I’ve been away from my longarm for a few weeks, which happens as I have been traveling quite a bit, and since I am working on developing new patterns right now. As I get back into quilting, I always have a bit of a “wind up” period, where it literally feels like my brain switches gears.
I am pretty sure that I’m not alone. A few things I’ve noticed as I get back into the groove may be helpful for other people, too, as they are figuring out their own practice.
First, pick something specific to work on. Doodling is all well and good, and while it helps you get a feel for things, after a while, it can just be aimless wandering. If you want a decent practice session, pick one specific thing and work on that. And only that. Let’s say you’re working on spirals, and you want to have perfectly spaced curves, a loop instead of a point in the middle, and then a smooth transition to the next. If these three things aren’t things you already do, then doing them all at once can sometimes be too much, and you wind up doing none of them well. Pick the first thing to practice, and when you have that down, move on to the next bit. And then the next. At the end, you can put it all together. Practicing each specific part won’t take you that long, but trying to work on all of them at once often just winds up with swirls that still aren’t satisfying to you.
Second, don’t do the same things for hours. Give yourself 5-10 minutes, then move on and practice something else. Swing back around to it at the end of your time, and see if you remember how you did it. You will be able to see pretty quickly whether your retained your practice.
Third, some things are better when practiced on the machine and some are better practiced on paper, an it’s a good idea to know which is which for your own benefit. I like to practice on the machine after I’ve gotten the general idea from drawing the patterns out on paper. For example, I can tell whether I understand the basic feather structures after drawing them out on paper before I even get to the machine–I know there are some things I want to fix before I commit to cloth. However, when it comes to being precise and hitting your target points or backtracks, I think practicing on the machine is going to be much more helpful than doing it on paper.