Today is Friday, which I generally try to reserve for fun stuff (notice I said 'try' :lol: ). I have a shop sample due tomorrow that needs to be quilted today, so I generally use a practice piece to check my tension, warm up, etc. before starting on the actual quilt.
I've seen a lot of members post about wanting to machine quilt, so I thought I'd share my practice in hopes that someone will feel more comfortable trying it. It is so fun - just wandering over the practice piece, doing whatever doodle pops in my head. There is something very freeing about it :D
The practice piece here is just a couple of pieces of muslin with batting in between. Sometimes I use pieces from a layer cake (handy since they're already cut down to 10") and turn those into coasters or pincushions. If it doesn't work out, I get a fancy dust rag :lol:
I set up my machines with 2 different colors of the same thread (in this case, So Fine by Superior Threads) - that makes spotting tension problems easier, and it's the thread I'll be working with on the 'good' piece. I reduce the speed on my machine (since I have a lead foot!) and just play.
Some things I've noticed that may help someone else:
1) If I am breaking needles (did a lot of that at first) I found it was because I was jerking the fabric (most especially when I thought I was making a mistake) instead of moving it smoothly. That got better after I relaxed about the whole idea of machine quilting.
2) I got really hung up about what my stitches looked like at first, but what I've found is that if I concentrate more on how I'm moving the fabric the stitches look better with practice.
3) It just gets better the more I do it - the key for me was to make it playtime and to just have fun!
4) Curves are giving me fits - I keep squaring them off, making them pointy, anything but curvy :lol: - so I got a dry erase board and marker, then taped a piece of vinyl over it so I could slip a piece of paper under the vinyl. I traced some curvy quilting designs from magazines (first in pencil, then in Sharpie over newspaper so I didn't ruin my magazine) - I can put them under the vinyl and practice my curves. I've had much better results with them now. (The vinyl wipes with a bit of alcohol, but doesn't wipe as cleanly as the dry erase boards do - just an FYI)
So share your tips, hints, methods and practice pieces! The way that works for you could be just the thing someone else has been waiting to hear that will make it all come together for them. The worst that could happen is that we all have fancy dust rags :lol:
Close up of today's practice
This is the practice piece.