Advancing One’s Fabric Artistry

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Using Those Scraps of Special Elements in the Studio

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Hi everyone! I have been thinking about my crowded stash and studio tools amassed from decades of professional and personal sewing and quilting. I want to make something special with a lot of them…or maybe strive to build more than one amazing masterpiece project using these wonderful elements.

A collection of beautiful threads from Wonderfil.

This idea has been growing in my head for some time now and I have recently had conversations with two fabulous important quilters about this that further encouraged me.  When I couple these elements with  all the interesting things I have been learning about what I can do with my machines, it becomes very interesting indeed.  I haven’t fully decided whether this is exactly going to be a Victorial style crazy quilt or a somewhat different design of my own with a crazy quilt and Victorian steam punk slant.

crepe back satin from my stash

Over my many decades of sewing and quilting, I have accumulated bits and leftover pieces of silk palace brocades, satins and dupionis, batiks, velveteens, wools, small bits of fabulous laces, vintage handkerchiefs, pieces of crochet that my Mom left me, small leftover lengths of silk ribbons and other special trims, and a collection of beautiful threads of a wide variety of sizes, fibers, and weights.  To helo draw all of this together are my Berninas…my little B350 with several special attachments, my big Bernina 880 plus with its embroidry module and nice set of feet, and my Q20 sitdown longarm.

Sew, what would YOU do with this collection of elements and tools?

Edna Mode, waiting for an answer as to what to do with all these beautiful scraps and threads and interesting machines.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studios.

 

 

 

Do You Already Have A Sewing “Droid”?

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

Is R2D2 visiting with Odette?

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

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

Odette

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

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

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

Odette

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

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

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

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

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

Sew happy everyone and have fun in your studio!

 

 

“Hand Work” by Machine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sew happy everyone! Have fun in your studio.

 

 

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.