A Practice Piece for My Practice Piece
This week I had some time to set aside to just practicing free motion quilting, and I decided to work through the book Quilting Wide Open Spaces by Judi Madsen. (When I bought this book, I didn’t realize it is aimed at long-arm quilters, and I just have a domestic machine. It has a CD of the patterns but that is not something I can use. But, it has some nice patterns and I thought I should be able to copy them.)
I don’t know why, but the hardest thing about practicing for me is choosing and using the materials. I can blithely start work on a quilt that is going to end up costing me a couple of hundred dollars, but to set aside a package of batting and some big scraps just for practice? It goes against my inclinations, I keep thinking “I could do something better with this.” If I go to the other end of the stash spectrum and pull out some old (1980s) ugly fabrics that need to be used up, I can’t bear to use those either because I know I won’t be able to look at them for the amount of time I will be practicing!
When I was at the College Station quilt show six weeks ago, I bought big bags of scraps in solid colors, telling myself that they were just for practice. So I pulled them out and started browsing through the book. Madsen recommends using a double thickness of Hobbs 80/20 batting, to make the unquilted areas pop up. I had hardly any batting scraps, and had to break into a new package. Quelle horror. I just kept telling myself, “Six dollars, that only costs six dollars, surely that is a small price to pay to get better effects on a real quilt.”
It didn’t take too long to make a practice piece of the scrap strips, flipped and stitched to the batting and a backing.
But I wasn’t sure if I would be able to maneuver the piece through my domestic sewing machine, since the batting was doubled.
I needed a practice piece before I could make my real practice piece!
I found a giant piece of fabric in a pinkish-gray color, and sandwiched it with a double layer of batting. (I really didn’t think anyone would ever want that color in their quilt, and yet I could stand to look at it for a few hours.) I chose some of the quilting patterns from the book and marked them on the fabric, trying out the Frixion pen and the Bohn mechanical chalk pencil I had also picked up at the quilt show.
Then I went to work, trying to answer these questions:
- can I manage the double batting?
- do I prefer 40 or 50 weight thread?
- 90/14 or 100/16 top-stitching needle?
- is it better for me to work left-to-right and right-to-left? or back-and-forth?
- how much marking do I need to achieve the patterns I want?
- how long can I work on one stitching pattern before I get bored and want to move on to another one?
After I had quilted most of the available space, I also experimented with Derwent Inktense pencils and textile medium, Jacquard Dynaflow paints, and Golden acrylic paints to see if I could camouflage some of the areas where I didn’t like the quilting lines I had sewn, not to mention hide that pinky-gray color. I did have problems with the pigment bleeding beyond the quilting lines I was trying to use as a boundary, and the colored-in areas feel stiff to me too. They would probably be fine for some sort of art quilt, but I don’t think I would want them on a quilt that was meant for use.
The double batting didn’t seem to cause any difference in my being able to move the quilt through the machine easily. Where I quilted closely though, it feels very stiff, not drapy at all. And outside the quilting lines, there was so much puffiness that I was afraid I would get puckers if I tried to quilt any more lines.
Those Fil-tec Glide bobbins I am using still seem to make the quilting flow so much more smoothly, so I decided I could move on to the strippy piece. I am still trying to answer the same questions as I stitch, as well as some new ones:
- how does it look to combine 40 weight and 50 weight thread in the same area?
- do I like bright thread colors on dark fabrics? dark colors on lighter fabrics? thread that matches the fabric?
- can I just make up quilting motifs on the spot? (And the answer to that one – NOOOO! See the widest blue strip below.)
I am about half done with the strippy practice piece. I am not liking it much as this point. I can safely say that the quilting stitches are not adding any value to the overall effect. I think it may have looked better as just the strips of fabric. But it is practice, and at least I am enjoying the process of stitching and moving the quilt around more than I have before. I can see the potential. We will see if I decide that I want to put more time into improving, or if I decide to stick with really basic straight stitching.
Thanks! I am planning to do some more panels and join them together — I think they will be presentable even if they don’t reflect the ideas I had in my head when I started! Thank you for stopping by.
I am so impressed with your experimentation and hard work! You go, girl!
Thank you! It was nice to have some time to set aside just for “drills and skills”! 🙂
I chuckled as I read this because I can so identify with your reluctance to “waste” fabric for practice – even if you’ve specifically bought it for practice. But your “practice” work is just great!!! and I love the painted bird. Hmm….. that’s food for thought and possible experimentation. Thank you!
It did remind me of those art projects we did in elementary school where you scribbled all over the paper and then colored in parts to show the subject you saw in the random scribbles. And, so often I am worried that I am just copying someone else’s work, even unconsciously. I am pretty sure I never saw a piece like this anywhere else, so that was fun too. I will be thrilled if you get an idea to work with out of this! 🙂
Yes, I get the issue of wasting your practice pieces, too! And you sound so disappointed! In my view it was a terrific success — think of how much you learned! Cheers for you! The next time you practice, you will do better. And so on and so on and so on… 🙂
Good to see you. Just was thinking yesterday it had been a little while. I’m having a hard time writing much these days, so I’m not on as much, either.
I didn’t feel disappointed while I was working on it, things seemed to be going so smoothly. It was afterward, looking at the quilting lines, that I thought, “It looks so 60s.” But that is OK — I have tons more of that fabric and I plan to make 3 more small quilted sections and then join them together into one big quilt. It won’t be a showpiece but I think it will at least look unified. 🙂
You’re right, it has been a while since I have posted anything here. I have some natural dye samples working and I am reading about sustainability in the fashion industry — ongoing research and activity but nothing is to the point where I have enough to say about it. Thank you for noticing! I have been keeping up with reading my favorites though! I have you and Joanna and Doreen and Gayle coming to both the reader and my email so I am sure I won’t miss anything when you all have time to write.
Have we talked before about sustainability? I have ambition (???) to research that for home quilting, as well. But I haven’t gotten very far. Do let me know if you see good sources. You’re always welcome to email me. About that or anything, really. 🙂
That painted piece would be a great wall hanging. The pinky/gray looks very rich under the art work.
I guess it could make a pillow cover too. I do like that whimsical bird. We shall see if anything comes of it, or if it just gets lost in the stack of “things I’ve been meaning to do”!
I am so with you on using good fabric for practice, so I ended up buying some muslin and use it with 80/20 batting. I also started buying my batting on the roll; got with several gals in the guild that have long arms and placed an order.
Your practice piece looks good and I applaud you for showing it. A while back I followed a gal who said she practiced on donation quilts…hmm, great idea I say.
I actually practice on donation quilts too. Which is why I make like 6 donation lap quilts a year and only 1 (if that) bigger quilt. I think I really do need to practice for a few minutes a day, because I know I lose my rhythm in the slack time between projects. I did get a lot of muslin scraps at that quilt show too — I should practice on those and see if that works better for me than these pieces did. I think they were the old Kona cotton and they were very heavy-bodied. Hmmm, another project! 🙂
I’m with you there on practicing. If only we could practice each day, but some days my time is not my own! It’s wond wonderful when I can break away and practice, but usually it’s practice right before quilting!
Oh the “P” word………like knitting or weaving a swatch, God forfend!!
Glad you did it for us……….
You know I started out as a weaver and have woven for about 37 years. One thing I love about weaving is that it is so easy to unweave when you realize you have made a mistake. As for unpicking quilt stitches that went where I didn’t want them to go, and through 2 layers of batting — no, no, that is not happening! And if you make a mistake, it is right in the middle of things and you have just wrecked a whole piece, instead of just a few rows like in weaving. I think that may be contributing to my sense of missing the goal.
But on to more of that P word! 🙂
Beautiful! Makes me happy 🙂
I hate making samples of anything–quilting, weaving, whatever. It always feels like a waste of time and materials . . . and I never admit the time and materials wasted by NOT sampling! I’ve never tried any sort of machine quilting–it seems very daunting to me!
In the years when I was primarily weaving instead of quilting, I had a hard time making samples too. There was a book I loved called Samplers You Can Use, which had patterns for sets of napkins and towels, and I think I did a few of those.
My usual routine, though, was to carefully plan a warp, put it on the loom, weave two inches according to plan, then wonder, “What would it look like if I did this…?”, weave that variation, then go on to another — for the full 8 yards of warp. Then I would unroll the finished piece, look at all the variations, and think, “I should have stuck with the plan!” 🙂
Sorry I’m late to this party. Too many distractions over the past few days and my notice of this post got buried. Anyway, practicing FMQ is good is only because the pressure is off to not mess up. You ruin some fabric you don’t like, so what. As for how to use those practice pieces – potholders, little bags, book/journal covers, mug rugs, etc. I applaud your willingness to tackle designs that demand precision. I have let my practice sessions slip and I know I’ll pay the price.
I love your comments whenever they appear so don’t worry about being late!
I didn’t realize it until you said it, but it is more that I am seeing IF I want to practice enough to do designs that demand precision. Or I might just stick to those simple fused squares with a little stitch in the ditch. At least I have gotten to the point that I really enjoy the motion of free-motion-quilting, I am not sitting there thinking, “Oh this would be so much faster if I just sewed a few straight lines!” 🙂
Lol, spilled coffee – *break into a new package, quelle horror*. It’s the same for calligraphers and book artists. Wreck a full sheet of watercolor paper or just scribble on this little scrap? Ah, today I shall use papers dyed in indigo to avoid the problem of ink entirely. I can call it warming-up rather than practicing, but who am I kidding?!?:-)
Yes, I’ve been looking at your indigo books! Have you talked about how you dye the paper and I missed it? And, do you have plans for what you are going to write on that dark paper with? Or are you just exploring one step at a time at this point?
Again, lol – no how-to’s because I don’t know what I’m doing, and until I read your post, wasn’t sure about the why. Though what started as ink-procrastination/avoidance is turning into a way to move beyond the fear of filling and possibly wrecking the whole page. So far I prefer masking fluid/ruling pen prior to indigo dipping over writing on the dyed surface, but I’ll keep experimenting. Thanks so much for this post & feedback, it is helpful and illuminating😃 Best wishes in your artwork!
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