Last week I promised we would work on something other than Stippling and I didn't lie - this week we're focusing on stitching on a line in free motion.
So let's watch the video and learn many different ways to master this skill:
Stitching on a line is a super essential skill to free motion quilting. It's right up there with travel stitching and echoing as in the top 3 most fundamental free motion quilting skills to master.
Why is it so important to be able to quilt on a line?
It's super important because one day you're going to want to stitch in the ditch or quilt around the edges of an applique to draw more attention and focus to these shapes. You might also find a stencil design and fall so madly in love with it, you'll want to stitch it on ever quilt you ever make.
Or you might find a gorgeous fabric that can make a pretty quilt all by itself. You'll mostly likely want to quilt that awesome fabric by following the lines on the print rather than quilting all over the design.
As you can see there are a lot of different places this skill is used and almost all involve quilting REAL quilts.
Of course, it is possible to quilt a real quilt without ever stitching on a line or stitching in the ditch. This is All Over Quilting where you cover a quilt with one single design on a large scale.
All Over Quilting is fast, efficient, and certainly gets the quilts done, but not everyone is satisfied with this method of quilting.
If you spent 3 days piecing special quilt blocks, don't you want them quilted in a way that enhances their overall design and shape? Don't you want to get credit for your hand work? Of course you do!
Not everyone wants to cover their quilts with wall to wall quilting which is why we need to know how to stitch on a line, or in the ditch, so our quilts can be quilted with designs that ADD to the piecing or applique design.
Of course, this involves quilting a real quilt, which can be tricky to film on video, and even more tricky for you to follow along with.
So far I've been demonstrating my lessons on practice quilt sandwiches created with plain black fabric so you can clearly see what I'm doing in the video. For this particular lesson, I've demonstrated on stripped fabric, printed fabric, plain black fabric, and a "real" cheater cloth quilt (more on that quilt below).
It's entirely up to you what you want to practice this lesson on, but I would advise at least trying to quilt on the line of stripped fabric and a fairly simple print.
If you want to baste a small quilt top for this lesson, go for it! The more you practice this technique, the better you will get at it so it really doesn't matter what you choose to practice on.
Now let's learn some tips on quilting on a line:
Stitching on a line 101
Tip 1 - SLOW DOWN! Stitching on a line requires more concentration and focus than stitching random wiggly Stippling shapes. The best way to learn is by slowing down and running your machine slower so you can move your hands slower too. Once your brain catches up and you feel more comfortable, then start slowly increasing your speed.
No matter how comfortable you get, stitching on a line will always be slightly slower than stitching free hand.
Tip 2 - Don't Rip. Don't you dare pick up that seam ripper if you stitch off a line! Keep stitching and learn how to correct the mistake you made in another area of the quilt.
Ripping will only ever increase your skill at ripping, and I've never seen awards for "Best Seam Ripped Quilt" at a quilt show though it would be an interesting category to judge.
Tip 3 - Use your hands. Your hands can do more than just move your quilt around on the machine. Your hands are useful guides if you learn how to position them properly.
When you're stitching straight lines, keep your hands parallel to the needle. If you can, use the index finger of your right hand as a guide to keep the line straight. I show this technique a bit better in this older video right here.
Tip 4 - MOVE the quilt. If you start stitching off the line a lot and can't seem to get back on it consistently, take a good look at the quilt. Is it positioned in an awkward angle where you can't see where you're supposed to quilt next? Rotate it!
Look at where your stitching - is this angle and movement difficult or easy for you to maneuver? Rotate, reposition, squish, fold, curl - do whatever you need to do in order to make that section of the quilt easier to quilt.
Of course, you're not always going to have the opportunity or ability to rotate the quilt for every single angle you quilt. Sometimes it's just not practical to continually move the quilt around that much.
So also spend time stitching in some odd angles. Stitch straight lines from left to right and from right to left. This will probably feel a bit like writing with your non-dominate hand - a little awkward, but not unbearable. The more you do it, the better you will get at working with many angles AND staying on the line at the same time.
Now let's talk about the quilt I'm working on in the video:
Now I'll be honest - this isn't a REAL quilt. This is a cheater cloth quilt I designed and had printed at Spoonflower.com. You can purchase this 1 yard quilt in green or blue right here.
Here's a quick disclaimer about these prints: Keep in mind that the dyes in Spoonflower fabric is more delicate than traditionally printed fabric. I've personally found a lot of fading with these prints, and I'm being honest about it here because I don't want you to be surprised when it happens.Now let's talk about quilting this quilt in free motion:
Instead of throwing these quilts in the washer, instead soak them in the bathtub and don't use detergent. Also don't prewash your fabric when you get it - just add a border and baste it so it's ready to be quilted.
I'm designing these prints mostly for my use to teach and show you how to quilt something that at least LOOKS like a real quilt because I don't always have time to piece a quilt AND quilt it in one week. For this reason, the cheater cloth I'm designing has to be very dark, which means the fading is even worse.
Just keep this in mind if you purchase these Spoonflower cheater quilts - they will be great to practice with, but probably not the best hard wearing quilts.
I could easily quilt all over this quilt with large scale stippling, filling the quilts in rows as we learned in Quilt Along #2.
But if you had pieced all of those Sawtooth Stars, wouldn't you want to get credit for them?
So I don't want to quilt all over the stars and ignore all those piecing lines. I'd like to draw attention to them and make sure they stand out in the finished quilt. To do this, the first step is to stitch each star in the ditch.
But here's another point - you don't have to stitch EVERYTHING in the ditch.
If you choose to pay attention to the piecing design that doesn't mean you have to stitch every single seam you pieced in the ditch. This is not only overwhelming, but also a big waste of time.
Take a look at your quilt and decide the major elements you want to focus on. Only stitch the outlines of those particular shapes and ignore all the others.
For my sawtooth star, I've decided to stitch only the star shape in the ditch. This means I'm ignoring the center square shape and the outer square shape (the edges of the individual block). The lines I quilted are in white below:
You can always decide which lines you want to quilt and which you want to ignore. The lines you ignore can then be quilted over with any free motion filler design.
So this is the way I stitched each star of my practice quilt in the ditch. Below I've numbered the blocks in the order I quilted them - always working from the center of the quilt to the outer edges.
I also quilted in the ditch between the green sashing and black border. I now have three distinct areas to quilt in: within the stars, within the sashing, and within the border.
Each of these areas can now be quilted with different filler designs to finish the quilt, or if the batting was rated high enough, I could even bind this quilt as is and call it done.
Now you may be wondering - why in the world are we doing this in free motion?
Can't we just do this with a walking foot?
Yes, you're absolutely right to wonder about this. A walking foot can easily stitch straight and slightly curvy lines with no problem, and because it slowly moves the fabric forward, it's much easier to stay right on a line.
But here's the major limitation of walking foot: it's not free motion.
A walking foot can ONLY quilt straight and slightly curvy lines. You can't stipple with it, you can't make free form designs, and it's unbearably, mindlessly SLOW!
Not only does it move slowly over your quilt, it also forces you to continually shift and rotate your quilt so the seam you're stitching is always straight down from the foot. That means to stitch 1 single sawtooth star block in the ditch, you will have to shift and reposition your quilt 16 times!
In free motion, you'd be able to stitch in the ditch, then fill the space with a design, and only rotate the quilt if you really need to. You'd also have the opportunity to wiggle over to the next star and fill it as well, all without breaking thread once.
This saves SO much time, and keeps the quilt flowing and moving, making it easier to finish!
The ability to quilt on a line in free motion is a major TIME SAVER. It's faster, and once you master it, it will also be easier.
So that's it for this week! I hope you'll take some time this week to play with stitching on a line and in the ditch. Just remember it doesn't have to be perfect and the more you practice this technique, the better you will get at it.
Now let's link up and share your progress from last week's Quilt Along #3 - Playing with Scale:
Instructions for Linking Up Your Blog:
1. Write your blog post. Publish it on your blog.
2. Copy the link of the specific blog post. This is not just the link to your blog itself (www.freemotionquilting.blogspot.com), but the link to the specific post: http://freemotionquilting.blogspot.com/2012/01/quilt-along-2-quilting-in-rows.html
3. Click the blue link up button above and paste your link into the box.
Keep in mind that you're posting your progress from LAST week on THIS week's post. This way you have time to watch the lesson, play with the ideas, then post your progress to the next quilt along. I hope that makes sense!
As always, any questions you have, please post them in the comments below or on your blog and I'll answer 5 tomorrow on Question Thursday.
Time for me to shut up and quilt,