Do You Already Have A Sewing “Droid”?

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

Is R2D2 visiting with Odette?

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

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Odette

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

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

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

Odette

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

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

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

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

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

Sew happy everyone and have fun in your studio!

 

 

“Hand Work” by Machine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sew happy everyone! Have fun in your studio.

 

 

Busy Developing New Projects

Test and practice piece using all wool machine applique and embellishment

Hi gentle readers! As the title says, I have been very busy lately developing new projects that I hope you all will fully enjoy when I publish them here and in my YouTube channel.

For the first of these projects…exploring painting on quilted fabric…I will include any additional information that accompanies my video(s) that you might want here on my blog.  So the the entire exploration information and demonstrating videos that result in a handful of painted quiltlets will be free to you.  I am really having fun doing all the prep work for the videos and practicing the techniques and am nearly ready to start “filming” the videos.

For years I have been exploring how various types of fabric paints, artist crayons. and pencils, work with different types of fibers and weaves that are already quilted.  Or rather, I already know more or less how this works so I will be show the matching of the types of paints, crayons, and pencils with the different fabrics to get the best results.  I believe that by doing this, you will be able to take what I share and use it to get the looks you want on your own projects, or at least to explore your own ideas with some success. I am hopeful to get these published in April and May. 

In the process of working out the sampler quiltlets I came up with an idea I want to make for a cuddle lap quilt that I may or may not put into a video if I make it.  I haven’t decided if I can fit it into my work plan or not, but if I do make it, at the very least I will share it here on my blog. It involves in-the-hoop quilting designs coupled with free motion quilting and possibly quilt-as-I-go construction, but I haven’t fully decided on all of that yet.  It’s just an idea at this point.  I will be able to use some of my pretty threads for this project.

Anyway, in addition to working on the painting project hours daily for some time now I have been trying to design some new wool applique by machine projects to present on my channel for fall and winter. One will be quick and less complex and presented sometime soon, and others will be presented across the rest of the year.  But  I am also working to come up with a really good design with dimensional texture that uses the wonderful characteristics of wool for a small very artistic wall hanging. It will be what I think of as 2 1/2 D rather than 3D.  LOL

3D stump work dragonfly I made in the hoop has wire hidden in the stitching on the wings. This was so much fun to make, I want to do more in-the-hoop stumpwork.  Would you like a video on how I do this?

I am thinking, after much consideration, that the background fabric for this textural wall hanging will be on cotton, and the appliques will be wool.  I also am considering adding some couching of  wool yarns and maybe even some wool roving that I would needle punch with the needle punch attachment on my little baby machine, my Bernina 350, which I usually use for piecing and travel, but it also has several attachments I like to use on that machine because it has a 5.5 width maximum stitch that allows some interesting results.  I might also add stump work object that I make in-the-hoop from lighter fabrics.  Anyway, I’m working on a complete design that I am very hopeful will be really beautiful and interesting to watch me make on my YouTube channel.  It would be so delightful if some of you decide to make one yourself because it is so interesting and the result will be lovely.

If I get the design right, it will involve the use of three of my machines…my B350, my Bernina 880+. and my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm, but will be doable on a single domestic machine and a hand needle punch tool if that is all one has or wants to use.  For this project, I will be developing a downloadable pattern that I will sell in my website store. This pattern would include svg files for cutting out the appliques using a digital cutter and line drawings for use with scissors.  Anyway, it’s rumbling around in my head and I am working on various designs to come up with the best one.  It should be fun.  I have long known that it takes me longer to design a project and develop the pattern than to make it.  So this project will take some time, consist of multiple videos, and hopefully will be published over the summer.  It would make a wonderful present for someone, even if it is for your own sewing space.

Sew you may want to know where the third and last video of my two birds project is. My video director and editor has had some minor delays in getting it done as work and life got in the way.  We are hopeful that it will be out sometime in the first week of April. There is a downloadable pattern for this project available for only $5 on my website shop, but as of this writing I have only sold one copy, even though I have almost 400 views of the first two videos.  Since it would be very difficult to make this project without the pattern, I guess my hope that some of my viewers would try to make it themselves has not yet happened.  I am still hopeful that some quilters will decide to do the project and share their results with me so I can show you all.  Maybe they want to see the finish before they decide.  Or maybe people are not aware that it is almost a complete book on how to do this kind of project that they may find informative and interesting even if they don’t make it. It is accompanied by svg files for cutting the appliques.  You don’t have to have a digital cutter though, because it also has the line drawings to cutout the appliques with scissors.  Here are the links to video one and video two.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas and New Adventures for 2022

I digitized and embroidered this star as an applique. It is on one of my Christmas quilts now owned by my church.

Merry Christmas everyone!  I hope you are already enjoying this wonderful season.  It is one of my very most favorite times of the year. We are having a relatively simple celebration this year, but it is still joyous. Right now I have The Piano Guys YouTube videos of Christmas music playing while I write this.  They are fun.  Have you seen the one with the Christmas scene and all the cameras riding around in the little train, on the Christmas tree, and in the drone flying in the room?  Here’s the link. It’s really fun.  Or how about the one all done in legos.  Here’s that link.  So creative and beautifully performed.

Well, I finished the Two Birds quilt along with completing the filming of the videos. The whole stack of hours and hours of videos I made while I made the quilt, along with the voice over reading, and the intro and exits parts we filmed together last weekend are now being edited by my oldest son.

I have written the pattern and workbook that goes with it, and that too is being edited by the family team.  I don’t know when we will get the first video of that project published but hopefully not long now.  It’s a big job to edit such a tangle of videos, voice overs and corrections into three publishable videos that make sense and are also interesting.  It has already taken much longer than any of us anticipated, but that was primarily due to my unrelated circumstances this year that delayed things, such as my cataract surgery among other things.  But that is all behind me now and I greatly look forward to the coming new year.

I have every expectation that we will produce much more content for my YouTube channel at a bit faster pace and with ever increasingly interesting projects and building professionalism.  I have gotten to where I don’t get bothered by the cameras, know how to set them up properly, and have lots of fun ideas for new stitching/quilting/videoing projects.  I have learned that the videography is as important as the making of the fabric art piece to make it all work and find it also very interesting.

I still have only about a third of the subscribers and a fourth of the viewership needed to monetize the YouTube channel, but it is growing and I nevertheless enjoy being able to share my projects with my viewers.  I hope you all enjoy the videos and will be happy to see them when a new one is published.  We have several projects already planned for the new year.

First of all, I want to create some new wool applique by machine projects, because I think it is possible to make some stunningly beautiful pieces in this category that has hardly been touched in the quilting/fabric art world using the machine and my initial project was only a basic introductory layout of the techniques. It’s an adventure to see how far this can go.

Then I have three new show quilts in mind for 2o22 that I think you will all love or at least enjoy watching me make them.  I hope I can succeed in getting all three made.

There will be a number of short and shorter videos showing techniques and use of tools.

And then I need to make some new clothes.  I have everything I need for them and will try to spread them across the year so I have something new and fun to wear once in a while.  I probably won’t buy any ready-made clothing this year just as a sort of challenge to myself for fun.  I haven’t decided whether or not to video these projects.  What do you think?

Sew happy everyone!  Have a wonderful holiday season and I hope you also Have Fun in Your Studios!!!

 

 

 

 

Preparing for a Fun Sewing and Quilting Season

Hi everyone.  I can see so well out of my left eye now after the cataract surgery last Monday that it is  amazing. I am probably going to go ahead and have the right eye done in a month or thereabout afterall.  Working on my fabric art this coming season is really going to be fun.  Unfortunately, I can also see that the house needs a real cleaning, which I really couldn’t see before.

Well, first things first…and that’s the preparation for the sewing, quilting, fabric painting, and both free motion and in-the-hoop embroidery.  I’ll be using all kinds of threads, because I enjoy that part of my fabric art so much.

Sew I have made a check list and am going through it and straightening my studio at the same time.  My studio is not in bad shape, because I have found the reorganization I did with my friend Anita’s help several years back has held up pretty well.  Basically, I just need to put things back where they belong and do a quick check to see what I may need to replace or give away.

Here’s my check list, making sure I have:

— A sufficient supply of sewing machine needles in the following sizes and types:

a:  Assorted Superior titanium top stitch needles
b:  Assorted  Schmetz Super Non-Stick needles
c:  A couple of packages of assorted Schmetz universal needles

— Yards of Pellon SF101 lightweight woven interfacing (I buy a bolt usually and back many of my quilting fabrics with this), and a generous supply of other weights and types of interfacing (especially since I use this for clothing too).

— Generous supply of the blackest quilting cotton, because I use a lot of black in my quilts.  I love how colors play against the black.

— A nice selection of stabilizers,  I particularly like OESD Ultra Clean and Tear

— A supply of blades for my rotary cutters

— Look critically at the rulers and cutting mats for knicks and cracks and toss and replace if needed

— How are my pins? (everyone has their own preferences here, so I am not adding a link)

— Check all the bobbins to make sure they aren’t warped or some such.  The B880 bobbins have a silver paint on them that can wear off and make the bobbin unreadable for the machine.  So I need to toss them when they get bad, but I generally do that along the way, and the more recent bobbins seem to last longer than the earlier ones.

— Test the threader on my machines to make sure they don’t need a replacement head or something, I just replaced the one on my Q20, and because this is a weak point in my Q20 I keep a spare on hand.

— Carefully clean my machines, oil if needed (don’t oil if not, because too much oil is as bad as too little).

— battings.  I like to have on hand: Thermore super thin polyester (good for quilted clothes). Hobbs 80/20 , Hobbs Tuscany wool, and Hobbs Poly down.  Since I seldom make bed-sized quilts, I buy a crib or throw size of those if available.  If I am going to make a larger quilt I will buy the batting then. This way I usually have available what I need.

I will shop my stash and buy the fabrics I need to make them work as needed, so all I do here is make sure they are in their right places and more or less folded somewhat neatly. I labeled all the drawers and shelves where I keep them.  Occasionally they sneak into the wrong drawer somehow.  I can’t figure out how.  LOL

I will do the same thing with my threads, because I have a large thread stash to go with my large fabric stash.  I love both Superior threads and Wonderfil specialty threads and I have a wide selection of colors, weights, and fiber content. So I make sure they aren’t tangled in a nest and are in the right drawers or on the right pegs behind the door (I don’t store them where they get sunlight).

And last of all I dust and wipe down the tables, cutting mats, and outer parts of the machines, and dust and vacuum the studio. I wipe down my Q20 Koala table with Sullivan’s silicone spray, being sure to cover the bobbin/bsr area with blue painters tape  (which I also may need to replace) so it doesn’t get into the works.  It is such a great thing to be able to have things all stocked and ready to go for future projects and this usually takes me only a few days.

Now!  Let the fun begin! First up is my 2 birds project, and then a couple of Holiday quilts, one will be a wool applique and embellishment by machine for Christmas and then something else for the Holiday season.

Sew happy everyone!  Get ready to have fun in your studio!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Fear Your Advanced Machine(s)

 

 

Once in a while I see a conversation on one of my groups focused around sitdown longarms or high-end sewing machines where there are advanced or sitdown longarm machine owners saying they have not really used them much since they bought them because they don’t really know how to use them confidently or are afraid they will break them.  Knowing as I do that these machines can add so much fun and ability to accomplish really fine products, these conversations make me a little sad and frustrated.

True, they do require learning, practice, and a determination to move forward and learn to use them.  But they can help accomplish amazing sewing and quilting projects.

It’s important to use them correctly though.  That is not as difficult as it may seem.  Even if there is not a dealer nearby or one who offers good classes, there are some very helpful books, youtube videos, zoom classes and blogs to help.

One thing I have found that makes things work more easily is to get the feet that do those special things, add the attachments that enlarge the use of the machines, buy a handful of rulers.templates, get a nice selection of needles and pay attention to what you are using, and then play and practice!  Test, test, test. Practice. Practice.  Practice.  Play, play, play. And then step forward and do a sewing or quilting project you really want to do.  If the results aren’t terrific, do another project and don’t be too self critical.  Give your machine a name and pet it.  The last thing to do is sell your machine or leave it sitting there getting all lonesome.

My Q20 sitdown longarm with some rulers…and a practice piece.

I love my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm.  It is great not only for quilting, but also for free motion embroidery.  I have had it for five years now and have had almost no problems.  I do keep a notebook nearby to keep notes.

 

My Bernina 880 plus all ready to play

I also keep a notebook near my other sewing machines so I can write down things I learn along the way.  I always learn something in the process of making a new item.

Sew what can you make that won’t be distressing if it doesn’t come out quite right, but might be really fun if it does?  I have some suggestions:

Dog quilts, baby quilts for charity, wheelchair size quilts for charity, table toppers for your home, lap quilts for you and yours to cuddle under on tv night, simple tote bags with embroidery or applique, or just well made, zipped project bags, panel quilts with borders.

Aprons, simple skirts, easy tops not particularly fitted in style, some of those fun small projects you can find on sewing machine blogs, small zipped pouches for kids and travel, pajamas or nighties, robes for yourself and family

Decorative pillows using pre-made pillow forms, table cloths and napkins, kitted projects with instructions and all the pieces like from Kimberbell

THEN, you can move up to some more advanced decorative wall quilts, or a foot warmer quilt for your bed, make yourself a lovely outfit using a good pattern, put together your own kits and follow my patterns and video classes.

After that, you will be able to make anything!  Just take your time and assemble the parts, test all the parts, and fly with me.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio!

 

My Fabric Art and Video Making Merge to Fun

Sew I was realizing today as I worked in my studio that my fabric art and my video making are fairly well merged together finally and I have really begun to enjoy playing/working in my studio again.  It has definitely been a huge challenge.

I started back about September of last year, thinking I would just take some of the classes I used to teach and add a few more and turn them into videos to share on YouTube and make downloads to accompany them.  Simple, right?  I had no idea what I was about, how to really accomplish it, and the journey I was undertaking.  Using my single little GoPro camera I just made a video and edited it on my video editor that was designed for home videos. I had to learn to edit just for that.

After my family and I saw the video result I had loaded up on YouTube, we all realized it would not do.  It had many problems from lighting to scripting to quality of the filming.  Plus, the talent (me) needed to figure out a little better how to address the watcher.  So I took it down and my family swung in there and helped me get set up, figure out how to do the videos, and are still helping me produce better videos.  It was a period of frustration, especially when my computer failed just after we got started and it it took a couple of months before that was solved.  Now I have a wonderful setup as well as a good computer that is designed for this work (thanks to my family set of professional techies).  Grown kids are the greatest blessing!

It’s been a major change in my studio and the way I work and I’m still learning, but this past few weeks I had a lot of fun. I realized that fun has returned to my studio work, frustration has cooled down, and happiness is centered around fabric art again.

Sew new ideas are flooding in and  I have quite a few  directions I will be taking this newly merged activity based on what I have learned over the years.  And yes, I do still plan to make show quality and experimental quilts, perhaps, though, with some videoing along beside them.

One thing I have been adding to help fund this rather expensive activity and keep the YouTube video teaching free for my followers and friends, is to add some affiliations with companies so I can recommend products I use myself with links for you to use both here on my Blog and on my YouTube in the information box below the videos.  If people use them and purchase something at the time or shortly thereafter, I will get a small percentage from the purchase and it won’t cost them any more for the product and they won’t have to hunt for it.

I so far have only had people reference the links and not purchase enough for anyone to pay me anything (it has to add up to a bit before you get paid), but I hope this will improve as time goes on and my followers understand how it supports my little business to help keep things going.

So far I have an affiliation with Connecting Threads, Dick Blick art supplies, Accuquilt cutters, and yes, Amazon to cover the blank areas the others don’t.

Very recently I added Wonderfil Specialty Threads.  Now you all who know me know I love Superior Threads too, but the thread types I use and like from Wonderfil are not made by Superior Threads, so between the two of them I’ve got the many types I like to use covered.

I am planning on a number of YouTube classes and Quick Tip Videos that will involve extensive thread work using these specialty threads along side of the Superior I like too (even though they don’t have an affiliate program).  It will be fun…small wall art whole cloth quilts that feature things I love like trees, rocks, trains, birds, flowers, and architecture that are sized right for a small space on your home walls or even in an office or for use on pillows or tote bags, etc.  They should be fun…fun to make, fun to watch being made, fun to think about.

Sew happy everyone! Have fun in your studio and treasure your family and friends.  If you have something you want to have me present on my videos, please tell me in the comments.

 

 

Preparing for FM Stitching and a Book

First of all, I am celebrating today, because my youngest son David just released his latest novel (click on the book to find it)! Congratulations to him.

Setting up for free motion quilting or thread play

While my communiques (blogs, vlogs, and YouTube videos) are intended for everyone who wants to play, regardless of their machines, sometimes I also address some quick specifics for working on Berninas.  Please don’t stop reading when you come across those if you are not a Bernina owner, because you might find some of what I say interesting anyway.

I have three Berninas: a Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm, a Bernina 880 Plus, and a Bernina 350.  I also have a simple older BabyLock serger.  I am truly grateful to have this collection of machines I obtained over the years through trade ups, gifts, and so forth. This is a wonderful set of machines for me to play with here in my studio. It’s like playing inside my own wonderland with favorite toys.  But it does require practice, sometimes research, testing tools and techniques, and (gasp!) reading my manuals to get the most from this stable of machines.  So I want to share what I have learned from this.

Setting Up For Free Motion

Domestic Machines:

The setup for free motion on these machines is relatively simple.

If you don’t have a Bernina Stitch Regulator (BSR attachment) or want to work without it, simply put on a darning or quilting foot like foot #73, #24, #29 or #9. Drop your feed dogs.

If you have a Bernina stitch regulator attachment that works on your machine, attach it and set it for your chosen BSR mode. BSR1 runs smoothly and constantly, idling with a little stitching, which is great for smooth free motion quilting and free motion embroidery. The idling allows you to stitch several stitches at the corner of a sharp turn in addition, which makes a nice turn.  BSR2 stops when you stop and starts when you start, so you may prefer this setting. I find with this attachment I have to use a slightly shorter stitch length and not sew too fast for best results.

One of the interesting things you can do with this BSR attachment, is free motion zig zag with stitch regulation, which can’t be done on a sitdown longarm with a stitch regulator. This can provide some unique thread play opportunities and looks.

For most domestic machines you probably won’t need to make any adjustment in tension from the default for normal threads. For specialty threads, however, you may need to lower or raise the top tension to accommodate specialty thread weights and types. It’s a good idea to do a test using similar fabrics and write down your changes before working on your project piece.

When doing free motion it helps a lot to have a slick supporting surface, so I use a silicone mat, such as a Supreme Slider. I tape mine down with that indispensable studio tool blue painters tape because I have ruined more than one mat by stitching it to the back of my project. I have repaired them a bit with clear packing tape if they aren’t too badly torn. Yes, I know the stickiness returns if you rinse the back, but you have to remember to do that periodically and also the heavier and larger your quilt the more likely it is to dis-attach from the table and get caught in the stitching.

A queen sized Supreme Slider taped down with blue painters tape at my old Bernina 830 LE (I traded it for my 880 Plus last year). This works well and is easy to remove when you need to.

Setting Up the Q20 and the Q16 sitdown longarms

These machines are built for free motion quilting and free motion thread work and truly you can dive right in just as they are. But there are a few things that are helpful to know to make your free motion stitching work better.  Note that I have had my Q20 now for nearly five years and I love it.

Free motion is always better when the supporting base is slick and the fabric can slide easily. There are some very large silicone mats available for these machines, where you cut the square carefully around the BSR/Bobbin square area (whatever do you call that?!!!).

Some people like using these extra large silicone mats with their sitdowns, I don’t have one. I spray the table before each project with Sullivan’s silicone spray, and wipe it fully dry with a soft cloth or paper towel. But before I spray it, I cover the BSR/Bobbin area under the needle and the vent area at the back of the machine with blue painter’s tape to prevent the spray from going down into the machine works. Alternatively, you can spray into the cloth and wipe the table but I think you get a little less silicone on the table that way (not scientific, just an opinion). From personal experience I know the spray works very well.

These machines have two BSRs built in which provide excellent stitch regulation.

  • BSR1 constantly runs and has a speed setting to make it cruise along easily at the pace you like. I use it for most of my free motion quilting and all of my free motion embroidery. I like to start off with a relatively slow “idle” speed of 250 to 300 and will raise that if I need to. The machine will run very fast if you want it to.
  • BSR2 stops when you stop and starts when you start. I use this mostly for ruler work.
  • BSR3 is a basting stitch with multiple stitch lengths to choose from. I use it a lot for larger quilts. I will spray baste the sandwich and then do some large segments of thread basting. This is especially good for your masterpiece or show quilting that will take a long time just to keep everything in good placement.
  • Then there is manual setting that does not engage the BSR, of course, but it does have a speed control on it so you can set it at a comfortable pace for you. I like this for micro-quilting, but I don’t use it for much else. It is smooth running and quieter and makes it easy to do those tiny bubbles for instance, but I still prefer the BSRs for most of my quilting.  It’s a personal preference. Some people prefer this mode for everything, but if you are new to the machine, I urge you to try the BSRs first. They are wonderful.

I often get the question about what thread will the Berninas use. All my Berninas will work well with almost any good quality thread. I just have to be sure I have the right needle, tensions, stitch length, and the speeds set up right for that.

Keeping notes on how you set things up is always helpful, but these machines have four savable programs for various thread settings, which is really nice. Once you set it all up like you like it, you can save it and even tell it what thread and needle it is for in the naming of the programs.

I like to use the kickstart feature, which allows me to free motion stitch/quilt with a very steady power feed.  This helps me relax while stitching and eliminates most stitch skips and the like, without my foot on the pedal. This is because the pedal is basically on/off and if you don’t keep your foot fully down it might skip a stitch, though not usually.

For using the kickstart, get your BSR mode chosen and make sure you are all set up, then kick the pedal at the heel and the machine will sew until you press the pedal at the front to stop it. I love it. You don’t have to concentrate on anything other then where you place your stitching once you get used to it.  Here’s a youtube with cute fluffy slippers on using it:

And last, but not least be sure to set your bobbin tension to match your thread in the bobbin.  I use mostly Superior Bottom Line in my bobbin…even mostly their prewound M sized bobbins, which are Bottom Line…and set my tension to 180 using the Towa Guage that comes with the machine.  The Bernina default setting is 220, but I find you really need to adjust per thread size.  If you somehow didn’t get one, be sure your dealer gives you one. It’s not like a domestic…it’s a real longarm.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio. I hope you found this helpful.  I will be posting my next video probably this weekend.  Cheers.

 

Way More than a Hobby and Memories of a Great Seamstress

This sewing machine is like the one I remember Mom having when I started to sew.

For me, sewing and quilting is and has been for most of my life far more than a hobby.

My earliest memories of sewing are from when my family lived in Paducah, Kentucky (interesting considering Paducah’s position in the quilt world today!). My Dad was working with Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) on their power plant there.  I clearly remember sitting beside my mother at her pretty black Singer sewing machine when I was very young.  She was telling me how important it was to clean and oil your machine and keep a good fresh needle in it.  That was my first lesson that I never forgot.  She was a true expert “seamstress” and we shared the love of sewing throughout her life.

Mom and me in May 1967. We are both wearing clothes we made.

We made most of our own clothes together for as long as I lived at home.  With her guidance, I made some of my more complex clothing like tailored wool suits, overcoats, and stylish clothing of all types.  She made my prom dresses and accompanying gorgeous wraps and I made the bags.

We never did quilt together. I don’t know if she ever quilted. She made some lovely stuffed dolls and stuffed toys..not just rag dolls, sails for the sailboat, tents, in addition to the gorgeous clothes at couture level.  I still have the Victorian doll  that she made and I dressed so long ago. The jacket and skirt satin fabric is sun faded, but I love it. I miss her.

Throughout my life, it has been a key  skill for me to be able to sew.  It enabled me to make not only my own work clothes when I went out to work, but my husband’s too.  I made Marvin suits and a gorgeous Harris Tweed jacket he loved.  I even made him a tuxedo from tropical wool with silk satin lapels using a stylish Bill Blass pattern from Vogue that required substantial resizing (he was a big tall guy).  It turned out well and he wore that for years especially when he sang. He got many compliments on it. I, of course, made things for my boys too…clothes, overcoats, backpacks, pup tents, bedroom curtains, and so forth.

Until I went out to work and got so busy I had little time to sew, I never had to wear anything that wasn’t stylish and well fitted when I went out because I could make what I wanted and alter what I bought to fit right.  Even then, I was able to make things fit better.  It is my hope to keep on sewing  to the end of my life,  Mostly, however, that will probably be making quilted fabric art with the occasional clothing item.

I still do a small amount of clothes sewing, but I work from home now as a fabric artist, and don’t sing with semi-professional choral groups anymore or even often go to concerts.  So my work uniform is jeans and a simple shirt or sweater.  I have a closet full of nice clothes that are timeless in style and I mostly manage to keep well maintained so they fit me.  I have been slowly loosing weight so I do need to do some altering now. I made myself a new overcoat from my stash last year with a faux fur collar.  It’s wonderful. I also made my youngest son a rather nice faux leather jacket.

Making quilted art seemed a natural progression for me towards the end of my government career and I decided to retire a little earlier than I might have otherwise to be a full time fabric artist.  I started quilting about a year after Marvin died at my sweet daughter-in-law’s suggestion.  It helped me cope a lot and still does.

I have occasionally made a cuddle quilt, but creating quilted art for the wall or the occasional piece of wearable art,  is really exciting for me. I took multiple art classes in both high school and college, and have taken private art lessons in addition, practiced on my own, and have my fourth year certificate in Japanese Ikebana I obtained in Japan.  Ikebana is also an art form that inspires some of my wall quilts.

I particularly love to see how far I can push the sewing boundaries working with the power of my machines, the great advances in threads, notions, and fabrics, and even working with leather or fur (mostly faux unless it is recycled), cork, fibers, trims, and beads.

Why am I telling you all this?  Because I have launched my YouTube video channel and am also writing workbooks and patterns to go along with them.  I want you to know that what I am teaching is based on a solid background of study and experience and hope you will join me in many of the projects I will be presenting.

Fabric art is a great way to decorate your home or cheer up your office–wherever it is–celebrate the seasons or family landmark events, help you deal with the more difficult times of life, and fill you with joy and peace.  You can express things through fabric art…praise, thanksgiving, love…This is true even if you get a little frustrated over problems you will encounter and sometimes have to walk away, or throw the project in the back of your storage area for a “time out.”

The fact is, though, that figuring out how to overcome problems you encounter in your projects can help you keep a sharp mind and give you a real satisfaction when done.  Experimenting with new techniques, materials, and designs adds to the whole enjoyment.

Sew happy everyone! Have fun in your studios. Subscribe to my YouTube channel so you will know when a new video arrives.

 

 

Going Beyond My Own Abilities

I love quilted fabric art pieces, in case you haven’t figured that out yet,  They can be as artistic as any great painting and can warm the home and office with their beauty.  The texture can approach three dimensional with different finishes and dents and poufs, and they make you want to go and touch them.  There are so many directions they can take.

I also love using the power of my great machines and my computer to work well beyond my own talents and abilities even as my hands age and can do less. There is much there to take advantage of for creating and enjoying and the additions continue. I even recently bought a new Bernina foot and my dealer kindly mailed it to me.

Learning the techniques, and taking advantage of the various attachments and feet is an important and interesting part of this.

Understanding how the machines respond to fabrics, threads, and quilt sandwiches is a key aspect to getting the maximum advantages out of the machines.

Trying not to get too frustrated when things don’t go well, but instead working through various steps to see what can be done to solve problems is equally important, and perhaps the hardest thing to do.

Learning how to better use various helpful software also adds to how far one can go.

These are the goals for me to continue to reach for this year even after all these years of sewing and quilting using these great tools.  I have concluded there is always more to learn.  And then I also want to get better adding surface design in the form of in-the-hoop embroidery, paints, beads, and crystals to move even further just adds to the enjoyment.  I feel almost like I am just beyond a beginner in this aspect.

Stitched slightly distorted swirl I made using Superior metallic threads on Kaufman Kona black fabric as a test piece playing with some in-the-hoop embroidery I digitized in my Bernina embroidery software just for fun.

Sew even though it is unclear where we will land in our quilting/sewing world after The Great Upheaval, my own name for the pandemic and actions taken, there will always be much to do and learn.  This makes me excited even as I still hang out safely in my studio.  Truth be told, even after we all get through this thing and I can go out more, I will be spending the majority of my time in my studio because I love these activities.  Yes, I will have my friends in finally and go see them, and I will go to brick and mortar fabric stores that may be left, and will delight as I see the rebirth of the industry across the nation.  I hope to go back to shows eventually.  I think we still have some months before this happens.

So I will be making some smaller projects in 2021 but still plan on doing them to quilt show quality even if they never go to a show.  It is the standard that I don’t want to leave.  I will, of course, also make some cuddle quilts and a few clothes this year.

This Week’s Featured Quilt

Kanazawa Memories, Completed August 2015 Sashiko designs stitched with 12 weight Sulky cotton on Peppered Cotton. I digitally painted the individual flower appliques and printed them on cotton, and then arranged them in a close approximation of arranging Ikebana with real flowers.  The vase is made from some hand dyed silk I had on hand.  I then appliqued them with Monopoly.  This is the perfect example of what I was just talking about.  I did take a hand Sashiko class from the great Pepper Cory and I loved it, but I have a very hard time hand stitching Sashiko now.  But here I used digitized Sashiko, some of which I digitized myself, and picked threads and fabrics close to what I knew were very Japanese in nature.  Decades ago, I lived in Kanazawa for three years and had some wonderful helpful friends.  This quilt was created while thinking about this time in my life.  You can see a better image of this on my website gallery.  I am still waiting my coming new computer after the great computer crash a week ago, so I must use what is available here on my laptop.  Here’s the link to the gallery page where you can find this.

Sew happy everyone!  Join me in advancing our understanding of what we can do with the machines we have.  Cheers everyone.