Long-arm quilters have been using templates for many years and getting beautiful results. It is possible to use the long-arm templates on a domestic sewing machine if you are very careful, but you risk damaging your machine because of the thickness of the templates.
A clever quilter in Australia, Leonie West, has developed a series of templates for domestic sewing machines that are thinner and make it easy to quilt a wide variety of patterns. Her website is www.westalee.com.au . Sew Steady, the Eugene Oregon company that manufacturers acrylic sewing machine extension tables, is the exclusive US licensee and manufacturer for these templates. Their website is www.sewsteady.com .
These templates are a new hot trend for quilters. I have seen them advertised a few times and wanted to try them. This week I purchased the hopper foot and an assortment of templates from Quality Sewing and Vacuum in Silverdale. Brace yourself for the price of these things—even on sale, they were not cheap!
The hopper foot comes in high shank and low shank versions. The low shank can also be used on high shank machines with an adapter. I already had the adapter so purchased the low shank version.
Here is what the hopper foot looks like mounted on my Brother machine.
There are online videos showing how to install the foot on your machine, and how to use some of the templates. Be sure to watch them; the written instructions that come with the foot and templates are very brief. You can find links to the videos at both the websites I listed above.
In general, these things work by lining up the hopper foot on the edge of the template, and then moving the template and the quilt sandwich under the needle. The hopper foot is ½ inch across, so the needle is always stitching ¼ inch away from the template.
Here is a photo of one of the templates – just a plain circle- in place and with part of the design stitched out.
I found the templates quite easy to use and was very pleased with the results. The quilting goes quickly and the marking needed is very minimal. Of course I am an experienced free motion quilter, but I think the templates might make free motion quilting easier for less experienced FM quilters also.
Here are some examples:
Spinning Wheel Pattern—completed pattern, and the template placed on top of the pattern showing its position during the stitching. As each petal of the flower is completed, the template is rotated to the position for the next petal. The stitching is continuous and the template is well marked. Be sure to watch the online video of this one before you start. It is easy to do but the video shows you the overall process which won’t be obvious before you have done one of these rotating patterns.
Clamshell pattern- again, the completed pattern and the template placed on top of the pattern. The little rounded “hook” at the end of the template is great for positioning the hopper foot when you need to move the template after stitching a couple of clamshells. The lower edge of the template is used for tiny clamshells, which I haven’t stitched out yet.
Feathers – my sample here is pretty good but one of the feathers came out too short. It can be picked out and replaced with a better one, so it’s not a fatal mistake. Still not sure exactly how I made that mistake! There is a good online video that shows many variations on the feather pattern. Several sizes of feather templates are available and they can be used within the same design to make smaller and larger feathers.
Spiral – this is a very simple use of this 6 inch spiral template. This design could be enhanced by adding free motion work either inside or outside the design. Lots of other variations possible also but I couldn’t find an online video explaining how to use this tool effectively so I still need to learn more.
Another quilter who has done some interesting work with templates is Patsy Thompson. She has a couple of good videos on her website: www.patsythompsondesigns.com . I think she is working with the thicker long arm templates, but the methods should be the same.
I encourage you to ask your local quilt shop about these templates, or your local sewing machine store. I purchased the Domestic Ruler Foot – which includes a couple of templates – and also the 6 piece sampler set. This is enough to get your started and explore this new kind of quilting.