Software for Your Fabric Art

Practice painting I did today in Corel Painter

Sew my last couple of posts I’ve talked about the need to learn and practice your machine and quilting.  I don’t know about you, but I also use a lot of software in developing my fabric art.  This, too, requires a bit of practice (nice thing to do when I just want to sit down or am still mulling new ideas around)

I truly appreciate those of you who do everything with pencil, paper, or directly on your fabric.  But one of the things that attracts me to fabric art are the related technologies, and also, I not only find I do a much better job of constructing my pieces when I sketch them all out and print a full sized picture or pattern, but it helps me with a wide variety of decision-making along the way.

I turned mostly to art quilting about a year after my dear Marvin passed in late 2002.  So I’ve been at this now for somewhere around 15 years!  This is astonishing to me.  I have also been quite interested in the tech side of fabric arts for even longer, if you take in in-the-hoop embroidery and computerized machines which I have had now for longer than that.  So I have been collecting software related to my fabric art for a long time, and, while it would be overwhelmingly expensive if purchased all at once, I got it over the years and kept it mostly updated, spreading out the costs.

It started small.  I took a class online from the Pixel Ladies who used Photoshop Elements.  I learned that I could print large patterns using Excel spreadsheets and tape them together.  That opened up the idea to me that I could design my own quilts, quilting designs, and even fabrics using the computer and testing all the colors and placements and so forth without any fabric and stitching to undo or waste in the beginning (note that this saves a lot in the cost of fabrics and threads too).

I also bought Bernina design software when I got my Bernina 200E (I later traded it in for my 830 LE).  I think it was v5 at that time, but not certain.  I skipped everything until I got version 7.0.   I am going to skip the v8 update to save some money because I don’t think the update has sufficient advancement that I use (this does not mean it wouldn’t work for you) on 7.0.  It took me a long time to learn how to use that and very well.  It has some remarkable functions.  I did though, and even nearly finished a book I was writing on learning this program.  It was very close to being done for self publication when they came out with the update, which points out why writing books on software is not particularly the way to go for me.  I take too long to learn it before I can write it.  LOL

From there, I bought Corel Draw, because I found the Bernina software uses a limited version and I wanted all the bells and whistles.  I also added Electric Quilt somewhere along the way years ago.  And then I bought a Wacom drawing tablet that came with a back version of Corel Painter.

Sew there you go….I was off and running and haven’t stopped since.  I’m still learning all this software and probably will always be.  I have found it cheaper to keep it updated at least every other version than let it get old and needing to buy the whole package.  Besides, Corel, especially, gives you some really good buying opportunities once you become their customer, and if you watch carefully, you can often get the updates for much cheaper than the retail price.

Anyway, the point of this is that this year, the year I wasn’t going to buy any new software (heh heh),  I ended up updating everything (except Bernina software), including my Wacom tablet (my old one was 14 years old and had just decided to retire…i.e., it became a paper weight).  And then my son David hooked up his old smaller monitor for me so I have two monitors (really terrific advance and it was free).  So now I have  at my finger tips (and yes, I share it with some of my friends when they come over):

  • Corel Painter 2019 (for painting and fabric design)
  • Corel Draw 2018 (for illustrative drawing, pattern making, and digital work with Bernina design software)
  • Bernina Design v7 (for in-the-hoop embroidery)
  • Corel Paint Shop Pro (for photo editing similar to Adobe Photoshop…I like it better)
  • Electric Quilt 8 (for figuring out how to use a pictorial piece with borders, for designing utility quilts)
  • And several related smaller pieces that came with these items to make them work best.
  • The latest Wacom Intuos Pro tablet with really nice artist’s pen that came with it.  It works with all the above like having a pencil or brush that responds to pressure and turns in some of the programs.

I like Corel because you don’t have to subscribe to it. It also is very powerful, and I can use all the pieces together, and it has great webinars and other tutorials to help you learn it.

So to make a quilt design I might dress up a photo in Photoshop Pro and send it over to Corel Draw for turning pieces into patterns (maybe I liked a flower in the picture, but nothing else), and then to Corel Painter to use as inspiration for fabric pieces and concept design, then put it all together back in Corel Draw where I make a full sized printout or printouts (prepping a fabric file to send to the fabric printing company for larger pieces, for instance).  Then I would maybe design embroidery elements (like lions on the vests in Pendragon or the small wall hangings on the wall).

Now that I have this terrific design setup, for which I am very grateful, I am working to learn it better and practice it more, because I have a ton of ideas how to use all of this.

  1. I am writing a book (or is it three books) on Fabric Art skills that covers everything from the design phase through the making skills, surface design and embellishment, and finishing. It includes patterns, samples, and quilting designs in it (them), and I am hopeful of getting it out by the end of September (but don’t hold your breath).  I’m sure you can see the need for such a setup for this.
  2. In the process I have learned how to make to-size patterns you can print on your regular printer and tape together.  So there will be some of those coming also.
  3. I have already started using digital painting printed on fabrics in my show quilts.  Pendragon has a back castle wall and all the faces that were printed on fabric and used in the construction of the quilt (along with a plethora of other techniques).  I also used a considerable amount of small in-the-hoop embroidery pieces that I digitized myself in Bernina software.

    Pendragon, 34 x 45.  This quilt has been selected for the juried show at IQA Houston this fall.  I’m so excited.

  4. So I am currently working on trying to figure out a design for my next show quilt using this setup.
  5. And finally, well maybe only finally for now, I am thinking of developing a fabric run to assist pictorial/landscape fabric artists and submitting it to fabric companies to see if I can get someone interested in my ideas.  Wouldn’t that be fun?

Sew what did I learn from all of the years working with these technologies?  Learn the software, keep it updated more or less, you can skip at least every other update unless they give you a great deal and have a lot of improvements, practice, and use it to help you save money of fabric, thread, and accompanying items, and it can really help you improve over the years…you can keep your records of your struggles too for future reference.

Sew happy everyone!  If you have design software, it can really open new ideas and opportunities for fabric art if you spend a little time learning and practicing them.  Blessings everyone!

 

 

How to Stop Fearing Your Machine and Start Having Fun

I love this picture from early in the twentieth century.

Periodically in some of my Facebook groups that are focused around quilting and sewing I see a surprising number of people who have sewing or quilting machines they are truly afraid to use.  Now I can see how this might happen.  Today’s machines are often technically advanced, big, powerful, and fast.  That can be very intimidating, especially if you fear making mistakes on your creations or breaking your machine.  Maybe you are afraid of sewing through your fingers.  Maybe you think you can’t possibly figure out how to use that advanced machine.  These are legitimate fears, but you can take steps to stop them in their tracks.

Let’s talk about this a little.  In almost any creative situation you can figure out how to make an approach of taking things apart and moving step by step to find you can do far far more than you ever thought you could.  And yes, you will almost certainly mess up, make mistakes, have to unstitch, break a needle, break some thread, or even mess up so badly you throw a project away.  Give yourself permission to throw things away, and realize they have served their purpose in teaching you something.  This is just sign of progress and that you tried.  So here is my suggested method to overcome the fear of your machines, or even to advance your understanding of them:

  • Read the manual of your machine.  Yes, read it even if you have been sewing for 65 plus years, even if it is a somewhat simpler machine, or even if it’s boring or you don’t understand it, but read it anyway.  Later you will remember that there is an answer to a question you have along the way in your manual so you can go back and look it up in the index at the back when you need it.  You don’t have to remember it until you need it.  You just have to remember that there is an answer there.  Sometimes you may find you do things differently with this machine than you did with your mom’s machine you learned on.  If you don’t find the manual, they are often online free for download.
  • Get yourself a small notebook and make notes as you go.  Keep a record of your steps, the settings on your machine you used for what. Even after 65 years plus of sewing, I still keep notes on projects I do.  It’s so handy when I want to do it again, or have gone out of my project to hem my new jeans and need to get back to where I was on my project.  I have also taken those notes and made spreadsheets or lists that I can print out and stick on my wall for reference.
  • Take advantage of the tools your machine has.  These tools include both the functional tools built into your machine and the accessories (specialty feet, magnifying glass, differing sole plates, optional threading aids, cleaning aids, pinpoint lasers, and other things).  Yes, you have spent a lot buying your machine…so spend a little more and get those specialty feet as you need them for particular projects.  It makes your initial investment truly worth it.
  • Realize that even if you paid a lot for your machines they are not perfect (nothing manufactured is, really!), but usually they will work if you do things right.  They may have some things that might go awry from time to time.  So join those Facebook groups where you can ask what other people do about some things, look in the manual near the end where they have the section usually entitled  “Troubleshooting”, go on YouTube to find if it is something you can fix yourself (if you have a Bernina, take a look at Bernina Boys  on YouTube), contact your machine’s online support (I can’t tell you how many problems I have gotten solved this way without having to lug my machines to the dealer), or yes, lug your machine to the dealer and get that problem fixed.  But start with a cleaning, check on the tensions, and change the needle…maybe even change the thread.
  • And if you are not getting that nagging problem fixed by your dealer, contact the manufacturer (using the online support) and ask them what to do.  Remember, they WANT you to be happy with your machine.  If you are happy with your machine you will tell others about it, and they will buy one.  If you are happy with your machine, you might buy another one that has another function (I have three Berninas).  But I will suggest that if you buy a solid advanced machine and LEARN HOW TO USE IT, you will almost certainly be amazed at what you can do with it.

    My Bernina 830 LE named Gibbs

  • Realize that, surprisingly, sometimes it is the thread, the needle, and something amiss with your machine.  But normally problems can be solved by cleaning the machine, changing the tensions. using a different sized needle, or just replacing a needle that may be slightly bent or have a blunt end.
  • Learning to use your particular machine is like learning to play a new instrument.  You HAVE TO PRACTICE!!!  Yes, practice a little bit frequently and a lot once in a while at the very least.  Practice even if you have sewn for 65 plus years.  Practice is just that.  You are making a practice piece…something that may even end up in the trash.  But this can be really fun.  Remember that..it’s ultimately fun!

    My Bernina B350 named Edith Claire (E.Claire) after Edith Head.

     

  • Plan out your project in small steps.  Prepare your pieces (make the markings you need to make).  Be sure you have the right threads, needles, backings, battings, stabilizers and interfacings on hand.  These things make using your machine so much easier.

    My Bernina Q20 named Fritz.

     

  • And finally, if you have a computerized machine, make sure you keep it updated with the latest updates.  Sometimes the updates are put out primarily to correct some bug they have discovered and so you won’t have that problem happen to you.  Sometimes they add new stitches or new functions.  Find out how to do this in your manual.

Here I have attached a pdf file to print out a small practice project for free motion quilting.  It is sized so you can print it out with normal letter sized paper and tape it together.  Then use it as a marking guide for your fabric.

FMQ Practice

I developed it for a FMQ workshop I will be teaching at the sewing machine department at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, Maryland in October of this year.  I’d love to see you there.  There are only eight spots for students, so call them (ask for sewing machine department) and reserve your space.  It’s about organic fmq for fabric artists…no fancy feathers, but lots of fun.  I’m also teaching a class on 22 September in Machine Applique for Fabric Artists, and one in October on Feed Dogs Up Quilting for Fabric Artists.

Sew happy everyone.  Go read your manual and practice.  Then have some fun making a wonderful project.  You will be happy you conquered your machines…well almost conquered…or at least learned to use them.  LOL

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Working with My Bernina Q20 and New Attachments

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Prewash or Not to Prewash, That Is the Question

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

Any quilter who follows quilting-related social media is probably well aware of the frequent discussions about whether or not to prewash one’s fabric before starting a new project.  Why should one ever want to wash that nice crisp fabric with a good finish?  I’ve heard many a quilter say they don’t  always prewash their fabric.  So why should one prewash?

I came into quilting following decades of fashion sewing.  In fashion, it is always always necessary to prewash washables, or do whatever needs to be done to preshrink the fabric before making it into a beautifully fitted garment that could shrink or change the hand of the fabric when washed, cleaned, or steam ironed.

When I was a young woman I made the most beautiful two piece dress from a drapey rayon challis that I did not prewash because I was anxious to complete the outfit in time for a special event.  I did wear it to that event, and a couple of times after that.  But then it had to be cleaned and I hand washed it in cold water.  I loved that outfit.  It was flattering and beautiful and I had done an exceptional job making it.  When I washed it, it shrank multiple sizes despite the cold water and line drying.  I was astonished.  I was distressed.

I, too, love the look and workability of fabric direct from the store.  Once in a while I have made a small item without washing it.  But on occasion, when pressing something with a strong color and using spray starch or spray water, the color from the fabric migrated to my ironing board cover.  Sometimes that happens even to prewashed fabrics.  The worst colors for this are red, browns with red in them, purples with red in them, and some greens.

I prewash everything washable now, even it it is going in a quilt I will not wash when completed.  I even prewash most silks albeit by hand.  Sometimes, I even wash fabrics twice if they are dark reds or some color that uses dark reds.   On rare occasions, I have been very disappointed when they came out of the wash, because they faded badly or changed the fabric hand in some way to make it seem less desireable.  But I figure it is far far better to find this out about the fabric BEFORE I put all those hours into making the quilt than after.

Prewashing is not only important to prevent bleeding when blocking a quilt, but fabrics shrink at different rates. Differences in the tightness of the twist of the thread when spinning,  the thread count, where the cotton was grown, and the dying and finishing processes can all affect the amount of shrinkage.  This means that soaking/washing the quilt might cause the pieces to become misshapen.  It could cause your perfectly pieced quit top to no longer be perfect, and your appliques to slightly misshape.  It might be so slight you wouldn’t be able to figure out just what happened.  Why does your quilt have a wave now when you were sure it didn’t before?  Why is there a bump in that part of the quilt when you hadn’t seen it before?  why is there a wiggle in that center section that you thought was really straight.  Of course, a lot of that can be corrected in blocking, but if you had prewashed everything, it may be possible these things don’t happen.  Of course, it might just be you hadn’t seen it before.  LOL

So after the fabrics are washed, I will often iron them with spray starch (starching on the wring side to prevent flakiness).  Once that is complete, the fabric is nice and crisp and ready to place in the quilt.  The colors are true to what they will be when blocked.  Despite the time it takes, I encourage you to prewash and iron your fabric before you start your quilt.

One more thing. If you DO have a bleed on your beautiful quilt, the best advice on fixing it that I have ever seen comes from Vicki Welsh in her blog here.

Sew happy everyone.  Have fun working on your Christmas/Holiday projects.

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.