So I'm back to blogging about my week in Paducah attending the AQS Show. Last week I covered what I saw and what I bought, today I'm going to cover what I learned.
I attended an all day quilting class called, "Jump start into longarm quilting" Mary Beth Krapil was the Handi Quilter Educator who led the class.
The class covered preparing the backing, loading the machine, working with batting, choosing the thread and needle, adjusting tension, an intro into free motion quilting, pantographs and groovy boards, and using rulers. Everything anyone would need to know to load and and start quilting a top.
The first thing Mary Beth asked the class was, "does anyone currently own a longarm machine". I sort of snickered thinking who would be in a beginning longarm quilting class if they already owned a machine. Well imagine my surprise when the majority of the class raised their hands! Luckily Mary Beth taught the class as if no one had ever used a long arm machine.
One thing that is very important when doing free motion quilting is developing and maintaining arm and neck muscle memory. You develop and maintain the muscle memory required for longarm quilting by practicing. Practicing on paper and on the machine.
Using this sheet of quilting designs, that was inside a page protector, and using our arms and not our wrists, we traced each design with a erasable pen. Once we had the sheet covered with ink we would just erase our "quilting" and start again. Mary Beth said this was a great way to get used to the motion required to make these designs. I saw a visible improvement in my tracing after just a couple of attempts.
So after tracing these designs we loaded our machines and tried to recreate the patterns using the long arm machine. Here's my attempts, and even though they look pretty bad, nothing I would want on any quilt I've made, I have to admit I got better pretty quickly.
Mary Beth talked about the importance of practicing everyday. An easy way to practice is to stitch on fabric with different designs and shapes in its motif to learn the movements required to make those shapes, like circles, points, curves. A book she recommended was Quilting Dot to Dot by Cheryl Barnes. In that book you are taught to look ahead as you quilt.
After practicing our free motion quilting we learned how to use pantographs. We traced our design with our finger before actually tracing it with the machine, back to teaching our muscles how to move.
This was the design I was given.
And here's my go at it.
There's more to those pantographs than I thought, they require practice too, and I did see an improvement each time I quilted my design. But still , that's nothing I would want on a quilt I pieced.
Here's a nice little sampler of work that Mary Beth made to show different designs and styles. That's a plain piece of blue fabric that she brought to life with her quilting.
It was a great day that flew by, definitely worth my time and money. I have pages and pages of notes. I feel like I now have the knowledge I need to actually quilt a top using a longarm machine. I've always wondered if I could be a long arm quilter, and now I know that I can do it. I don't think I have the natural ability to be great at it in a short time, but I think with practice I could be a good quilter. But you know what else I learned, that I don't want to do it. Spending 30 minutes everyday just practicing my quilting doesn't appeal to me at all. Mary Beth talked about how she loved quilting her tops, it was her favorite part of the whole quilt making process. I love selecting patterns, reading patterns and piecing patterns. That's how I want to spend my available sewing time. Before the class I was thinking that perhaps I could spend a couple of weeks piecing a top then maybe a couple of days quilting it. It just doesn't work that way. I've gotten compliments on my piecing skills, and I've really thought to myself, what's the big deal, the machine does the work. But now I see that I sew almost everyday, which means I'm practicing my piecing skills everyday. I should be good at it. If I only sewed on the weekends, or for a couple of days out of a month, I don't think I would be nearly as good. And that's the way it is with quilting too, you need to do it often to be skilled at it.
I think I will also be a better long arm customer now that I have a better understanding of the whole process. I have to say, I've never gotten a quilt back from any quilter with tucks or puckers in the backing, I have a whole new appreciation of what can go wrong if you don't do things correctly.
So that's what I learned, which was a lot! If you're wondering if you have what it takes to be a good longarm quilter I would say you definitely do, you just need a good teacher and the desire to practice until you succeed.
Storage bin update - Remember how I told you that I bought my fat quarter storage units from Staples?Well I stopped in Staples yesterday to pick up a new one, because my happy fabric maybe has grown from one bin to two bins, and there were no bins to be had. When I inquired I found out they no longer carry those bins. I looked online and they are currently available at Kmart and Lowes. If I find them again I plan to get a couple, the bins are a perfect size and I want all my bins to be the same, so they stack nicely. If you plan on looking for them forget about Staples.
Email associated with a comment. Here's a link to a blog that does a nice job of describing how to attach your email to your comments on blogger.
Diane was kind enough to send it my way after I mentioned on my last blog that I'm getting questions from folks who don't leave their email addresses. If you leave comments on blogs, and don't ever get a response, you may want to check out this link. I'm also fine with folks leaving comments and not passing along their email addresses, I love hearing from everyone regardless.