Part 2: Quilting for Domestic Machine Artists…Rulers (cont.) and Markers

 

This is the second in my unknown number of parts series of quilting for domestic machine artists.  Several interesting points stood out to me from comments both here and on Facebook following my last blog-post on ruler work for domestic machine artists.  There are a lot of rulers, sometimes called templates, out there for this type of quilting; more keep being introduced; and they are relatively expensive.  There is no way I can test them all, or even all the brands (but if you’d like to contribute to this blog using the PayPal donation button on the lower right, I will happily thank you and apply it to rulers/templates and provide further testing results).

So I suggest if you are just starting out that you buy only a few basic rulers–a good well-marked straight ruler, and a few shapes and curves, or one of those sets.  Then learn to use them, and add them only as you need them for specific projects, which will help focus your ruler collection around the way you work.  In a while, you might want to take an inventory of what you have and see where there are gaps you might need.   I note that this series of blogs have forced me to do such an inventory and I have found some places I need some rulers.  Please pay close attention to the quality and the marking.  These things make a huge difference in your quilting results.

Another thing I hope you will do as you start using rulers is to be patient with yourself and just keep on practicing until you feel comfortable and have reasonably good results.  I hated it when I started using rulers, but I totally love ruler work now.  It’s amazing how easy it feels to me now when I found it really hard at first.  I still am not that great at it, but I do so enjoy it that I think I might get there.

I still haven’t had a chance to borrow my daughter-in-law’s Gadget Girls rulers, but I will and tell you about them when I do.

I also find that I need to mark lines to guide my ruler work.  This might be grids, or a simple line.  It is not full marking of the planned design usually.

A Word About Marking

Everyone has their own marking methods they prefer, and I suspect that is the case with most of you.  I have already mentioned some of this in past blogs, but it is worth revisiting.  I have several products I particularly like.  The choice for markers depends on whether I am going to wet block or wash my quilt after it is complete, what are the fabric weave  and content, and the value (is it light or dark).

  • My favorite marker is Crayola washable markers…the finest point available.  This marker washes out of everything I have tested so far, even if I happen to iron over it.  I only had one time I had to wash it twice, and that was using a brown marker on white tightly woven cotton.  It came out though.  This marker is not very expensive, it stays in place as long as it doesn’t get wet and you can easily see it (I sometimes have a hard time seeing the oft-recommended blue markers).  But it has to be washed out with water.
  • If I’m working on one of my art quilts that have a lot of silk, specialty threads, and other painting on it, I probably will not do more than a spritz of water and steam to block such a quilt.  But regardless the marks have to come off one way or another.
    • Mostly the different chalk markers, mechanical chalk pencils, and so on, tend to work fine, but I do avoid yellow because I had a terrible time getting that out one time, and I’ve seen others say the same thing.  Mostly I remove these with a microfiber cleaning cloth…comes right off.
    • Chalk goes away much too easily for most silks and satin weaves.  I have spent much of my quilting career hunting for a good marker that stays in place on such fabrics while I need it and comes off without washing.  I think I have tried all of the main types and brands on the market.  The ones I found that works the best are the mechanical pencils by either Fons and Porter or Sewline.  These, however, will also often go away well before I’m finished quilting satin weaves, such as Radiance cotton/silk or dupioni silk.
    • I have found one method that works for satin weaves, but is sometimes tedious to remove.  I trace the design on Golden Threads paper and stick it to the fabric with temporary adhesive dots trying to miss most of the stitching lines with the adhesive. Remove by tearing it off and catching resistant places with tweezers.  I have even been known to use this method on very close stitching.  Of course, it takes forever to remove and you shouldn’t use an open toe foot for this, because it gets caught under the paper.  Here is an example…shadows under the steps on my quilt Perspective in Threads.

Look at the shadow under the steps. THat was many lines of thread marked with the paper method.

Look at the shadow under the steps. That was many lines of close stitching marked with the paper method.  I printed the design on the golden threads paper and stuck it on.  It took me hours to remove, but it worked.  I stitched this whole quilt back in 2012.  This was long before I started ruler work.  I used straight stitch and decorative stitches on my Bernina 200E machine (I no longer have this) and marked with Crayola markers, except for the part under the steps.  Today, I would just mark the general areas that need the close stitching and do close together ruler work, so I wouldn’t have any paper to remove.  Here’s a picture of the marking.

Crayola washable marks on the top before stitching.

Crayola washable marks on the top before stitching.

fabric-tracing

Marking in progress for “Dad’s House Plan” also before the days of at-machine ruler work and done with Crayola markers.  As you can see from both of these examples, rulers would have been helpful when I quilted it.

  • It also helps a lot to have some kind of very temporary marker around once you start quilting.  I use either one of those that are air erasable or one of those fatter chalk pencils.  These are handy for as-you-go additional marks, corrections, notes to yourself, and idea changes after sandwiching to the ones you make before you sandwich your quilt.

Sew happy everyone! Teach someone to sew or quilt…your brother, your child, your neighbor…  Cheers.

Part 1: Quilting for Domestic Machine Artists…Rulers

I have decided to do a multi-part (not sure how many parts) series on quilting on domestic machines for artists.  I know there are a lot of you out there who really don’t consider yourselves artists, but who really are.  You pick colors, you make shapes, you put them together to make a pleasing wall quilt, snuggle quilt, bag, vest or some such, and come up with something wonderful and then you have to quilt it on your sit down domestic machine or sit down longarm.  So, that is who I mean when I say “domestic machine artists.”

There are many considerations, tools, threads, and designs to help, but just how to put them together becomes almost overwhelming sometimes.  I know this because I’ve been there.  Indeed, almost every quilt I make is like that.  And I have many quilts in my head that I want to make that may be even more of a puzzle when it comes to the quilting.  This little series may not be real organized, but I want to share what I have learned and you can take it away and improve on it, or reject it, or whatever you wish to do with it.  LOL

Free Motion Ruler Work on a Sitdown Machine

A little over a year ago I started experimenting with domestic ruler work, and since then have watched it take off.  I began with a Westalee Ruler foot on my Bernina 830, and later got the #96 foot, which no dealer recommends because you have to ALWAYS remember not to start it with the foot up.  It has to be down or you could knock your machine out of timing.  They are supposed to come out with their #72 foot that will be the recommended foot for use with your regular Berninas by the end of the year.

I have since solved the problem of using my #96 foot the expensive way by purchasing a Bernina Q20 longarm and set it up as a sit down in my studio.  It uses all my free motion feet I got for my 830 and is wonderful, by the way, but the essentials of using rulers are about the same.  The chief difference I found is that the rulers have to be on the small side, and the field of vision is not as large on the smaller harp domestic.  Also, the stitch regulators are doubled and built in and are much more powerful in the Q20 and so you can quilt a lot faster than on a Bernina with the BSR attachment.  Nevertheless, most of what I have to say is the same for sit down machines of all sorts.

I found several essentials are imperative to make free motion ruler work go well:

  1.  The table needs to be flush with your machine base, however you accomplish this, and your feed dogs need to be down.
  2. The surface under the needle needs to be slick.  For my Bernina 830 I use a silicone mat taped down with blue painter’s tape.  Yes, I know it’s supposed to stick, and I believed it until I sewed the mat onto the back of one of my quilts.  LOL   And for my Q20 I spray the table with silicone spray I got from Nancy’s Notions after covering the small needle and bobbin space under the needle with blue painter’s tape and the machine itself with cloth before spraying to make sure no spray enters the workings of the machine.  Then remove it after spraying and let dry.  Wipe with a paper towel before starting quilting….very effective.
  3. You need to have some kind of item to help the rulers stay put.  I use either the little sticky dots of sand paper on the bottom of the ruler, or double tape on small rectangles of that spongy shelf liner.  Both work well.  I have seen other methods, but these are the ones I like.
  4. A ruler foot is important:  I began with the Westalee ruler foot, which I found to be pretty good and it works with generic feet attachments.  But a lot of machines have ruler feet now and more are getting them.
  5. Your hands need something to help them grab and control the quilt and the rulers at the same time.  I use gloves.  Sometimes I use one glove on the right hand and nothing on the left, depending on how I feel.  I found I don’t need this nearly as much with my Q20 as I do with my 830, and have even quilted with no gloves when using very small rulers.  I saw Teri Lucas using the bats in her video from some time ago.
  6. You need the right rulers.  If you are using a regular machine harp space, you need smaller rulers.  It’s too bad because there are some wonderful larger rulers out there.  But you can do some magnificent quilting with the smaller ones too.  When buying rulers, I have found the better marked they are the more useful they are.  It isn’t just the outside shape, but how you can line it up with your quilt top and design.  So the marks are very important.
  7. You need a plansometimes you need to mark lines to line up your rulers for effective quilting.  I use either Crayola Washable Markers, if I’m going to wash the quilt, or mechanical pencil style markers if not and it’s cotton, or Golden Threads paper if it is on something slick, like satin (because other markings won’t stay on).

I have found to my surprise that I have a bunch of quilting rulers.  I don’t know HOW that happened.  LOL   I would like more.  Anyway, I really really like Lisa Calle’s rulers.  They seem just right for my kind of ruler work–well marked, easy to handle.  I also have one ruler from Gina Perkes, and one Westalee.  I am going to borrow my daughter-in-law’s collection of mostly Gadget Girl rulers and review those sometime later–perhaps I’ll be able to pick those up next weekend.  Anyway, here are the rulers I have found most effective for art quilting at my sitdown machines so far:

Lots of rulers.

Lots of rulers.

Well, in fact the very first quilt I made at Fritz (my Bernina Q20) was my Spiral Galaxy Number 3, and it won a ribbon at PA National Quilt Extravaganza (PNQE) in September for Best Interpretation of Theme.  I used those longer curved rulers at the back of the picture above and the little ones on the right for making the initial stitching of the arms of the spiral.  You can’t probably see it in the picture, it’s black 100 weight silk thread, but it guided the rest of the quilt.  The smaller curves were needed in the center of the spiral, changing four or five times to a larger curve progressing to the longest curve by the end of each arm.

Spiral Galaxy No. 3

Spiral Galaxy No. 3

So recently I have been working on the quilt my oldest son Ken designed for me that has Celtic borders.  The ruler work is not for the quilting yet, but rather to make the border pieces.  I will quilt along the same lines with invisible thread once they are pieced into the top and sandwiched.  So here is the design marked on the paper and stuck onto the satin ready to stitch:

celtic-start

And here is the final piece with the rulers in front that I used for all those varied twists, turns, and I also used a straight ruler which I forgot to put into the picture.  Because the design was a reproduction of an eleventh century artist’s illuminated manuscript border all the turns and angles were slightly different from the one before it.  So I had to keep fitting the rulers into the design and stitching a little ways and changing to another ruler.  The entire design was stitched with rulers, the paper removed (yes, that was a project), and painted.  I am hoping the quilting will make it clearer where the design crosses over and under itself.

celtic-with-rulers

And just to bring this together, below is one of my early practice pieces in which I used a lot of the small rulers for small circular or half circle designs.  When you look at this, remember it was done on the very first day of stitching on my Q20 and I missed a lot.  In fact, it’s not very good:

some of this is ruler work

some of this is ruler work

 

I have set up a couple of practice sandwiches to play around with the rulers and will be showing some of my results of that in a later part of this series, along with a discussion of threads, needles, markers, and free motion embroidery.  The plan is to also show some fill work.  I am doing all of this partly for my blog readers, but also in preparation for a workshop I will be doing at G Street Fabrics in Rockville in June 2017.

Ruler Help for Sitdown Straight Stitching

I will tell you that sometimes I get better results for some of my straight stitching using my Bernina 830 than I do on my Q20.  This is not always the case, but it is something that you may want to keep in the back of your mind if you are getting frustrated on a project where straight line work is important.  You can use any of your machines…you don’t have to be stuck to just one if you have several.  Use the one that gets the best result.  Here is an example:

stitched on my 830 with golden threads paper and the straight stitch with #37D foot.

stitched on my 830 with golden threads paper and the straight stitch with #37D foot.

I found this just simply went better with just plain markings and a straight stitch…slow but sure…using golden threads paper stuck on.  Then, like the bigger border swirly design, I removed the paper (even more of a task) and painted it. I have two more pieces before I’m finished.

Sometimes, I also use a ruler to help me get things straight when quilting on my Bernina 830.  I did this long before I had Fritz, and would probably use a straight ruler at Fritz for this if I were to do such a project again.  In the end, I actually cut this all off and bound it closer to the central design, but it works pretty well for some applications.

Straight quilting

Sew happy everyone!  Let me know if you have some rulers that you particularly like. Send me pictures of your ruler work, along with the information about the ruler you used, and I’ll probably publish them in future blogs.  Send to BettyJo@bjfabricartist.com

 

How Long Did That Quilt Take to Make?

Here I am back from the Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza (PNQE), where I actually won a ribbon for my Spiral Galaxy Number 3.  I will be blogging about that also (waiting on some pics from one of my friends).  While I was there, and at other times about other quilts, I got the ever present question “How long did it take you to make?”

First of all, with the exception of the one I’m working on right now my quilts are my own design.  I may, however, be inspired by, or use a piece, character, or portion  from another source…like a set of NASA photographs, or a Dover flower, or a traditional quilt block for part of a wave, or a border from an eleventh century manuscript, for instance…but it still is my own design.  My current project is a design drawn by my oldest son for inclusion in my ancient manuscript series, but it is a pictorial design and still requires solving how to make elements of this design.  It isn’t a pattern.

So this is my usual workflow.  Each quilt is different, of course:

  1. A design concept pops into my head.
  2. I may capture the concept in a simple quick drawing and notes in paper and pencil so I can remember it.
    quilt designing002

    The design concept notes for Canterbury Knight

  3. I let it “marinate” in my head for a while, meanwhile I research various elements of the design, figuring out the approach I want to take to accomplish the quilt.  The research consists of any historical design information, techniques that may be needed, and types of fabrics I should probably use.
    An illuminated page from Book of Hours

    An illuminated page from Book of Hours

  4. I draw it using a combination of Corel Painter for the picture part, Corel Draw to make it full size, smooth some of the lines and turn it into a vector line drawing for a pattern, and maybe even Electric Quilt to see whether or not it needs borders, and get the sizes between the central theme and the borders all working together.
    My completed digital design for Canterbury Silk

    My completed digital design for Canterbury Silk

  5. I print out a full sized picture using Corel Draw, which divides it into printer paper sized tiles.  Then I tape that together.
  6. If I decide some of it needs to be digitized and embroidered in the hoop, I digitize it, test stitch, fix the digitized version.
    Betty Jo Tatum, "Canterbury Silk"

    Betty Jo Tatum, “Canterbury Silk”

  7. I do some testing and practice to see how to do some of the parts.
    practice pieces for Canterbury Silk

    practice pieces for Canterbury Silk

  8. I gather my fabrics and threads.  I start by shopping my stash, then shop elsewhere to fill in what is missing.
  9. I finally construct the quilt top, including appliques, embroidery, painting before-quilting items, and piecing.
  10. I mark the completed top for quilting.
  11. I sandwich and quilt
  12. I paint any post-quilting paintables, and add any bead-work or other embellishments
  13. I bind the quilt and add the rod pocket and label
  14. With a flashlight and a magnifying glass I go over the quilt looking for thread ends and any problems that need to be corrected.
    You may remember the completed quilt Canterbury Silk. It has already completed its show season. It won Best Surface Design from MQX Midwest in 2014, but no other ribbons.

    You may remember the completed quilt Canterbury Silk. It has already completed its show season. It won Best Surface Design from MQX Midwest in 2014, but no other ribbons.

You’ll notice that it is not until step 9 that I actually start constructing the quilt.  I think for most quilts it is between half and two-thirds of the way from concept to construction where one might say I started “making” the quilt. Also, I am not only working one quilt at a time.  Usually I have two or even three in the works over the same period of time.

So when I’m trying to answer “how long did it take you?”, don’t be surprised if I look like a fish out of water gasping for an answer.  I could give an answer like “I’m not quite sure, but I started the quilt about a year ago” or “I worked on the design about six months, and it took about three to construct it.”  Usually, though, I will just take a stab at the whole thing and say “about xxx months”.

Sew happy everyone!  How long did it take you to make your last quilt? 🙂

Burnishing the Rust Off Clothing Construction Techniques

I am making shirt number one in my wardrobe makeover project that I plan on stretching across the next year in between quilting.  Now it has been about two years since I made a blouse or shirt, and that was the first one after several years, so I have a lot of rust to sand off my shirt/blouse making skills.  I am remembering almost everything that I learned or developed during my many years of clothing construction though, and it is very helpful,  so I thought I’d share some of it.

First of all, I only rarely read the directions, but I don’t recommend this if you are new to clothing construction. The reason I don’t is that I change a lot of the techniques to speed up the process and make the end results more satisfactory and sometimes the directions coincide with my techniques and sometimes they don’t.

Secondly, I use the specialty feet and stitches to help me get things done well, like the edge stitch foot for topstitching, and using the blanket stitch with my applique foot for stitching down the inside of the collar stand to the neck.

Here you see the inside of the collar stand with the blanket stitch along the bottom where it attaches to the neckline. It looks nice on this side and on the other side.

Here you see the inside of the collar stand with the blanket stitch along the bottom where it attaches to the neckline. It looks nice on this side and on the other side.  No hand-stitching needed.

Here’s my basic approach, which I figure cuts the time by about 25 percent over the usual pattern making instructions after a little practice.  This is not for specialty fabrics, or when you want details like french or flat felled seams, but a simple shirt:

  1. I look over the pattern to see if I need to add or change a piece like adding an additional facing or changing the type of sleeve placket to match what I’m trying to do.
  2. After flat fitting my pattern, generally using Nancy Zieman’s methods (see last week’s blog) and cutting out the shirt, I interface all the facings and other pieces.  For facings I sew fusible interfacing non glue side to the right side of the facing with a small quarter inch or less seam on the edge you would be turning down, turn, and fuse the facing.  This gives you that nice turned edge with little trouble.
  3. I finish all the seam edges with a serger, or I sometimes use the vari-overlock foot (2a on my Berninas) and the vari-overlock stitch (#3 on my Bernina 830), except the arm scythe (armhole).
  4. I make all the small, challenging pieces first…like the collar on the collar stand, tabs, and the cuffs of the shirt.  I top stitch using my edge stitch foot (#10D on my B 830).
  5. Then I sew it together in this order:
    • Front seams and edges or front placket, depending on style.
    • Pocket(s).
    • Shoulder seams, or yokes.
    • collar or facing onto the neckline, depending on style, adding any decorative stitching as I go.
    • sleeves into armhole (arm scythe) before seaming side seams and sleeve seams, unless sleeve is a multi-piece sleeve where the underarm seam doesn’t match.
      1. I finish the armhole seam with a second stitching about an eighth inch into the seam, trim close to that and then I finish with a vari-overlock stitch or zigzag using #2a foot.  I have found down through the years that this is one of the strongest, most reliable seams you can stitch. I learned this from making very heavily used opera costumes.  It’s really embarrassing if the performer rips a seam during the performance.
      2. If you are making a particularly nice blouse, you may wish to cover the seam with a light bias tape designed for seam finishes or cut a 1/2″ bias strip from a very light piece of fabric and fold it over the seam after stitching the two rows and then zigzag it down.
      3. I then edge topstitch the armhole on the front and back, with the seam turned toward the front and back.
    • If needed, sew any additional pieces, like tabs on.
    • Sew the sleeve placket, if needed.
    • I then sew the side seams and sleeve seams in one operation.  This is particularly good if you are losing weight, because you can take in the shirt and sleeve for about two sizes from the finished size with very little effort by stitching in however much you need, starting at just above the cuff in the original stitch line and gradually stitching toward the amount you need to take in the shirt and continuing to the hem.  You only then have to remove the stitching from the original seam and the hemline and restitch the hemline.  I am currently losing weight, so I have chosen patterns that have single piece sleeves where the undarm/side seams meet–a much better option than not making any new clothes until you lose more weight.
    • Put on the cuff or hem the sleeve, as needed.
    • Hem the shirt/blouse and sew the buttonholes, if needed.
    • Sew on the buttons and you are done.

If you do a lot of shirts like this, you eventually make a shirt after cutting it out in a morning or afternoon.  I’m not back to this quickly yet.  It took me about eight hours to make my first shirt in my wardrobe makeover.  I am sure my next shirt will be quite a bit quicker now that I have worked through and sanded off the rust.

group of feet

Some of the feet I used to make the shirt…1D, 20D, 10D, 37D, and I also used 2A, and 8D.

A word about feet:  I have found that if I am not using a zigzag or decorative stitch, sometimes it is better to use a straight stitch foot, like 37D or 8D on my Bernina 830, which lets me see all the way to the needle, and the straight stitch throat plate, than it is to use the one most recommended for such sewing like 1D, because I can see where I’m sewing better.  If I’m sewing simple flat seams without much curving or the like, then the 1D is probably better, because it holds down the fabric very well.  I also usually engage the dual feed mechanism for most of the sewing, but this is not a necessity if you don’t have this on your machine.  If you don’t you may wish to pin a little more and have something like an awl to help move the top fabric through evenly with the bottom.  With my dual feed engaged, I can eliminate pinning altogether for a lot of the sewing.

Sew happy everybody!  Make yourself a shirt.

 

 

Testing Border Designs

This will be the last blog post I write on making Ken’s special quilt until it is completed, and probably until after it has been debuted at some show in order to keep it for a surprise, but I wanted to tell you how I was solving the border problems.  I will write the posts, but not publish them until then. I will, of course, continue writing blog posts about other topics.

I have been kind of concerned about whether or not I could get the border right for the quilt my son Ken designed for me.  It uses complex Celtic knots and designs.

So this week I managed to get all but one of the corners digitized and tested to stitch in-the-hoop at my Bernina 830 LE (Gibbs).  While working in the embroidery module, Gibbs rebelled over most of my gold metallic threads, finally accepting Superior metallic.  With some testing and fussing with tensions and needles, coupled with slowing way down to nearly the slowest speed, it decided to stitch out my designs without any further tantrums.  But I don’t much like the way the thread looks, so I am going to test some near-metallic colored threads.

After all, this is the outline for painting the design with Setacolor gold paint and finishing with Setacolor Gold Glitter Finish.  I have used these paints for several years now on my show quilts and they are permanent once dried and heat set.  I’ve even washed them with success.  The glitter may need a little refreshment after a couple of years of shipping, folding, showing, folding, shipping, but the underlying gold stays solid and most of  the glitter is still there even so.  I’m fairly certain with ordinary hanging in one’s home or office, and an occasional light vacuuming with a cheesecloth over the end of the vacuum hose, these paints will last for decades.

This is my first test of stitchout 1...small right corners. Here you can probably see that I have only half of the block finished with glitter paint. It seems the right finish to me. But I am not happy with the metallic threads here.

This is my first test of stitchout 1…small right corners. Here you can probably see that I have only half of the block finished with glitter paint for comparison. It seems the right finish to me. But I am not happy with the metallic threads here.

My biggest problem was getting the long designs on the border that were too big to fit into a hoop and that I thought were too exacting to manage a good multi-hooping of the many hoops required.  So I decided to see if I could get the outline stitching done with good marking and free motion/ruler work on my new sit-down longarm Bernina Q20 (Fritz).

Fritz is a dream.  Fritz does not dislike any of my metallic threads.  Neither does Gibbs, for that matter, if it isn’t working in-the-hoop.  But I practiced on Fritz this time in non-metallics.  Oh my….I set it up in BSR2, which Bernina recommends for ruler work.  Using 7 of Lisa Calle’s wonderful rulers, I have done some practice work.  While I need more practice, I am fairly certain by now that I can make these border pieces.  I have found that Fritz can place each stitch where I want it…it will slow way down, work at higher speed, stop when I stop and start when I start, and all controlled only by how I move the fabric when it’s set on BSR2.  I will note that this can also be done at most any sit-down sewing machine, although perhaps not as easily.

I am pre-stitching the designs, not quilting them in.  I will quilt them after sandwiching the quilt, and will use either Superior’s monopoly or 100 weight silk matching the backgrounds.  This will provide further definition to where the design goes over and under to make the Celtic knots.

So I starched and then backed my test pieces with my favorite stabilizer for embroidery (for that is what this is).  That is Madeira Cotton Stable, which has a light fusible on it, and is 100 percent cotton.  Thereby no hooping is necessary.  This stabilizer can either remain in the border or tear out. I usually tear out most of it and don’t worry about getting absolutely everything before sandwiching.

The top corner design was done at Gibbs in the hoop and then painted. The lower left and right designs were done with rulers at Fritz and then painted.

The top corner design was done with Gibbs in the hoop and then painted. The lower left and right designs were done using rulers and the Bernina #96 ruler foot with Fritz and then painted.  I left unpainted some of the stitching on the lower left so you can see how it looks before painting.  It needs practice.

I still have to complete the digitizing of the one big upper left block, and when I finish and test that, and dye my PFD Radiance a dark green (which kind of makes me nervous, but they don’t make it the color I want), I will FINALLY be ready to start actually making the quilt top.

This is progress, though it kind of doesn’t seem like it since I haven’t actually started assembling the real quilt yet.  But the time I’m taking to work everything out beforehand I will mostly gain back when I make the quilt and know exactly what to do each step along the way. 🙂

Sew happy everyone!  I hope you are having a wonderful weekend.  God’s blessings.

 

 

The Importance of Practice Pieces

I approach show quilting as an adventure (hence the words “Adventures in Fabric Arts” found on my blog heading).  Every show quilt I have made to date has been designed entirely from my own vision, or inspired by copyright free photographs interpreted by me, or my own vision enhanced with elements from royalty free sources such as Dover Publications.  I so far don’t use other people’s patterns, which I realize are often a wonderful way to approach quilting, and many people make magnificent quilts from patterns and add their own spin on them.  I admire these quilts too, but for me, I love my adventure in quilting.

Because of this approach, for every show quilt I have one or more test pieces accompanying it (I’m getting quite a stack of these little things, and I am reluctant to throw them away).  For making my Spiral Galaxy quilt, I have found this little test piece extremely useful:

Spiral galaxy study/test piece

Spiral galaxy study/test piece

First, I tested the painted background, which I put behind the spiral of Angelina Fibers:

painted background on the test piece

painted background on the test piece

Then I tested the threads for the quilting on this, which allowed me to make the decisions needed for both the threads and the quilting patterns/fills (see this blog post about making my deadline, in which I discuss these choices).

I also tested the spires behind select stars that I designed in my Bernina v7 software and stitched in the hoop.

Star spire test

Star spire test

Today, I am thinking of adding some fabric glitter paint to the very center of the spiral to enhance the look of my homage to the magnificent spiral galaxies created by God and photographed and processed by NASA that have so inspired me.  So I am testing that on the study piece.  So here you have the overall test/study piece, which is very roughly 15″ x 15″.

Over view of test/study piece.

Over view of test/study piece.

Sew I encourage you to include test pieces in your quilt making.  They can save you a lot of mistakes, picking out, restarts, and headaches of all kinds.

Sew happy everyone!  Develop your own adventures in fabric art, but be sure to start with a small study piece.

Spiral Galaxy Quilt: Finished the quilting and adding the stars

I am totally amazed that I was able to finish all the quilting for the spiral galaxy so quickly.  Now I loved quilting on Gibbs, my Bernina 830 LE, and it made it possible for me to make quilts I would have otherwise struggled with a great deal.  But I am awestruck by the ease of free motion stitching/quilting on my new friend Fritz, my Bernina Q20 set up as a sit down longarm.  It is fast, its stitches are very even when I am using the BSRs, it has no problems that I have encountered so far with tension, it sews smoothly, and I can see everything.  I even found that using rulers (with foot #96) is just plain easy.  I see a very happy future with Fritz.

My new Bernina Q20 named Fritz.

My new Bernina Q20 named Fritz.

Gibbs will still, of course, be a big player in my quilting life as will E.Claire, my little Bernina 350 I named after Edith Clair Head.  I also have Betsy, my sweet old Bernina 1230, and she is a wonderful machine that I use occasionally for some special stitching, since I have a lot of unusual accessories for her, and when I have other stitchers here in my small studio.

I am feeling exceptionally blessed with my studio lately and have some fun things planned for the future. Next on the docket is my oldest son Ken’s quilt design he gave me for my birthday (see my blog An Extraordinary Present).

Sew now I am putting the many hot fix crystals of different sizes and colors that represent the stars on my spiral galaxy quilt.  I am using a new notion to help me with this project.  In the past, I have occasionally burned around a crystal when I was placing it on a deep space quilt.  The veiling is nylon and the Angelina Fibers darken with too much heat.

I have been looking for something to help me get the crystals heat set without that and, thanks to a Facebook friend, I “discovered” rhinestone transfer tape.  There are several brands that were originally created for placing hot fix rhinestone designs worked out in cutting machines and others.  I am using it slightly unconventionally. I place a bunch of crystals on my quilt about where I want them, making sure they are right side up and then carefully lower down the tape and stick them all down.

Tape holds down the crystals in place and acts as a pressing cloth.

Tape holds down the crystals in place and acts as a pressing cloth.

The crystals stick to the tape and it holds them in place while I iron them on.  I then use my little individual crystal placement wand and hot fix them in place (the tape is still there between the crystal and the wand), and count (tapping my foot…one, two, three…twelve (for little crystals)…15 (for medium crystals)…32 (for big crystals).

Heat setting individual crystals with the wand with the tape still in place.

Heat setting individual crystals with the wand with the tape still in place.

Once all the crystals on the film are heat set, the tape peals off, leaving them behind.  You can tell from this if you have them all set, because if you missed one, it stays with the film, so you can set it back down and set that one.  No burns, no color changes for my Angelina Fibers, no movement of the crystals, no flipping them off the quilt and having them fly through the air to the other side of the room (yes, I did that!).  I caution not to keep the wand down too long, and to use the smallest wand end that works for the crystal size, though, because it is probably still possible to burn the quilt if you aren’t careful.

Sew happy everyone!  I hope you have some time to create something wonderful.  In these dark times it is particularly important that we make our homes and office spaces beautiful and warm and surround our families and friends with love and beauty.

Thoughts On Wall Quilt Sizes

American Quilters Society (AQS) recently issued their new rules, which includes sizes by category, for their 2017 shows.  Regardless of whether they are made for shows, size of quilts meant for display on a wall is an important topic to me.  I would particularly appreciate comments back so we can actually have a dialogue about this.

Why is this important? There are a number of reasons:

  • They have to fit on the wall of people’s homes and businesses if they are ever going to be anything other than a flash in the pan for showing at quilt shows. I want to sell or give away to family and friends many of my quilts after they have been through their show season, so having them sized for people’s homes and businesses is an important issue.
  • I know from my own work that the size is often not a big factor in how difficult, how high the technique, how long a quilt takes to make.  Indeed, some of the smaller ones have been the hardest things I have made.
  • I believe that is true that a large quilt can have a bigger impact when displayed at a show among a lot of other quilts.
  • Larger quilts are more likely to be traditional and are intended to fit on a bed, although show quilts may not be.
  • Many quilters, including myself, have difficulties that make creating a large sized quilt nearly impossible.
  • Some shows do not award Best of Show (BOS) ribbons to “small” wall quilts.  Some of these can be as big as 59 inches in both directions, which is a large size for home displays and still are considered “small”.  In these cases, even if they have special prizes for exceptional small wall sized quilts, the financial awards for AQS, at least, are about half the BOS award.

Oddly AQS has a gap between their miniature quilt, which is 24 inches by 24 inches maximum and their small wall quilt, which is 30 inches by 30 inches.  They don’t have a square inch requirement, so if your quilt is 27″ x 37″, for instance, they cannot be entered in many of their shows despite the fact they are larger by square inches for the small wall quilt.  My Canterbury Knight quilt is 27 x 37 and could never be entered into Paducah, for instance.  Houston IQA is more inclusive.

Sew what do I find the ideal size for me to work in?  I like to make quilts smaller than about 48 x 48 and larger than 30 x 30.  The main reason for that is that my son Ken’s space for photographing my show quilts is 48 x 48, and it’s a really nice size to work in and the AQS 30 x 30 cutoff.  Also, I think it can fit on a normal home wall better than anything bigger.  while I may make a very small quilt, I am not a miniature show quilter.  That is a whole different set of techniques and design and it is not something I wish to get into.

Even for charity quilts a smaller quilt can be good.  I once did a survey for my church to find out what an ideal size would be that would serve as a wheelchair quilt, a crib quilt, or a lap quilt, and found to my surprise that the oft touted 36 inches width is sometimes frustrating to people who find it too narrow.  So after the survey I found that 40 to 45 inches wide and 45 to 50 inches long makes a very appreciated quilt size that can function for wheelchairs, children’s quilts,  and lap quilts.  Here’s my little guide I wrote up for the church, if you are interested.  It has several easy and quick simple patterns and other information:

Quilt Making for OSWLC needlework group

Sew happy everyone.  I would love to hear from you to tell me what your favorite sizes are for quilt making and what you think about sizes for quilts designed for the walls of homes and businesses?

 

Spiral Galaxy Quilt: Using Reference Aids

Since my last blog I have made much greater progress than I anticipated by this time.  I have completed the basic quilting, and I am currently adding the rust colored star  dust streaks that swirl through spiral galaxies.  I was a little worried about this part of the quilt, because the dust swirls in complex ways throughout the overall spiral and there is no way to mark this quilt.

I am happy to say that my method seems to be working, so I thought I would share.  I started the quilt by placing a NASA photo of the galaxy I am using as my model (see my last blog post) in Corel Painter and “tracing” a simple outline of the placement of the spiral arms and then moving it to Corel Draw and printing it full size.  Corel Draw will tile a picture into whatever size paper your printer handles, so you can tape it together and have a full sized pattern to work with.  If you have Bernina V7 design software, and don’t have Corel Draw, you can use the art canvas, which is a version of Corel Draw.  I also have found that Excel spreadsheet will also tile a picture, which is what I used before I had Corel Draw.

spiral galaxy print tiles pic

This shows how Corel Draw has divided the full sized picture into tiles for printing.

Then I traced the pattern onto the black fabric, but that is the sum total of any kind of pattern I could use on this quilt because after the Angelina Fibers and the veiling are placed down, you can’t trace anything, and there really isn’t much more you could make a pattern for anyway.

Sew I have gotten all the fiber applique and nylon veiling completely quilted, using 40 weight black thread and rulers for the basic swirl, monopoly over the fiber applique part and black 100 weight silk over the purely black part. I also embroidered spire star backgrounds for ten stars, using in-the-hoop and gray variagated 40 wt thread.

In order to free motion stitch (is it embroidery or is it quilting?) I have printed several pictures of spiral galaxies that show the rust colored dust swirls fairly clearly.  It actually looks very much like a woody vine.  Anyway, I place the pictures close by or even on the quilt so I can see them frequently and out of my peripheral vision and have begun the stitching that way

Sttitching with a reference picture

Sttitching with a reference picture

This quilt is a homage to the fabulous spiral galaxies sometimes photographed or even envisioned by painters in NASA’s website.  It is not supposed to be any particular spiral galaxy.  I am intrigued by the realization that our own galaxy, the Milky Way, is a spiral galaxy.  Here is a link that talks about that and gives us some idea of where we are in the Orion spur part of the galaxy.  Milky Way link

This is the third of my deep space quilts.  Now that I have developed the techniques for making pictorial deep space quilts I am planning on making more.  I’m not sure how many more or which wonderful space entities I will use for the models.  I hope to develop at least enough to put together an exhibit in some gallery somewhere some year. I have discovered that some space entities work better than others for my quilts.  I have found that those that have more distinct characteristics, those that have more color, and those that stand a better chance of the viewers recognizing what they are looking at seem to be the best models.  Maybe some of the quilts will actually earn some ribbons for me.  That would be wonderful.

Sew happy everyone! I hope you can have some time to create in your studio this week.

Spiral Galaxy Quilt: I Might Actually Make My Deadline

I have made a good strong start on my spiral galaxy quilt.  I am using several pictures found on NASA’s gallery of pics of M101, aka The Pinwheel Galaxy as my model.  This is for inspiration and to get a good spiral galaxy look.  I will not be making a picture of this particular galaxy…it will be my homage to these gorgeous galaxies.  Here’s one:

The Pinwheel Galaxy M101

The Pinwheel Galaxy M101

Sew I have been thinking about making this quilt for over a year now, and decided I needed a quilt for the Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza (PNQE) this September because I have plans to go to that show.  It’s nicely in driving distance and I have a friend who lives close enough for me to stay with her.  She wants to come and see it too.  The deadline is August 15th!!!!!  Yikes!!!!!.

The advantage to making this quilt on the fast track is that I have thought it through for some months and collected all the pieces.  I knew exactly how I wanted to approach it.  The time consuming part of this quilt is figuring out how to do it, quilting it, and adding the crystals.  I think I can make the deadline.  I first made a practice study to help me not only practice before quilting, but make decisions on threads and patterns.  Here that is:

Doing the study

Doing the study

So I decided on black 40 weight Superior Magnifico for the main swirl, Superior monopoly for quilting the spinoffs, Isacord 40 weight rusty number 1335, and 100 weight black silk for the background stippling.  I have hot fix crystals in three sizes, in ab crystal, blue, and pink.  I am planning on A LOT of crystals. Here’s a close up of one of the spiral galaxies…look at how many stars there are that look like crystals, and no, I won’t get anything like that, but it gives you an idea of why it needs a lot of crystals:

M74

M74

I got the background black fabric painted with an underlay paint of thin white to give the white, pink, and blue Angelina Fibers some help.  Then I made the Angeline Fiber applique in a couple of days and sandwiched the quilt … black back, black 80/20 Hobbs batting. the top, the Angelina Fiber applique (which is only sewn down during quilting), and topped it all with a black nylon bridal veiling and pinned it together.

Now here’s the thing that makes it potentially possible for me to meet this deadline…Fritz!  Yes, my new Q20 is really fast.  I also obtained a couple of sets of Lisa Calle’s pro echo rulers in long sweeping curves to help me quilt the main spirals.   Actually, I got that done and this morning I picked out and restitched the couple of problem spots, but they weren’t very much.  I was surprised by that.  The ruler work really did make it go smoothly and quickly.

quilting the main quilt

quilting the main quilt

I just started the vast amount of organic quilting.  This will take some time, but I have several weeks.  After quilting the swirl gas clouds, I have the organic looking rusty dust streaks that go with the swirls (take a look at the two NASA pictures, and I think you’ll see what I mean).  That will probably take another week.  That’s three weeks to complete the quilting. That will leave me time to bind it and get it photographed and an additional week to fix problem spots if needed (I really hope it isn’t).

So I believe I will make the deadline and it will be a fun quilt to show my friend in Pennsylvania (and elsewhere) if it is let in the door.  LOL

Sew happy everyone!  Try a fast track quilt once in a while just to see if you can do it and for fun (but don’t stress out over it).