Making Samplers

I am writing a book on embellishment techniques and have a plethora of samplers to make for this book.  I will also be using examples from some of my show quilts.  One of the projects in my book includes  several samplers teaching how to make trees using couching and a variety of interesting decorative threadwork.The starry night in the winter forest scene above is almost complete.  I still have to bind it and add hot fix crystals in the sky.  But I thought I would show you what I have on this little sampler, which I stitched on with no premarking.  This is such a fun activity to just sit down with a small quilt sandwich and play.  Initially I had planned just to practice and test some tree making in preparation for this sampler, but I liked it and decided to just trim it down and make it one of the samplers.

  • The two front larger trees are couched on sport weight yarns using a couching foot #43 on my Bernina Q20 and white 100 weight Microquilter by Superior Threads with Bottom Line in the bobbin. (Q20 settings: net on the cone, bobbin tension 180 with a magic silicone bobbin washerover the spring, top tension 1.50, threaded across the silicone gadget with the pink liquid, 80/12 universal needle (note…for small thin 100 weight and monopoly threads the universal needles work best, because the top stitching needles I normally use tend to “step on” the thread and break it instantly.  This is true whatever machine you us).
  • The middle tree, though you can’t tell in this picture, is sparkly silver Ricky Tims Razzle Dazzle by Superior that I couched on also with the couching foot #43 using a silver Superior metallic thread in the top (same settings except top tension is 3.0 and needle is 90/14 titanium top stitch Superior).
  • Then I free motion stitched the two smaller back trees using Aurifil 12 weight wool/acrylic blend thread and a 100/18 top stitch needle (Bottom line bobbin set as above, top tension 3.0, spi 9, bsr1,  100/18 top stitch titanium Superior neeedle, threaded as normal, stitched slowly, use a tooth cleaning threader to thread the aurifil thread through the take up bar hole and the needle).  Clean and oil your machine after using wool blend thread.
  • After that, I free motion stitched with Superior metallic thread the lines showing the hilly shapes, ruler stitched the moon shape, and painted the moon with Setacolor paints.
  • Then I used 100 weight black Microquilter (set as in the first dot section) and did a simple stipple all over the quilt and outlined the trees.

I encourage you to try such a sampler.  It can make either a neat Christmas decoration once all the crystals are placed on it, or you could add a halloween pumpkin or owl applique for Halloween.



Progress on Mom’s memory quilt:

Now that I have it all designed, I decided I had to make a sampler to practice everything especially on the satin part of the quilt where I will have pictographs of flowers, birds, and embroidered items that are related to Mom’s interests.

So I managed to get all the marks out of the test piece when I used the heat away pen after a four hour soak and a cold water wash in Synthrapol and finally a reironing to take away the last of the marks, which were very light at this point.  I then refroze it thinking they would come back but they did not.  I will retest this on the sampler when I am finished with it.  This is the kind of treatments you have to do when your fabrics or thread colors bleed onto your quilt, so I do not recommend the use of these pens except in very rare circumstances and after much testing.  I plan on making a decorative pillow for my bed with this sampler.

Sew I thought the hardest part would be to quilt the pictographs, but I found that to be really fun and, while time consuming, they were fairly easy to do at a slow stitch with my Q20 using BSR1, spi 12, and Magnifico 40 wt thread by Superior, and a 90/14 top stitch titanium needle with top tension 3.5 and bottom line in the bobbin at 180 tension.  Now I am working on figuring out the background, but first I will be doing really really tiny scribble stitching for about a quarter inch out from the edges of all the pictographs with 100 wt thread to set them apart and make them look like trapunto.

I am using a double bat on this quilt (80/20 thin bottom and wool on top), a cotton backing, a beefy polyester crepe backed satin and two colors of polyester dupioni.  But the only pictograph quilting is only on the ivory satin.  Here are the sampler pictographs.  I think it is coming along really well, but I am puzzled about what kind of background I am going to put on the white.  I am thinking of using walking foot stitching with some simple decorative stitches on my 880 plus in some kind of grid work, but I am not sure yet.  One thing at a time on this project. LOL  It’s hard to see in this picture, and it looks like there is more problem with fabric management than there is, but here is the sampler so far.

Sew happy everyone!  Take some time to play on some samplers that you might want to use or just throw out later.  It gives you the freedom to try things you might be hesitant to do on a full quilt project.  Cheers.

 

Cotton, Polyester, Silk, or Rayon?

Periodically the question comes up on social media groups related to quilting about whether a quilter “should” or “can” use polyester or poly blend rather than cotton fabric or thread in their quilts.  This is usually followed by people vehemently claiming it MUST be cotton.  Nothing else but cotton, and declaring this as if the issue were settled and can not be questioned.  Those who suggest otherwise are mostly ignored.

I have also seen  several quilters claim that polyester does not last as long as cotton, which astonished me.  So, I have been doing some research.  You see, I think with today’s high quality manufacturing a quilter should feel free to use whatever fabric or thread they want to use without feeling they MUST use a  specific fiber.  So I thought I would write about this and also ask what you think.

First of all, it was pretty easy to find a lot of comparisons of the properties of cotton and polyester fabrics that had a bit of science behind them.  Without fail, such sites all said the polyester is more durable than cotton, which is what started me off on this hunt.  Cotton is also a wonderful fabric, but it is not true that polyester is less durable.  Some people say they have had a bad experience otherwise, and they probably did, but I suspect it was the quality of the fabric rather than the fiber that made the difference.

Additionally, I have been looking into how well polyester behaves in quilting and sewing, because I want to free up the quilting world to love and appreciate all manner of fibers for their quilts.  I’ve done some experimentation and talked with other quilters who use polyesters in their work.

I am an expert sewist and quilter…very experienced with dealing with fabrics, having sewn for over sixty years.  I had my own business as a fashion designer and tailor some years ago,  and have been a show quilter for over 11 years now, as you all probably know.  I have won some ribbons in international shows. I have made many of my own clothes and those of the men in my family.  Trust me, when I say that I know how fabric should behave.

Years ago I made many special occasion dresses, including wedding dresses, from both silk and polyester.  I also made men’s suits in both wool and wool blends, and special needs clothing for professors and business people in all manner of fabrics. For them and for my own clothes, I used both natural fiber fabrics, which I count Rayon as one, and polyesters.

Since I have been quilting, I use mostly cotton or silk because I like the way it looks.  But about a year ago Kaufman Fabrics ceased making my favorite quilting fabric, which was a blend of cotton and silk in a satin weave called Radiance.

Since then I have been trying out a few things to take its place.  One of those fabrics are various types of polyester satin.  I have found that a really good quality crepe back satin makes a fine quilting fabric.  It has enough give and take to show the quilting well and not to pucker.  The colors are good, the strong colors don’t bleed, the fabric doesn’t shrink.  And oh yes, it is about a third the price of Radiance.  I love it.  I have a polyester satin show quilt planned for this year.

I also think that some of the lighter weight polyesters and different weaves of poly blends are acceptable to use in quilting.

From my own experiences there is a wide range of quality of fabrics of all kind. The quality, no matter the fiber, is really an important factor in determining how the fabric behaves.

Admittedly, when trying to do things like inset sleeves into a garment or piecing a curve, most polyesters will show a slight tendency to pucker.  I have not found that to be the case of the crepe back satin and other crepe weaves, however, because I think the crepe weave gives it enough give and take to counter the lack of ability to shrink.

Sometimes, you need to back your polyesters (and your silks too, I might add) with a light weight fusible interfacing to make it behave well.

Silk is a sometimes difficult fabric to work with, will bleed like everything, and sometimes will shrink.  But it is so beautiful, that it is worth the effort to make it work.  I hand prewash silk using Synthrapol.  It makes it less likely to bleed when you use a little starch or some steam on your finished show quilt.  But sometimes the bleeding is just too great to use with another color.  I also usually back the silk with light weight fusible interfacing.  THEN it works as well as cotton.

Cotton does work the best, admittedly, but it needs to be prewashed to contain the shtrinkage and prevent later bleeding. I use Synthrapol for that too, because some manufacturing does not fully set the dye and there may be some lose dye that could even just bleed from working the fabrics, not even involving water.

Now rayon is a fussy fabric and I have never tried to use it in a quilt, but I love it for some clothing.  It, however, shrinks!  So if you are going to use it be certain to prewash it.  I love how it drapes and moves in a full skirt or loose flowing jacket.  It’s a wonderful fabric made from trees.

And yes, when it comes to threads, I like them all…cotton, poly blends, all polyester, silk, and wool.  Thread is a lovely thing.  You just need to buy a good brand of thread and the right needles to use with them.  Cheap thread does not do a good job.  It can stuff up the inner workings of your machine with fluff, break, pull, shred, and just make a mess, and yes, I have even had it shrink and bleed back when I used it years ago.  But really fine quality thread is a dream.

The answer is…you can use the fabric and threads of your choice and have a good result that lasts for many years and you can pass it down for generations.  Yes, there are bad fabrics out there that will shred, distort, and make a mess, but it’s a quality issue, not a fiber content issue if you pay attention to the right preparation for the fabric.

Sew you can use whatever you want to make your quilt, even burlap, for that matter, if you back it with fusible interfacing, but I won’t go near it, because burlap makes me break out and sneeze.  Hahahaha

Sew happy everyone!  Enjoy your quilting and sewing using the products you like and don’t listen to those who think there is only one way to do things because it was what their great grandparent used back before the fabric manufacturing was as advanced as it is today.

Happy 2019! Let’s Make this a Wonderful Year!

I always love the beginning of a new year.  It is like turning a page on a well-worn journal that may not have worked out like we wanted and finding a crisp new space to fill with fabulous adventures. As some of my long-term readers probably realize, I like to publish my creative goals in my blogs and then see how much of them I can accomplish.  It’s a challenge!

For 2019 I have four avenues for fabric and thread play planned and the timing has worked out so I am at the beginning of them all, which makes it all the more exciting.

  1. Landscape quilts, using a variety of applique techniques, threads, couched yarns and roving I hope to develop  pictorial quilts with a lot of dimension. I don’t know how many of these I will make, but I have two already planned–think “train” and the little Bob Ross challenge by Cherrywood Fabrics…and I hope to make more.  I am thinking of developing a book on these techniques along the way, now that I know I can publish my own highly-illustrated books with some degree of professionalism.
  2. Experimental quilt(s), developing a couple of wild ideas I have had floating around for a while.  These include first of all polyester crepe-back satin which will also include some in-the-hoop embroidery that I digitize myself on Bernina design software V8 and develop a Ten Skill-Building Projects for Bernina v8, as an update to my new book on v7, that will be coming early in January. And secondly, seeing what I can do with some of the really beautiful commercial panels available and/or develop some background panels of my own for sale.  Both of these things offer real possibilities for quilters with limited budgets, time, or confidence. Blogs will be coming.
  3. Workshops, that I will be teaching a repeat to the ones on developing fabric art that I taught at G Street Fabrics this past fall and will be adding a basic ruler work workshop…all scheduled for April and May already.  I am all ready for the first three except for making a few additional kits, and I still have to make the sample and kits for the ruler workshop…one week of preparation should do the trick.
  4. Videos showing especially working with my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm and possibly more.  I have all the equipment, and this week I successfully went through the whole process to come out with one really terrible video, but I now know the process and will be practicing until I get it all just right.  I hope to share these as inspiration for people here on my blog.

I am very excited about all this. It may seem too much, but I don’t think it is given how I hope to build quilt projects together with books, blogs, and videos, getting multiple uses out of the same work with only a small addition of work. We’ll see…(oh! and I also will be continuing the work on my appliqued quilt using a Sue Nickel‘s pattern I am making for my bed, but that’s just for relaxation and fun).

I was inspired to tackle improvements in my landscape quilts first by Bethanne Nemesh’s videos on yarn couching on her own quilts, then by the success I had in using yarn couching for tree limbs and 12 weight wool threads on my Night on the Bayou quilt for producing Spanish Moss, and finally by my purchase of the Bernina attachment for my little Bernina 350 that does needle punch.  So I am going to put all this together with the applique quilting and embellishment techniques I already do and see what comes out.

I was also interested in how well a little testing of the leftovers of the crepe-back heavy satin I used for my coat did in quilting that I feel I need to make at least one and possibly more quilts using this product.  I think it offers some great possibilities and it’s a lot cheaper than the now-discontinued silk/cotton Radiance.  The every day quilter with a limited budget may find this a wonderful way to go. We’ll see, and I will write about it, at least in my blog if not a whole book.

Sew happy everyone.  Peace and love be yours as we begin 2019. Encourage those around you. Let’s make this a wonderful year full of peace, love, and yes, fun! May God bless you and yours.  Let the celebrations begin!

Building a Pictorial Quilt Part Three: Working with Threads

As I work through my Bayou quilt, and think about past quilts I have made, I realize how much one needs to pay attention to the adjustments, needles, cleaning, setting, and other requirements for optimum machine performance as you use the varying types of techniques, fabrics, and threads.

Threads

Today I am adding more Spanish moss in differing colors of Aurifil’s wool 12 weight thread and additional wool yarn couching using Superior’s almost truly invisible Monopoly.

I was having problems this morning with my wool thread breaking and breaking after hours of working well.  So I stopped and did a thorough clean and check of the machine, oiled it, and added a new 100/16 Superior titanium top stitch needle.  When I cleaned the bobbin, I found a large bunch of wool fluff both outside in the bobbin casing area and in the bobbin casing itself full,  and I blew air through the upper tread track and dislodge additional wool fluff.  I like this thread, but it does require frequent machine cleaning, loosening the top tension, and really fresh needles.  I doubt it would be possible to make wool thread that didn’t do that, although Aurifil’s is excellent.  It is actually 50 percent wool and 50 percent acrylic. I also use a tooth floss threader to thread this through the needle (and the take up lever hole on my Bernina Q20).  I haven’t had the same breakage problem since I did the cleaning.

The Spanish moss here is Aurifil’s Lana wool/acrylic 12 weight thread.

When I am couching using my Bernina Q20, I use Superior’s monopoly.  I truly cannot see it well enough to make sure it is always threaded through the machine right.  Over the past little while, I have found that this thread works best with a universal 70 needle.  I don’t think I could go smaller using this powerful machine, but when I am using my Bernina 830 or Bernina 350, I use a 60 universal needle.  I haven’t figured out why it works better with the universal needle, but it does.  I have almost no problems with it, though I do lower the top tension significantly on all the machines when using this thread.  This thread makes wonderful couching thread when using the machine method that stitches through the yarn or cord.  It basically buries itself down in the yarn and disappears.  In the past, I have also used this thread to quilt over and around painted, appliqued, or thread embroidered areas of a quilt.  I don’t particularly like overall quilting using Monopoly, because I like to see the thread most of the time, even if it is nearly matching and you have to look to see it.  I have used it though when I am quilting through an area that has multiple colors and no particular single color or even variegated thread would work right.  I actually use a magnifying glass to work with this thread.

The gold Celtic border was outlined first with gold thread, then painted with gold paint, but it had no over and under view until after it was quilted with Monopoly thread. I will be using this technique again.

Yarns for couching are really another bit of my stash that might end up growing, but I hope to keep it kind of small.  Still it is exciting to work with.  My machine likes the smoother yarns and cords the best, but I want to use some of the less smooth ones, like the Shetland wool sport weight I am using for the limbs of my trees.  I can see this yarn making whole tree trunks and limbs.  It has various slubs and smooth sections that produces wonderful depth of character.  acrylic yarns are really smooth and even and make wonderful fills.  I’m still learning this element of my pictorial fabric work so I will talk more about it later.  I have found lots of help in learning this from Bethanne Nemesh’s couching work.  She has generously shared much of her techniques on both Facebook videos [only one example…she has several there]  and her blogs.

For background work, I often use Superior’s 100 weight Microquilter or its Kimono silk 100 weight.  This thread seems to call for a small needle also.  I use 60/10 or 70/11 topstitch needle depending on the density of the quilt I’m stitching through.  I sometimes have had to go up to 80/12  topstitch needles when stitching through multiple applique areas or heavily thread embroidered areas.  This thread also requires a lower top tension, just like the Monopoly, though not quite as low.  I  am not giving numbers because everyone’s machine and fabrics are just a little different, so you need to do a sample using the actual fabrics and threads you have on your quilt.

Sttitching on the space dust on one of my deep space quilts using 40 weight variegated Fantastico by Superier.  The background stitching you see here was done with 100 weight Kimono silk.

Sew for most of my quilting where I want the design to really show and machine embroidery, though, I usually use a 40 weight thread of some sort with an 80/12 or 90/14 Superior topstitch needle, depending on the fabrics and threads I am using.   Most of the time I use the 90/14 and it seems to make a great general needle.  My favorite threads for this are Superior’s Fantastico, Magnifico, and Rainbow (they no longer make this thread but I have a lot of it), and when stitching things like rocks or places I don’t want any shine, I use King Tut.  King Tut, a cotton, definitely requires the 90/14 needle.   I also like Aurifil’s 50 weight cotton when I need it a little less visible, but don’t want to use a polyester for some reason.  I use the 80/12 needle with Aurifil 50 weight cotton.

Isn’t this fun?!!! There are soooo many wonderful possibilities to make your pictorial quilt come to life now…I could work hours and hours and hours on it, except my body demands I stop from time to time and walk or stretch or breath….LOL.

Sew happy everyone!  Try out all those wonderful types of threads.  Just get the smallest spools at first so you can figure out whether you like them or not and how they might work for you.  Then make a sampler.

 

 

 

 

 

Embellishing Techniques Part 2: Machine embroidery

I’m getting really excited about the upcoming Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival, 22-25 Feb.  One of my best friends, Mei Ling,  is going with me.  We share a love of Berninas, quilting, and sewing.  Several of my other friends will be there and Mei Ling and I are both going to the Fashion Show and taking a class with Sue Nickles on applique.  Yes, I could teach a class on machine stitched applique, but Sue is the very best and I always learn things when I go to a class.  It’s mainly just fun for me to be there with a bunch of others who love fabric arts whether I already know how to do something or not.  Plus my latest quilt, which has some free motion and one small piece of in-the-hoop machine embroidery on it, will be in the show!  Sorry, you still have to wait until the judging takes place for MAQF and then I will share the quilt with you.  I’ll blog about the quilt when I get home from the show.

An aside:  Last night, the day before it started, my son pointed out to me that Birds of a Feather quilting workshop event moved to Herndon, VA, twelve minutes away from my home this year.  I had just assumed it was still in Williamsburg this year (see what assuming does for you….lol).  So today I went over to see if I could grab a few classes and I caught something I wanted to see very badly, which was Bethanne Nemesh demonstrating yarn couching on a longarm, which she has been developing lately.  I spent about ten minutes talking with her about it and she gave me a few hints, letting me try my hand at it.  It was worth a whole workshop for me even though it was just a few minutes.  I also managed to meet Gina Perks.  And I signed up for three shorter classes from those two notable quilters.

Sew what am I doing now?  Well, I’m preparing to go the MAQF show, making a vest and tote bag and gathering the items needed for Sue’s class. The vest is reversible. It has this delightful tropical birds and plants on a black background print on one side, and the other is a slightly textured solid fabric that I have embroidered some pretty flourishes on the back and fronts.

Which leads me to the supposed topic of this blog…decorative stitches and machine embroidery for embellishing quilts and wearable fabric art. Over the years I have used a lot of machine embroidery…both free motion and machine generated. I have found some things to know about that you may already be aware of, but I found out my student/apprentice Anita has never heard about. Sew I decided to summarize briefly a few pointers here for successful machine embroidery of all types.  I am including this information in a more expanded version in my current book I’m working on about surface design and embellishment.

Thread choice makes a very big difference in getting the look you want when doing machine embroidery.  Choosing  those threads requires some thought and a bit of readily available education.  Mind you, this takes a little time and practice and testing at first, but once you get it in your head you can do this quickly:

  1. Decide if you want a shiny or matt finish thread
    • Rayon is shinier than polyester, though some polys are pretty shiny too and make wonderful bird feathers or flowers or shiny objects or…well you get the idea.
    • Cotton is mat finished and makes great trees or grasses or sinks into the background just a bit when you want it to,
    • Wool is very interesting and is great for coats of furry animals or tree trunks, and when you want the look to be more hand-like because you are doing a folk art piece.
    • Silk can be both shiny or mat.  Silk is really versatile, but finding the silk threads you have in mind can be somewhat difficult.
  2. Look at several websites of thread companies and learn about what’s available and what they do.  A lot of them have some really good educational information there.  Every new little bit I learn about threads helps my next project.  It shows up in surprising ways.  Sew I encourage you to take some time with these interesting links:
  3. After looking at these sites and playing around with threads, you will better understand thread quality and weights.  If possible, obtain a bit of the threads you are interested in  and do samples to test how they work with the design you are planning to use on the fabric you plan to use.

Well, this is getting pretty long, and I still have much to say, even in a “brief” summary about machine embroidery, so I will stop here and continue in my next blog with a word about stabilizers and how to remove a heavily machine embroidered mistake.  Then maybe another blog with pictures.

Sew happy everyone!  Go learn about some threads.  There is much to learn.

By the way, I have many of my quilts for sale on my website.  You can see them here.  I really want to go to Houston and keep on writing this blog and that is where the money would go.  If you are interested in one of my quilts, contact me at BettyJo@bjfabricartist.com  Or, if you just want to help support the continuance of the blog, see the donate button.  But please keep reading my blog even if you don’t.

 

Starting and Stopping Thread Work and Quilting

Sew it’s been a while.  I’ve been enormously busy finishing my quilt for the Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival…and yes, I finished and I’m now working on my little Milky Way “You are Here” mini.  It’s only about 20 x 20 inches and it’s for my part of the space exhibit at MQX.  All of my deep space quilts will be there and this is just a little fun piece to show where we are in our home galaxy.

There are a lot of opinions out there in fabric art/quilting land about how to best start and stop your thread.  Do you bury it? Do you stitch small stitches and cut close? Do you back it up and cut close?  The answers to these questions can frustrate anyone dealing with this issue.  Some quilters have no problems with it because they’ve already decided just what they are going to do and do it the same all the time.  I however have a plethora of ways to get going and stop.

For the most part, I hate to bury knots.  On my show quilts, especially, I stitch very densely in many areas, and sometimes there simply is no way to get that knot fully under the top without problems.  Also, I’m not convinced it really holds down the thread any better than other methods.  So I analyze what I’m working with and so forth to decide what to do.  Let me just say at the start, that if I am making a utility quilt…baby, give away, cuddle on a cold night…I will back stitch or stitch a short stitch close cut.  It just takes the rough and tumble better than buried knots.  I’m sure there are those who will disagree with me about this, but I stand by it after 65 years of sewing.  So here is how I handle this issue for wall and show quilts:

  • Thicker threads, such as 12 weights and some 30 weights almost require burying in some form because they just show up at the end.  Maybe I will just bury them without a knot and carry the thread through the quilt fairly far using a long basting needle.  If it works out in my overall quilting, I bury the thicker thread and stitch over the end in my background quilting, but that doesn’t always work.
  • Very thin threads of 50, 60 or 100 weight can easily just be cut close after some close stitching…say 15 stitches per inch (spi), so I never bury those.

But what about those 40 weights and specialty threads, such as monopoly and metallics?  Well, it has been my experience that these very lively threads  WORK better and stay better with a careful back trace stitching and then cut close.  I am not sure judges will agree with me, but the thing is, such lively threads  WILL come up from a bury even when knotted if certain directions of friction are encountered in the handling of the quilt for shipping and hanging and unhanging.  If stitched carefully enough, a backtrack is virtually unnoticeable, except you can probably see it with a magnifying glass and a flashlight. (Did you know that some judges look st your quilts that way?)  But I decided my metallics will be backstitched and close cut since they go through a lot when sent to shows.  If you decide to do this, go really slowly when you backstitch and get it as exact as possible.

The 40 weights are the problem because they aren’t easily determined.  Some of them, such as Superior’s Magnifico and Sulky’s rayons are really shiny and show up everything, especially with a high contrast.  So in that case, I will probably bury them with the long thread no knot method if I can bring myself to do it.  LOL.  Some of them, such as Superior’s King Tut, a cotton thread, will melt into the background when the contrast is low. They do well with a short stitch close cut ending.

Sew the answer then is either to quilt so well and planned that you NEVER have a start or stop (LOL) or to test the starts and stops before setting out on quilting that special project and decide how you are going to approach it. Also, always be flexible as you go, because when you are quilting certain places you can change your mind.

Sew Happy Everyone!  May your dreams be met, your life be full of love and simply lovely!

By the way, I need some funds to help me keep my dreams for 2018 going, so I am hoping to sell several of my quilts this year to finance my attending the Houston show and keep me in stitches (LOL) and make room in my house for more.  You can see which ones on my website gallery…just scroll over the quilt and you can see the price and size.  Contact me if you are interested in one and maybe we can work something out that suits your budget.  I’ve instituted a lay away plan for the quilts. If you don’t want to buy a quilt but do want to help, there is a donate button on this blog if you are so inclined and the funds will all go to financing my trip or keeping this blog going.

 

Working with My Bernina Q20 Sitdown Longarm

As I’ve said before, I really love my Bernina Q20, Fritz, that I have set up as a sitdown longarm. I belong to a couple of Facebook groups, and one in particular, for sharing things about this machine. I decided I would write a blog (with a bit of humility and a lot of experimenting behind me) about how I set my machine up for quilting, because there are a lot of new quilters out there with this machine who seem to have a lot of questions.  Please understand this is how I work best with MY machine, but I thought it might still be of some value to the newer Q20 owners anyway.

Just so we are all singing from the same page, I have attached a pdf of the manual for reference:

036-0625-2-04_2015-06_Manual_Q20-Q24_EN_GZD_Online

To me, the greatest thing about this is how much control I have of the stitching. There are quite a few things that make an impact on that…the thread, the needle, the bobbin thread, the bobbin setup, and all the neat settings provided on the machine, and then there is the wonderful kickstart.  If you haven’t done the upgrade and don’t yet have your kickstart, I hope you will do so right away.

I had my machine for about a month before I realized it has programs where you can set up all your top tensions, speeds, and stitch lengths for all the modes and save it (see pages 73-74). I have mine programed for different weights of threads. 40 wt polyester, 100 wt silk, and 12 weight cotton. The fourth one is the default settings, so really there are only three you can set and save, but that seems enough to me. I felt pretty dumb when I found this out, because I was resetting everything every time I turned it on.  I have worked out a chart of settings for my own use, so I thought I’d share.  First see pages 29-31 in the manual for a discussion of how they see threads and needles, then see my personal preferences chart

chart for Q20

I have all the attachments available for the Q20, but there aren’t many (thank goodness). I already had the feet that work with my Q20 (see page 22 in the manual), mostly because I collected them while I was learning to FMQ on my Bernina 830 LE, and they fit.  I even have the double needle stitch plate (see page 46 through 49 for threading for double needle stitching)  and the horizontal spool pin necessary for straight wound spools (see page 23).

Here are some good tutorials:

Threading for twin needle work

Bobbin tension check

Preparing to stitch (you probably know most of this, but it’s a good reminder)

Stitching with and without the BSR

One of my many practice pieces. This one shows different thread weights and a little bit of yarn couching.

 

Do I use the BSRs?

Yes, I do use my BSRs and love them (read pages 75-78 for a discussion of the various BSR modes). I have the BSR attachment for my 830 LE, but it is slow and a little cumbersome compared to the fabulous BSRs on the Q20. I use BSR1 for most of my free motion, BSR2 for my ruler work, and manual sometimes for really tiny tiny fmq and some special threadwork, and even if I spray baste a quilt, I thread baste it with BSR 3..so fast, so handy, gives that little bit of extra security.  After years of using a BSR on my Bernina 830LE and now my Q20, I find the manual comes pretty naturally, but I still prefer the BSRs for most things.

It is true that good results from the various modes take practice both to learn what YOU like and to get the best benefits from the different modes.  I think, in fact, that you need to practice as if you are learning a musical instrument…frequently and for at least a half hour at a time, and every now and then a long period of practice. I periodically make a bunch of 20 inch or so practice sandwiches…marking some with grids, some with stencils, and nothing on some.  I use solid colors for the practice sandwich tops so I can really see what I’m doing, but it’s a good way to use up that ugly fabric you wonder why you ever bought on the back of your practice sandwiches, and I use joined pieces of leftover batting for my practice sandwiches too.

A practice piece using, surprisingly, polyester satin with wool batting.

Working with the kickstart:

The kickstart lets you stitch without your foot on the pedal, but is very easy to start, pause, and stop. By doing this, you don’t have an uneven feed of power going to the stitching.  Here’s their guide addendum for the manual for the kickstart:

Zusatzblatt_Kick-Start_EN_13-12-2016_GZD

And here’s a link to a youtube tutorial on using it:  kickstart tutorial

When using just the pedal to make it go, it is unlike a regular sewing machine, or the gas pedal on your car. The pedal on the Q20 sitdown does not make the stitching go faster or slower. The pedal is on or off. Pushed down all the way, you get it fully on. Slightly up, sometimes it skips stitches. If your foot slips off your pedal or you lose concentration, it makes it skip or unevenly stitch. Without the kickstart you have to spend part of your concentrated effort making sure you have that pedal fully and evenly compressed all the time you are stitching. So the kickstart is absolutely the most even way to stitch because it is on at full power, paused, or stopped. It may sound a little intimidating to think of turning on the stitching all the time, but you really are still in complete control. You can still kickstart the pedal and make it pause, or you can press the front of the pedal to exit the kickstart program instantly.  I hope you will try it if you haven’t already.

 

Here are some rulers I used to stitch this border piece (stitched, painted, then pieced into the top, then quilted with monopoly and 100 wt silk)

This spiral galaxy quilt is a whole cloth quilt stitched in its entirety on my Q20 (except for the binding and rod pocket, of course).

Sew with all these settings in mind, I hope you will find your own personal settings…make a chart yourself if you want…and then find that working with your Q20 is just as wonderful as I have.

Pendragon
34 x 45

Down to the Last Minute, and A Thread Review

I am going to take the second batch of my quilts out to G Street Fabrics in Rockville, Maryland, for the second part of the exhibit of my quilts.  This exhibit, which runs from mid July until the end of August or so, includes nearly all my show quilts except for Pendragon, Dad’s House plan, this year’s Hoffman Challenge still on tour, and a couple I have sold or given away.  They will be displayed throughout the store, including those that are already there in the Bernina department.  I also have completed one new quilt and nearly finished a second new quilt just for this exhibit.  Some of these quilts are available for purchase.  I will (really) post photos of the exhibit sometime in the latter half of July.

Sew here is where I’m at on the preparations.  I have completed the second one of my Alfred Shaheen panel quilts and named it “Tropical Garden”.  I used a lot of Superior’s new 100 weight polyester thread called Microquilter on both that quilt and the “Field of FLowers” I hope to finish by Friday to include in the exhibit.

A Review of Microquilter Thread

When I won all thirty colors of Superior’s Microquilter 100 weight polyester from Superior Threads, I was really thrilled.  I use almost more 100 weight threads than I do any other thread.  I use it for background quilting, detail thread sketching on things like flowers and line drawings, and I also love it for machine applique.  I do not use it for piecing or bobbins.

I found it a wonderful workable thread.  I tried it in my Bernina Q20 sit down longarm, my Bernina 830 LE, and my Bernina 350.  In every case I had to lower the top tension to keep it from breaking, just as I do for silk 100 wt and monopoly.  It worked beautifully without further adjustment in everything but the Q20.  For that, I had to lower the bobbin tension also (I used it with Bottom Line in the bobbin, though I did try one bobbin with the Microquilter).  I found surprisingly that the Superior top stitch needle size 80 worked better than a smaller needle that I use for monopoly and silk.  So here is how I ended up setting up my Q20 (Fritz) if you have one:

  • I have found my Q20 works better with a Magic Bobbin Genie sized for M bobbin.  I just put it in over the spring in the bobbin.  Without it, I have some thread nests on the bottom of my quilt when I get going really fast, and believe me, the Q20 can go REALLY fast.
  • I set the bobbin tension with Superior’s Bottom Line or the Microquilter itself for 180 using the tension guage that came with my machine.  If you use the Microquilter in your bobbin don’t wind it full.  It works better a little less…starting at about 3/4 full.  In the course of making two quilts, I used both Bottom Line that I wound and some prewound Superior thread bobbins that use Bottom Line.
  • I set the top tension for 125
  • I used a size 80 Superior top stitch titanium needle.
  • I used BSR1 set at 280 speed for tiny little stippling and 200 for slower tiny bubbles
  • This setup makes it work like a dream…no nests, no hangups, no tension problems

I will provide some pictures of my quilting with Microquilter as soon as I get them taken.  I am behind in getting my quilts photographed.

 

I got my little personal app quilt home that was a part of Road to California’s traveling exhibit of app quilts.  It has lost about six hot fix crystals out of hundreds, so I need to replace them by Friday.  I have one quilt that needs washing and reblocking, which I will do today.  I have several more stumpwork butterflies to make for the Field of Flowers and I have to put the rod pocket and label on it.  I think I can make the Friday deadline on this one, since the actual quilt is complete and bound. I even have the silver spider charm on the spider web part of that quilt.  Here’s the dragonfly that is ready to go onto the quilt already.  It’s in parts and needs a little additional embroidery after attachment where the wings attach to the body.  I will do turned edge applique of the body and hide the wing wires under that.  I will also probably darken the little white edges of the sheer to match the stitching.  I may even do a hand blanket stitch over the edges if I decide it needs it.  The first picture shows the pieces after stitching, and the second picture shows the dragonfly together ready to applique on.

The embroidered pieces, which I made in the hoop with my Bernina 830 LE

And I also need to ship “Pendragon” to AQS this week.  I want to do a little gold paint touch up on the border paint before I ship it.

So I have a really busy week ahead of me, but it’s an exciting time.  I am enormously pleased that G Street has asked me to show my quilts in the exhibit there.  It is a real honor.  I hope you have a chance to see it.  The whole show will be available in mid-July. I’m not sure of the exact dates, so you might want to call them before you head there.

Sew happy everyone!  Teach someone to sew or quilt…yourself, you cat, your dog…your son.  Until next time!

 

Five Years as a Full Time Fabric Artist: Stash Changes

I’ve been making art quilts now on a serious basis for about 10 years and full time for five! 

It surprised me when I realized that.  While thinking about that and looking at my bulging and dripping over stash storage, I realize that my quilt needs have changed as I developed my styles over the past ten years.

So how has it changed?

I have enormously increased my thread stash over the years, and recently I jaw-droppingly won Superior Threads giveaway of 30 cones of all 30 colors of their new Microquilter 100 weight.  This is a thread I will use a lot and recognized when they introduced it that if it was as good as I expected that I would want a lot of it.  What a nice thing!  Thanks Superior! So I bought  new cone holder to accommodate that.  I store my smaller spools in the plastic drawers where I used to store more fabric.  I would have a hard time adding much thread into my stash now.  I am thankful for this stash and expect to use most of it over the next few years. I use a lot of thread in my wall art quilts.

I had originally stocked in a lot of Oriental fabric prints, story prints, and landscape prints in the strong reds, browns, and blues I really love.

I have increased those fabrics that are either solid or read solid, and I also have large quantity of blacks and whites, and I even have a lot of prepared for dye fabrics.  Truly, I could use bolts of blacks, whites, and solid dark blues.  I recently used up a bolt of black and had to buy some more.

I still love landscape fabrics, and have lots of plans for those.

I originally told myself I would never paint a quilt.  Sew how has it happened that paints, inks, and other fabric markers have grown into a big stash…not huge, but big?  He he he he.

Then there are crystals, beads, and sequins, which I use mostly on space and ancient manuscript quilts with a crystal or two on some of my others.  These are small and take little space, but I use them up rapidly when I make one deep space quilt.  I don’t buy a lot ahead because it is so expensive.  I do watch for big sales in bulk though.

I can’t seem to keep enough stabilizers and battings in stock, since I use them a lot and mostly buy them as I need them, so those spaces are about the same.

I plan on a little stash busting by making a quilt for my bed and maybe a couple of lap quilts for my home and a charity quilt or two from the parts of the stash I no longer anticipate using in professional art quilts.

I will be reducing my stashes throughout this year.  The last time I did this was about five years ago when I retired and started full time, and it held up well, but is once again in need of some attention.

I refuse to let myself add more storage, because I have plenty to keep enough fabrics, threads, and paints to last me the rest of my life! I must reduce what I have to make it all fit again and make room for the few things I need for specific projects that aren’t already there.  This will be an ongoing effort for the next several months, I think…maybe longer.

Sew I am well stocked for quilting and sewing, though I could use more cotton-silk Radiance and a few more neutrals.

With apologies to those of you who are interested, I will be late in my promise for part two of our stylized landscape project next steps.  I have to work through the background to get  pictures and maybe even videos and that is taking longer than I anticipated.  Nevertheless, I will get part two done in this month.

Sew how has your stash changed since you started this activity?  Do you need to reduce or add or both?  I would love to hear from you about this.

On MAQF, Antiques, and Tutorials

MAQF

I just came home all inspired by a delightful few days at Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival where I had “Pendragon”.  I put together some of my pictures from the show.  Here is a link to the picture file:  Smugmug/MAQF 17

I stayed a day longer than I usually do for this show and it gave me lots of time to see every quilt, take all four lectures I was interested in and see the Show and Tell that I usually miss.  I also did a lot of shopping.  Well, afterall, my 70th birthday will be this coming Friday on March 3rd, so I gave myself some presents…threads, new rulers (a set of circles and a set of ovals), and one of those spinning cutting mats among a few additional small items.

The loot from the show

Pendragon did not place, but I believe it to be mostly because the theme of the show was modern quilting and that quilt has nothing to say that is even remotely modern quiltish.  I still believe it is a ribbon worthy quilt, so we will see what it does in the future. I decided to see if they would include it anyway because I sort of consider MAQF my main show.  It is within driving distance and I have relatives in the area, so going there is always a treat for me.  I did get some nice comments from the judges:

Your original design effective in telling your story; Embroidery well executed; Piecing well done; Quilting motifs compliments the design; Quilt hangs flat and square; Back of quilt should be free of loose threads and lint” (note:  I sticky rolled it and examined it with my big magnifying lamp when I packed it…lint may have happened on their end.  That backing fabric I used was a little lint grabbing…not using that again).

Pendragon
34 x 45

A New Page Is Turned

Now, however, I am turning a page on my work.  From here I am focusing on the quilt work itself, and on figuring out how to pass on what I have learned even as I maintain my studio artist status (not a lot of travel, a little teaching within driving distance, writing books and creating tutorials), rather than so much focus on the competition work. I will still enter shows, and still plan on making show quilts (they teach me a lot and give me a chance to stretch my work), but it’s an attitude and work flow adjustment in my studio that is on this nice new page in my life.   You can see more about this in one of my past blogposts here.

On Antiques

There are lots of definitions of “antique”.  The one I like the best for this discussion is “an object such as … a work of art that has a high value because of its considerable age.”    Tomorrow (Friday, March 3rd), I will be 70 years old.  I am a work (in progress) maybe even a “work of art” and have considerable age. I think every human being has high value…so there you are.  I could probably be called “an antique” fabric artist.  I feel physically great (have also lost some weight recently and hope to lose more) and I believe I am as mentally alert as ever (always a little daphy).  Many of my ancestors lived well into their hundreds.  I have a wonderful plan for my future and my kids are nearby.  My studio is well stocked, and my fleet of machines is wonderful and in good working order.  I’m excited about the future.  Thank the good Lord and I hope you will continue to join me on my quilting journey.

On Tutorials

One of the things I am going to begin on this blog post is a regular short tutorial (every week or month?).  This week’s tutorial is answering a question I got a lot at the show…how I made the chain mail on my characters in Pendragon using Bernina v7.  I haven’t yet gotten v8, but I suspect this would work there also.

Digitizing Chain Mail for Small Applique (Or using special fills to create what you want)

I wanted to make the characters’ chain mail shirts look right, and decided the best approach was to digitize the chain mail in my Bernina v7 software and embroider it in the hoop.  This took me a while to discover how to do it.  I think I spent two or three days on figuring this out, but I just did a chain mail heart shape and took snap pictures for this tutorial all in about three minutes.  So I thought I’d share this with you in case you wanted to create something special with interesting fills and shapes.  Using Bernina v7 software:

  • Draw a closed shape…you can put the picture in the art canvas side and trace it on the embroidery side
  • Right click on the object and bring up the Object Properties dialogue box.

    Draw shape and in object properties box make these selections (sorry the text box got cut off, but that’s what is said more or less).

 

    These are the selections I made..sizes will depend on your own project size and requires a little experimentation to get it right.

 

  • I had to turn my shirts upside down and move them around to get the wave fill to match where the parts of the wave needed to be to show the expansion and contraction of the chain…like a shirt on a beautifully muscled knight. 😀  I also gave each shirt their own color to help me figure out which belonged where when complete.  I embroidered them all in Superior Fantastico 5169..a silvery variegated gray on black fabric.  I cut them out close to the embroidery and glued them on with Roxanne basting glue and blanket stitched the edges in the same thread to give them a finish.

So there you are.  I can see this method working for a wide variety of appliques and purposes.  The software is so flexible, but finding out how to do something you want to do that is a little different can take time.

Finished chain mail in place

On Upcoming Events:

  • For the month of May and a couple of weeks into June, G Street Fabrics in Rockville, Maryland, is hosting an exhibit of my quilts.  I will have one day where I will provide a walking lecture tour of my approximately 15 quilts that will be placed around the store.  I’ll let you know when that is.
  • In June, I will be providing a workshop on machine quilting at G Street.
  • My quilt “Drawing Nigh” will be at AQS in Lancaster, PA, March 20-April 1.  If you attend and see my quilt, let me know.

Sew happy everyone.  Focus on your creative projects to have the most fun, put in your best effort, learn a little bit, and share, and don’t let it stress you out.  I would really appreciate comments.