Category Archives: Angela Walters

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Longarm Quilting Ulla’s Quilt

At some point in August I was cruising Instagram and a German quilter I’d recently followed posted a gorgeous quilt top she’d just completed. In terms of design, the quilt was really simple – six solid horizontal stripes stretching across the left third of the quilt, in purple, blue, green, red, orange, and yellow, and the rest of it all white – but my god, it took my breath away! Without thinking twice I asked if I could quilt it, and for some reason she said yes and told me I could do whatever I wanted to! That is one trusting stranger, y’all. When she asked for the cost I said that I would do it for free for the practice, with the caveat that she gets what she paid for. Or at least that’s what I tried to explain in my rather pathetic German.

Ulla sent me the quilt with a whole bunch of goodies (including a bit of cash), and I held off until I returned from France to get started, hoping to get some ideas and inspiration while I was there. I had a pretty good idea about what to do with the stripes, but I agonized over all that negative space. In the end I decided to just load it on the frame and get on with it.

I decided to go with a bar graph design, extending each stripe into the negative space with a different-length frame. Each stripe then got a different quilting pattern, extending into the framed part of the negative space. This was a good opportunity to practice some ruler work.

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Extending the bars and filling them in.

Once the stripes where completed, I tackled the negative space. At first, I considered breaking it into smaller segments, but then I decided it was too much work and that I should just start filling in the white space with whatever struck my fancy. This was something we practiced in the Shape-by-Shape class with Angela Walters, but it’s also something I’d been practicing on paper for the better part of two years.

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I love how the tear drops pop here.

I’d started doodling when I first decided I was going to get a longarm and much like with the longarm, I was TERRIBLE at this at first. But then I started doing it every day—on the commute to and from work, while sitting in the English Garden at lunch, or whenever I sat on my own in a café. I got better paper and better pens, and I started getting pretty damn good at it.

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An early doodle.

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A later doodle

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Starting to look familiar?

A lot of these shapes were also inspired by Graffiti Quilting by Karlee Porter, whose quilting style I absolutely adore.

So back to the quilt, I just started filling it in and stopped when I was done! There were pebbles, paisleys, ribbon candies, flowers, and all sorts of random shapes that I used to doodle or that just popped into my head as I quilted. Some worked great, some not so much, but with so much quilting, no one was going to notice what didn’t work.

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Doodling with thread.

I also incorporated some of the designs I learned from Angela, including the swirl chain and the bracketed frame. I relied on the the biggest (non-)secret she taught us:

Echo, echo, echo!

I echoed the crap out of this quilt ;).

All told this quilt took about 6-8 hours to quilt. Had I charged for it, we’d be looking at hundreds of euros, though I don’t look at it as money lost, but rather as valuable lessons learned. On this quilt I got to practice lots of quilting patterns and ruler work, learned to deal with tension issues, tried out different kinds of thread, used red snappers for the first time instead of pinning, learned how to remove blood from a pure white quilt (true story), and learned lots of other things.

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I love the way the back turned out!

I also learned that I’m ready to start charging customers market prices for quilting, so if you’re in Germany or Europe and need some longarm quilting done, get in touch!

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Backgrounds and Borders Class with Angela Walters

In the second class with Angela Walters, we tackled borders and backgrounds. Angela also offers this as a Craftsy class. We started with a wavy line design that could be used as is or could be modified to add more interest, for example, a ribbon candy or wishbone filler.

Most everyone can quilt a wavy line. If you can’t, draw a straight line and it will probably turn out wavy.

Wavy border with filler variations.

Wavy border with filler variations.

In addition to the variations to the pattern itself, Angela also demonstrated how to tackle the corner in a border design, either by changing the scale, changing the angle, or using a different design altogether in the corner. On the point of scale, this design (like most border designs) can be used as an overall filler through a change of scale.

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Wavy lines with no filler at the top, and filled in with a wishbone below.

I just spent ten minutes talking about a wavy line. It’s a skill.

Confession: I didn’t love this pattern, but as Angela pointed out in the Shape-by-Shape class, if you have a design that isn’t working, think what to change to make it work. So having thought about it, this shape could work really well with a curved, cathedral-shaped line, or with a curved, pointy line. I played around with such variations when I attended this class the second time.

Making the pattern work.

Making the pattern work for me.

The next design was a wavy filler, a fairly straightforward design using a curvy line. You start by drawing a curvy line across the quilt, followed by a curvy line in the other direction that meets up with the first line at some point and then turns back. You continue to draw these wavy lines to meet up and go back at various points. The overall effect is very pretty and a multitude of lines hides a multitude of sins.

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Wavy lines

As a variation, the curvy lines can be used to create slightly larger “pods,” which can then be filled with a secondary pattern such as ribbon candy or pebbles. Another variation is to  introduce a wood-grain pattern here and there.

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This is a slight variation on the pattern, but illustrates the pods well.

Next, we tackled the swirl chain.

J’adore swirls.

The swirl chain is SUCH a versatile pattern. It can be used in a border or as a background, depending on scale and direction. The pattern starts out with an elongated, downward-facing swirl that is echoed a few times, and continues with an elongated, upward-facing swirl that is also echoed. The trick is to always finish the swirl echo in the “V” shape that forms between the opposite-facing swirls, and then to curve either over the upward-facing swirl or below the downward-facing swirl before starting the next swirl, to maintain a continuous line of quilting. When you reach a corner, the next swirl should go at a 90-degree angle from the last “V” to fit the next line.

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LOVE THIS PATTERN

The V is where you need to be!

Referencing back to another point Angela made in the Shape-by-Shape class, rather than quilting the entire border and then filling in the quilt, which can lead to warping, it is best to quilt the border in the available throat space of the longarm, then to fill in the centre of the quilt, and only then to roll the quilt and to again do the borders and filler, and so on. When demonstrating swirl chain, she showed exactly how to “enter” the quilt from the border and how to return to the border – it’s always the V! End the swirl at a V facing towards the edge of the quilt, use the filler design (e.g., straight lines, small swirls, feathers, leaves, etc.) to fill in around the outer edge of the swirl design, return to the V where you started filling in, echo it to the opposite V, and then begin filling in the other side of the border. Since you’re facing the centre of the quilt while doing this, you can now start quilting the centre. This is illustrated in the sketch above.

The secret to this design is no secret: echo, echo, echo!

Angela showed us how the quilting around this pattern makes a very big difference in terms of how much the design stands out or blends in. By framing the swirls with tightly quilted parallel lines perpendicular to the swirls, the swirls pop right out. Quilt the lines more widely apart, at about the same scale as the echoes on the swirl, and suddenly the swirls don’t stand out so much. To really make the swirl chain blend in, surround it with smaller-scale swirls. The sample Angela brought with her demonstrated these differences beautifully—a tiny change makes a huge difference in how a quilting pattern can look!

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See how the tight quilting at the bottom of the swirl chain totally makes it pop out, while the lines above make it blend in?

When using this design as a filler, the next elongated swirl can go any which way, but the trick is still to always end up in the V before heading out into the next swirl. You can also add a tear-drop shape in the V for a bit interest before continuing with the next swirl.

I’m working on a quilt right now where I’ve been playing with the swirl chain and it’s such a fun pattern.

The next border design was a herringbone design (you can see it in the picture above, in the blue section above the swirl chain). This design. is. gorgeous. It is subtle enough that doesn’t draw attention away from the centre of the quilt. To quilt it, quilt a rectangle in the border, then fill it with diagonal lines from the starting corner to the opposite corner. From there, leave a small gap and quilt the next rectangle, with the diagonal lines going in the other direction.

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Swoon!

The rectangles can be narrow or wide, or can match the width of the blocks or the sashings in the quilt centre. The gap between the rectangles is optional, and the lines don’t have to be diagonal, though I find the diagonal lines quite striking. For example, you could fill the rectangles with straight lines, alternating between horizontal and vertical lines, or you could use a wishbone pattern to fill them in. If you leave a gap between the rectangle, you can fill it with vertical lines. The rectangles can also be of different widths to add a bit of interest.

There are a couple of ways to approach the corner. You can continue the rectangles to the edge of the quilt, and then when it’s time to go down the side of the quilt, simply change the direction. Alternatively, as you approach the corner, start reducing the width of the rectangles a little, making them slightly (but not noticeably) narrower, so that you reach the corner with your last rectangle aligning with the inner edge of the perpendicular border. From here, you can leave the corner unquilted and start with a new rectangle down the side of the border, or you can fill in the corner with a different design, or simply fill it in with a square rather than a rectangle.

On a quilt with equally sized blocks and sashing, use the quilting in the border to echo—or extend—the shape of the block. In the sketch below, the purple patterns represent the quiting that would extend the shape of the block into the border. I don’t have a good picture of this but it’s a technique Angela uses frequently.

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This sketch doesn’t really explain this well.

The next design was back-and-forth lines. A simple filler in which scale can make a big difference. To quilt it, start at the edge of the quilt with  a straight line, an inch or two wide, and then curve back to echo it. As you approach the edge of the quilt, curve and echo again, this time making the line a little shorter or longer than the original line. Continue going back and forth and when you reach the bottom of the throat space, do the same quilting back up towards the top of the quilt, with the lines curving in the other direction just before they meet the original set of curves. Although this design requires quilting in columns up and down the quilt, varying the line lengths will eliminate the appearnce of actual columns.

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Back-and-forth lines.

To make sure that you get a round edge of the curve, don’t wait to hit the turning point and then to turn the machine; rather, start the curve AS you approach the turning point.

For variations, you can change the scale of this pattern, by making the distance between the lines a little bigger. You can also use straight rather than curved edges.

To make any aspect of the quilt stand out—quilt small.

I don’t see myself using this pattern as an overall design, but I definitely see using it to make another design stand out, like the echo swirl, or like the bracket design from Shape-by-Shape, which I recently tried. It… needs practice, or at the very least, matching thread ;).

There is always a solution and it is never to rip out the quilting.

Amen.

The last pattern we tackled was a paisley feather filler. This one is fairly straightforward: Start with an elongated swirl, then quilt a paisley design around it that resembles a feather and echo it. This is another shape where scale makes a big difference. Quilt a big swirl and small paisley feathers, or keep the paisley feathers at the same scale.

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I do this better with thread than with pen.

I love feathers. I think you should love them as much as I do.

Not sure I love them, but the paisley and the echoing make them a lot more palatable.

I really loved this class. In addition to learning some really interesting patterns, it showed me how scaling a pattern can make a huge difference to the overall look, and how easy it is to make a pattern pop out to make it a feature, or stay hidden to nicely complement the piecing. I’ve already used some of these patterns since the class and I’m really looking forward to trying the others out.

In the next post I’ll talk about the Little Changes, Big Variety class.

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Shape-by-Shape Quilting Class with Angela Walters

Sorry it’s taken me so long to get this post up. It’s a long one, so make sure you have a cup of coffee and some biscuits!

The first class Angela Walters taught was Shape-by-Shape Quilting. She has a matching book series by the same name.

The primary concept of the class is that each block in a quilt can be broken down into basic shapes, and by tackling individual segments rather than trying to think of the quilt as a whole, it’s easier to get through quilting without being overwhelmed with having to come up with an overall design. In the class, which was 3.5 hours long, we tackled squares, triangles, diamonds, hexagons, circles, and touched a little upon borders and backgrounds (there was a separate class dedicated to borders and backgrounds as well).

Let me start by talking a little about Angela’s teaching style. For starters, she is warm and personable, and everyone in class got acknowledged in one way or another. She was positive and encouraging, and so welcoming to all participant levels. The classes were small (10 students) and each included at least one student without any quilting experience. Her way to make the newbies feel included was to say:

“You’re new? Good! That means you have no bad habits!”

What a wonderful way to put people at ease! Most of the participants were French or German, with varying levels of English. To accommodate them, she spoke slowly to make sure that everyone understood what she was saying and demonstrating, all the while cracking hilarious jokes (possibly lost in translation for some). As I took notes in class (kudos to Handiquilter for providing really high quality gridded note pads), I started jotting down the funny things she said. I’ve given a couple of examples, but I have about two pages’ worth.

The class format was a combination of drawn demonstrations, machine demonstrations, and then individual practice. Angela would spend about half an hour drawing out designs on a flip chart, usually showing both an easier and a slightly more elaborate variation, which we practiced on paper as well.

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Hand-drawn demonstration

Next Angela demonstrated the designs we’d just learned on the longarm (an Avante 18 machine, same as mine—and hers)

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Demonstrating on the longarm

And finally, we got to practice on the longarm.There were five machines, so for practice time each machine was shared by two people and each got about 7-10 minutes to practice the designs. Each person worked on half of the practice panel, which at the end of class we could take home if we wanted (I only ended up taking one of these, which I regret because the only thing I have to show you for these classes is my sketches).

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One of the very few photos I took of my practice pieces (from another class).

As we practiced, Angela walked around and offered tips and encouragement. All together we had 3-4 demo/practice “segments” in each class.

Angela had also brought several samples with her and encouraged us to examine them and to take photos.

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So cool to see these up close. I recognized them from Craftsy!

We started out with designs for squares, and in addition to showing how to create the design, Angela offered tips for traveling out of the block to continue quilting without breaking thread. Her general practice is to cut thread as little as possible so she can get through quilts quickly.

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Different shapes to fill or feature a square block.

Next we worked on triangles

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Mixing it up with some dot-to-dot quilting.

We touched upon diamonds and got our first hint of a swirl.

“I’m a swirl girl.”

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Swirls! So much fun!

I had been shown how to do swirl hooks in a previous class and just couldn’t wrap my head around them. Angela broke it down for me and I proceeded to spend the entire week breaking into swirl hooks, even when we weren’t working on swirls.

“If you don’t like the hook… we can still be friends.”

We then continued onto hexagons. Or if you’re me, pentagons? I’m not generally a fan of hexagons (it’ll be a cold day in hell before I hand piece hexagons) but she showed a fun way to tackle hexagons on a quilt, which is to break them down into four segments—two hexies and two triangles—by putting an X across the middle. You could then quilt the diamonds with the same design, and the triangles with a different design. Alternatively, you could choose a different design for each diamond. It might look funny on a single hexie, but if you have a whole quilt of hexies, it creates a secondary vertical design down the quilt. Clever.

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Ahem. That’s not a hexagon.

Next we turned to circles, starting with a feather filler—I really struggled with this one, because you have to quilt the feather backwards and I kept wanting to change direction to go forward.

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I quilt a better circle than I draw, incidentally.

I’m not generally a huge fan of feathers either, so I didn’t worry about this too much because even if I do try feathers, I think it’ll be unlikely that I’ll try them in a circle to start. We then looked at some additional circle fillers.

“If you have a design that isn’t working, think what to change to make it work.”

Sing it, sister.

Lastly, we tackled borders and some overall designs. I absolutely loved this bracket border design and what I found especially useful was her tip to do the borders as you roll down the quilt rather than doing the entire border and then starting the filler, since it will require rolling the quilt up and down repeatedly and might lead to warping. I’m definitely going to try this one soon.

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This border design is so dreamy!

The overall filler design is essentially a random quilt-whatever-you-want filler; anything goes. You start with a large motif, like a flower or a big swirl, then fill in around it with smaller motifs like pebbles, paisley, etc. This was fun for me and not a terrible struggle since I’ve been doodling for months and recently did a similar free-for-all practice piece.

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Go nuts!

I had some great takeaways from this class.

“When you’re learning, take out parts that are difficult and add them later.”

This was a great one—the swirl hook is a perfect example. It wasn’t working for me so I left off the hook until I eventually wrapped my head around it.  The same is true for any design you struggle with. Break it down to its bare bones and then add elements as you become more proficient.

In addition to being an artist, Angela is at heart a businesswoman. She loves what she does but she’s perfectly aware of the fact that it’s also her job and that she needs to do it efficiently for it to be financially viable.

She wisely advises to only do detailed work in areas that will be very clearly seen in the quilt. There’s no point in spending time on an elaborate pattern that will be completely lost on a busy fabric. Spend time on the areas that will get noticed.

“Custom work gets you customers, edge-to-edge gets you money.”

In the next post I’ll talk about the Borders and Backgrounds class.

Don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list to make sure you don’t miss a post in this series. There might be a giveaway involved!