Machine Quilting Practice

One of my quilting goals for this year is to improve my machine quilting.  I’ve been machine quilting, walking foot and free-motion, for a long time, but I am stuck in a rut and want to learn new designs.

I’ve bought a few books to help me.  I purchased both of Christa Watson’s machine quilting books as well as both of Angela Walters’ Shape by Shape books.  I also found a class from Angela Walters for free, called Machine Quilting Negative Space.  All of these resources have been great.  They have really good ideas, show the techniques well, and give you lots of options.  I’ve really enjoyed the Craftsy class because it is cool to see how something is actually done.

I started to put together a pile of sample sandwiches to use for practice, but then decided to use my zipper bags and sunglass case project as an opportunity to sew on items that will be put to real use.


I did some small scale stippling to warm up.  If left to my own devices I’d just do this all the time.  It’s easy and I’m comfortable with it.



I’ve essentially had to unlearn my swirls.  Mine were way too far apart to get the dense look I was after.  This is some practice I did before doing my ‘Do the Math’ quilt.




I achieved more density, and I like it, though the red one is better than the brown one.  After watching the Craftsy class I learned another way to do spirals in which they are all connected.  I’m going to try that one next.


I’ve used loops before and I always forget about them.  I love them and they look good.  I was trying in these samples to get more density than what I had previously achieved.







I’m not really sure what to call this one, but they look like hooks to me.  They are essentially shortened swirls.  I don’t think I’d do these on an entire quilt, but I do really like how they worked on this smaller piece.



I’m currently working on the new swirl method, combined with more of a wavy, windy-type look (Angela calls them Row Swirls) to use on 2 quilt tops I have ready to go.  I also just discovered that my local Bernina Sewing Machine dealer does a 6-hour long arm class, so I’m trying that out in a few weeks.  I will keep you posted on how these adventures turn out!

Any input from you all about long arms?  Suggestions, brands or features you like?  Please let me know!


“Do the Math” – Facets QAL is done!

I finished it!  YAY!

As I talked about in this post, I joined Christa Watson’s Facets QAL earlier this year.  By doing this project, I was interested in learning/improving 2 things:  learning improv piecing and improving my machine quilting.  I accomplished these things, along with others!

Here it is!

finished 2

And I love it!

Here are some more shots:

finished quilt

more detail:

detail 1

detail front

and from the back:

full back

back detail

and the patch I added to the back:


I’m calling it ‘Do the Math’ because of the math/equation fabric that makes up the cream diamonds.

As I said, I did learn improv piecing and well as improve my machine quilting.  I’ve been machine quilting for a long time, but what I see people doing now with machine quilting really raised the bar.  Christa is so good at it, and inspirational, so doing this quilt helped me practice and up my game.  It is quilted much more densely than anything I’ve done before, and it is bigger than anything I’ve done in some time.  The quilting probably took me ~12-15 hours to do, which about killed my patience!  I had to just settle back, relax, focus on what I was doing, and remember I that didn’t have a deadline.  I also got to catch up on previous seasons of the Walking Dead!

Switchbacks were new to me, and when I do them again, I will do them closer together.  I have done a ton of spirals before, but never as dense and close together as these are.

Along with my stated learning objectives, I learned many other things:

  • 1. I have always used muslin on the backs of my quilts, and I’ve always used a bobbin thread color that matches the muslin.  I was able to get the tension on my quilting in pretty good shape, but I did have some problems with the cream thread pulling through to the front, particularly in the black areas.  Next time, if using a muslin backing, I’ll match the thread front and back.  This is kind of funny – I never thought I could do this and have the colored thread on the back!
  • 2. I used a Supreme Slider and Little Bobbin Magic Genies for the first time, and I liked both of these tools quite a bit.
  • 3. I have also always used one type of thread and was happy with it, but did this whole quilt using Aurifil thread for the first time.  I really, really liked it.  It was very smooth and very low in lint.  I think I will continue using more Aurifil.
  • 4. Binding this was interesting, trying to keep the points of the diamonds on the edges of the quilt.  I probably cut the batting down too much so it is too thin in some places, but the points look good.

I’m taking all of these as things to learn from and improve, and NOT being negative about my quilt, because I love it!

Some outtakes:

Auditioning threads for the green/blue facet area.  I thought I wanted the one second from the right, but I wound up with the one furthest on the right.  Good thing I auditioned them.  I like the one I wound up with much better.

choosing thread

Scrunching the big thing under my domestic machine…a good workout for arms and shoudlers!


And here is Maggie the Corgi photobombing the photo shoot!  She was looking for shade.

finished with Maggie

I really enjoyed this QAL and love my quilt. Thanks again to Christa for hosting it.

Finishing this quilt was one of my Q2 FAL goals (link to original Q2 FAL goal list), and I will be linking up there once the end of Q2 link opens.

Zipper Bags and Glasses Cases

One of my projects for this quarter was to do a bunch of zipper bags and glasses cases.  I once had a big stock of them, but over time my stockpile ran dry.  I love to make these – they are a great way to play with cute fabric, I use the cases for lots of things, and I love to give them away.  My mom also put in a request for a few sets to give for Christmas, so I wanted to get her a selection to choose from.

This is a selection of all the cases I made in this sitting.  I made several duplicates of similar fabrics.

whole group


The zipper cases are easy to make and are a good opportunity to practice machine quilting.  In fact I got going on this batch because I wanted to do some machine quilting practice before starting in on a big quilting job.  I decided to use these guys as practice rather than make muslin scrap quilt sandwiches.  I’ll do another post later on my work to improve my machine quilting!

Here are a few more photos of the zipper cases coming together.

Prepping the zipper – I learned my method from Terry Atkinson’s books and patterns.  Now I use this method and adapt it any size case I want to make.

zipper end

Top stitching detail next to the zipper – I love the cocktail fabric!

zipper top stitch

Adding zig-zag stitching to the edges to prevent fraying.

zipper zig zag edge

It was hot, I was doing a lot of zippers, and sometimes a Summer Shandy is just in order!

zipper measuring - beer

I made these small card cases for the first time.  This was the first one.  It came out well, but the zipper method I use adds fabric to the ends of the zipper which made the opening a bit small.

small case - narrow


With my next one, I left the fabric off one edge (the right) and thinned the fabric on the edge where the zipper stops (the left).

small case better

This made a wider opening and I like it better, but the side with no fabric on the edge of the zipper is going to fray.  For my next one I’m going to try the thinner fabric on both sides.

The cocktail cases in 2 sizes – big (~9″ wide x 5″ tall) – and a pencil case size (~7″ wide x 3.5″ tall).

cocktail ZC

This fabric was cute and had lots of colors.  I used brightly colored zippers and yellow stripes for the linings.

blue ZC

And I just got a bunch of new zippers off Amazon for a great price, so I’ll be making more!

new zippers

I also made a bunch of glasses cases at the same time.  These are really cool because they have a snap-back closure at the top.  I bought a pattern from Stitchin’ Sisters some time ago showing the method, and I adapted it to make cases big enough for sunglasses.  I’ve also seen tutorials for bags using a similar idea in several places online, calling them snap bags.  Old measuring tapes are used in the enclosure and they snap closed – so cool!

You prepare the case by making sandwich of outside fabric, lining that is a bit longer, and batting.  After quilting the sandwich, get it squared up and even on both sides to prepare to hem down the ends.  Here my pin chicken is helping me out…

glasses case measuring

Hemming down the lining over the outside fabric to make a casing.

GC hem pressing

Inserting the cut measuring tape into the edge casings.

GC tape insertion

Sewing up the sides, making sure the edges and hems match…then zig-zag the edges.

GC side stitching

A selection of completed cases.  I’ve adopted the one on the far left.

finished GC

I had a great time making my cases, and still have a few more in progress.  The are very useful to have around!

finished zipper cases


These cases were on my Q2 FAL list (link to original Q2 FAL goal list), so I will be linking up there once the end of the quarter link opens.

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