quilt, quilt desgin, quilting

Practice Pieces

dupioni whole cloth playtime my brain on quilting“What do you do  with your practice pieces?” is one of those FAQ that comes up now and again.

A variation on the question presented itself the other day. Okay, an actual person asked, “do you do warm-up sessions before you start quilting a quilt?” I did answer said quilter directly and as a teacher I thought hey this is good info for the blog

Per usual it’s not a straight line answer.

There are always practice pieces (quilt sandwiches that have some to a lot of stitching over the surface) hanging around the sewing room that have been there forever. Some end up coming with me when I teach as I want my students to see that I practice and do some pretty yucky quilting sometimes. Some pieces get made into tote bags (note to self, it’s time for a new pocket book). One practice piece travels with me as a completed quilt. A friend made it wmy brain on quiltinghen we did the Hoffman Challenge, then I quilted it to test thread and batting.

And that’s another thing, I practice when I’m testing new batting and thread. I like to see what will happen when I this batting or that thread in the quilt. Practicing gives me great information including a rough tension setting, perhaps a needle change.

Practicing teaches me to slow down, be mindful of what I’m doing, listen to the machine. Watch the needle area for potential harm to the quilt (batting being pulled up). Stop and check for tension troubles.

Practicing reminds me of what I want to do, it helps me develop that eye, hand and foot coordination that needed to stitch out the motifs I want, and fit them in the space allotted. And practicing get’s me toward that 10,000 hours toward mastery. One day I will master this skill.

So, practicing offers more than just time at the machine, there is much information that is useful on the next quilt and the one after that and then there’s the one after that.

zen tangle

But then there’s this. This is practice. Mindful doodling I call it. Pen, pencil, marker, paper and time in the car, watching the ball game. It’s amazing what this kind of practice does.

feather tutorial paper 7


now I need you to know that I have stitched and doodled a lot of crap. But that crap has given me incredibly valuable information: like how to change tension, when to change tension, or what needle to use when I’m seeing skipped stitches and ooh I could speak forever but not so much today.

Today I have words to write in other places. And I get to see Debby Brown and Melissa K with GenQ.


4 thoughts on “Practice Pieces”

  1. After accumulating a lot of doodle cloths .. too good to throw away but no idea what to do with them … I came up with a winner of an idea: I bind them and give them to my vet to use as cage liners for their animals. Much nicer than the towels they use!

    When I load my doodle cloth for the first time, I use a Sharpie to mark the dimensions of the cage liners. I can get 2 liners widthwise. Then I just doodle, not necessarily staying within the boundaries. After all, the critters don’t care if a motif is cut off or not. 🙂

    Then, when the doodle cloth is filled up (whenever that is), I cut on the marked lines, bind it and deliver the cage liners to the vet. I feel good about not throwing them away and they get some nice items for their animals.

  2. I think doodling is very good practice. It helps you see if you can actually draw out a design before trying it with the additional variations of fabric, batting, thread, tension, speed…

  3. I hide my doodle cloths under a plastic tub in my sewing room. They are just too ugly to see the light of day. BTW, why is it a motif can stitch swimmingly on the cloth but not on my quilt? I put it down to performance anxiety.

    1. Performance anxiety is right. A couple of things that help me: listening to music or watching a movie helps a lot. If you imbibe a glass of something helps us relax (the music will do the same thing). And then remembering that most people won’t notice the things I’m not happy with.

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