practising the free-motion

You know that old saying about the only way to find out how to do something is to just do it (I think it’s a saying or did I make it up?) Anyway, it’s one I’ve come to believe in more and more over the years. It’s very true about skills like free-hand quilting or stitching- to get any good at that requires tens of minutes and hours of just sitting down and doing it. It’s also very true about the associated skills that go hand-in-hand with any sewing on a machine, like really getting to know your machine, know what threads it ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’, which thread is best handled by which needle, or what tension setting to have for a particular needle-thread combination or task that you’re doing.
Last year when I was preparing for a local craft fair, I was making a lot of fabric postcards, like these.

It was an excellent way to practise and play around with the settings on my machine, in particular really getting to understand how the tension worked. I could experiment on each little postcard: use different fabrics, different threads, and aim for different effects as it was only a small piece and not a large quilt top being adversely affected.

I changed threads as much as a dozen times a day, and I worked a lot of little foibles that my machine had. I have had my machine, a Bernina 440QE, for about 4 years and I have done a lot of sewing on it but I feel I know it a lot better now from the last 6 months than any time before that. I know when I can use the Stitch Regulator attachment, and when its better to just freehand stitch without it, and I’m more comfortable with the stitches it can do and how I can achieve certain effects.

I had great fun doing these postcards, and I often also make birthday cards the same way. Here is a card I did recently for a friend:

It didn’t take an awful lot of time but the end effect is lovely and colourful and a little bit unique!

While I’m sure that I still don’t know everything there is to know about my machine, I certainly know a lot more than I did not too long ago. I find consistent, regular practise is the key.