Halloween, Basic Stencils for Ruler Work, and Other Things

Hi! Happy Halloween! Here we are finally into the fall.  Our leaves are not very pretty this year..just kind of brown, and the weatherpeople say we had so much rain and it was too warm too late at night so the trees got confused.   So the leaves will mostly just turn brown and fall off.  It was kind of like living in a tropical environment this summer…steamy, hot, wet.  So I am really happy to finally get to some good quilting and sewing weather.  Maybe there is some hope for some pretty oranges and reds in the leaves yet.

On Saturday, I finished all my teaching for this year and have my overcoat with its fur collar all cut out and stacked by my Bernina 830 ready to sew together starting tomorrow.  I have been working on one of my books today and am really going to finish the manuscript sometime in November.  I am working on a show quilt design.  And I am designing something interesting I wanted to tell you about and see if I can get any of you to give me some feedback on the idea.

I was recently challenged to develop a class or two in ruler work using a specific set of very basic quilting rulers that are inadequately marked.  Now while I find this concept a little limiting, given that I wanted to come up with some designs that are significantly more fun than drawing blocks and filling them in with ruler patterns, I also find it fun to meet this challenge.  I also decided it needed an accompanying handout/short book complete with designs and project ideas.  Sew developing a basic quilt sandwich to work with for this project has led me to think it would be fabulous to have a stencil I could use for marking a basic structure on the practice sandwich to build some designs on.

So I then drew some 16 inch by 16 inch foundation designs for marking these sandwiches and got some 13 x 19 inch paper, which is the largest my printer will take, and printed off a couple of different such designs for tracing and taped them together,  I tried using smaller paper, but that requires a lot of taping and it introduces small distortions.  This type of foundation design cannot have distortions and still be useful.  I’d like to share this concept, but a pdf file wouldn’t be helpful because of distortions when someone taped them together.

Wouldn’t it be nice, I asked myself, to have these in plastic stencils that I could either pounce or use to draw onto the sandwiches.  Then I could just work through a stack of structurally marked sandwiches until I came up with one or two completed designs that would be fun, interesting, and something a student could accomplish in a four or five hour class.

I then got to thinking that there may be others out in the quilting world who would like to have such basic structural stencils that go beyond grids and circles but are the right thing to hang a good design onto. I also have located someone who could make these for me for something that would enable me to sell them for about $12 to $15 each for the 16 inch square size.  To do this requires some up front investment, and it would be difficult to sell them for much less, so I have not yet decided what to do.

I would like to have my dear readers responses on what you think about this.  Is $15 too much to pay for a stencil that could help you build a mandala or other interesting designs.  It would be much less marking than a whole design, but could enable the quilter to create some really nice designs without detailed marking.  Just lay it down and pounce or mark the stencil and grab your favorite rulers.  You could even use it to make your guidelines on your design paper to work out your more detailed design.  I hope I have gotten the idea adequately explained.  I don’t want to put the designs on here I want to keep them for me to create first. LOL

Sew happy everyone!

 

Working with My Bernina Q20 and New Attachments

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE

As many of you know, I am racing to meet a deadline for a show quilt for the Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival, a quilt I had not included in my business plan for 2018.  In spite of a major mistake I made that required that I basically start over with the quilt, I have met my goal of getting the top complete and the quilt sandwiched and ready to quilt by Christmas.  In fact, I started the quilting yesterday, but not before I installed a new interesting attachment on Fritz, my Bernina Q20 sit down longarm.  It is a laser light pointer that puts a red laser light point exactly where the needle will come down.

I gave this new attachment to myself for Christmas in celebration of my dear late husband Marvin.  He always gave me the most wonderful presents.  One of the ways I have learned to deal with Christmas since his passing fifteen years ago is to give myself a nice present as if it came from him.  I miss him as much all these years later as I did the first Christmas after he passed.  Strong, solid, reliable, loving, brilliant, and fun to be with was my Marvin.

Sew I got my new show quilt all sandwiched with one layer of thin polyester batting and one of wool batting.  Using the newly-installed laser pointer, I spent most of yesterday afternoon and about five hours today quilting.  I have a fair amount of appliques on this quilt and some challenging designs planned for the quilting.  So far, I love the pin-pointer in mode 1 (on all the time I stitch), and Fritz is working like clockwork despite all the challenging threads I am throwing at it.

I started by stitching in the ditch and around the appliques (and no the star pictured at the top is not in the quilt) with Superior’s superb monopoly…so thin…so strong…nearly totally invisible and not very shiny like other monopolies.  Truly, handling this thread is like I imagine sewing with spider webs or something equally hard would be, except it doesn’t break once you get all the tensions and needles correct (I used top tension 1.75, bobbin is Superior Bottom Line 60 wt polyester set at 180 tension, and an Organ 75/11 titanium embroidery needle).

The laser light pointed the way.  I was able to stitch amazingly accurately and extremely close around those appliques.  I used the Q20’s BSR1 (stitch regulator mode 1) and the kickstarter that allows me to stitch without pressing the pedal.  I love the kickstart.  I didn’t at first, but now that I am really use to it, I use it nearly all the time for all the work I do at Fritz.

I then did some detail work within one of the appliques that truly brought it to life, with the laser pointer aimed at the chalk marks I had marked on the applique.  The monopoly was perfect for this, because I had painted the applique and free motion embroidered it.   I did not want to impact the free motion embroidery but I did want to quilt in the trapunto.  I had added an extra layer of wool batting behind the applique to give it that trapunto fill. I am very happy with it.  I haven’t yet done the detail for any of the other appliques.

So I then switched to metallic thread.  Metallics are known to be troublesome, but today Fritz was happy to play.  The metallic stitching I have done so far was just plain wonderful.  It is ruler work, stitching along several long marked lines.  The laser pointer works great with ruler work, pointing exactly where the stitch will go, so lining up that quarter inch, which is sometimes a little elusive, is no problem at all.  However I did find that the #72 ruler foot works better with the laser pointer than the #96.  The 96 has a diagonal fill in the center to help you place the needle that makes the laser point difficult to see if you are not leaning over it more than I do.  The 72 has an empty center, and that works just great.  For ruler work I use the BSR2 (stitch regulator designed for ruler work that moves when you move and stops when you stop, but sometimes it will take a stitch if it detects even a small amount of movement).  For metallic thread I set a top tension of 2.5, and use Bottom Line with the same 180 tension.  I also thread it so it runs across that little silicone liquid pad thingy.  In fact, I did that for both threads.

I have, in the past, had metallic thread stitch through a tiny tiny bit regardless of how hard I tried to get that perfect, causing judges to fuss about my tension.  For this quilt so far, this is not happening.  The tension appears perfect to me on both sides of the quilt. I’m really happy because I didn’t want to put metallic in the bobbin.  If the judges say I have tension issues on this quilt, I will just have to think they have some kind of special vision.  LOL

Sew my next challenge for the laser pointer light and Fritz are the complex pictographs I have to quilt on the quilt.  At least one of them will be stitched in metallics.  Then I still have to decide how I am going to stitch the background…I have an idea developing, but it will be a big challenge for me.  Still, if I can carry it off, I think it will be a wonderful quilt.  It’s so very much fun though.  I really recommend the laser light pointer and the use of the kickstarter if you have a Q20.  I also bought the echo circle attachments for the #72 foot that I am planning on using on this quilt.  I’ll give a review of their use when I get to that.

Sew happy everyone!  Try something new and don’t be discouraged if you have to spend some time learning it.  Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Part 5: Quilting for Machine Artists…More on Rulers and Then There Are Gloves

I finally borrowed my Beth’s (Daughter in law who has a Gammill longarm on frame) collection of Gadget Girl’s quilting rulers in order to try them out for sit-down quilting.  While she has a nice collection that allowed me to get a feel for their rulers, they have many more available on their site.

testing rulers from Gadget Girls

testing rulers from Gadget Girls

This part of this blog series has been really fun.  After playing with them for a couple of days, I have several thoughts on using these rulers at sit-down longarms or domestic machines.  Keeping in mind that I am very much an amateur when it comes to ruler work, I still think you may find my observations a little useful:

  • Gadget Girls rulers seem really nice and heavy with good markings, but I found they needed something to stop them from slipping for sit-down machine quilting as all the other rulers I tried do.  I have used sandpaper dots and on some there were already some small rectangles of spongy self-liner double taped on.
  • Beth uses them on her frame mounted Gammill longarm, and most of them work just as well for me on my Bernina Q20.
  • I had no problem with the bigger ones on my Q20 but found them much more difficult to use on my domestic sit-downs.  Part of this is the harp length and part of this is because it is not possible to sew with the ruler behind the ruler foot as it is on my Q20.  This makes it necessary to turn the quilt when using the domestics, which I don’t have to on my Q20, and that makes it more likely to have the ruler slip or jump from its location before you have completed taking full advantage of the ruler.  I’m not saying it’s not possible to use these bigger rulers on the domestic, but it’s harder and would require a lot more practice.
  • I did love the things you can do with some of these longer bigger rulers, especially for long or big areas.  I’m sure there is a lot that could be figured out by playing with these rulers.
    Ropes and swags

    Ropes and swags

  • She loaned me one of those rulers with the notch out that goes around the ruler foot they call a stitch guide.  It is often used by frame-based longarmers for controlling stitch-in-the-ditch and stitching around appliques.  I found  this to be completely unusable for both my Q20 longarm sitdown and my domestic machines.  It makes sense, but I had to try just to see if I was missing something.
    gadget-girls-stitch-guide
  • My favorite rulers from Beth’s collection are
  • I found that the Gadget Girls circles and straight rulers and Lisa Calle’s circles and straight rulers were equally useful, though I think Lisa Calle’s straight rulers are slightly better marked for my purposes, but you might prefer Gadget Girls for yours.

Three Types of Quilting Glove Solutions

I talked about the use of quilting gloves in one of my previous posts in this series.  It really helps a lot in handling the rulers, especially the larger ones.  I have tried three types of solutions.

  1. Fons and Porter quilting gloves:  These are comfortable soft gloves and they allow lots of air through the gloves so my hands don’t get too hot or uncomfortable.  They move on my fingers slightly more than the Machingers, but I love these gloves and these are what I would choose if I could only have one pair of gloves.  They are washable.
  2. Machingers:  These have a different fabric feel, fit tighter and allow less air through the gloves.  They hardly move on my fingers at all as I guide the quilt and rulers through.  They help keep my hands going longer, because they are tighter.  I use these those days when my hands are a little tired and I need to quilt long hours.  I don’t find them as comfortable as Fons and Porter gloves though.  These, too are washable, and that’s good because they seem to pick up more color from the fabric dyes.
  3. Cut off ends of rubber gloves designed for the kitchen:  I tried these, because I had seen other quilters use them and they were inexpensive.  I simply couldn’t keep the finger ends on some of my fingers.  I have really small hands so that might be the reason.  I did not like this solution, but you might.

Sew happy everyone.  Take time to experiment and play at your machine.  You will get the time spent back when you are making something you really want to come out right.

Part 2: Quilting for Domestic Machine Artists…Rulers (cont.) and Markers

 

This is the second in my unknown number of parts series of quilting for domestic machine artists.  Several interesting points stood out to me from comments both here and on Facebook following my last blog-post on ruler work for domestic machine artists.  There are a lot of rulers, sometimes called templates, out there for this type of quilting; more keep being introduced; and they are relatively expensive.  There is no way I can test them all, or even all the brands (but if you’d like to contribute to this blog using the PayPal donation button on the lower right, I will happily thank you and apply it to rulers/templates and provide further testing results).

So I suggest if you are just starting out that you buy only a few basic rulers–a good well-marked straight ruler, and a few shapes and curves, or one of those sets.  Then learn to use them, and add them only as you need them for specific projects, which will help focus your ruler collection around the way you work.  In a while, you might want to take an inventory of what you have and see where there are gaps you might need.   I note that this series of blogs have forced me to do such an inventory and I have found some places I need some rulers.  Please pay close attention to the quality and the marking.  These things make a huge difference in your quilting results.

Another thing I hope you will do as you start using rulers is to be patient with yourself and just keep on practicing until you feel comfortable and have reasonably good results.  I hated it when I started using rulers, but I totally love ruler work now.  It’s amazing how easy it feels to me now when I found it really hard at first.  I still am not that great at it, but I do so enjoy it that I think I might get there.

I still haven’t had a chance to borrow my daughter-in-law’s Gadget Girls rulers, but I will and tell you about them when I do.

I also find that I need to mark lines to guide my ruler work.  This might be grids, or a simple line.  It is not full marking of the planned design usually.

A Word About Marking

Everyone has their own marking methods they prefer, and I suspect that is the case with most of you.  I have already mentioned some of this in past blogs, but it is worth revisiting.  I have several products I particularly like.  The choice for markers depends on whether I am going to wet block or wash my quilt after it is complete, what are the fabric weave  and content, and the value (is it light or dark).

  • My favorite marker is Crayola washable markers…the finest point available.  This marker washes out of everything I have tested so far, even if I happen to iron over it.  I only had one time I had to wash it twice, and that was using a brown marker on white tightly woven cotton.  It came out though.  This marker is not very expensive, it stays in place as long as it doesn’t get wet and you can easily see it (I sometimes have a hard time seeing the oft-recommended blue markers).  But it has to be washed out with water.
  • If I’m working on one of my art quilts that have a lot of silk, specialty threads, and other painting on it, I probably will not do more than a spritz of water and steam to block such a quilt.  But regardless the marks have to come off one way or another.
    • Mostly the different chalk markers, mechanical chalk pencils, and so on, tend to work fine, but I do avoid yellow because I had a terrible time getting that out one time, and I’ve seen others say the same thing.  Mostly I remove these with a microfiber cleaning cloth…comes right off.
    • Chalk goes away much too easily for most silks and satin weaves.  I have spent much of my quilting career hunting for a good marker that stays in place on such fabrics while I need it and comes off without washing.  I think I have tried all of the main types and brands on the market.  The ones I found that works the best are the mechanical pencils by either Fons and Porter or Sewline.  These, however, will also often go away well before I’m finished quilting satin weaves, such as Radiance cotton/silk or dupioni silk.
    • I have found one method that works for satin weaves, but is sometimes tedious to remove.  I trace the design on Golden Threads paper and stick it to the fabric with temporary adhesive dots trying to miss most of the stitching lines with the adhesive. Remove by tearing it off and catching resistant places with tweezers.  I have even been known to use this method on very close stitching.  Of course, it takes forever to remove and you shouldn’t use an open toe foot for this, because it gets caught under the paper.  Here is an example…shadows under the steps on my quilt Perspective in Threads.

Look at the shadow under the steps. THat was many lines of thread marked with the paper method.

Look at the shadow under the steps. That was many lines of close stitching marked with the paper method.  I printed the design on the golden threads paper and stuck it on.  It took me hours to remove, but it worked.  I stitched this whole quilt back in 2012.  This was long before I started ruler work.  I used straight stitch and decorative stitches on my Bernina 200E machine (I no longer have this) and marked with Crayola markers, except for the part under the steps.  Today, I would just mark the general areas that need the close stitching and do close together ruler work, so I wouldn’t have any paper to remove.  Here’s a picture of the marking.

Crayola washable marks on the top before stitching.

Crayola washable marks on the top before stitching.

fabric-tracing

Marking in progress for “Dad’s House Plan” also before the days of at-machine ruler work and done with Crayola markers.  As you can see from both of these examples, rulers would have been helpful when I quilted it.

  • It also helps a lot to have some kind of very temporary marker around once you start quilting.  I use either one of those that are air erasable or one of those fatter chalk pencils.  These are handy for as-you-go additional marks, corrections, notes to yourself, and idea changes after sandwiching to the ones you make before you sandwich your quilt.

Sew happy everyone! Teach someone to sew or quilt…your brother, your child, your neighbor…  Cheers.

Part 1: Quilting for Domestic Machine Artists…Rulers

I have decided to do a multi-part (not sure how many parts) series on quilting on domestic machines for artists.  I know there are a lot of you out there who really don’t consider yourselves artists, but who really are.  You pick colors, you make shapes, you put them together to make a pleasing wall quilt, snuggle quilt, bag, vest or some such, and come up with something wonderful and then you have to quilt it on your sit down domestic machine or sit down longarm.  So, that is who I mean when I say “domestic machine artists.”

There are many considerations, tools, threads, and designs to help, but just how to put them together becomes almost overwhelming sometimes.  I know this because I’ve been there.  Indeed, almost every quilt I make is like that.  And I have many quilts in my head that I want to make that may be even more of a puzzle when it comes to the quilting.  This little series may not be real organized, but I want to share what I have learned and you can take it away and improve on it, or reject it, or whatever you wish to do with it.  LOL

Free Motion Ruler Work on a Sitdown Machine

A little over a year ago I started experimenting with domestic ruler work, and since then have watched it take off.  I began with a Westalee Ruler foot on my Bernina 830, and later got the #96 foot, which no dealer recommends because you have to ALWAYS remember not to start it with the foot up.  It has to be down or you could knock your machine out of timing.  They are supposed to come out with their #72 foot that will be the recommended foot for use with your regular Berninas by the end of the year.

I have since solved the problem of using my #96 foot the expensive way by purchasing a Bernina Q20 longarm and set it up as a sit down in my studio.  It uses all my free motion feet I got for my 830 and is wonderful, by the way, but the essentials of using rulers are about the same.  The chief difference I found is that the rulers have to be on the small side, and the field of vision is not as large on the smaller harp domestic.  Also, the stitch regulators are doubled and built in and are much more powerful in the Q20 and so you can quilt a lot faster than on a Bernina with the BSR attachment.  Nevertheless, most of what I have to say is the same for sit down machines of all sorts.

I found several essentials are imperative to make free motion ruler work go well:

  1.  The table needs to be flush with your machine base, however you accomplish this, and your feed dogs need to be down.
  2. The surface under the needle needs to be slick.  For my Bernina 830 I use a silicone mat taped down with blue painter’s tape.  Yes, I know it’s supposed to stick, and I believed it until I sewed the mat onto the back of one of my quilts.  LOL   And for my Q20 I spray the table with silicone spray I got from Nancy’s Notions after covering the small needle and bobbin space under the needle with blue painter’s tape and the machine itself with cloth before spraying to make sure no spray enters the workings of the machine.  Then remove it after spraying and let dry.  Wipe with a paper towel before starting quilting….very effective.
  3. You need to have some kind of item to help the rulers stay put.  I use either the little sticky dots of sand paper on the bottom of the ruler, or double tape on small rectangles of that spongy shelf liner.  Both work well.  I have seen other methods, but these are the ones I like.
  4. A ruler foot is important:  I began with the Westalee ruler foot, which I found to be pretty good and it works with generic feet attachments.  But a lot of machines have ruler feet now and more are getting them.
  5. Your hands need something to help them grab and control the quilt and the rulers at the same time.  I use gloves.  Sometimes I use one glove on the right hand and nothing on the left, depending on how I feel.  I found I don’t need this nearly as much with my Q20 as I do with my 830, and have even quilted with no gloves when using very small rulers.  I saw Teri Lucas using the bats in her video from some time ago.
  6. You need the right rulers.  If you are using a regular machine harp space, you need smaller rulers.  It’s too bad because there are some wonderful larger rulers out there.  But you can do some magnificent quilting with the smaller ones too.  When buying rulers, I have found the better marked they are the more useful they are.  It isn’t just the outside shape, but how you can line it up with your quilt top and design.  So the marks are very important.
  7. You need a plansometimes you need to mark lines to line up your rulers for effective quilting.  I use either Crayola Washable Markers, if I’m going to wash the quilt, or mechanical pencil style markers if not and it’s cotton, or Golden Threads paper if it is on something slick, like satin (because other markings won’t stay on).

I have found to my surprise that I have a bunch of quilting rulers.  I don’t know HOW that happened.  LOL   I would like more.  Anyway, I really really like Lisa Calle’s rulers.  They seem just right for my kind of ruler work–well marked, easy to handle.  I also have one ruler from Gina Perkes, and one Westalee.  I am going to borrow my daughter-in-law’s collection of mostly Gadget Girl rulers and review those sometime later–perhaps I’ll be able to pick those up next weekend.  Anyway, here are the rulers I have found most effective for art quilting at my sitdown machines so far:

Lots of rulers.

Lots of rulers.

Well, in fact the very first quilt I made at Fritz (my Bernina Q20) was my Spiral Galaxy Number 3, and it won a ribbon at PA National Quilt Extravaganza (PNQE) in September for Best Interpretation of Theme.  I used those longer curved rulers at the back of the picture above and the little ones on the right for making the initial stitching of the arms of the spiral.  You can’t probably see it in the picture, it’s black 100 weight silk thread, but it guided the rest of the quilt.  The smaller curves were needed in the center of the spiral, changing four or five times to a larger curve progressing to the longest curve by the end of each arm.

Spiral Galaxy No. 3

Spiral Galaxy No. 3

So recently I have been working on the quilt my oldest son Ken designed for me that has Celtic borders.  The ruler work is not for the quilting yet, but rather to make the border pieces.  I will quilt along the same lines with invisible thread once they are pieced into the top and sandwiched.  So here is the design marked on the paper and stuck onto the satin ready to stitch:

celtic-start

And here is the final piece with the rulers in front that I used for all those varied twists, turns, and I also used a straight ruler which I forgot to put into the picture.  Because the design was a reproduction of an eleventh century artist’s illuminated manuscript border all the turns and angles were slightly different from the one before it.  So I had to keep fitting the rulers into the design and stitching a little ways and changing to another ruler.  The entire design was stitched with rulers, the paper removed (yes, that was a project), and painted.  I am hoping the quilting will make it clearer where the design crosses over and under itself.

celtic-with-rulers

And just to bring this together, below is one of my early practice pieces in which I used a lot of the small rulers for small circular or half circle designs.  When you look at this, remember it was done on the very first day of stitching on my Q20 and I missed a lot.  In fact, it’s not very good:

some of this is ruler work

some of this is ruler work

 

I have set up a couple of practice sandwiches to play around with the rulers and will be showing some of my results of that in a later part of this series, along with a discussion of threads, needles, markers, and free motion embroidery.  The plan is to also show some fill work.  I am doing all of this partly for my blog readers, but also in preparation for a workshop I will be doing at G Street Fabrics in Rockville in June 2017.

Ruler Help for Sitdown Straight Stitching

I will tell you that sometimes I get better results for some of my straight stitching using my Bernina 830 than I do on my Q20.  This is not always the case, but it is something that you may want to keep in the back of your mind if you are getting frustrated on a project where straight line work is important.  You can use any of your machines…you don’t have to be stuck to just one if you have several.  Use the one that gets the best result.  Here is an example:

stitched on my 830 with golden threads paper and the straight stitch with #37D foot.

stitched on my 830 with golden threads paper and the straight stitch with #37D foot.

I found this just simply went better with just plain markings and a straight stitch…slow but sure…using golden threads paper stuck on.  Then, like the bigger border swirly design, I removed the paper (even more of a task) and painted it. I have two more pieces before I’m finished.

Sometimes, I also use a ruler to help me get things straight when quilting on my Bernina 830.  I did this long before I had Fritz, and would probably use a straight ruler at Fritz for this if I were to do such a project again.  In the end, I actually cut this all off and bound it closer to the central design, but it works pretty well for some applications.

Straight quilting

Sew happy everyone!  Let me know if you have some rulers that you particularly like. Send me pictures of your ruler work, along with the information about the ruler you used, and I’ll probably publish them in future blogs.  Send to BettyJo@bjfabricartist.com

 

Testing Border Designs

This will be the last blog post I write on making Ken’s special quilt until it is completed, and probably until after it has been debuted at some show in order to keep it for a surprise, but I wanted to tell you how I was solving the border problems.  I will write the posts, but not publish them until then. I will, of course, continue writing blog posts about other topics.

I have been kind of concerned about whether or not I could get the border right for the quilt my son Ken designed for me.  It uses complex Celtic knots and designs.

So this week I managed to get all but one of the corners digitized and tested to stitch in-the-hoop at my Bernina 830 LE (Gibbs).  While working in the embroidery module, Gibbs rebelled over most of my gold metallic threads, finally accepting Superior metallic.  With some testing and fussing with tensions and needles, coupled with slowing way down to nearly the slowest speed, it decided to stitch out my designs without any further tantrums.  But I don’t much like the way the thread looks, so I am going to test some near-metallic colored threads.

After all, this is the outline for painting the design with Setacolor gold paint and finishing with Setacolor Gold Glitter Finish.  I have used these paints for several years now on my show quilts and they are permanent once dried and heat set.  I’ve even washed them with success.  The glitter may need a little refreshment after a couple of years of shipping, folding, showing, folding, shipping, but the underlying gold stays solid and most of  the glitter is still there even so.  I’m fairly certain with ordinary hanging in one’s home or office, and an occasional light vacuuming with a cheesecloth over the end of the vacuum hose, these paints will last for decades.

This is my first test of stitchout 1...small right corners. Here you can probably see that I have only half of the block finished with glitter paint. It seems the right finish to me. But I am not happy with the metallic threads here.

This is my first test of stitchout 1…small right corners. Here you can probably see that I have only half of the block finished with glitter paint for comparison. It seems the right finish to me. But I am not happy with the metallic threads here.

My biggest problem was getting the long designs on the border that were too big to fit into a hoop and that I thought were too exacting to manage a good multi-hooping of the many hoops required.  So I decided to see if I could get the outline stitching done with good marking and free motion/ruler work on my new sit-down longarm Bernina Q20 (Fritz).

Fritz is a dream.  Fritz does not dislike any of my metallic threads.  Neither does Gibbs, for that matter, if it isn’t working in-the-hoop.  But I practiced on Fritz this time in non-metallics.  Oh my….I set it up in BSR2, which Bernina recommends for ruler work.  Using 7 of Lisa Calle’s wonderful rulers, I have done some practice work.  While I need more practice, I am fairly certain by now that I can make these border pieces.  I have found that Fritz can place each stitch where I want it…it will slow way down, work at higher speed, stop when I stop and start when I start, and all controlled only by how I move the fabric when it’s set on BSR2.  I will note that this can also be done at most any sit-down sewing machine, although perhaps not as easily.

I am pre-stitching the designs, not quilting them in.  I will quilt them after sandwiching the quilt, and will use either Superior’s monopoly or 100 weight silk matching the backgrounds.  This will provide further definition to where the design goes over and under to make the Celtic knots.

So I starched and then backed my test pieces with my favorite stabilizer for embroidery (for that is what this is).  That is Madeira Cotton Stable, which has a light fusible on it, and is 100 percent cotton.  Thereby no hooping is necessary.  This stabilizer can either remain in the border or tear out. I usually tear out most of it and don’t worry about getting absolutely everything before sandwiching.

The top corner design was done at Gibbs in the hoop and then painted. The lower left and right designs were done with rulers at Fritz and then painted.

The top corner design was done with Gibbs in the hoop and then painted. The lower left and right designs were done using rulers and the Bernina #96 ruler foot with Fritz and then painted.  I left unpainted some of the stitching on the lower left so you can see how it looks before painting.  It needs practice.

I still have to complete the digitizing of the one big upper left block, and when I finish and test that, and dye my PFD Radiance a dark green (which kind of makes me nervous, but they don’t make it the color I want), I will FINALLY be ready to start actually making the quilt top.

This is progress, though it kind of doesn’t seem like it since I haven’t actually started assembling the real quilt yet.  But the time I’m taking to work everything out beforehand I will mostly gain back when I make the quilt and know exactly what to do each step along the way. 🙂

Sew happy everyone!  I hope you are having a wonderful weekend.  God’s blessings.

 

 

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).

 

Quilting and Sewing: A Magical Playground

Quilting is so much fun for me.  Some days I get excited by something as simple as watching a show on The Quilt Show (TQS) even if it presents a type of quilting I know I’ll probably never use.  I also love thinking about advances in machines even if I am unlikely to obtain these machines.  I want to help people–men, women, children–who may find that they are interested in making quilts and run into problems.

Sew here is what I am thinking about today.  I saw Louisa Smith’s show on TQS a few minutes ago and she talked about her “color studies” and some interesting methods she has worked out to produce really colorful interesting quilts that she uses decorative stitches and threads when she appliques down her appliques.  They are gorgeous, and it gives me some ideas for a little quilt I am trying to design right now for next year’s Hoffman Challenge.  This design is floating around in my mind, but it is a little fuzzy still as to just how I’m going to approach it.  Just take a look at those fun fabrics.  I recently rewatched Bead It Like You Mean It by Lyric Kinard  currently available for members on TQS and have decided beads have to play a big part in this little Hoffman Challenge quilt.

In addition, I enjoy learning about advances in machines today and about interesting machines even if I don’t plan to buy them.  I have a quilting friend whose power has been off for days.  She lives across the country from me so I can’t help her out with this, but it made me think about this machine I have kind of wanted for some time now and a special custom cabinet that the Amish make for it:

712t-main

What a wonderful advance this can be for people who don’t use electric power…a treadle machine with ten utility stitches and a buttonholer.  How neat it would be to have one of these to use if the power goes down for days because of a storm.  I won’t get it because I can’t figure where to put it in my home, and it probably would not be used very much since our power is, at this time, very reliable.  But wouldn’t that be fun?

I also would love to have an embroidery machine with multiple needles and a longarm machine…none of these will fit in my small townhome.  But it’s still fun to think about these machines and see what people do with them.  Sew what brand of machine do I think is best?  I think there are many brands today that are wonderful.  Bernina, of course is my favorite, but there is Baby Lock, which would be my second choice (or first choice if I were buying a new serger…I currently have a Baby Lock serger).  I also think Janome and Juki are great machines.  I truly don’t have any opinion on other brands such as Brother or Pfaff.  My mother, who has passed on now, loved her Pfaff, but it has changed owners since she had her machines and I don’t know how they do now.  The point is, you can have a wonderful old machine, a less expensive but workable machine, or a top end advanced machine and regardless still make lots of wonderful things with them.  It’s important to learn all the things your machine can and cannot do so you can plan your projects around them.

Just this week I ordered a #96 Bernina ruler foot they developed for their longarm.  They don’t recommend using it on their domestic machines because you have to remember to lower your presser foot to bring up your thread before you start sewing.  I have several friends who are successfully using it now, however.  I have the Westalee ruler foot that I use with the #77 adapter foot, and it works ok if the rulers are not too thick.  But the screw where you join the two pieces together sometimes gets in the way.  There will be no screw to run into with the #96.  So I am planning on developing some ruler work.  It’s a new technique for me and, indeed, a new technique for the industry…ruler work on domestic machines.

Today I made a little progress on foundation piecing the storm-at-sea blocks for a current project and had a lot of fun.  These blocks have 65 pieces for each one and I will need 24 blocks as close to perfection as I can get them for the big wave that will merge into the pictorial part of the quilt.  Here is the design for the rectangle I’m making from which to cut the sweeping big wave.  The blocks are 7 inch blocks, making the small parts very small indeed.  This will take me quite a while to complete because I am slow at this and have kind of gotten to be a perfectionist on having all those points come out just right.

Big wave traditionals

Sew what is my point about this?  Quilting and sewing has become a wonderful almost magical play ground full of fabulous fabrics, beautiful and reliable threads, and wonderful advanced machines.  Furthermore, some wonderful quilters and sewists have developed methods and skills that they so willingly share with others that make this one of the most exciting activities available to us today.  Videos and books are out there from many of these quilters and sewists for those who can’t make it to a show or workshop.

Sew happy everyone.  Go experiment with your machines, fabrics, and threads that you already have and let go and enjoy it like the magical playground it can be!  Samples are necessary, and they are where you can simply have fun.  These are great for making mug rugs and other small items for your friends.

 

Getting It Straight

I cannot quilt a straight line. I am finishing up my Ikebana/Sashiko quilt, which I will now name “Kanazawa Memories” in honor of the wonderful two women–Sensei (teacher) Endo, and Nobu Katagiri–who took me under their wings when I was a young woman all those years ago in Kanazawa, Japan, and taught me how to manage in a Japanese home. Not only did they teach me flower arrangement in the Sogetsu Ikebana School, but they taught me how to take care of unfamiliar parts of the home like tatami mats.

I really hummed and hawed with myself over how to quilt the border, and in the end I decided to stitch five rows of straight triple stitch around the border in earth tone Superior Rainbow thread. I started trying to stitch just a straight stitch, but found it did not lay down enough color, so I switched to the triple stitch. It was so hard to get it straight. I marked it AFTER it was sandwiched, which I am sure was the main problem, so I pulled out a straight ruler that I particularly like and used it as a guide.

Straight quilting

I really found this easy, and the straightness improved, though there were some drifts here and there and things I learned along the way.

DSCN2674

  • You must come to a full stop before you move your hands or the ruler or you may get a drift or jerky spot.
  • You have to be particularly careful in turning a corner.
  • If you press down the ruler too tightly and hold it out from you too long you get some really bad muscle aches after an hour or two of quilting.
  • The triple stitch was intended for an internal stretch seam, and it does not always stitch evenly (see the picture above, where it is obvious). So very even speed is needed to make it come out nice, but even so, it isn’t like I like in the end. To add to this, it is a very difficult stitch to remove, and virtually impossible on the soft, loosely woven Peppered Cotton.
  • The border is wavy, even though it was not when I first added it with care to measure and cut it lengthwise. It stretched on this soft, loosely woven cotton, likely because of the heaviness of the stitch. I should have backed the border with a fusible interfacing like I did the blocks. I mistakenly thought that using the temporary adhesive to attach the batting would serve the purpose.

So in the end, I got the rows fairly straight, except a very few wobbles that I MIGHT be able to fix. But I am probably going to remove the border altogether and simply bind the quilt in the same color green. I might leave a narrow border in place, adding a little to the width of the visual green, but not much.

This quilt was never intended to be a show quilt. It was mostly a learning and memory quilt for me. When I get it fully finished, I will, nevertheless, take good photos of it and might try to get it into a show or two so some of my friends who go to certain shows can see it.

In the meantime, here’s a peak at the quilting in the middle.
DSCN2680

Conclusions: The ruler was extremely helpful and I can use it with my quarter inch foot, as shown (I used it with my 37D foot, which is an exact quarter inch from the needle on both sides, making the lines on the ruler particularly useful). Soft, loosely woven cotton stretches A LOT even with some care. Even if you get the stitching as straight as you originally envisioned it, it sometimes disappoints. All good things to know.

Sew happy everyone. Try a little ruler work with your domestic machine.