6 Unexpected Lessons

Sometimes lessons come when you least expect them. In mid-July I’ll be given exactly three minutes to sell my skills to a group of shop owners, guild Program Chairs and others interested in hiring quilting teachers at the Northern California Quilt Council.

I’ve been putting off the task of making six giant quilt sandwiches for this venue. I want the audience to be able to see what I teach in my Intro to Fearless Free Motion class from the back of a large room-hence the giant quilt sandwiches. I thought this would be a pretty mindless task, but it has been not only a challenge, but a delightfully fruitful learning experience as well.

At first I tried various thick threads to stitch out the motifs, but that was only visible from around 15 feet. I settled on couching yarn onto large quilt sandwiches and that worked well-they are clearly visible from 60′.The quilt sandwiches turned out to be around 21″x29″. It was a rather bizarre exercise for my brain to make the motifs that large!

The lessons just kept coming as I worked through the process of making these sandwiches.

Lesson #1- The re-discovery of Bernina foot #43-the Free Motion Couching Foot. It allows me to free-motion couch fibers onto the surface, stitching the fiber on by stitching down the center, as opposed to the zigzag stitch that most couching feet use.The foot has a little loop thingy that attaches to my machine and guides the yarn to the foot-this is an enormously helpful step that makes it easy to focus on the free motion part of the process-the yarn just feeds in by itself.The yarn then feeds through the foot and I can free motion quilt in the normal way, even with thick yarn as my “thread”!Except, there was one small problem which was:
Lesson#2-When moving towards the right, I had to be careful that the needle was actually catching the yarn or this would happen. See that part of the circle where there is stitching but the yarn has not been caught? Operator Error!Lesson #3 came when I realized I had a total of over 600 linear inches to bind-holy cow, that’s almost a King size quilt and a half! I am not one to apply my binding by machine-I like the look of a hand-applied binding. But with over 600″ to bind, I decided I had to learn. I became the One Who Binds By Machine. I got good at it too!

Lesson#4 came when I also realized, I had 24 mitered corners to do-got good at them also!Lesson#5 came when I realized I had to also perform that pesky task of joining the ends of the binding in a way that lies flat and blends in well-yup, got lots of practice at that too! I’ll post a tutorial in the next few days about the easiest way ever to do this.Lesson #6: During the quilting phase of the process, I tried a tip I had recently seen on someone’s blog-so sorry I lost track of whose blog it was. I used glycerin in place of gloves to provide a “sticky” surface that would grip the quilt well and allow me to move it around easily. I am happy to report, it worked beautifully, did not stain or mar the fabric in any way and felt very light on my hands. It’s a nice alternative to machine quilting gloves, especially in the summer when gloves can get pretty hot and sweaty.

I have been working diligently on competition quilting, polishing my curriculum and other “business” tasks. I enjoyed a delightful break making these sandwiches and learning along the way. Changing it up is good!


  1. Janet Becker says

    Loved this blog Jenny!!!!! I’ll be pouring tons of positive energy your way in mid-July! Of course you’ll be a huge hit!!!!!

    Man… your tip about the Bernina #43 foot is super! I don’t have that foot… but, can see it will be in my repertoire in the near future!

    Glad to also hear about the glycerin. My favorite free motion gunk is “Non Stick Finger” by Clover. It is hard to find, though. I just won’t wear gloves because I need the tactile sensation of bare hands and I don’t want to have to take the gloves off to cut or thread my needle.

    I see you’re a regular at Angel Quilters now. So good to know your business is growing and growing!!!!!


    • jennyklyon says

      Janet, what kind words! I could totally see you doing something awesome with #43 on garments! You can’t really see it in the photos, but the bubble motif looks so mod, so 60’s retro and I could see it or other motifs in a lighter cord on garments. What ‘s that called-passementerie?

  2. says

    You know, I have that Footsie #43 Free Motion Couching foot for my Bernina, but I’ve never used it. You’re inspiring me! I wonder if there’s any chance that the little loop thingy is still with the foot? Thanks for posting the photo of where that attaches, by the way — sometimes the Bernina instructions can be a little, um, MURKY — a picture is worth a thousand words.

    I think your oversized, couched yarn FMQ is really interesting in its own right. It would be a fabulous way to embellish a handbag or home dec pillow, or even a sweaterknit cardigan for fall… Because I believe in purity through self-flagellation in the sewing room, which is what I’d be going through as I tried to figure out how to stabilize some lacy sweaterknit for FMQ couching without losing the stretch or changing the hand… ;-)

    • jennyklyon says

      Rebecca you will be amused to find out that this is my second foot because I lost the little loop thingy as well as the wire that helps you thread your fiber into the foot! I definitely was seeing garments and accessories embellished with that foot. I love your remark “purity through self flagellation in the sewing room”! Do you do that too??

  3. says

    Love the post Jenny! I haven’t tried the glycerin, but it is going on my list. I’m looking forward to your binding tutorial too. I agree with Rebecca…your oversized fmq could have lots of applications on a larger scale. I’m sure that you will impress everyone…both with your personality, and with your skills!

  4. jennyklyon says

    Thank you Laura! I think you’ll actually like the glycerin-wish I could remember whose blog I saw it on recently to give her credit.

  5. Marcia says

    More great lessons, Jenny. Viking has a couching foot, too. I guess I need to get it out of the box and see how it works! I might even have one for my Bernina. Yikes. the search is on again.

  6. says

    Hey, I’m going to try the glycerin thing! Thanks for sharing. I haven’t tried that foot yet. I usually pre-glue my yarn first then stitch it down. I hope they hire you!

    • jennyklyon says

      I actually never thought to pre-glue the yarn-good idea. I’ve been using the glycerin for the last few days instead of gloves and it works fine. I’ve been doing it on a small piece so I’ll have to see if it is still effective with a big heavy piece. It’s only a $5 decision to use the glycerin!

  7. jennyklyon says

    I am curious what you think about using the glycerin if you try it-it’s so cheap that it’s not a big deal to try it. Use just a little though-like a pea size, well maybe a big pea but not a dime!

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