Hitting the Ditch (or not…)

Stitching in the ditch … well, I have another phrase to describe it, but for the sake of propriety, let’s just say I don’t like doing it.

I know for a large group of people its seems to be an easy way to get a quilt quilted quickly (say that five times really fast …), a way to get all the sandwich layers sewn together with stability so they can get the pins out, or a means of defining borders all around the edge of blocks to prepare for designs that will require a travel stitching line to follow.

The Myth

For these valid reasons, I sometimes choose to do it – on these occasions, it seems to be “a good idea at the time” – and not long after I start into it, I’m reminded why I don’t like it and then I face a choice:

  1. let the perfectionist in me pick out what I’ve done so far and just  “ditch” the idea (haha), or
  2. let the quilter in me who knows it’s not about the little mistakes but the overall texture push through and do it EVERYWHERE so there’s consistency and maybe the more I do it the more I’ll like it.  After all, practice makes almost perfect, right?

NO. NO. NO.  This is not what happens.  Instead, I get myself into a situation where I’m cursing and wishing I’d never even tried it – AGAIN!  And usually, I’ve made myself persevere because lots of other quilters do it and somehow I feel like I “should” do it and feel good about doing it.  If I can make a wild quilted almost whole cloth quilt without even marking designs first then, for crying out loud, stitching in the ditch should be pretty basic, and if I can’t do it to a reasonable (ie. MY) standard then I need to keep working on it because, because, because…

What is that all about?  I’m not everyone else!  We all have our strengths and weaknesses, things we enjoy and things we don’t, and our own creative style.

The Truth

Quilting is supposed to be FUN.  And I’ll tell you this rather large secret:

I WOULD RATHER PIECE A QUILT TOP THAN STITCH IN THE DITCH.  (Bet you didn’t think there was anything about quilting that I disliked more than piecing!)

The Fall

So here I am now working on this daisy quilt with nice wide strips for me to quilt some modern style feathers (I LOVE DOING FEATHERS) and an open white section for whatever I want to do, and what comes to mind first?

“I should really stitch in the ditch along the sashing lines to define the areas and have a travel stitching line if I need one because the solid white back will look better that way…” SHOULD?  I could feel the cringe in my stomach at just the thought of doing it, and I did it anyway.

On the first two of what would be twenty-one long stitching lines I had three big thread issues (trying to make myself use up a cone I ordered and ended up not liking because of thread issues…) and I wasn’t having fun.  Twice I considered picking them out and getting on with the stitching I wanted to do, and twice I convinced myself to persevere.  At the end of it, I needed a break, which resulted in this post.  I think I need stronger drugs.

Just for your viewing pleasure, I took these pictures for comparison.

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THIS is stitching in the ditch.
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THIS is trying to hit the ditch while hitting everything BUT the ditch; I would call it “drunkard’s path” but that’s already a quilt design … (and no, I never drink and quilt although, after this ordeal, I might need a drink)

The Reality

I can only get the results I want by going in one direction, which means constantly rotating my quilt, and that’s only reasonably do-able when it’s small and you don’t have twenty-one long lines to do.  I don’t particularly enjoy doing lines and geometric shapes with straight lines anyway, I’m more of a curved line person and that’s how my stitching flows best.  I use lines in areas where I want a dramatic contrast between swirled or curvy patterns, but not in big long sections.  Other people do and it looks really cool.  And that’s fine with me.

My conclusion?

When you find your niche, stick with it and don’t have a care in the world for what anyone else would do in that spot, or on that line, unless it’s something you really like and want to learn to do.  I will practice and take classes to learn new techniques in the areas I really love, but persevering in something you hate doing just because other people find it useful when it really makes no difference to your awesome creative project in the end anyway is just a waste of time (as is comparing our style or stitching choices to anyone else’s!)

And “ditch” the thread with issues.  Ain’t nobody got time for that …

Back to stitching…my own way!

(finished daisy quilt pictures will be coming soon …)

 

 

Bright for Baby

I just took a little break from quilting today to share a couple of things I’ve worked on this week.

How about a couple of really bright and cheerful baby quilts?  I’m not committed to the “pink is for girls and blue is for boys” theory.  I think any discerning, fashion conscious, and modern thinking baby would like something with a little pizzaz to wrap them up … LOL

The first one has an orphan block from a friend in it (wouldn’t want you to be shocked that I actually pieced it that way!)

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I love daisies, so these fabrics make me happy🙂 I’m also happy that there were five different colors of the same print so I could sew four seams and end up with this!

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And now, back to my machine where there is another bold & bright one just about finished…

For Email Subscribers

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Hello to my email subscribers!

It has come to my attention that when you receive an email with a post from my blog it can, depending on your email program and computer system, look very different from the way it looks on the actual website.

I’m disappointed with this because I spend a lot of time making sure that pictures are lined up and displayed nicely for your viewing pleasure!  Apparently, even when I make a collage to keep it interesting, some of you still get plain old misaligned square photos in your email – BORING!

Unfortunately, there isn’t anything I know of that I can change at my end to make a difference in how your email shows the information, but I do suggest that if you want to see the post as it actually looks online, please click on any one of the pictures in the email and that should take you straight to the full post🙂  I assure you it is much better and more fun to read there!

I was piecing yesterday so there will definitely be some quilting today, which means there should be some new pictures before the weekend🙂

 

Custom Quilting – in bulk!

These quilts have now been delivered to their owner so I can share pictures of the completed projects with you!  They were all pieced by Pam Fritsche of Dawson Creek, B.C.

The first one has an overall large loopy paisley stitching pattern.

 

The second one has a combination of stitching patterns, with some thread painting in the dark forest border sections (ooooh that was fun!)

 

And the third has hand appliqued poppies which I had fun adding highlights and details to  before adding the wild quilting with leaves and feathers to cover the whole background and border section.

 

I’m now back to working on a few new ones for my Etsy shop.  But that means I HAVE TO DO THE PIECING!  Stay tuned …

 

FMQ The Learning Process

10522024_10154500912115663_6298436020875783683_nToday I was reading the blog post of another quilting lady and I felt that in describing and critiquing her own work she was being much too hard on herself.  So that inspired me to post a picture of one of my early quilting projects and talk a bit about how we judge ourselves and our work. She will probably see this post, but I’m not naming her, so she is the only one who will get the reference and I hope she won’t mind🙂

(the pictured quilt went to a friend of mine who is also a quilter, so she isn’t going to mind either!)

Depending on how this shows up on your own computer, you might have to zoom in to see what I’m talking about, but if you look at the stitching you’ll see a double loop pattern, some unevenness in stitch length, some not-so-rounded loops (read as “pointed sections”) and there is a lot of empty space that doesn’t balance with the scale of my quilted areas.  I could also mention the terrible time I had on this one with tension and nesting of thread on the bottom while getting used to some of the features of a brand new sewing machine, but after a LOT of picking and a couple of trips back to the store for adjustments and advice, I got those parts fixed up🙂  I was also still using a lighter weight thread so that my stitching wasn’t overly obvious, although I did take a bit of a leap in using white!

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Thankfully, the friend who got it isn’t the type to look for mistakes and although she is a very careful crafter herself, perfectionism doesn’t hold her back.

But it has often held me back in various areas of my life, and it did hinder me at the beginning of my quilting journey until I really got going with my free motion quilting.  I won’t say that I no longer cringe a bit when something doesn’t look EXACTLY the way I want it to – and obviously if I’ve made a distinct error that is going to bother me, especially on a custom quilting job, I do fix it – but it’s getting easier and easier to give myself a break and start to appreciate what I’ve been able to learn to do and how far I’ve come from those first quilts.

Take another look at the early quilt, and then look at the picture below:

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Are there mistakes?  You bet!  But the point is that when I first started I never thought  I would be doing something like this.  I show you this comparison not to brag, but to encourage anyone who is struggling with learning and feeling like they aren’t doing a good enough job.  Good enough for who?  The more you do it, the better you get, literally and with each and every quilt.  Any improvement is “good enough”!

And pretty soon things that look way beyond your scope come into focus and you start to see how all the little things you’ve learned go together and become one big whole cloth full of really cool stitching and you can stand back and breathe a sigh of satisfaction because you did what you set out to do.  And no it’s not perfect, it’s probably not even competition worthy (I have no desire to be a competitor!) but it’s yours and it’s unique, and that’s something big.

I’m not a quilting teacher; I’m no kind of expert.  I’m just a person who absolutely loves free motion quilting.  I’ve had experienced quilters encourage me and remind me not to be so hard on myself, so I’m sharing that with you.

I’ve learned from online classes and professional teachers who remind us that quilting isn’t about being perfect – perfect is impossible because we’re not machines.  It’s about having fun, learning, and doing our best.  Leah Day reminds us that we don’t learn to free motion quilt by picking out everything that isn’t exactly right.  Angela Walters says that when someone admires our work and compliments us, we should simply say “thank you” instead of launching into a list of reasons why it isn’t as good as they think it is (she suggests that it’s sort of insulting to respond otherwise because it’s like we’re telling the person they are wrong!) because they are looking at the overall effect and not seeing every little picky thing that we see ourselves.

I’ve also noticed that mistakes and glitches I see while quilting are things I’m often not able to find easily once the quilt is finished and I’m looking it over as a whole project.  It’s easy to see them when that one section is right in front of my face in a little area between my two hands because that is exactly what I’m focussing on as I work.  But we need to spread it all out and look at the whole picture (and yes, a finished quilt is a work of art!) and take a minute to appreciate what we have done just then, with what we know how to do🙂

 

Happy Mail!

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Look at all the yummy thread I just got in the mail!  My fabric has been waiting …

Since I’m still working on a couple of custom projects right now and have no new pictures to post quite yet, I thought I’d share an opinion today!  I enjoy reading about what other quilters are finding useful in their craft, so perhaps someone out there will find this information helpful.

I’m not a thread expert myself.  I do have a mentor who is, though, and I daresay she has turned me into a thread snob!  BUT it’s totally worth it, because once you’ve tried a few different threads and you discover the features of each one and learn just how they all work on your own machine, sometimes there is no comparison.

Yes, top quality thread costs more.  Sometimes lots more (and there are really good reasons for that, from how it’s manufactured to how it’s wound to how it works on different machines) but when you’re heavily into a wild-quilted-with-lots-of-travel-stitching project the LAST thing you need is a thread issue right in the middle of the best motif you’ve ever done.  Trust me, those are times for words I can’t post on this G-rated blog.

I was in a cotton thread box for a while when I first started quilting last year, until I learned that the age-old issues with using anything other than cotton on a quilt were just that: age-old.  The way threads are made now, you just have to go for it and see what you like best because you don’t need to be concerned about hurting your precious handiwork by branching out.  Even well-known quilters and teachers like Leah Day will tell you that!

So while I’ve played around with different brands here and there, I have to say that right now, my absolute favorite thread for quilting is Magnifico by Superior Threads.  I really like their King Tut cotton quilting thread as well; it has never given me a problem, and I highly recommend it for use of cotton thread, but I was looking for a good quality 40 WT polyester quilting thread that would stand up to a lot of wear and tear (not from quilt use, but from quilting the way I quilt! lol) and when I tried my first spool of this stuff I was hooked.  It quilts like a dream and it travels back and forth over and over itself like butter – smooth, slick, and no resistance.  AND I can use it in my bobbin too so everything always matches and I don’t have to worry about thread bleeds when I’m doing dense work in certain areas. AND it has a lovely luster that just makes every line of stitching exciting to follow as you’re flying around from one area to the next.

As always, you have to discover what works best for you in your style of quilting and with your machine (yes they each have their own personality!) and I haven’t used the Magnifico on my regular machine just yet as I mainly use my Pfaff Powerquilter for quilting projects and it does run at a much higher speed.

If you’d like to read more about Superior Threads, visit their website here: Superior Threads

If you’d like to buy them in Canada, I get mine from Cindy’s Threadworks in BC.

 

 

 

Custom Quilting

I finished quilting another couple of quilts for a lady in Dawson Creek, BC; you saw the sandwiches in our “let’s guess which ones Ann pieced” game post!  As was correctly answered, these two were not mine.  But I did quilt them and they were shipped home to their owner last week so I can now share the pictures.

If you zoom in you can see that every one of those colorful partial circles actually has little pleats all the way around it.  Pam loves to piece quilts tops.  I’m not sure who came up with the plan where in addition to inserting circular pieces into squares and triangles they also thought “hey, let’s make this even more complicated by pleating them first!  Yeah, that’s a great idea…”  (probably someone who drinks a LOT of coffee…) but the overall effect is pretty cool up close.  No pictures of the back here because the fabric was busy and you can hardly see the thread🙂

This is a little Valentine’s themed quilt Pam pieced together with dogs and cats and hearts and diamonds and too many tiny pieces to count …. (I’m thinking maybe a scrap stash buster? haha)

Stay tuned for a few more from this lady – I’m just waiting for a yummy thread order!

 

Music Montage

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For music lovers everywhere …

I have to admit that I was intrigued by a large block piecing pattern I saw online and decided to try it.  The fact that the blocks are large made the piecing bearable! haha

I also tried some geometric stitching patterns in the blocks (not a huge fan of geometrics myself, but it worked out OK) surrounded by a big wavy stitching pattern in an effort to mimic the swirly design in the burgundy fabric.  I like lines, but doing repeated triangles and other pointed things, while sometimes the most fitting choice in a block, don’t give me the same entertainment that flowing & swirling stitching patterns in wide open spaces do!

As the teacher in one of my online hyper-quilting classes said (I’m paraphrasing a bit here but her point is still clear) that’s the hard part for people who are “into” free motion quilting: the stitching we enjoy doing most is always better seen on solids than on busy prints🙂

(This quilt has been sold.)

Oh, Happy Day!

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I’m kind of excited today that another blog I follow – The Inbox Jaunt, run by a talented teacher lady named Lori Kennedy – is showing a few examples of my quilting where I used motifs that she featured in her tutorials!  She asked readers to send her pictures of what we had done using her tutorials and now she is having an online trunk show so we can all see the various ways people have used what they’ve learned.  She also teaches classes on Craftsy.

So head over and take a look at her blog, browse her tutorials, and check out the featured projects she posted today to see the ones I sent in🙂