I told you last week about a wonderful gift I got from my friend Denniele when we met with our other friend, Kelly, in Greenwood. But I didn’t tell you about another really special thing I got.
Kelly, as you may know, is a superb longarm-quilter. Lately, she’s also become something of a cover girl for Handi-Quilter. You can see her in their ads in magazines and brochures. You may also have seen her segments on QNN-TV.
If you’ve followed me very long, you’ve seen some of the quilts she’s quilted for me. (Go here and here to see a couple.) The very first time I met Kelly, we talked about quilting vintage things. I had been making quilts out of orphan blocks and old linens for years (and had recently lost my usual quilter) and I knew she was going to be the perfect person to do those things for me. In fact, I distinctly remember saying to her, “Oh, Kelly, I need you.” If she thought that was a little weird, she had the good grace not to say so.
What you may not know is that Kelly has now joined the world of ruler-makers. She created these wonderful rulers to use while longarming.
When I first saw them, I said I wanted a set. I think I puzzled her because she knows I am a pretty lousy machine quilter and, while I’ve played with longarms at shows, I don’t see much of a future for myself in that.
She brought me a set to play with on Friday, though. She gave me a quick tutorial on using them, and talked me through a couple of questions. I didn’t comment on them earlier because I hadn’t had a chance to try them out yet, but now I have.
I have been working every day on my machine-quilting skills, just creating little exercises for myself. While we were in a store in Greenwood, Kelly and I saw a display with an old Big Chief tablet in it. Remember those? We both laughed at how big our first-grade selves thought we were, once upon a time, armed with our Big Chief tablets, pink erasers, and big fat pencils!
Learning to free-motion quilt is sort of like that, I realized. Way back when, all I could do was make poorly-shaped letters on the page, but after much practice, I could make things look pretty good. Today, after years of practice, I write pretty well, in my own style. With that in mind, I am practicing, practicing, practicing, in the belief that, in time, my chicken-scratch stitches will look better and I’ll develop my own “signature.”
There are a lot of things I need to work on, to include, first and foremost, control. That’s a big thing. My machine doesn’t have a stitch regulator, and while, I am okay if I am keeping the feed dogs up, putting them down is a different story. Getting my stitches straight and even is a challenge. So, I’m working on coordinating my hands and feet (sort of like learning to drive a car with a standard transmission), doing things in the right order and at the right speed.
You know? I did learn to write passably, and I did learn to drive a stick-shift, so I’m pretty sure I can learn another skill too. I am using Kelly’s rulers as I go, for now to help me keep lines straight when I need them to be. (I was really surprised at how easily I can make a line wiggle without them! Eeek!) The curved ends have me thinking of other shapes, though, and I am learning to work with that.
Since I started practicing my free-motion quilting, I think I’ve become addicted to it. I have given it time nearly every day, and some days it’s gotten a lot of time. Here are some more examples. I’ll let you decide if I’m getting any better at it. I think I’ll get there, don’t you?
One of the things several of my longarmer friends have said is that it’s important to doodle. I think they mean on paper, which I already do, but I am also trying to do it on my practice pieces. I can only go so long trying to make straight lines or evenly-spaced whatevers, so I’ve been giving myself one section of almost every piece to just scribble on. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it helps me not feel so uptight!
So you see, not only did Kelly give me a set of rulers, she also gave me a desire to learn something new, to master a new technique. She also gave me tools to help me master that technique. I have been around the quilt world a long time and, usually, if I want to know something, I go find it out. Free-motion quilting has been one of those, “Yeah, I’m okay at it, I want to get better, but…” things. Only now it’s really time for me to get better.
If you want a set of Kelly’s rulers for your very own, you can order them directly from Kelly here. She has videos up for using them with either a longarm or a domestic machine. You just might like them…a lot!