Ruler Quilting – A New Approach to FMQ

This week I held the first of my new Ruler Quilting Classes. I was really excited to show the five ladies all about how rulers can be used on a domestic sewing machine to create fabulous free motion designs.  Ruler quilting offers the opportunity to switch the way you think about free motion quilting.  By using rulers you are able to create smaller, manageable structures which are great to look at on their own, or you can embellish them with more traditional free motion designs, like pebbles, ribbons, figures of eights, feathers and zig zags. During the class, there is lots of practice in the morning (or on the first evening), and in the afternoon (or second evening) the class focusing on marking and making the cushion sampler below.

In the class, we learnt about ruler feet.¬†The ruler foot looks exactly like your darning foot, except it is thicker. It doesn’t have the bar that fits over the needle screw and it doesn’t hop. instead, it will just glide over the material. Setting the ruler foot to the correct height is critical so that the fabric moves easily, but the height of the foot is not so great such that the stitches don‚Äôt complete properly or the ruler is able to slip under.

It is now possible to spend your life savings on rulers for use with a domestic machine – however, if you buy just a few, but good ones, then that is really all you need to get started. Rulers with good markings are equivalent to extra rulers, as you can use that one ruler in more dimensions with great accuracy. Before you buy any ruler, have a good look at it and see if there are options for you to use them in different ways, for example

  • Do they have markings so that you can echo the lines you have drawn at ¬ľ‚ÄĚ or ¬Ĺ‚ÄĚ or more
  • Do they have degree marking at 45‚Äô or 60‚Äô so that you can accurately create a triangle or circle of your ruler work
  • Do they have clear starting and end points that mark ¬ľ‚ÄĚ from the needle or have a lip to stop you going past the point
  • Do they have both horizontal and vertical lines so that you can use the ruler at 90 degrees to your work with just as much accuracy without having to twist the quilt

There is more to the ruler than just the shape of the outside edge!

I buy Handiquilter rulers and have built up a little stock now. They are beautiful but expensive. In the class, each person can use my Handiquilter Rulers, but each pupil in the class had access to all four of the rulers that Angela Walters brought out earlier this year. They are versatile, the right size for domestic quilting and all four retail at around £90 in the UK, which is much less of an investment to make to continue with ruler quilting after the class.

As with everything, it is practising that makes us proficient. Ruler quilting is definitely something for you to try – for many people, I expect this to be the breakthrough in free motion quilting that they have been looking for.

For details of further information on my Ruer Classes 1 & 2  and other GillyMac class click here.

Metro Rings: Using the Quick Curve Rulers (with free quilting plan)

Deborah and I made this stunning quilt together. She did the hard work in the patchwork piecing and I got to quilt it, and whilst I wanted the background to be a brilliant white, she chose the wonderful colours that make up the rings.

It was made using the Mini Quick Curve Ruler by Sew Kind of Wonderful. At the end of last year, I invested in a number of both the mini and full-size rulers for my classes. I really like working with rulers and teaching using good rulers. The best rulers are the really versatile ones. By that, I mean ruler with good markings on them so you can move them increments of partial inches and lines on so you can cut with the ‘on point’. These rulers have all those features AND they have matching quilting rulers which are excellent for identically matching the curves, inside and outside of your piecing work.

This quilt can be made using the larger ruler, but we chose to use the smaller one as I wanted to check out the suitability of this pattern for a cot size quilt – and it doesn’t¬†disappoint. It is built using 2″ x 10″ strips,¬†(for the larger quilt jelly roll strips are suggested). Although the pattern suggests using 20 10″ squares, in fact, we would recommend not bothering with this and just cutting up scraps, which are 10″ long, into 2″ slices. We found that the more colour tones we used and patterns¬†we incorporated the more interesting the final¬†quilt became. Fabric with smaller prints work best with this quilt as larger prints would get chopped up and lost. The strips are sewn together in batches and then cut cross-ways using the ruler.

As with all our rulers, we added Handi Quilter gripper to the back of them to stop them slipping as we cut out the fabric. This is essential and the Handi-Grip¬†product is the best one that I’ve found (and a little goes a long way).¬† The rulers have a slot in them that you place the rotary cutter in and move it along. We did think the slot was quite wide, but if you are consistent with how you place your cutter then this isn’t a problem.

More of an issue with the mini version Deborah was making, was that the pieces were small and partly bias cut, so were quite unstable. This meant that if you didn’t¬†iron them they would curl slightly and not sew together well, but if you ironed them, even a little too vigorously, they would stretch and be useless.¬† When you test out a quilt pattern, you are most often halfway through the patchworking build before the penny drops and we¬†see how to get it working well. This quilt was no different and after a number of goes building the curved block only to find that they were too small, we tweaked the pattern to make it ‘full proof’.

The choice of the colours used in the blocks joining the rings is really important. If you decide to make this quilt yourself, consider carefully what colour and pattern to use for these pieces. Deborah chose a Dashwood Twist in smoke and a Kona grey.

Below I have attached a free quick reference guide for quilting this piece. The correct quilting rulers make the job much easier and I enjoyed filling in the shapes I made with very basic designs. This was not a hard quilt to make look good.

 I am thrilled with this quilt. It would make a stunning baby gift or maybe one day I will get around to making the larger one for my bed! Sew Kind of Wonderful has lots of patterns using the quick curve rulers. The rulers themselves can be bought from Creative Grids, though I did have to buy the matching quilting rulers from Sew Kind of Wonderful in the USA.

 

GillyMac Metro Rings Quilting Plan

There are two classes this year to make this quilt… 20th June and 6th November, both classes are at my studio in Maidenhead and run from 10am -3.30pm – with lots of tea and homemade cakes – of course!¬†Every student gets an original copy of the pattern to go home with.

 

GillyMac Dawn til Dusk Sewathon

If you didn’t already know (how could you not know !) , on 22nd September we held a Dawn til Dusk Sewathon in support of Macmillan Cancer Support. From 7am until 7pm there was a flow of adults and then after school children and teens arriving at the studio in Westfield Road. The participants enthusiastically sewed squares together all day, making 15 quilts over the 12 hours.
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Julia’s First Ever Patchwork

It was a great team and community effort. Pupils, past pupils, friends, and neighbours came together to sew and eat cake ! By sewing precut squares into blocks of three by three, Deborah Ransom and Jean Cozens co-ordinated the assembling of colourful quilts in cot size and bed size. The day flew because of the boundless energy and enthusiasm of the flow of people through the studio on the day. We even had some very young helpers !

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Allegra having a rest !

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Jordi enjoying the Tuffet !

For me, the day was a moment in time of the spirit of sewing within a community of volunteers. That spirit is continuing through a group of volunteers that are helping with all the quilting and binding need for each of the quilts.
All of the quilts made are being donated to Project Linus, a charity which provides handmade quilts to poorly children and child carers across the UK. The quilts made during the Sewathon will be distributed across Berkshire. The day also raised more than £650 for Macmillan Cancer Support which I have just dropped off at the bank.
This isn’t something we can repeat annually as it takes an awful lot of effort by all those involved, but I hope we can have another Dawn til Dusk event in 2018 and maybe even try and break our record of 15 quilts ! I’ll keep you updated with how the completion of the quilts go and the reception we get when they are handed over to Project Linus in November.
Thank you all very much for taking part – it was amazing !
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GillyMac’s Top 10 Patchwork & Quilting Apps

Recently I have been researching the world of applications for patchwork and quilting to see what’s out there. In teaching, ¬†I already regularly use a few, but I was ask to write an article for an online publication so I thought I’d share my top tips. Below you will find a mixture of free and paid for applications all for use in an IOS (Apple) environment. I’ve noted the version and latest development date, as this will also give you an indication of the progressive nature of the app.

10.¬†Doodle Buddy (v1.7 2016) ¬†free – To improve you skills in free motion quilting you need to practice practice practice!! This isn’t always possible at the machine, but using your iPad or iPhone the Doodle Buddy app is like an Etch-a-Sketch (for those of us of a certain age ) allowing you to practice drawing out your quilting designs over coffee, in front of the TV, waiting for kids on the school run or at sport etc… This app is really useful and a must have.image5
9.¬†¬†Photo Pen HD ¬†– lite version (v1.4 2012) free – having practiced your Free Motion Quilting, (FMQ), now you need to decide how to quilt a real block or quilt. Using this app you import a photo¬†of your block or quilt and use the app to draw your quilting designs on top of the photo. It’s easy and effective. The resulting picture can be saved to your photo stream and printed out to have beside you as you tackle your project on the machine. Brilliant ! We use this application often in my classes.

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8. BlockFab (v1 2010) Рfree.  This is not a quilt design tool but is a library of 70 blocks that you can view in a number of preset colour combinations and as a group of blocks. The app calculates the fabric required for a block, but not for a quilt. The most useful part of this app for me is the preset colour combinations, These are good colour mixes which I have used in other applications and for ideas for my own quilts colour choices.

7.  Quilting Wizard (v1.0.2 2013)- £3.99. This is a low cost quilt design app that allows you to import your own fabric images and incorporate them into over a 100 different preset blocks. Quilts can be made square on or on point, with bindings and sashing options. Fabric requirements are generated, however there is no ability to created your own custom block design.

¬†6¬†.¬†ArtRage ‚Äď ( v2.1 2015) – ¬£3.99. ¬†Built for art drawing with a strong professional development team behind it, this app can be used for patchwork design as taught by Lady Sew & Sew (www.ladysewandsew.co.uk). With this application you are able to import pictures of your fabrics and build bespoke quilt designs (there are no preset blocks). Great for those artists among us who don’t want to be constrained by traditional blocks. ArtRage does not calculate fabric requirements, but you should never rely on apps that do so without calculating fabric requirements yourself anyhow. If you want to use this app for P&Q you will need to go on the course, as currently there is no book or user notes for this use of the application. It is all very useful for free motion design practice as well !

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5¬†.¬†Craftsy ‚Äď (v3.3.3 2016) ¬†free – There is nothing like a face-to-face lesson, but coming a close second is the Craftsy platform. This is available on a PC as well, but the Craftsy app is designed for optimum use with Apple devices. Use of the platform is free and you purchase patterns and classes as you want them, however there is a plethora of free stuff available as well. Don’t be the last person to find out about Craftsy – it is great !

4. QuiltingCalc by Robert Kaufmann (v2.3 2014) – free -This is a super useful free app. It calculates the best way to cut shapes from a piece of fabric, how much fabric is needed for backings, borders and bindings, as well as having many different basic measuring features. This is a really useful app to have on an iPhone which can be used in the heat of shopping !

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3. Free Motion Quilting Ideas ( v1.1 2016)  Р£2.99 РI bought the book first (Free Motion Quilting Idea Book)which is packed with ideas  and practical applications for quilting basic shapes. The app is just the same, walking you through 16 really useful basic designs and then developing your FMQ by applying those designed to triangles, rectangles, circles etc through the use of embedded videos (so there is no need for WiFi connectivity to use this app).

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2¬†.¬†Quilting Tutorials by Missouri Star Quilting (v2.3 2015) ¬†– free – I love Jenny from the MSQC she is very entertaining. This application is regularly updated with new classes, as if the 100s of tutorials and quilts already available are not enough. Each tutorial I’ve watched is engaging, and full of useful tips. With this number of tutorials as well as the ability to order fabric via the app you could stay at home for years quilting with Jenny.

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1¬†.¬†Quiltography ‚Äď(v1.41 ¬†2015 ) ¬£10.99 – yes it is worth it. For the cost of a couple of magazines and a coffee, you will get hours of fun from this application. Use the extensive library of traditional blocks or build¬† your own custom one on a grid size of your own choice. Photograph and import pictures of your own fabrics and create quilts with borders and sashing with customer or traditional blocks.¬†In addition, for those of us who like pixilated quilts, the app allows you to import a picture,¬†pixilate it using however many colours you wish, and created a pdf pattern for you to follow which includes fabric requirements. There are limitations, I find the fixed nature of the use of borders annoying, but all in all it is easy and enjoyable to use and has all you need to create some great quilts.

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So that it … hours of fun for you with these apps ahead ! Enjoy ! … and in you have questions email me at mail@gillymacdesigns.com.

Free Motion Fear

 

It’s not just you… it is me too…. !

Just lately I have been backing up things to quilt. Sometimes it just happens. I end up with a number of requests for classes and I get the tops made and then slow down at the point of quilting. Often it is because I am musing about a designs to use, but it is regularly about the ‘will it be good enough’ fairy siting on my shoulder (she sits there quite often). The thing is, as with almost everything I do, if a task is simplified, ¬†broken down into chunks and sometimes even scheduled, it all gets done and most times is great !

Here are the quilts that I am working on. There is the Northern Lights Modern Quilt Group Challenge, there is the Circles Table Runner Project and there is the super Library Quilt. Each had their own challenges

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Northen Lights

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Circles Table Runner

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Library Quilt

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The Northern Lights Quilt was an opportunity to stretch myself and practise new designs, but there was much blank space, with no lines or seams to use as guides. So the challenge was to decide what to do, and to start.. just do it !

The Circles Table Runner was a class sample. It needed to be quilted with clean clear, well executed designs which could be replicated in classes. I wanted this to demonstrated how effective walking foot quilting could be.

The Library Quilt was a large project which was daunting in itself on a domestic machine. I wanted to quilt the books using a walking foot, to define them and make them stand out. This would be simple quilting, but will involve a lot of twisting and jiggling of the quilt through my machine. Then for the background (blue) behind the books I planned to do some stiff free motion work. Maybe a paisley design. This quilt is a wall hanging, not a functional quilt and this lends itself to heavier quilting. The size of the quilt means that FMQ will be easier on the machine.

After a week of work … and a lot of ‘having a go’, oodles of tea , the Northern Lights and Circles quilts are finished and the Library quilt is a ‘looking good’ working progress.

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Northern Lights – Reverse View

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Nothern Lights – Quilted Top

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Up Close Northern Lights

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IMG_5737-110 Circles Table Runner – Quilted !

 

It has been really rewarding to just throw myself into it and not worry about small mistakes. I love the finished effects… Now it is your turn… go on.. have a go !

Handbag Projects

3-102-2There is a friend of mine who has introduced me to the concept of having a ‚Äúhandbag project‚ÄĚ. She always seems to have a zip lock bag in her handbag which has something creative she can do when she gets the odd moment. She finds this really useful as her children don‚Äôt go to school locally and they do a lot of sport, so there are many car journeys for her each week and lots of hanging around and she finds it enjoyable to be able to pull out a few hexagons and sew them together whenever she can.

English Paper Piecing (EPP) is particularly good for handbag projects. ExplIMG_5202-100ained simply, you would draw a shape on paper, (I used freezer paper as it has a wax layer on one size and will temporarily stick to fabric when heated) and cut it out. Hexagons or other basic shapes are easy to start with. Once you have cut around the shapes, iron (or place) them onto the wrong side of the fabric and roughly cut them out. Next fold and iron down the overhang of extra fabric and tack it in place. IMG_5203-101

For a handbag project the roughly cut pieces, a needle, some thread and small scissors can easily be put in a zip lock bag and ported from place to place to be continued whenever the moment is available. This worked really well for me my adventure with Katie to Australia last year, as from Heathrow, there is no problem having small scissors in your hand-luggage. However, Katie was utterly embarrassed when at Singapore, as we changed planes, we were treated as potential terrorists when the scissors showed up on the X-Ray scanner. Our boarding cards were written on and we had to stand at the end of the queue in shame… So if you are taking a handbag project on a plane… check you know the rules of any transiting airport as well as your departing one !

Once there are a number of prepared paper pieces, these can be joined together to form a new textile piece, which maybe an item to be used as embellishment, as with my flowers above, or a new textile based from which to make a quilt, or a smaller item like a bag or a cushion.

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My friend has been using her time all these months to prepare and join tiny 1‚ÄĚ hexagons together. A 1‚ÄĚ hexagon needs only a tiny scrap of fabric, so she has been doing just that, and using all our scraps up. The resulting piece is still growing and is now only just small enough to be considered a handbag project. Without a doubt the resulting piece will be an heirloom after all this work.

Lindsey's Masterpiece ... So Far ...

Lindsey’s Masterpiece … So Far …