There aren't very many things that I'm too chicken to try, but this quilting pattern on a real quilt... it was almost one of them.
I started quilting Monday night. My first row of flowers? Not so great. I might have stopped, but my husband came home, and I called him over, "Prepare to be impressed!" I don't know if he was, but he watched me a bit and then commented, "That's going to take a long time." And somehow that actually helped. I calculated that I had 480 flowers to quilt, so surely, surely by the end I would have vastly improved!
I think I quilted about 120 flowers that first night. I had improved... only a little bit. But it was too far in to go back now. Sigh.
At first I was focusing very intently on the shapes of the petals. I found that I couldn't listen to an audio book, but really needed to focus ALL my energy on the arch of those petals. I wanted thick, fat petals. Smooth petals. Up and around, down and around, up and around, down and around. The motion, if I could get it right would become soothing, like knitting or crochet. I could almost feel it! I found myself trying to take deep breaths and relax and relax.
Course, there was also a lot of bobbin changing and some unpicking too. Interruptions were the worst! About halfway through a row I'd start feeling the motion, and then I'd get to the end of the row or have to change the bobbin - again! - or make a totally awful petal and have to stop to unpick.
By the way, I am so, SO glad that I use 505 basting spray! I can't imagine having to stop to take out basting pins as I go. I mean, free motion quilting has got to be a million times easier without navigating basting pin road blocks. And, I also noticed that, unlike straight line quilting, free motion quilting is really forgiving of any basting errors. There's absolutely no quilt drag! Yay!!
Tuesday I did a few sessions of quilting interspersed with computer work. Joy, oh, JOY - improvement! My body finally learned the motion of the dogwood petals so that the shape started to come naturally. Soon I could focus on connecting more perfectly to the center of the flower and matching my stitch speed more accurately to my hand speed so that I wasn't making such ridiculously tiny stitches (and eating up so, SO much thread!).
In this picture the row on the far left is a row quilted today and the row to its right is my first row ever. See the difference? Hurray!
I learned this quilting pattern on Elizabeth Hartman's blog via her Dogwood Quilting Tutorial. If you try it, I suggest you mark a dot in the center of each block with your temporary marking tool. That dot is great as a reference point for beginning and ending each and every petal so that they connect neatly. I wouldn't go without it, as a newbie!
I have 2 rows left (that's 80 flowers!) until I'm done with this 60" x 72" quilt. I think I've changed the bobbin about 8 times? Thank goodness I just recently bought some big spools of Aurifil thread from Pink Chalk Fabrics (they have a nice basics set of Aurifil 50 wt) so I feel kind of thread-rich now and am not sweating the expense. Those of you who free motion quilt regularly - you definitely spend more money in thread!
Today I'm really pleased with how my dogwood flowers are forming and I'm definitely enjoying the process. It's soothing and satisfying, though physically exhausting at the same time. I am using my Smarter Pfaff's quilting table and some Graberoo's grippy quilting gloves, which were gifted to me at some point. Fortunately, my machine has been behaving for this part of the project, so it seems that all my stars are aligned!
If you're chicken over free motion quilting, like I am (was?) I totally recommend making a simple 3" finished squares throw quilt and diving in to quilt dogwoods after a bit of practice on a mini quilt sandwich. There's nothing like committing to a whole, big project to force yourself to learn.
So excited I did!