Building a Pictorial Quilt Part Three: Working with Threads

As I work through my Bayou quilt, and think about past quilts I have made, I realize how much one needs to pay attention to the adjustments, needles, cleaning, setting, and other requirements for optimum machine performance as you use the varying types of techniques, fabrics, and threads.

Threads

Today I am adding more Spanish moss in differing colors of Aurifil’s wool 12 weight thread and additional wool yarn couching using Superior’s almost truly invisible Monopoly.

I was having problems this morning with my wool thread breaking and breaking after hours of working well.  So I stopped and did a thorough clean and check of the machine, oiled it, and added a new 100/16 Superior titanium top stitch needle.  When I cleaned the bobbin, I found a large bunch of wool fluff both outside in the bobbin casing area and in the bobbin casing itself full,  and I blew air through the upper tread track and dislodge additional wool fluff.  I like this thread, but it does require frequent machine cleaning, loosening the top tension, and really fresh needles.  I doubt it would be possible to make wool thread that didn’t do that, although Aurifil’s is excellent.  It is actually 50 percent wool and 50 percent acrylic. I also use a tooth floss threader to thread this through the needle (and the take up lever hole on my Bernina Q20).  I haven’t had the same breakage problem since I did the cleaning.

The Spanish moss here is Aurifil’s Lana wool/acrylic 12 weight thread.

When I am couching using my Bernina Q20, I use Superior’s monopoly.  I truly cannot see it well enough to make sure it is always threaded through the machine right.  Over the past little while, I have found that this thread works best with a universal 70 needle.  I don’t think I could go smaller using this powerful machine, but when I am using my Bernina 830 or Bernina 350, I use a 60 universal needle.  I haven’t figured out why it works better with the universal needle, but it does.  I have almost no problems with it, though I do lower the top tension significantly on all the machines when using this thread.  This thread makes wonderful couching thread when using the machine method that stitches through the yarn or cord.  It basically buries itself down in the yarn and disappears.  In the past, I have also used this thread to quilt over and around painted, appliqued, or thread embroidered areas of a quilt.  I don’t particularly like overall quilting using Monopoly, because I like to see the thread most of the time, even if it is nearly matching and you have to look to see it.  I have used it though when I am quilting through an area that has multiple colors and no particular single color or even variegated thread would work right.  I actually use a magnifying glass to work with this thread.

The gold Celtic border was outlined first with gold thread, then painted with gold paint, but it had no over and under view until after it was quilted with Monopoly thread. I will be using this technique again.

Yarns for couching are really another bit of my stash that might end up growing, but I hope to keep it kind of small.  Still it is exciting to work with.  My machine likes the smoother yarns and cords the best, but I want to use some of the less smooth ones, like the Shetland wool sport weight I am using for the limbs of my trees.  I can see this yarn making whole tree trunks and limbs.  It has various slubs and smooth sections that produces wonderful depth of character.  acrylic yarns are really smooth and even and make wonderful fills.  I’m still learning this element of my pictorial fabric work so I will talk more about it later.  I have found lots of help in learning this from Bethanne Nemesh’s couching work.  She has generously shared much of her techniques on both Facebook videos [only one example…she has several there]  and her blogs.

For background work, I often use Superior’s 100 weight Microquilter or its Kimono silk 100 weight.  This thread seems to call for a small needle also.  I use 60/10 or 70/11 topstitch needle depending on the density of the quilt I’m stitching through.  I sometimes have had to go up to 80/12  topstitch needles when stitching through multiple applique areas or heavily thread embroidered areas.  This thread also requires a lower top tension, just like the Monopoly, though not quite as low.  I  am not giving numbers because everyone’s machine and fabrics are just a little different, so you need to do a sample using the actual fabrics and threads you have on your quilt.

Sttitching on the space dust on one of my deep space quilts using 40 weight variegated Fantastico by Superier.  The background stitching you see here was done with 100 weight Kimono silk.

Sew for most of my quilting where I want the design to really show and machine embroidery, though, I usually use a 40 weight thread of some sort with an 80/12 or 90/14 Superior topstitch needle, depending on the fabrics and threads I am using.   Most of the time I use the 90/14 and it seems to make a great general needle.  My favorite threads for this are Superior’s Fantastico, Magnifico, and Rainbow (they no longer make this thread but I have a lot of it), and when stitching things like rocks or places I don’t want any shine, I use King Tut.  King Tut, a cotton, definitely requires the 90/14 needle.   I also like Aurifil’s 50 weight cotton when I need it a little less visible, but don’t want to use a polyester for some reason.  I use the 80/12 needle with Aurifil 50 weight cotton.

Isn’t this fun?!!! There are soooo many wonderful possibilities to make your pictorial quilt come to life now…I could work hours and hours and hours on it, except my body demands I stop from time to time and walk or stretch or breath….LOL.

Sew happy everyone!  Try out all those wonderful types of threads.  Just get the smallest spools at first so you can figure out whether you like them or not and how they might work for you.  Then make a sampler.

 

 

 

 

 

The Wizards’ Duel

The Wizard’s Duel

I promised you all that I would write about this quilt after Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival.  I had a wonderful time going to the show with one of my best friends Mei-Ling Huang.  Mei-Ling is a lot of fun and we share many interests.  She claims not to be a quilter, but I have seen her quilting on the Bernina Q24 longarm set up in her Bernina shop at G Street Fabrics where she is the Bernina dealer.  But she is a long-term sewist and she does make beautiful garments.  Currently, I happen to know that she is working on a t-shirt quilt for her daughter, who is in medical school.  She was clearly fascinated by the goings on at MAQF and we enjoyed very much the class we took together from Sue Nickels on Stitched Raw Edge Applique.  I found the class a perfect example of how to organize and run a class as well as really enjoying the applique instruction,

Sew the picture above is my completed quilt and I got the judges comments back yesterday.  They have marking grades on standard criteria.  It fared very well, getting all top marks (E for Excellent) except for degree of difficulty and that was S for Satisfactory.

Judge 1 commented:

  • Powerful color impression
  • Ambitious Subject Matter
  • Nice use of crystals

Judge 2 commented:

  • Batting a bit too puffy [Huh?!!!]
  • So much care in the figures.  Rocks would benefit from same attention

Judges:  Esterita Austin, Pepper Cory, Marjan Kluepfel

I don’t know which judge had which comments section, though I do know that they weren’t Pepper (a friend of mine), who just signed it.  After looking at it objectively, I happen to agree with the comment about the rocks and plan on adding some additional quilting and maybe a litle more highlighting before I send it out again.  Not sure I agree on degree of difficulty, but seeing some of the other quilts there I am pretty pleased with these marks overall, which is rare when I get my judges comments back.  I am a little puzzled about the batting a bit too puffy comment, but to each his own.  Maybe it had to do with the rocks.

When I am done with a quilt I like to look back at the original concept and see how far away I wandered in the making of the quilt.  Here is the finished concept art, though I did go through a number of other versions along the way.

concept art for Wizards’ Duel

And here are some detail photos of the quilt.  I hope you can see all of the quilting.  I had loads of fun with that turbulent sky full of characters,  I have a Pegasus in this shot.  Go up and look at the full quilt and see if you can find the Phoenix, the small flying bird, a starry kind of symbol like I used in the corners, and the little bit of free motion feather design at the corner near the raven.  I also free motioned and straight ruler stitched the explosion of light (is that a sun?  I think so) behind the wizards.

Detail shot one

And here is detail shot two…on this you may think you see a row of flying geese, but that’s not what they are.  In my mind’s eye these are a row of flying pterodactyls!  Hahaha.  I hopeyou can see these, I know it’s kind of hard to see.  Also pay attention to the border.  This quilt is the first one where I used ruler work extensively. I used a strip of paper that was the exact length of the border and folded it until I got the divisions perfect (no math method) and marked the grid on the border, then used my rulers to quilt the design without additional design marking.  Then I just bubble stitched where it needed filling.  I was pleased with the results.

I will tell you that the biggest challenge was coming up with the figures.  I started with prepared for dye cotton fabric and marked the figures on with a simple Fons and Porter dark marking pencil.  Then I colored them using Neocolor water soluble paint crayons and brushed them with water. After that I ironed them dry, thereby heat setting them, and then I placed a bit of wool batting behind the dragon and stitched the outline and the scales.  After that I used some oil paint sticks to burnish the scales of the dragon a little.  Then I thread painted their garments with Superior metallic threads using my BerninaQ20 longarm sitdown.  Finally, I appliqued them to the quilt top.  After sandwiching them, I quilted the figures sections with Superior Monopoly thread, but that was the only place I used monopoly.  I didn’t want to interfere with the thread painting I had done, but they needed quilting for depth of character.  I wonder if the judges realized the difficulty involved there.  Perhaps they did.

And finally, here is a very good picture of the quilt hanging in the show that my friend Cathy Wiggins took.  I think it shows the quilting clearly…in fact the show had it lit just perfectly so the quilting showed well.

Wizards’ Duel at MAQF courtesy of Cathy Wiggins

The quilts at the quilt show were unbelievably magnificent.  I do think Wizards’ Duel stands up well in such a show, even if it didn’t receive a ribbon.  As I said, I plan on adding some quilting and highlighting on the rocks section and entering it in other shows.  Maybe it will place after that.  It’s very hard to place in such a show.  The MAQF is becoming a very important and popular show and for good reason…it is fabulous.

Mei-Ling and I attended the fashion show too and spent some time viewing the wearable art competition section at the show.  We were so inspired by this that we decided to try to make a joint entry for the wearable art next year.  Mei-Ling is a small beautifully proportioned woman and we will make it to fit her.  More on that much later.

I came home to find a chipmunk had invaded our home…he came in about an hour after I got home.  That is another story that is still going on .  He’s still here and in one of my studio rooms.  My studio is on the upper level of my town home where my bedroom also is.  It consists of two small bedrooms…Studio Fritz (where my computer/office section is and where my Bernina Q20, named Fritz, sits), Studio Gibbs (where my main fabric, thread, and paint stash, my work tables, and my Bernina 830LE named Gibbs sits), and Studio Betsy (one small side of my bedroom where my Bernina 350 named E. Claire sits where my old Bernina 1230 named Betsy used to sit.  I sold Betsy recently to my student and friend Anita).  The chipmunk has taken up residence in Studio Gibbs (thank goodness not my bedroom!).  So far, the only damage he’s done is knock things over and deposit chipmunk poop in places.  The stash is safely in drawers and the closet where he can’t get to chew or soil and Gibbs is of no interest to him so far.  I am soooooo hopeful of getting him out of there today.  I have a live trap set for him and have tried multiple things, and am trying once more today with the trap and all.  I need my studio back.  I never had this happen before.  Please pray for a successful removal of the chipmunk.  Silly me, I name everything, even a chipmunk I may end up killing…this one is Chippy.  I am so hopeful of not having to kill it to get it out of there.

Sew happy everyone!  You know you can get a basket like device to attach over your dryer vent so chipmunks can’t get in and chew holes in your dryer vent hose.  My son just installed one on our house.  I wish we had done it earlier!!!!

 

Working with My Bernina Q20 and New Attachments

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE

As many of you know, I am racing to meet a deadline for a show quilt for the Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival, a quilt I had not included in my business plan for 2018.  In spite of a major mistake I made that required that I basically start over with the quilt, I have met my goal of getting the top complete and the quilt sandwiched and ready to quilt by Christmas.  In fact, I started the quilting yesterday, but not before I installed a new interesting attachment on Fritz, my Bernina Q20 sit down longarm.  It is a laser light pointer that puts a red laser light point exactly where the needle will come down.

I gave this new attachment to myself for Christmas in celebration of my dear late husband Marvin.  He always gave me the most wonderful presents.  One of the ways I have learned to deal with Christmas since his passing fifteen years ago is to give myself a nice present as if it came from him.  I miss him as much all these years later as I did the first Christmas after he passed.  Strong, solid, reliable, loving, brilliant, and fun to be with was my Marvin.

Sew I got my new show quilt all sandwiched with one layer of thin polyester batting and one of wool batting.  Using the newly-installed laser pointer, I spent most of yesterday afternoon and about five hours today quilting.  I have a fair amount of appliques on this quilt and some challenging designs planned for the quilting.  So far, I love the pin-pointer in mode 1 (on all the time I stitch), and Fritz is working like clockwork despite all the challenging threads I am throwing at it.

I started by stitching in the ditch and around the appliques (and no the star pictured at the top is not in the quilt) with Superior’s superb monopoly…so thin…so strong…nearly totally invisible and not very shiny like other monopolies.  Truly, handling this thread is like I imagine sewing with spider webs or something equally hard would be, except it doesn’t break once you get all the tensions and needles correct (I used top tension 1.75, bobbin is Superior Bottom Line 60 wt polyester set at 180 tension, and an Organ 75/11 titanium embroidery needle).

The laser light pointed the way.  I was able to stitch amazingly accurately and extremely close around those appliques.  I used the Q20’s BSR1 (stitch regulator mode 1) and the kickstarter that allows me to stitch without pressing the pedal.  I love the kickstart.  I didn’t at first, but now that I am really use to it, I use it nearly all the time for all the work I do at Fritz.

I then did some detail work within one of the appliques that truly brought it to life, with the laser pointer aimed at the chalk marks I had marked on the applique.  The monopoly was perfect for this, because I had painted the applique and free motion embroidered it.   I did not want to impact the free motion embroidery but I did want to quilt in the trapunto.  I had added an extra layer of wool batting behind the applique to give it that trapunto fill. I am very happy with it.  I haven’t yet done the detail for any of the other appliques.

So I then switched to metallic thread.  Metallics are known to be troublesome, but today Fritz was happy to play.  The metallic stitching I have done so far was just plain wonderful.  It is ruler work, stitching along several long marked lines.  The laser pointer works great with ruler work, pointing exactly where the stitch will go, so lining up that quarter inch, which is sometimes a little elusive, is no problem at all.  However I did find that the #72 ruler foot works better with the laser pointer than the #96.  The 96 has a diagonal fill in the center to help you place the needle that makes the laser point difficult to see if you are not leaning over it more than I do.  The 72 has an empty center, and that works just great.  For ruler work I use the BSR2 (stitch regulator designed for ruler work that moves when you move and stops when you stop, but sometimes it will take a stitch if it detects even a small amount of movement).  For metallic thread I set a top tension of 2.5, and use Bottom Line with the same 180 tension.  I also thread it so it runs across that little silicone liquid pad thingy.  In fact, I did that for both threads.

I have, in the past, had metallic thread stitch through a tiny tiny bit regardless of how hard I tried to get that perfect, causing judges to fuss about my tension.  For this quilt so far, this is not happening.  The tension appears perfect to me on both sides of the quilt. I’m really happy because I didn’t want to put metallic in the bobbin.  If the judges say I have tension issues on this quilt, I will just have to think they have some kind of special vision.  LOL

Sew my next challenge for the laser pointer light and Fritz are the complex pictographs I have to quilt on the quilt.  At least one of them will be stitched in metallics.  Then I still have to decide how I am going to stitch the background…I have an idea developing, but it will be a big challenge for me.  Still, if I can carry it off, I think it will be a wonderful quilt.  It’s so very much fun though.  I really recommend the laser light pointer and the use of the kickstarter if you have a Q20.  I also bought the echo circle attachments for the #72 foot that I am planning on using on this quilt.  I’ll give a review of their use when I get to that.

Sew happy everyone!  Try something new and don’t be discouraged if you have to spend some time learning it.  Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

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!