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Thread: Does it really just take practice to LA?

  1. #1
    Super Member pittsburgpam's Avatar
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    I'm working on quilting a quilt for my granddaughter and man, it is baaaaaaadddd! I'm just glad it's a kid's quilt though I am really messing up a top that I loved.

    I'm so discouraged right now that I don't want to do any more work on it. I know I can't do that, her b-day is next week. It's just really bad.

    How do I improve? Should I just use patterns instead of free motion?

  2. #2
    skpkatydid's Avatar
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    I don't know. I am very apprehensive about machine quilting. I think I am going to try using patterns before I try free motion. I feel for you.

  3. #3
    Super Member janRN's Avatar
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    Pam: I've been trying to learn to FMQ for a year now and I'm no better now than I was when I started. Everyone on this board has given great advice and I've tried it all--NOPE!! I've come to the conclusion that I'm missing the FMQ gene. I draw the patterns on my quilt top and just stitch on them (with feed-dogs up) and I'm happy with the way it looks. It does take longer.
    I wish you well and hope FMQ works for you. If not you can always try doing it my way: FMQ for Dummies LOL.

  4. #4
    Senior Member crashnquilt's Avatar
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    Your title mentions longarm and yes it does take lots of practice before you get good. I've had my LA for 3 years and still say I'm practicing.

    FMQ at best is a constant practice. As time goes by it does become easier but still it takes lots of practice. When I first started I would draw all my quilting lines first and then follow the lines with the machine.

  5. #5
    Super Member MaryStoaks's Avatar
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    I chose a very simple design (loops) and did those until I was confident the results were better. Move on when you get one technique accomplished. I still like to do loops after two years, I like the look.

  6. #6
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    yes it really does take practice, but mainly confidence, and relax :) Im not real good at it yet but intend to be lol... Have tried on and off for several years but in the last couple of months it has finally gotten ok. Good enough to give a quilt to someone. Charity quilts are a good way to practice. They are finished and it isnt really a problem if they arent perfect. Keep it up and you will get there.
    lyn

  7. #7
    Marjpf's Avatar
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    Yes -lots of practice. I've been told it takes at least a year to get the hang of it, and at least three years to get any good! Of course, they didn't mention how many hours a day. I just got a LA and am very much in the learning process. I try to choose threads that will blend as much as possible with the fabric so it's not quite as noticeable.

  8. #8
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    That's why I stick to pantographs -- I just practice the pattern I'm going to do for several hours. By the time I get to doing it on my actual quilt, I've built up muscle memory for that pattern, and it comes out pretty decently. I'll never be a free-motion quilter, and I'm fine with that.

  9. #9
    Power Poster dunster's Avatar
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    I think probably you're being too hard on yourself. If you show us what you've done we will be oohing and aahing and loving it.

    I also think we all practice longarming in different ways. I have not done any pantographs since I bought my longarm, and I haven't used the ruler or drawn on a design. Everything is freehand. Why? Because I am not ready to follow the lines yet! I know I would be wobbling all over them. At least with freehand no one knows what I was really aiming at. LOL Seriously, I do want to learn to control the ruler and do more controlled designs, but for now I'm having fun with my own wobbly feathers, McTavishing, spirals, etc. One thing in my favor is that I have not previously sent my quilts to professional longarmers, so I'm only comparing my work to my previous work on the sewing machine, and I have to say the longarm work looks better. (I have to say it because otherwise that would be one expensive hunk of metal sitting in my family room.)

  10. #10
    Super Member pittsburgpam's Avatar
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    Thank you for the words of experience. I understand muscle memory so I'll get some backings to use for front and back and just keep at it.

    I'll get some nice pantos that I would be happy with doing too.

    Why was I making mistakes?

    hadn't thought it out well enough so I wasn't clear on how to move from section to section

    couldn't see the line I was following from certain angles when the machine blocked my view

    going too fast

    All of those are correctable. One thing that may help is getting some micro-handles. Being so far away from the work and trying to do an echo quilting is like trying to draw while holding the pencil by the eraser.

  11. #11
    Power Poster cutebuns's Avatar
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    There is some good books as well that give you an idea how to transition from one thing to other while on the go. And yes, no matter what, with FMQ, pantographs and the groovy boards, all of it takes practice,

  12. #12
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    It does take many hours of practice. I didn't feel my FMQ was very good, either. And I wasn't able to spend the time needed to improve it quickly enough. That's one of the reasons for my Qbot purchase. But there are designs, which are easier to learn. Loops are one of them. I've gotten to the point, I can do loops fairly consistently and can manage a spiral or two. I still don't have the knack of feathers or any of the more complicated designs. I leave those to Qbot for now.

    Some LAQers practice designs by repeatedly drawing them on a dry erase board. This helps get the motion of the design into your brain. The movement of your writing hand mimics the movement of your hand while guiding the LA.

    Keep with it, you will improve. And before long, you'll be an expert. And knowing you're a perfectionist, it's probably not as bad as you're making it out to be. And even if it is, your granddaughter will still love it.

  13. #13
    Moderator kathy's Avatar
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    Pam if you join QNN you can watch Linda Taylor videos as many times as you want, also Fons and Porter have Marylin Badger on a lot of their videos. It's on $24 for a year, best money I ever spent! Of course after watching those gals you expect to go to your machine and "just do it" because they make it look so easy! I don't think I'll get good at freehand untill I get a better machine but pantos are really nice and easy to learn. good luck

  14. #14
    Super Member pittsburgpam's Avatar
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    I don't know what QNN is but I can probably search and find out.

    I read somewhere about the dry erase board, I'll check at work and see if there is an old one someone wants to get rid of.

    I tried feathers on my practice muslin and whoa... that was worse than I ever thought it could be. :P

    This is what I did last night and I could make a whole lot of excuses like... it was dark, but I won't. Sometimes I just couldn't see where the other line of stitching was so I was crossing them. Just basically not being careful enough and maybe I should have drawn them first.
    Attached Images Attached Images



  15. #15
    Power Poster cutebuns's Avatar
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    is it perfect? no but it sure looks pretty good, slowing down and making sure that you can see where you are going is important,

  16. #16
    Super Member pittsburgpam's Avatar
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    lol... It is so far from perfect that perfect is on another quilt, at someone else's house.

    I know my granddaughter will like it and I thought last night that I am not going to say a thing about how bad it is. I am teaching her and she is working on a fusible applique quilt all by herself. It would be horrible for me to critique my own work and give her the message that if grandma thinks this is bad, what about her work?

  17. #17
    Super Member Barb_MO's Avatar
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    I think it looks good. Don't you want it to look as if you quilted it, or do you think it needs to look like it was done with a computerized quilting machine?

    I just finished freemotion quilting some quilt blocks on my home machine....thought they looked pretty good. They aren't anywhere as nice as you have done on this quilt.

  18. #18
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    I would like to say my fm looks this good -- alas I can't. I'm still hoping I get better.

  19. #19
    Super Member Teacup's Avatar
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    I think this looks super...especially for a first attempt. KEEP GOING! You are your own worst critic. And you are right...don't critique it for your granddaughter. Let her love it the way it is and also enjoy her own first efforts.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Shelley's Avatar
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    Looks fine by me!

    Practice is not a dirty word! I've been LAing for just over 2 years. I'm on my third (or is it fourth) BOLT of muslin. Don't be afraid to use pantos and the rulers. You won't get better if you don't try.

  21. #21
    Power Poster dunster's Avatar
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    Just as I predicted! Your piece looks great. You've selected a very nice design for your quilt, too.

  22. #22
    Super Member hcarpanini's Avatar
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    Your doing great! When I teach LA quilting I make my students draw for quite awhile before coming to the machine. My favorite thing to do is make a copy of a pattern I want to learn, put it in a sheet protector and use a dry erase marker over and over. It really helps to "train your brain". When doing a panto, trace it with your finger a few times before starting. Remember to pause at the points and never stop in a curve. Practice, practice, and you will be great.

  23. #23
    Super Member pittsburgpam's Avatar
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    Thank you for the tips. I'll get a board and practice the patterns first.

    When you use muslin to practice, do you also use batting? If the point is to practice the movement, does it matter if it is just a piece of fabric?

    I'll order some pantos tonight and a bolt of muslin. I'm putting the binding on now, just about to close it. I used Sharon Schamber's binding technique and it is so nice to work with!

  24. #24
    Super Member hcarpanini's Avatar
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    When you practice, use the batting as you would in a quilt. You also want to make sure your tension is good as well as practicing your design. What machine are you using?

  25. #25
    Senior Member Shelley's Avatar
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    Yep, use batting. You can use regular fabric, it's just that muslin is cheap. I use the practice pieces for the dog.

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