Saturday, August 6, 2016

Free Motion Mastery in a Month: Week 1 Progress

Two summers ago, I participated in RaNae Merrill's online laboratory to test and refine her Sideways Spirals quilt designs and techniques.  The first Sideways Spiral Quilts book came out earlier this year, and her second book is undergoing final edits and should be available for purchase in just a few weeks!  

And just as RaNae is wrapping up her Sideways Spirals books, she has already started working on her next book project.  As with her past four book endeavors, RaNae invited students to submit an application to be considered for the online laboratory, and I got mine submitted within hours of the announcement!  RaNae is trying something new with this new laboratory in that participants were not required to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement.  In fact, she has given us permission to share our experiences with our fellow quilters...so here it goes!!

This book is focused on "Free Motion Mastery in a Month"...which RaNae has dubbed "The Scaredy-Cat's Guide to Free-Motion Quilting.  This book project is designed for quilters who are intimidated by free motion quilting.  RaNae has developed some really innovative training tools and exercises designed to maximize free motion quilting success. 
Nesting Matryoshka Doll Sandwiches Ready for FMQ

The first few days were spent preparing for free motion success as we tackled a few projects:
  • Ready our sewing machines for Free Motion Quilting:  cleaning, work space set up and machine settings. 
  • Start to develop muscle memory by completing exercises focused on the basic shapes found in most free motion motifs.
  • Prepare our quilt sandwiches.  I selected this super fun Alexander Henry Matryoshka dolls print for my focus fabric, with a smaller green dot for the sashing, and an all over Matryoshka print and brighter green dot print for the reverse side.  I may have gone a little overboard with my pin basting!

While I do not consider myself a FMQ Scaredy-Cat, my big goal for participating in this month long adventure is to wean myself off of relying on my Bernina Stitch Regulator (BSR).  I equate the BSR to "training wheels" as this foot automatically matches stitch length to the speed to which you move the sandwich.  So while I am very comfortable with the eye-hand coordination, I became dependent on the BSR to achieve beautiful and consistent stitch length.  In order for me to tackle the last piece of the FMQ puzzle and be in full control of my FMQing, I would need to work on my eye, hand and foot coordination.  So I resolved to complete all the exercises with a basic free motion foot.  

Procrastination and self-doubt set in when it came time to start stitching our samples.  I had convinced myself that I was entirely dependent on the BSR and that once my training wheels were gone, my quilting would be hideous!  And so to protect myself from certain failure, I focused my energy and time on tackling all the other projects on my list, including a ton of housework and laundry!!  Around dinner time...it was time to face my fears, as I swapped out my BSR and placed my first sandwich under the needle.  I slid the speed bar slightly to the left and held my breath as I took my first few stitches.  

Much to my relief and total delight, I found my FMQing groove almost immediately as the stitches were fairly smooth and fairly consistent.  Once the stitching was complete, I pulled out my sandwich for a closer look.  While there were certainly a few bobbles here and there, my block turned out so much better than I had imagined!!  I was just amazed at how seamlessly I had transitioned to stitching sans BSR!!  I continue to build confidence and comfort as I embrace the opportunity to outline stitch one block per day as part of our daily assignments.           
I am in Complete Control as I Cut the Cord to my Bernina Stitch Regulator
I am looking forward to the remaining three weeks of this program, and will be sure to share my progress along the way.

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