What did I stitch on that quilt? Quilt Documentation

Posted by on June 20, 2017


Have you ever been in this position?  Someone says, “I really like the quilting pattern and the thread you used on Susie’s quilt!  Can you do that on mine?”  You think you remember what Susie’s quilt looked like, but you’re not 100% sure what quilt pattern was used and have no idea what brand or weight of thread was used.  This happened to me a couple of times when I first started quilting and had done some close family and charity quilts.  You notice I said a couple of times….

There are some basic things that I have found to be important to me for quilt documentation in case I want or need to duplicate a quilt stitching design look.

1.  What are the dimensions of the quilt?

  • Comparing quilt dimensions helps me determine if a re-create is feasible.

2.  What quilt stitch pattern did I use?

  • Is it free hand?  What style of free hand stitching; meander, swirls, loops, etc.?  What did I use for reference marks to keep the free hand stitching evenly spaced and sized?
  • Is it a paper pantograph?  What is the name and size of the panto?  Where did I start the panto; was it a full stitch out in the first pass or did I do a partial row stitch (stitching off the top/bottom of the quilt)?  How far did I start and end off the side edges of the quilt?  How many rows of design are down the quilt?
  • Is it a digital stitch design?  What size is the individual design?  How many repeats?  What is the spacing between the repeats?  Where did I start the design – off the side edge, over the top edge?  How many rows of design are down the quilt?
  • Is it an edge to edge pattern or a block by block pattern?  Are there borders?  If multiple borders, is each one stitched differently or were they combined?

3.  What thread/threads were used? (Defining information for the top and the bobbin.)

  • What brand of thread was used?
  • What type and weight of thread was that brand? (Cotton, poly, silk, metallic, 40, 50, 100, etc.)
  • What needle brand and size were used with that thread set-up?

There are several ways to document this information.

4.  It can be done digitally.  Create a document form to write in all the information and also add digital pictures.

5.  It can be documented by hand in a notebook.  Include all of the written documentation and add a sketch of the quilt design.

  • If print pictures of the quilt design they can be added to the notebook.
  • Clear, plastic 3-ring binder sleeves can be used to store quilt documentation notes and printed pictures.  The 3-ring binder size can grow with your documentation or you can use divider tabs to section your creations into years or categories.
  • I often sketch stitching designs on graph paper and I like to include those sketches with the quilt documentation.  The plastic sleeves work well for this.

The documentation process doesn’t take that long once you decide what information you want to have for reference.  And, it can save time and frustration if you want to re-create a previous masterpiece!


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Does it hurt when you’re quilting? Let’s check your set-up!

Posted by on June 5, 2017


Many of us get into our quilting ‘zone’ and forget about everything else until the quilt is completed or we begin to hurt.  Let’s take a look at some of the things to check that may be causing you to ‘hurt’.

What height is my machine frame set at?  What should it be set at?  There are ergonomic guidelines (ergonomics is the study of the human body and its interaction with work activities) for a work station height that minimizes the stress on the body.

  • For precision work; work station height should be above elbow height (37”-43”)

For light work; work station height should be just below elbow height (34”-37”)

Because our machines sit on the frame we need to look at the height of the frame with the machine on it and how we are moving the machine.  Stand at your machine and see how your elbows are bent.  Are they at a 90-degree angle or slightly above or below 90 degrees? 90-degree bend on the elbow is a more neutral position and when our bodies are in a neutral position we aren’t stressing our muscles and joints – keeping the hurt away. Try adjusting your machine/frame height to have your elbows at a more neutral position for you.

How do you normally hold your hands when you quilt?  If your handles adjust, do you adjust them throughout your quilting?

  • When we keep our muscles locked in one position for extended periods of time they begin to hurt.  Changing our hand positions frequently during quilting will help.

If your machine handles are adjustable, pick a quilting motif that you frequently use and quilt it on a practice piece changing your hand position on each pass.  This will help you with muscle memory at various hand positions.

If your machine handles are not adjustable, try to see what other positions you can have your hands on the handles and practice to have the confidence to adjust your stance while quilting.

Do you stand throughout the quilting?  What type of surface are you standing on?

  • Is the surface hard; hardwood flooring, ceramic tile, concrete?
  • Is the surface covered; carpeting – with/without padding?
  • What type of footwear are you wearing?

When looking at our standing surface we want it to have some cushion.  This gives your body the ability to naturally sway and the cushion provides some shock absorption. Ergonomic rated mats are available at many retailers.  You may want to get one to try and then determine if it helps you or not.  Also, wearing footwear with support can help give this same cushion effect.  You may find that a combination of footwear and mats may work best for you.

Have you tried alternating between standing and sitting while you quilt?  There are adjustable height stools with castors that can get your arms and hands into the neutral position, and that you can move/roll back and forth as you quilt.

These suggestions are guidelines to help you set up your quilting process to keep you quilting happy and healthy for many years to come!


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What Should I Quilt Where?

Posted by on May 31, 2017


Here are some helpful tips to help you make those all-important decisions!

What did I create the quilt for?

  1. Heavy use
  2. Display
  3. Heirloom
  4. Quilt show

Do I want the stitching to be the focus?

Do I want the piecing to be the focus?

Shall I enhance the block piecing?

  1. Does the block need to be divided into smaller sections?
  2. Shall I soften the geometric design with curves?
  3. Shall I repeat a design with quilting that was created with piecing?

Is there applique in the block?

  1. Does the applique need texture or outlining?
  2. Shall I quilt densely around the applique to make it “pop.”
  3. Shall I stitch over the applique?

Does my quilt have rows?  Do I want to quilt to emphasize the rows in my quilt?

Is my quilt too busy for custom quilting?  Will the quilting get lost?

Do I have negative space in my quilt?

  1. Shall I divide the negative space into smaller areas?
  2. Shall I repeat elements already in my quilt or something completely different?

Shall I match the thread so it doesn’t stand out, or use contrast thread to create another element in the quilt and show off the stitches?

Design Methods:

Graph paper, clear gridded plastic, Plexiglas the size of the block, white board pen, chalk, fabric pen, etc.

Don’t be afraid to make registration marks to help you make design elements.


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Finding Confidence for Longarm Quilting

Posted by on May 9, 2017


We Learn By: Observation, Imitation, Repetition

—Denis Waitley

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.
Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.

—Helen Keller

Here’s some inspiration to help you along your quilting journey!

Attend quilt shows.

Volunteer at shows.

Take pictures.

Take classes including internet subscriptions.

Sketch what you see.


Make an inspiration notebook.

Do charity quilts.

Join quilting groups.

Join the longarm group on Facebook.

Pinterest is a great resource.

Subscribe to magazines that teach about quilting skills, not only piecing skills (be selective).

Be patient with yourself.

Teach what you have learned.

Save your practice pieces (you will feel encouraged about your progress when you see how far you’ve come).

Go away from your work when you are tired. It always looks better when you are rested.

Use positive self-talk. Shun negative self-talk (I am capable. I am confident. I know with time and effort I can achieve. Each step is taking me to where I want to be.)

Practice. Practice. Practice!


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Wandering Patterns while Nesting

Posted by on May 13, 2016


When nesting patterns start to “wander” there are a few issues to consider.

1-First is to note before putting the quilt onto the frame if the quilt is square and if the borders lay flat. If borders are stretched or not attached appropriately they will be “wavy” and cause problems rolling the quilt evenly.

2-Second, after the quilt backing is pinned onto the leaders roll the entire quilt back onto the take-up rail so that the leader is extended completely out. Roll the backing back onto the lower rail until the other leader is extended out. This makes sure that the leaders are rolled evenly and not causing your quilt to roll unevenly. I sometimes have to do this two or three times to get everything even.

3-Next make sure that the top and bottom centers of the quilt are matched with the center of the leaders. This will help with keeping the quilt square on the frame.

4-When basting the quilt top onto the batting and backing make sure that it is perpendicular with the take up rail and not crooked. I highly recommend basting the sides of the quilt when you are nesting. (You will baste the sides as you roll.) This secures the quilt and helps to tame any wavy borders. Baste sides with a long stitch about 1 stitch per inch.

5-Now everything is square and secure check the cables. The Y axis cable bracket likes to slip because of the powder coating. When the bracket is not level with the carriage it will cause a Y error or cause the pattern to stitch out incorrectly. Roughing the bracket up with fine steel wool will make it less slippery and it will stay in place better.

6- It is best to get out of the habit of leaning on the quilting frame or quilt while it is on the frame. Leaning will change the position of the pattern box and pattern.

I hope this is helpful. Happy quilting!

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Why do my patterns always come up the wrong way in computerized quilting boxes?

Posted by on November 13, 2015

It’s the way you have selected your pattern box. You either did not select the left most point of the base line or you did not go counter clockwise. You need to re-select the pattern box and start over.

In digitizing software you are designating the bottom of the pattern just by drawing it right side up. Then when you import the pattern into the quilting machine the computer knows where the bottom is. You have to tell the computer somehow how to place the pattern into the pattern box so that the bottom is where you want it. Therefore, select the left most point of the baseline first and work your way around the pattern box counterclockwise.

Pay attention now because here is the tricky part that can fool you.

As quilters have triangles around the edge of the quilt the baseline of the triangle will stay at the left most point of the base of the triangle. That first point you are selecting will rotate with the triangle around the edge of the quilt. Sooooooooo—the bottom triangle first point will be appearing to be on the left. The triangles that are on the right side of the quilt will have the first point at the bottom. (Still is the left most point of the baseline). The triangles at the top of the quilt will have the first point on the right. (Still it is the left most point). The triangles on the left of the quilt edge will have the left most point at the top.

Take a look at this quilt and see.



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