A Sewing Machine and Design Software Fan

Gibbs at work.

Make no mistake, I love my machines and enjoy using my various pieces of design software to help me create art quilts, or just to sew, or just draw, paint, and design digitally.  It’s more than a hobby.  It’s my fun and my full time occupation, though I hardly make much money from it.  Indeed, I spend more than I make at this point.  It would be great to turn that around, especially since I periodically do things to update, add to, or improve my fleet of machines and suite of software because I think it is the right thing to do,

Oh, did I tell you?  They have a new pin point laser light attachment for Fritz that shows exactly where the needle will enter the fabric to help with precision quilting and free motion thread work.  Awesome!  I ordered one (they had a 25 percent off offer).  LOL  I need all the help I can get making my quilting sing.  Last week, I also updated my Electric Quilt to EQ8 (they had a great offer).

Sew now that we have clearly established that I spend too much on my super hobby and I make too little with it,  I keep thinking how I can turn this situation around and start making at least enough to support my quilt-making habit, and even have some for trips to places like Houston or Paducah for the big shows.  For example, I just updated my website gallery last week so you can see my quilts better and see what the sizes and prices are for those that are on sale.  By the way, the exhibit of my quilts is still going on at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, Maryland, where most, not all, of my quilts are on display through Thanksgiving if you have a chance to go.

Most of you probably know I am a Bernina girl.  I love Berninas.  I have four of them right now, but I am selling my Bernina 1230 to my student/apprentice,  Anita is one of my best friends, a true beginning quilter, and I am teaching her to quilt and improve her sewing, and to use the 1230 all just for fun.   I also have a Baby Lock Serger (yes, really!!!). Now I reluctantly admit that Baby Lock is also a very good brand, and they make wonderful sergers.  If I had to choose a machine other than Bernina, it would probably be Baby Lock.

My Bernina Q20 named Fritz.

Anyway, when Anita takes home the 1230 once she gets her sewing space set up and completes her initial classes on the machine, this will allow me to have all my machines in their own cabinet (except the serger), which makes my playground just plain wonderful.  It’s wonderful already, in fact, though it needs a little reorganizing and cleaning.  It’s a magical space even if it isn’t all slick and spacious.  I have Gibbs, my Bernina 830 LE in Studio Gibbs (meant to be a small bedroom), where I store the bulk of my quilting stash and have a small kitchen island for cutting and painting and the like.  Gibbs has a very large custom cabinet that can be a nice big work table if I simply move Gibbs.  I also have Studio Fritz, another small bedroom, where Fritz, my Bernina Q20 and, my ironing station, and my computers live.  Then there is Studio Betsy, well, actually that’s part of my bedroom, where I have my original Koala cabinet.  That’s where the Bernina 1230, named Betsy (for Betsy Ross) is currently residing, but I will be putting E.Claire (named for Edith Claire Head), my little Bernina 350 that is now on the floor in the cabinet.  Wilcox, my serger, hides under one end of that cabinet.  Plus the bulk of my sewing books are also housed in my still rather nice bedroom.  So nearly my whole upper floor in my modest townhome is pretty much dedicated to my studio.  I even briefly considered working out a way to sleep under a longarm frame when I bought Fritz, but decided the sit down setup for him would be the better option.  😉

My grandson a couple or years ago at  E, Claire, my Berinina 350

I have really neat plans for 2018.  I have several quilts already started or close to being started, and I am writing a couple of books on art quilting and I hope Anita will be my beginner beta tester of the projects in the book once I get her started.  My daughter in law Beth, who is an advanced quilter with a fabulous studio, will be my advanced beta tester.  Additionally, I am working out a few workshops for local teaching, but I seldom really make any money to speak of on those because it takes so much time for me to get them pulled together.  Maybe eventually those will make money too.  I really do them to learn what people want to know and am putting that in my books.  So they are still valuable to me.

Sew maybe 2018 will be my year…I’ll go through a whole year without updating any software or buying any new machines, start selling more quilts, win more and better cash award ribbons, and finish my two books which will, of course, each be a major hit and sell, sell, sell.  Ha-ha-ha-ha,,,,,,,,In the meantime, however, I plan on continuing to thoroughly enjoy my fleet of machines and suite of drawing and design software and endeavor to rein in my desire to have the very latest machines, attachments, and software.  We just won’t mention “adjustments” to my stash of fabrics, threads, yarns, beads, and paints here.  But they are necessary, right?

Sew happy everyone.  I hope you have a play space you enjoy.

 

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

Make a Stylized Landscape Quilt with Me: Step One

I am making a fun new design-as-you-go stylized landscape quilt with some kind of flying creature and I hope you will try one of these too. For as many steps as it takes (to be determined) I will be providing a blog post to take us through this quilt together.  This quilt is made without first drawing out and printing a full sized design and will be using techniques that I am sure you may wish to try or have tried already.  I am not providing a pattern, telling you what size it will be, or even tutorials for all the techniques needed.  This is a project for us to play together making some wall art.  I will tell you where you can find the techniques, providing the links, and for some parts I will give tutorials, but not all.  It can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it, with guidance as to where you can find help.  And if you have a question all you have to do is make a comment on the blog post and I will respond as soon as I can.

Let’s begin:

I am using some interesting techniques available online at Iquilt and Craftsy.  But you don’t have to take a class for this project, just follow along.  If you have Electric quilt 7 and know how to do foundation paper piecing you, or you already know how to make a compass block, you can do this without additional classes.

For this fun project there are several objects we will need to make and obtain.

  1. Challenge–Make The Sun:  This can be either a simple quarter of a large circle of fabric to applique on a sky or one quarter of a sun compass block or a smaller full stylized star block in your choice of sun colors for your imaginary world.  For my quilt I am using the star block that Karen K. Stone teaches in “English Paper Piecing by Machine” found on iquilt here.  It’s very similar to a regular compass block, but has some interesting differences.  If you watch the sales, you can almost certainly get this class on a very good sale.  But there are a lot of beautiful choices for a star to represent our own star, the sun.  Here are some I found on Electric Quilt 7 that would be great choices with some color changes.  The outside large piece, or the background pieces need to be made from the same fabric as your background sky piece (see below), or you can use the curve to applipiece or piecelique (whatever you call it…it’s just joining the two pieces in an applique manner) it directly into the background sky.  I will provide a little tutorial of this in my next blog related to this project.  So just hold off on attaching the star/sun to the background sky.
  2. These blocks were all found in Electric Quilt 7 and would work very nicely. You can change the colors, of course, however you want them.

    In addition you could draft your own compass rose. I found this fascinating method on The Quilt Show that uses a really neat drafting device available from  Renea Haddadin’s website here.  I don’t have this device, but it really looks useful far beyond the drafting of a compass rose.

  3. Put together the background:  For this you will need a full width of ombre gradiated fabric that will be one third of the length of your finished quilt, or just a plain piece of fabric that looks like a sky to you.  You can paint this, buy this, or construct this with strips of various pieces of fabric.   You just have to size the sun appropriately to fit in the upper left corner of the scene.  Two thirds of your quilt will be mountains and maybe water or grass somewhere in there.  If you want to make this easy, you can use a simple white or off white or even light brown or green for the lower two thirds of your quilt background, giving you a background to applique mountains and rivers and plants onto.  Remember, this is a design as you go quilt and is meant to be just for fun.
  4. Wait to applique the sun in the upper left corner of your background until my next blog when I will be discussing applique techniques.

Okay, that’s all for now.  Go forth and make a sun and gather the background pieces or even make the simple background.  The next part will deal with appli-piecing the sun into the sky, and making the mountains and other parts of the foreground.  Then there is a part for making plants, and finally we will make some kind of flying creature for our scene, which may take several parts.  I plan on following this with a series of blogs focusing on embellishing and quilting.  I am not calling this a “block of the month” or anything, but I am planning this to stretch across several months…not sure how many.

Sew happy everyone!  Do some thinking about this…join me in the adventure and make your own wall quilt just for fun and to stretch your design techniques a bit.

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 4: Quilting for Domestic Machine Artists…Making Your Own Pattern

chinese-bird-1

I make all the patterns of my designs myself for my own use.  I do this using multiple programs on my computer and, even though I know many of you don’t have these programs, I thought it would be a good thing to provide you with some ideas on how this works, and maybe you can come up with your own solutions.  For my purposes a “pattern” is a full sized print out of the design for my wall art quilts and either detailed measurements or block print outs or foundation paper printouts for utility (simpler and more traditional) quilts. I divide my quilting into two types, and each type has subcategories.  This helps a lot in figuring out exactly how I need to approach making the pattern.

  • Wall Art Quilts (made at show quality level even if not entered into shows) are:
    1. Quilts that cannot be washed or marked at all, such as deep space quilts
    2. Quilts that I plan on washing and/or wet blocking, such as many of my pictorial, landscape, and line drawing quilts made in cotton.
    3. Quilts that I may have prewashed the fabric and marked with erasable markers, but don’t think they could be washed when completed, such as my Ancient Manuscript series that has a lot of metallic painting and is often made in silks.
  • Utility/Snuggle Quilts…These quilts must all be washable, so I prewash all the fabrics and wash when complete.
    1. Simple and quick quilts, such as lap/baby/wheelchair quilts I sometimes use for charity quilting or a seasonal throw in my home.
    2. Somewhat more complicated quilts for using in my home or presents, but are for laps, beds, babies, pets, tables, etc…not intended for wall hangings.

For my utility/snuggle quilts, which are something I need to make quickly, I almost always design these in Electric Quilt 7.  This is a wonderful program for making more traditional quilts.  So I will just use the EQ7 block printouts and will also print a picture of the quilt in color and make notes by hand where I feel I need to.  (I also use EQ7 for helping me design borders for some of my show quilts by placing design files in place like a photo).  EQ7 provides not only the templates or measurements for all the pieces, it will also provide printouts for foundation paper piecing and tell you how much fabric you need for each color.  I love EQ7.  I sometimes cut these out with my Go! cutter, which makes it quick and accurate, and also provides some fun appliques to liven them up.   Even so, I work out the plan in EQ7.

For my wall art quilts, I do a relatively complete design of how I want the quilt to look in my drawing software.  This sometimes takes as long as constructing and quilting the quilt, or even longer, but it is both fun and worth it.  I really love using Corel Painter and Corel Draw in concert for this purpose.  These programs, together with my Wacom tablet, work something like painting or drawing  with paper and pencil or brushes to come up with a really good idea of how the quilt will look.

It allows you to get the colors right, easily fix mistakes, check how the values work, change sizes of elements within the design without messing up everything else or having to start over, and “see” what the quilt will probably look like if you make it.  If you work in layers, you can change the background if you don’t like it, move a tree from one side of the drawing to another, change the colors of the mountains, make the sky stormy if you started with sunny or vice-a-versa, play with angles and in Painter, there is even a Kaleidoscope function and a plethora of wonderful interesting brushes.

I am, right now, working on painting a whole quilt that I am planning on sending off to get a full size fabric print that I can then sandwich and quilt and embellish.  So if you have design software, I encourage you to take the time to learn how to use it if you haven’t yet.  I’m still learning.

However, when I started designing art quilts, I didn’t have these drawing packages and so I just sketched it out using pencil and paper, scanned it into the computer, and printed it out full size using Microsoft Excel.  Excel will accept the changes of size you want, divide it into page-sized tiles that you can print, cut, and tape together.  It’s a good system that nearly all my readers would be able to do even if they don’t have design software.

using-excel-for-full-pattern-print

Working with Microsoft Excel to divide a pattern into tiles.

Then I added Corel Draw, Corel Painter, and Bernina design software.  Bernina software not only allows you to digitize an embroidery design, but it uses a limited version of Corel Draw on the art canvas side.  So if you have that, you have some design software. Corel Draw will help you draw some interesting pictures or use photographs for a basis, and will allow you to print your design in tiles in a very exacting way.  You can even move the design around so the tiles split at more convenient places as needed.

Using Corel Draw to print into tiles

Using Corel Draw to print into tiles

 

Also, you can print the pattern in black and white, which lets you see how the values work in a design and saves colored inks.  Here is the first version of the design I made for Canterbury Knight.

Printsnap

And here is the quilt I made using the pattern above, but I changed the horse and castle to my own drawings rather than using the Dover ones I had in the original pattern (the horse above was the one used in an eleventh century illuminated manuscript, I just made it less oddly bent and showed a different style of horse and I changed the original castle a fair amount):

Canterbury Knight - F - 2015 web

Currently, I am playing with producing accurate PDF file patterns for some of my designs so I can share them.

Sew happy everyone!  Draw a quilt design one way or another and print it out full size.  Then you can make your quilt.

 

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

 

Pondering the Next Projects

My new Bernina Q20 named Fritz.

At this point in my life, I am really amazed to find myself blessed with my two-and-a-partial room studio set up with all my machines in great working order; the fabric, the thread, the paints, the inks, the sequins, crystals, and beads; and the collection of wonderful and interesting sewing tools and notions from decades of sewing.  I even have hoops, needles, and thimbles for hand quilting.  These things have been collected over half a century and include some of inherited items from my mother and mother-in-law.

Currently, I am making the hardest quilt I have ever undertaken…the one my son Ken designed for me and gave me the supplies to make it (see my blog about this here).  I will not be showing that one here until after it is complete, and probably after it has debuted in a show. I am hoping to finish this quilt by the end of November.  As I work through this quilt I am pondering what directions I should take now that I have what is needed to make most anything I can think of.

I do have a 2017 list of quilts concepts (not in any kind of working order):

Ancient Manuscripts:  Ken’s (underway) Designed by Ken Tatum, and gifted design, threads, and fabrics for this magnificent design.
Marvin Memory quilt:  Like a Tree Psalm 1 (Tree by river with words) with fabulous landscape work, the Psalm somehow incorporated in the quilting
Deep Space 4 TBD
Dark Forest in 3D This is kind of a three dimensional
Waiting…3 At the airport
Volcanic Scene with Dragon and Phoenix Mostly in reds, oranges, browns, and golds
Heirloom Quilt in memory of Mom Using Mom’s unfinished needlework and sepia pictures with beads, crystals. lace, decorative stitching…crazy quilt blocks alternating with sepia pics.  This may not be a show quilt…I’ll decide during or after making it.
Deep Space 5 TBD
Ancient Manuscripts 4 TBD
Wool applique and embellishment TBD
Whole Cloth Unusual whole cloth tbd…I have several ideas.
Jacob’s Ladder Jacob’s Ladder pictorial using Jacob’s Ladder traditional blocks for the ladder itself…kind of goes along with Waiting… and Drawing Nigh.
In Full Bloom Flower Applique/Embroidery laden quilt, from Beth’s photographs/Joint with Beth
Swarkovski crystal music/Houston special Jazz 1920s, city with musical notes coming from lit windows with silhouettes, and rising and exploding into fireworks..try to make it almost pulsing with the music beat.

Sew I’m thinking about all of this while making Ken’s quilt.  I keep coming up with new ideas.  I am also considering what to do with these quilts considering everything that is going on in the quilting world.  While they will all be made at show quilt level, I am not sure they will all end up at shows.

Additionally, I am also slowly working on several books and planning to provide some videos and tutorials here.

Sew happy everyone!  What are you working on now or planning?

Burnishing the Rust Off Clothing Construction Techniques

I am making shirt number one in my wardrobe makeover project that I plan on stretching across the next year in between quilting.  Now it has been about two years since I made a blouse or shirt, and that was the first one after several years, so I have a lot of rust to sand off my shirt/blouse making skills.  I am remembering almost everything that I learned or developed during my many years of clothing construction though, and it is very helpful,  so I thought I’d share some of it.

First of all, I only rarely read the directions, but I don’t recommend this if you are new to clothing construction. The reason I don’t is that I change a lot of the techniques to speed up the process and make the end results more satisfactory and sometimes the directions coincide with my techniques and sometimes they don’t.

Secondly, I use the specialty feet and stitches to help me get things done well, like the edge stitch foot for topstitching, and using the blanket stitch with my applique foot for stitching down the inside of the collar stand to the neck.

Here you see the inside of the collar stand with the blanket stitch along the bottom where it attaches to the neckline. It looks nice on this side and on the other side.

Here you see the inside of the collar stand with the blanket stitch along the bottom where it attaches to the neckline. It looks nice on this side and on the other side.  No hand-stitching needed.

Here’s my basic approach, which I figure cuts the time by about 25 percent over the usual pattern making instructions after a little practice.  This is not for specialty fabrics, or when you want details like french or flat felled seams, but a simple shirt:

  1. I look over the pattern to see if I need to add or change a piece like adding an additional facing or changing the type of sleeve placket to match what I’m trying to do.
  2. After flat fitting my pattern, generally using Nancy Zieman’s methods (see last week’s blog) and cutting out the shirt, I interface all the facings and other pieces.  For facings I sew fusible interfacing non glue side to the right side of the facing with a small quarter inch or less seam on the edge you would be turning down, turn, and fuse the facing.  This gives you that nice turned edge with little trouble.
  3. I finish all the seam edges with a serger, or I sometimes use the vari-overlock foot (2a on my Berninas) and the vari-overlock stitch (#3 on my Bernina 830), except the arm scythe (armhole).
  4. I make all the small, challenging pieces first…like the collar on the collar stand, tabs, and the cuffs of the shirt.  I top stitch using my edge stitch foot (#10D on my B 830).
  5. Then I sew it together in this order:
    • Front seams and edges or front placket, depending on style.
    • Pocket(s).
    • Shoulder seams, or yokes.
    • collar or facing onto the neckline, depending on style, adding any decorative stitching as I go.
    • sleeves into armhole (arm scythe) before seaming side seams and sleeve seams, unless sleeve is a multi-piece sleeve where the underarm seam doesn’t match.
      1. I finish the armhole seam with a second stitching about an eighth inch into the seam, trim close to that and then I finish with a vari-overlock stitch or zigzag using #2a foot.  I have found down through the years that this is one of the strongest, most reliable seams you can stitch. I learned this from making very heavily used opera costumes.  It’s really embarrassing if the performer rips a seam during the performance.
      2. If you are making a particularly nice blouse, you may wish to cover the seam with a light bias tape designed for seam finishes or cut a 1/2″ bias strip from a very light piece of fabric and fold it over the seam after stitching the two rows and then zigzag it down.
      3. I then edge topstitch the armhole on the front and back, with the seam turned toward the front and back.
    • If needed, sew any additional pieces, like tabs on.
    • Sew the sleeve placket, if needed.
    • I then sew the side seams and sleeve seams in one operation.  This is particularly good if you are losing weight, because you can take in the shirt and sleeve for about two sizes from the finished size with very little effort by stitching in however much you need, starting at just above the cuff in the original stitch line and gradually stitching toward the amount you need to take in the shirt and continuing to the hem.  You only then have to remove the stitching from the original seam and the hemline and restitch the hemline.  I am currently losing weight, so I have chosen patterns that have single piece sleeves where the undarm/side seams meet–a much better option than not making any new clothes until you lose more weight.
    • Put on the cuff or hem the sleeve, as needed.
    • Hem the shirt/blouse and sew the buttonholes, if needed.
    • Sew on the buttons and you are done.

If you do a lot of shirts like this, you eventually make a shirt after cutting it out in a morning or afternoon.  I’m not back to this quickly yet.  It took me about eight hours to make my first shirt in my wardrobe makeover.  I am sure my next shirt will be quite a bit quicker now that I have worked through and sanded off the rust.

group of feet

Some of the feet I used to make the shirt…1D, 20D, 10D, 37D, and I also used 2A, and 8D.

A word about feet:  I have found that if I am not using a zigzag or decorative stitch, sometimes it is better to use a straight stitch foot, like 37D or 8D on my Bernina 830, which lets me see all the way to the needle, and the straight stitch throat plate, than it is to use the one most recommended for such sewing like 1D, because I can see where I’m sewing better.  If I’m sewing simple flat seams without much curving or the like, then the 1D is probably better, because it holds down the fabric very well.  I also usually engage the dual feed mechanism for most of the sewing, but this is not a necessity if you don’t have this on your machine.  If you don’t you may wish to pin a little more and have something like an awl to help move the top fabric through evenly with the bottom.  With my dual feed engaged, I can eliminate pinning altogether for a lot of the sewing.

Sew happy everybody!  Make yourself a shirt.

 

 

Spiral Galaxy Quilt: Finished the quilting and adding the stars

I am totally amazed that I was able to finish all the quilting for the spiral galaxy so quickly.  Now I loved quilting on Gibbs, my Bernina 830 LE, and it made it possible for me to make quilts I would have otherwise struggled with a great deal.  But I am awestruck by the ease of free motion stitching/quilting on my new friend Fritz, my Bernina Q20 set up as a sit down longarm.  It is fast, its stitches are very even when I am using the BSRs, it has no problems that I have encountered so far with tension, it sews smoothly, and I can see everything.  I even found that using rulers (with foot #96) is just plain easy.  I see a very happy future with Fritz.

My new Bernina Q20 named Fritz.

My new Bernina Q20 named Fritz.

Gibbs will still, of course, be a big player in my quilting life as will E.Claire, my little Bernina 350 I named after Edith Clair Head.  I also have Betsy, my sweet old Bernina 1230, and she is a wonderful machine that I use occasionally for some special stitching, since I have a lot of unusual accessories for her, and when I have other stitchers here in my small studio.

I am feeling exceptionally blessed with my studio lately and have some fun things planned for the future. Next on the docket is my oldest son Ken’s quilt design he gave me for my birthday (see my blog An Extraordinary Present).

Sew now I am putting the many hot fix crystals of different sizes and colors that represent the stars on my spiral galaxy quilt.  I am using a new notion to help me with this project.  In the past, I have occasionally burned around a crystal when I was placing it on a deep space quilt.  The veiling is nylon and the Angelina Fibers darken with too much heat.

I have been looking for something to help me get the crystals heat set without that and, thanks to a Facebook friend, I “discovered” rhinestone transfer tape.  There are several brands that were originally created for placing hot fix rhinestone designs worked out in cutting machines and others.  I am using it slightly unconventionally. I place a bunch of crystals on my quilt about where I want them, making sure they are right side up and then carefully lower down the tape and stick them all down.

Tape holds down the crystals in place and acts as a pressing cloth.

Tape holds down the crystals in place and acts as a pressing cloth.

The crystals stick to the tape and it holds them in place while I iron them on.  I then use my little individual crystal placement wand and hot fix them in place (the tape is still there between the crystal and the wand), and count (tapping my foot…one, two, three…twelve (for little crystals)…15 (for medium crystals)…32 (for big crystals).

Heat setting individual crystals with the wand with the tape still in place.

Heat setting individual crystals with the wand with the tape still in place.

Once all the crystals on the film are heat set, the tape peals off, leaving them behind.  You can tell from this if you have them all set, because if you missed one, it stays with the film, so you can set it back down and set that one.  No burns, no color changes for my Angelina Fibers, no movement of the crystals, no flipping them off the quilt and having them fly through the air to the other side of the room (yes, I did that!).  I caution not to keep the wand down too long, and to use the smallest wand end that works for the crystal size, though, because it is probably still possible to burn the quilt if you aren’t careful.

Sew happy everyone!  I hope you have some time to create something wonderful.  In these dark times it is particularly important that we make our homes and office spaces beautiful and warm and surround our families and friends with love and beauty.