How do you audition your quilting stitches?

I'm guest posting again today over at Sew Mama Sew, sharing my top three methods for testing out quilting stitches without sewing a single stitch. I don't know about you, but I positively detest having to rip out quilting stitches. I think most of us prefer to avoid the seam ripper when possible! So I really like getting an idea of what my stitches might look like before stitching them, thus preventing as much ripping as possible. Check out my post right here :)

Speaking of quilting, if you are looking for some new quilting stitches to master this summer, you might want to pop over to Craftsy over the next few days, as they're having a giant summer sale, with big deals on all their classes, including Angela Walters's latest class, Little Changes Big Variety. Have a great day!

Guest posting at Sew Mama Sew today!

I'm super excited to tell you that I'm going to sharing over the next few months at Sew Mama Sew - it was one of the first blogs I ever guest posted on several years ago, and I love how much information they've cultivated there over the years! I'm posting the first in a series of posts about free-motion quilting over there today, Top 10 Tips for Beginning Free-Motion Quilters. If free-motion quilting has gotten the best of you in the past or if it's been something you've been hesitant to try, check out my tips for getting started on the right foot, and remember that your attitude will make or break your early experiences with free-motion quilting.

When I first started free-motion quilting, I didn't know I was supposed to be scared of it, so I just went for it and did it. It wasn't perfect, and I knew it, but I didn't let that get to me. I focused on having fun with it, and over time, with lots of practice, my stitches got better and better. And yours can too!

You can check out my top tips right here, and if you want more free-motion tips, tricks, and examples, check out my Craftsy class and save $15 on your class registration right here - Start Free-Motion Quilting! If you're more of a fan of walking foot quilting, you can also check out Jacquie Gering's new Craftsy class, Creative Quilting with Your Walking Foot, which is just fantastic. Have a super day!

The lowdown on FMQ feet

I'm guest-posting over at Sew Mama Sew today, talking about free-motion quilting feet for domestic sewing machines. Much like with piecing feet, there are lots of options for free-motion quilting feet! Open toe, closed toe, floating, spring loaded - it's a smorgasbord of options, really. I'm breaking them all down to give you the lowdown about what feet work best for free-motion quilting, and there is a super fun giveaway involved too! Hop on over to Sew Mama Sew to check it out!

Start Free-Motion Quilting - My Craftsy Class!!

Start Free-Motion Quilting

The day is finally here - my Craftsy class is officially up and running! Start Free-Motion Quilting is my first class with the wonderful folks at Craftsy, and this class is perfect for you if you're just getting started with free-motion quilting, or if you've done it before and run into trouble, or if you've done it before and just haven't fallen in love with it. Trust me, my love for free-motion quilting is contagious!

Start Free-Motion Quilting with me on Craftsy!

In my class, you'll not only learn about the necessary tools of free motion quilting, but you'll also learn how to handle many of the common problems that can happen when you free motion quilt, from skipped stitched to crazy stitch lengths. I also walk you through ten different free motion quilting stitches that I come back to again and again, that can be used in many different ways, and all of which are super beginner friendly.

More from Start Free-Motion Quilting!

There are also three patterns included with the class, two pillow patterns and a baby quilt. You'll also find a great Getting Started checklist and a Troubleshooting Checklist in the class materials, to keep near your machine to help you as you're getting started free-motion quilting. Today, I want to share with you about the baby quilt pattern found in the class materials, the Superstar quilt. For the class, I sewed up a Superstar quilt in Bonnie & Camille's April Showers prints. Super light and fun, perfect for a new baby.

Superstar - The Original Version

Very sweet, right? Having played digitally with fabric choices on this pattern before making it, I knew Superstar could have an edgier, funkier look to it, so I also sewed up another one over the past week or so, using Denyse Schmidt's Ansonia and Violet Craft's Waterfront Park. Talk about a perfect match! While I love both versions of this quilt, I will definitely be looking for a great place to hang up my Denyse/Violet mash-up Superstar quilt, the colors are just totally me :) 

Superstar - The Edgy Version

Superstar - The Edgy Version - backing

Have you taken a Craftsy class before? I'm big on learning new things, so I love Craftsy. I love being able to learn about what I want to learn about, when I have time to learn it. And oh my goodness, they've got a class for everything! I just love the wide variety of classes on Craftsy, from creative photography to croissant making, from chocolate cakes to improv piecing, from dressmaking to cake decorating, they've really got it all. And now they've got me, too, and I'm so very excited to be working with them. It was a blast to put this class together and I cannot wait to hear what you think of it! To save on your Start Free Motion Quilting class registration, click here and you can start watching right away! 

Just a little FMQ action...

It's been such a fun couple of days in my sewing room, because I've suddenly found myself with an abundance of quilt tops to finish, so that means a whole lotta FMQ going on! I'm not entirely sure how that happened, but it's been one of those happy accidents. I remember at one point when I was working on my book that I consciously decided to save up the quilt tops and quilt them all successively, because the free-motion quilting was my favorite part of the quilting process, and I wanted to get to do a ton of it at once. This time, I didn't really choose to do that, not consciously at least!

The line-up - Aurifil (all 50 wts) from L-R -  navy (#2735), orange (#2214), green (#5017), fuchsia (#2588), yellow (#2105), and red (#2250)

Free-motion quilting is still one of my favorite parts of the quilting process. I love the freedom I feel just stitching away, freehanding different shapes and designs in thread. While I'm a perfectionist about a lot of things, somehow I am able to check my perfectionist tendencies at the door when I'm free motioning and I just enjoy the process.

Rainbow Dance Party - quilting sneak peek

One of the other things that I love about free-motioning all of my own quilts on my home machine is working in sync with my Juki. I'm not kidding when I tell you how much I adore this machine. It may be nearly frill-less, with little to no bells or whistles, but let me tell you, this Juki knows how to get the job done. And ultimately, isn't that what we want from our sewing machines? It's such a joyful experience to get in a good groove with the Juki and just stitch away, with some good tunes and some fab thread, my favorite - Aurifil.

Sometimes the back is almost prettier than the front

I'm excited to tell you that I have some pretty big news that I'll get to share coming up later this month that has to do with free-motion quilting...and it might just rhyme with daftsy, if that were an actual make sure to stay tuned for more on that!

Some spring flowers

Question for you free motion your quilts on your home machine? Let's do a little giveaway today - you tell me about your experience with free-motioning, love it or hate it, and I'll choose a random winner to win a nice, fat spool of my favorite thread from my personal stash, Aurifil 50 wt in one of my favorite  shade of white, trusty color #2024. Ready, set, go!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Scale can totally change the look of a stitch - the micro mod clamshell

Whole lotta free motion going on!

If only my sewing machine had an odometer...I bet it would show some serious mileage from the last several days of nonstop sewing! Sewing machines really should have odometers, don't you think? It would be awfully fun to know how many miles you'd sewed, right?

Mod Clamshells in a staggered setting
Mod Clamshells in a staggered setting - tutorial right here!

In any case, I've been doing tons of free motioning the last few days. Miles and miles of it, actually. It's been a lot of fun to just stitch and stitch away, with some good tunes and tons of trusty Aurifil! I'd forgotten how relaxing free motioning can be with the right playlist! Do you like to listen to music when you free-motion? Or are you a fan of audiobooks or movies while you stitch?

A little flowery FMQ action

Speaking of free-motioning, I've added a bunch of new dates and times to my Class Schedule page, including more free motion classes, by popular demand. FMQ is such a fun thing for me to teach, I'm really excited to continue offering those classes. I've got quite a bit of classes and trunk shows coming up in 2014, including paper piecing and quilt workshops. It's going to be a ton of fun! Won't you come join me? :) Have a great day today!

Stacked wishbones

FMQ Troubleshooting Tips & Tricks

I've spent the last few weeks dealing with FMQ headaches, as I get to know my Juki better. I've been teaching free-motion quilting now for several months, and have dealt with FMQ troubleshooting on lots of different brands, but this was my first Juki, so it's been a little bit of a challenge. Admittedly, my Viking Sapphire was extremely easy to free-motion on - turn it on, put the proper foot on and go, basically, but the Juki has taken a bit more tweaking. One of the things I hear most often in my free motion quilting classes is that the most challenging parts of FMQ is troubleshooting tension problems, so I wanted to share with you some of my tips and tricks to help you find the right settings on your machine for FMQ...

Cathedral Windows FMQ

Free Motion Quilting Troubleshooting Tips & Tricks
So you're free-motioning, and things are going well at first...until blam - a skipped stitch! Or blam - thread breakage! What do you do? Follow these tips and tricks below and I feel sure you will find the answer to your problem.

1. Change your needle. If it's been on there a while, it may be worn out. More often than not, a new needle will fix things up for you. Free-motion quilting puts a lot of stress on your needle, and it's more prone to bend or warp during free-motion quilting than when piecing. I try my best to remember to start each free motion project with a fresh needle.

2. Cut both your bobbin and top threads and rethread both. Dig out your manual for this one, and follow the directions step by step. One of my FMQ students had been using her machine for over ten years, and threading it improperly all along!

Wiggle FMQ

3. Clean out your machine. Take out your bobbin and clean the bobbin case throroughly. Keep your eyes peeled for stray threads, too. Use a tweezer to grab any stray threads you find.

4. Try a bigger needle - your needle may be too small for this. Ultimately, this has been the biggest solution with my Juki. I'm now using a Topstitch 100/16 Needle for FMQ on the Juki, which seems to work best. It has a much larger eye than the 90/20 needle that I use on my Sapphire for FMQ, so experiment with your machine to find what works best. Bigger needles, in general, are more rigid and will resist bending, even when FMQ'ing, and the needle bending is what most often causes skipped stitches and broken threads.

Sharp vs Topstich Needle

5. Can you adjust the pressure of the presser foot? It may be too strong/high. On the Juki, my presser foot pressure guide looks about like so...

6. Give it some gas. If your motor (and therefore your needle) is moving too slowly, it can create additional pressure on the needle, often causing thread breakage or skipped stitches. Try to keep your speed nice and even, at a medium to fast pace, to keep your stitches even and your needle nice and sturdy.

7. What kind of thread are you using? Some machines just don't like certain brands of thread. I've found so far that my Sapphire despises Superior threads and the Juki doesn't like Coats & Clark threads. Each machine is different, so try other brands. The one thread brand that I can't recall hearing anyone say their machine doesn't like is Aurifil, so you may want to give that a try.

Mixed FMQ

8. Set your stitch length to zero. Many machines don't need this in order to FMQ properly, but if you're still having trouble after all of the other steps, give this a try.

9. Make sure your needle and foot are installed properly. Double-check that your needle is fully screwed in and that your free motion foot of choice is installed accurately. I once had a student using a spring-loaded open toe foot who had stitch problems until we realized that the needle rest was not sitting on the needle screw as it should be. Once we reinstalled the foot properly, all was well!

10. Try lowering your top thread tension. Is your top thread breaking? If you've already followed the steps above, it's possible your thread tension may be too tight. Try lowering the tension.

If all else fails, take your machine in to a dealer for a full cleaning - it's possible that your machine may need to have the timing adjusted if all of these tips have failed you. Make sure to tell your dealer what's going wrong and what you've done to try to solve the problem.

By the way, if you're in the Tampa area, I'll actually be teaching my Beginning Free Motion Quilting class at Inspire Quilting & Sewing next Friday, and there are still a few seats available, so if you're new to free motioning or feel like you need help, I'd love to see you there! Have a great weekend :)

Friday Fun: The Clamshell Loop Tutorial

Happy Friday! One of my goals this year is to try to share more tutorials with you guys - it's the least I can do to thank you for all of your support here on my blog. Today's tutorial is a free motion quilting one - I love free-motioning, and I absolutely love teaching it to others as well. This FMQ stitch is a simple continuous line design I'm calling the Clamshell Loop. It's an easy and pretty fun to boot.

Clamshell Loop FMQ on solid

This is a linear design, so you'll either need to mark your quilt top for this design, or FMQ this design on a quilt with lots of patchwork that you can use as your lines. For the photos in this tutorial, I created a small quilt sandwich, and drew lines with a ruler and a Frixion pen. Frixion pens are handy for marking because they disappear when heat is applied, like from an iron.

Before I try any new FMQ style, I always doodle it a few times with a Sharpie to get the hang of the motion of the stitch. A quick warning: I doodle the opposite direction the I stitch in. I doodle from left to right, just the same way that I write. But I quilt from right to left, so just keep that in mind when following this tutorial. To doodle this design, simply follow the arrows on the diagram below.


Now, when I sit at my sewing machine to FMQ, I make sure to begin by placing my needle in what will become the binding area, and stitch a few stitches in place, to create a knot, then begin to stitch in an arc to the left, as shown below.



I sew the first arc, moving from right to left, and creating a loop that moves counter-clockwise, leading into the next connected arc, and so forth. I then continue into the third clamshell, the fourth, and so on, until I finish a row.


Then, I begin all over again, moving my quilt sandwich so that I'm back on the right edge of the quilt again, and stitch another row. This stitch gives lots of great texture to a finished quilt, even when you look at it through a print, rather than a solid fabric.


You can experiment with the width of your clamshells, with the size of your loops, and create a lot of different looks with this one stitch. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial! If you follow this tutorial, I'd love to see your progress in my Flickr group, Stitching with Don't Call Me Betsy.

Clamshell Loop FMQ on solid

Clamshell Loop FMQ on a print

I recently used this FMQ style for a project that's headed to QuiltCon, but I can't show you much more than this just yet. Very soon, I promise!

Can't show you more yet, but I promise it's pretty!

Let me make it up to you - the fantastic Julie of Intrepid Thread is giving away a super fun fat quarter bundle that I've put together, which would be so amazing in my new Wheel of Fortune pattern - this bundle is called Orange You Glad It's Friday. To enter, simply tell me about your favorite FMQ stitch. Never tried FMQ before? Tell me which FMQ stitch or style you'd love to master. This giveaway ends Sunday 2/3 at midnight EST. A winner will be announced on Monday. Have a great weekend! THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.

Friday Fun Giveaway thanks to Intrepid Thread

Scrappy goodness always makes me smile

Thanks everybody, for all the wonderful ideas and feedback about my desk troubles. My husband has constructed an extra support under the desk that seems to be helping quite a bit, so I think things are on the upswing on that front. I'll try to get a decent picture of the way things are now real soon. I've been sewing the last couple of days, trying to get caught up on a few projects that have snuck up on me, and I've actually got some things I can share for once, yay!!

I finished up this gorgeous block for Brioni, using this tutorial. I highly recommend it. Such a pretty finished block! I can't wait to see her start to put all of her blocks together, they're going to be so super pretty. I just love scrappy blocks like this!

Lone Starburst for Brioni

I also finished up quilting a quilt I can't share just yet, but I'm really happy with how the quilting turned out, and I can definitely show you that part! It was a lot of fun to work on, and it was a big relief to see that my new set-up really did make the quilting go much more smoothly, thanks to the large work surface.

Quilting - check!

It feels good to be spending some time with my sewing machine in between getting ready for school to get started up again. It's been a great summer, but I'm ready to get back into the swing of school again!

Tutorial: FMQ Baptist Fans

I think these baptist fans are officially my new favorite style of free motion quilting.  I'm hoping that with a bit more practice, I might just be able to freehand these fans without marking up the quilt, but we'll see.  I've heard from a lot of you guys over the last few days about these fans, and how they look hard, and I can tell you this much: you can do this.  It may take a little bit of practice, but this style of FMQ is totally doable.

Star Crossed Stitch quilt - unwashed detail #1

You'll need:
Circle Cut ruler, or similar
Water-soluble fabric marker
FMQ foot of your choice - I use a spring-loaded open toe foot
FMQ thread of choice - I use Gutermann or Aurifil, but whatever your machine likes will work just fine

A few notes about this tutorial:
* I am right handed, but I stitch right to left in this tutorial and 99.9999% of the time.  Why?  Because it makes sense with the way my machine is set up.  Feel free to flip the ruler upside down and trace your fans in the opposite direction so you can stitch right to left, if you prefer quilting that way.
* This design can also be done with a walking foot, but honestly, I really intensely dislike straight line quilting (and to me, all quilting with my walking foot is like straight line quilting), so I much prefer this method.  I feel it's way more enjoyable, but to each their own.

Let's FMQ!
1. Before basting, take your finished and pressed quilt top to your cutting table or another large surface.  It's best to do your marking on an unbasted quilt, in case the marker bleeds through to your batting.  It's also a lot easier to work with, without the extra heft of the batting and backing.  Note below that I have modified my circle ruler slightly; I have added a piece of masking tape at an approximately 45 degree angle, so that I don't overtrace my fans. 


2. Align your Circle Cut ruler with the bottom of your fabric, with the outside edge of your outermost circle line close to the edge of your fabric.  It doesn't have to be at the edge, just close.  Begin tracing the lines, stopping at the tape.


3. Repeat step 2 over and over until you have completed your first row of fans, scooting your ruler to the left and starting each new fan with the outermost arc butting up to the edges of your previous fan.

4. To start a new row of fans and create some additional visual interest, you'll want to nest your fans.  To do this, set your ruler with the arrows in the center lining up with where your fans below meet as shown below.  


5. Continue tracing fans and creating new rows until you have covered the quilt top.  


6. Baste quilt as desired.  Next, load up a fresh bobbin, your FMQ foot of choice, and get ready to quilt.  Begin by putting your needle down at the start of your fans in the bottom right hand corner of your quilt.  If your machine has a needle down feature (where whenever you stop the machine, the needle is down), be sure to turn it on.  We're going to be moving the quilt to create the curves in these fans, but in a linear fashion.  There will be no rotating of the quilt as this design is quilted.


7. Stitch-trace the outermost curve of your fan, moving from right to left, until you reach the end of your first curve.  Stop, with the needle down.  As you're stitching your first curve, the one after that, and the zillions after that, here's a tip: Don't freak out if your needle bobbles or wobbles a little bit as you're stitch-tracing.  Just keep flowing with it, don't try to correct it immediately, you can gradually work your way back to the blue line.  Once you rinse the blue lines from your quilt, you'll never see the wobbles again.  I promise.  :)


8.  To begin stitching the next curve, slowly stitch downward from your top curve down to the next curve, as shown below.  Then begin stitching to the right, again tracing the curve.



9. Continue stitching back toward where you began your fan, creating the second curve of the fan, and stop, needle down, at the end of the traced line.  Next, stitch to the left, to catch the next traced line.  


10. Repeat to stitch all traced lines from your Circle Cut ruler.  You'll notice, however, that when you stitch the final traced curve, that you have stitched to the left of the stems of your fan curves.  You will need to freehand stitch the final curve of your fan, moving back to the right, to match your other curves.


11. To travel to your next fan from your final freehand curve, stitch to the left, to the edge of the outermost curve of the next fan as shown below.  The arrows show you here which direction to move your quilt as you stitch.


12. Repeat, stitching over each traced line, until all lines are stitched.  Then, using a spray bottle loaded with water, rinse away those blue lines, and ta da!



Now, if my husband ever stops working 18 hour days, I will try to post a video of me doing this kind of FMQ, to help make it a wee bit clearer.  If you have any questions, don't hesitate to let me know!  And if you use my tutorial to add some fans to your quilt, please be sure to shoot me an email, I'd love to hear all about it!  You can also add photos of your work following this tutorial to my Flickr group.   Have a great day!

Star Crossed Stitch quilt - done!

Thank you all so much for your support last week when I was unquilting this quilt and trying something new. I am so excited to share the finished quilt with you!  This is definitely one of my favorite finishes in a while, thanks to the fun I had quilting this one and the great texture the quilting created.  I love densely quilted quilts like this one, so I'm quite sure it's going to be one of my favorites for a while to come.

Star Crossed Stitch quilt - unwashed full shot
before washing

Star Crossed Stitch quilt - washed full shot
after washing
A while back, I fell in love with a block I saw in a copy of Jinny Beyer's The Quilter's Album of Patchwork Patterns, on loan from the library, and sketched it out in my sketchbook.  Many months later, back in January, when the fabulously talented Betz White sent me some of her fantastic organic line of fabric for Robert Kaufman, I revisited the sketch and decided to finally make the block.  I called it a Star Crossed block, as it felt like a fab combination of a star and cross block, and I slowly started working on this quilt bit by bit, in between what feels like a zillion other obligations that I can't share yet.

Star Crossed Stitch quilt - unwashed detail #1

I was super excited to finish this quilt...until I realized that I didn't have a clue how I wanted to quilt it.  Usually, I don't make that decision until after I see the finished quilt top.  When I looked at this quilt top, I just couldn't seem to decide.  I wanted to do something other than my usual smooth stipple, and I thought a pointy stipple would be fun, but rather than mocking it up to see how it would look, I just went for it.  Whoops.  I hated it.  Intensely.  So much so that I ripped it all out.  Note to self: always mock up the quilting.  Always.  (ETA: All I do to mock up my quilts is print out a photo and draw out my FMQ design on it with a highlighter.  It's uber-low-tech and fast.)

before washing

Somehow or another, I got baptist fans on the brain, and just couldn't let go.  So I did them.  And they were really fun to do!  The way I stitched these fans is indeed in a continuous line, with one start at the beginning of each row of fans and one stop at the end.  I'm putting the finishing touches on a tutorial of how I did this quilting to share with you all tomorrow, so stay tuned for that.

before washing
I'm so happy I went with my gut and ripped out the pointy stipple quilting stitches I started with.  I'm also really glad I tried a new style of quilting, even though I really thought it was going to be either too difficult or too tedious.  Trying something new can be so much fun!

Star Crossed Stitch quilt - washed detail #1
after washing
Thanks again, Betz, for sharing some of your lovely fabrics for this project!

Quilt Stats
Name: Star Crossed Stitch quilt
Block Pattern: Star Crossed block
Size: 34" x 44"
Fabrics: Betz White's Stitch Organic collection for Robert Kaufman along with some coordinating fabrics from Just Dandy, Katie Jump Rope, and So Sophie
Backing: Remants from Betz White's Stitch Organic collection
Quilting: All-over baptist fan free motion quilting (tutorial coming tomrrow!) by yours truly
Binding: Scrappy binding, using remants from Betz White's Stitch Organic collection, hand finished

A quilting soundtrack

I'm a big music nerd.  Always have been.  I grew up in a dinner theater, thanks to my mother who ran the box office, and was exposed to lots of different music pretty early on.  I also played the clarinet for many years, and seriously considered a career in music for a while.  Instead, I've become a quilter who is seriously dependent on music.  I make playlists for free-motion quilting, playlists for pressing, playlists for piecing, playlists for hand binding, playlists for machine binding...I think you get the drift.  My iPod is filled to the brim these days!

For me, music is the key to smooth FMQ.  It not only helps me focus, but it helps me keep my stitches even.  I've spent the last couple of days FMQ'ing and hand binding two quilts, and made a new playlist I thought I'd share with you all, after Colleen asked what was on my playlist.

1. Eric Hutchinson "Watching You Watch Him"

2. Needtobreathe "The Outsiders"

3. 2 Cellos "Viva La Vida"

4. Walk Off the Earth "Somebody That I Used To Know"

5. Gavin DeGraw "Radiation"

6. Florence + the Machine "Shake It Off"

7. 30 Seconds to Mars "Hurricane (unplugged)"

8. The Black Keys "Tighten Up"

9. Young the Giant "Cough Syrup"

10. Kassidy "Waking Up Sideways"

11. The Daylights "I Hope This Gets To You"

12. TFDI "Pretty Things"

13. Gavin DeGraw "Not Over You"

14. Matt Nathanson "Run"

15. Kassidy "Oh My God"

Do you listen to music when you sew/quilt?  I'd love to hear what your favorite tune is these days, I always love finding new music.  Hope you're having a great weekend!

If at first you don't succeed...

Try, try, try again, right?  Maybe after some foot stomping?

My mettle was tested yesterday as I worked on quilting...and then unquilting...and then re-quilting my Star Crossed Stitch quilt.  I thought with the sharp angles in the piecing that perhaps some pointy stippling would be interesting and I wanted to do something different.  Never tried it before, but that's never stopped me in the past, so I went for it.  I enjoyed it, but after about 10 minutes, I took a harder look at how it looked with the quilt, and it just wasn't working.  Please excuse my horrible phone camera pictures...

Then, I sat on it.  Walked away for a while, had a cookie, and came back.  And looked again.  And I still hated it.  It wasn't that I hated the quilting itself, it was that the quilting just didn't feel like it went with the quilt.  And for the very first time, I unquilted.  It was painful.  It made me painfully crabby.  I kept wondering if I was being too much of a perfectionist and that perhaps I ought to have kept going.  But then, as I was unquilting, I had a crazy, completely hair-brained thought.  What about baptist fans?  Baptist fans are quilted by hand, or by a long armer, I told myself.  But somehow, the idea kind of took me over.  I started trying to freehand draw my own, and they were...well...hideous.  Then, I trucked over to Jo-Ann's to look for a circle ruler, figuring if I could make a template of sorts, perhaps I could manage to pull this off, and I lucked out.

I found a Circle Cut ruler, which is has a bunch of nesting half-circles, much like the traditional baptist fan, and I busted out my water soluble pen and went to work.  After I traced my first row of fans, I went ahead and stitched them.  It took a few curves before I started to get the hang of it, but I really enjoyed it.  So I marked up the rest of the quilt and kept on stitching.



I'm about halfway done quilting now, and I'm super happy that I unquilted and trusted my crazy self.  When I finish this and show you guys the front, I think it's going to be really cool!!!

Kaleidoscope QAL: Wrapping it up

It's time to wrap up the Kaleidoscope Quilt Along this week!  I'll be wrapping things up in two posts - this one here, with your instructions for finishing up your quilt, and a second post with my finished quilt and a place to link up your finished quilts momentarily.  If you haven't stopped by the Flickr group yet, you absolutely should.  There is some serious eye candy to be seen over there!!  I love how different each quilter is making their Kaleidoscope, this is precisely what makes quilt-alongs so much fun.

When it comes to finishing your quilt, there's four basic steps: making/purchasing a quilt back, basting your quilt sandwich, quilting, and binding.

I'm a fan of pieced backs.  I know, it can be tedious to piece a quilt back, after piecing a top, but think about it this way - it's a great way to use some scraps you've created in cutting fabrics for your quilt top, and it's also  a way to exercise your creativity.  See what you've got and make it work!  For my quilt, I took 3 yds of a coordinating print for my quilt, and added a 16" strip of scraps from the front of my quilt.  I'm really happy with how the back turned out on this one.  If you're thinking about trying a pieced back, here's a little mosaic of some of my favorite recent quilt backs...

Now that you've made a quilt back and cut a piece of batting to go with, it's time to make your quilt sandwich.  I'm a big fan of spray basting.  My knees just don't like pin basting, nor does my back.  Spray basting saves me not only time but some sanity, too.  It's really quite simple to do, but if you've never done it before, check out my bloggy buddy Kristie's fantastic spray basting tutorial - the only thing I do differently is that I add a few pins around the outside edges of my quilt sandwich, just to be on the safe side.

Once you've basted, it's time to start quilting.  I'm a free-motion quilter most of the time, especially for large projects.  While I love how straight-line quilting looks, I get bored when I quilt that way, so I like how free-motion quilting keeps me moving constantly.  Usually, I go for a meandering stipple, which is like an "S" turned and twisted throughout the quilt, but for this one, I went with little loops - though my toddler says that the quilting is a bee's path.  If you're interested in trying free motion quilting for the first time, or you are still fairly new at it, you might want to pop over to read a few tips for FMQ'ing that I wrote a while back.   If you're more interested in straight line quilting, Amy wrote a great tutorial that should help you get started.

Kaleidoscope - quilting close-up

Binding is kind of a personal choice.  I tend to stick with 2.5" strips for my binding, and I machine them on to the back of the quilt first, then flip it over and machine it on to the front as well.  I do occasionally do the reverse, and machine to the front and hand-stitch to the back for a cleaner finish, but I never trust the security of my hand-stitching, so I prefer the machining method.  Emily wrote a fantastic tute for finishing your binding 100% by machine, I highly recommend it.

I can't wait to start seeing finished quilts appearing in the Kaleidoscope Quilt Along gallery!  You can link up your finished quilt here, and I will be drawing a random quilt finisher to win these fantastic Anthology fat quarters.

Quilt Along Giveaway!

Time for some quilting!

My sweet husband helped me baste two quilts last night, thanks to a very dwindling can of spray baste which is now empty, so I've got a quilty kind of weekend ahead of me here.  I am really looking forward to quilting my Bottled Rainbows quilt and my Supernova quilt and getting these cuddle-ready!

Two quilts basted and...
Sorry for the blurry photo!!!  Nighttime pictures never seem to work out for me!
I'm going to be doing some straight-line quilting on my Bottled Rainbows quilt, since it was a quilt-as-you-go project.  I'll be outline quilting each block, which should be pretty straightforward and simple.

For my Supernova quilt, I'm going to be doing an all-over stipple, which is the first FMQ style I learned.  It's the style of quilting I tend to use the most, and I get a lot of questions from my followers about it, so I figured there might be some of you who might like a few of my tips.

My Top 5 FMQ Tips:

1. Practice on paper first.  It gets your muscles in the right mindset for quilting.  Doodle - and doodle often!  I recommend using a gel pen, not a ballpoint, because they move more smoothly.  I often doodle during the extra half-hour it takes for my son to finish every meal after I've finished mine.

Close up of Zoology Baby Quilt
My first FMQ on my first quilt
2. Make a playlist or two.  I have six different playlists on my iPod for quilting.  They make all the difference in the world for me when I'm quilting.  They range from rock to rock/rap fusion to pop to Broadway to alternative.  My musical taste is kind of all over the place and quite broad.  Oddly, I find that I quilt best to something that's a little bit loud, fast and rough in some way.  One of my favorite bands to quilt to is Paramore, which is one of the reasons I was so excited to help Brooke finish off her Paramore quilt last year.  OT - I am a bit of a music nerd.  I could seriously go on Name That Tune (if they still had it) and probably win with just one or two notes each time.

Locked and loaded, ready to quilt!

3. Use gloves.  There's special quilting gloves (I have a cheap pair from Jo-Ann's), but some are really over-priced.  Gardening gloves with grippy fingers can work just as well (as long as you use them just for quilting!).  The grippy fingers really help you move the quilt around better!

4. Wind up a boatload of bobbins first.  That way you don't have to stop midstream to wind bobbins.

Locked and loaded, ready to sew!

5. Tackle one row at a time.  Fold up the rest of your quilt and use clothespins to keep your excess quilt out of your way so you can quilt down a row before moving to the next one.

Drunk love - another quilting close-up

What are you sewing this weekend?  And what are you listening to while you sew?

Sliced Coins Quilt Along: Backings and Quilting

This is the final week in the Sliced Coins Quilt Along.  Have you had fun?  I sure hope so, I know I have.  I'm so proud of all the amazing finished quilt tops I'm seeing for the quilt along!  It makes me so happy to see how many people are participating and how much they're enjoying this quilt pattern.

A part of me really likes making quilt backs, trying to use up scraps from the quilt top and making them work in a new way.  Another part of me dreads making quilt backs, because sometimes it feels a little bit tedious to me.  I've done a lot of different things for quilt backs in the last year and I've also seen a ton of awesome ones on Flickr - here's some of my favorites for inspiration.

Since you more than likely have extra coins, I went ahead and did some math for you all for a quilt back, to use up those excess coins and make a scrappylicious kind of quilt back.  I've also PDF'd the instructions for you, to make things even easier, just click on the picture below to access the PDF.

Now that you've got a quilt back, it's time to baste and quilt!  Basting is my least favorite part of quilting!    Jennifer wrote a really comprehensive basting tutorial during her quilt-along last year - That Girl...That Quilt's Basting tutorial - and I highly recommend it.

As for quilting, I'm more of a free-motion kind of girl.  Don't get me wrong, I like straight-line quilting, but free-motion quilting is relaxing to me.  I would be perfectly happy putting my earbuds in, turning on my iPod, and free motion quilting all day.  That sounds quite awesome, actually.  I learned to free-motion quilt from Elizabeth Hartman's quilt patterns, they're very thorough, but the basic gist is this - practice the motif you want to quilt (i.e. loopy, stipple, circles, etc.) on paper first.  Practicing on paper is really helpful, even if it feels a little silly.  Randi wrote a fantastic free-motion quilting tutorial last year that will really help you free-motion, if it's your first time.

If you're interested in straight line quilting, there's two great tutorials to see - Amy's simple straight-line quilting tutorial and Katy's wavy quilting tutorial.  Both are very beginner-friendly.

I can't wait to see how these quilts turn out!  In fact, I'm so excited to see these quilts finished up that I'm going to hold a giveaway for those of you who finish your quilts!  You'll be able to enter in the giveaway linky starting next Friday 2/18 and ending on Friday 2/28.  I'll be giving away a gift certificate to Sew Fresh Fabrics for $25 to a lucky random winner.  Thank you, Peg & Becca!

Need some fabric now?  They're running an awesome free domestic shipping special for orders over $35 right now until 2/14 to share the Valentine's love!

P.S. - I entered my finished Sliced Coins quilts in the awesome Love Nest quilt show over at Gen X Quilters - go check it out and vote!  If you want to vote for me, I'm #11, but there are a ton of awesome quilts to see, so hop on over and see for yourself :)

Adventures in spray basting and free motion quilting

I'm proud of myself, I tried two need things in my quilting world this week...spray basting and free motion quilting in a loopy fashion.  Neither quite went as planned, and I'm glad to be done with both of them.  Let's start with the spray basting...

I bought a can of June Tailor's basting spray as a Christmas present to myself.  I've been wanting to try spray basting for a while, because I positively despise pin basting.  I decided it would be good to start with something small, so I chose to spray baste the patchwork quilt that I'm sending along with the doll I'm making for my niece's birthday.  I sprayed the heck out of my batting, just like the instructions said, without thinking first.  My piece of batting was larger than both my back and front pieces.

This was not my smartest moment here.  I realized this after I smoothed the batting out on my back piece and found myself sticking to the batting that was sticking out.  Did I stop there?  Nope.  Did I trim the excess batting?  Nope.  I flipped it over, sprayed the other side of my batting and smoothed on my front.

Did I then do some trimming?  Nope.  I started quilting.

The darn batting stuck to my machine several times and it dawned on me why I was having troubles, and so I hope my lesson is officially learned.  I think I'll try spray basting again - maybe on a baby quilt?  Another small-ish project, for sure, until I feel more confident in it.  Other than my own silly error, it was definitely an enjoyable experience.  Being able to quilt without stopping every five seconds to take out a pin was pretty darn awesome.

I felt truly inspired yesterday when I hopped onto Flickr and saw what Lynne's been up to.  She's just starting to FMQ and is already trying stitches I haven't attempted, so I thought it was as good a time as any to try a new FMQ style.  I opted for some loopy meandering stitches.  I did some drawing first, to get a feel for it, and then did a small 5" practice square.  It's quite possible that my practice was a full-on waste of time since the stitches totally disappeared into the over-busy fabric.

I had a rough time at first trying to get the hang of the loops - should they all go the same direction?   Should they all be the same size?  I knew I was overthinking it, so I just turned up the music on my iPod and let go.  I really liked the look of the loops though, at the end of the project.  I will definitely try this kind of FMQ again.  It was actually a lot of fun.  If only binding were as much fun...