January 21, 2015

FMQ Weekly: Loopy Lines design for beginning quilters

I was thinking about what I can do to help all the beginners who are just taking up free-motion quilting right now. I decided to share a design that I often get new quilters trying in their first class: Loopy Lines.

This design is so lighthearted. It's something you could finish a whole quilt with, simple enough for a brand-new beginner but still interesting enough to keep a more experienced quilter from feeling completely bored.

It is exactly what it says: wavy lines with loops on them. Every now and then a double loop shows up for interest.

a. Start with a wavy line, and extend a loop to one side.
b. Continue on with the wavy line, and add another loop. Alternate the side the loops are on and vary the distance between your loops.
c. Continue on and add a double loop. Make every 3 or 4 loops double loops.
d. Continue on this way to the end of your piece (or the end of the area you are quilting)

The two things I like to point out when I show this design in class are: 1) keep your speed consistent as you go around the loops. It's a universal tendency to want to swing around those loops a little fast but that will give you long funny stitches on your loops, and 2) Avoid making your lines straight: give them a little wave. This is a personal preference thing of course, but the pressure of trying to keep the lines straight is too much. Let 'em wiggle!

Everything I've stitched this week has been screwed up somehow and I've had to redo it. Everything except this design. That's how sweet this design is, it will be good to you even when the rest of the world is completely uncooperative. Here's the video to prove it!

I'll leave you with a picture of the sunlight through my quilted piece! Happy stitching all.

January 08, 2015

FMQ Weekly: Tesseract Quilting Design

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This is a pleasantly geometric design. I usually don't use right angles in my quilting much because, as you will see if you watch the video, I just am not that great at them. I bet if I slowed down and was really careful they would come out better but I don't quilt to slow down and be really careful.

Anyway, I mention that because I want you to feel reassured if you have the same problems I have  ("right" angles that aren't, "straight" lines that curve). This pattern still seems to look good! So I'm not even going to try and shoot a better video, because I think you should see that even with those irregularities the design still plays well.

This is an echo-around design. That makes it pretty flexible because you make a shape and then echo around that however much you need to until you get to the place you want to start your next shape.

The steps:

1. Make three sides of a square.
2. Move a little to the side and echo around that square.
3. Move to the side and echo around again, as many times as you want until you get to the point that you want to start the next square.

I like the look when I start my next squares at corners, it gives this pleasant overlapping effect. But you can start your next square anywhere. You'll occasionally have some tight spaces that you have to get creative to fill, just try and keep your line spacing sort of consistent. And don't stress about that either.

Here's the short video of me stitching it:

I'm coming up with designs faster than I have patchwork to feature them! But here is the back of my stitched sample.

Thanks for the enthusiasm about the new book! See you all soon. 

January 06, 2015

Step-by-Step Free-Motion Quilting: time for a peek!

Things are all of a sudden happening fast for this book. I had somehow convinced myself that it wouldn't be here till the end of the month, but no! Books are shipping out to stores soon, the Kindle version is up on Amazon, and I haven't hardly told you anything about the book!

This is the book I wanted when I started to get the hang of free-motion quilting. I was so hungry for new designs but the only quilting design books I could find at the library were for hand quilting or these kind of kitschy designs of fish and cowboys and other "things". I didn't want Christmas trees and cactus, I wanted geometry, pattern, texture! I wanted someone to show me what was possible.

This is also the book that some of you asked for. My friend Michelle suggested after the first book came out that I should show how to make my more complicated designs by breaking them down into steps. Yes! I love doing that!

But what really got me thinking about writing a quilting design book was hearing from quilters who thought they couldn't do free-motion quilting "because I can't draw".

You know what? You totally don't have to be able to draw to do free-motion quilting! Most FMQ designs are just simple shapes. This book is full of designs that are made with simple shapes: think circles, wavy lines, spirals, arcs. These simple shapes are ones that anyone can draw and when you combine them, wow! Great designs that you can make with a little practice.

You have a couple ways to get a peek: there's a preview of the book available on Amazon (just click on the book cover and you can view about 40 pages of the book). I also made a "book trailer" video, introducing the book and showing how to stitch one of the designs. I picked the design on the cover because I love it so. You can see it in my only-slightly-awkward 2 minute homemade book promo video here.

The inside of the book is exactly like I hoped. Casual and clean. Each design spread shows a full page of the design and the step-by-step instructions for making it. All told the book is 192 pages. Isn't that great? Very few quilting books are this substantial. C&T publishing deserves a kiss on both cheeks for giving this book the space it needed to show these fresh and friendly quilting designs in a way that anyone can learn them. Love them!

If you're the type that likes to order books from the author, or likes signed copies, I am acting like a real business-lady just for you. You can order a signed copy at the A Few Scraps Webstore. I even put these FMQ bumper stickers in the store because people keep telling me they want them. Oh, and Portlanders, we will have a little book launch party next month, so if you don't want to pay for shipping hang in there and we'll handle it local!

Thanks for letting me talk your ear off about my new book! I've got some stories about the process of writing it that I still want to share, but that's for another day. Happy stitching all!

December 31, 2014

FMQ Weekly: About that resolution...

Hello beloved quilters, and happy new year!

Through the wonders of my phone being connected to the internet, it comes to my attention that a few of you are making some new years resolutions about learning FMQ. Hooray!

If I was a smart business woman I would say you should get right on ordering my books and my class.

Alas...I am not a smart business woman. I mean, I'd love it if you ordered those things, and if you want to go right ahead! But I'd like to mention that you don't need to. What you need is a darning or free-motion foot and some gloves (I know there's like 0.5% of you that don't use gloves but based on what I see from my students I'd say if you're a human you should start with the gloves).

And after you have those two things... you need to jump in.

I have a kindergartener right now. And she's learning to write (in two completely different languages!). And sometimes, it's messy. Her 2s and 5s and 7s are often backwards. Same thing sometimes with her Ns. Gs are throwing her sometimes. But because she is 5 and possessed of that kind of determination and certainty that she will get it, she just shrugs it off and keeps going. And I have no doubt that her painstaking attention to each and every wobbly letter will one day give way to smooth, flowing script. Her bizarrely sized characters will normalize and her numbers will all face the right way. I know that will happen because she keeps showing up. Five days a week I drop her off at school and she does it. And you did it once upon a time and now you can write too.

So, the question for you, with your resolution, is not whether you can free-motion quilt. Of course you can. The question is whether you will show up.

Now, you don't need to practice free-motion quilting 5 times a week, that's not what I'm getting at at all. Maybe you only have 30 minutes a week. That's all I had for several years. Take it! It's golden! Those 30 minutes a week will add up to 25 hours by the end of the year.

Have you heard of this book "The 20 Hour Rule"? Probably not, unless you listen to the same podcasts I do. Anyway, the subtitle of the book is "How to learn anything: FAST". Did you hear that? This author thinks putting 20 hours into a new skill is learning it fast! So if you have a FMQ resolution for 2015 I think the first thing you should do, before shopping for books or classes or whatnot is figure out where you can get this minimum of 20 hours to put into your goal.

That's what I want you imagining right now. Where will your FMQ practice fit in? Weekly? Monthly?  Only you know what will work for your life. Pick your time. Plan for it, however you keep track of time, whether that's in your calendar or on little mental post it notes. And then, imagine yourself doing it: putting on your gloves, moving the quilt under the machine, running your hands over that lovely quilted texture.

You'll get there. That's what resolutions are about. Getting there. Show up, my friends, and you'll do just fine.

December 29, 2014

Ah, Improv! Improvising Tradition review

A lovely book is out in the world! And it's my pleasure to tell you about it. Improvising Tradition, by Alexandra Ledgerwood of Teaginny Designs, is a gentle, refined, thoughtful introduction to the delights of improvisational quilting. 

Readers of this blog know that improvisation is my native quilting language. While my interests have lately led me to explore more precision piecing, it was like a drink of cool water to have Alex's book in my hands and see her take on sharing improv quilting.

Alex's style is very refined. Lots of color coordinated scraps and solids. It gives the book a distinctly modern feel, which I find pleasant even though I use more prints in my work than Alex does. Flipping through her book made me eager to return to my sewing room and start playing! I made this little placemat, and I'm pretty sure I was under the influence of the beautiful quilt above that's on the book cover when I picked my colors.

I also played around with curved improv piecing. I wish I'd gotten my strips nice and narrow like Alex's but I'm still thrilled with how the piece turned out. Here are Alex's gorgeous placemats.

And here's the table runner they inspired...

The way Alex structured the book is right on. She shows a technique, like making improv log cabins, and fully illustrates that technique. Then she shows you some projects to try the technique. This is the perfect format because it gives cautious improvisers projects to hold onto to get their feet wet, while allowing the dauntless improvisers to absorb the concept quickly and move on to trying it out in their own way. This is a very thoughtful way to arrange content. This format as well as the careful clarity with which Alex shares her information make it the perfect book for quilters of across a range of experience and confidence with improv quilting.

If you have been interested in learning or revisiting improv quilting, definitely get your hands on a copy of Improvising Tradition, you'll be pleased that you did!

December 23, 2014

FMQ Weekly: Topography Quilting Design

You have to try this. It is so fun! 

I know it looks complicated. It isn't. It's basically an adaptation of all over spirals (below). If you have ever quilted all over spirals you should do just fine with this design. And if you've haven't done all over spirals, this is even easier! Because all over spirals have to be round but this design is more blob-by. 

So here's your recipe:

a. Start with a wiggly spiral
b. Come back out of the wiggly spiral
c. Echo around the outside of the spiral, come back and start your next wiggly spiral wherever you like. 

What is nice about this design is the way it's so easy to deal with tight spaces between spirals.  See how you can just sneak in and out of a tight space? 

How about several minutes of me stitching this design? Here's a video!

And here's the texture side. 

See you next week! We're off to enjoy some gingerbread house making. Hoping there is peace and joy in your homes right now...

December 18, 2014

Gradient Pillow Tutorial

These simple pillows were perfect for me to showcase some of my new quilting designs, and today the pillow tutorial is up at Sew Mama Sew! Check it out if you need a splash of color somewhere in your life!