Repeated cycles of washing and drying can cause shrinkage. This is true of clothing, and I think that’s happened to my house, too. After all these years of rain and sun, and my house seems to have shrunk (LOL). I mean, it seemed like quite a big house thirty years ago!
I knew I’d never be able to fit a longarm machine and frame into my studio. While I’ve been able to develop some free-motion quilting skills over the years thanks to a dear friend with a longarm machine that she generously lets me use when I visit, the 1,800 miles between us means I only visit the longarm – and my friend – once or twice a year.
When I do get to free-motion quilt, I always need a project or two to warm up. I need to become familiar with the motions again before my free-motion quilting looks acceptable at all.
Enter THE Dream Fabric Frame (aptly named, or as I affectionately refer to it, my “DFF”). Now, my practice space is just one room away from my other sewing tools, and I can work on technique or create finished projects at any time at all.
One of my favorite things about THE Dream Fabric Frame is the practicality of leaving a quilt sandwich on the frame so that I can stop for a bit of practice – at any time. (For beginning quilters, the process of putting together the layers of quilt top, batting and backing is commonly referred to as a “quilt sandwich.”)
It’s so simple to turn the machine on, sit down, and doodle across the cloth for a few minutes – or a few hours. I can easily switch back and forth between my practice cloth and my “real” project, too, so I’m more likely to warm up before beginning free-motion work on my latest quilt.
The practice cloths aren’t wasted either. A yard of quilter’s cotton is enough for a baby quilt top that finishes about 35″ x 42″!
Packaged batting is available in a 36″ x 45″ size, so I can purchase two yards of sale fabric and a pre-cut batting and be ready to go. THE Dream Fabric Frame is a perfect size for quilting a 45″ width of fabric, too.
For a larger quilt (something that’s just right for a throw), use 1 3/4 yards of fabric each for the quilt top and backing, and purchase a 45″ x 60″ packaged batting. When your practicing is done, just trim and bind the edges.
If my practice cloth has areas I’d rather the world never sees – I just cut the quilted sandwich into smaller pieces, trimming around the parts I don’t like. I can use the good sections for place-mats, totes, teddy bears, or other small projects that incorporate pre-quilted yardage.
Your practice need not be limited to quilting, either. A single layer of fabric can be tensioned in the frame like fabric in an embroidery hoop, and you can cover its surface with stitching.
This is a great way to practice control for free-motion embroidery. (It is also the perfect way to try out a new thread weight or color.) I especially like to do a little practice stitching with variegated threads, so that I can preview the distance between color changes and the way the thread’s colors interact with each other.
I’ll end on a cautionary note: You may want to have a timer handy or set an alarm on your phone, because the time will fly when you’re having fun on THE Dream Fabric Frame! Each idea leads to another, and before you know it – the cat will be clamoring for food. (Oh, wait, they do that all the time anyway, don’t they?)