How’s your day been? On the day I wrote this, mine had been a touch frustrating, so I thought I’d write a blog. Not about my frustrating day, you understand, but about quilting. I suppose my day prompted me to write this blog, as part of my frustration stems from having a thread break on me time and time again, when I was trying to quilt a quilt for Project Linus.
I love free machine / motion quilting – putting the feed dogs down and really letting my imagination take hold. I knew the design I wanted to do, I had the threads I wanted to use, and I used a needle of the type I had used before for the thread. However, it was not to be. I should have known really – it started in the morning when I realised that I hadn’t deployed a munzee the previous day (a geolocation game, and I had got to day 326 of 365 days – I was that close to reaching a goal – and I forgot). I managed to finish binding a quilt – and I had considered putting a decorative stitch on the edge of the binding, using the thread I had used for quilting. I tried it – it didn’t add anything, so I took out the 3 or 4 inches of stitching I had done. Then I couldn’t find my water bottle; it is a purple one, with white writing, saying ‘Put your foot down and quilt’ – I got it from Block Party Studios in America, mail order several years ago. I know I had it at quilting group…maybe I left it there, or maybe it fell out of my bag in the car (I hadn’t looked there – it turns out I hadn’t left it there, but left it at a script read through).
Next thing was the Project Linus quilt – even before the threads kept breaking things went wrong. I got the machine ready, sorted the thread, got the needle ready, put the feed dogs down…wait a moment, where is the free motion foot? No, not the closed toe one, the open toe one – that is the one I want. Cue frantic searching in the machine tool box, the machine carry case I take to Project Linus, the machine I take to Project Linus. Could I find it? No, I couldn’t. I started to tidy the area to the side of my sewing machine, fearful that the elusive foot had been knocked off into the box of scraps under my sewing table. I looked to the quilt I wanted to work on, on my left – and there it was! I had already got the foot out ready…this didn’t sound like things were going to work out for me, but I pressed on. Then the thread kept breaking and shredding, but still I persevered; I rethreaded, I changed the needle, changed the bottom thread, oiled the machine, cleaned the machine, and still the thread broke. This really was a message.
What was the message though? Should I give up FMQ altogether? Do I still have the ability to quilt in this way? Perhaps the following day would be better (spoiler or maybe not – the next day was better!)
The title of this blog is Learning to Love my Walking Foot. So maybe I should do more work with my walking foot. The problem is, I started out wanting to do stipples (many years ago), and so I did workshops where I learned how to do FMQ. I didn’t see any classes about how to use a walking foot, or why they were so good. I did buy one for my first Elna, and my second Elna came with one. I have used it – mostly for quilting straight lines, but so far, I haven’t made many quilts where I just want straight lines. One I made used straight lines on the diagonal, and then parallel lines in the border. More recently however, I stumbled across another way to use my walking foot.
So many people use a walking foot for quilting, it seems to me that I should really learn to love using it a bit more. The first thing that I have discovered (and read on the internet), is that it is called a walking foot for a reason. You cannot go at full speed with it – it just does not work; the best idea is to either take your foot off the pedal (obviously not entirely, as you will be going the slowest speed of all – stop, and you will get no stitches at all!!), or even better – change the speed slider, so that if you do put your foot to the floor, it doesn’t run off with you! This is totally different from FMQ where you want the needle to be moving fast and the fabric moving more slowly. The next thing to consider is changing the stitch length – making it longer. This is another change from FMQ, as when quilting with the feed dogs down, the stitch length shows 0.0 on my machine. I have found that having the stitch length at 4.0 is ideal
Using the walking foot is rather therapeutic in its own way, as you can just follow a straight line, you don’t really have to think about where to go next, and you don’t have to be worried about getting yourself into a space that you can’t get out of.
I was inspired to use my walking foot more by our own dear Sylvia Priest (she is the one responsible for getting our blogs published, and getting the website working). She showed one of her quilts on Facebook, that she said he had quilted using straight lines. She had been shown this by Gai Lawther during a trunk show at EYES Group in East Yorkshire. However, these straight lines were not uniform – they went from one side of a quilt to a neighbouring or opposite side, and then went off from that side at an angle. This design seemed so effective, and so simple – and something that I could do as a first (or maybe second) practice at learning to love my walking foot.
As it happens, I have used this design and form of quilting on several quilts now, and I’ve been quite impressed with the results! I have practised on quilts I had made for Project Linus. Other members of the group saw it, and thought it effective, so have also used this method to quilt some of their projects!
My new-found way of quilting has inspired me to do a bit more quilting with my walking foot. The next quilt to benefit was one that I have made for Quilts for Care Leavers. It is a zigzag design, and the walking foot was perfect for echoing the pattern. The walking foot comes with a quilting guide, so that you can follow the quilting you’ve already done. I have only one question about the guide – why does it only go on the right hand side? This seems a little odd to me, as it means you end up with most of the quilt under the machine, rather than the bulk being on the left hand side.
Does this mean that I’ll be using my walking foot more often from now on? Well, if I keep on having problems with the thread breaking when doing FMQ, then I suspect I will indeed be using my walking foot with increasing regularity!