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Just a few questions for all of you. I believe I read somewhere on here about plexiglass squares to put on your quilt to audition quilt designs before quilting them. What do you use to mark on the plexiglass? Secondly I'm wondering what favorite ruler for SID everyone uses? And can this also be used for doing piano keys or is there something special people use out there for those? Thanks for any help or advice.

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Hi Ann!

You can find rigid plexiglass at home improvement stores. They will cut it for you. Wrap the edges in painter's tape both to keep from cutting yourself and to have something to stop the pen you use to draw the designs. I use a regular dry erase pen. Careful not to draw onto the fabric--it'll be almost impossible to remove the mark.

For SID I use a small acrylic rectangle. I've learned that longer templates are hard for me to control and I'm more likely to forget to move my hand along them as I stitch. With the one I use I needle down in the ditch, move the ruler into place, stitch down the ruler, stop, move the ruler, stitch, stop, etc. I try not to move the ruler and the machine at the same time but find I get cocky and sometimes have good success with a bit of double movement.

Since I usually use invisible thread for SID, with a well-pressed top I can do horizontal SID without a ruler. I move the top until the horizontal seam is close to me , tuck in the elbows and walk the machine down the seam. No movement of arms or hands--all one unit--I get good accuracy that way. Vertical seams get the ruler treatment.

Piano keys can be stitched in a couple of ways. If the adjacent piecing is even, I use that as a guide for piano keys. I needle down on the border seam at an intersection and set whichever channel lock is needed to stitch to the edge. Disengage the lock and travel on the batting to the next point, engage the channel lock, stitch to the seam, disengage, and SID down the border seam to the next point. Since one line starts at the seam and the next starts at the edge, I mark the edges--every other one--so I know where to start the next line. You can mark on the batting at the edge for those return trips. I use a blue water-erase pen and mark on the batting--for accuracy, hover over the border seam where you will be stitching. Don't needle down--just eyeball it. Engage the lock and travel across to the edge. Where the needle would meet the edge, put a mark on the batting or the edge of the fabric. Mark every other pass and you will be accurate when you stitch, keeping the piano keys the same distance apart.

Whatever you use for piano keys, some marking is required. A regular ruler can be used but take care that your spacing is correct as well as the angle.

People with Circle Lord and QZs (and also Toppers ;) ) can use pattern boards to do piano keys. The only drawback is you are stuck with whatever spacing is on the boards. You can't line up with piecing and fudging is difficult.

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A hint on using Plexiglass: I tape all edges of the plexiglass with blue painter's tape. Then in HUGE LETTERS I mark: THIS SIDE UP along the four edges on one side only. This is the side that i mark using markers, whatever. I have found that these markers may leave a residue even when washed with water and I never ever want that residue to come in contact with the NEXT quilt top that I am auditioning designs for. I believe this has saved me a bunch of head/heart-ache over the past several years. JMHO.

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I use Golden Threads paper to audition quilting designs. I like it better than plastic or plexiglass, because I can keep my designs if I want to, or pin themup on a bulletin board to study.

I use the Little Girl ruler by Gadget Girls for stitch in the ditch. For piano keys, I sometimes use the Little Girl ruler. At times, I use a lone stencil and chalk to premark the stitching lines. If the lines are premarked this way, sometimes I will use my horizontal and vertical channel locks to get a straight line instead of a ruler. Another way I do piano keys is with my Quiltazoid (

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I use a kinda heavy weight clear vinyl (available at WalMart or Joann's) for auditioning designs and dry erase markers. I also use painter's tape on the edges so I don't run off the edge and onto the quilt top. I find that most customers are visual people. You can explain what you want to do, but a picture is worth a thousand words! I like the vinyl because it's easy to roll up and take along with me. I also use it for class.

I teach a longarming class called "Quilt as Desired @#$%%!!!, at a store. I always hated that phrase as the end of a pattern. Usually, you couldn't even get a hint as the pics of the quilt in the magazine or pattern never showed the quilting very well. All the students are required to bring quilt tops. I have a top I bring and show different quilting paths and show them how to look for quilting space to design the quilting. Then we go over each of their tops and come up with different ways to quilt them. They take pics of the designs with their phones and ipads and then they can go home and quilt their favorite. We always have a ton of fun and boy do I get to see some interesting quilt tops

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