Machine Quilting with Wendy Butler Berns (Craftsy class done!)

I've already reviewed this class in my podcast, but just to make it official for my 2014 Quilty Resolutions, I now consider myself to have completed Machine Quilting with Wendy Butler Berns.

I really enjoyed this class. Well, to be fair, I enjoy Wendy Butler Berns in general, which is a good thing because I own every one of her Craftsy classes. In any case, her style is very laid back, and she gives great tips and demonstrations. The class includes several designs, starting with simpler ones and building up to slightly more complex (although none of them are overly challenging); it also has lessons devoted to information about needles and threads, ideas for whole-cloth quilting, and troubleshooting. You won't get formal designs needing stencils or measuring or math here--it's very free-flowing and organic, the kind of thing you can (once you get the hang of it) just start rockin'-n-rollin' and having a ball.

I'm not new to free motion quilting (FMQ). I've been poking away at it for years--including having watched all the lessons in Wendy's class when I first bought it maybe 18 months ago. The difference is, this time I actually practiced what she was teaching!


I watched every lesson with a sketchbook in my hand. As she was describing each design, I'd sketch it out several times in pencil, and sometimes play around with different sizes, variations on the design, and how to tweak the designs into smaller filler designs.

When the lesson was complete (or as soon as I could manage to get to my sewing machine), I'd set my phone timer for 15 minutes and spend 15 minutes--or more, if I was really getting into it and had the time--to practice the designs from that lesson. Some designs came relatively easily as they were similar to things I'd done in the past. Some were trickier. Depending on the design, as is common, I often do better going in one direction than the other, and it's never the same direction from one design to the next! I've learned that half the battle is figuring out what direction you most naturally move in order to make the design work best. Sketching it out first does help, although in a limited way--it's a very different motion to move fabric under the needle. Still, every little bit of practice helps, be it with a pencil or fabric.


I'm very pleased to see that the back of my FMQ has improved tremendously over the years--nary an eyelash in sight! On the front, my stitches are generally pretty even*. I seem to have the rhythm between needle speed and hand speed mostly down now. I still have some work to do on hand-eye coordination and actually ending up where I'm aiming, but that's something only practice will help. If I were doing these designs right now on a real-live quilt with blending thread, most of them would actually look pretty decent from a galloping horse.

This consistent practice also gave me the chance to compare my open-toed FMQ foot with my closed, specialty FMQ foot and FMQ bobbin case made for my machine (Janome 6600) and sold as a set, I believe. I've owned that bobbin case and foot for a couple of years, purchased based on a recommendation on someone's blog or something along the way. I've discovered I really don't like it. The bobbin was spinning too fast or something and I kept ending up with thread knots on the top--you can sort of see them in the feathers at the bottom of the sample. Once I switched back to my normal bobbin case and open-toed foot, no more thread knots. So that's good knowledge, too.


Just for kicks n' giggles, I was also practicing the designs with colored pencil while watching TV at night. Those bubbles are now completely filled in and I'm playing with other filler designs in other parts.


I'm going to consider this class complete although it's a hard class to determine when you've actually "finished," as it has no project involved. But I will continue to practice the designs during my 15-minutes a day, and they're in my toolkit for future reference. I've got a couple of projects in the works in which I could easily imagine doing one of the designs from this class.

I highly recommend this class, especially if you are brand-spanking-new to machine quilting or free motion quilting. It's a great way to introduce yourself to a variety of designs and ideas.

Full disclosure: If you use this link to purchase the class, you will help support this podcast and blog. Still n' all, my review is honest-n-true; I'm not saying good things just to encourage people to use the link. If you're a podcast listener, you'll have heard past reviews of other things about which I'm not quite so positive!