So today, and all Thursdays from here on out, are going to be devoted to answering questions.
Mostly I'll be focusing on answering questions that come from linked up blogs, but I'll also keep an eye on Facebook, YouTube, and the comments here.
So the questions for today are:
Do you use a stitch regulator?
No. I don't use a stitch regulator on any of my machines. I'm able to quilt fairly even stitches across my quilts because my ratio (the speed of my hands and the speed of my machine) is balanced, though now that I'm quilting bigger, I'm finding I need to focus on slowing down my hands, but keep my machine the same speed.
And since you asked, here's my lecture on the subject:
I think a stitch regulator COULD be a good tool for a beginning quilter, but ONLY if you use it understanding its limitations.
A stitch regulator is a tiny computer that looks at the speed of the quilt moving and it automatically increases or decrease the speed of the machine to accommodate the speed of the quilt.
When using a regulator, you don't use your foot pedal. Instead the stitch regulator sends signals to the machine and makes the needle go up and down faster or slower.
For a beginner just starting out, a stitch regulator could be extremely helpful because you won't have to work so hard to see pretty, balanced stitches. The regulator will create fairly good stitches from the beginning and as you get used to moving the quilt and forming a design, your stitches will get even better
The thing is - you are much smarter than this little computer.
You might not feel like it right now, but you are infinitely smarter and more talented than a stitch regulator. It just takes practice to find perfect stitches on your own, but once you have it, you really can't lose it.
You know and can prepare for a bend in you design by slowing down your machine. You know you get faster when you stitch a certain curve. A stitch regulator doesn't know this and sometimes they can lag behind. This creates a noticeable change in your stitches as the computer tries to speed up quickly to keep up with you.
This happens especially when you're stitching a design you've gotten very comfortable with. As you memorize the flow and pattern of a design, the faster you will be comfortable stitching it. Your hands will naturally move the quilt faster and faster, and if you were controlling your foot pedal too, your speed would naturally increase as well to maintain a balanced stitch.
But with a stitch regulator, you will eventually get to a point where your hands are moving faster and more fluidly than the stitch regulator can keep up with.
This is the reason I don't like stitch regulators: they are like training wheels that don't allow you to grow.
Training wheels on a kid's bike are designed to help them maintain balance and not fall over sideways because balancing a 2 wheel bike can be tricky the first time you do it. You put them on your kid's bike and after a few months he'll get the hang of balancing the bike and then you can take them off again.
A stitch regulator is similar because getting a balanced stitch with free motion can be tricky too. So it CAN be helpful, but only if you accept that one day you will grow out of this device and will need to take it off and quilt without it.
The problem is, I don't see this happening. I see quilters that shell out the money for one of these things so, By God, I'm going to USE it! What happens then is you have a quilter who's actually very good at free motion, but her stitches look bad because she's faster and smarter than the computer controlling her machine.
Keep in mind that this is my OPINION. There is no jury out of this verdict, no massive survey or voting campaign to log thousands of quilters feelings on this device. This is just little ole' me sharing my 2 cents, so if you have a sincere desire to try a stitch regulator, don't let me stop you.
My main issue is that they were so very, very expensive. I checked around this morning and found several for the eye popping price of $500 each. Had I needed to buy something like that when I was getting started, I would never have been able to afford it!
Out of all the machine manufacturer's, Bernina is the one that's really jumped on the stitch regulator bandwagon. The BSR foot is essentially a tiny stitch regulator with a handy foot to go with it.
I find it a bit irritating when I read or hear information about this device along the lines of "You can't free motion quilt without it!" or "It quilts your quilts for you!" That is SO not true. You will still have to spend time learning how to move the quilt smoothly with your hands, and you will still have a period of ugly stitches to get through.
A few months ago I got an email from a reader who sparked my interest in the BSR. She was struggling with it and was wondering if I had heard of this happening with anyone else. So I posted a question on facebook and got a sizeable response. (I'm still looking for this post, so I'll link it up when I find it!)
So I think that pretty sums up my lecture on stitch regulators! Let's move on...
Barbara J asked in the Understanding Free Motion Quilting Post:
I have a Brother machine that has a speed slider. I can disengage my foot pedal and only press a button to start sewing. It will go at the speed that you have set on the slider. So my question is if I can figure out a good balance of speed on the slider then I could only focus on my hand movements, won't that be half the battle won?This is a really interesting question and right along the same lines as the stitch regulator so thank you for asking Barbara!
Here's the deal: Many new machines, especially those with computerization, now have a red or green button on the front. You might notice in some of my videos the little button on the front of the Janome Horizon that changes colors when I stop and start.
Basically on these machines you can unplug your foot pedal, hit this button and quilt at one set speed. You set this speed by moving the slider (slow, medium, or fast) on the top of your machine.
Is this a good way to practice? I have absolutely no idea!
After getting Barbara's question, I jumped on the machine and played with it a bit and here's my feelings:
First, the positive aspects of this idea: I think this could be a neat thing to play with because it basically takes your speed issues out of the equation. You won't have to worry so much about the speed fluctuating and messing up your stitches because the machine will be stitching at a steady, constant pace.
Now for the downsides: The biggest one is this could be dangerous. If you hit "START", your machine is stitching until you take your hand off your quilt and hit "STOP". Personally that scares the stuffing out of me because I know as soon as I take my eyes off the quilt to hit the button, I'll stitch through my other hand!
But my silliness aside, I think this could be a bit stressful. If you set your machine speed too high, you'll feel pressure to Go! Go! Go! and might not be able to move the quilt fast enough, or keep up with the design.
The reverse is also true - if you set the machine speed to slow, you....will....be....quilting....for...ever. That could get really tedious and boring really fast.
I do seem to remember one of the few times I played with a longarm at a needlecraft convention, the speed of the machine was controlled this way. You hit start and the machine just WENT. It didn't have a stitch regulator, just two speeds: slow and fast. I was actually able to produce some nice, even stitches that way and liked the experience.
So I'd say if you have the feature, it's worth playing with. Just be careful hitting start and stop! If you don't have the feature, don't go buy a new machine to get it.
Now for the next question:
M.E asked in the Memorizing Quilting Designs Post:
When practicing with pen & paper, should my hand be resting on the paper, and I'm mainly using my fingers? I'm thinking it might be better to use my whole hand to form the lines. Any thoughts?Hmm...When I draw on a large scale, I make big sweeping movements with my whole hand across the page. When I'm sketching tiny fillers, I usually just use my fingers.
I'd say if you want practice at making the movements on a quilt, try using your whole hand and a big piece of paper or whiteboard. The movements will probably be more similar to how you will move the real quilt. Does that make sense?
On to the next question from YouTube:
In general, Leah, is your top tension set higher than the bobbin tension or does it depend on the thread, batting and frame of mind on any particular day?
Here's my feelings about tension: if your machine is piecing with nice tension, meaning if the thread is balanced and not producing loops on either side while you piece two 4 inch squares together with your piecing foot and your machine on all the normal settings, then it should be balanced the same way for quilting.
When I have students in class and their tension has gone out the window, I ask them to put their machine back completely to piecing and piece two squares together. If the tension returns to normal, I asked what they changed about their machine.
Here's the normal list: Dropped the feed dogs, put on this foot, started quilting.
So then we start eliminating culprits one by one. Instead of dropping you feed dogs, leave them up.
Next put on your free motion foot and take a look at it. Is it standing up too high on your quilt? If your foot is adjust too high, your thread can break or garble up on the back and get nasty. If it's set up too low it can squish you quilt, but chances are it won't effect the tension.
Now quilt a bit. Quilt some straight lines, then quilt some curves.
I honestly see more "tension" issues here than anywhere else. I say "tension" in quotes here because it's not really tension that's the problem - it's your speed and movement ratio.
If you're quilting a curve and your hands feel comfortable with the movement, they will naturally speed up. The problem is your foot might not react as quickly and your machine will be running too slow for the movement.
This will cause your thread to do some pretty weird things. Usually your bobbin thread will pull against the top, bringing it to the back of your quilt creating awful loops that look like a serious tension issue.
But it's not tension! Take a look at your quilt - do the tension problems consistently happen when you make a certain curve? If so, concentrate and focus on INCREASING your speed every time you stitch that shape. Chances are, your "tension" issues will be repaired!
More than anything else: DON'T LET TENSION ISSUES OR UGLY STITCHES STOP YOU FROM QUILTING!
We will all make ugly stitches this year. Don't let them defeat you! It is only by fighting through the dark forest of ugly stitches that you will make it to the castle of pretty stitches and save the princess of perfection....
Or maybe I'm playing Super Mario Brothers too much....
Note: I'd really love some photos of this to help illustrate what I mean. If you're having tension issues and don't mind sharing them, please shoot a photo of the front and back of your quilt sandwich and send it to me. I'll not only diagnose your problems, I'll post it here on the project so everyone will benefit.
Finally, one last question for today:
How do I link-up my blog???
This is a great question because I've talked about linking up so much and how that will be a fun way to share your progress with everyone else.
Now here's the steps to link up:
1. Write your blog post - Share your progress with the Quilt Along. Pictures and videos are most welcome! If you have an issue or question, make sure it's apart of your blog post too.
2. Get the URL of your post - This is important because it's very common to just link up your blog address, not the extended address of the actual post. The difference between the two is pretty big: one will send you to your blog, one will send you to the POST on your blog.
So here's how you do it: after posting your progress, go to your blog and click on the title of your post. You'll see the link extend to include the directions to get to the post itself. Now hold down the CTRL button on your keyboard and hit C to copy that whole url.
3. Link Up - Come here and find the In Linkz tool at the bottom of Wednesday's post. It will say something like "Share Your Link". Click on it, and you'll find a box for your URL to go into. Click into that box and hold down CTRL and V to paste that url into the box.
Viola! You've successfully linked up to the project!
Okay, I'm here at the end of this Question Thursday post and wondering - is this seriously overwhelming? Should I answer these questions in multiple posts rather than all in one? Did you actually manage to read through it all to get to the end?
Please share your opinion in the comments below!
Whew! I'm going to shut up and quilt now,