It was so great to get comments on my last post which led me to this one - let's keep this conversation going.

First off - Sue asked a great question. She wanted to know the difference between free-motion and hand-guided quilting. 

Well, Sue, here's the thing. They're pretty much the same thing with different names. Basically what it comes down to is that the quilter is moving the machine to create the designs, not the machine doing it on it's own (computerized). The most common term is free-motion because that's essentially what you're doing - you have free motion of the machine to move it about and as fast or slow as you'd like.

However if you'd like to get technical (and some people do) hand-guided is the term that also gets used for ruler work, pantographs and other methods where tools are used to assist the quilter. Pantographs (continuous line designs) are a hard one for me to add into this category because I have a love-hate relationship with them and that's just my own little opinion here. You basically follow a printed out design with a laser, but the quilter still has to have the control over the machine to trace the pattern smoothly and accurately while quilting. If you ever have a chance to demo one of these set-ups at a shop or show, I urge you to try it - it's not as easy as it looks! Heck, just try and write your name in cursive or make even loops with a long arm for the first time and see how awkward it is at first.

Hand-guided as I mentioned also sometimes classifies using rulers or other tools to assist the quilter. I have no issue with this and I still call it free-motion because the quilter still has to have complete control of the situation. It's kinda like driving a car in a blizzard while talking on the phone and changing the radio station at the same time. It can be done! But the quilter has to individually control each and every aspect calmly while simultaneously doing other tasks. Once again, it's not as easy as it looks. Especially using rulers (which I seem to do more and more of lately) is challenging and yes, the rulers help to make smooth even lines, but it's sooooo easy to goof before you know it. Every little factor like bulk in seams, the direction you're quilting in and whether you're right or left handed come into play.

So to wrap up, Sue, they're the same thing. Whether you hear free-motion or hand-guided, it means a person had control of the machine and not a computer.

Next, karenf asked about the five quilts I mentioned in the last post. 

Well, I just know what my clients tell me when they bring me the quilts. I try to get as much information as I need, without getting too many details. Here's what I know. They're for a guest bedroom in a residential house that will have two beds and a seating area (the seating area may not be in the same room but close - too many details to remember - I stick to the details I need). Two quilts will be going on the beds, one quilt will hang on the wall behind the beds, another quilt will get draped over the seating area and the last small quilt will be on the table in the seating area. It sounds like quite the substantial room, but that's all the information I have. Alas, that's why all of the quilting plans have to work together, but it's been fairly easy to plan because all five quilts are made out of the same fabrics in various patterns.

Sewgirl brought up a good point about planning your quilting with the same effort you chose the fabric and made the quilt top with...

She said she gets lots of compliments with her quilting, but she doesn't take short cuts when planning the quilting. Nothing breaks my heart more than hearing the story of how the pattern and fabrics were chosen, how the construction of the top went and how many hours of blood, sweat and tears went into some of these quilts AND THEN I get the quilt and get told to do whatever, just finish it quick with something simple. I understand sometimes you're just sick to death of looking at this quilt for one more second, but that's why you bring it to a quilter and let them carry on the journey you started. Both parts should bear an equal burden.

Going back to more of what karenf said, she said it's great to trust your quilter - and that falls completely in line with what Sewgirl mentioned. If I know the person and are familiar with their likes, dislikes and style - I know on little information what I need to do to complete a quilt to their liking. I may be able to adjust my plan to compromise with their requests if they just want this dang quilt done (we've all had that quilt before, you've been there and you know what I mean). The longer I quilt for someone the more I know what they mean when they say "do whatever".

Honestly I love the "do whatever" or "just have fun" jobs. If I get to create and use inspiration that's been waiting for the right project in the back of my brain and have free reign on how to manipulate it and make it just-so:
1. You as a client get much better and personal results
2. I get to grow and advance my skills as a quilter (while being challenged creatively)
3. AND all of my clients benefit from my skills being able to grow and adapt

I'm always nervous to go the extra mile with "do whatever" quilts because at the end of the day - your pocket book is footing the bill for my imagination and I may have written a lengthy bill for something you had a simple budge for in mind. In these cases I usually opt for the cheaper option or a compromise or I will call and check before I begin. Custom quilting is vastly different in price than an all over design and it adds up quickly.

However and this is a big HOWEVER, if I've never met you before. If I've known you for years but never had the opportunity to see your quilts in person. Do not and I mean DO NOT bring me a quilt and say do whatever without any guidance at all. I very rarely let this situation happen and here's my take on it - before I let any thread touch that quilt I will check and double-check my plan with you ahead of time. If for any reason at all you are not happy with the resulting quilting plan, it's not my problem... Sorry, but true. If you have an idea or a vision in mind, speak up! Your quilters can work magic but they are not mind readers! They don't know what you want if you don't TELL THEM!!! There is a trust component but it has to work both ways. I have to trust my plan will make you happy and you have to trust that I will give you the results you're looking for, but we both have to be on board with the same plan. Get it? Us quilters are good at what we do and we try really really hard to make you happy while doing the job they way we think you want it.

It's very simple to bounce off ideas with a quilter. Show us pictures of other quilts you like. Ask us to doodle it out for you. Just don't ask us to tell you exactly what size each and every component will end up being because if we're doing it free-motion it'll adjust as we adjust. We like to be flexible and things change. The weather, how we're feeling, what music is playing, etc. It'll be roughly what we told you but it may have a little variance. We're only human - we're not a computer. That's the difference you're paying for!

And finally, Farm Quilter said it best. As a quilter she plans and doodles and designs and sometimes while you're in the midst of the actual quilting, the plan changes. 

It happens more times than not and it's perfectly normal. And usually this is where you have to trust your quilter that THIS IS THEIR JOB - THEY KNOW WHAT THEY'RE DOING!!! Like any other trade, a person with experience knows what they're doing and knows how to work efficiently, in a timely manner, and how to adjust the plan when problems arise. Things will happen. There will be bulk in seams that we can't work in or near because of the clearance of the hopping foot (a whole other topic for a whole other day). A quilter may make slight changes to quilt more effectively with less starts and stops (trust me when it's worth it for all parties involved). Adjustments and new ideas may happen as you work. Threads may stand out more than we thought in an area and we may have to adjust the scale of the quilting accordingly. There are tons of variables quilters have to be accountable for and once again - that's why you're paying us to do it for you.

Well, on the first of the five quilts I'm doing, I had my plan and in the heat of the moment I tried something else on a whim (aside from all my careful planning I second guessed my gut instinct) and guess what - I don't like it and I'm ripping out that section. It's small, it's an easy fix and I should have trusted myself. Even the most experienced quilters do it. That's the great thing about quilting, it's not set in stone, it's fabric. It moves and adjusts and has give to it. A quilter's mind has to work in the same fashion. We have our guidelines but depending on how much we try to tackle, what pressure we find ourselves under (both mentally and physically) we need to adjust and give. Quilting is tough. It's very taxing physically and mentally we are always thinking about upcoming quilts in the back of our mind. Sometimes we just hide it better than other times. Quilters can work magic if you let them, just don't expect them to be a magician all the time.

Wow, that's kind of a long post but if you stuck it out and read through my ramblings, I hope at least one of the topics mentioned above resonated with you on some level. Once again, did anything interest you? Did you learn something new? Have a question about a topic you'd like me to clarify a bit? Keep the conversation going in the comments or you can always e-mail me at RubyBlueQuilts (at) gmail (dot) com.

Heck, have a quilting related question you've been pondering and didn't know how and who to ask - bring it up and I'll try to take a stab at it. These interactive conversations are fun and are helping me to get back into blogging! Thank you to the ladies that left comments! I appreciate reading what you have to say.

Until next time and the next topic, have a great day!


  1. Great info here. Have wondered how the computerized long-arms work and now I know. Can't imagine someone saying "do whatever". It is such a collaborative effort between piecer and quilter for a quilt to truly sing! After reading this blog, I realized how important it is to pick a quilter whom you have, not only a rapport, however good communication.

  2. Truly can be a nightmare when a new-to-you customer sends you a quilt and says "do whatever, I know it will be great"...but just as difficult is getting a quilt top with embroidery, crocheted items and 3-dimentional flowers have already be put on and they hand you the quarter-inch thick book they made the quilt from and tell you to quilt it exactly the way the quilt on the back cover was quilted - and you have had your machine for 2.5 months and the quilt is king sized! Literally had nightmares before I got started on it!! I do like for customers to tell me their vision for their quilt, but most of the time they haven't got a clue. I do have a question for you...how do you price your quilting done with rulers against straight FMQ? For me, I love using rulers, but they are so much slower than FMQ, I hate to use them on customer quilts because I end up working for less than half of minimum wage unless I charge them by the hour and then it gets really expensive!


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