Surprisingly Useful Studio Tools

Hi everyone.  This past few weeks have highlighted some really useful studio tools…some I made myself, and some I purchased sometime in my long sewing career.

As I noted on my last article, I discovered that a persistent thread-breaking problem was not, in fact, my machine, my needles, or my bobbin.  It was a burr that had developed on my 15 or so year old open toed embroidery foot that I had obtained two sewing machines ago.  I could hardly believe it was so old when I added it up.

My 20D foot…where the burr was and is no longer.

So today I took out my little Dremel tool that I keep around for special things, and sand-buffed the foot.  Then I tested it with multiple thread types and different stitches.  It did not break anything!  That foot sells for about $56 today.  Nice savings.  I had done the same thing to another foot last year that had developed a burr.  It was an even older one that the one I fixed today!  So the Dremel tool has more than paid for itself, and I have used it in other ways over the past decade.

Then there are two reference tools I made myself.  One is the decorative stitch library I have been building over the past six months.  I am working on a wool applique by machine project that uses some decorative stitches.  I have done multiple lines of different stitches in different threads and written the stitch number, any changes I made to the stitch settings, and so forth.  I now have about 10 large “pages” of these stitches.  I was actually surprised how much I consulted them as I was working through the stitch embellishments to the project.  It is very handy to see them stitched out! I am still working on this project and will somehow put them together when I finish.

Pages of my stitch library

The second reference tool I used today when I got to the background quilting of my project.  I am using a swirl and curl background, as I call it.  That consists of stippling and curls randomly used together, which makes a nice background fill for this project.  If you look on my YouTube channel, I have a short little video where I show the making of a stippling size reference piece.  This is particularly good when you need to try to keep the stippling the same size throughout the piece,  so I pulled it out and used it for this project.  So handy!  Here’s the link.

I think I should make more such reference aids, and I plan to.

Then there is my Clover ball-pointed awl that I used to hold the little wool applique and pointed pieces in place when they weren’t sticking so well while I stitched them down.  I use that a lot when I am appliqueing.

The problem with the Bernina foot made me think how much I enjoy using all the different Bernina feet and how much easier they make things or make things come out better.  I do love my Berninas and I have no affiliation with the company.  I am just a fan.  They are all three (B350, B880 plus, Q20 sitdown) wonderful machines (or is that sewing Droids?  You might click on that link and see what I mean).

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studios and make sure your tools are organized and accessible.

 

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.

 

 

 

Cutters for the Fabric Artist, a Review

I used to think that cutters beyond scissors or rotary cutters were not a necessity in my studio.  Indeed, I was a little snobbish about it.  LOL  But now I would really not like to do without them.  I have both a die cutter and a digital cutter and use them both.

Some years ago I bought the Accuquilt Go! cutter and have slowly added the admittedly expensive dies to my collection over the years.  Quilt shows often have particularly good sales for these dies.  The most important use I make of them is to cut borders, blocks, and bindings. I can cut out a fast simple cuddle quilt in a matter of minutes, truly, and they are accurate and easy.  It enables me to make a wonderful quilt in a couple of days, complete with quilting and binding. It helps me use up some of the fabrics I have laying around, thereby freeing up space in my stash.  I also have a collection of fun shapes..circles, leaves, animals, flowers, and so on…that I have used a lot, particularly when I was putting together kits for teaching and needed a lot of them, and they make a nice addition to some of those fast cuddle quilts. You can cut layers of fabric at once in the Go! cutter and it is an excellent tool for quilters of all stripes. I wouldn’t like to do without it.

I got a Brother Scan and Cut 125e in March for my birthday and now I wonder how I ever did without it, especially for the kind of applique quilting I often do.  The primary advantage of a digital cutter for me, of course, is that I can design my own shapes, or use published patterns, and don’t have to depend on the die shapes that are available or cut intricate shapes out by scissors.  You can only cut one layer at a time, but it will cut paper, fabric of a wide variety, cork, vinyl, plastic, and so on.  You do need several kinds of mats and blades for cutting all those things, and I did find it a little hard to figure out at first, but it is so easy to use now that I have.  I have made several greeting cards for friend and family with it too.  I suspect other brands work as well, and my library has Silhouette cutters available for public use, which I have used.  So you might check at your local libraries.

I have found that the Scan and Cut will cut fabrics with precision in very detailed shapes that are hard to accomplish with scissors.  This is especially good as my aging hands with developing arthritis find such intricate cutting to be harder to do otherwise. In fact even if you don’t find scissors cutting difficult, the cutter is still a fast and accurate way to cut your appliques.  I keep coming up with other ideas for its use.

So recently, over YouTube I learned how to make a stencil with the Scan and Cut and I plan on making some for marking refined and delicate quilting patterns on quilts.  I have not yet tried it, but that opens a world of possibilities for future quilting.  I have gotten pretty good in free motion stitching with my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm without marks, but sometimes it is important to have the quilt marked for stitching with attention to detail or when you need symmetry.  It will cut stencil plastic easily, but I am thinking of trying a doubled layer of freezer paper for single or limited use designs and it could be ironed in place for Pounce chalk marking. If I create quilting designs that I think will be useful on multiple quilts, I will cut it from the stencil plastic.

As those of you who follow my work know, I use stitched, raw-edge applique quite a lot.  In the past, I printed out the applique shapes onto printer paper in reverse, and traced the shapes onto the fusible web and cut it out with scissors.  Now, I send the shape to the Scan and Cut, iron the fusible web onto the fabric wrong side, and send it through the cutter. I get it done in a third of the time or less and with greater accuracy.

But what if you wanted to do stitched turned edge appliques?  For that, I turn to the expertise of Kathy McNeil where she demonstrates the method, but I add in the cutter to help out.  She uses a very light weight fusible interfacing precut by hand in the shape of her applique and irons it to the wrong side of her fabric, then cuts around it a little less than a quarter of an inch from the edge of the shape. Then she prepares the applique using glue and appliquick sticks available in her web store.  Here’s a video of that process.  She sews her appliques on by hand.  I would use the machine of course.

So if I start with the applique shape I have drawn or downloaded on my computer, and instead of printing it onto paper and tracing it to the interfacing, I can wirelessly send it to the Scan and Cut from my computer.  The shape needs to be reversed for ironing onto the back.  You can do that at the cutter if you want to before cutting.  Then cut the interfacing pieces and iron them to the applique fabric and continue as she shows with the sticks and the glue.  So if you have a bunch of these appliques, you can cut as many as will fit onto a 15″ x 15″ piece of interfacing (the size of the cutting mat) at one time. It’s quite easy to take the shapes and move them around once they are digitally in your Scan and Cut.  NOTE:  You need to use the low tack mat for the really light weight interfacing by itself.

Sew I have found that having both cutters in my studio is a really nice addition to the tools available for me and they each have their own use and don’t cancel each other’s usefulness out.  They are separate tools with their own uses.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio!

 

 

Happy 2022! Looking Forward to a Good Year

We made it through 2021!  Hooray!  Happy New Year everyone!  I am taking a positive approach for 2022…expecting it to be a good year full of light, love, peace, and productivity! So what’s first up for Betty Jo’s Fabric Arts?

I talked a little about this in my last blog post.

  • I will soon be presenting the first in a three-part series of videos coupled with the publishing of a workbook with pattern for the Two Birds Project.  The first part is completely filmed and being edited, and the workbook is fully written and being edited.  The two remaining videos are filmed all but the short openings and I need to record the voice-over scripts for them. It will be a fun set for my followers and I’m excited to get to this point.
  • I am working on putting together a wool applique by machine project. Wait until you see what can be done with these techniques and materials! It’s really going to be fun!
  • I have worked up a production plan for the first part of the year that includes show quilts (to fit within my architectural, ancient manuscript, and deep space genres), applique projects (both wool and other fabrics), and multiple shorter technique skill project videos that I think you will enjoy. There may be other things too along the way. Plus a little bit of clothes sewing.

I got a fun addition to my studio for Christmas, a Brother Scan and Cut DX.  I have been spending the last several days learning all about it and how best to use it.  It adds lots of new possibilities and a great help for the applique quilts for sure, but I can also make some quilting stencils and other things I am thinking about.  I now have both the Applique Go! with a nice collection of dies to help me cut multiple layers of fabric for snuggle/quick-to-make quilts and the Scan and Cut for cutting digitally created shapes for more complex individual applique designs among other things…how wonderful.  Truly, except for wishing I had more space and storage (doesn’t everyone?), I have a marvelous studio for designing, quilting, and stitching adventures complete with the video equipment well set up for filming them.  And yes, I also have significant help from my delightful family.  Oh, and don’t forget, I have newly improved eyesight to help with all of this!  I am totally thankful both to my kids and my Lord for all of this.

Sew I am making a kind of fresh move in my YouTube channel, pattern making, and books now at the beginning of 2022.  Last year  seems like kind of a rehearsal and learning period for me.  So I’m excited.  I hope to get a lot of new subscribers/readers and provide significant content you all will enjoy.  I love sharing my work with you.

Let me know if there is a particular subject you want me to cover either in comments here or on my videos on YouTube.  I will see what can be done.

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Computer and Looking Ahead in My Studio

Hooray!  I have my new computer and it is all set up.  It is lovely, fast, and has all it needs to serve me well for digital design, video editing, book writing, online demos and other computer draining activities.  I am soooo grateful to my family members who gave this to me and helped me get it in place and so forth.  Sew I’m off and running here in my wonderful studio.

In case you haven’t seen them I now have two videos of the three on Embellished Wool Applique by Machine, coupled with two blogs here that include free downloadables for accompanying handouts.  I also have my first quick tips video.  All of the videos can be found on the Betty Jo Tatum YouTube channel for free. Of course, I hope to make money from this endeavor eventually, but in a way that the videos remain free to you. Downloadable workbooks,  patterns, and so forth will be available for a modest amount from the new little store I have on my main website.  There’s nothing to buy there right now though but those will be published on the same subjects as new videos that are better with such downloadables.  These all will be uploaded at the same time so you can follow along the easy way.

Other things are also in the plans for that little store.  I will sell some of my quilts from there, and I am considering other things that can be downloaded.  If you haven’t looked yet, I recently upgraded my main website.  Go take a look at my gallery, if you’d like.

Now it takes some time to put together these things so I probably will need two or three weeks between each video, or even a month.  They will cover a variety of sewing and art quilting techniques that I have learned over the years and really want to share because I think some of you will find them fun and you may even want to try them yourselves.  So if you want to support this effort, I hope you subscribe to my YouTube channel and watch my videos.  It doesn’t cost you anything, you don’t give them any information, and it helps me.

Owl French Artist Painter

And now that I have my computer…all KINDS of things are running thro0ugh my head that might be accomplished.  After I complete the next wool applique video, I am thinking of making a video or a set of videos on landscape quilting elements in both stylized types and more natural looking art quilts.  There are lots of those to do, so I won’t bunch them all up together, but will spread them across the year with topics like trees, mountains and rocks, water, geologic strata, and so forth.  It should be really fun for us.  I have lots of other ideas and I think you will enjoy them as they come out.  They will all be presented in small projects or technique demonstrations, but I will likely draw up some digital patterns for larger pieces and maybe even paint some digital fabrics for backgrounds that I might place for sale on a print on demand fabric company if I can work that out so you can buy them to use.  What do you think?

If you have something in the way of art quilting techniques you wish you could find how tos for or would like to just see how I approach them, please let me know.  I’ll see what I can do about it.

Sew happy everyone!  Let’s have some fun in our studios.

 

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.

 

Going Beyond My Own Abilities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Week’s Featured Quilt

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

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