04.12.2014 Guest Blogger Danny: Angela Walters Class Review

PHXMQG Member Danny blogs at Mommy For Reals.

This past weekend, I had the rare opportunity to attend three classes on long arm quilting lead by the absolutely fantastic Angela Walters. Now I know you're thinking, “But Danny, you aren't a long arm quilter” and you would be correct. I don't have a long arm nor have I spent much time playing on long arm machines, but it is a skill I have been dying to learn and I wasn't going to pass up an opportunity like this one. (I'll leave my first experience with long arm quilting for another post.)

Also, these pictures were all taken on my IPhone. I wasn't about to lug a big camera with me to the classes! They were taken just to be a reference for me so I didn't worry about lighting or composition. This blog post wasn't planned until after the classes. If you dislike dark images, just pretend they aren't there! And I don't know which of the long arm samples are mine or Angela's. If you think it's absolutely amazing, it was probably hers!

I'll admit I was nervous for the first class. I had almost no experience with long arm quilting but somehow mustered the courage to throw myself into a room full of women who make quilting their career. I was pretty certain everyone was going to hate me since I would have a bunch of lame questions they surely already knew the answers to (“How do you quilt a feather?” Yup. I went there.) Obviously, as revealed by my presence, I was “ready” for the onslaught of hatred and murderous sideways glares because this was a class I was NOT going to miss. It's ANGELA-FREAKING-WALTERS! I knew I was going to waste precious class time because of my naivety. I knew I was throwing live bait into a shark tank. But I was strong! I was confident! (And I drug Alyssa {Pile O' Fabric} along with me as a shield, I mean, for moral support!)

Much to my chagrin, the class participants were kind, welcoming. They were excited to have someone as green as I am join their ranks, and shared an overwhelming amount of advice and information on the ins-and-outs of long arm quilting with me. I think the largest class of the three days contained 12 students so I had an ample opportunity to stroll around and chat with each and every one of them. (Go ahead. Pretend you're shocked that I spoke to EVERYONE.) I won't go into too much detail regarding who I met or what we discussed. The point I'm trying to make is everyone was super friendly, more so than I ever could have hoped for. The positive energy and creativity flowing from the group was permeating and I left each day 100% exhausted, yet riddled with the uncontrollable urge to speed home so I could quilt!

Angela was awesome, and I say that in the sense that she was truly awe-worthy and not in the way a teenager haphazardly throws around this adjective, diminishing its power. It was obvious quilting is her passion and her energy (albeit fueled by a couple Redbulls and a Starbucks latte) was invigorating, helping to keep us all on point even after our post-lunch sugar crash! She told jokes often and altered the pace of the class to be sure none of us had missed a thing. She was very cognizant of our needs as students, and made sure to check our understanding of a topic before moving on to the next. She even took time to discuss how certain motifs and designs would be quilted using a domestic sewing machine (DSM) because SOMEONE in the class didn't own a long arm. :) The class structure was conducive to learning, running in a series of segments including lecture and visual, when she would draw the design and its variants on the white board, application, when Angela would stitch the design on the long arm, and practice, which gave us the opportunity to attempt the design she taught. Even though there was only one machine set up in the classroom (it had two heads), we all got the chance to stitch and ask questions. I was unsure leading up to this class how it would be managed, but I was excited to see how flawlessly it ran.

When I walked in to the Creative Space (where the event took place), Angela was standing around talking to some of the other ladies in the class. I recognized her from her Handi Quilter ads and other little quilting-themed haunts online, but had never met her in person. And even though we had never met, Angela greeted me with a huge smile and a hug. It completely set me at ease and tore away some of the barrier I had imagined between us, her being a quilting superstar and me being a lowly peon who doesn't even own a long arm quilting machine. During the class, she kept reiterating that no quilting is perfect and discouraged us from trying to attain that impossible standard. I really wish I had recorded some of her Angela-isms so I could perfectly recall the words. I remember something like, “Deciding to become a perfect quilter is like deciding you don't want to breathe any more. All the practice in the world isn't going to make you stop breathing, and all the practice in the world quilting isn't going to make you perfect.” It was something like that, though probably much more eloquent and lined with humor. Regardless, she made quilting attainable. She made it personal. She made it fun. If you ever have the opportunity to take a class from her, I highly recommend you do so. She has three (going to be four in the next couple weeks) classes available on Craftsy, which I think you should all take full advantage of if you were unable to attend her classes.

So, I suppose you want to know about the classes themselves?

The first day of classes was dedicated to Dot-to-Dot Quilting. We learned about how to find points on the quilt to use as guidelines while quilting. These designs were predominantly angular, great for use in borders, squares, rectangles, and triangles; basically any defined, modular space. I hear all the time about quilters who struggle with quilt top designs and fabric selections specifically for men, but because I've never made a quilt specifically for a man, I've not run into the struggles associated with creating less flowery, more manly designs. These quilting designs, made using a variety of straight lines, would be PERFECT to add a masculine touch to a quilt. Brent is always talking about how he wants me to make him a quilt, but that I need to leave my “swirly whirly junk” out of it. Now I know how!

For this class in particular, Angela mentioned that we should consider using rulers to keep our lines nice and straight. I was struggling to make straight, diagonal lines using the Gammill Vision. I'm not going to lie: I felt a little more proud of my lines after seeing a dozen other women struggle with the diagonal lines too! I'm not usually one to compare myself to others, comparison is the thief of joy and all that, but when I'm learning a new technique, I want to make sure I am doing it correctly.

The second day of classes was dedicated to Negative Space, the class I was most amped about after registration. The designs were meant to add texture and depth and interest to a quilt, filling in the negative space. Something I love about Angela's quilting designs is how they vary in every quilt. She doesn't typically do an all-over design. She does a little bit of this over here, then a little bit of that over there, and she'll add in a little twist of another in between, just for good measure. Her quilts are dynamic. They have great movement and it is the negative space quilting that gives that aesthetic, or so I think.

We started with basics, learning the value of the back and forth line (which she will sometimes use a ruler for) and moved into a diverse mix of modular and curvy designs. We learned to create offset squares and merged lines, then how to create ogee and pea pod/pebble patterns across the quilt. She brought small samples of each for us to see and feel. Tangent: I have a new found love for Art Gallery Fabrics. She brought a few completed quilts made entirely of Art Gallery Fabrics, which is the manufacturer she designs fabric for (I know. Jack-of-all-trades!) I am a tactile person. I love touching things, especially when I'm not supposed to! I'm the girl the white-gloved ladies watch out of the corner of their eye while at a quilt show. Many times I hold my hands behind my back just so I don't accidentally jump out and rip the quilt off the wall, snuggle into it, and rub my cheeks across it. Yeah. I'm that girl. Angela's quilts were so smooth and cool. They had a nice loft, which I know is batting, but the surface itself was just magnificent. I really want to go buy some yardage of Art Gallery just to play with because it feels so amazing! End Tangent. If you want to see some of the designs we learned in this class, Google her Quilt Market wall quilt for Legacy. It was full of the designs we learned in this class, in particular.

The last day of classes was dedicated to moving beyond feathers, although we spent the first half of class talking about feathers in general! In this class, I learned about scrolls, swirls, and a ridiculously confusing rope design that I couldn't master to save my life! In every class, Angela talked about turning corners with the designs since we all quilt borders at one time or another. Again, could not do the rope border or motif for the life of me, but I was able to manage the others.

Over the whole series of classes, Angela showed not just the designs, but also their variations, demonstrating how each design is versatile and how they can be used in different areas of the quilt. Her expansive knowledge of long-arm quilting was mind blowing. She knows how to quilt anything! (Well, except for hearts. It's nice to know she struggles with SOMETHING in the quilting realm! She's so super amazing!)

Here are some general tips Angela shared during the classes regarding quilting:

- Practice, practice, practice! - Work in different directions. You can't reposition a quilt on a long-arm for directional quilting. Practice your designs in every direction so you can be confident when quilting them. - Use a thread color that matches the quilt top. That way, your quilting gives texture but doesn't detract from quilt, especially if you make a mistake. - If you make a mistake, do it a few more times on the quilt so it doesn't look out of place! - Echo your quilting. Echoing can set quilting apart so it doesn't all blend together and it can help you get to where you want to go on your top. End in the wrong place? Echo back to where you need to be to start your next design. - Quilt where you are. Don't leave a section of your quilt until it is all quilted. - When you are practicing your designs with pen and paper, always draw a square first and doodle inside. This will help you learn what to do when you get to edges and corners. - Use elements of the quilt, like quilt blocks, to help keep you on track. No need to mark on your quilt. - Search Google and Pinterest for straight line drawing and rod iron work for quilting inspiration.

I know it is going to be years before I can afford a long arm but I feel the skills I learned from this class are invaluable. I'm going to practice constantly on my DSM and hopefully, when that illustrious day comes and I am the proud, new owner of a long arm machine, I won't have to take a year to learn how to use it. It was a pleasure to meet Angela. I love her personality and teaching style! There was a rumor swimming about that she may be back later this year to teach more, and if she comes, I will SO be there!

You can find Angela Walters online at:

Website - http://www.quiltingismytherapy.com/ Blog - http://www.quiltingismytherapy.com/homepage-test/my-blog/ Business of Machine Quilting Blog - http://thebusinessofmachinequilting.com/ Craftsy - http://www.craftsy.com/instructors/angela-walters Amazon (She has a new book coming out soon!) - http://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=angela+walters+quilting&tag=googhydr-20&index=aps&hvadid=33844294915&hvpos=1t1&hvexid=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=1659619331072161092&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=b&hvdev=c&ref=pd_sl_3l2i5bgf3i_b

(editor's note 01.02.2018: photos from Flickr no longer available).

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