A Quick Wardrobe Update for Fall and Winter

This is a nice jacket pattern I have. I plan to make this one and do the embroidery too.

Sew I recently purchased three nice cotton blend oxford shirts on a very good sale that fit me perfectly 😮 (!) to replace some in my closet that are decidedly worn. Well, they are 15 or more years old, I think!!  I plan on embellishing the new ones with in-the -hoop embroidery and decorative stitching. 🌺

I also have a nice light suede cloth jacket I no longer wear very much but is in great shape and I thought I would alter that down a little bit and embroider that too.  Maybe I will do some yarn couching on it (inspired by Bethanne Nemesh, but different).  This is  all so I can dress in keeping with my fabric artist lifestyle and go out from time to time. 🙃  I might also change the buttons to something more decorative. These will be nice additions to my wardrobe and are a nice fit (my old shirts are a size larger). I seem to be ok with most of my jeans and slacks, though a new pair of dress slacks might be in order.

My current fall and winter work “uniform” is usually a shirt and black jeans plus a sweater when needed. I suddenly realized how surprisingly old my whole wardrobe is, and it looks it too. So I also have plans to make a nice black suede jacket, a denim one, and a light wool slacks suit out of some of the fabulous fabrics I have in my fashion stash under my bed. I have a few beautiful silk blouses I made some time back in good shape.  I think they look nice even a little looser than I used to wear them.  We’ll see how much, if any of this that I will get done.

If only I had a fairy godmother with her magic wand.  LOL

This all, however, must wait for me to finish the Thanksgiving project and a few other things. Are you doing any fall and winter fashion sewing? Are you embellishing it?

Sew happy everyone! Have fun in your studio!

Advancing One’s Fabric Artistry

Hi everyone!  I got to thinking a lot this week about what is needed to advance one’s fabric artistry abilities.  This was brought on because one of my best friends is getting a new sewing machine next week.  It’s already in, she just has to go pick it up and has scheduled a class for learning to use it.

For several years now I have been helping Anita learn how to add fabric as a new medium to her already wonderful art and basic sewing skills. She has made amazing progress.  In return, she has helped me reorganize my fabric and thread stash, assembled kits when I made them for classes, worked with me to make church banners (we go to the same church), willingly tested some of my ideas, and generally encouraged me in my current projects. We enjoy our sewing and chatting time together.

Her wonderful old Bernina 1230, which was nearly 25 years old and was originally mine, had the mother board die and they don’t make or have replacements anymore, so she bought a new Bernina 480.  This is a great choice for her because it has a 9mm stitch width with lots of decorative stitches and the harp space is one inch wider than her 1230.  It will advance her work.  Over the next year or so she plans to add some of the accessories that don’t come with it to stretch the usefulness of the already fabulous machine for her kind of work. It will take a Bernina Stitch Regulator, but I think she probably won’t get this for a while. The others include:

  1. The Gold ocher color bobbin case that gives a tighter bobbin tension than the black one that comes with it and is particularly useful for decorative stitching, free motion embroidery, and quilting. I think they should have included this in the initial machine package (do you hear me Bernina?).
  2. A single hole stitch plate for straight stitch accuracy and free motion stitching.
  3. The walking foot which is extremely helpful for a quilter/bagmaker
  4. Multi-Spool Holder: Attaches to the back of the machine and allows the use of threads on cones (cheaper by the yard) and has a telescopic threading rod that also helps manage the threads from metallics and other difficult threads.
  5. Bernina Thread Lubrication Unit: Helps handle metallics and other difficult threads (Rayons, for instance)
  6. Additional Feet:
    1. A quarter inch foot number 96 C with guide or #37 which enables really accurate quarter inch and eighth inch seams to piece things together.
    2. 20c open toed embroidery foot A definite necessity for any fabric artist.
    3. Narrow hemstitch foot (there are five of them of various types which make different kinds of narrow hems. Probably #63 would be my choice. She wants to make some scarves among other things that need narrow hems.
    4. Free Motion Couching foot #43: couch heavy threads, cords, and yarns to the surface of the fabric.  I have also used this as a free motion stitch foot for stitching over uneven surfaces before I got the cup foot.
    5. 39C clear embroidery foot: It is a great foot for decorative stitching and has a small hole for threading cordonet thread or other light cording through to stitch over with decorative stitching.

So far, she has developed fine skills and used them for free motion embroidery, hand embroidered baby quilts, appliqued bed runners, quilts for her grand children with free motion quilting, bags, a lovely drapey jacket, table toppers, and a beautiful Victorian ball gown for her grand daughter complete with a perfect fluffy petticoat for it.  I would say she has clearly graduated from a basic sewer to advanced intermediate sewer and intermediate quilter, and is hovering on the edge of tipping the scale into an advanced fabric artist and quilter.  While it is unfortunate her old machine died, this new machine will be a blessing for her.

 

Anita’s lovely granddaughter modeling her beautiful satin jacquard ball gown Anita made for her.

Sew in addition to a good sewing machine, what, in my humble opinion, does it take to become a master sewing artist? It definitely does NOT mean that everything you make is a masterpiece.  Sometimes the pieces are, frankly, not very good. It does, however, mean that you are capable of making a masterpiece and do from time to time and are willing to take the leap to try. Since I am an incorrigible list maker, I have a list of what I think is needed to reach for advanced fabric artist and quilter. It’s an ongoing endeavor and lots of fun to do.

  1. It takes a good understanding of your machine (or machines) and a number of interesting things you can do with it beyond make a seam or a buttonhole and kind of constant testing and trying out of possibilities with it.  Never stop learning.  I am constantly working on this myself. Indeed, I have spent the last six months or so learning things I didn’t know or needed to improve in using my Bernina 880 plus.  I’m sure my sons and daughter-in-law are tired of hearing “wow! Did you know I can do such and such with my machine?”  But I have to tell someone!
  2. Handwork, even if you are, like me, primarily a machine person.  You can turn your understanding of handwork into using your machine for about 90 percent of the time.
  3. It really helps to gain a solid understanding of interfacings, stabilizers, and battings; fibers and their properties; thread types and weights and what they are for; what needles you need for which threads and kind of sewing; markers; and tools available beyond the obvious.
  4. There are always new developments in sewing tools and I am often surprised by what’s available now. The struggle is figuring out what tools are really needed or at least would help speed or improve a frequently needed process and which can be passed over.  I am sort of a gadget/tool fan, so I often have to tell myself “no” firmly when confronted with the purchase of a new tool.  Hahaha. I do have a large collection, but I have been sewing since I was five and am now 75. Plus I inherited both my mother’s and my mother-in-law’s sewing supplies. So the vast majority of my sewing tools have been around for a long while.
  5. But chiefly, it takes allowing yourself to have confidence in your abilities, and a certain amount of willingness for risk taking that comes with realization that one will sometimes fail and have to spend a lot of time unstitching or remaking pieces of a project or start all over using a different direction. It’s part of the adventure.  Also, sometimes, you just have to abandon a project and realize it is ok to do so.  I constantly work on this.
  6. Where I personally need to work the hardest is in my designs.  That is the hardest thing for me because I almost never use someone else’s designs and often have a vision in my mind that may be difficult to get down into a workable pattern or guide either on paper or on my computer.
  7. Piecing accurately.  Even an art quilter needs to piece from time to time. I think I am just fair intermediate piecer.
  8. Speaking of patterns, I am working on improving my professional pattern-making skills to a higher level for use by people who would like to try the projects I present on my YouTube channel, in my blog here, and in books.  I no longer have classes since Covid shut them down and I switched to videos and writing permanently, but I still teach by these methods and one-on-one in person.
  9. There are other things that may add a lot to a project, especially in the embellishment arena, but are not required.  These might include crystals and beads, fabric paints, found objects, charms, 3 dimensional sewing (like butterflies and flowers for instance), machine embroidery–both in-the-hoop if you have an embroidery machine and out of the hoop (even if you do have an embroidery machine).
  10. I’m sure I have forgotten something. Do you have any ideas?

The thing to know is that you probably already have most of these things in your virtual tool belt and, like me, mainly just need to learn more in each of these categories.  I find it fun.  Do you?

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio and let me know what your fabric adventures are.

Embellishing Your Projects, Part One

Sky Horse from 2014. This quilt won several ribbons and was shown at Houston IQF in 2014. It is inspired by NASA photos of the Horsehead Nebula.

Hi everyone,

I was just listening to Dee’s Saturday Sampler (TQS) talking about adding hot fix crystals to quilts.  Now she did a nice presentation.  But there were a few points that I would like to add.  I have lots of experience doing this across the years, especially for my deep space quilt series and Christmas quilts.  Also, I add a few crystals for many other types of quilts. Even though I wrote about this in a blog back in 2018, I thought it was time to revisit this technique and update what I said back then.

Stellar Nursery, my first deep space quilt using NASA’s “Mountains of Creation” pictures.

 

My love for embellishments started decades ago when I had my own fashion design and tailoring business when I designed and my shop made formals, wedding dresses, and costumes for operas, dancers, and skaters.  Back at the beginning of that business, I hand sewed or glued most of my embellishments on.  Now I mostly use hot fix embellishments, including Swarowski crystals, hot fix pearls, and different shapes.

Out of Mom’s Workbasket. This quilt won Third Place in the Traditional category in Pennsylvania National Quilt Festival 2021. I did not show it elsewhere because it is white and precious to me. I used hot fix pearls across the quilt.

I recently replaced my hot fix crystal wand.  It works very well for me especially when I use hot fix transfer tape! What a great invention and what a wonderful improvement to my crystal placements!!! It works also with digital cutters that make hot fix crystal designs, such as the Brother Scan and Cut, but you need the Rhinestone Starter Kit to go with it for that. I do not have this kit, so I have not tried making them.

Sew here are my steps for adding hot fix crystals to a quilt.

  1. Put on your music or audiobook.
  2. With your craft or old scissors, cut a piece of the transfer tape (I use both a smaller cut of around a six inch square and a larger cut of about a 10 inch square. It’s reusable about four or more times.
  3. Place the item you are embellishing  flat on the table or ironing board.
  4. Remove the backing from the transfer tape.
  5. Working in sections, place your hot fix crystals (or other hot fix embellishments) on a section of the quilt in the pattern you want them .
  6. Lower your transfer tape piece carefully down over the section of crystals trying not to disturb the pattern and press it down around the crystals and more or less attaching to your project.
  7. Grab a large ceramic cup  or dish to put your hot wand into.  I think the cup works a little better than the dish shown here, but either one works better than those little stands that comes with some of them.
  8. With the wand iron, heat each crystal with the tape still in place for as long as it needs.  You can move the whole tape with the crystals on them a little bit as you need them.  Hold it firmly in place and tap your toe, or count slowly.
    • tiny ones require about 12 toe taps or slow counts.
    • medium ones require about 20 counts
    • the larger ones require more…30 to 40 counts to be really secure.
    • the shaped ones do best with a small iron flat on the tape.  I did have one iron get too hot on the tape once and it melted a piece of the tape!  I only had it happen once and that iron died shortly thereafter, so it may have been operating badly on the way out.

The transfer tape does not melt and acts as a pressing cloth, protecting the fabric to which you are attaching the crystal from burns by the wand. It also holds the crystals in place so they don’t go flipping off into never never land. If it gets just a little out of alignment, you just move the tape…the crystal stays on the tape until it is fully glued down and then releases with no problem. This means you can pick up your tape slowly to check if you’ve missed one or if it needs more time and replace the tape if so.

Another way to approach it is to place multiple crystals on the tape upside down with the crystals to the sticky side and just move the tape around and place the crystals on one by one. This is a particularly good method for clothing and other shaped pieces when you are having a hard time getting them flat for crystal placement.

I like to shake the quilt when all the crystals are cool to see if anything falls off.  Sometimes it does, but now is the time to find out.  So just put the crystal back down and cover it with the tape and re-iron.  Occasionally, a crystal does not seem to have adequate glue, so you can throw that one away and use another one, or use glue to affix it.

These crystals and pearls really add some loveliness to your projects.  They are washable and durable, especially if you shake the item to make sure they are fully attached.  Some say it is possible to get carried away with such crystals and pearls.  Some quilt police types feel they should never be on  your quilt.  I say, it’s your quilt.  Add the sparkle you want and ignore them and enjoy your blinged out piece.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio!!!

 

 

 

Decorative Machine Stitching Is Fun!

Hi everyone,

I have been spending some time with my machine trying to come up with sets of stitches for planned projects.  So today I was actually surprised at how interesting my results were when I used different thread weights and made multiple passes of different stitches.  In the picture below I used Wonderfil’s wool/acrylic blend thread and mostly the default settings.  It is a 12 wt thread and requires using a large eyed needle and slowing way down. Here I was using a Superior 90/14 topstitch needle, default settings, and sewed slowly.  I was really happy with the results.  These could look great in the right places, such as a crazy quilt, or a piece of a block or on a shirt.

These are multiple passes of different decorative stitches on my Bernina 880 plus.  The one on the bottom is my favorite where I stitched one pass of stitch number 372 and then reversed it and stitched a partial second pass carefully matching the starting point. SO if your machine doesn’t have really wide decorative stitches, or even if it does, you can try multiple passes worked together and come out with some rather fantastic looks.

This sample shows the really wide stitches that engage the multi-directional function on my machine.  It is amazing how it stitches. I found I only have to make sure the fabric runs through the stitching parallel to the foot at all times.  It’s kind of like a wild dance with your machine.  If you have this function on your machine, I encourage you to give it a try just for the sheer fun of it.

Super wide stitches=wild ride while stitching…just keep it straight and let the machine foot dance.

Here are a few more stitches of the many many on the machine.  I do have a couple of projects I will be using some of these stitches, but it is nice to have these reference sheets.  I won’t stitch them all…there are just too many, but I am selecting the ones I wanted to see stitched out.

This is not a real clear pic, but the stitches are really fun. Stitched with 40 weight polyester thread.

Sew I am looking forward to the projects I am planning to use some of these decorative stitches on.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio and give the decorative stitches a whirl.

 

Do You Already Have A Sewing “Droid”?

This week we celebrated Star Wars day on May the 4th (be with you).  You have to understand, my youngest son is a sci-fi/fantasy writer and my oldest son and his family are all really interested in science fiction, so they probably got it from me.  It made me think…what would it be like to have a sewing droid.  Then I began to wonder if I already have one.  Hahahah.  After all, working with droids appears to be both wonderful and frustrating at times, just as today’s advanced machines are.  And I don’t think they HAVE to be able to walk or roll from their location.  They just have to do what they are dedicated and programed to do with efficiency.

Is R2D2 visiting with Odette?

When I first got my Bernina 880 plus, I thought it was “just” an advanced sewing machine.  I named her Odette, after Odette Uettschi-Gegauf, who was in charge of Bernina from 1959 to 1988, during the time so many major advances were made in Bernina machines. I have had it now for just about two years and have recently taken some time to learn more about what it can do in preparation for a project I am planning.  This project involves testing the limits of making exquisite hand-look embroidery (inspired by antique, highly skilled,  and royal hand embroidery) to come out of my machines using both in-the-hoop and out-of-the hoop stitching, and stitching with my other two machines as well.  I knew it had a lot of power and a lot of functionality, but I hadn’t really learned how to use all the advanced special functions with real confidence. Sew I have been exploring and experimenting with Odette when I had time.

Sklep Internetowy BERNINA - Maszyny do szycia, hafciarki ...

Odette

To me, the most important thing any sewing tool or machine should do well is to make a beautiful stitch, sew with enough power to be able to make bags, jeans, and even sails, as well as handle the most delicate fabrics in a single layer.  It is well if it will do both straight stitches and zig-zag stitches, and drop the feed dogs for free motion stitching.  With these functions alone, you can make nearly anything and do a vast array of embellishment work as well. Odette has really beautiful stitches in every capacity I have used so far.

E. Claire (My B350 named after Edith Claire Head, the legendary Hollywood designer)

I have a little Bernina 350 that I bought as a travel machine, but I find it very useful for other things as well…it does piecing exceedingly accurately in particular, and serves as a back up if I need to take Odette to the spa. I also use it to do needle punch with that attachment.  It does have an extremely small harp space, though, but I did manage to make a few quilts with it nevertheless. Sew if this is all you want, you probably don’t need, or may not even want, one of the multi-thousand dollar advanced machines on the market today and should put good money in a solid functional machine.   I would say one of the biggies are very nice to have, though, but if you have one, you need to spend the time to learn how to use it no matter how many years you have used a sewing machine.  That is imperative.

Odette

For any machine, especially the droids (LOL), you need to keep it cleaned and oiled, carefully threaded, and make sure to use the right needles, the right tension settings, the best threads, and the right feet for your project or you can get really frustrated, and your machine (or droid) will fuss at you by breaking your threads, making a thread nest in the bobbin area, or refusing to sew at all.  I would guess that about 97 or greater percent of the problems a person has with their machine is brought about by not paying attention to these golden rules.  All of us, at times, break these rules because we are tired, or in a hurry, or just not thinking about it.  So don’t!  (I’m talking to myself here).

Earlier today I was watching YouTube videos on multi-directional stitching that Odette will do.  It uses the feed dogs to move not only back and forth, but side to side.  I knew it has that function, but I haven’t used it much.  Mostly I have used the decorative stitches that require its use because they are very wide, but I haven’t really used the ability to take nearly any of its stitches and have it sew them in any direction around the hole plate.  Some of the videos on YouTube make it seem extremely interesting. Plus you can set up some of these stitches in concert with other stitches and sew a highly-interesting wide border that would be beautiful on  quilt or a table cloth, or a little girl’s pretty dress.  Then, you can move such a set of stitches into the embroidery side and use them in the hoop, if you want.  I think I will have to try these things for a more practical use than just play.

Odette has a function that enables you to design your own decorative stitch.  I played around with it a little, but not used it much.  This function seems extremely possible for my “near hand embroidery” projects.  All these things take time, of course, and testing.  Testing is so important.  You can even move these designs into the embroidery side for in-the-hoop accuracy.  Then you can take any decorative stitch and have it stitch around a shape!

One of the most amazing things I learned recently in Bernina’s set of four “Embrace the Rhythm of Your 880” webinars they put out a few months back, is that the B880 dual feed mechanism has its own motor that allows you to set the speed slower or faster than the regular feed dog.  It is the only Berninas that have this advantage, by the way. So if you are working on two kinds of fabric, for instance, like a fluffy fabric on one side and a plain cotton on the other, you can set it to move the fluffy fabric at a different speed to account for the differences.  Together with the presser foot pressure adjustment, it allows you to sew your minky-lined jacket together without stretching, unwanted gathering, or other problems.  I’m not sure how I will use this function, since I am not planning on a minky-backed quilt anytime soon, but perhaps it will come into play in some of my ideas of stuffed embroidery…not sure, but worth some experimentation.

Sew, do you have a sewing droid and not know it?  I suspect most of the major brands top of the line have many functions that might make it qualify. This is why it is important to talk to your machines, since it may make them happier. LOL

Sew happy everyone and have fun in your studio!

 

 

“Hand Work” by Machine

I am sure you’ve noticed that there is a recent renewal of interest in embroidery and quilting by hand.  I can appreciate this.  I used to do a lot of it myself.  It looks wonderful and can give the stitcher a sense of meditative happiness and quiet, plus you end up with a beautiful piece to quilt and/or put on the wall, make into a pillow, or frame for a gift.  These are often small and exquisite little jewels that are a great pleasure to make and view.

As wonderful as these are, I am thinking that with today’s machines, specialty threads, specialty feet and attachments, plus a community of sewers and quilters who are constantly developing new techniques, it is possible to create equally exquisite little pieces by machine.  Mind, I am not advocating giving up hand work, just using it as inspiration for some extraordinary stitching by machine, or using both together on a single piece. While this might enable one to make such a treasure in a  shorter space of time, it may not be that much faster, but interestingly challenging in a different way.  Machine work is especially nice if one is facing arthritic or injured hands that make doing the hand stitching difficult or painful. Yes, it will almost certainly look a little different, but the texture and beauty that can be accomplished may be equally extraordinary.

I have two sources of inspiration that has made me want to try this.  Alex Anderson recently ran a free class on The Quilt Show and YouTube called Make It Your Own stitch along lessons.  I watched it.  I did not make one, but I found some of the results truly beautiful.  Trying to make a similar piece  by machine may be very interesting.

The second one is the Royal School of Needlework posts in Instagram. Their work is truly incredible. I am particularly fond of their gold work which is often a combination of couched on gold cord and padded embroidery. But I also love many of their other colored embroidery pieces. Can I approximate the looks of these pieces?  Well, I don’t know, but it is worth a try.  I do know that it is possible to do padded embroidery in-the-hoop, and I have done a lot of couched work on all three of my machines.

I will do a little experimenting first, and then demonstrate some of the techniques on my YouTube channel.  What do you think?  Would you enjoy that? This will take me months before I am ready to record the work, but I will keep you apprised here on my blog of my progress.

The first thing I need to do, and, in fact, am already doing, is to make myself an interesting “library” of stitches I can do on my machines using different threads, different settings, and including the default settings.  This actually came about because I ended up with a small stack of sheets of fabric all prepared for testing decorative stitches that I had put together for a class that I never ran due to the pandemic.  They are nice white on white quilting fabric backed with a stabilizer and I drew in lines and added a selection of needles up in the corner.  I think I will add some darker fabrics and interesting designs that I can get from my Bernina 880 plus.  Once I get this done, I will be better able to decide how to make some of my ideas and draw up instructions or a pattern.  I tell you, it is almost equally as meditative and calming to me to stitch these library sheets as it would be by hand.  I think the key is to not try to rush this project, but to sew at whatever speed it takes to get things to work right.

I am using all kinds of threads and weights I have in my stash, primarily from Wonderfil Threads (a relatively new passion of mine), but also from Superior Threads (which I developed a huge stash of over the years.  It differs a bit from Wonderfil, so they work well together).  I believe my thread stash is bigger than my fabric stash at the moment. When I finally get to the first project, I will give you a list of the threads I use so you can try them if you want.

In the process of putting together the right fabrics for these types of projects I thought you might like to know favorites that I’m sure you would love too that would make great fabrics for such projects (beyond our stand by of high quality quilting cotton).  These include Kaufman Essex Linen, a wonderful linen/cotton blend good for a multitude of sewing projects, and Kaufman silk/cotton Radiance.  Surprisingly, I also found that faux silk polyester dupioni (the 58 inch wide) makes a wonderful choice, but it needs to be backed with a lightweight iron on fusible such as  Pellon SF101 iron on woven interfacing.

Sew happy everyone! Have fun in your studio.

 

 

Adding Surface Design to Quilted Art

Making Spiral Gallaxy 3 (see below)

You may not know, but I have happily received several delightful and prestigious awards in Surface Design or similar awards over the years. I still find surface design and embellishment to be the most interesting part of making quilted wall art pieces.

The border swirls and leaves were all painted after quilting using Setacolor and Jacquard paints.

Some of my quilts are entirely surface design and quilting, such as my deep space quilts.  These encompass several techniques that often include multiple media pulled together, and are oh so fun to do.

Spiral Gallaxy 3…a wholecloth quilt with large Angelina Fibers applique, black veilling, a little background paint, lots of threadwork and quilting, and tons of hot fix crystals.

So what do I mean when I say Surface Design and Embellishment?  There may be a more formal definition among professional artists, but I personally mean anything outside the norm that is added to the fabric during construction of the piece or even a mostly finished piece to enhance the look or complete the design.  This might include paint, decorative thread-work, lace, Angelina Fibers, beads, buttons, crystals or found objects, and even dimensional applique.

Hawaiian Garden. The central panel is a vintage piece by Albert Shaheen. I made this as a challenge piece for MQX show in 2016. I pulled the border design from the panel and quilted, then painted the borders. I gave this to my brother and sister-in-law for their fiftieth wedding anniversary.

To me, surface design is like play.  Over the next several months, I am planning on providing some demonstrations on my YouTube channel presenting some of my techniques and products I use.  The first of these will be painting on a previously quilted piece.  The various fibers and fabric weaves respond differently to the selection of the painting product. Over the years I have accumulated a nice variety of these products and kept them replaced when used up or dried out, although recently it did hurt my feelings to find I had a large percentage of my Setacolor fabric paints that had dried out.  I don’t know why they did (I’m kidding), since they were only 8 or so years old and mostly less than a quarter of the jar left…LOL. So I threw a bunch out and rearranged what I have left to use for this project.  I think I have not been making enough wall art over the past couple of years, probably because life got in the way for a while, but I am back now to full time work and feeling pretty good for an ancient fabric artist.

For the most part, the products I use are basically machine washable in cold water once heat set with an iron.  Some do require a medium, such as GAC Fabric Medium or drug store pure Aloe gel, to make them permanent or even to make them behave right on fabric.  I plan on doing a test or two for you to show the results on this blog.  My goal has always been to use the product that helps me create the look I want without changing the hand of the fabric and that can be washed when needed.  I want to be able to wash a quilt even if it is going to be a piece of wall art only.  You’d be surprised how dirty a show quilt can get when it has been shown in multiple shows or hung for years. But they don’t need to be washable frequently in hot water, like you would if you are making a snuggle quilt for a child, for instance. I would not recommend painting such a snuggle quilt.

Anyway, I have been making a set of small quiltlets with spaces in them to paint and I am just about ready to start filming this work.  It will be fun for me, I’m sure.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio!

 

 

 

 

Winning the Metallic Threads Battle

Hi everyone!  Sew I saw it again this week.  Someone who is so frustrated with the behavior of their metallic thread in their machine they vowed never to use it again.  But I think it should not have to be like that and I have some suggestions that have been successful for me with my machines.  Admittedly the machine you have may have a different outcome, and I even have some minor frustrations with metallics from time to time, but these are some things to know and try before giving up on metallics.  Afterall, they are sooo pretty when they come out right.

  1. Make sure your machine’s thread paths, both top and bobbin, are fully cleaned and oil the machine.
  2. The needle can make a big difference. Since metallics are usually 40 weight threads, but are flat metal strips wrapped around a core of either polyester, rayon, or nylon, they need a needle with a larger eye than regular 40 weight thread.  I use either Superior 90/14 top stitch titanium needles or Schmetz 90/14 metallic or topstitch needles, which all have a larger eye.
  3. Feel around the machine foot you are using just to make sure there is not burr or other rough place.
  4. I prefer either Superior Metallic Thread, which has a polyester core that doesn’t break as often, but sometimes shreds, or Wonderfil Metallic thread, which has a rayon core that sometimes breaks but doesn’t shred as much.  I have found they both work pretty well, and much better than any of the others I have tried, including YLI, which has a strong reputation but all my machines, especially my 880 plus, tend to reject it. Nevertheless, with care, I have successfully gotten through many embroidery designs with metallic threads and no breakage or shredding.
  5. Lower the top tension.  Do some testing to see if it is right.
  6. Use a lightweight polyester thread in the bobbin that is close in color to the metallic you are using in the top.  This reduces thread buildup and will help clear up a lot of headaches for you.  I even heard of someone having their plastic bobbin break when filling it with metallic thread (which actually is what prompted me to write this blog).  That is probably because it was filling at too rapid a speed,  or it was overfilled, or it was a poor quality metallic, but it works better to use a 60 weight Superior Bottom Line or 80 weight Wonderfil DecoBob threads.  Both are excellent for most of your embroidery and even regular sewing for all types of thread in the top.  You’ll be glad you got this if you do.  I like prefilled bobbins because they are so evenly wound and that is particularly helpful when sewing with a difficult thread.  Most machines will take a prewound of the right size…look in your manual.  But alas, my Bernina 880 plus is such a diva that she requires her own fancy bobbin with silver stripes that has no prewounds available. I love her anyway. Her name is Odette (after the daughter of the founder of Bernina.  She ran Bernina for many years and added many wonderful advances to the machines).

    prewounds of multiple sizes

  7. Sew slowly!  If your machine has a speed control, slow it way down for stitching and in-the-hoop embroidering with metallic threads. It takes longer, but is so rewarding.
  8. Lubricate the threads.  My Bernina 880 plus and Q20 longarm both have a thread lubricant path and a pink liquid that came with them specifically for this reason, but my little Bernina 350 does not.

    I digitized and embroidered this star as an applique. It is on one of my Christmas quilts now owned by my church.  It’s made with metallic threads.

    So I will use the lubricant path and pink liquid as described in my manuals for the two larger machines and use something like Dritz Sewers Aid for the smaller one.

    • When using the thread lubricant path, loosen the tension slightly, because I have found it adds a little tension on its own.
    • When using the lubricant for a machine that doesn’t have a prescribed path, run a line of the lubricant down the side of the thread spool on three or four sides and hand rub the spool until it is fairly well distributed.  Then thread the machine.
  9. Metallic thread is very “lively” and has a strong “memory” that makes it keep a curl when it comes off the spool.  So if you use a thread stand with a tall thread guide you can set it behind your machine and bring the thread up and over into your thread path.  This allows the thread to relax a little before it enters the thread path.  You can also take advantage of cones of thread using these too.  I do this when using it with my little B350 that I take with me to places like a class at a quilt show, but my two big machines both have tall thread guides built in.  So consider what your machine does and adjust accordingly.  Wonderfil has a gadget called a “Thread Tamer” that will do a lot of this for you.  I haven’t got that yet, though I think I probably will. It looks very helpful and interesting.
  10. Lengthen the stitch length a little.  If you are using an in-the-hoop design, your machine may have an adjustment you can make to do this for such designs or lower the density.  It not only will make the thread behave better, but will show up more metallic as it stretches further between stitches.  A lower density is very helpful in dealing with metallic threads too and, if carefully set, can look better than full density.  But not all machines will do this.  Make some simple in-the-hoop test and see what it looks like.
  11. OK, this last idea is something I haven’t tried yet but intend to.  Wonderfil just came out with a thread managing invention called The Ultimate Thread Dispenser that fits on most machines.  I think it looks very much like it will make a difference for metallics and the other painful, but totally beautiful thread worth the struggle, and that’s rayon embroidery threads.  It’s not very expensive, so you may want to order one. Here’s a link to their video talking about it, if you are interested.

Sew most of us love the look of beautiful metallic embroidery, but many of us have been totally frustrated with thread breaks, thread tangles, and so forth.  It’s worth trying things to see if you can make your machine decide to cooperate with you and use the metallic.  Perhaps if you talk to your machine nicely it will also help.  LOL

Sew happy everyone!  Keep trying new or even difficult things and have fun in your studio.

 

 

Adding Paint to Quilts

Hi everybody!  My Two Birds Project, video one and the workbook with the pattern are published! Video Two will come in February and Video Three in March.  There will likely be some additional smaller videos out in February and March also.  Please watch them, and, if you haven’t already, subscribe to my YouTube channel.  It’s free and doesn’t ask any questions or pester you after you subscribed.  Here’s the link to the video: Two Birds Video

And here’s the link to the pattern with workbook if you want to join me in making one for yourself (it is only $5):  Two Birds Pattern

Sew I had the idea that it might be a good idea to make a set of five small quiltlets of different fabric types and use commercial embroidery on them that would look nice with the addition of painting.  I plan to use several different types of paints, inks, and markers that I have hanging around my studio in order to compare the paints and the way they work with the different fabrics.  That way I can reference them when I am making a quilt to decide which paints I need to use.  That’s what I’m working on now.

Test sampler I made before starting my Mom’s memory quilt.  I Quilted it first and then painted the bird and the flowers.

Hawaiian Garden:  I quilted, then painted the borders.

I think this will be a fun project.  I will video it so you can see what I do and write a blog or two about it also.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio!

 

 

Working with Heavy Threads

Hi everyone.  As those of you who have followed me over time know, I love threads and have written several blogposts on the subject.  This week I have been free motion stitching with 12 weight threads for quite a few hours. What great looks you can get from them and each type looks remarkably different from the others!

Sew am I happy with the work I did this past week?  Some of it looks fabulous, but there is one area I was not happy with.  I have found in the past, however, that if I just keep going it often improves.  I can also add some ink or paint to improve things.  The interesting thing is that this is all part of my next video project.  I think I will use this to discuss what to do when things are not just what you envisioned initially or some such.  I think I can show that the fiber content and the value contrasts make a great deal of difference in the resulting looks for these fabulous threads. By the way, I got that one area much improved and think it will do just fine.

When purchasing such specialty threads, getting excellent quality thread and the right colors are what is paramount for getting a good outcome.  Especially when using heavy threads, the stitching can gnarl up and knot or split if the threads are poor quality.  It is really important to use them with the right needles, bobbin threads, and tensions.  Some of them, especially rayons, require silicone thread treatments to make them behave, such as the pink liquid that comes with some Bernina machines or Sewer’s Aid.  Thread nets also help improve their function if you are using a cone.  Also lower the top tension and lengthen the stitches to make things go well.

For domestic machines, slow down.  I also frequently use these on my Bernina Q20 longarm sitdown.  And for those of you who have a Q, here are the settings I use:

  • BSR 1 with 200 idling speed
  • 8 spi
  • 1.75 top tension
  • 180 bobbin tension with the 60 weight Bottom line
  • Kick start function to keep from skipping stitches

For such large threads I use Superior 100/16 top stitch for the regular spots or Schmetz 100/16 nonstick needles for stitching through fused on items like appliques

I love these 12 weight threads, have used them enough to know they are good quality, and each one offers a different look for multiple purposes:

For all of these threads I use a light weight thread in the bobbin such as Superior Bottom Line (a 60 weight polyester), Wonderfil DecoBob (an 80 weight polyester) or, if you only like cotton…a 50 weight cotton.

I am also planning on using even heavier weight specialties on my current project and my next project.  These have to be either couched on or stitched on upside down with the thread in the bobbin and a lighter thread on top.  I have some beautiful 8 weights to try.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio and try some heavy weight thread sewing.  It adds so much to your projects.