Friday, December 9, 2011

Attempting to learn machine-quilting

Needle plate, foot and transporter of a sewing...
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I am attempting to teach myself to machine quilt. I remember the first time I saw stippling used on a quilt. It was at a quilt show in Peotone, Illinois, where I first got bitten by the quilting bug. This small project, hanging in the First Presbyterian Church there, was a quilted scene--a wall hanging. I was really impressed by the look of it. I had never seen anything like it, but then I was experiencing quilts for the very first time.

Since then, I have seen some of the amazing work done on long arm quilting machines, something I know I will never be able to afford myself. There is nothing more exciting than a beautiful pieced quilt that is expertly quilted. Wow!

I had never really entertained the idea of machine quilting. Truthfully, I was just glad I could master the art of quiltmaking. I love hand-quilting and want to continue to perfect my skills. There are so many different steps to making a quilt. Each one contributes to the overall project, which makes all of the steps important. One failure in design, color, cutting, piecing, sewing, and finally quilting, and an entire project can suffer. When all those things work together, the result is astonishing.

I've always felt that for some reason, machine-quilting seemed like 'cheating.' I do prefer the feel of a hand-quilted project. But, I am dismayed by the time it takes, not to mention the wear and tear on my hands. Four years for one quilt is just too long, though. The other day, I figured, what the heck. I may be a senior citizen, but I like instant gratification too.

Now that I have dabbled at machine quilting, I am pretty intrigued by it. This is a good challenge and there is nothing I like more.

The hardest part was getting my sewing machine to cooperate. I spent almost the entire afternoon yesterday playing with tensions and different colored threads. Several more hours were spent trying to figure out how to 'stitch in the ditch' in a straight line. I can see where machine quilting for straight line work could speed up projects substantially. My recent log cabin quilt was all straight line work. I can see where a combination of machine and hand-quilting might be beneficial.

One of the things I love about quilting is the precision. Today's tools allow for good cutting and good quart-inch seams. There is nothing better than good sharp points all in the right places and corners that match precisely.

So far I'm not all that impressed with my machine work. It seems really cumbersome and odd to manipulate the fabric that way. I can see though how practice might help greatly. I do, however, enjoy the speed at which a project could be completed. There is nothing like a completed quilt. And, of course I love a good challenge.

When I was little, one of my favorite toys was the Spirograph. I used to doodle with it for hours, creating the most intricate and beautiful designs. I would make a simple design and then add designs to it in  increments. What resulted was a beautiful, intricate motif. A long arm quilting machine reminds me of that toy. I would love to make stitches like those designs. To me, those would be the ultimate quilts. Perhaps I will win the lottery one day. If I do, I'm going right to West Plains, MO to the Gammill sewing center store.


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