Thoughts about Machines

One thing for certain, my kind of fabric work requires a good quality sewing machine, and I need to be able to both embroider and free motion quilt on it a great deal (to a professional level).  Working as I do, I put a lot of stress on my main machine.

On Thursday my wonderful Bernina 830 LE, whose name is Gibbs (after the Gibbs in Wilcox and Gibbs who were historically important in the development of sewing machinery) went berserk in the middle of a simple embroidery stitch-out.  First it started sewing really really fast, which I managed to stop.  Then it started back sewing ok for about 10 stitches, and suddenly there was a “clunk” and the needle stopped going up and down, but the bobbin was spinning at a steady pace.  I tried to stop the embroidery, but the bobbin still spun.  I turned the machine off and on again, and, after a few seconds, the bobbin spun.  I had noticed one time before that it had stitched very fast for no apparent reason, but that was months ago and it stopped after one incident, and I cleaned and oiled it and it went back to sewing ok. I was in shock and actually cried a bit.

Machine appliqueing with very narrow zig zag

Gibbs at work machine appliqueing with very narrow zig zag. Note the Sashiko that I stitched out on Gibbs using the embroidery module.

Sew I don’t know whether it is prohibitively expensive to repair it (in other words, it is “dead”), or whether it is repairable.  I have put about 9 million stitches on it over the course of the past four and a half years, and have used it on average probably more than 25 to 35 hours a week, with some weeks being about 50 or 60 hours. I’m taking it in to the shop on Monday.  I am blessed with a very good Bernina dealership and a first rate tech (Lew) at G Street Fabrics.  It is about an hour from here over heavy traffic, so I only go when I have to.

This comes at a really bad time…not that these things ever are good times…but I had just begun working on building my son Ken’s special quilt design project.  This is something that requires some bits of machine embroidery.  I wanted to complete this very challenging project by mid August so I could enter it into the Pennsylvania National Quilt Festival.

I took Gibbs in for his spa treatment and to fix a minor problem in March, and Lew told me then that I really used that machine hard and should buy a longarm to “share the burden” of all that stitching.  I knew then that I could not even get a longarm in the house even if I could afford one.  But I also started thinking about a sit down longarm.

Yesterday, my oldest son came along with my daughter in law to pick up Kevin, my grandson.  While he was here we all talked about the possibilities.  They know that I have been putting extra effort this year into moving my quilting up a level competitively, and am also working on a couple of books…one on applique for fabric art and one on surface design.  And I have really been making a lot of good progress on all of this. Also, I have limited funds and can’t really afford to buy a new 8 series Bernina or similar machine every four years.  Besides, it interrupts the flow of work when it is out of service.

Sew something needs to be done if I am to continue on this path, which I hope will eventually start making me a bit more money..in fact, it already has, but not enough to pay for a new machine.  It’s a wonderful career for me as I move into my senior years.  I am not the type to not have a career even if I were very wealthy.  It’s the joy of creativity, and I must continue in some fashion.

Yesterday I packed up Gibbs with everything he came with to take it out on Monday, and realized my studio really needs a good cleaning.  So I started that.  I am setting up my Bernina B350 (Edith Claire Head…ECLAIR) and my Bernina 1230 (Betsy Ross…BETSY) and getting them all cleaned and oiled to help me through this crisis.

I know there are a lot of fabric artists out there who do not have a big advanced machine, and they make beautiful fabric art and quilts.  My problem is that I am something of a techie and I have developed paths that take advantage of what these advanced machines can do.  I know I could go back to not having an embroidery machine or a big harp space, but I don’t think that is the right path for me.  So it is a crisis.

I am considering what to do.  I can’t decide, of course, until I know whether or not Gibbs can be repaired, or if I have to replace it.  But even if it can, I need to figure out what to do about the possibility of a sit down longarm to add to my store of machines.  It would be a wonderful addition, and would allow me to use the main machine mostly for quilt top construction.  I do like to use decorative stitching sometimes in my quilting, but it is a small percentage of my quilting and I could still use it for that.  Mostly I do free motion with my Bernina Stitch Regulator. Besides, I think I could do ever better fmq on such a machine.

Sew happy everyone!  I’ll let you know how this goes.  Have a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend!

Laser lights and robots in my studio

This week I got a new toy.  It’s a Perfect Alignment Laser 2 cross-hair lamp, which I am hoping will help me a lot in my studio especially with aligning embroideries and  multi-hoop embroideries as I hoop them for my Bernina 830 LE and squaring up small quilt projects.  I already had a laser square, which helps me square up my quilts and which I used just this week to make sure my quilt now named “Drawing Nigh” (the Waiting…2 quilt) was perfectly squared up.  I found that the laser square didn’t quite do the job, however, because I have a lot of trapunto on that quilt that interfered with the lights, so I had to go back to rulers.  I eventually got that done though it did take me quite an effort.  Here is the first full picture of this quilt…Ta da!!!

Drawing Nigh, completed 4/17/2016, 39.5 x 44.5 inches.  Original design by BJ

Drawing Nigh, completed 4/17/2016, 39.5 x 44.5 inches. Original design by BJ

Sew today I’ve been doing some stitch-outs in my embroidery module of little animals for my Hoffman Challenge quilt.  That quilt is a happy whimsical forest path with big funny flowers, butterflies all over the place, and big trees.  I thought it needs some animals peaking out here and there and running or walking along the path. The embroidery module, of course, is a robot.

All of this got me to thinking how much fun it is to use these high tech toys to achieve the looks I want and to wish for a robot that would straighten and clean my house so I could live in a cleaner home.  At least, I could live in a cleaner home without having to stop playing in my studio with all my toys in order to clean it up.  I was looking at an IROBOT vacuum cleaner ad the other day.  The problem is, it doesn’t do the straightening first, which is my biggest problem.  Once it’s straight I can vacuum it without too much effort.  LOL

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio this week.  Learn to use your high tech assistants you have…computer drawing and design programs, laser tools, and especially the wonderful things your machine can help you do if only you just knew how to use it.  🙂

 

 

Quilting and Sewing: A Magical Playground

Quilting is so much fun for me.  Some days I get excited by something as simple as watching a show on The Quilt Show (TQS) even if it presents a type of quilting I know I’ll probably never use.  I also love thinking about advances in machines even if I am unlikely to obtain these machines.  I want to help people–men, women, children–who may find that they are interested in making quilts and run into problems.

Sew here is what I am thinking about today.  I saw Louisa Smith’s show on TQS a few minutes ago and she talked about her “color studies” and some interesting methods she has worked out to produce really colorful interesting quilts that she uses decorative stitches and threads when she appliques down her appliques.  They are gorgeous, and it gives me some ideas for a little quilt I am trying to design right now for next year’s Hoffman Challenge.  This design is floating around in my mind, but it is a little fuzzy still as to just how I’m going to approach it.  Just take a look at those fun fabrics.  I recently rewatched Bead It Like You Mean It by Lyric Kinard  currently available for members on TQS and have decided beads have to play a big part in this little Hoffman Challenge quilt.

In addition, I enjoy learning about advances in machines today and about interesting machines even if I don’t plan to buy them.  I have a quilting friend whose power has been off for days.  She lives across the country from me so I can’t help her out with this, but it made me think about this machine I have kind of wanted for some time now and a special custom cabinet that the Amish make for it:

712t-main

What a wonderful advance this can be for people who don’t use electric power…a treadle machine with ten utility stitches and a buttonholer.  How neat it would be to have one of these to use if the power goes down for days because of a storm.  I won’t get it because I can’t figure where to put it in my home, and it probably would not be used very much since our power is, at this time, very reliable.  But wouldn’t that be fun?

I also would love to have an embroidery machine with multiple needles and a longarm machine…none of these will fit in my small townhome.  But it’s still fun to think about these machines and see what people do with them.  Sew what brand of machine do I think is best?  I think there are many brands today that are wonderful.  Bernina, of course is my favorite, but there is Baby Lock, which would be my second choice (or first choice if I were buying a new serger…I currently have a Baby Lock serger).  I also think Janome and Juki are great machines.  I truly don’t have any opinion on other brands such as Brother or Pfaff.  My mother, who has passed on now, loved her Pfaff, but it has changed owners since she had her machines and I don’t know how they do now.  The point is, you can have a wonderful old machine, a less expensive but workable machine, or a top end advanced machine and regardless still make lots of wonderful things with them.  It’s important to learn all the things your machine can and cannot do so you can plan your projects around them.

Just this week I ordered a #96 Bernina ruler foot they developed for their longarm.  They don’t recommend using it on their domestic machines because you have to remember to lower your presser foot to bring up your thread before you start sewing.  I have several friends who are successfully using it now, however.  I have the Westalee ruler foot that I use with the #77 adapter foot, and it works ok if the rulers are not too thick.  But the screw where you join the two pieces together sometimes gets in the way.  There will be no screw to run into with the #96.  So I am planning on developing some ruler work.  It’s a new technique for me and, indeed, a new technique for the industry…ruler work on domestic machines.

Today I made a little progress on foundation piecing the storm-at-sea blocks for a current project and had a lot of fun.  These blocks have 65 pieces for each one and I will need 24 blocks as close to perfection as I can get them for the big wave that will merge into the pictorial part of the quilt.  Here is the design for the rectangle I’m making from which to cut the sweeping big wave.  The blocks are 7 inch blocks, making the small parts very small indeed.  This will take me quite a while to complete because I am slow at this and have kind of gotten to be a perfectionist on having all those points come out just right.

Big wave traditionals

Sew what is my point about this?  Quilting and sewing has become a wonderful almost magical play ground full of fabulous fabrics, beautiful and reliable threads, and wonderful advanced machines.  Furthermore, some wonderful quilters and sewists have developed methods and skills that they so willingly share with others that make this one of the most exciting activities available to us today.  Videos and books are out there from many of these quilters and sewists for those who can’t make it to a show or workshop.

Sew happy everyone.  Go experiment with your machines, fabrics, and threads that you already have and let go and enjoy it like the magical playground it can be!  Samples are necessary, and they are where you can simply have fun.  These are great for making mug rugs and other small items for your friends.

 

Updating

I always kind of feel like September brings a new year.  This has been a year full of updates and maintenance both for my home and for my software.  This year I had to replace my hot water heater, have some rotting trim and all the grouting outside replaced and the whole house pressure washed, the decks and fence pressure washed and sealed, and the trim repainted.  There have been a lot of smaller items, and yesterday I just got an old builder’s grade toilet replaced in one of my small bathrooms for a nice new one.  I still have to replace the weatherstripping around my front door, but that should be all for the house for a while, I hope.

The amazing thing is how well this restored my decks (I have two).  I was thinking before all of this that I might need to replace it, but it looks fantastic, almost like new.  I have enjoyed getting out there every day the weather permitted since the deck was restored.  Sometimes my grandson has gone out there and done some reading also.  He started to school yesterday, but he still comes here after school.  This is good.

In anticipation of my fall sewing and quilting now that school has started, I first updated my website, adding a little store to sell my quilts, books, and other items from.  Additionally, I have been updating my software.  I started by installing Windows 10 and made sure it works with everything, and then I took advantage of a really good deal on the new Corel Painter 16 software update.  This adds quite a few interesting new brushes and other things, plus it allows me to use all those Dover brush stamps that I have for Photoshop in Painter now.  I like that a lot.  Painter is the main design software I use so it is important to take advantage of these major advances.

All this updating made me realize that I was at an excellent spot in my sewing and quilting plans to update the firmware on my Bernina 830 LE, which I did.  Everything is working well so far (knock on wood).

So the other day I did a little exploration of some of the decorative stitches on my 830.  Most of the ones I tried are new, but not all of them.  Here are some pictures of the test samples:

stitch sampler stitch sampler 2Aren’t they fun?   I think I’ll have to do something special with some of them.  What do you suggest?

Stitch number 713, which was there all along, is the stitch I should have used when I was trying to get a Sashiko like stitch for my border on Kanazawa Memories.  I still think it would have stretched, and I would have finished it like I did, but I’ll know next time.  These little samplers are going in my notebook.

All of this updating, plus a very expensive dental/oral surgery thing, are the reasons you won’t see me at a quilt show for a while.  I’m not sure just how long, but I am content.  I have all these wonderful design programs and machines to play with at home with a fully stocked stash of fabrics, threads, paints and beads.  It will be fun to see what I can do with all of that.

Sew happy everyone!!!  Updating can be a good thing, though it may be a little stressful from time to time.  You might be surprised at how well things work and find some new treats as you get them finished.  Cheers.

 

 

 

Digitally Painting Flowers for Appliques

I have been making some progress on my Sashiko/Ikebana quilt. I got the blocks all embroidered with the Sashiko, cut and stithed together for the background, and I made the moon applique and turned the edge around a freezer paper template using starch, so it’s ready to applique. The next thing is making all the other appliques.

I looked through my stash and decided I did not want to use commercial fabrics for my broiderie perse appliqued flowers. I also found a wonderful set of line drawings on Dover Pictura, but they needed a lot of editing to make them work for outlines for my painted flowers.  So I thought I would tell you a little about how I approached that editing and painting. This is a very brief look..there is more to it, but the blog gets so long. Please ask questions if you want to know more.

I have found that a lot of line drawings you can find that are either copyright free or royalty free (that make them useable for my purposes) have lots of things that interfere either with digital painting or with digitizing for embroidery, but they are fairly easy to edit.  It does take time, though.  I use a combination of Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter 15 for this, but I could probably manage it in just one or the other.  I have found though that the combination gives me a very powerful setup, especially when I added Corel Draw and Bernina V7 to that mix. Then I can potentially use the same line drawing for fabric painting and for digitizing embroidery.  But for this project, you can probably do it all in most drawing packages.

First some of the drawings need to be a little simplified…removing dots, for instance, using the eraser tool.  So I start with Photoshop and edit the line drawings:

Preparing a line drawing

Then I make sure all the shapes have no “leaks” or gaps, using a narrow line drawing brush.

Editing a line drawing 1

Then I move it into Corel Painter 15 for the painting.  (Note, I save the outline as a .tif file and as a .jpg, and I use the .tif for the painting). I start by filling the shapes with color using the paintcan fill tool.  After I do that, I will add some highlights and lowlights using one of the digital air brush tools, and I might do some blending with the blending brush tools.  In some cases, I need to add some texture with some of the texture brushes,, as I did in the center of the blue flowers below.  I left the lines black because I think it looks good for fabric prints.  I will probably use the lines for stitching lines.

flower 4 for applique-a_003

 

But sometimes I just color the drawing with only minor editing.  In the drawing below, I filled all the lines in dark green (this requires care…just to touch inside the line so the lines go green and nothing else does).  I filled the leaves as much as possible (the spaces are very small) with the light green and then painted in the rest of colors using the scratch board brush.  I did not do any highlighting  or blending on the one below because the line drawing was so complex.

flower 5 for applique_001

Colors have to be more intense on the screen so they will print well on fabrics. If you try a paper print and it looks right, it’s probably too light. I can print an 11 x 17 inch fabric on my printer.  It will print larger, but I would have to prepare the printable fabric myself.  I get the 11 x 17 and 8.5 x 11 sheets from Electric Quilt.  After I print them with my ink jet printer, heat set, rinse, and iron dry it seems to be fairly permanent and washable.  So I print it and set it and then iron the fusible web on the back and carefully cut it out.  I do stitch the edge after ironing it in place.  Sometimes I use only a tiny straight stitch with 10o wt silk thread or with monopoly.  Sometimes the edge of the cut fabric shows a little white, and I use India ink markers to color the edges if needed.  This also needs to be heat set to make it washable.

It amazes me how far digital paint programs have come.  I especially love Corel Painter 15, but it really took me a lot of time before I began to really use the great features of this program.  I found some you tube videos by several of the digital painter experts that have helped me a lot.  One of the cool things about this is that I can resize the flowers, reverse print them, and print them all..then I have a lot of flowers without having to paint more.

Sew happy everyone! Try a little digital painting for fabrics.

 

Tackle Those “High Tech” Tools and Software and Soar…

 

App 9 from Outer Space (my personal app quilt for R2CA))

App 9 from Outer Space (my personal app quilt for R2CA))

A lot of you know I love software and high tech machines and gadgets. I have found them to save me time and give me additional abilities I don’t have on my own.This is to all of you out there who have a piece of software, an attachment for your machine, or a tool (or even a high tech machine!!!) that requires figuring out how to use it and you just haven’t, It’s time to pull it out of the closet or from under the bed or fire it up on your computer and learn to use it. I just saw the comment again on Facebook in response to one of my friend’s posts “I’ve had [whatever] loaded on my computer for a couple of years now and haven’t used it – fear of the ‘unknown’ I really need to find some courage and tackle the fear…” My response is yes, yes you do! You will be rewarded for doing so.

Most everything comes with online manuals and videos these days, and there are a plethora of videos on YouTube or for purchase for nearly every activity. Take this approach:

 

  • Decide you are going to learn to use “THE THING IN THE CLOSET [OR ON THE COMPUTER]” using simple practice or test projects for starters.  These would be items you would be willing to throw away or could put in a notebook for future reference…not a present, not something to display. I’m not going to tell you to sit down and read the whole manual,  because I never do and I know from my mother that this is a barrier.  So I say read the first chapter that has step by step instructions or watch the first how-to video and skim the rest.  If THE THING is a machine, you need to look through the manual and see what help it has.  You don’t have to read it in depth, just find the helpful pages and maybe put a sticky note on them.

  For instance, even though I took the free classes for my Bernina 830, I still needed additional help in learning to run it.  I found a whole set of videos on YouTube and over the course of a few days I watched every one. Then I made some test projects for future reference.  They were enormously helpful.  By the way, I still make test projects before I start a major show quilt, and write on the test with a Sharpie what settings, batting, thread, etc. I used.  I also keep a notebook handy with additional reference thoughts.

  •  Take your project one step at a time.  Tell yourself that each step is fairly easy and focus just on that one step.  When that is finished do the next.  It’s when you start thinking about the whole big picture that you might get bogged down.  This may seem intuitive, but you would be surprised how many students and friends I have had that have to make themselves look at one tree (step) at a time rather than the forest (completed project).  This is how I learned to tailor men’s suits.  I can make a tuxedo that is as fine as any fine tailor in Hong Kong or London can make, and it’s almost all self taught from books and trial and error.
  •   Let yourself have fun and just play.  “Playing” is really just practicing only it sounds more fun…and it is.
  •  Once you have sort of got a beginning understanding of THE THING…make a simple project for keeps that is just yours…no one else’s.
  • Don’t tackle anyone else’s until you are really comfortable with THE THING.

 

I hope you will try this.  I hope you don’t feel I am talking condescendingly to you.  I really want you to find comfort with the tools you have at your disposal.  These advanced software tools, attachments, and machines have magnificent features that can speed up your work and allow you to accomplish things you would be very surprised that you can do.  You can soar, but only after you practice.

Please put a comment on my blog if you have THE THING hiding out in your closet or computer or some such.

Sew happy everyone…and go take out THE THING and let yourself play.

Back at Square One?

Background stippling the central theme

Several things have happened since my last blog that have made me begin to rethink my plans for the future of Betty Jo’s Fabric Arts. First of all, my little online store I had set up proved to not have the ability for me to put downloadable products on it safely for my customers. So I have canceled the store before the free trial month was over. I am, however, somewhat relieved. After I set it up, I realized I had been a little precipitous about starting it up anyway, and need to have more downloadable products ready to sell before I relaunch it.

There have been several other things…some involving oral surgery and so forth…that I won’t go into here, but they do make it more necessary that I succeed in this little micro business that started out just to support my quilting/art habit. It’s a very expensive habit, as you may know, and especially if you are a little geeky and like the really cool new technologies that can be brought into the process.

Sew I am busily working on books and downloadables. As soon as I am ready, and have done a bit more research, I will relaunch. I don’t know how long this will take. I’ll keep you informed. At that time I will have embroidery designs, printable appliques, and quilts for sale. I anticipate the first book following shortly after that.

It’s only a little bit of a shift and reset in my plans, as you see, although you can be sure that I am going to continue on this great fabric arts adventure, even as the road forks and winds. I will continue to make fabric art in the form of wall quilts, and I will continue to experiment with new techniques, try to improve my existing ones, and share the road with you. I hope I can provide some inspiration to others along the way.

Sew happy everyone! Life is an adventure and quilting and fabric arts of all kinds can be a great part of it.

A Greeting in Fabric from the Heart

As I work through writing and building the projects for my Bernina v7 Skill-Builder book, I am delighted with how much is there to use.  Some of my projects are fairly simple in design because I want to concentrate on the techniques and design elements available in the software.  Yesterday I worked through a project to develop a little fabric greeting card…or it could be a mug rug…about 5 inchs by 5 inches.  It discusses using the art canvas Basic Vector Shapes, turn the heart shape into Advanced Applique, using Pattern Run to fancy it up, and working out the quilting in the hoop.  Here is the resulting design, ready to be stitched out:

5" x 5" fabric greeting card or mug rug

5″ x 5″ fabric greeting card or mug rug

It is my hope that by the time someone works through all ten projects that they will be able to develop almost anything they want with it.  I did set aside my hope to include making lace in the book, because I am thinking of writing a second book if this one is successful for more advanced projects. And in case you are wondering, I have no connection with Bernina other than I love their products. This software goes well beyond Bernina, and I thought this might be helpful to those of you who use it or want to use it. I had quite a struggle to learn it myself, so I thought I might be able to save you some time and frustration.

Sew Happy everyone!

Design, Screen Capture, Write…Repeat

The haul from Houston
I’ve been making slow, but steady, progress on “Ten Projects to Bernina V7 Software Effectiveness”, a book that starts with the setup and carries through with ten skill-building projects.  It ends with appendixes full of additional helpful information. I have had this idea for a couple of years, and had actually started it with v6 just before Bernina came out with their V7 version. I gave myself the upgrade for Christmas, and set about to learn the differences and the new things introduced in V7.

I really like v7 and learning it has opened up some new possibilities for use with my Bernina 830 LE, but the software also works for many other brands of embroidery machines, complete with hooping and formatting options.

I am writing this by having three programs open..a screen capturing software, my word processing software, and V7. First I carry out a bit of design work on a project, screen capture the various stages, and write the step-by-step project with lots of illustrations.

When I finish the manuscript, I will then work through the entire book and stitch out all the projects as if I were a newby on the program, and then ask someone else to do the same.

I hope to complete this for publication by the end of May through my son David’s Fennec Fox Press.

If this works well, I have other books in mind that I actually have already blocked out.

Please let me know if you have some skill you particularly want to have included.

Sew happy everyone! Teach someone to sew or quilt. You’ll learn a lot in the process.

Inch by Inch: Updated Tools and Canterbury Knight

Inch by inch I am getting closer to my goals for “Betty Jo’s Fabric Arts”, which is my new name for my coming micro-business.  Up until now, it has been a hobby, but I need to make enough money to keep on, and I want to be able to share things I have learned and my journey with my friends.  It will just be a micro business.  I am not going to take in quilting, for instance.  I may do more workshops and lectures, but I’m not going to get into the big circuit that requires a lot of travel.  I want to work here in my studio for the most part with an occasional visit elsewhere.  I plan on selling the how-to books I’m currently writing, a few quilts, some downloadable videos, in-the-hoop embroidery (software), and some print-on-your-own fabric digitally painted appliques…just enough to keep on buying supplies and equipment with maybe a little on the side for fun.

I updated my Bernina embroidery software to v7 this week.  It’s pretty fancy, and it does seem to have a lot of new tools.  It also has a completely different interface and it will take a while to find all the old tools and figure out how to use the new ones, but I think it is going to be a big improvement overall.  I’m going to take advantage of my dealer’s class on the software on the 31st.

Digitizing has become an important part of my quilting artwork.  Nearly every quilt now has at least one thing on it that I drew myself and then digitized myself and embroidered in my Bernina Embroidery module.   I have also been developing a flower quilt using my daughter in law’s wonderful photographs for in-the-hoop applique.  I felt I needed to update from v6.  V6 is a powerful program, but there are some things I believe v7 has that will help me a lot.

For a long time I have recorded my quilting progress with a little Nikon Coolpix pocket camera that I bought about ten years ago.  Most of the photos I share here were taken with that.  Last week, the motor that drives the lens died.  I bought a Nikon Coolpix s9700 to replace it.  It’s very like the old dead camera except that it’s a little bigger (but still fits in a pocket), the zoom is much more extensive in both directions, the macro can be much closer so I can really show stitches, the controls are much more extensive, so I can use manual aperture and other manual or auto settings.  It has several scene settings, like my old one did, so I can get a quick picture, but they are more extensive.  And it has the cutest little pop up flash.  My old camera could do a little video, but this one can do a really nice video…up to 29 minutes long.  I tried it out successfully, setting it up on a tripod and demonstrating how to cut out a fabric square just for practice.  I will be doing a lot more practice over the next few weeks.  Once I get handy at this, and figure out how, I will share some videos with you, and eventually, will make some downloadable videos for sale from my website.

Between all the nice technology, machines, cameras, and computer software I have assembled over the past three years since I retired, and the additional video and audio equipment my son Ken gave me, I should be able to realize my plan of  writing books and making videos to share my techniques and some patterns, embroidery software, and downloadable printable fabric designs from my website by the middle of the year.  Inch by inch I’m getting there.

Canterbury Knight Rides Forward:  I have just completed getting the big central block properly set into the seamless border.  Let me tell you, this was a HUGE struggle.  The fabric of the central block is 100% silk charmeuse…hand dyed…and the appliques are silk/cotton Radiance.  It is slippery, drapey, soft, and decidedly hard to control.  The challenge was to get the central block into the seamless black piece of black radiance in a perfect rectangle and perfectly aligned with the straight of grain of the black radiance.  It has taken me a full week, but I just accomplished this.  It probably would not have been so long if I had done two things…not gotten it in upside down in the first place, 🙂  and used more stabilizer from the beginning.  I ended up stabilizing BOTH the border AND the block.  I used Madeira Cotton Soft tearaway, which I love.  Contrary to its name, it is stiff.  It tears away easily, but stays together until you are ready for it to come away.  I have also found that the little bits that get left in soften when washed.  Perhaps that’s why they call it “Soft”.

I also used my fairly new laser square, designed for builders and carpenters, to make the rectangle as perfect as soft drapy, slippery silk can be.  I marked my central block cutting line with it with a thin chalk line and then cut it out with my rotary cutter.  I then marked the stabilizer along both the cutting and the seam lines for the border.  Here’s a picture of that (ignore the stuff in the background.).  See the red laser line and the level on the laser?  When it is level, it makes a perfect 90 degree angle and marks it for as far out as the table goes.

Using my laser square

Using my laser square

Sew happy everyone!  Learn how to do a new technique or practice one you know!  Inch by inch we can learn the techniques and gather the tools to realize our dreams.  It does not have to be done all at once.