Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Practice Makes Better

I know in theory that practicing a skill increases your skill level. However, I’ve never really seen the results so obviously for myself. It’s now been a little over two years since I started free motion quilting (FMQ) on my new-to-me jag. I first blogged about it in Playing & Quilting, August 27, 2013. At the time, I had no idea how much this would change my quilting.
Free Motion Quilting practice piece
Free Motion Quilting practice piece
My first class was Free Motion Quilting a Sampler with Leah Day on Craftsy. I started by doing stippling, “S” curves and paisleys. It took a while for those “S” curves and paisleys to look like they were supposed to. I quickly learned that drawing was the best way for me to learn. Now, whenever I want to learn a new FMQ pattern, I take out my pencil and paper and draw until I’m comfortable with it. After that, it usually takes me only a couple of practice tries on fabric to get ready to quilt the real thing.

A modern looking paisley
A modern looking paisley
I’ve recently decided to practice my FMQ on a more regular basis (what ever that means) because just FMQ completed projects is not enough. I still doodle FMQ patterns whenever I get the chance but I really want to expand my repertoire of patterns.

I started by gathering the solid fabrics from my stash that I had inherited from my mother. I hesitate to use them in quilts because they’re mostly cotton/polyester blends. These are perfect for making practice sandwiches. I spray basted rows of long skinny pieces of batting left over from previous projects between the fabrics. For these practice pieces, I found that they didn’t have to be taped together.

For my first practice piece, I concentrated on paisleys and leaves. I found some great ideas in a Dover library book, A Treasury of Design for Artists and Craftsmen. My favourite was a modern paisley that doesn’t have outside edges except where the lines within happen to go to the edge of the design. With an iron-off marking pen, it was easy to draw the outline of the paisley and then quilt the lines within it.  If I was to use this pattern again, I could practice it to figure out how to continuously quilt it without having to travel from one end to another. That would ensure that both sides would have the open effect that makes it special.

Paisley with curves
Paisley with curves
I also practiced breaking up the space within the paisley to add different designs. I used many straight lines at different angles, from triangles to zigzags, as well as a few curved pieces including a paisley within the paisley. This is a very versatile design that can include pretty much anything you can FMQ within it. The bigger your original paisley, the more you can add.

I got the idea for the leaf patterns in a Zen Colouring Designs magazine. The image didn’t come out well since I used much lighter thread. Again, it’s the same principle of dividing the space to add different designs.
Leaf - divide and conquer

I had so much fun FMQ this practice piece that I ended up binding it and placing it on my wall at work. I smile every time I see it.

I also practiced my cathedral windows based on Cindy Needham’s Machine Quilting Wholecloth Quilts on Craftsy. As she recommended, I took the time to draw out an on-point grid with my trusty iron-off marking pen and then followed her instructions. My edges are a bit off but otherwise, it’s a pretty decent try. It makes such a rich background.
Cathedral windows
Cathedral windows

What I learned:

  • Use solid fabrics for my practice sandwiches. Using ugly patterned fabrics isn’t a good idea because I can't see the quilting as well, if at all.
  • Spray basting strips of left-over batting between the two layers of fabric is good enough, as long as the practice piece isn't used for anything else.
  • It’s important to stop quilting at least one inch of the border, otherwise the design gets distorted. This is NOT the first time I’ve learned this - and probably not the last time I’ll forget it!
  • Practicing like this has given me a lot of confidence. I’m now planning my next fully FMQ project.
I have linked this post to the following linky parties: Let's Bee Social, Free Motion Mavericks. Also celebrating 3 years of partying at Let's Bee Social! See what everyone is doing on Oh Scrap! 
My post was featured on Free Motion Mavericks! Check it out!

10 comments:

  1. Hi there, I too had my first fmq experience with Leah Day on Craftsy, and you're so right about practice makes perfect, well as perfect as my fmq will ever be, it's just finding the time to practice! I'm visiting from Lorna's Let's Be Social, nice to meet you 😊

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    1. Hi, Thanks for dropping by and leaving a message. Leah is really good. It is hard to find the time to practice. Hopefully I'll keep this up - even a few days a month would be well worth it!

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  2. I really like your open paisley design! I'll have to try that. Thanks for sharing your samples; it's always good to see other people's work in progress.

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    1. Thanks Louise. I think that a little more practice on this one will make it open all around. It would be even better. Good luck.

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  3. I love and have learned so much from Craftsy too. you are so right about drawing as a way of learning and getting the design into your brain. these paisleys are giving me ideas. thank you for sharing

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    1. Glad you liked it. It's great to keep learning.

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  4. I love Craftsy classes as well. Your advice is GREAT! Let's get started.

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    1. Hi Teri, keep up that energy! Thanks, Andrée

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  5. Happy New Year Andrée! (and sorry for taking so long before leaving you a comment)

    The paisley design is lovely, and I have put one of your pictures in last week's link up post. Thank you for linking up with Free Motion Mavericks!

    Love, Muv

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    1. Thanks Muv, I saw that! I'm even slower replying. I've got another one coming soon. I'm impressing myself :-)

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