Monday, June 8, 2020

Sit-Down Quilting with Rulers--Curves

My favorite way to quilt a Hexified Panel Quilt or One Block Wonder is with gentle curves or orange peels that curve from seam-intersection to seam-intersection. Since I press the seams all open when making these quilts, stitching all those seams in the ditch would be stitching only on thread. By using the curves, I secure every seam and create a lovely quilting design that is easy to do. I've done dozens of quilts this way completely free motion where the overall quilting is perfect in its imperfections. However, my sweet husband decided he wanted his Wolves Hexified Panel Quilt quilted with a ruler so the curves would be more uniform and fill more of each triangle. So, the adventure shifted early in 2019 to using a ruler on these quilts.
I've been teaching free-motion quilting on domestic and mid-arm sit-down machines for a number of years now. As my students have improved, they've asked for advanced classes using rulers. The plan was to teach several classes this year at area shops to demonstrate and teach quilting with rulers on domestic machines or sit-down midarm quilters. The COVID-19 pandemic changed all that as I cancelled all of my classes and workshops for the foreseeable future until we see how this all unfolds. I've considered doing an online class or Facebook Live, but haven't managed to make that happen yet. We shall see what the future holds in the way of classes--either live or online, but in the meantime we are playing with short videos taken with my camera to share.
I quilt on a HandiQuilter Sweet Sixteen sit-down midarm. The machine slides into a custom table that, with the extensions, is 6 feet long by ~30" deep. I have craft tables set on either side of my chair, tucked just under the edges of the table that carry the weight of the quilt as I shift it around. This allows me to keep the quilt "pooled" on the U-shaped nest and prevents the quilt from falling off the table and creating drag. I have quilted everything on this machine for the last almost 8 years from little 6x8" mug rugs to a huge 112x121" king size quilt with no problems. It just takes getting used to and focusing on the section you are quilting at the moment so as to not get overwhelmed by the larger projects.

Here's a link to a video (that Blogger says is too big to upload) that Les took today of me in action on my machine, quilting curves on a Hexified Panel Quilt using a ruler. I talked through some of the steps I take in holding the ruler, creating tension with my hands to keep the quilt layers flat, and more. It's linked to my Facebook page which I hope everyone can access. Be sure to follow me while you're there!

Now to add some additional illustrations and tips to expand on the information in the video.

While quilting curves on one of our Hexified Panel Quilts today, I was using the little 4" Arc by Westalee/Sew Steady. The triangles I was filling measure 2" from point to flat side within each machine pieced kaleidoscopic hexie. The 4" arc curve is acute enough to fill these triangles nicely. On some of my earlier Hexified Panel Quilts that had larger triangles, I preferred the Kelly Bean ruler by Kelly Cline Quilting that has a somewhat gentler curve. There are many options out there, so find the one you like for the project you're quilting. Be sure to have some sort of non-slip sticker or adhesive product on the back of your rulers. You don't want them to slip and slide while quilting, as they should be moving with the quilt as you move them together along the quilting foot. These have True Grip self-adhesive circles or leftover pieces from the sheet of circles that are designed for quilting rulers. The rings are die-cut on a full sheet of the self-adhesive rubber, so when the rings are all used, be sure to cut up the leftovers! There's enough extra to use on several more rulers. Also, always set your needle stop in the DOWN position when quilting so when you stop, the needle stays down in your quilt to hold it in place. If you leave it in the UP position, when you let go of the quilt after you stop, the quilt will likely shift and create a jump-stitch when you are ready to begin stitching again.
Before you start on a project, do enough practice with your ruler to know what speed you like to work at. I prefer to work at about 40% speed on my HQ Sweet Sixteen. As you can see from this picture, I have my presets on my machine set at 25%, 35%, and 45%. Depending on what I'm quilting, I can adjust up or down from there, but only on very rare occasions do I go beyond that 45%. I've found the speed that I'm comfortable with and stick with it. I find that when I set a specific speed, I can quilt "pedal to the metal" and not have to keep my leg/ankle in a constant state of tension trying to find and hold a specific speed. For those with midarms or even modern domestics that have a speed control, set it to a speed you're comfortable with so you can just put your foot down and go. 
Yes, there's a little 2" thick photo album under my heel. I have found that even when quilting flat out, having my ankle flexed causes a lot of tension and strain in my leg by the end of the day. By elevating my heel I'm pressing down with my foot, letting my calf/leg stay more relaxed. It's definitely easier on me than having my heel on the floor and my foot angled up to press down. It's a little thing, but whatever you can do to make yourself comfortable for hours of quilting will help you enjoy the process more in the long run.
Here you can see me holding the ruler snugged up close to the closed quilting foot, spaced about 1/4" from the intersections I want to intersect with my stitching. You have to remember that the space between the edge of your ruler and the needle centered in that foot is 1/4", so you have to take that into account when placing your ruler to get the stitching where you want it. When you turn the ruler around to stitch along the next seam, be sure you stop at the intersection, keeping your hands and the ruler firmly in place, until you have completely stopped and taken your foot off the pedal. The needle may take one more stitch in place as it resets to the needle DOWN position, so don't be in a hurry to move your hands. Once you've repositioned the ruler, you are ready to go again, holding the ruler firmly in place and giving a little tension to the quilt around where you're stitching with your hands to prevent any ripples on the back and to ease the layers into the space you're quilting.
When quilting gentle curves/orange peels, I prefer to stitch long rows of curves that alternate direction. I will follow those long straight seams, alternating my curves from point to point, for as long as I can across or around the quilt. These rows can be done in such a way as to quilt an entire quilt with as few as 3 or 4 starts and stops. Along each seam there will be a curve on each side of it creating the melon shape. Three long rows of curves create all of the quilting, with two runs along each line--quilting S-curves in one direction and back the other way to complete the melons. Once all three rows have been quilted along the seams, they create these stars or flowers within each pieced hexie.
This view lets you see the same quilting design from both sides. The front of the quilt shows the stitching, pausing at each intersection along the seams to move the ruler back and forth to create the long S-curves, ultimately creating the 6 melon shapes that create the star. From the back, you only see the stars or flowers as an all-over design. Can you pick out the row(s) that still needs to be quilted? Yes, it's not completely done. There are a variety of ways to quilt orange peels, but after trying several, this is my favorite.

I hope this has been helpful for those who want to learn to quilt the orange peel/gentle curves on their OBWs or Hexified Panel Quilts. Please don't hesitate to message me or post questions if you'd like more information!

More snippets from the sewing room soon,

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