Tips-as-we-go quilting (4)

Ooo! Friday was day four of quilting ‘In the Cool of the Evening’. Undeterred by the disappointments of the previous days walking foot quilting I got into the sewing room bright and early. I knew it was to be day when I would have to don those ‘big girls pants’ and get down to some free motion quilting! So from 8am ’til 11.30am I went into procrastination mode: first I cut and stitched together the strips of fabric for the binding (well! I reasoned it had to be done sometime…);Binding strips next I made a fresh practice quilt sandwich from wadding off-cuts and an old polycotton sheet (well! I’d need to do some warm up stitching before I moved on to the actual quilt wouldn’t I?); then I did some practice stitching (well! practice is important!); I cleaned the fluff out of machines bobbin race (it’s good to have a well maintained machine…)Bobbin fluff; next a coffee break and a chance to catch up reading the blogs I follow (well! it’s important to be refreshed and relaxed before doing fmq); and then a quick walk to a local hardware store to pick up some garden supplies (well! fresh air is good for us, isn’t it?).





By 11.30am I had no place to hide! I positioned the quilt under the needle and went for it… And, much to my surprise, I enjoyed a rather intense half hour of stitching ๐Ÿ™‚ Here are the results:

FMQ leaves

The leaf outlines overlapping the green ‘hedges’ on to the ‘paths’

Fmq leaves 2

I could point out some faults but I won’t: as Melanie wisely advised in her comment a couple of days ago, ‘Don’t be more critical of your own work than you would be of a good friend’. And a key word in the paragraph above is that I enjoyed doing the fmq and any self-judged imperfections in the workmanship can not take away the satisfaction I experienced from executing that stitching ๐Ÿ™‚

On to my quilting tips and techniques:

  • Practicing fmq really does help to raise confidence and improve skills – even if you only get the chance every-now-and-again, no practice is a waste of time.
  • The quilt is much bigger and heavier than my practice sandwich. I found the speed I could move the quilt under the needle was considerably slower than I’d been moving the practice piece so I had to adjust my stitching speed too.
  • Whenever I paused stitching – to move my hand position or shift the quilt – I thought about the next few inches of quilting to be done and made a little plan in my head which helped me feel in control of the pattern I was creating.
  • I regularly checked the scale of the shapes I was stitching to make sure there wasn’t a noticeable difference to the scale I’d used at the beginning.

I think I have another six hours of stitching leaf shapes before the hedge areas of the quilt are completed. Thankfully I do have a full spool of the green Aurifil 2902 as fmq sure does eat up thread.

If you would like a break from all this machine quilting talk I’d highly recommend you take a look at Bella’s beautifully hand stitched Valentine’s quilt – it is stunning ๐Ÿ™‚ Click on the link here or find the link on my Pinterest board, ‘Pins of the Week‘.

Hope you have a great weekend.


I mentioned the modifications I made to my fmq/darning foot to stop it bouncing using the tutorial by Leah Day. Here’s a photo of the foot along with the new practice sandwich.

FMQ foot modifications




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Tips-as-we-go quilting (3)

Day three of quilting ‘In the Cool of the Evening’. Hum! There is a hint of something about a day three, curious but true (for me anyway!) with regards to changing habits and the like. Take a new organising or diet regime… day three is usually when the going gets tough. So I shouldn’t be surprised that all that re-found love for my quilt has been sorely tested today!

This mornings task was to add more quilting to the paths. I’m aiming to have quilting stitches about 2″ apart across the quilt. It’s good practice to have quilting stitches spread evenly over a quilt so that it keeps it’s shape after washing, rather than the layers scrunching up in some areas and getting puffy and loose in others. (That said, it’s a ‘rule’ and what are they for? ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

Keeping the machine with the walking foot, stitch length set to 2.5 and using the dark gold Aurifil 2975, I completed echo stitching along the paths, ยฝ” in from the flower beds (I’ll put a picture of the pattern here just in case there’s anyone coming in late on this series and wondering why on Earth I’m quilting the paths in my garden?).

In the Cool of the Evening

KEY: The paths are in tan, the hedges in green, the flower beds are shades of blue and the ponds are mauve.

I spent a while looking at the paths and particularly the intersections, noticing the wide open spaces devoid of quilting. I’m not sure it looks quite right but I decided to stitch along the centre of each path. I drew faint lines using a Sewline pencil. To create a bit of interest in the square, pond-less, intersections I made and drew around a square cardboard template. Set ‘on point’ these squares echo the ponds in the other intersections.


Template in place – the Sewline pencil lines are just visible.


Quilting completed – rumpled fabric in evidence ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

This is when my three day blues set in ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I could see the patchwork top was getting a bit rippled and the fabric in some of the quilted squares looked quite baggy. Grrr! Took me back to an incident with another quilt – I wrote a blog post at the time titled ‘Quilting and the Monster in Me!‘. All that smoothing, gentle stretching then careful pinning to create a wonderfully flat quilt sandwich but as soon as the quilting begins the fabric still manages to shift about! The rising frustration was compounded by that old chestnut, my bobbin thread ran out six inches from the end of the final stitching line *sigh*. I stayed calm, refilled the bobbin, completed the stitching and THEN walked away from the quilt!

Quilting tips and techniques:

  • Work hard to keep the bulk of the quilt on the table to your left and behind the sewing machine – it’s asking too much of the feed dogs to lift a quilt up out of your lap and on to the machine!ย IMG_3474
  • Make sure the section of quilt you’re working on is ‘relaxed’ under the needle – not being pulled and distorted by the weight of the rest of the quilt – be prepared to spend quite a bit of your quilting time readjusting the position of the quilt.
  • Recognise when it’s time to ‘walk away from the quilt’ and give yourself a break ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • Quilting rulers are really useful aids if you need to mark stitching lines on to your quilt.
  • Do check that any marking pens/chalks you use will not stain your fabric.
  • Check out Jan’s helpful tip re. adjusting the foot pedal to maintain an even stitching speed, ‘If your machine foot only has one setting, place or tape a piece of foam to the back of it. This gives you much more control of the foot and therefore the speed, as it stops the foot/treadle from going all the way down’.

Footnote to all the above: I’ve spent a peaceful hour sewing all the loose thread ends into the quilt and now I’m thinking it doesn’t look so bad… I mean quilts aren’t supposed to be FLAT, are they?

Linking with Myra for Finished or Not Friday.

Links to the previous two posts in this quilting tips series: Post 1; Post 2.


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Tips-as-we-go quilting (2)

Yesterday I began quilting ‘In the Cool of the Evening’ and shared some quilting tips and techniques in a blog post. Essentially the piecing depicts the plan of a formal garden with beds of flowers surrounded by box hedging and a network of paths. I found some fabric printed with reeds and grey herons to use for the four small ponds found in the corners of the ‘garden’ and for the larger central pool.


One of the flower beds surrounded by a box hedge and brick paving.

After spending the day stitching in the ditch using the walking foot I prepared to be brave and begin free motion quilting. I re-set my sewing machine – feed dogs down, stitch length to zero, attached my modified* free motion quilting foot/darning foot and found some odds and ends bobbins to do a bit of practicing. I also spent a bit of time doing some muscle memory exercises; drawing out my quilting designs on paper trying to get the shapes and scale regular.

*Modified free motion quilting foot – like Leah Day I find the rapid up and down motion of this foot really distracting, ย making it difficult for me to see where the needle and thread are on the fabric. I use Leah’s method to subdue the up down movement – all that’s needed is a rubber band and a pair of pliers – see here.


My first practice piece – sort of vine leaves around the edge and flowers in the centre. I drew lines on the fabric to represent the pieced ‘hedges’ on the quilt


I drew these pointed leaves after stitching the rounded ones (see photo above). I prefer the pointed ones and they will be easier to quilt as the point gives a natural place to stop and restart stitching.

I arrived in the sewing room this morning and began to feel all indecisive (maybe I was dithering or maybe I was decision making?). Anyway after a while I hatched a revised quilting plan, reverting my machine back to walking foot mode (I did practice fmq for ten minutes first ๐Ÿ™‚ ) and preparing to work on the ponds and paths before free motion stitching over the hedges and flowers.


I used one of my machines quilting stitches around the edges of the four small ponds – to secure down the seams and to blur the stark edges.


I used a fancier stitch to surround the central pool – trying to give the impression of an ornamental stone edge.

Two hours on it has dawned on me that I am using garden planning strategies to create this quilt! First the hard landscaping (or piecing) – paths, water features and boundaries – followed by the planting (or quilting) that will soften the stark lines of the hard landscape features. In the case of this quilt the ‘planting’ will involve stitching a continuous vine pattern over the green ‘hedges’ that edge the flower borders and paths. I’m intending for the leaf outlines to overlap the edges, hopefully giving that softening effect. The same with the areas of flowers, I’ve selected an off-white thread (Aurifil 2311) to stitch an informal daisy chain of blooms over all the different floral fabrics – hopefully that will make them seem more cohesive and fit with my original inspiration of the planting in the White Garden at Sissinghurst Castle ๐Ÿ™‚

Oh! My goodness! That doesn’t half sound ambitious now that I’ve actually written down the ideas that have been forming in my head!

But first, I’m going to tackle quilting the paths – more straight lines with the walking foot! My choice of thread colour is a bit ย limited. I’ve gone for a dark gold (Aurifil 2975) that reminds me of the warm, glowing light created by the late afternoon sunshine we enjoyed whilst walking around the gardens at Sissinghurst.

Can you tell, I’m falling back in love with this quilt? I really did become most critical of my design decisions when I was piecing it all together.

Quilting tips and techniques:

  • Adapt a generic free motion quilting foot if you find the bouncing action distracting.
  • Slip off your shoes or slippers to get a better touch on the foot pedal.
  • Practice free motion patterns with pencil and paper.
  • Practice free motion quilting – time spent practicing really does pay dividends and will show up any issues with the thread tension before working on your quilt.
  • Keep threads ends on the top of the quilt where you can see them and if you need a break from machining why not sit in a comfy armchair and sew the ends in – saves a big job at the end!

Linking with Kelly at My Quilt Infatuation for Needle and Thread Thursday.


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Tips-as-we-go quilting (1)

Quilting on the ‘Gardener’s World’ quilt has begun – just as well as I really need to complete it by Friday week! At the risk of boring to tears regular readers, I will just reiterate a few facts about my quilt before launching this quilting progress blog post series.

Gardener’s World is the theme category for this years Quilts UK exhibition being held at the Malvern Showground from 18th-21st May. I decided way back last July to enter a quilt of my own design – first time I’ve ever done this – and over the Winter the design gradually evolved first on graph paper and then on the design software, EQ7. I bought the fabrics for the quilt top in February, completing this less than two weeks ago. This past weekend, after a bit of a delay in the delivery of the backing fabric and wadding, I pieced the backing and put together the quilt sandwich using basting pins.

In the Cool of the Evening

The EQ7 representation of ‘In the Cool of the Evening’

That’s the history so far of my quilt named ‘In the Cool of the Evening’. Now I’d like to talk write/read/show you through the process of quilting this project which measures approximately 68″ square.

I decided to use a new-to-me wadding – Quilter’s Dream, Cotton select. Lately I’ve been a bit disappointed in the quality of my usual wadding choice, Hobbs 80/20. Although it is easy to machine stitch I’ve found the pieces I’ve bought recently have been rather lumpy with the thickness of the wadding being very uneven and creases have not smoothed flat. The Quilter’s Dream wadding arrived as a folded 3m length from a 92″ wide roll. It smoothed out easily and the depth of wadding throughout the piece is completely even. The ‘select’ loft is a little lower than I’m used to and easy to handle.

IMG_3455As well as ordering the wadding I also ordered the end of a bolt of Dashwood Studios ‘Streetlife’ by Jessica Hogarth. The colours and park design work so well with the quilt top – very happy face ๐Ÿ™‚ There wasn’t quite enough fabric for the backing so I’ve pieced it together with some of the left over fabrics from the quilt top and included a label too.



First decision: Quilt in the ditch around some areas of the patchwork to stabilise the layers. As most of the patchwork seams were pressed open my initial quilting might be more accurately called ‘quilt on the seam’ rather than ‘in the ditch’. I know some quilters say never stitch along an open seam for fear the quilting stitches will break the seam stitches … I’m choosing to go with those who say it’s not a problem!

Second decision: As these in the ditch stitches re primarily being added to be part of the structure of the quilt rather than part of the design I chose to use the near invisible 50wt Aurifil 2600 I’d been using for the piecing as the top and bobbin thread.ย IMG_3461

Machine set up: I set my machine stitch length to 2.5; installed a 90/14 quilting needle; switched to an open toe applique foot; shifted the needle over as far to the right as it would go; decreased the pressure foot pressure; and double-checked that the integrated walking foot was engaged. If my machine had a speed control I would have set it to ‘slow’.

Tips and techniques for walking foot, in-the-ditch quilting:

  • Using an open toe applique foot allows a clear view of the needle and moving the needle as close to one of the ‘toes’ of the foot as possible provides a useful visual guide as you stitch along a seam.
  • If you need to change direction to follow a seam, create the final stitch manually before you turn the corner – turning the wheel to drop the needle and easing the edge of the seam in place by hand – then you can be sure of not falling short of or running beyond the seam.IMG_3472

I stitched in the ditch around the ‘flower beds’ (coloured in various shades of blue in the design above). I brought the bobbin thread to the front of the quilt each time I started a fresh section of quilting to save the loose threads getting entangled on the back. Now I’m going to sit in a comfy chair and hide all those threads in the quilt before progressing to the next stage in the quilting of this project…

Any questions about my choices and progress so far? Please do ask or make suggestions ๐Ÿ™‚

Linking with Lorna for Let’s Bee Socialย (click the link to see Lorna’s latest Forest Friends designs and have a browse through some of the projects being worked on by quilters around the world).



Posted in Computer Software, Fabrics, Gardener's World Quilt, Quilting Techniques, Tutorial | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

How Does My Garden Grow? (2)

I wrote and posted ‘How Does My Garden Grow? (1)’ on 8th March when warm sunny days were at a premium. As well as having to look closely for signs of Spring in our little garden my ‘Gardener’s World’ (the open category at this years Quilts UK, Malvern) quilt was only just growing from EQ7 planning to fabric reality: I’d made the first four blocks!

Almost six weeks on and I’m happy to be able to share some photos of our garden in full Spring ‘get up’…

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… and disclose that this weekend I made a quilt sandwich of THE quilt and began quilting ๐Ÿ™‚ The deadline for entries to arrive at the show organisers is 10th May *gulp* I’ve called THE quilt ‘In the Cool of the Evening’ (a reference to Genesis 3:8 – ‘..the Lord God … walking in the garden in the cool of the day.’) having taken the inspiration from a late afternoon walk around the White Garden at Sissinghurst Castle.img_2056

Here is the draft pattern. I am still on a big learning curve with EQ7 so what is on the page and what is in my head may not always match…

In the Cool of the Evening

My pattern for ‘In the Cool of the Evening’ – it’s supposed to look like the plan of a formal garden ๐Ÿ™‚

THE quilt now measures around 68″ square and is a hefty beast. I’m going to share the process of quilting it on this blog. There will be some ups and downs as I put my ‘big girls pants’ on and venture into free motion quilting territory.

Away from THEย quiltย I’ve had the great pleasure of seeing the four participants of the Beginners Course complete their quilts. They were a bit reluctant to show their faces above their lovely quilts but I hope you can see from these photos just how delighted they were with the creation of their first quilts?

And here is my design wall:

These fabrics are from a Lewis & Irene scrumptious squares pack (aka layer cake) of ‘Tropicana’ fabrics. I broke into this pack whilst waiting for the backing and wadding to arrive for THE quilt! Well! What’s a girl to do?

Linking with Judy for Design Wall Monday.




Posted in Computer Software, Fabrics, Garden, Gardener's World Quilt, Quilt Design, Venture | Tagged , , | 4 Comments