We have been practicing random free-motion background fills for the past two weeks, working on stippling and echo quilting. By now, you may have discovered that you fall into one of two camps: those who prefer to follow a marked line or those who do not! If you find yourself in the first group, keep at it. We’ve got two more weeks of random free-motion background fills and two more weeks with little to no marking after that. We turn our attention this week to the fun and playful loop-de-loop background fill.
At first glance, the loop-de-loop design appears quite simple and potentially very liberating. There is no restriction about crossing over previous lines of stitching – like stippling – and no requirement to keep the lines evenly spaced – like echo quilting. Nevertheless, this loopy design presents its own challenges.
For one thing, you have to try to keep the loops going in different directions. If the loops are too uniform, you will create a different look altogether.
The second challenge – for me, anyway – is the way the loop stitch travels. Somehow, I always seem to quilt myself into a corner! If you want to travel to the right, you have to loop to the left. I guess my brain just doesn’t work that way.
For this practice session, you will need one of the quilted Star Motifs from session #4. If you are working on a nine-block sampler quilt, loop-de-loop around the star motif in the top right corner. For more information, please read the Instructions for Preparing a Machine Quilting Sampler. Set up your machine for free motion stitching by lowering (or covering) the feed dogs and installing a darning or free motion presser foot.
As with stippling, it works well to start at the bottom and work up and away from ourselves. This way, we can see the lines we have already quilted and plan our route. Begin in the bottom left corner of the star motif block. Pull up the bobbin thread as described in Beginning and Ending Machine Quilted Stitches and take the first small stitches by moving the quilt slowly under the needle. Continue moving the quilt under the needle and forming the loopy stitches.
Remember to keep the quilt in the same orientation as you stitch. Practice moving the quilt under the needle but keep changing direction to avoid making your loops too uniform. Try to make smooth curves and avoid points or straight lines. When you reach the edge of the star motif or the block, stitch right up to the previously quilted line, curve around, and carry on. If you quilt yourself into a dead end, take a few small securing stitches, stop, clip the threads, and start again in a new location.
Continue in this way, working your way around the star motif, until the background is completely covered with loop-de-loops. Other elements can be incorporated along with the loops such as hearts, flowers or leaves. Have fun with it and next time we’ll try a different kind of loop: an overlapping teardrop design.