Don't let the difficulties of the present moments overshadow the reality of God's promises. God's promises still stand. And God's promises are stronger than our failures.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Marlene's Rules For Free Motion Machine Quilting

I used to be afraid of free motion machine quilting.  I mean like frozen in my tracks scared.  If I even thought about free motion quilting, and I tried not to, my stomach would get in knots and my hands would tremble.  But I want to report that I have conquered that fear!  I made up a few rules that have helped me and in the spirit of giving for the holidays I'm going to share them with you.

1.  Never, ever, under any circumstances, let go of your fabric when the machine is still running.  That could be compared to letting go of the hand of a five year old while standing in Times Square.  Imagine that scene...you  letting go, child in wide eyed wonder stepping off the curb weaving his/her way among the honking yellow cabs, strolling down the street gazing happily in windows and ending up at Grand Central Station peeping over the stand at the coming trains.  It would be like that.  Imagine Family Circus...how the child steps in every puddle, climbs every tree, pets every cat and talks to every neighbor on his/her way home from school.  Your stitches will be in a giant zigzag here, there and yonder.

2.  Your machine will not stop running unless you let your foot off the gas.  All the way off the gas.  So when you want to stop, get your foot OFF the pedal.  You can't lightly touch it like you do your car at a red light so you can inch forward until your bumper is scant inches away from the bumper in front of you.  While your foot is just lightly touching the pedal the fabric is still moving under the needle.  And what do you get?  Another zig.  Without the zag.

3.  If you still believe in quarter inch seams, triangle points that meet and seams that align then you need to go find something else fun to do.  The goal of every free motion quilter I've met seems to be even stitches. There's no such thing.  That's a story mothers tell their children at bedtime that sounds great in theory but doesn't work in real life.  And it's not supposed to.  For example, if you see two 80 year old women standing side by side and one has smooth, flawless, unwrinkled skin and the other looks like a normal 80 year old woman what would you think?  That the first woman has had an inordinate number of face lifts?  Yea, me too.  She's not real.  She's not beautiful.  It's the second one that draws your eye.  Oh the character in her beautiful, wrinkled face!  Picture Mother Teresa...did you ever see anyone more gorgeous?  You can see her life written there, on her face.  Well, that's the way quilts should be.  They should have life written on them.  A few tiny stitches here, a few long stitches there, and a lot of fairly normal ones in between.  Trust me on this.  Quilts want character.

4.  God made your hands the size He did for a reason.  You can only control the amount of fabric that will fit in between your hands.  If you try to put your hands too far apart so you can quilt a larger amount of the quilt before you have to stop....well, you'll just lose control of the whole darn thing.  Quilts are like kids.  You can only control them if you've got a tight grip.  Loosen your grip and they're going to wiggle their way loose.

5.  Use thread that is the same color as your background.  Thread should be inconspicuous but always there in the background impacting the beauty of the quilt.  Kind of like when you're a mother-in-law.  I mean we all know that mothers-in-law have to fade into the woodwork the moment the wedding is over but if you work it right you're still in control...the kids just don't know it.  :)

6.  If it's 2:30 a.m. don't swear under your breath that you're going to finish this or die trying.  Because you will.  Quilts hear everything and they love a practical joke so they will silently fold themselves under so that just when you think you're finished you'll discover you've quilted one corner to another corner.  And while that might be unique in a finished quilt it will be hard to bind.

7.  Don't drink red wine while quilting.  Or grape KoolAid.  Or Mtn. Dew.  Or Red Bull.  All of those things will make you think you are the greatest quilter who ever lived.  But you aren't.  I'm just guessing about the red wine and the Mtn. Dew and the Red Bull but the grape KoolAid definitely is banned from my sewing room.

8.  The definition of stippling is something like "sewing in a meandering way without ever crossing any of the previous sewing".  I didn't I didn't look it up and I didn't write the dictionary but that ought to be close.  If you're stippling and you like loops, add one or two or seven.  If you want to cross from here to there do it and smile.  And if you end up with a particularly weird place on your quilt then point it out to the recipient and say, "every time you see this think of me - I was waving my hand and winking at you when I sewed this so you'll always remember me." And they'll go "Awwwww, so sweet."

9.  If you think that wall hanging will take you about an hour to quilt, add three to it and you might have it right.  Give yourself plenty of time because if you rush you won't take your foot completely off the pedal (see number 2 above) and you'll forget that you have red thread in the bobbin until you've finished the quilting and turn it over to see the white background.  Oops.

10.  This is the most important rule of all.  Put a lock on your sewing room door.  Husbands, children and pets should be banned from the sewing room when you're quilting.  They have urgent requests that you won't be able to ignore.  And even though you think you can quilt and answer, I repeat from number 7 above, you're not that great a quilter.  And besides that their requests aren't really urgent.  If they tried they could find the milk in the refrigerator, the dog in the backyard, and the clean pair of jeans folded on their bed.

Okay that's all the rules I have for today.  It's 2:30 a.m. and I've got a quilt to finish quilting.  I think I'll have some KoolAid to take to the sewing room with me.

39 comments:

Debbie said...

Very Good! So true, so true. And don't forget the lint goblins that multiply like bunnies in the bobbin. Clean them out every time you change a bobbin. I get better stitches without their company.

Tracy P. said...

YOU are the BEST, Marlene!! LOVE this! :-)

Janet said...

Very entertaining post! And so down to earth. I love to cross my threads in stippling and I've long ago given up looking for perfection. It's enough for me that I get my sewing done. I'll have to remember to hang on tightly....I think I've been guilty of letting my quilts run out into traffic occasionally. :)

Pauline said...

Thanks for these really important rules and the giggle they gave me. Can especially relate to quilting one corner to another!

Quilting "b" said...

Marlene
You made me laugh. This post arrived at the right moment as I am just taking a break from machine quilting. Everything you said is so true. I love it.

Ray and Jeanne said...

I love this! I am just learning to free-motion quilt - in fact I just finished my first 'big' FMQ quilt (40" X 60") last week. I think I have learned all of your rules the hard way! Thanks for the laughs. ~Jeanne

Madame Samm said...

I am still hand quilting...although these are pretty good observations lol

Needled Mom said...

Oh dear....so many rules to obey!!!!

Dannelle said...

I am just about to take the leap of faith into FMQ and I shall heed your advice.Thank you- I am scared silly- I am waiting for someone to take me to store to get the right foot...Soon because my tops and projects are stacking up!

Barbara said...

I so needed that laugh today! Just love these rules and the message they send...relax, enjoy the process, do the best you can, but don't worry so much about striving for perfection!

Angie @ Summerfield Quilts said...

Marlene I really needed that laugh. Thanks so much. Everything you said is true. Congrats on conquering that fear.

Rhonda at Cobblestone Quilting said...

I love it! My teenage daughter secretly hid and videoed me on her phone one time as I was free motion quilting. She was hiding her laughter and then showed me the video. I was moving my head, neck, and shoulders with the free motion movements. I didn't even realize it but my jaws were clenched! I love your post!

Julie Fukuda said...

Yesterday I went to the Yokohama quilt show and while walking through the booths, I saw a machine that was working on sewing. No one was attending it, it was just stitching away!
So, who gets the credit? The person who designed the pattern, the person who programed the machine, or the guy who set it up and pushed the button? I did not return to see if it made any mistakes.
Thanks for the humor, even if I sew by hand, and the permission to wear wrinkles.

Vroomans' Quilts said...

I sent your blog site to a newbie stressing over her FMQ to check out your wisdom. I loved this post!

Marjorie's Busy Corner said...

Too funny!!! But oh so true....you described me to a tea....in the first paragraph....lol

brenco1 said...

This needs to go into my archives for when I decide to machine quilt again. Love your rules. Water is all I ever take in my quilting room.

Michele said...

Great post and one that I will refer back to many times in the future, when I finally get around to try the quilting part myself.

Michelle said...

A delightful post. I think I am going to copy and paste it into notepad so I can print it and give it to my quilting girls on Saturday. They will love it!

As I have said before, you should be a writer (in addition to being a blogger). I would definitely buy your books!

Hugs!
Michelle

Karen said...

Lots of truth to the humor!

Auntie Stina said...

Awesome! I'm just getting ready to set up my machine to do some FMQ, so this came right in time!

Sheila said...

I love number 8. I was able to relax when I allowed myself to do a little loop here and there and not "sweat it" if I crossed another line once in a while by accident.
Great rules. Great post! Thank you.

Linda said...

What a hoot! You are too funny, Marlene.

I beg to differ with rule #3. Apparently quilt judges out there DO believe there's such a thing as even stitches... without a stitch regulator. "A few tiny stitches and a few long stitches" are not acceptable. Judges at the Pacific International Quilt Festival, where two of my quilts were admitted for juried competition, told me I room for improvement!

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Jana said...

Great post and so true!!!

Jana said...

Great post and so true!!!

Arkansas Patti said...

Got tickled at #7. That is good advice for any venture.

Marge said...

Okay, maybe I'll try again. I am where you were in your first paragraph....scared and shaking in my boots. But I am determined, so I will take your advice and give it another go. I'll cross stitching lines and loop de loop all I want. #7 might be tough to follow, but we'll give it a go!

Fun list, Marlene. Thanks!

Crooked Gulley Art Quilts - Mary Couch said...

One more rule... Never make a stitch so small that it can't be ripped out.... but then, if you're doing all of the rules - who would notice a few incorrectly placed stitches??
I love all of your rules. Wonder if I can post a list of them on my design wall?
Hugs from Mary

Angie said...

I LOVE your rules for FMQ!!! :D I may be able to give it a go now that I have these guidelines to help me. :D Would you favor me with an invite to PinInterest? I just found out that one has to be invited to sign up and I would LOVE to use this. Thanks bunches! :)

Truffle queen said...

Classic! True! I'm going to print this out and read it a few times before I start each of those dreaded free-motion "events"!! Thanks for sharing!! and NO grape Kool-ade - only Welches grapejuice!!

Yumm yumz by patticakes said...

So funny, Marlene! Maybe I will wipe the frown from my brow and the sweat from my palms and give it a try after all!

Gmama Jane said...

This has to be your Funniest yet Oh so True Post EVER!!!! I was cracking up the whole way thru. I'm TERRIFIED of FMQ and hopefully your *rules* will free me from jumping on in and giving it a whirl. I really like the wisdom of quilts having Character and therefore don't be afraid of some wonky stitching...Ok you didn't say wonky but I know that's what you meant. Ok, let's go upstairs to the CAVE and give it a whirl.
Blessings
Gmama Jane

Purple Pam said...

I totally agree with all your rules. I have experienced many of them and I find all them to be absoluetly true!

Marie said...

Now I am sitting here wondering what Free Mition Machine Quilting is. Curiouser and curiouser! I have a quilt top all done with the backing on and batt sandwiched in between, but don't know how to go from there. It's a lap type quilt, but still quite big and a bit intimidating! Great piece of writing Marlene! xxoo

JCnNC said...

This is so wonderful and creatively funny and #8 has to be my favorite - I so dislike stippling and your philosophy is mine and makes it more fun. My life just somehow does not conform to the rule of "never crossing the line." Thanks Marlene for the smiles and chuckles today.

debbie said...

Loved it! Please send more info on #5. Not the thread matching, but the MIL stuff. My son just got married Saturday!

Amy, a redeemed sheep said...

I laughed and laughed as I read this post. You are the best!!

Jackie said...

Loved your words of wisdom!

Connie said...

I really enjoyed your post, it put a smile on my face!