Saturday, November 1, 2008

Long Arm Lessons

Yesterday I took a lesson in long arm quilting. The gal who has done a few of my quilts offers her machines for rent, but she says, "You cannot drive my Porsche without taking at least one lesson."

It was humbling, to say the least. I love free-motion, making up the pattern as I go with a rough idea in my head or a sketch taped to the wall in front of me. But following a design marked on a quilt is another story. I can't stay on the lines. Of course, my lesson lady thought this would be the easiest for beginners, so gave me four hours of about 95% following lines.

As I tried to follow the patterns and "loosen up" as she suggested, my mind was working the same way it does when I write by hand. I cannot write with my whole arm like you are supposed to without really thinking about it. This is not natural. Same with the rhythm of swimming and dancing. It is not easy for me and requires a certain way of concentrating, not "letting myself go" as most would suggest.

My husband says golf is a "muscle memory game" and I'm now convinced that long arm quilting is the same. This will require lots of practice --- unless some of you long arm quilters can give me a quick cure for my preference to color totally outside the lines!

However, it was fun in a tormented sort of way. The result is the ugliest quilt I have ever seen... and sorry, no photograph. My pride is bruised and bleeding so I didn't take one.


Exuberantcolor/Wanda S Hanson said...

And my opinion would be that long arm quilting would be doing your own thing, drawing what is in your mind...I guess some people like the pantograph designs.

I know that when I teach machine quilting on a DSM I tell them that hitting marked lines is much harder than just doodling.

jovaliquilts said...

There's a shop not far from me that also has you take one lesson and then you can rent the machine. I've been tempted, but haven't done it so far. I hope you practiced on a functional quilt! I admire you for trying it, and bet you get much better soon.

Elsie Montgomery said...

I noticed that the long arm machine resists at certain movements. It is very subtle, and something that practice would overcome. Because of the way I like to quilt, for me doodling, as Wanda says, would help me get used to the machine's way of moving without having to also concentrate on following lines. I've printed out a bunch of quilting designs and will practice (paper, no thread) and see if that helps the line-following thing. And next time I try the long arm, it will be something I can free motion. Some of the designs are lovely, but not if the quilter is spastic! LOL