Quilting Tip #1

This quilt won the 2012 Longarm Quilting prize for a Wall-Sized Quilt at AQS in Paducah

I am a mixed-media textile artist and longarm quilter in Tucson, Arizona.  Since 2004, I have quilted over 1900 quilts for clients and myself.  My quilt Homage won the 2010 Handiquilter Longarm Workmanship Award at the American Quilters’ Society show in Paducah. In honor of National Quilting Month, I will be blogging a quilting tip each day.

Tips will range from the technical to the artistic, from loading a quilt on a longarm machine to how to quilt for show.  They are not in any particular order.  Some have videos or photos attached to them.  I will share everything I have learned in ten years and hope these tips help you, whether you are an art quilter, traditionalist, whether you quilt on a longarm or domestic machine.  Enjoy, and share it freely (just ‘spell my name right’), and please share your own tips as well….

Tip #1:  Practice, practice, practice. Okay, so this first tip is not very sexy, but it needs to be said nonetheless.  I took my first longarm quilting class from Nicole Webb one week after I got my quilting machine.  Obviously, I had the figurative training wheels in that class.  Nic–and everyone else–was really nice, but of course I was not happy with my quilting compared to the rest of the group.  When the two-day class ended, I vowed I would learn how to do a pretty feather if it killed me.  For two and a half days straight (that’s 20 hours) I did nothing but practice feathers.  First on a white board, and when that got boring, I went to the quilt machine.  It took 20 intense hours (and a bolt of muslin) as a total newbie to master a nice basic feather, which is admittedly a pretty complex shape.  

If I had had more experience with doodling simpler shapes, or any experience drawing, it would not have taken as long.  It  would surely have taken longer than 20 hours if I had practiced only one hour per day.   I have had people look at my work in quilts like Homage and assume it was done by computer because it is so ‘perfect.’  When asked how long a piece like this takes to make, I say “About 4 weeks, plus 10,000 hours of practice!”  A skill like quilting needs to get in your brain, and in your muscle memory.  Keep this in mind as you try to master any new skill.  

Once you have mastered the skill, keep practicing, even if it is only 20 mins every other day.  If you don’t use it, you will lose it.

How long did it take you to master quilting?


2 thoughts on “Quilting Tip #1

  1. So quilting is really a metaphor for life. You’ve got TO work at it. I’m reminded of the story of the tourist in New York that asked the traffic cop, ” how do I get to Carnegie Hall?” the cop’s answer was simply ” practice baby lots of practice”.
    Often life’s simplest lessons, are the most important ones.

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