Well, Spiros, I have finally dived in (albeit, months if not a full year after I intended to) and have begun practicing in earnest to master the art of machine quilting.

Some of you might have followed my (rather miserable) progress on a baby quilt last summer.  I learned a lot about what not to do — first and foremost being don’t use dark purple thread on a light yellow background on your first project, since it will show Every Tiny Little Mistake.  As anyone who has tried to learn to do free-motion quilting can tell you, it’s tough at the beginning to stay on those lines, while coordinating hands, foot and machine to keep the stitches all the same length.

I acquired a new Bernina 640 at the beginning of this year, along with the Bernina Stitch Regulator.  I finally got an introductory class to this fantastic little gizmo a couple of weeks ago and have been anxious to try it again at home.  Back to this in a minute.

Any quilting teacher will tell you that learning to quilt is like learning to play a musical instrument: you have to practice every day.  I wasn’t, for the very simple reason that I had not yet found the time to make a big stack of “practice sandwiches” – just a stack of top-batting-backing blocks that you can grab on a moment’s notice when you want to sneak in 20 minutes of practice time.  I finally got around to doing that last night.

I don’t like the idea of just wasting fabric on practicing, so I made some very simple blocks which I plan to make into a quilt using “quilt as you go” techniques.  In other words, quilt the blocks as my practice blocks, then assemble the blocks to make a quilt.

A couple of months ago I saw a really cool quilt in which the four-patch blocks were made of four identical cuts of the same fabric, turned pinwheel-style — basically a Stack-and-Whack made with 4 squares.  I have an “ugly” fabric in a large-scale print (don’t know why I ever bought this), and a young friend (my best friend’s oldest son) for whom I want to make a quilt this Christmas, so I decided to make a quilt-as-you-go quilt (practice sandwiches) with these cool 4-patch blocks (use up ugly fabric and make it pretty) for Alex’s Christmas quilt (get Christmas gift made early).  Win-win-win.  Here are some of the blocks.  Cool, right?

Then I sat down at the Bernina, plugged in the Stitch Regulator, and started to quilt.  The stitch regulator is amazing — it has a little camera in it that “sees” how fast the fabric is moving and makes the machine sew at the right pace to give you the stitch length you set.  What a difference from my last attempt at free-motion quilting — perfect, even stitches!

Unfortunately, you can’t see that here on these finished blocks, because of something else I learned last night: quilting with black thread on black fabric is not the ideal combination for being able to see the pattern you are sewing!  I’ll have to save that part of the learning process for lighter-colored blocks.  But, this fabric did give me lots of opportunities to practice stitching on lines.  That’s a good start!

For more about the Bernina Stitch Regulator, click here:  http://www.berninausa.com/naviinfo-n802-sUS.html

Happy quilting!

RaNae  🙂

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