I am ridiculously excited that I finished these two blue and white table toppers while it is still January. The part I am excited about is that I did the quilting myself on the machine and it turned out decent! Can't wait to tell you about the process.
I got so many really useful tips from you wonderful readers. One of them that I jumped on right away was to look into the machine quilting classes that are offered on Craftsy. Craftsy.com What a great resource! I have used Craftsy in the past, but had kind of forgotten about it. I purchased Jacqui Gehring's class called "Creative Quilting with your Walking Foot". I loved the sound of that. Free Motion quilting and I have not exactly hit it off as of yet.
Jacqui is a terrific instructor, and I felt as if I was sitting right across from her in a proper class. Her main message is: use your walking foot, go slowly and sew straight. She likes to sew half inch grids or half inch straight lines. I had never sewn lines so close together before, usually choosing to sew about an inch apart. She said if you sew wide lines the attention will go to the lines. If you sew lines close together, the focus isn't so much on the lines as it is on the texture the quilting gives to the quilt top.
She was dead on right. The close quilting is a wonderful look and I don't think I have ever been this satisfied with anything I have machine quilted. I finished the first topper and was well pleased, then tackled the second one and had the same great results.
Using her method, I did not have to mark my quilt top at all. I used a piece of painter's tape laid diagonally on my quilt top and stitched my first line on the edge of the tape. After that, you discard the tape and use the guide bar on the walking foot to follow along the first stitch line, making parallel rows across the surface of your top.
I am so glad I purchased this class. I have used my walking foot and guide bar in the past with decent results, but you won't believe this: I had the guide bar positioned completely on the wrong side of the walking foot. Duh. Nothing like a visual to set a person straight.
Any way, if you don't "get" free motion quilting, but have a walking foot and think you can sew in a straight line with guidance, try this Craftsy class. I found it worth the $24.99 and learned so much. Plus, now that I own it, I can refer to it any time I like. Jacqui offers additional more advanced tips as well, and I am looking forward to playing around with my machine.
Have a great weekend everyone. And thanks again for all the encouragement and tips regarding machine quilting. I don't get to sew with friends anymore, so I love the feeling I get when reading all your comments. It is like being on a retreat with you all!