Thursday, November 10, 2011

What Do I Do? Part II

Today's post might be more like how do I do what I do.  I'm answering some more of Dianne's questions.
Here's what she asked (referring to Color Fields #14):
"Lisa, how do you do it!? You say you haven't free motion quilted in a while, but this is BEAUTIFUL. I wish you had posted more pictures of the stitching close up on this. Do you go REALLY slow or something? Your stitching isn't as wiggly as most free motion quilting I see (even with professionals). What kind of a machine do you free motion quilt on?"

Another view of the quilting with the piece laying down and sunlight across it.

First, I'll say, "thanks" for thinking my stitching is beautiful.  I can guarantee that as I'm working on it, I am noticing every flaw and bobble I make.  But it is a good exercise in letting go of perfection and just hoping that overall it looks good.

My machine is a regular home sewing machine; a Pfaff 7550 which I bought used on Ebay years ago.  It is holding up pretty well.  They no longer make this machine.  I think Lisa Call uses a similar machine that is no longer made and I think she bought an extra used one to have on hand in case something ever happens to the other.

While working on the Color Fields series, I was doing mostly just straight stitching for the quilting in the majority of the pieces.  That is why when I decided to do some free motion stitching, I said I hadn't done it in a while.

I guess at this point, I have been doing free motion stitching for years and it is a little like riding a bike once you know how to do it.  When I first started, my stitching did not look that great.  But this is something you really do need to practice at to get better, just like drawing.  And it is just drawing with a machine.

Of course as I was learning, I read books and absorbed information on the internet.  I can't recall that I have taken any classes specifically relating to how to free motion stitch.  I think I tried it and then asked a lot of questions online.  I did do a workshop that was about how to chose what kind of designs to quilt on your piece.

When I free motion stitch, I try to remember to put the feed dogs down.  Sometimes I forget and it still works with them up.  Sometimes that even helps give you some control (depends on the design).  On my machine I lower the top tension to almost zero.

I also set my machine to half speed (that way if I accidentally put my pedal to the metal, then it doesn't zoom ahead of me and stays at the set limited top speed).  This is recommended in general.  Some people like to go faster than that speed and therefore do not use that.

I stitch fairly slowly.  So I really never even reach that top half speed limit.  I'm probably cruising at about half of that half speed.  Most of what I have read says that it is easier to create smooth curves at a faster speed, and in fact, Melody Johnson just wrote a post on her blog about this in regards to free motion stitching your signature (more about this later).  This makes sense to me.

However, I have a really hard time going fast.  I've tried to go faster, thinking, "Wow, maybe it wouldn't take me so many hours to free motion this whole piece if I could go a little faster." But it doesn't work for me.  I need to go slow since I am really figuring out where to go next as I'm stitching.  At this point, I can tell when I get the right speed of moving the fabric, coordinated with the right pressure of my foot on the pedal.  I don't always get that right at the start.

I also hold my fabric a little differently.  I like to grab both the edges and move the piece around.  Even with a large piece, I try to find some way to hold it like this. It is the easiest way for me.  I can generally just move my hands without big arm movements.  Although I think this method is what causes me to get tense in the shoulders.

Maybe it would be easier if I just showed you.  Disclaimer: This is my first attempt at a video.  I just sewed some scraps together to show you how I do free motion stitching.  This stitching isn't as nice, because the fabric is a little looser than the dyed fabrics.

The first video shows a design similar to the one I did in Color Fields #14.  The second video is closer to the design I did in Color Fields #13.

Now you can see how slow I stitch and why it takes hours and hours to do a large artwork that has that stitching over the entire piece.


Dianne M. said...

You were so sweet to take the time to do this. It was actually very encouraging to me since I believe I am a very slow quilter in general and have never tried free motion quilting because everyone seems to be so speedy at it on the internet! If I can get similar results to yours, even if I am slower, I will be VERY happy!

kathleen probst said...

Wow! Two videos! Both great. I have always wanted to see you in action. I was always under the impression that you sewed faster.

You make me want to go experiment. Thanks for opening my mind.