Above is a picture of my most recent project in progress. If you ever want to see all of your tiny (and not so tiny) mistakes try quilting with contrasting thread. I tried this before with colored thread on black fabric with pretty neat results. At first is was really hard to do because I hated how my stitches and designs looked. It was funny to go from really proud of my work to not even wanting to look at it. When working with a thread color that blends you don't tend to notice your stitches or wiggles in your lines. Your eye is drawn to the texture created by the quilting, not the quilting itself. When you work if a contrasting thread color everything, and I truly mean everything, is visible.
After some heartache and frustration that my lines didn't look all that great I came to realize that seeing my mistakes was so much better than not. While I started off considering this project to be practice I didn't like that it didn't look perfect... but then again how am I ever going to get better if I don't allow myself to make mistakes. So first things first! Allow yourself to learn! You will always be your worst critic but that doesn't mean you aren't getting better. Like any art form free motion quilting takes time and lots of practice.
Ok, on to the good stuff!
Hopping vs floating: The great debate!
There are two main types of feet that you can use for free motion quilting on your home machine: a hopping (darning) foot and what I like to call a floating foot. A hopping foot has a little bar that rides above the needle hopping the foot up and down with the needle. It allows the fabric to move freely while the needle is up and holds it stationary when the needle is down. A floating foot (sometimes called a stippling foot) just floats above the top of your quilt without putting pressure on it so that the quilt can move freely. You can often purchase your quilting foot either closed or open toes and in various sizes to allow for different types of visibility. Availability usually depends on your machine manufacturer, for instance Bernina has a larger variety of quilting feet than Brother does.
I encountered this problem when I transitioned between quilting on my Kenmore and my Brother. I had started quilting on my Brother with the basic hopping foot that came with my machine but when it broke I was left with an old machine and an obsession that needed to be addressed. Luckily I was able find my darning plate to cover my feed dogs on the Kenmore and then set about finding a darning foot. Unfortunately they don't make accessories for 30 year old Kenmore's anymore so I was out of luck but with some playing I discovered that all I need to do was lower the pressure on my presser foot so that it acted like a floating foot and I could move my fabric freely. I was able to quilt! And it worked great until I got my Brother back. I couldn't want to work on my Brother again but because I had gotten so used to quilting without the hopping foot on my Kenmore I was barely able to do anything on the Brother without frustration. I hunted for a floating foot but Brother doesn't manufacture them and I wasn't sure that this wonderful (and expensive) Janome one would be compatible. Then I remembered this amazing tutorial by Leah Day on how to turn a generic hopping foot into a floating foot. Check out the video! It makes it simple!
|Left: Brother Hopping Foot. Right: Converted Kenmore Hopping Foot|
I had read through the tutorial and tried to convert an extra foot I had (that didn't fit my Kenmore...) a while ago with little luck. I had looped the top bar over using the needle nose pliers but it didn't quite fit because it made the foot too tall. I had also tried rapping a rubber band around the top of the spring but didn't have the right rubber band at the time so it just didn't work. This time I grabbed my wire cutters and just cut off the top bar which worked much better. I then rummaged through my various craft bins to find some jewelry wire to wrap around the top of my foot to keep the spring down. This ended up working much better for me and now I can quilt as easily as ever. Granted the wire is more permanent than a rubber band and more difficult to adjust but it works for right now.
Here is a close up of the wire wrapped top of my newly converted darning foot. Luckily it was already an open toed foot so I didn't need to mess with that as much although to be honest I don't necessarily mind the closed toe.
I think that's enough writing for now. I've just got to go sew! I hope to continue talking about free motion quilting soon. Writing this all out had been really helpful for planning for my class! It's likely that no one will read it but it's still been good for me so there we go :) If you do happen to find this helpful in any way that's awesome! Check out Part One if you are interested!