Meet Missouri Star Academy Instructor, Patsy Thompson

Our newest Missouri Star Academy instructor is Patsy Thompson of Patsy Thompson Designs. She is an expert in free motion quilting using rulers. As you scroll through this post, you will find some of the most beautiful quilts quilted and designed by Patsy! Get to know her a bit more and fall in love with ruler-work quilting in her class, Beginning Free Motion Quilting with Rulers!

When did you first give machine quilting a try?

In the year 2000. I had been a hand quilter for over 20 years, and when I would see machine quilted quilts at shows, I thought of them as “cheater quilts.” I figured I could quickly learn to machine quilt, and I was so, SO WRONG!! It was very hard and took me a couple years of what felt like endless practice! I am very glad I didn’t give up, though, because I love to free motion quilt!

When you started, did you first use rulers or are they something you came to use later on?

Oh, gosh, no! I had been free motion quilting for many years before I tried rulers. Back when I did start, there were no ruler feet for home machines and we had to improvise. Nowadays, the market is very much geared to the home quilter and there’s a ruler foot for pretty much any machine that’s available.

What advice do you have for someone just starting out with ruler work?

Get ready to have fun! It will feel very strange/awkward when you first start out, but stick with it and soon it will feel completely normal to be holding/moving the quilt and a ruler simultaneously. The learning curve for ruler work is much faster than for regular free motion quilting, so it’s worth giving ruler work a shot even if you’re a beginner free motion quilter.

What advice do you have for someone who just started machine quilting?

I know that no one wants to hear these words, but keep practicing, then practice some more. It’s all about putting in the time. I would also start with much smaller projects. There are really two very different skills you need to free motion quilt:

  1.  You need to learn how to control the quilt sandwich underneath the needle to create an appealing design.  This requires you learning how to move the quilt from point A to point B to point C to create the design, and also how to do the “dance” between how quickly you move the quilt across the machine bed and how fast you run the foot pedal.  This set of skills is best learned on small quilt sandwiches.
  2. You need to learn to handle the quilt from the standpoint of a mechanical engineer.  A quilt is big and bulky and has a weightiness that will always be pulling against you until you learn how to position it to avoid drag.  When you’re a sit-down quilter on a home sewing machine, you also have that small harp space to contend with.  I don’t think about any of these issues anymore because it is second nature to me how to position/manipulate the quilt as I work, but when you’re first learning to free motion quilt, you’ll really need to focus on how to overcome these challenges.  

Do you have an all-time favorite quilt that you have quilted?

I have two all time favorites. Both of them have some hand-dyed cotton sateen fabrics in them, and there is something about those luscious colors that thrills me as I am quilting! They both have a lot of ruler work quilting, and also lots of feathers, so they each have many of my favorite parts of quilting.

Where do you look for inspiration in your work?

Pretty much everywhere.  I am very affected by color, especially rich, saturated colors, so I generally find myself stimulated by colors I see in everyday things.  I also am aware of combinations of colors (i.e. colors next to one another) that I find pleasing.  Those combinations will frequently find their way into quilts!

How long have you been teaching classes and what do you enjoy most about sharing your skills?

I taught my first class in early 2002. A friend of mine talked me into it and I remember being SO nervous driving to the class, questioning how I let myself get talked into doing it, wishing I could somehow get out of it. By the end of the class, I felt so exhilarated by seeing all these students learning how to free motion quilt, that I never questioned teaching again.  The best part of teaching is seeing a student realize that he/she can “do it.” There is nothing like the thrill of being a part of that spark! 

What are the must have tools for ruler work you always have on hand?

A ruler foot that fits your machine, machine quilting rulers/templates, and either a plexiglass extension table for your machine or the ability to sink the machine so it is flush with the quilting surface. You’ll also want marking tools (to mark your starting/stopping points), a seam ripper, and I like having a short ruler (6-8 inches long) for any measuring/marking that need to be done on the fly.

What is your favorite ruler to use/design to make when machine quilting?

Arc rulers, for sure! You can make so many different types of designs with arc rulers, and the more curves you have at your disposal, the better. Arcs RULE!!

START MACHINE QUILTING WITH RULERS

What is your favorite machine quilting design?
Show us in the comments!

Meet Missouri Star Academy Instructor, HollyAnne Knight

HollyAnne Knight of String & Story teaches one of our online courses here at Missouri Star. She helps people learn to not only quilt with confidence, but live an overall well and confident life. Check out her quilting blog or wellness blog for fun stuff!

Join HollyAnne in her Beginner-Friendly Free Motion Quilting class! You’re gonna love it and her! Get to know our newest instructor:

Do you have any funny “mess-up” stories to share from your experience with machine quilting?

Oh my heavens! … My quilting journey is like a RomCom of crazy mess-ups! I have quilted my supreme slider to the back of my quilt multiple times (notice I don’t use one any more!), not to mention managing to actually quilt my quilt TO ITSELF (watch those edges, y’all, and don’t let them get folded under!). Of course I’ve lost track of the times I’ve had tension issues… More recently, I checked my tension, but not carefully, and not as I went along and ended up spending FIFTEEN HOURS pulling stitches out of a quilt. Needless to say, I had TWO margaritas when I was done!

What first inspired you to give machine quilting a try?

I started quilting because my mom wanted a t-shirt quilt. Being a complete nerd, I immediately check out every quilting book in our local library– which was more or less the complete works of Angela Walters! Obviously, these were basically useless for my original intent, but they did introduce me to a world of color, texture, and movement that I didn’t know existed in quilting. My background is in painting and dance, and free motion reminded me more of those mediums rather than sewing. A new mom who needed a kid-friendly hobby (which oil painting is not), I kind of just jumped in. Of course I was nervous that I would mess up, not be any good, etc, but there was only one way to find out. In ballet, we have this saying that you’re not a real dancer until you fall 10 times. I figured quilting could be like that– maybe I would quilt 10 crappy quilts, but I figured, sooner or later, if I kept practicing, I would get it. Honestly, the thing that surprised me most was how quickly my skill grew when I got serious about practicing– which is something I’ve seen happen again and again for my students, too! 

Do your sons show any interest in quilting/sewing? Have you started teaching them?

They’re kids and quilting is creative– of course they’re interested! They mostly love color and texture, and they have remarkably good taste (proof that our creative instincts start strong, even if we struggle later). They love playing with scraps, asking me to sew bits together, or sitting in my lap with their hands on mine while we chain piece and handing me pins as needed. I haven’t started teaching them in any formal sense, though, but mostly for selfish reasons! I’m not sure I’m ready to share my sewing room! I hope we’ll sew together as they continue to get older, though, or, at the very least, that they will find their own creative passion to pursue alongside my quilting. 

What advice do you have for others who are beginning their machine quilting journey?

…YOU CAN DO THIS. (That little voice of “yeah, but…” that just popped in your head? Slap her. She’s a liar. All of us have an inner critic, and our inner critics are nothing but jerks. Put her in a corner and listen to me.) Yes, it will be challenging; yes, it will take work. But YOU ARE A ROCKSTAR. You can do hard things. After all, you learned to walk and talk and read and write and use a rotary cutter without removing your fingers. Free Motion Quilting? It’s just one more skill that you’re going to study, practice, and master. The desire and the willingness to keep practicing through the “messy middle” are really all you need to get started… and I would be honored to be your teacher!

What keeps you feeling creative and inspired? What do you do if you feel like you’re in a slump?

Our local town square in downtown Duluth, GA, so going out for dinner with my family is sure to pick me up and give me new enthusiasm. Similarly, getting out in nature is both relaxing and inspiring– double points if I can get some exercise while I’m at it! When I’m at home in the studio, I just do the next right thing– which is usually cleaning! Whatever is stumping me (usually a quilt top that needs a quilting plan), gets hung up on the design wall where I can ponder it without being consumed by it, and I’ll clean my sewing room, and just putter around for awhile. Maybe do some emails or yoga or whatever– all while just “hanging around” with the pesky project. Then, I’ll get away from it– go to Duluth, watch a movie, anything else, for the night and come back the next day with fresh eyes. Usually by then I at least have a starting place to build on. 

Quilt all day or Quilt all night?

I am SUCH a night owl! I love to work absurdly late in my sewing room. I love how quiet the house is and how I can get lost in my audiobooks and sewing. 

My Best Tips for FMQ

  1. Practice on paper first. Whether you’re doodling motifs or deciding what to quilt where… paper is far lower stakes than your beautiful quilt, so work out the planning kinks and the learning curves on paper and then practice sandwiches first.
  2. Check your tension. A lot. At LEAST every bobbin, but ideally every 10 minutes of quilting or so. Yes, it might slow you down a bit to flip your quilt over and take a peek, but if anything goes cattywampus, you want to know pronto!
  3. Have fun! Seriously, if you are not having fun quilting, then we need to have a talk because the whole point of a hobby is to enjoy it. Allow yourself to be imperfect, to enjoy the process, and maybe even have a little wine to lighten the mood!

Start Your Machine Quilting Journey

HollyAnne shared her “mess-up” story and now it’s your turn! Do you have any “oops” moments in quilting? Tell us in the comments!