Spiral Galaxy Quilt: I Might Actually Make My Deadline

I have made a good strong start on my spiral galaxy quilt.  I am using several pictures found on NASA’s gallery of pics of M101, aka The Pinwheel Galaxy as my model.  This is for inspiration and to get a good spiral galaxy look.  I will not be making a picture of this particular galaxy…it will be my homage to these gorgeous galaxies.  Here’s one:

The Pinwheel Galaxy M101

The Pinwheel Galaxy M101

Sew I have been thinking about making this quilt for over a year now, and decided I needed a quilt for the Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza (PNQE) this September because I have plans to go to that show.  It’s nicely in driving distance and I have a friend who lives close enough for me to stay with her.  She wants to come and see it too.  The deadline is August 15th!!!!!  Yikes!!!!!.

The advantage to making this quilt on the fast track is that I have thought it through for some months and collected all the pieces.  I knew exactly how I wanted to approach it.  The time consuming part of this quilt is figuring out how to do it, quilting it, and adding the crystals.  I think I can make the deadline.  I first made a practice study to help me not only practice before quilting, but make decisions on threads and patterns.  Here that is:

Doing the study

Doing the study

So I decided on black 40 weight Superior Magnifico for the main swirl, Superior monopoly for quilting the spinoffs, Isacord 40 weight rusty number 1335, and 100 weight black silk for the background stippling.  I have hot fix crystals in three sizes, in ab crystal, blue, and pink.  I am planning on A LOT of crystals. Here’s a close up of one of the spiral galaxies…look at how many stars there are that look like crystals, and no, I won’t get anything like that, but it gives you an idea of why it needs a lot of crystals:

M74

M74

I got the background black fabric painted with an underlay paint of thin white to give the white, pink, and blue Angelina Fibers some help.  Then I made the Angeline Fiber applique in a couple of days and sandwiched the quilt … black back, black 80/20 Hobbs batting. the top, the Angelina Fiber applique (which is only sewn down during quilting), and topped it all with a black nylon bridal veiling and pinned it together.

Now here’s the thing that makes it potentially possible for me to meet this deadline…Fritz!  Yes, my new Q20 is really fast.  I also obtained a couple of sets of Lisa Calle’s pro echo rulers in long sweeping curves to help me quilt the main spirals.   Actually, I got that done and this morning I picked out and restitched the couple of problem spots, but they weren’t very much.  I was surprised by that.  The ruler work really did make it go smoothly and quickly.

quilting the main quilt

quilting the main quilt

I just started the vast amount of organic quilting.  This will take some time, but I have several weeks.  After quilting the swirl gas clouds, I have the organic looking rusty dust streaks that go with the swirls (take a look at the two NASA pictures, and I think you’ll see what I mean).  That will probably take another week.  That’s three weeks to complete the quilting. That will leave me time to bind it and get it photographed and an additional week to fix problem spots if needed (I really hope it isn’t).

So I believe I will make the deadline and it will be a fun quilt to show my friend in Pennsylvania (and elsewhere) if it is let in the door.  LOL

Sew happy everyone!  Try a fast track quilt once in a while just to see if you can do it and for fun (but don’t stress out over it).

 

My Own Quilting Retreat

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

Here is Fritz:

My new Bernina Q20 named Fritz.

My new Bernina Q20 named Fritz.

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

Day 1…it’s a beginning

 

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

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

 

Day 2...some improvement in this pattern

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

 

Practice 2 a

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

 

Practice 2 b

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

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

 

The Q20 and the Great Customer Service from G Street Fabrics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Organic Quilting for Landscapes

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

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

"sculpted sky" quilting pattern for Drawing Nigh

“sculpted sky” quilting sample for Drawing Nigh

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

quilting-1-web

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

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

Noel quilting

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

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

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

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

 

Finishing Things So I Can Start New Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Studio Revamp: Throw Away, Give Away, Keep…Repeat

Now that I have ordered my Bernina Q20, I have to prepare a place for it by mid June.  This is a pretty big project, because it involves reorganizing my whole upper level, starting with my bedroom and master bath (there are drawers in there).  I have to eliminate one of my two dressers from my bedroom, move the Koala cabinet where I use my alternative machines into my bedroom where the dresser is now, and finish up with some reduction of fabrics and other assorted junk and a good vacuuming and dusting.

So I have begun by cleaning out the dresser I intend to keep, and I found a whole big black bag of old work things to toss and a bag of things give away in that dresser.  I no longer wear panty hose, business tops, and skirted suits except on very rare occasions.  Back when I worked, wore these everyday.  Now my “uniform” is a long sleeved shirt or top, a pair of jeans, and socks and shoes. So I will keep a few business dress outfits and get rid of the rest.

I have fashion fabrics in under bed storage boxes.  These are currently out in the room and need to be sorted and put back.  There you will find some lovely woolens, silks, and other dressy/business fabrics.  I will probably keep a few and give away the rest.  Every now and then I want to sew some clothing, but I don’t need that much and the clothes I want to make are different for me now.

I should have done this right after I retired in January 2012, and, in fact, I did a little, but I was still attached to things, thinking I would wear them, but I haven’t at all.  I now think they look dowdy, no longer match my coloring, (I have let my hair go natural, with lots of gray and it looks a little blond), and I have a different life style altogether.  So I will be able to do this without a problem…just a lot of work.  And in the end, I will be much happier with my bedroom as well as my studio.

Then if I have time before the machine gets here, I am going to prune my stash down so it all fits in the generous storage units I have for them and give the studio a good cleaning.  My taste in quilting fabrics has changed over the past few years as well.

Sew happy everyone!  Is it time to spring clean your bedroom and studio?  When done well, it helps the work flow for a long time, I think.

Betty Jo’s Fabric Arts: The Adventure Continues!

I am excited about the future of Betty Jo’s Fabric Arts.  Now that Drawing Nigh is completed, I am working to finish my Hoffman Challenge quilt.  I have the top nearly finished, and only have to applique on the animals.  The focus is oversized butterflies, which are flying playfully through a happy, whimsical forest.  I am going to have to figure how I want to quilt this quilt, but I expect to get to the sandwiching and quilting in a day or two.

Some of you may already know the really good news…my Bernina 830 LE, named “Gibbs” was repaired yesterday by Lew, the magician tech who works at G Street Fabrics Bernina section.  It had somehow gotten everything way out of timing among other things and there was a big knot of thread he pulled out of it, but I THINK that was a result not a cause of the problem.  Nevertheless, he says it is in good shape and should keep going for a good long time.

More than ever now I believe I need to get a dedicated quilting machine to help move my quilting a higher level and reduce the stress on my domestic machines, especially Gibbs.  I have been doing a lot of research on sit down longarms.  I had a lot of you all give me some great feedback to my question about what you think I should look into.  While I was at the Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival, I tried a bunch of them there.  That left just a few to look into.

After all the research and a family conference with my sons and Beth (my daughter in law), I have decided on a Bernina Q20.  The dealer is closer (a big point), the machine stitch is beautiful and smooth, and it has a really great stitch regulator (which I particularly wanted).  I had some good feedback from people who have one, and the G Street Bernina dealership has provided me a very good price on one and the table, and starting tomorrow there is a 60 month interest free finance special and sale.

I am now trying to figure out how I can fit it into my studio, and I think I can.  Like a computer adventure game, it starts at a different place from where it will end up and things need to be solved along the way.  I first have to go through my dressers and closets and empty enough from them to remove one of my two dressers.  It is high time anyway, since I still have a bunch of things I no longer wear now that I don’t have a government job that required a totally different wardrobe.  Doable, but somewhat overwhelming.

After I remove the dresser, I will move the Koala cabinet that I use with my backup/alternate Berninas (the B350, and the old 1230), from my office space to my bedroom where the dresser is now. The new cabinet will fit where the Koala cabinet is now in the office side of my two-small-bedroom studio.  I have my ironing board set up in there, and it will not fit after the new machine is there, since it is in a somewhat wider cabinet.  So I will have to figure out what to do with that.   A big job, but there you are…a way forward.

Sew happy everyone.  May your machine(s) play happily with your projects.

 

Thoughts about Machines

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

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

Machine appliqueing with very narrow zig zag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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