In the Groove, Sort of…

Last Sunday, I did a little dusting and cleaning up in the studio, and then decided that what I really wanted to do (or needed to do, as the case may be) was some free motion machine quilting. Free motion quilting is something that I find pretty relaxing actually; I can just get in the machine quilting groove and I can let my mind wander a bit while I do it. Seemed like the perfect thing to do since I still couldn’t figure out what I needed to be doing and get back into the groove with everything else after returning from the States.

I purchased a couple of wonderful preprinted blocks for free motion quilting from The Quilting Connection in their booth at the Des Moines AQS Quilt Expo. Their newest blocks are printed on lovely batik fabrics, instead of the more common, plain ivory and white fabrics (though I did get one in ivory as well). I’m contemplating using one of these preprints as a kit for my machine quilting class, so of course I wanted to test it out!

At Quilt Market I bought an assortment of a trilobal polyester thread called Iris. The price point on this thread seems really great at $4.00 per 550 meter spool, and the shimmer and shine is much lovelier than most of the other polyester or rayon threads on the market. Just for comparison value, a small spool of Sulky rayon thread retails for $4.00 per 225 meter spool. I really bought the thread to use with Inchies, and I’ll get around to testing for that purpose eventually, but it’s always good to know whether a thread works well for machine quilting too, so I picked a color that would go well with the batik, pin basted the square, and loaded up the machine.

The thread didn’t disappoint, and neither did the preprinted quilt square. The Iris thread sews beautifully, with no skipped stitches, no tangles, zero breakage. Really no issues at all, and I didn’t use a special needle or take any special care with it. The preprinted design on the fabric is clear and easy to see, even though the design was printed in blue on blue fabric.

I’ve quilted feathers before so the design was pretty easy and fun to quilt. If I’d never quilted feathers or didn’t have much experience with free motion quilting, I think the design would benefit from some directional arrows printed on the fabric itself, or a quilting diagram included in the package.

All in all I spent a happy two hours quilting this lovely feathered square. The only thing I would say that I’m not so pleased with is the batik itself. The fabric quality is fine, but the color placement isn’t so great in my opinion. I would have preferred that it not look quite so firmly divided between blue and lavender. *shrug* Something to keep in mind: take the square out of the package to see the whole piece of fabric before buying!

It was over all too soon! I love these preprinted quilting designs; they’re great for practicing quilting skills, or warming up before free motion quilting on your main project—or just having some hands-on-fabric time when you don’t want to get into something bigger or more complicated. Or can’t figure out what else to do to find the groove, as the case may be… 🙂 I think I may have to order a few more, or mark a few of my own to have on hand for when I feel like playing!

And yeah, that groove? That two hours of machine quilting was about all I saw of the groove this week. I did do some planning if that counts for anything, and the creative spirit is here, but the motivation to do anything with the creativity still hasn’t made much of an appearance. All in good time. (I hope…) How about you? Anything creative going on in your world right now?

15 thoughts on “In the Groove, Sort of…

  1. I just went through a year in which I was either making quilts for raffles (with deadlines attached) or making charity quilts. I’ve decided to do some garment making over the winter and see if that gets me back in a creative groove. I took some pictures on my summer vacation that I want to work into quilts, but I think I need to do some “me” work for a while.


    1. Hi Elizabeth! Yes, that’s what I really want to do right now, just work on some unrelated projects that are all about me, but I’m not sure I get to do it! I think at some point, the groove will be forced upon me by events outside my control…


  2. I’m making a “Green” quilt for my daughter. Something very different from your own quilts. I’ve used the word “green” in the widest possible sense – applique being used to add words such as ecological, apple, recycle, etc. Cartoons too – an apple, frog, tree and also the owl and the pussycat in their little boat. The main colour of the quilt is green with highlights of orange and other colours too.
    It will be a House-warming/Christmas present for Liz and her partner – they move into a house in the mext couple of weeks.


  3. So I got brave and entered my quilt into Road and although it was not juried into the show, I tried to do as you recommended to your readers in late summer (in a blog posting) and just try. I was disappointed – but by entering my quilt in the show it did help me to push myself further in both piecing technique and in machine quilting techniques. So thanks Nadine. I learned a lot from making this quilt. I don’t know if I will try to enter one again in the future or not but it was an interesting experience.


  4. Today I made an easy receiving blanket for my new grandson. And I made a miniature one for his big sister’s doll that matches.
    Trying to get back to finishing my queen sized quilt I am trying to machine quilt. I love the way this one is marked. Do you have a suggestion for a pen to mark with that doesn’t fade in 3 hours, but is washable?
    Where can you order more fabric? Do you have a link for the thread?
    It all looks great. Have a fun time.


    1. Oh how fun Annie! I’ll bet they’re both as cute as a button (and the blankets too! 🙂 ) I have to tell you also to enjoy that concert–Mannheim Steamroller is one of my favorites too! And that presentation of your gift was just fabulous, and gives me an idea or two for the gift I’ve put together for my wonderful husband for our 20th anniversary in December. Shhh–it’s a secret trip to London to see Wicked right after Christmas!

      As for the quilting: I use the blue washout marker from Collins, and I’ve never had a problem with it washing out. On dark fabrics, I’ve use the White Marking Pen Fine from Clover (see a post about that here). More fabric? Do you mean fabric like the preprinted square that I bought? I’m not sure that The Quilting Connection sells matching yardage, though perhaps they should…

      The thread is called Iris Ultra Brite, and the manufacturer is Hilos Iris. It’s mainly used for embroidery machines.


  5. Wow, your stitching is gorgeous. I’ve been thinking lately that I need to learn how to stitch to a pattern. That’s my next step in free motioning.

    I’m working on a quilt for my dad for Christmas. He’s a handyman, and I found this great fabric for him.

    I’d really like to free-motion stitch around each tool, but I may end up just using the walking foot as it’s easier and more consistent, even if more time consuming.

    I’ve drafted a simple 40 square blocks quilt, with alternating nine patches with the washer and a gorgeous blue fabric I had on hand. For the tools I’m adding a red cornerstone and washer fabric to bring the size up to 8.25 finished.

    My dad is really tall, so the quilt will finish at 55×80. I’m going to do the machine quilting in pieces and hope I’ve figured out how to actually do that properly. haha Advice welcome!! 🙂


    1. Hey Michele! Yes, getting comfortable with following a line with free motion quilting will open up many more possibilities!

      What great fabric! At the Meet the Author event at the AQS Quilt Expo in Des Moines, I sat next to Lynda Smith, author of Quilt This: Practical Patterns for Everyday Quilting. You can peek inside the book at the AQS site. There are some continuous line quilting patterns in there with tools that are perfect for machine quilting! So if your quilt has a large border around the outside…and I think I remember some coordinating block designs as well. I’m sure if you emailed AQS you could ask Lynda to tell you what’s in there for sure.

      I have no advice about the “quilt it in sections” thing. I did that once years ago, and while it wasn’t hard, I decided I’d just rather muscle the quilt through the machine… 🙂 And really, if you’re free motion quilting you can quilt in any direction, and if you worked on the whole quilt you’d only ever have to have around 28″ squished under the machine to the right of the needle. Just my two cents!


  6. Very pretty stitching. I am wondering if that blue line washes out of the fabric. I had no idea free motion was marked like that, I might be able to try some feathers in that case.


    1. Hi CJ, and welcome! Yes, the blue line washes out with plain water. I did a podcast years ago about using a blue marker to mark quilting lines. You can listen to Episode 4: The Big Blue Marker Debate and other Marking Mysteries at the Driven to Quilt Podcast site. I use a washout blue marker from Collins on my quilts. The quilt square above was premarked with the same type of ink, which the company says will wash out in cold water. I haven’t washed it out yet, but I’ll report back when I have!


  7. Okay, Didi, I’m missing something. I think the preprinted blocks are fabulous and I’d like to try my hand at them too. Where on The Quilting Connection website are they?

    Thx, luv.


    1. Well, see, it’s like this: when I talked to The Quilting Connection folks in Des Moines, they mentioned that they were in the process trying to get a new site up and running. I think you’ll have to contact them via email or phone to get the lowdown on these preprinted squares until they get their site issues sorted. I think that most of the block patterns that you see on the site (that you can trace yourself) are also available in preprinted blocks, but perhaps they can email you a list or something.

      You can also order preprinted mini wholecloth quilt tops from The Stencil Company. (I just did! 🙂 )


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