Just Begin Quilting!
Good Morning, Quilters!
When YOU don’t know where to start–Just start!
Many years ago, when my six children were still in grade school, I remember complaining to my Mom about how busy I was. I had so much laundry to do– I didn’t know where to begin. She calmly replied, when you don’t know where to begin, just begin.
That phrase swirls in my head almost every day. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by laundry, other days, the problem is paperwork.
So what do I do? I just begin. Pretty soon the mounds of clothes are sorted, the smell of sudsy water fills the room and I feel calmer. In short order, the path is clearer and the time line seems manageable.
My Mom’s phrase and technique can also help quilters!
The Quilting Roadmap-Small Steps
One of the most frequent refrains I hear from quilters is they just don’t know where to begin machine quilting. They’ve completed 68 steps worth of cutting, sub-cutting, stitching and combining. But the last instruction is “quilt as desired”?
Really???? One step?
This one step has no meaning to most quilters.
In truth, it should be about fifteen small steps.
Step One-Photograph Your Quilt
Hang your quilt and take pictures of it. Hanging a quilt vertically gives you a full perspective and is the best way to start the design process. If possible, get a photo of the entire quilt in one frame.
Next, take photos of the borders, sashings, and every block type. Each area of the quilt will require it’s own design plan.
If possible, keep the quilt hanging in your house where you can see it every day. If that is not practical, look at the photos every day.
Looking at the quilt regularly helps your sub-conscious do some of the design work.
(And it helps you conscience — you haven’t forgotten about it–while two-timing it with another project-LOL)
Small Steps-YOUR Assignment
For the next few weeks, I will share more of my roadmap for machine quilting. Many of the ideas are from my Bluprint class, Creating a Quilting Plan, Approaches for Any Quilt
Please choose one quilt to machine quilt. If you are a beginner at machine quilting, choose a quilt that’s not too big–a wall hanging or baby quilt.
Hang your quilt and take photos.
Start thinking about who the quilt is for and how it will be used.
What about YOU?
Do YOU ever feel overwhelmed by tasks?
Do YOU have a quilt YOU’ve been afraid to quilt?
Have YOU ever been stymied by the phrase “quilt as desired”?
Do YOU quilt be check book?
We’d LOVE to hear!
PS…All tutorials, images and information are the property of Lori Kennedy Quilts and are intended for personal use only. Feel free to re-blog, pin or share with attribution to Lori Kennedy Quilts. For all other purposes, please contact me at Lori@LoriKennedyQuilts.com. Thanks!
41 responses to “Just Begin Quilting!”
Your advise today is perfect for me as I am over whelmed right now with things and don’t know where to begin, so I will just begin. Thanks for the advise.
Looking forward to these posts. Next quilt up has me pondering what to do.
Good suggestions! I have a Ginny Beyer Moon Glow that has been waiting for me to decide how to quilt it. As I’ve gotten better as a quilter, the answer has changed or evolved and I wonder at what point I’ll decide that I’m happy with my choice(s) and I’m confident enough to begin. Not quite there yet but I did finally quilt my Acorn’s Promise with the attitude that I needed to “just begin”. And it’s done!
Not sure where I first heard the phrase, “Eat your elephant one bite at a time”, but it’s my mantra at work, and has definitely been used in my quilting. 🙂
I like the idea of photographing the quilt as a step toward deciding how to “quilt as desired”!
I love the phrase “Just Begin”. I use it all the time in my own life and in my suggestions to my children. It works. Thank you for all you inspiration. You and your website are the reason I just began free motion quilting. I’m getting better with each quilt I quilt. Thank you
The phrase from a Great-great Aunt that my family always uses is “Just pick up a dish!”
A couple of steps I add. Use a large piece of vinyl with the edges covered with painters tape, place it on your quilt and doodle on the vinyl with a dry erase markers. The tape will give you a guide to stop and not mark on your quilt.
Second make a quilt sandwich the size of your block with an inexpensive muslin. Practice your doodle on this sandwich, It helps you to develop that muscle memory even more, and helps cement what design you want or make changes if it really doesn’t work on fabric.
I use vinyl too. It really helps to get an idea of the design on the quilt.
I have started quilting the current project: a group row quilt. I am stuck on the row of friendship star blocks, though. They trip me up on every quilt because I still haven’t found a design I like in them. I have tried lots of different things. Do you have a suggestion?
Echo quilt around the stars?
Since I found your blog, I have become more confident in my free motion quilting. Due to space limitations, I still send my large quilts to a long arm quilter, but I quilt my smaller projects.
I have been quilting my own quilts on my domestic machine for many years but had never done appliqué. I now have the cutest appliquéd wall hanging and have no idea how to quilt it without distracting from the appliqué. It has been hanging on my design wall for several months. You may have done a tutorial on this in the past but I don’t remember. I tried something with dry erase markers on the vinyl overlay but that wasn’t helpful without the actual appliqué. Maybe if I put vinyl over the actual piece. But I’m sure I won’t be using a contrasting thread in the background as the marker would look like. Arghh!
Check out Lori’s post from October 2, 2019. She talks about quilting with appliqué. Might be just the thing you need to “just start quilting”
Yes- putting those first stitches in is a challenge and takes courage. I am looking forward to your words of wisdom on how to get started. I have a Hunter’s Star flimsy and am boondoggled by it.
…….just do one thing and then the next
I will confess.. A current (HA!) project hung from a pole in our breakfast room for 8 weeks. I couldn’t decide how to quilt it.. It is too huge for me. (Never again!) So I am pulling a Benedict Arnold… I will tie it with pearl cotton. ..a first for me. From now on, I promise myself, to stick to a size I can handle on my machine with FMQ !!!
When faced with a messy room, my mom told me: ” Just start on whatever is within reach. No running out in the yard is allowed.”
So special to have those words come back to us that were said with love and intention to pass along their wisdom. Will add that one to my grandmother’s: a place for everything and everything in its place. Thanks, Lori!
I had this same problem a while ago. I made a quilt top that I loved and even pieced the backing fabric but couldn’t figure out how to quilt it. Fifteen years later I made up my mind this past spring to take it to a long arm quilter who I trusted and she did a beautiful job! I am so happy that I “quilted by checkbook” at least this once!
Lori, you gave me the inspiration and courage to free motion quilt, however you’ve created a monster. I quilt everything! Nothing is safe!
I am always overwhelmed.
Your mom’s advice of course is always true. My mom was the same. We had incredible mom’s Lori.
And now, we have that gift in our hearts.
I am always running running running. Today I am staying inside to clean house.
I will email my daddy (95) and let him know I am not coming out. I will be over there tomorrow
I have very little time to sew, but I do fit it in, and inch along. Mom is right, just begin.
Lori, your mama was a very smart lady! I’m going to try her advice today and get some house cleaning done so that I can ENJOY my time in my sewing room. (it seems that I am more relaxed when sewing if I know that the upstairs is uncluttered!)
This is great advice that we probably all need to hear every once in awhile.
I am a longarm quilter, quilting for other people as well as myself. I load a quilt and then usually wait till the next morning to start quilting. It gives me a chance to think about how to quilt it for awhile, after I’ve looked at it pretty closely while loading. Sometimes I come up with a plan, but sometimes I don’t, and then I stand in front of the quilt with the handles in my hands and a few ideas but no decision — and just start.
But this is great advice for doing everything.
For machine quilting, often stabilizing is a good way to start . . . stitch along some seamlines (in the ditch or not), and if you pause to think you don’t want to do that for this piece, you want something overall instead . . . you’ve already made one decision!
If I’m stuck about how and what to quilt, I layer and baste, then do all my ditch quilting to stabilize everything. Somehow the feeling of the quilt moving through the machine inspires me about what quilt design I’ll choose. One of my quilting mentors when I was a beginner told me, “Your quilt will talk to you.” I had no idea what that meant way back when, but now I do!
I, too, often hear my mother’s words coming back to me. She’s been gone over 20 years, but there is wisdom and hopefully comfort in her advice.
I am just finishing a project that I started in a workshop in June. I remember that at the class I felt like I wasn’t getting the layout of the blocks right. I put it aside for a while and brought it out last week. I’d been thinking about it most of that time and looking at pictures of the teacher’s work. It was like I finally understood the concept and it went together fairly quickly.
Maybe sometime these things just need to percolate a little.
You are so right about us needing more guidance as to the quilting step. When I see quilts in magazines, the little quilting suggestion diagram does not give enough information. I always want to know, “What weight threads did this quilter use? What was in the bobbin? What was the batting?” If I make different choices there than the original quilter did, I may not get the effect I was hoping to get.
But you might get something even better.
Well, that is true, but for me the pattern in the magazine is like a recipe, and I would like to know exactly what they used, as a starting point. I would probably apply it to a totally different project, but I would just like to know. I started as a weaver, and when you publish a pattern in a weaving magazine, you have to include exactly which yarns you used, so maybe that is where I got this inclination. 🙂
Yes to the “percolating” concept! I just moved to a different house and am so happy to have room for a design wall again! It really does help my brain to do that percolating step. Photos help, too, but not as much as the real quilt.
That’s the advice that I constantly have to give myself. Just load the quilt and start with something. I usually start with SID and by the time that’s done I have some idea for the next section. This is going to be a very valuable series of posts!
I love the idea of – just begin! Sometimes I can do this but other times it can take years for me to get back to a quilt to finish it. Probably because I just want it to be perfect! Too many ideas swirl in my head percolating! Thanks for the permission to just do it.
I still have my first quilt top I made waiting to be quilted. I have made many more over the last 5 years which have been completed, gifted, etc. but this one is special to me and has not talked to me yet.
I can be overwhelmed by housework or having to prepare a big family Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, but quilting – no. I’ve only been doing it for a few years since I retired, but as I love to sew, I was quickly hooked on it. With my first 3 or 4 quilts, I was scared and intimidated by FMQ, but practice has helped me develop some confidence, and your ideas and encouragement have helped a lot too! And once I got a machine that was big enough to quilt on, it became much easier. I’m not that great at it but it IS fun and once I’m finished, I figure what the heck, every quilt is another step in the learning process – right? Sometimes I do have trouble deciding on a design, but “quilt as desired” doesn’t bother me because the bottom line is that I get to choose how it will look, good or bad – there are no quilt police.
I don’t know if I’d ever quilt by checkbook because that would make me feel as though it isn’t truly my work. Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll change my mind on this but for now, I don’t want to farm out a quilt for someone else to finish. To each her (or his) own; that’s just me.
Wonderful advise. The quilting tends to reveal itself when I’m piecing. If it hasn’t come to mind by the time I’m ready to quilt, I do take pictures of my quilt and open the pictures on my computer to doodle on the images in Micro Soft Draw. I can scribble over close ups of my blocks while watching TV and save my plans to pull up later when I’m ready to sew. And doing it on the computer saves trees.
Love the article, wanted to save it to my Pinterest wall but Pinterest will not let me…says it will lead to spam. I don’t understand it as I have saved most all of your articles to review when I need them.
I AM overwhelmed so doing nothing with a planned (original-design) applique quilt that will be covered with 3-D florals on vines. I haven’t started this project because I don’t know how to quilt it. I need recommendations. Do I sew the complete top with all 300 of these 3-D (hand and machine) appliqued flowers, and then quilt the three layers by just echoing the flowers and vines? (I realize I can use FMQ in more decorative aspects in the few larger blank areas). OR, with so many flowers in this design, do I instead need to securely quilt the three layers first, and then: 1. only use hand applique to sew the 3-D flowers onto the top layer? OR 2. use invisible thread to machine sew the 3-D flower edges? Thanks!
My Mum’s version was “get on with it!” Different words, but the same message, and words I think about each day, along with “What if …? “
I had a quilt that I did not know how to quilt it. I put it on a chair in the room in front of mine for a while. I saw it every time I left my room in the morning. One day, the way to quilt it appeared to me as a flash. This method works really well.
I am presently quilting a memory quilt from the summer of 2016 in which those who visited us that summer made a 12 ” block to remember the summer. (We thought it was our last summer in our dream home on a beautiful lake.) The blocks are very different and I’ve had a master quilter’s help figuring out how to best quilt the individual blocks. But life is full in our new surroundings and I cannot seem to get into my sewing room. I need to practice FMQ daily and I am having a hard time with that. Your message to just start somewhere rings true to me… I thank you for your blog! Joy R.