I am ridiculously lucky to have an HQ16. Years before I bought this machine, I had the original Handi Quilter frame and used my Elna 3005 on it. It was terrific in concept, but the 5 or 6 inches of clearance limited the size of both the designs and the quilts I could manage on it. Moving up to the HQ16 was literally a dream come true, and while I’ve had some great success with using it, there’s so much more I’d like to be doing. I’ve committed to making 2011 the year I focus on those skills and I’m planning the best way to go about it.
Early in December I did some research into books, DVDs, tools, patterns, methods, workshops……holy cow! I have or have a used some of each of these, so a good place to start was with an inventory of what I already own, and what techniques I’ve used.
Pattern boards and pantographs – I have all I need of these for now. I’m comfortable using them and I have the math figured out when need be. Because of the expense, I only buy pattern boards for designs that require accuracy and are repetitive (Baptist Fan, clamshells and scallops, concentric circles and squares). I have a nice selection of pantographs, too, and at under $20 there’s always a chance I might find one I can’t live without (Thank you, Willow Leaf Studio!)
Freehand designs – I have the Trillium House Designs pocket guides, and I love them. I’ve used some of the fills (loops, peacock feathers, flame, water, pebbles) and border/sashing designs (loops, fern feathers) with good success. Usually. But if there is any one method that benefits from frequent practice, I know this is it.
Stencils – here’s where things get shaky. I have several, including the Pam Clarke stencils and sketchbooks. I have barely used them, although I did draft the stencils I used for the setting triangles on the Christmas quilt. Last year when I started quilting those sections, I really struggled to follow the design I had marked. Finishing the quilt was the opposite: I marked and stitched easily, thanks in part to the addition this year of micro-handles.
Rulers – and now I’m really out of my element. I tried rulers when I first started using my machine, but I never got comfortable with them. It occurs to me now that those micro-handles might make all the difference. I hope. Because I just ordered a couple new rulers and the companion DVD.
I’m sketching out a sort of “lesson plan” of attack. Every month I’ll focus on a technique, using it on a quilt top if I have one ready, or a practice quilt if not. I’m planning the posts for Sundays, partly because I’ll need daylight to get the best photos of the stitching. I have some prep work to do to convert to the zipper leaders (more on that later this week), but visit next Sunday and see how it’s going!