping!
        it makes sense really -as you say - no-one is going to notice are they?
        I had already found out that working from the centre outwards, in quilting, works better. I'm not a quilter really although I do have to teach rudiments for school, and I recognised very early on that working out from the centre alleviates a lot of "travelling" with the fabric, but I sort of assumed that meander stitch needed to start at an edge, otherwise you would see a line end!
        Are you one of these quilters that use the large flat bed machines - or do you just manage with your usual sewing machine?
        I have vaguely thought perhaps a large flat bed machine would make my free-motion stuff easier - but I have also got designs on an industrial straight/zig zag machine for when I retire to spend my days doing just what I want!!

        1. thimbles1260 | | #4

          How do I say, "Good evening" in Welsh? 

          I do most of my quilting on my Bernina 1260.  It is one of the first computerized machines to come out, nothing like they're making now, but it's been a real work horse for me.  I have measured my home every which way but loose to find room for a professional quilting table/machine, but no luck.  DH put his foot down when I found that the livingroom/diningroom was the only room where I could set up a 14-16 foot table.  :-> 

           I can do smaller quilts on my machine.  For larger items I either send out or rent time on a machine.  There are several women in our area who do customized quilting, a friend rents out her machine and I also have access to a drapery company that will run a quilt through their commercial machine.  All in all, it works out okay.  With retirement coming I may begin to consider hand quilting a bit more.  I do have a small PVC pipe table that I can set up.  Right now the issue is time as I teach first grade full time.

          1. JanF | | #5

            Hi - thanks for the reply - Good Evening is "Nos Da" - rather Good Night. There might be a more casual phrase to use for Good Evening - but my Welsh is only the stuff I picked up when I was in school myself - and the bits I occasionally hear in my own school. Languages are not my strong point!
            I presume by first grade that you mean around the age of 5?
            I teach ages 11 - 18 and I don't envy you one bit!
            I have friends that teach your age group in our village school - if you ever need possibly to contact other schools/countries I might be able to recommend the school. A lovely church-aided one, it does have internet access - I think !
            My one and only experience of teaching your age group was, for me, an utter trial. I was covering an absentee because at the time I was a supply teacher and desperate for work! I cannot begin to tell you what horror it was for me to get about 24, 4-5yr olds ready to do gym!
            That was nothing compared to getting them dressed afterwards !!!- I assumed that because teacher said time to get dressed - everyone would be able to get things back on in the correct order - Oh golly was I in a mess! They were wearing little ties too!
            Needless to say I have never rushed to repeat the experience - so I take my hat off to you. Now I stick to my older ones!
            Like you I'm nearing retirement and perhaps then I will get to do all the sewing I always have in my head!
            My old machine was, I think, a B 1260. A great machine - in fact better in a lot of ways than the one I've got now - a 1630 - which is good but I think it's stitch regulation is not as good as the older versions.
            What a great facility to have locally machines for hire and companies willing to do making up for you - I've never heard of anyone around here doing this - but possibly the quilters around might hear of it. I know a local quilter Dilys Fronks visits US a lot to give lectures, and our local quilting group is really good, with excellent displays every year, but I only use quilting as one other skill to a) teach and b) to use as part of something else - possibly clothing/bags etc so I don't consider myself that knowledgeable on this count!
            Lovely to chat!

          2. thimbles1260 | | #7

            Bore Da!  and it is a good morning albeit extremely cold!  They have closed my school due to the cold so I have a day entirely to myself and my sewing room!  I'm going to attempt to get a pair of PJs made that I've been going to get to for quite some time.  I do mostly piecing and crafts, so any kind of garment is a challenge.  DH got a dress form for me for my birthday this year so I need to be sure he sees me using it! 

            Guess we all have our strengths.  I love my little ones (ages 5-8).  I've taught up to 8-9s (third grade here) and I enjoyed them too.  I wouldn't want to go any older though.  I love the enthusiasm of the little ones.  Helping them learn to read and seeing the pride in their eyes and in the eyes of their parents is one of my biggest joys in life.

            Well, it's off to the sewing room with me.  Later!

          3. JanF | | #8

            Its great when you get an unofficial day off - we had one not long ago because high winds and floods made it difficult for some school buses to get in - this is probably the only criteria management have to take notice of. If its cold we usually have to put up with it - unless the heating is actually broken! Our school is quite rural but with about 1600 pupils. We are just inside the Welsh border about 10 miles from the Roman city of Chester and about 1 hour away from Snowdonia's National Park.
            Not a bad area to live in!
            Enjoy the extra sewing time!

          4. NovaSkills | | #9

            Hey, there, Janet!

            It's been awhile since we've chatted. I got a fascinating but hugely time-consuming job right at Christmas--I'm the wardrobe supervisor of our local regional theatre. We are getting ready for Man of La Mancha, and I'm up to my eyeballs in costumes. No time for my own quilting.

            A couple of quick comments for you--I, too, start in the center for meandering/stippling patterns. I make a gentle circle about 1 to 2cm diameter as the starting point, instead of simply starting a line, and if I get myself trapped while meandering, I end with another small circle. Seems less noticeable.

            My machine is a Viking Designer 1, and I do any size quilt up to king bed. I have salivated over a "long-arm" and frame, but no room in this house. That would be a divorce-maker decision!

            Best trick I know for managing stops & starts is to think of easing up to and down from speed the way you'd nose up to your garage wall with your car if you had three sacks of eggs in the front seat.

            I lower the motor speed of my machine, then can "floor it" with my foot and concentrate only on the hand/arm movement controlling the fabric. The exact motor speed I pick depends on the looseness of the quilting pattern--tighter patterns need slower speed, big patterns will "spider-web" around corners if speed is too slow.

            I always told my freemotion students to drink a glass or wine or have a beer to improve their work, and put on some music they like. You might get a laugh to know I prefer to quilt to Celtic/Irish music!


          5. JanF | | #10

            Hi - isn't it funny how the simplest ideas you don't even think of!
            I really like your idea of starting with a small circle and then finishing with one - it would, I imagine, make it look more as if you've designed it that way - not just got stuck with nowhere to go! and if you don't mind i think i might adopt this, cos I do like to start in the middle of most pieces of free-motion stuff, even though not every one is a quilted product.
            This I do already with freemotion, cos if I am really getting to grips with it I do like to design as I do (I know some people would be horrified at this)but its not always necessary to plan exactly before starting!
            Congrats on the new job - it sounds hard work - but interesting and presumeably you must be pretty good at making clothing appear more decorative than they actually are (from a distance) - purely because it does not have to be looked at too closely - by knowing loads of "tricks of the trade"
            Also the idea of a glass of wine before starting a class is a brill. one for me - but not so good forschool!!
            I also sympathise with what we have to make do with to avoid divorce proceedings - its the same in my house 'cos hubby's garage has loads of space - whereas i work in the shared office at home!!
            Mind u - at least I'm in the warm!
            Speak again - Jan

          6. NovaSkills | | #12

            Seems that sewing and computers often wind up sharing the same room, doesn't it? My husband's tools are also in the garage, but in our case, it's a small one also shared with an upright freezer and two cars, so working on the table saw means putting both cars outside and pulling the tools out from around the walls, under stuff, etc. He'd love to have a permanent shop area as much as I'd love to have a permanent studio.

            Just another note on freemotion stitching--don't forget to consciously keep your shoulders lowered, not hunched, and periodically roll and shrug your shoulders, flex your wrists and wiggle your fingers. If you use CDs for music to quilt by, load only one in your player at a time, so that you have to get up to change it and won't sit there sewing from more than an hour or so at a time. Double-check that your chair's seat pan is at the right height compared to your machine's throat plate, so that you sit naturally without slumping, but also without feeling like you are reaching to position your hands on the machine. Most people sit too high if they have a machine that fits into a tabletop, and some sit too low if they are using a machine on a standard desk or table. This from the ergonomics engineer in me.......

            Later--costumes are calling!


          7. JanF | | #14

            Hi again - just browsing this sat. morning as snow outside (Hurrah -at last!)hubby forging his way to work - cos men do that sort of thing to prove the man in them don't they!!
            I'm just thinking do i need to up the heating!
            Re. working at a table - I use a sewing cabinet - purely in the deperate hope that it will keep the shared workroom tidy - but no - it doesn't!
            This is a commercial cabinet - albeit one I bought from someone who has stopped sewing - but I can't say that its great ergonomically.
            The problem i seem to have is that to get in close enough to work easily , means that the foot pedal seems too close to the base of the cabinet( in the footwell or hole to put your knees in)I keep running the foot pedal into the back of the unit.Ive tried putting a mat under the pedal to stop it sliding - cos of course we have wooden flooring to be easily cleanable(what cures 1 prob. adds another!)but it isnt the best solution, and of course this doesn't help with your body position either!
            I sometimes use the lever attachment to use my knee to lift the presser foot - but i can't say i like it!and i do tend to suffer with neck stiffness if I overdo the times for sewing, so i will take note of your pointers re. changing cd etc. - a sound common sense idea if i may say so!
            Do you rate the ergonomic chairs that actually dont have a back and force you into a natural s shape?
            I cant decide if they would be worth the investment and as Im in the process of designing my own workroom to run classes from(not at home but in a purpose designed work room upstairs in my husband's power tool store) as a venture for retirment,-sharing with daughter who runs classes for business development and wants to develop her own business venture - can u suggest any good sites for relevant info? Ive spent hours on research already and am worried that I must stock the workroom with H& Safety in mind!
            When u have time away from the costumes i would appreciate your views but not to worry to answer soon - you're busy and i'm only at planning stage with possibility of running 1st course in September!
            Thanks Jan

          8. NovaSkills | | #19

            I'll get back to you on that when I've survived this show.

          9. Josefly | | #15

            Thank you for mentioning chairseat-height as an important consideration. I do sew with my machine on a table, and bet my seat is not high enough. My neck and shoulders are often tense when sewing. I'm going to raise my seat with a cushion or something.

          10. meg | | #16

            Several years ago I read that the needle area of the 'chine ought to be about 12 inches back from the edge of the table you're using.  I also purchased a stiff, rubbery wrist rest from an office supply store, the sort you might put right in front of your keyboard.  I place that under the back of my 'chine, to tilt it forward.  Those two things really helped me with back issues when I'm working for a long time.


          11. Josefly | | #17

            Oh, that's good to know. 12 inches back? I'm way off on that. And tilting the machine forward? Seems counter-intuitive but I'm gonna give it a go. Thank you.

          12. NovaSkills | | #18

            Tilting the machine by elevating the base at the back may be helpful if you have neck issues with flexing (bending) the cervical spine. Beware, however, that doing so changes your visibility of the sewing area at the needle and people end up bobbing their heads like a chicken to compensate.

            First, check that you are at the right height, then consider whether tilt will help. People need to realize that the right seat height for sewing will NOT be the same as for typing, which is also NOT the same as for just writing by hand or eating dinner.

          13. Josefly | | #20

            Thank you. I'm going to experiment with the suggestions. I think I would be one of those "bobbers" but I need, for one thing, to develop a better posture habit. Because I wear bifocals, I find I lift my head while leaning closer, and that's awfully painful over time.

          14. MaryinColorado | | #29

            Excellent advice!  I was an RN and can truly appreciate all that the ergonomics engineers and all those affiliated with them have done for everyone!  Thank You! 

            I have to move every 15 minutes, my tables were built for my height (4'11 1/2"), two office chairs, and even a drafting chair at the cutting/planning table make it possible for me to work in my studio. 

            I also agree, the music has to be going strong too!  Mary

          15. thimbles1260 | | #11

            I too like your idea of starting/ending with a small circle. I'll try that on my next project.Can you send pictures of some of your costumes? I'd love to see them. I would guess that you are great at embellishment!! Always looking for ideas! :)

          16. NovaSkills | | #13

            Current show's costumes were designed by someone else, and I cannot publish detailed photos without their permission. Another show, perhaps, but thanks for asking.

          17. dollyd | | #21

            Do you have any tips on how to quilt stipple with a programmed stitch. I need to stipple in squares. I also have a designer 1 It looks like it would be easier to use the presser foot S & use to programmed stitch.
            Thanks any help appreciated.

          18. MaryinColorado | | #22

            I don't quite understand what you need help with. 

            1. fabric sandwich Cotton thread  Presser foot S  Needle 80 qulting or universal

            2. Sewing Avisor: fabric type (probably woven medium), Menu E, Stitch #24,25,or 26

            3. I would sew in rows.  Do not start each row at the exact same spot as the prior one or it will look too matchy. At the beginning of each row: press Pattern Restart button so it starts at the beginning of the stitch. 

            I practiced at a slower speed to get the hang of it.  You also could make your rows diagonal instead of horizontal or vertical, this would make it easier to vary the look so it isn't so matchy.  I tried going from the outside of the square along all the edges continuing to the center but didn't like the way it ended up.  Also tried starting at the center but it just seemed awkward to me. It might work with enough practice for you.

            Hope this helps, you don't really need to mess with the programming aspect. 



          19. NovaSkills | | #23

            The embedded stipple stitches on the D1 produce nice work, but are easist to use when you want to stipple closely an elongated area, such as stippling an entire border strip, or using stippling instead of echo quilting. It's more awkward to hand-quide stippling in an area that's narrow in one direction, so the machine's programmed stitch works better for this application.

            If you need to stipple around an irregular area, such as filling in the space around a center design, embroidery, etc., you'll have an easier time getting results you like if you hand-guide the stippling. Otherwise, you'll be doing an awful lot of stopping, starting and overriding of the machine's stippling stitch--not worth the effort. The same comment holds true of stippling triangular areas, unless they are quite large.

            Small, tight stippling is actually easier to learn to do well than larger, flowing patterns, so it's a good place to start. In the V menu, pick stitch 1, drop the feed dogs, put on the clear plastic R foot (yes, same as for embroidery), and insert the needle that fits the thread and style of quilt sandwich. Some quilting threads have a "harder", more polished finish and run fine through a 90/14 quilting needle; others of the same weight need a differently shaped eye to avoid getting shredded by the intense use during stippling. For these, experiment with 100/16 universals or jeans needles, or even a 90/14 topstitch. Key, also, is lowering the motor speed one or two notches, so that you can "floor it" with the foot pedal and control your results with your hands.

            If you are new to freemotion quilting, get a friend's help with this exercise I call drawing in reverse. Your friend holds a standard pencil with both hands, straight upright over a piece of copy paper. You are holding the edges of the paper. Have your friend lower the pencil until it just touches the paper enough to mark it, and keep the pencil in that position. You move the paper, simulating how you move the fabric under the needle, and try creating stipples, loops, your script name, etc. This will teach your brain to track the hand/arm motion as the "writing." You will find that smooth direction changes require the same type of anticipatory decceleration that is used to steer a car or bicycle.

            Next, get a fat quarter, or so, of a fabric with obvious allover design, such as florals or other organic prints that don't repeat frequently. Make a quilt sandwich and thread up as described above. Start following any design element, and cover the fabric with quilting that outlines everything printed on it. Next, stipple any open areas. By the time you've completed this, the fear will be calmed and you can do your quilt. Oh, by the way, fold this practice piece in half, neaten edges and seam the sides next to the fold, "box" the corners, apply your choice of handles and opening finishes, and you have a fantastic quilted tote to brag about.

            One final piece of advice...a glass of wine and your favorite music may help relax your initial spikiness of movement in your stippling. Seriously! I freemotion to Celtic music and other interesting instrumental works, or murder mysteries on CD.

            Good luck, if you've not gone to sleep reading this tome!

          20. dollyd | | #24

            Hi Again.
            Thank you so much for taking the time to write back I do appreciate it very much. I will give all of your advice a try. My friend are doing our first quilt with embroidery designs & stippling we have never done it before. It is lots of fun but we get stressed. We are making the Cottage Rose Quilt by Jenny Haskins I am not sure if we took on a little to much so soon. However I am going to give it my very best. Thanks again for your help.
            Thanks Dollyd

          21. MaryinColorado | | #25

            What great instructions on freemotion!  I've been wanting to teach the grandkids this technique.  Now I know how to start with the paper and pencil.  We'll use a mechanical machine though instead of my D1.  Thanks for an excellent tip!

          22. NovaSkills | | #26

            If you use a mechanical, it may not have the motor speed adjustment, so inserting a wood shim between the two parts of the pedal may allow them to "floor it" at a lower speed.

            Seriously consider letting them try this on the D1. Why not give them the most fantastic beginning sewing experience possible, with the least potential fabric control issues? They can't wreck your D1 other than possibly breaking a needle, which you could do yourself, if you are like me.

            I let my then 6 year old niece use my Viking No. 1 (former top of line computerized), and then later my D1. Now, she's hooked.

          23. MaryinColorado | | #27

            My grandchildren all use the Designer 1 for embroidery and some sewing.  I gave my grand daughter my Husq/Viking Rose and will teach her free motion work on it.  But if those rowdy boys want to learn free motion, it will be on a less expensive machine.  Believe me, they might do more than break a few needles!  Mary

          24. NovaSkills | | #28

            Sounds like the voice of experience....good luck!

          25. MaryinColorado | | #30

            My favorite quote is "see one, do one, teach one" (from nursing school days).   I can trust my gd to work independently on anything and let her spread her wings...she asks when she needs info.  The boys will always push the limit, typical of male trate of refusing to ask directions?....  anyway, I don't know there is a problem unless I hear the D1's warning beep repeatedly.....calling for Help.

            This may sound overprotective, but my dil borrowed the Rose to learn embroidery, got it back.....won't work....now I have repair bills looming and hope to get it fixed before dear grand daughter (who I gave the Rose to) finds out what happened!  At least it wasn't the D1 so am still counting my blessings!!!  I just hope they will be able to repair Rose, she is such a wonderful little machine!

  2. Cherrypops | | #6

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