Problem Solving Tools in the Studio 1: Needles

The other day I was having trouble with a metallic thread I was using breaking periodically.  It sewed beautifully for a bit and then broke.  I rethreaded and it did it again.  I was using a Superior 90/14 titanium top stitch needle, which is the one I use the most and which handles 40 weight embroidery threads extreamly well.  The metallic thread was about a 40 weight.  I finally decided to change the needle for a Klasse needle that I happened to have on hand that is designed for metallic threads.  It sewed so well I managed to finish my project without another thread break.

I have had the same good results when sewing with monopoly threads when I use a 70 universal needle rather than a top stitch needle I was using.  I think the needles kind of “step on” these specialy threads and the slight rounded needle point just slides by the thread rather than break.

Sew as I am getting to know my new Bernina 880 plus, Odette, I have been planning new projects and testing various techniques for them.  This process has highlighted to me a happy thought that I have greatly enlarged my understanding of sewing, quilting, and problem solving in the studio since I retired from my government job to be a full-time fabric artist.

As well as using the right needle helps to solve thread problems, so does the little things like using a net when sewing from a cone of thread.  The net keeps the thread from “pooling” at the bottom of the cone which will cause uneven feeding through the thread track and produce some tension problems.

I know that many of my readers already have a full understanding of the use of various types of needles. In the past, even though I really kind of knew what should be used,  I did not take full advantage of the substantial differences using the proper needles can make.  I used to just put in a universal 80/12 and use it for almost everything, changing only for specialty sewing.  After I retired to my studio career, I decided to pay more attention to the needle I used.  I found to my delight that it solved some of the stitching struggles I used to just power through.

Today I keep on hand an array of needle types and use them appropriately, often changing the needle several times during one project.  For the most part, I use Superior titanium needles, which I believe to be the best on the market.  However, I do also think Organ, Schmetz, Bernina, and Klasse needles are excellent brands.

The needle companies are doing many new things with needles now, like special needles to reduce stickiness when you are sewing through layers of fusibles, for instance.

Several of the brands have guidelines on their websites for their different needles.  Here are some helpful links with a wealth of information on needles and their uses:

Side note: I get quality needles and don’t always use them up as I change them, so the first thing I had to do when deciding to change needle types for different threads, was to come up with a way to keep these needles for future use.  I have two things that I do this with.  One is a big red tomato pin cushion that I have marked around it which type of needle is in which section.  I keep this by my big Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm.  It uses domestic machine needles, which I like.  The other method for keeping track of these partially used machine needles  is my needle book I made several years ago that I have marked areas for different needles on the flannel pages in the book.  I keep this with me for use wherever I need them.  I even take it with me when I go to workshops, retreats, or downstairs when I need to do hand sewing.  Also, I try to keep a record of what needle is in the machine.  Odette has a useful built in program for doing this, but neither my little B 350 nor my Q20 have this.  So I keep a notebook close by  for that and other reminders along the way.

Sew if you are having problems with your thread breaking, splitting, or not stitching with an even tension, it might just be your needle.  If you think your machine “doesn’t like” a particular thread, it might really just need a different needle type or size.

 

 

 

 

 

Satin Sampler

OK.  I have been working out a satin sampler to test markers, techniques, threads, paints, and background designs for several projects, one being my Mom’s memory quilt.  The cool thing about this is that I am making it with polyester crepe back satin.  It has a lovely beefy hand and I wanted to test it for future projects.  Why?  Partly because I can get a 58 inch wide piece for about $5 per yard for a lighter hand up to $8 a yard for a heavy satin instead of the $17 to $40 a yard for 43″ wide fabric, and partly because there are some wonderful colors available in the polyester that don’t run when washed.  I am using the heavy polyester crepe back satin for this sampler.  I will be making it into a pillow top for my bedroom since I can tell I will like it when finished.

Sew I have layered it with a cotton backing, and a double bat of Quilter’s Dream 80/20 select loft on bottom and Quilter’s Dream wool on top.  I marked it with a heat-away gel pen (see my blog on marker testing for this satin) that I do not recommend unless you are prepared to go through a removal process that requires much effort and time.  This ink returns when frozen (such as in the airplane when you check your luggage or ship it someplace). Also, my marker testing is incomplete, because I want to finish the sampler, freeze it, and completely test the removal process again on this sandwiched piece. I am quilting it with 40 weight Superior Magnifico and, where needed, 100 weight microquilter.

I painted this sampler with a combination of Setacolor and Jacquard Lumier fabric paints in order to get the colors I wanted.  Their steadfastness will also be tested in the freezing/washing test.

Here is a little look at my work on this little sampler thus far.  I am really having fun with this.  While most of the stitch work has been on my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm, some very small amount was done on my new B 880 Plus machine, just to see how it quilts.  LOL

 

 

So my conclusion about good quality polyester crepe back satin as a quilting fabric…it works, it’s beautiful, and it both paints and quilts well.  I do back it with a very light weight pellon fusible to make it behave well.

* * * * * * *

Something I didn’t tell you all earlier is that just after I got Odette all sorted out with a new machine from Bernina because the first one seemed to have a serious problem, I made a mistake in threading it and got a huge glob of thread nest in it that I could not remove myself.  So I had to take it in to the dealer to get it fixed.  It made me weep. I was really gloomy when I found that Lew, the magical tech guy, was out for two weeks and so I had to wait.  He fixed it almost imediately when he got back and I got it safely home on Tuesday and have done considerable sewing and embroidery on it since then.  It is clearly a wonderful machine.  It was my mistake, and I have since figured out what I did wrong (with Lew’s suggestions).  I didn’t want to whine again or have people tell me I was wrong to buy it in the first place because their prefered brand works so much better they think.

Anyway, that meant that I was without my main sewing machine for nearly three months with the exception of a day or two twice!!!  So I did a lot of sewing on my little Bernina 350 and a lot of free motion work on my Q20, and a lot of non-machine prep work for future projects, and stacked up quite a bit of work for the new machine.  I will, therefore, be missing a few deadlines I had tentatively planned on.

I have begun attacking the stack of work and have been having a huge amount of fun and the icy fear of further machine problems has begun to melt away over the past week.  In addition to some “regular” sewing, I did some in-the-hoop embroidery last week that came out so perfect and beautiful that I was nearly weeping again, this time in joy.  You should know that I seldom cry for anything much, and am known as a “tough old bird” as one of my former colleagues told me.  But this machine saga seems to have loosened a few tears from me.

Sew happy everyone!  May your stitches be beautiful and your machines play well with you for many years.  Hugs to you all!

 

Fall Is In the Air

Color Swirl by Kevin Tatum (my grandson) using Corel Painter.

Ever since I was in High School, which was a long long time ago, I have gotten excited when I started thinking about fall and winter sewing and quilting.  This year is no exception.  In fact, having just reorganized my fabric, thread, paint, and notions stashes, and purchased a new Bernina 880 Plus, I am more excited than usual about the projects I have before me this year.

One of the things I always like about going through my studio to sort things out is finding pieces of fabric I had forgotten about or had at least pushed to the back of my to do list.  This is for both clothes and quilts.

When I cleared up my studio this year, I also went through my clothing patterns, pruning out about 75 percent of my old patterns and keeping only those that seem right for me now.  The remaining patterns and fabrics for clothes on hand are inspiring me  to think about making some new clothes. My wardrobe really needs an update too.

When I bought my new machine, I got it at a time when they were providing a gift that includes new feet, some machine luggage, additional embroidery motifs for use in the hoop and a variety of other neat things.  I was able to exchange some of the feet that duplicated those I already had for some new ones.  So now I have a lot of feet that are inspiring ideas for using interesting techniques.

Remember when I talk about all  the things I have found in my studio, I have been sewing since I was five years old and I am 72. I retired in 2012 to be a full time fabric artist.  So some of the things have been hiding for a while from me in some of the closets, in boxes under my bed, and even in plain sight…LOL.  I feel very blessed.  Because of all the things I recently rediscovered stashed away I don’t have to buy anything new for most of the projects I want to make.  I did restock some threads and paints that I anticipate needing.  So I have resolved to myself that for the next year I will attempt to do m work without new stuff.  Now I want to make:

  • a new bag, in leather (I now have feet for use with leather and vinyl and some leather).
  • a new suit, in black denim (I have a stash that includes a fair amount of denim) with embroidery
  • a blue denim jacket
  • a new dress suit in wool with a silk top to go with it
  • a new jacket in raw silk, maybe 2 since I have 2 nice pieces
  • several new tops and use some heirloom techniques  (I have a nice collection of feet to use for this now) and embroider some of them.
  • I also want to make several new show and utility quilts.

It is fairly certain that  I won’t get all of this done this year, but it’s nice to have them on the list to pick from as I do have time.

Clearly I have an exciting and busy time ahead that will last well beyond fall and winter, and I have already started.  I will have to plan my days in order to fit other important things into my life.  I’m excited!  I’m sure the nicely rearrangement of my studio, and my wonderful fleet of machines will help me accomplish a great deal of these projects though.  So I won’t have to buy any new clothes for fall through spring either. I don’t have much in the way of summer fabrics, unless I use my quilting cottons.  LOL

Oh, and last year I made a new dressy overcoat with a “fur” collar using some of the fabrics on hand.  It’s warm and cosy.  So I really do complete a lot of these dream projects.

Messy work table with coat pieces


Progress Report on My Mom’s Memory Quilt

I have made a good start on my Mom’s memory quilt, which is going to also be a show quilt, but I have a long ways to go on it.  It has a large pentagon in the middle of it on which I am appliqueing her needle work.  The pentagon fabric is a lovely medium blue dupioni that sets off the beauty of her crocheted lace.  It’s a pentagon because I thought I only had five of the ten inch squares I found in her work basket, but during the reorganization I found a sixth square.  It’s a slightly different shade of crochet thread, though, so I will find something neat to do with that one.  The color difference is probably why it was in a separate  place.  There are  some more crocheted items, but they don’t work with this quilt.

I had no idea how difficult it would be to make a perfect pentagon that has 21 inch sides.  It was a challenge.  A good friend of mine sent me a Corel Draw pattern for one to print in tiled sheets and taped together.  I thought that it would then be easy to get it right, but putting the tiles together that way gave many opportunities for slight variations in the shape.  I had to try it several times until I got it right, but finally succeeded when I started using a lot of rulers to help.

So yesterday I cut out the freezer paper pentagon, cut out the fabric, and then glue basted the edges down.  I checked the edges for straightness and measurements.  It’s very good.  the sixteenth of an inch off I had on the paper pattern disappeared as I worked the fabric from it.  I love how it looks.  I placed the crocheted pieces around  it in a way that forms a star in the middle, just laying them down to see how it looked for now.  (No pictures until its debut show, whatever that will be).

It is in many ways a gift to my Mom. It would be so much fun if she were still here to show it to her, but I am having a lovely time making it while thinking about all the great things she taught me and the lovely things she made herself. She did not quilt, but she was a real expert seamstress.  She has been gone now  twenty years, but sometimes I think she is nearby.

Sew happy everyone!  What are your planned projects for this fall and winter?

 

 

 

Embellish This!

So yesterday I got the printed fabric I ordered from Fabric on Demand with my little 15″ x 15″ panels I designed for my fall class on embellishing techniques primarily by machine.  It came out wonderfully, and I have already washed and dried it so I know it won’t run or shrink.

Sew I can play with embellishing one or two of them to make the sampler and save the rest for the class.  I am thinking these would make perfect tops for decorative pillows.

This made me realize how much fun it is to use the different feet and techniques we now have for decorating our fabric art projects and I am really looking forward to decorating these.

Sew I had a crazy idea I would love your opinions on.  I am thinking I might design some more of these and publish a short book on how to accomplish the various techniques.  Then I could sell the “Embellish This” squares from my website so those who bought my book, which will be sold on Amazon, could buy them and embellish decorative pillow tops or sides of bags, or some such. I will aim to get these ready by October so people could have time to make pillows or tote bags or anything they could think of for using them to give as presents.  Oh it would be so much fun.  What do you think?

Sew happy everyone!  Remember to take out your machine feet, read your manual, look at YouTube and sling that bling around!

Embellishment…a workshop

I know I said I wasn’t going to do another workshop this year, but I felt there is part of basic fabric arts techniques that I left uncovered.  I decided to add this in the fall since I am trying to provide an overview of the main basic techniques I use to create my own fabric art.  That is surface design and embellishment.  My reason for not originally including it in the set is that I not only think the supplies required are a little larger investment than I think students might want to spend, but it also requires covering a number of techniques.  So after some thought I have figured out a way to cut some of the costs and I think it is acceptable.

So I am creating a small 15 inch by 15 inch square project.  Today I finished a background design for a little fabric panel that takes the place of painting or digitized painting of a design to embellish.  I sent it to be printed by Fabrics on Demand.  I figured that with their 56″ wide fabric I can get six panels on one yard of fabric that ends up costing about five dollars per panel.  I will give a little lecture about how digital art fabrics accomplished, and provide links to several good places to use.

I am working out what I need to assemble a variety of decorative cords, threads, and yarns to use with different feet, which a lot of people already have or would find good use for if they need to buy them.  So the students will bring along their feet with their machines.  When the first batch of panels comes I will use them to work into a sample or two and figure out the handouts.  This will be really fun, I think, and the end project will make a very nice pillow top or tote bag side.  Additionally, I will demo both needle punching of roving with the bernina machine and how I place hot fix crystals using transfer tape.

This sounds like a lot, and I have to fit it into a four hour class, so I will see how much of this I find I can actually fit into the class and then make adjustments, but I have to have the panels to work with before I can do that.

Sew I am working on this while my Bernina 830 LE is at the spa getting all fixed. He had a temper tantrum last week and I took him to Lew to fix.  He’s a good machine…having served me now for a number of years, and it’s been several years since he had his regular service.  I think there is some thread caught way down in the bobbin assembly that Lew will find.  I am very hopeful it will be fixed without a huge bill.

Anyway, once he is back I can finish my Bob Ross quilt for the Cherrywood Fabrics challenge.  It is well along the way, but I need a couple of in-the-hoop embroidery pieces to applique on before I can quilt it.  I was thinking today that maybe I could go ahead and quilt it and add the applique later.  The deadline is July 1st and it’s already June 6th.  Yikes!

Sew happy everyone!

 

 

Join Me in Making a Major Quilt

I have finally cleared the deck and am now able to begin a period of making new show quilts.  I have two quilts I will be making first, and one I am making for myself that is not a show quilt that is for my own bed.  Sew I thought it would be fun to make a journal of these quilts as I make them and thereby share with you how you might approach a major quilt of your own or even provide some encouragement on your current projects.

I encourage you to chose a project get your planning notebook and join me.  The first step is figuring out what to make and either obtaining or creating the design for the top.  Even a basically simple quilt design can become a masterpiece quilt by the time it is complete.  The second step is gathering the fabrics, threads, and notions.

Such a quilt does not have to be for a show quilt. It may be for the beautification of your own home, or to honor someone for an achievement, or to give to your Mom, Dad, or grown child when they leave home to build their own adult life.  But whatever you are making such a quilt for, you want it to be made with your highest level of art and technique and not skip the correcting of mistakes or doing the boring or hard parts thinking it is “O.K.”   I assure you that it is a great journey full of interest and fun, a  little frustration and joy in overcoming problems.  In the end comes a sense of real accomplishment and satisfaction that continues every time you see it.  You will learn a lot and use what you learned in your future projects.  You will find after making such a quilt that the cuddle quilts will be so much easier and faster than you ever thought possible.

This brings up a point.  Even quilts made for charity should be lovely to look at.  They may not be as perfectly pieced or quilted as well as a major quilt, but they should be soundly made to last through washings and attractive to look at and lovely to cuddle with.  Making a major quilt (as if it were a show quilt) will so improve your abilities you will be amazed.  Stretching for that best quilt is overall fun, and you may decide to show it in the end.

Sew next I am making a small 20 x 20 inch contest quilt for Cherrywood Fabrics challenge honoring the late Bob Ross, who gave so many of us a lot of joy watching him and learning how to paint beautiful landscapes simply like magic.  Fabric will require more work, but will be fun.  It will be a challenge, but is a great way for me to get back to show level quilt making. I already have this designed and acquired the materials I need for this project.

My mother’s crocheted blocks. 10 x 10 inches. I am likely going to place them in this configuration to form the star in the middle with the pentagon around it.

In the meantime, I am working on the design for what may be my most challenging show quilt using as the centerpiece several beautiful pieces of crocheted lace my late mother had left in her workbasket that were obviously meant for a large piece (bedspread? Table cloth?).  She had made five of them and sewed four together.  I was able to take them apart with only a slight bit of fixable damage to one of the blocks.  I will be making a more traditional quilt than I usually make, although it will likely not be truly traditional in any pattern, not very symmetrical, and have some interesting machine techniques with lots of beading planned.  We will see.  I haven’t yet completed that design by far.

And then I will pick up and continue my fun applique quilt that is a Sue Nickels pattern.  Yes, I am using a pattern, although making a few simple changes to make it large enough for my bed and choosing my own colors.  I have a bit more than half of the blocks made and the others have the pieces fused down and are ready to stitch.  This is my stress-lowering project I will work on from time to time.

Pick up your needle and thread and let’s go!

Start thinking about a main quilt project of your own.  If you don’t feel you are ready to design your own, then hunt for a pattern you simply love but may seem a little beyond your current talents.  Or make a simple top and use it as a background for advanced quilting and embellishment work.  Or draw a design you love and think about how to make it.  If you join me, this will be your time to stretch and learn.  I will be here glad to answer questions if I can and find a link or other way of finding the ansers if I cannot.  I hope to provide encouragement.  You should start by making several small practice pieces (see  link at the top bar on the right to my new page on downloadables and links).  If you just took my classes at G Street you have a good bit of the skills you need already, but make a small practice piece using the techniques you plan for your major quilt.   Take as long as you need for this, and either work exclusively on it, or work on it a little bit every week.  I know it is nice outdoor weather, but you will still want some indoor cooling off time.

Sew happy everyone!  I plan on future blogs to help you in your journey…markers, threads, needles, design, fabrics, battings, surface design and embellishments, machine work, and quilting.  I also hope to create videos to go along with some of this.  Cheers.

Turning Pages in My Studio and Practice

Sew my second workshop on quilting with feed dogs up at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, MD went well on Friday and I am nearing completion of preparations for workshops three and four, which are both reportedly full and may even have a waiting list.

Ruler workshop sampler/design just completed the quilting. Ready to block and bind.

Yesterday I finally completed designing and quilting the sampler quiltlet for my fourth class, which is ruler work for sit down machines.  I had quite a challenge with that one, because G Street asked me to use the Bernina ruler set for sit down machines.  So it has taken me several designs and test samplers, but I wasn’t pleased with them until the one I finally finished yesterday (I still have to bind it).  I will now adjust the schematic for the handout to match the end results and that is all I have to do to complete the handout.  I was so happy to get this class designed.

Now I can turn the page to creating for the rest of the year and can think about my new show quilts I will make.

Speaking of pages, I created a new page with a link at the top of the blog on the right called Downloads and Links of Interest.  This page so far has schematics for markging guidelines for practice quiltlets.  In all my classes I am recommending that the quilters make themselves more quiltlets and practice, practice, practice. Actually, that sounds like work, but really it is more like play.

One of my students said she has been making a baby quilt to perfect her quilt making, though she has no baby in her family coming and was going to give it away.  I suggested she give it to Project Linus, so I added a link to that on the new page. This is a wonderful way to improve your quilting and do something wonderful at the same time.  Don’t send them real disaster quilts, but as you get some that are pretty and nice, though not necessarily perfect, wash them and go ahead and send them.

I also added links to rulers I like and videos of their creators using them.  I will be adding more links in time, and plan on making videos myself of work at my machines and more Bernina V8 embroideries, and I will provide links to those on this new page.

I was considering stopping making show quilting earlier this year, wondering if I was accomplishing anything with them.  So after some thought and prayer, I woke up one day really excited about work in my studio.  I decided I can use my show quilts for examples in new books and showing how tos for my classes.  Making a show quilt keeps me on my fabric art toes.  I don’t let things that should be unstitched and restitched go by.  I fix what is “wrong”, and I come out with a better quilt.  So for a few more years at least I will continue to compete.  I always get excited when I start working on a show quilt.  I get frustrated too, but will usually come up with a solution when I run into a problem.

So the future in my studio now seems bright and interesting with a concentration on show quilts and books, together with the occassional set of classes.  Join me in my journey…check out the new page.  I am also planning on providing more little tutorials here in my blog space and alerting you to my videos in the future.

Sew happy everyone!  Try something new in your sewing space and practice…consider it playing because it is fun!  Be sure to branch out and make a beautiful project.  Smaller quilts are great first items…table runners, lap quilts, baby quilts, dog quilts, vests, and quilted bags.

 

 

 

Adventures and Misadventures in My Studio

Wow, what a week in my studio. It was full of both frustrations and accomplishments.  So I thought the picture above, which is something resulting from one of my playful edits in one of my digital art software programs seems about right.  LOL

So anyway, this week I realized I am only a few weeks away from my first quilted art workshop at G Street Fabrics in Rockville Maryland.  April 12th!  Yikes!  It’s almost here and I’m not ready!  Well, I know what I’m going to teach, because I have given this class once before, and I have the kits figured out…but I frantically found the bag I had left over from the last class to see if I have enough pieces to make any kits at all for the class.  I put together five finished ones ready for use, three that are partially finished, and I need ten altogether.  Yes, it’s just a little class of not more than eight students and not less than three.  Sew I make ten kits..eight for the students, one for me to use in demonstration, and one for oopsies.

A frantic text to my friend Mei-Ling, who is the Bernina dealer there and with whom I am running the class, solved the problem of missing pieces.  She has the thread.  She has the needles.  I shopped my stash and found I have the fabric.  I can print off the handouts.  SO all I need now is time.  Well, in truth, I can do all the things I have left to do for workshop 1 in one day.  I’ll tackle that early next week.  And then I must put together kits for 2, 3, and 4, but they are less difficult and take less time.

There is also the Easter banner my friend Anita and I are making for the church.  It seemed to be progressing very slowly for a while, and I was feeling a little frustrated, but yesterday we got the main top or front together and it is looking fabulous.  We just need to stitch down the embroideries, which are large sets of lilies I edited from an old design and stitched out in the hoop.  There are two sets and each set took about five hours to stitch out, but they look really good.  There were some odd skips of stitching and missed outlines, probably resulting from the wrong setting on pull compensation and other editing errors on my part, but I took them to the machine and free motion stitched the repairs and corrections…so they look great.  We have them glue-basted on to the banner and all we have to do is zig zag them on with monopoly.  The cross, the lamb, and the little applqued banner at the top are all on.  And yes, I will be taking pictures and posting them here for you to see.

So I have been trying to solve the problems related to making instructional videos for posting on YouTube and to give a little taste of some of the things in my Bernina V8 book, Twelve Skill-Building Projects for Bernina V8.  I also want to develop a series of videos on quilting using both my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm and my Bernina domestic machines.

So I had first to learn to use the software…that was and is a challenge.  But I have succeeded in making several test videos now.  Then I couldn’t get the software to connect to my microphone, but today, I finally figured out where to find the setting on my computer to allow this to happen.  Eureka!

The first voiced video showing how to take a simple design and turn it into a really pretty wreath design on Bernina V8 is really quite funny,  I am thinking I will leave in all my mistakes and backups and fixes along the way because it shows how to overcome things and is much more amusing too.  In the end I managed to crash my computer and will have to take it up again and edit the pieces together.  Gosh I wonder how hard it is to add additional RAM (random access memory), which is what I need to not crash the computer.  I thought I had plenty in my current machine, but when it gets into making videos coupled with advanced software like Bernina, it isn’t quite enough.  Oh sigh.

Anyway, when I finish this first demo I will put a link here so you can find it if you are interested.  Even if you don’t have Bernina software you may find it funny enough to watch it.

Sew now I’m going to work on the sample for my fourth workshop, which is on ruler work with a sitdown machine.

I am so looking forward to getting the workshops prepared, the Easter banner done, and getting back to making quilts.

Sew happy everyone!  Stay tuned for future videos.  Also, would you like a podcast about once every couple of weeks?  I think it would probably be just me talking to you, but once in a while might include a guest?  Let me know.

 

Bunches to Do

This nice drawing is from Dover’s Chinese Designs. Whatever would I do without Dover!

 

Oh, dear readers, you knew it was coming didn’t you?  I have gotten to the place where I am feeling a bit swamped with things to do.  That’s why I have been lagging in my blog writing. It would be ok except I seem not to have time to do my favorite thing right now…work on show quilts.  And I have show quilts that need to be made!!!

Sew I am preparing for a book signing party on April 20th and four classes I will be running at G Street Fabrics in Rockville MD this spring.  Each has handouts that need to be updated or created and kits that need to be assembled.

  1. Fabric Arts 1:  Machine Applique Techniques
  2. Fabric Arts 2:  Feed Dogs Up Quilting (on a Domestic Machine)
  3. Fabric Arts 3: Free Motion Organic Quilting (on a Sitdown Machine)
  4. Fabric Arts 4:  Ruler Work Quilting for Sitdown Machines

The real project right now is for my church, that asked myself and my bff Anita to make a new Easter banner for the church.  I was already swamped, and the addition of this project is a bit of a time draw.  Fortunately, Anita has been working with me for over a year now to learn to use fabric and thread as a medium for her own art.  So she is doing most of the work, though not all, but coming here to do it where I have the machines and tables and paints and bunches of fabric and thread.  LOL.  I am doing a lot of the specialty items, like machine embroidering the words and guiding the methods.

Easter banner concept drawing

In case you didn’t know, I now have published both Ten Skill-Building Projects for Bernina V7 and Twelve Skill-Building Projects for Bernina V8.  So if you have one of these programs for digitizing your in-the-hoop embroidery, you might find this of interest.  I beg you, please, if you buy the book and like it, please please write a review on Amazon.  It does not have to be very long…just a single sentence or a couple of sentences.  Reviews really help the authors.  So far I have a single review on both books.  Much appreciated, but I need more.

                                New book!!!

Sew I am preparing to do a book signing at G Street on April 20th, and plan to show some demo videos of the software.  This has taken me a considerable bit to learn how to do these videos…live screen capture, editing the resulting videos, trying to get them right.  I will post these on my new YouTube channel (Betty Jo’s Fabric Arts), when I get them complete.

And the fourth workshop listed above for G Street..the ruler work..is not fully designed yet.  I have been working on making a sampler and made much progress on what I want to show and teach, but it isn’t done yet!!! Yikes!!! It also will provide a kit with a little quilt sandwich, premarked with some guidelines.

Show Quilts…what am I doing, or trying to get time to do? 

  • The Bob Ross challenge by Cherrywood Fabrics.. Due July 1st.  I have the fabric, I have a design concept…will I get the time?  It’s small, so that helps, only 20 inches by 20 inches, but it will need a bit of time.
  • A train quilt with a steam locomotive to showcase a number of interesting applique and embellishment techniques. No real deadline, but I would love to finish it in time for the fall Mancuso show in Oak Pennsylvania.  Deadline is sometime in August.
  • A stack of other interesting, fun, hopefully beautiful, other ideas I won’t discuss right now.

So to top it all off, I am working on another book..the first in a series of Quilted Art Techniques books.  My concept right now…subject to change, of course…is for three books talking about techniques…one on building the top, one on quilting the quilt, and one on surface design and embellishment.  The challenge for these is to provide a way forward for quilted art without just being the same-old same-old that is already out there.  That’s a big challenge, but I also still think there is room for me to present my techniques in a way that will help artists and/or quilters to accomplish a vision they have in their heads but haven’t been able to do until now, or were had not yet figured out the steps to take.

Sew happy everyone!  I have not abandoned my hope to do a weekly or more blog post talking about adventures in fabric art.  Have fun in your studio, even if it is just a small space! 

 

Project Management for Fabric Art

Since I retired in 2012 to become a full time studio fabric artist, I have found a need to develop a system to keep things organized for time and technique management. Initially, I felt that taking time to keep records cut into my creative time and resembled work too much.  After all, I was here to have fun and make fabric art, right? 😄

Lately, I have added teaching local workshops and for several years have been working on writing several books.

So I found it necessary to figure out a way to keep up with all of this.  In fact, the multi-faceted system I came up with saves time and reduces stress, and some of it is kind of fun. Without records I would spend a lot of time figuring out where I was within a project, what was next, and making mistakes I would not have made if I had notes I could refer to.  This is especially important if there is an interruption in a specific project and I have a gap of time, or if I am working on more than one project at a time, which I often do (a show quilt, an approaching teaching session, a bit of writing, and even something just for me like clothing or my current bed quilt project).

My daughter-in-law Beth, who is also a quilter and a computer professional, suggested I look into www.Trello.com, which is a free organizational program designed for businesses. I find this program very easy to use and set up.  It helps me keep up with project ideas and a general overview of where I am on each project, and you can put in a check list.  It’s especially nice when I am doing a project with another person. Beth and I set up a team “Board” of Tatum Quilters so we could share projects.  We haven’t done much in that direction, but we still talk about it from time to time…LOL  So you might want to check it out.

While Trello helps me keep up with my ideas and plans for quilts, I found I need more detailed information and some of that doesn’t fit into a computerized file.  So I also have my big black low tech notebook.  I use this from the very beginning of a project and also keep other information in it. I write up ideas, make a general overall plan, keep tiny samples of fabrics, lists of threads, and other supplies, and put records of everything I need in this book for keeping my project together. The following images may give you an idea for your own notebook.

Here I have the original design of the Renaissance banner my BFF Anita and I made for the church last year. This is her original design.  I added notes, and a list of the fabrics I ordered for the project.  I just stapled her original drawing in to the notebook since it fit.  If such a design doesn’t fit, I sometimes fold it one or two times and staple it in.

 

So here is the finished design after I put it into the computer and drew a pattern for us, making a few changes we discussed along the way. On the right side is a plan for making the quilt from start to finish, which we checked off as we completed it.  I just printed a page size of the pattern and stapled it in on one page.

 

Sometimes I just staple drawings into the book to keep them from getting lost. This is my train project I am about to start working on.  The one on the left is a copy of the drawing my BFF Anita did for me to use for this, and the one on the right has a few scribbly additions I did thinking about how I might make it.  I have pages after this with a brief list of steps to make this quilt and have space for notes on stitches, settings, etc. for my machine work.

 

Here I have the samples of the fabrics and a list of the threads for Pendragon. Ken (oldest son) and Beth (his wife) gave me this wonderful addition to my stash along with the design for Pendragon that Ken drew. Pendragon was such a major project requiring many advanced techniques I had to develop or had never used it has ten pages in my black book that includes all kinds of things related to it.

 

Here is my trial of the upper left corner of Pendragon. I digitized the outline of the ancient design for stitching just the outline in the hoop, which needed a lot of fixing.  So I had to do a stitchout before putting it on the quilt. I also wanted to try the painting to see how that would go. So I just stapled the sample into the book because I liked it and didn’t want to throw it away.  If you look hard, you can see on the right a very loose sketch of how the quilt pieces fit together.

If you’d like to learn more about Pendragon, I have several blogs in which I included the making of this extensive project.  The testing of borders and the making of Pendragon.  So as you see, I also keep what you might think of as progress reports in this blog.

You might think that would be enough record keeping, but when I started doing show quilts that went to several shows, and sometimes had multiple quilts out for shows or exhibits, I found I had to make sure I knew where they were or were going.  I needed to be careful that I didn’t enter the same quilt in a show that was being held at the same time another show that I had entered was held, or enter it into this year’s shows when they had already been shown or rejected from another year’s show (Just as a matter of principal, I never reenter a show that has rejected my quilt previously even if they accept this kind of entry).  And I found I can’t enter another Mancuso show if the quilt has received a ribbon in another Mancuso show.  So it became a kind of choreograph of the dance of the quilts.

I take care of this with a simple Microsoft Excel workbook with two spreadsheets.  One keeps up with what shows that I am interested in and the deadline dates.  The other spreadsheet keeps up with what has been where or entered where, with a simple asterisk if it placed in that show.  I include an example of my workbook here.  I don’t know if it will work on your computer or if it is anything you might want, but it was easy to include if it works for you and you are into show quilting.

Quilt Show List example

Sew there you are.  Yes, it is a complex four part system, but it also works well for me and so I wanted to share it.  Believe it or not, it saves more time than it spends to do this, especially after getting started with it all, and it really helps keep down the stress factors in my busy busy studio. One more thing, I put on my calendar when a quilt has to be shipped once they are accepted into a show.  I have occassionally waked up and wondered if I had missed a deadline, only to be happy to find I had not by looking on my calendar.

Sew happy everyone!  Try making a show quilt or a master quilt, even if you don’t want to show it.  You might want to keep your own records, with lots of pictures along the way (oh and yes, I have computer files with folders by the year for quilts made in that year.  Yes, I back up everything).  It will be fun to look back on it or if you want to remember how in the world you did that technique on that quilt some years ago.