I took a few pictures while down in my dungeon today, and thought maybe I'd try to show a little bit of what I do in this little sideline of mine.
This is a new quilt, made by the Tomahawk Stitchers Quilt Guild as their raffle quilt this year. Buy a ticket or ten, it's a good fundraiser--not only for the guild (disclaimer: I'm loosely associated as a sometime member when I'm not in school or completely snowed under with work), but also for their projects like the local Food Pantry. They donate quite a bit of the funds raised with each raffle.
Anyway, here we have the quilt float-mounted on the frame. Only the leading edge of the top is actually attached, with the rest "floated" and stitched down as I advance. This allows me to work out any fullness if the top is slightly imperfect--which isn't a problem with this one.
First thing I do is all of my outlining, known as "stitch -in-the-ditch" for the slightly raised area of the seam. Machine quilters don't actually stitch IN the ditch, but rather right next to it. Stitching slowly in regulated mode, and guiding with my fingers while using the pressure of my hand to control the machine:
I'm pretty steady with ditching vertical and horizontal lines, but diagonals are a #$(%*%, due to the way the wheels rest on the table. A machine head tends to travel the horizontal or the vertical naturally, and requires a guide of some sort for diagonal lines. I've heard there are quilters out there who can make a diagonal without a guide, but I have yet to meet one. For a short diagonal, such as the lines on this quilt, I use a 1/4 inch thick ruler. I hold it in place, and push the hopping foot along it in stitch regulated mode--meaning I move the machine, it stitches with no on/off button-pushing needed.
And this is the result of a bit of the afternoon's work! Tomorrow we start the freehand work--that is, if the quilt tells me what to do. I hate it when I draw a blank on the design, although I have a few favorite styles to fall back on.