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Pencil Power

“I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils…” Tom Hanks as Joe Fox in ‘You’ve got Mail’

Machine Quilting frames allow the sewing machine to glide every-which-way over the top of your quilt. It’s like magic! This amazingly free movement transforms your sewing machine needle into a pencil; so anything you can draw, you can quilt. The frame holds the layers of your quilt steady like a perfectly tensioned canvas; enabling you to draw with your needle just like you would with a pencil. If you want to get good at free-motion-quilting, then doodle! Doodling is the best way to fine tune your eye-hand coordination. Each time you trace a pattern, your brain registers the movement. It’s called kinesthetic muscle memory. If you repeat the movement enough times, you learn the movement by heart. You can then execute the movement or a sequence of movements easily and fluently. We use kinesthetic muscle memory all the time. It’s how we remember to tie our shoes, write our name or dance a jig.

Current research is finding that doodling is more than a humble distraction. Doodling helps us concentrate. It engages our brain’s executive resources; helping us to plan, focus and multi-task. Doodling wakes up your brain, keeps you on task,  helps you to attend to the moment and engage with your subject. You could almost say that it helps you to think with your fingers.

At Machine Quilter, in our workshops, retreats and video tutorials, we teach a hand-guided no-mark method of free-motion-quilting.  We employ a doodle-based technique for learning line designs and moving with them across our available space. Because using a Machine Quilting frame allows you to draw with your needle, the fluency we gain with pencil and paper transfers directly to fluency with thread and fabric.

Each month, the video tutorials that come with our our Sunshine Boxes and Moonshine Bags demonstrate how to learn new line designs by deliberate doodling. Our Sunshine Boxes always include a roll of paper just the right size for doodling. This month our special gift is a really cool multicoloured pencil from Koh-i-noor Hardtmuth. The pencils have multi-coloured lead. Artist’s use them for shading but I just love that I can doodle a variegated line. Each of our Sunshine Boxes feature a 2,000 yd. cone of Fantastico variegated thread for machine quilting from Superior Threads for doodling on fabric. These magic pencils enable us to doodle a variegated line on paper! It’s like a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils all rolled into one!

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