A Sewing Machine and Design Software Fan

Gibbs at work.

Make no mistake, I love my machines and enjoy using my various pieces of design software to help me create art quilts, or just to sew, or just draw, paint, and design digitally.  It’s more than a hobby.  It’s my fun and my full time occupation, though I hardly make much money from it.  Indeed, I spend more than I make at this point.  It would be great to turn that around, especially since I periodically do things to update, add to, or improve my fleet of machines and suite of software because I think it is the right thing to do,

Oh, did I tell you?  They have a new pin point laser light attachment for Fritz that shows exactly where the needle will enter the fabric to help with precision quilting and free motion thread work.  Awesome!  I ordered one (they had a 25 percent off offer).  LOL  I need all the help I can get making my quilting sing.  Last week, I also updated my Electric Quilt to EQ8 (they had a great offer).

Sew now that we have clearly established that I spend too much on my super hobby and I make too little with it,  I keep thinking how I can turn this situation around and start making at least enough to support my quilt-making habit, and even have some for trips to places like Houston or Paducah for the big shows.  For example, I just updated my website gallery last week so you can see my quilts better and see what the sizes and prices are for those that are on sale.  By the way, the exhibit of my quilts is still going on at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, Maryland, where most, not all, of my quilts are on display through Thanksgiving if you have a chance to go.

Most of you probably know I am a Bernina girl.  I love Berninas.  I have four of them right now, but I am selling my Bernina 1230 to my student/apprentice,  Anita is one of my best friends, a true beginning quilter, and I am teaching her to quilt and improve her sewing, and to use the 1230 all just for fun.   I also have a Baby Lock Serger (yes, really!!!). Now I reluctantly admit that Baby Lock is also a very good brand, and they make wonderful sergers.  If I had to choose a machine other than Bernina, it would probably be Baby Lock.

My Bernina Q20 named Fritz.

Anyway, when Anita takes home the 1230 once she gets her sewing space set up and completes her initial classes on the machine, this will allow me to have all my machines in their own cabinet (except the serger), which makes my playground just plain wonderful.  It’s wonderful already, in fact, though it needs a little reorganizing and cleaning.  It’s a magical space even if it isn’t all slick and spacious.  I have Gibbs, my Bernina 830 LE in Studio Gibbs (meant to be a small bedroom), where I store the bulk of my quilting stash and have a small kitchen island for cutting and painting and the like.  Gibbs has a very large custom cabinet that can be a nice big work table if I simply move Gibbs.  I also have Studio Fritz, another small bedroom, where Fritz, my Bernina Q20 and, my ironing station, and my computers live.  Then there is Studio Betsy, well, actually that’s part of my bedroom, where I have my original Koala cabinet.  That’s where the Bernina 1230, named Betsy (for Betsy Ross) is currently residing, but I will be putting E.Claire (named for Edith Claire Head), my little Bernina 350 that is now on the floor in the cabinet.  Wilcox, my serger, hides under one end of that cabinet.  Plus the bulk of my sewing books are also housed in my still rather nice bedroom.  So nearly my whole upper floor in my modest townhome is pretty much dedicated to my studio.  I even briefly considered working out a way to sleep under a longarm frame when I bought Fritz, but decided the sit down setup for him would be the better option.  😉

My grandson a couple or years ago at  E, Claire, my Berinina 350

I have really neat plans for 2018.  I have several quilts already started or close to being started, and I am writing a couple of books on art quilting and I hope Anita will be my beginner beta tester of the projects in the book once I get her started.  My daughter in law Beth, who is an advanced quilter with a fabulous studio, will be my advanced beta tester.  Additionally, I am working out a few workshops for local teaching, but I seldom really make any money to speak of on those because it takes so much time for me to get them pulled together.  Maybe eventually those will make money too.  I really do them to learn what people want to know and am putting that in my books.  So they are still valuable to me.

Sew maybe 2018 will be my year…I’ll go through a whole year without updating any software or buying any new machines, start selling more quilts, win more and better cash award ribbons, and finish my two books which will, of course, each be a major hit and sell, sell, sell.  Ha-ha-ha-ha,,,,,,,,In the meantime, however, I plan on continuing to thoroughly enjoy my fleet of machines and suite of drawing and design software and endeavor to rein in my desire to have the very latest machines, attachments, and software.  We just won’t mention “adjustments” to my stash of fabrics, threads, yarns, beads, and paints here.  But they are necessary, right?

Sew happy everyone.  I hope you have a play space you enjoy.

 

Working with My Bernina Q20 Sitdown Longarm

As I’ve said before, I really love my Bernina Q20, Fritz, that I have set up as a sitdown longarm. I belong to a couple of Facebook groups, and one in particular, for sharing things about this machine. I decided I would write a blog (with a bit of humility and a lot of experimenting behind me) about how I set my machine up for quilting, because there are a lot of new quilters out there with this machine who seem to have a lot of questions.  Please understand this is how I work best with MY machine, but I thought it might still be of some value to the newer Q20 owners anyway.

Just so we are all singing from the same page, I have attached a pdf of the manual for reference:

036-0625-2-04_2015-06_Manual_Q20-Q24_EN_GZD_Online

To me, the greatest thing about this is how much control I have of the stitching. There are quite a few things that make an impact on that…the thread, the needle, the bobbin thread, the bobbin setup, and all the neat settings provided on the machine, and then there is the wonderful kickstart.  If you haven’t done the upgrade and don’t yet have your kickstart, I hope you will do so right away.

I had my machine for about a month before I realized it has programs where you can set up all your top tensions, speeds, and stitch lengths for all the modes and save it (see pages 73-74). I have mine programed for different weights of threads. 40 wt polyester, 100 wt silk, and 12 weight cotton. The fourth one is the default settings, so really there are only three you can set and save, but that seems enough to me. I felt pretty dumb when I found this out, because I was resetting everything every time I turned it on.  I have worked out a chart of settings for my own use, so I thought I’d share.  First see pages 29-31 in the manual for a discussion of how they see threads and needles, then see my personal preferences chart

chart for Q20

I have all the attachments available for the Q20, but there aren’t many (thank goodness). I already had the feet that work with my Q20 (see page 22 in the manual), mostly because I collected them while I was learning to FMQ on my Bernina 830 LE, and they fit.  I even have the double needle stitch plate (see page 46 through 49 for threading for double needle stitching)  and the horizontal spool pin necessary for straight wound spools (see page 23).

Here are some good tutorials:

Threading for twin needle work

Bobbin tension check

Preparing to stitch (you probably know most of this, but it’s a good reminder)

Stitching with and without the BSR

One of my many practice pieces. This one shows different thread weights and a little bit of yarn couching.

 

Do I use the BSRs?

Yes, I do use my BSRs and love them (read pages 75-78 for a discussion of the various BSR modes). I have the BSR attachment for my 830 LE, but it is slow and a little cumbersome compared to the fabulous BSRs on the Q20. I use BSR1 for most of my free motion, BSR2 for my ruler work, and manual sometimes for really tiny tiny fmq and some special threadwork, and even if I spray baste a quilt, I thread baste it with BSR 3..so fast, so handy, gives that little bit of extra security.  After years of using a BSR on my Bernina 830LE and now my Q20, I find the manual comes pretty naturally, but I still prefer the BSRs for most things.

It is true that good results from the various modes take practice both to learn what YOU like and to get the best benefits from the different modes.  I think, in fact, that you need to practice as if you are learning a musical instrument…frequently and for at least a half hour at a time, and every now and then a long period of practice. I periodically make a bunch of 20 inch or so practice sandwiches…marking some with grids, some with stencils, and nothing on some.  I use solid colors for the practice sandwich tops so I can really see what I’m doing, but it’s a good way to use up that ugly fabric you wonder why you ever bought on the back of your practice sandwiches, and I use joined pieces of leftover batting for my practice sandwiches too.

A practice piece using, surprisingly, polyester satin with wool batting.

Working with the kickstart:

The kickstart lets you stitch without your foot on the pedal, but is very easy to start, pause, and stop. By doing this, you don’t have an uneven feed of power going to the stitching.  Here’s their guide addendum for the manual for the kickstart:

Zusatzblatt_Kick-Start_EN_13-12-2016_GZD

And here’s a link to a youtube tutorial on using it:  kickstart tutorial

When using just the pedal to make it go, it is unlike a regular sewing machine, or the gas pedal on your car. The pedal on the Q20 sitdown does not make the stitching go faster or slower. The pedal is on or off. Pushed down all the way, you get it fully on. Slightly up, sometimes it skips stitches. If your foot slips off your pedal or you lose concentration, it makes it skip or unevenly stitch. Without the kickstart you have to spend part of your concentrated effort making sure you have that pedal fully and evenly compressed all the time you are stitching. So the kickstart is absolutely the most even way to stitch because it is on at full power, paused, or stopped. It may sound a little intimidating to think of turning on the stitching all the time, but you really are still in complete control. You can still kickstart the pedal and make it pause, or you can press the front of the pedal to exit the kickstart program instantly.  I hope you will try it if you haven’t already.

 

Here are some rulers I used to stitch this border piece (stitched, painted, then pieced into the top, then quilted with monopoly and 100 wt silk)

This spiral galaxy quilt is a whole cloth quilt stitched in its entirety on my Q20 (except for the binding and rod pocket, of course).

Sew with all these settings in mind, I hope you will find your own personal settings…make a chart yourself if you want…and then find that working with your Q20 is just as wonderful as I have.

Pendragon
34 x 45

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

 

Pondering the Next Projects

My new Bernina Q20 named Fritz.

At this point in my life, I am really amazed to find myself blessed with my two-and-a-partial room studio set up with all my machines in great working order; the fabric, the thread, the paints, the inks, the sequins, crystals, and beads; and the collection of wonderful and interesting sewing tools and notions from decades of sewing.  I even have hoops, needles, and thimbles for hand quilting.  These things have been collected over half a century and include some of inherited items from my mother and mother-in-law.

Currently, I am making the hardest quilt I have ever undertaken…the one my son Ken designed for me and gave me the supplies to make it (see my blog about this here).  I will not be showing that one here until after it is complete, and probably after it has debuted in a show. I am hoping to finish this quilt by the end of November.  As I work through this quilt I am pondering what directions I should take now that I have what is needed to make most anything I can think of.

I do have a 2017 list of quilts concepts (not in any kind of working order):

Ancient Manuscripts:  Ken’s (underway) Designed by Ken Tatum, and gifted design, threads, and fabrics for this magnificent design.
Marvin Memory quilt:  Like a Tree Psalm 1 (Tree by river with words) with fabulous landscape work, the Psalm somehow incorporated in the quilting
Deep Space 4 TBD
Dark Forest in 3D This is kind of a three dimensional
Waiting…3 At the airport
Volcanic Scene with Dragon and Phoenix Mostly in reds, oranges, browns, and golds
Heirloom Quilt in memory of Mom Using Mom’s unfinished needlework and sepia pictures with beads, crystals. lace, decorative stitching…crazy quilt blocks alternating with sepia pics.  This may not be a show quilt…I’ll decide during or after making it.
Deep Space 5 TBD
Ancient Manuscripts 4 TBD
Wool applique and embellishment TBD
Whole Cloth Unusual whole cloth tbd…I have several ideas.
Jacob’s Ladder Jacob’s Ladder pictorial using Jacob’s Ladder traditional blocks for the ladder itself…kind of goes along with Waiting… and Drawing Nigh.
In Full Bloom Flower Applique/Embroidery laden quilt, from Beth’s photographs/Joint with Beth
Swarkovski crystal music/Houston special Jazz 1920s, city with musical notes coming from lit windows with silhouettes, and rising and exploding into fireworks..try to make it almost pulsing with the music beat.

Sew I’m thinking about all of this while making Ken’s quilt.  I keep coming up with new ideas.  I am also considering what to do with these quilts considering everything that is going on in the quilting world.  While they will all be made at show quilt level, I am not sure they will all end up at shows.

Additionally, I am also slowly working on several books and planning to provide some videos and tutorials here.

Sew happy everyone!  What are you working on now or planning?

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.

 

 

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).

 

My Own Quilting Retreat

On Monday my new Q20 Fritz was setup in the part of my studio that also houses my office with my computer, and recently iquilt has been having sales on their video classes and I purchased several.  Starting on Tuesday I have been having my own private quilting retreat (and I’m not finished). Actually, I kind of fell into this little quilting retreat by coincidence of the two things happening in close proximity to each other.

Here is Fritz:

My new Bernina Q20 named Fritz.

My new Bernina Q20 named Fritz.

 

The days have flown by as I watched the classes, put together practice quilt sandwiches, and practiced on my new machine.  I have spent four or five hours a day practicing quilting on Fritz, and sometimes, I just put the class videos on and let them play through, and sometimes I stopped and went carefully through the classes.  I have really enjoyed myself.

The classes are all great, by the way, and I am learning a lot.  Sew what classes am I taking?

I also have run thr0ugh a couple of The Quilt Show shows while I was practicing quilting and testing various threads and settings on Fritz.   It’s kind of been like I was taking a summer school in quilting.  I am planning a similar week next week.

I need much more practice on Fritz to produce show quality quilting, but I feel encouraged to see some progress.  I think I can, I think I can, I think I can….  I do need to get to quality quilting fairly soon because I have a lot of ongoing quilting plans and book samples to do, and the quilting on these needs to be beautiful and well done. Here are a couple of photos from my first practice:

 

Day 1...it's a beginning. The black thread is the very first, the blue varigated is next, and the stitching in the lower right includes both metallic and 12 wt thread.

Day 1…it’s a beginning

 

Day 1 specialty threads. I had to do some adjustments to the tensions to make these work. The metallic in the upper left worked well with just a little loosening of the upper tension. The 12 wt thread required loosening the bobbin and tightening the upper thread just slightly for both.

Day 1 specialty threads. I had to do some adjustments to the tensions to make these work. The metallic in the upper left worked well with just a little loosening of the upper tension. The 12 wt thread required loosening the bobbin and tightening the upper thread just slightly for both.

 

Day 2...some improvement in this pattern

Day 2…some improvement in this pattern.  See the first try in the upper left of Day 1 first picture.

 

Practice 2 a

Day 2, practicing ruler work with Lisa Calle’s pro pebble rulers

 

Practice 2 b

Day 2…very fast free form spiral…clearly needs a lot of work!!!

Sew happy everyone!  I know not many of you can take a lot of time for your own retreat, but I highly recommend it if you can manage it.  Nevertheless, I hope you can take some time to learn and practice, whichever machines, needles, and techniques you use.  This brings many rewards. I’m off to do some more practice!

 

The Q20 and the Great Customer Service from G Street Fabrics

Yesterday my friend and Bernina dealer Mei Ling Huang and my wonderful machine tech Lew, who work from G Street Fabrics in Rockville Maryland, came and spent the day with me.  Putting together the pieces of the Koala cabinet that came with my Q20 took longer than setting up the Q20.  All of it is heavy, and so my son David helped with some of the necessary lifting.  It all fit just where I thought it would, and it looks fabulous.

After it was all set up, they spent some time with me teaching me what I needed to know in the care and feeding of my new machine, which I have named “Fritz” after the founder of Bernina and also after a favorite fictional character of mine..Nero Wolfe’s chef Fritz (pronounced Freetz, which is the way I’m pronouncing my new machine’s name).  Both Fritz’s were wildly successful and talented, so it seems a great name for the new big boy machine.

The weather was wonderfully cooperative.  I put together a light lunch and we all stopped for a short time and had lunch on the back deck.  After they left in the late afternoon, I was able to spend a couple of hours trying it all out.  The whole day was a delight for me.

Today I put together the Bernina chair that they included for me in the deal, and spent the day getting used to the machine.  In fact, I found that it was so wonderfully easy to quilt with that after a few hours, I finished the quilting on my Hoffman challenge 2016 quilt, and it is ready for the binding, blocking and beading.

So I have now spent about six hours quilting on this machine, or at least playing on this machine.  I have only one minor complaint.  You have to use the foot peddle to quilt with it.  For the Bernina 830 (“Gibbs”), I can punch a button and leave my foot off the peddle for the stitch regulator modes.  I’ll bet they can fix that with a software update.  I’m going to write to Bernina and suggest it.

At first, I thought the machine was not as smooth to run as I had initially found with my try-outs.  But after I fiddled with the various controls a bit, I found it runs so much smoother than anything I’ve tried to date.  The stitches from the stitch regulator mode are so perfectly even, and it can keep up with me.  I don’t have to hold back, but can quilt as fast or as slowly as I want to.  There are absolutely no skipped stitches and they are so very even and beautiful.

It is clear to me already that Fritz will help me to quilt better, faster, and more accurately. Soon I will post pictures of my studio and some quilting.

I thank G Street and the Bernina section there for such great customer service.  If you are a Bernina owner (or want to be) and live within striking distance of Rockville, MD, I highly recommend this store/dealership.

Sew happy everyone!  May your days be blessed with peace and safety.

On Organic Quilting for Landscapes

I always need to work at coming up with how to quilt my landscape and pictorial wall art quilts, as I suspect most quilters do for their quilts.  I went through the recent past couple of years thinking I needed to learn a  more formal quilting style and to avoid the natural flow of organic quilting patterns that came to my mind when looking at a landscape or pictorial quilt.  This probably stemmed from my observations of the details of winning quilts at major quilt shows where the quilter had often used a very formal style of quilting even for pictorial or landscape quilts.  This is a fine way to approach it and probably entered in to the judges’ decisions to award the quilt a ribbon.  But for my quilts, I truly prefer a more organic approach, though I do admit there are places where formal quilt patterns would be in order.

As of this writing, I am currently in the process of quilting my Hoffman Challenge quilt for 2016.  This quilt is heavily appliqued to form a whimsical pictorial quilt of a fantasy forest path with trees, birds, animals, and butterflies.  Since it is so heavily appliqued, it has only small spaces in which to develop any formal types of quilting patterns.  I struggled for some time trying to come up with a good sky pattern for a quilt where the sky is supposed to be sunny and calm…not a lot of wind and no approaching storms.  Believe it or not I found this harder to decide on than I did the “sculptured stormy sky” quilting  that I came up with for Drawing Nigh.

"sculpted sky" quilting pattern for Drawing Nigh

“sculpted sky” quilting sample for Drawing Nigh

In the end, I decided on a simple meander using a 100 weight silk.  It makes the sky recede into the background without implying wind or clouds, and brings the appliques to the foreground, exactly like I wanted.  It’s not perfect (my quilting almost never is), but it seems reasonably good also.

quilting-1-web

This quilt is still in process…for instance, the butterflies don’t have their antenna and beadwork yet. The leaves on the big tree aren’t quilted yet. But this pic shows how the simple meander pushes the sky back where it belongs and brings forth the appliques. I quilted the big tree in a simple bark-like line.

For past quilts, like Noel, I have also struggled to find just the right pattern, or in truth, fill, that maintains the organic feel of the area and still provides enough added interest.  (This quilt won a Honorable Mention in HMQS 2013).

Noel quilting

Mossy side of the cave where the Nativity Scene is pictured within.

For me, it helps my end results to keep it simple, and for these types of quilts the shapes need to be organic and easy to use around complex shapes.  I think every quilter needs to develop their own style that suits them.  I am pretty sure it does not mean that you have less skill if you use organic shapes, although I think some judges think that, but it is an artistic design choice. Some of these organic styles actually require considerably more skill than you may think…for instance large areas of simple meander should be as evenly and appropriately sized for the project as possible, which is not always easy to do.  You also need to figure out if the areas are so large they need breaking up with something for interest sake (wind creatures or clouds, for instance).  I hope that judging is moving toward an understanding of this.  Nevertheless, I think that I will continue along this path, though I do think I should do a formal quilt at some point.  I have something in mind.

Note:  My Bernina sitdown longarm is arriving next week, perhaps Monday, followed by a day of set up and training by my dear Bernina dealer and friend Mei Ling and my magician tech Lew.  I hope very much that this addition to my machine family will not only help my other machines last longer, but provide me with a higher level of quilting.  It seems possible it might also speed up my quilting, since the stitching speed is twice that of my Bernina 830, but that is not a given.  After an enormous reorganization effort of the whole upper flour of my home, I have a wonderful space for the new machine, a nice space for my smaller Koala cabinet where i use my purely domestic machines, and maintained my big cabinet space for my 830 that I also use for cutting clothes and other projects.  This reorg has already brought many positive changes to my studio that I probably should have done earlier.  I’ll post pictures when everything is in place.

Sew happy everyone!  Try some organic free motion quilting for your next landscape scene.

 

Finishing Things So I Can Start New Things

I love finishing projects of all kinds.  It means I have accomplished something, but chiefly, it means I can start something new.  Currently, I am working on finishing my Hoffman Challenge 2016 small wall quilt.  It is such a happy project…full of butterflies and bunnies, and set in a whimsical forest.  I am quilting it now.    I know that you don’t HAVE to finish one project before starting another, but it’s really nice to do it that way.  I have a hard time not finishing before starting another, simply because of all the years I had to finish things for really important reasons, and way back when I had my own fashion design/tailoring business when I HAD to finish projects for my clients’ sake.

I am also getting my studio rearranged so I can put my new Bernina Q20 where it will be easily available.  To do this, I had to start with reorganizing my bedroom so I could eliminate one of my two dressers and move the Koala cabinet that I use with my Bernina 1230 and Bernina 350 into my bedroom.  I have finished preparations for that part of the reorg.  Next I will be putting the Q20 where the Koala cabinet is now.  It all starts tomorrow with a scheduled pickup of no-longer-in-use clothing and shoes (six bags so far).  Then on Tuesday the 31st, the guys come who are taking the dresser away to charity and moving the koala cabinet in place.  Then the following Monday, June 6th, I am expecting the delivery and setup of the Q20.  And finally, on Wednesday, the 8th, my dear friend and Bernina dealer Mei Ling, and the magician machine tech Lew, who fixed my 830LE, are coming to provide me with a day of training on the use and servicing of the Q20.

Wow!  I mean WOW!!!  When they have finished on Wednesday, I will be ready to begin a new phase in being a studio fabric artist.  I’ve recently learned that is what I am, because I am not an extrovert who wishes to travel all over and teach.  I am not particularly an introvert either, because I love people.  But I love my studio and my work as an artist whose medium is fabric and quilting.  I feel inspired when I’m in the studio working (and usually listening to music).

Upon completion of all of this, I will have available for my creative use two standard workhorse machines for use in clothing and some piece work (and the 350 to take to classes), my Bernina 830LE (Gibbs) for machine embroidery, specialized applique, and decorative stitch work, and my new Q20 set up as a sit down longarm for my quilting work.  I will still use Gibbs for quilting when I want to quilt with decorative stitching, but that is only about one percent of my quilting.  I also have a small kitchen island that is my cutting and painting station, a nearby small bathroom where I do some occasional hand dyes and for use with cleaning up after painting, and my computer station with a good ink jet printer.  In the process of all of this, I am removing a couple of old printers and putting in a second monitor for my computer station (at no cost…just work) to assist me with the design work.

I am most grateful to the Lord, my kids, and my Bernina friends who have or are all pitching in one way or another to help me make this happen.  It is a dream studio.  Sew I am a healthy, albeit overweight, 69 now.  In the past, I sewed decades using lesser machines and after work and weekends, and then spent a lot of time learning the art quilt craft after I retired a little over three years ago.  This seams a very good time to raise the level of my work up another notch, don’t you think?  It would also be a great help to me to start winning more ribbons and selling more quilts (and even completing and selling my books) to help pay for my fabric art work and maybe even add a little additional income.

I just completed “Drawing Nigh” and am about to finish the Hoffman Challenge quilt.  So what is next after my studio revamp?  Ahhh.,..I have a lot of plans that seem to be growing all the time.  First off, I want badly to make a new show quilt by 15 August for the PA Nat’l Quilt Extravaganza in Philadelphia because I’m going up there for that show and am staying with a long term friend who recently retired and moved nearby there.  So I want something to show off with…LOL…I don’t think I can complete Ken’s wonderful quilt by then, so I am planning on attempting the next quilt in my deep space series, which may be doable.  After all, it was that show last year that gave Sky Horse it’s ribbon (Best color choice for its category).  I think I probably can.  More than half of the work on those quilts is free motion quilting.  It will be a good tryout for my new Q20.  I hope to complete Ken’s quilt by the end of the year or early next.  It is much the most difficult piece of art I have ever attempted, so I refuse to rush it.  And then, I am considering making a couple of whole cloth quilts inspired by really ancient historical quilts.  Oh, and don’t forget the orange/gold dragon flying over volcanos and possibly fighting a phoenix, or the third in my “waiting…” series, or my memorial quilt for my mom, or the deep dark forest in nearly three dimensions, oh, and there’s Jacob’s ladder, and Adam naming the animals, and…and….

Sew happy everyone!  Do a little spring cleaning and reorganizing and start something new and fun.