Fine Tuning Quilted Art Projects: Fixing Things

I know that sometimes things go awry with my quilted art projects no matter how hard I try to keep things on track.  Usually, though not always, it is entirely my fault.  But sometimes, it is a machine or tool misbehaving.  This week it was my bobbin case, or rather the little spring in my bobbin case.  Fortunately, I had a spare, but I was not good about trying that until I had exhausted all the other reasons I was getting nasty big nested wads on the back of my quilt.

It started with just an occassional nest, and got progressively worse.  In the end, before I was about to decide there was something seriously wrong with my Bernina Q20 (Fritz) sitdown longarm, it looked like this:

back when bobbin spring broke down.

Sew I made every step and tried many things.  I cleaned, oiled, flossed out the thread path, and blew out the bobbin area.  I took the bobbin out and put in a fresh bobbin.  I took out the magic bobbin washer I usually use and tried that.  I put it back in and tried that.  I reset the bobbin tension, and yes, it was way off for some reason, and tried that.  I changed the needle, I changed the top thread.  It got better periodically, and I thought we were ok, so I went back to quilting. Unfortunately, it started misbehaving badly again (it looked great on the top but I could feel and hear it everytime it made a nest).  So I stopped.  I prayed about it.  It was especially important that I could fix it myself since my Bernina shop is closed right now.

And then I remembered that I had bought a spare bobbin case spring because I had read on one of my facebook groups that is something people should have on hand for the Bernina Q20/Q24 longarms.  I replaced the spring on the bobbin, rethreaded everything, and reset to default settings, just in case. I still got thread nests…and was about to give up, but I decided to doublecheck the tension on the bobbin again.  When I took the bobbin case out, I found the bobbin was in upside down!  Hahahaha.  I must have done that the last time I took it out and put it back.  So I put it in right, rechecked the bobbin tension and tried again.  What do you know!  It worked.  It sewed cleanly and beautifully without any problems.  So I readjusted the tension and stitch length to my preferred settings and sewed for a full half day with no problems.  It is still sewing well.  The spring didn’t seem to be that far flattened, but it was flatter and less bouncy than the new one. I know the bobbin was in right for most of my attempts to fix the nests.  I had to laugh at myself.

Sew now I am left with the ten or so inches of the quilting on my border of the quilt that I have to unstitch, or unstitch at least a good part of it and restitch.  I hate unstitching and it’s hard to do!  So I have to make some decisions here on what I have to actually do.  The location of this batch of bad quilting is in the lower right corner, right where a label should go.  So I can hide at least some of the bad back stitches under a label, cutting off a good portion of the nests.  In the process of all of this, I used a different thread for the actual large feather on that section of the border than I did for the second one on the other side of the lower border.  The first thread is lighter and needs to be removed, because the darker new thread looks much better.  So I will have to remove the whole feather.  Sigh.  I am not having much success at this.  This portion stitched well and I find the stitches hard to pick out. It is slow.  Sigh! But I will persist.

This all brings up the topic of fixing things on your quilted art pieces.  There are things to consider when deciding to unstitch and other things that can be done some of the time.

  1. Is the project a show quilt or show garment or for other professional use? If so, it must be fixed.
  2. Does the problem really make the item less desireable for personal use or a gift?
  3. Can you somehow cover up the problem with appliques, false back sections (shows do not accept false backs on show quilts), back appliques that add fun or beauty, or hide with paint?
  4. Is it even possible to fix the problem? If not, can you use the item in some alternative way?

Sew happy everyone!  Hang in there.  We really are going to come to the end of this trying time and things will get better again.  We may have even learned a lot of interesting life lessons from all of this.  I am, in fact, really pretty excited about the fall and winter quilting and quilt show season that is before us.  I am already working on it.  How about you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appliqueing, Writing, and Quilting…Fun in My Studio

One of the blocks of my bed quilt I am making with my wonderful Bernina 880 plus I bought about six months ago.

I have been totally enjoying my time in my studio this week. I have been working on two quilts…a quilt in my Mom’s memory, and an appliqued bed quilt for my bed.  Oddly, they both pull in some of the same colors.  LOL

I have been working on my bed quilt for a couple of years now, just doing a few blocks at a time, but I now have all of them fused, and more than half of them sitched.  It’s a pattern by Sue Nickels I bought from her when I took her class at Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival in 2018.  Then I will have to put it together with a sashing and borders to make it large enough for my bed.  Here’s a picture with the large center  and a couple of the small blocks I finished.  I love the colors (I chose them, so I should love them..hahah), and it will go very nicely with my bedroom.  This is for fun and relaxation only.  It will not be a show quilt. I find machine applique particularly fun to do especially after it is fused and ready to stitch.

I finished quilting the large off white satin section of Mom’s memory quilt.  It was intensive quilting and took a very long time, but I still have more quilting for the center pentagon which has Mom’s crocheted lace squares on it that  I found in her work basket after she passed. I have to quilt the border, and  I have some quilting on the pentagon center, but more is needed.  I decided I would do the border first.

The central pentagon before the quilt top was constructed.

 

I have figured out how I want to quilt the border  after much thought and practice…feathers!  Yikes!!! Yes, for me that is something I have never done for a show quilt, and that is what I hope this will end up being.  So I have had to learn to make decent feathers, and I do like the styles I have come up with by using ruler work for the center spines and then free-motion quilting the feathers.  So I made a practice piece to figure out how I want the feathers to go.  From this, I decided I will be doing the bump and hump feathers on a ruler work central spine.  It looks pretty good on the top, but there are some trackback issues those keen-eyed judges will see right away. I also haven’t gotten the back to look like I want yet, though I’m close enough to start on the quilt itself, I think, I just have to be very careful.  I decided I need another new quilting ruler to make the end curls and puffs look right, and that is Lily Lines 3 by Bethanne Nemesh.  It should arrive today or tomorrow I think.  It has already shipped.  i have a couple of her other rulers and they are terrific. I am thinking the one closest to what I will do is the border that is directly under the foot of my machine in the picture below, although I want a tighter curl at the end.  I also will be doing a tight simple stipple for the background.  Simple and effective, although I am not sure if this will bore the judges or not.  But it is what the quilt calls for.

My feather border sampler using the actual fabrics and threads I plan to use on Mom’s memory quilt.

And then I am continuing to work on my current ongoing book on embellishment.  I haven’t yet decided if it will be one book or several.  It kind of depends on how the chapters come out.  I am currently working on the wool machine applique embellishment chapter/book.

Sew happy everyone!  I hope you are finding peace and some fun in your own studios and offices in spite of the terrible situation in the world and the country today.  Stay well and safe!

 

Happy Easter!

Our Savior’s Way Lutheran Church, Ashburn Virginia,  Easter Banner designed and made by Betty Jo and Anita Born, completed 4/15/19

Have a blessed Easter everyone!

Fine Tuning Quilted Art Projects: Part 4 Trees

The flowers and new spring growth are everywhere. I love this area at this time of year. I processed this picture of a nearby redbud (I think that’s what it is) as a “dreamscape”.  Not sure I caught the feeling right, but still…it’s pretty.

I am thinking my dear readers are possibly at the stage of thinking “will this never end” concerning our stay-at-home orders.  At first we were kind of shocked, then a bit scared, then ready to gung ho make face masks or whatever we could do, then start learning things, and now, after all of that, we are still here.  Still at home.  Still going to be at home for weeks yet. Sigh.  Oh, my, will this never end!  Well, yes, it most certainly will. Then we will have to pick up our alternative busy life styles where we will wish to goodness we had a little more time to quilt or sew.  Well, I won’t because I am retired and blessed to be working in my studio full time now anyway.  But I will have things to do outside of my studio and things that pull against my getting projects done.

Sew now that you have made your face masks or are coming to the end of that project, what are you working on or planning on working on?  (As an aside:  Quilted Art for me includes art quilts, traditional and contemporary quilts, quilted clothing, and quilted bags and other three dimensional items.)  If you are like me, you have more than one project going, or at least going on in your head.  Do they include trees?  I love making trees.

Trees for your quilted art

I love adding trees to my pictorial quilted art pieces, but I’m thinking that trees can be a really neat thing to add to lots of types of quilted art such as a jacket or skirt.  I didn’t realize until recently that I have learned or even developed many ways to come up with trees over the years, mostly made as embellishment items using thread painting, yarn couching, and applique and I thought I would share some of them with you.  The really neat thing about making trees for fabric art is they are so forgiving. They don’t require precision, but they do require looking at real trees and seeing what you can learn from them using your imagination.  Are they straight?  Are they interestingly textured? Are they spooky? Are they happy little trees?  Do the leaves read as a a bunch or individually or both?  What is the color of the trunk?  Try drawing the tree out first.

Machine Embroidering Trees or Parts of Trees

This tree is the stitchout from an olive tree I digitized in my Bernina software on wash-away stabilizer. I placed a tree photo in the art side and traced it by hand digitizing it in the embroidery side of the software (for further information on how to do this kind of digitizing, see my book Twelve Skill-Building Projects for Bernina V8).  The same could possibly be done by drawing it onto a piece of wash-away stabilizer and free motion embroidering it. I have done that too, but could not find a good picture. In both cases I would advise using a layer of black nylon veiling under the stitching to hold everything together off the quilt and then appliqueing it on.  One of the cool things about digitizing it this way, is that you can get the coloring very close to the photograph, the texture of the tree trunk close to how it really should look.  I used this tree on several Nativity quilts I have made.  That’s the other thing, if you digitize it in your design software, you can restitch it for another project later on.

Here is the first tree trunk I ever digitized and embroidered out.  It required a double hooping and I missed the connection just barely, so I free motion zig zagged the connecting place and you can’t see where it was.  In fact, I have even forgotten where it is and cannot figure it out even with close examination.  So even if you make a mistake like that, you can sometimes fix it on the spot without having to redo the whole thing.  I stitched it out with a variegated thread.  Here is the whole quilt “The Storyteller”.

But even though in this quilt, the tree trunk makes a happy tree, when you look at the stitchout design by itself you can probably readily see that the same trunk would make a really fun spooky tree where you could place a raven or an owl for Halloween.   So working out these things in digizing software gives you lots of additional options that can save you a lot of time on other projects.

Trees without the use of digitizing software and embroidery module

So sometimes I want to just applique my trees down.  In this case, I usually use steam-a-seam 2 and free cut out with scissors the tree trunks and limbs and even leafy sections without a pattern.  Then I iron them on the top and use a single narrow blanket stitch with a close matching thread color to permanently attach them.  It’s so much fun!!!!

Here’s a quilt where all the trees are made that way.  The texture of the trees is added when quilting.  This was really fun to make.

Summer Melody, 2016, 33 x 29 inches.

And sometimes you can make a rather cool evergreen tree freehand with a combination of yarn couching the trunk with Superior monopoly thread and heavy 12 weight wool/acrylic Aurifil thread free motion embroidery for the tree’s needles.  Here is the one I made on my failed Bob Ross contest quilt.  I made this quilt while my wonderful old Bernina830, which I did a great deal of heavy work on for 8 plus years, was failing, and so many things went wrong in my studio during that time.  I am not surprised it did not make the contest, but I still love the tree I made for it here, which I made entirely freehand on my Bernina Q20 as kind of a reprieve from my B830 problems.  I now have a new Bernina 880 plus to take the 830s place and I love it.  So production in my studio is at full speed lately.  I suggest if you want to make such a tree that you make a practice first.  It requires a fairly substantial stabilizer under the tree area of the top because all that stitching draws it in and makes a problem without it.  I used Madeira Cotton Stable that I get from Nancy’s Notions on the whole quilt top.  It tears away later, and, since it is cotton, it will soften when washed.  I marked only one line representing the main trunk to keep it tilted just as I wanted.  It hardly matters what you mark it with because the mark is completely buried with yarn.  I did all of this before sandwiching the quilt.

Happy little tree

 

and then you can combine applique and free motion yarn couching and other thread work to come up with some rather dramatic trees.  In this case, I appliqued the big cyprus trunks and then did a lot of shading using fabric paints to give the tree trunks the right round shape.  The tree limbs were couched on with wool yarn, and the spanish moss was free motion stitched using 12 wt Aurifil wool/acrylic thread.  I premarked straight lines down for the spanish moss with chalk before stitching, because it takes a fair amount of concentration to keep it from drifting sideways in an unatural way.

Night on the Bayou, 2018

 

Up close

And lastly, I was just playing around one day and here you see the resulting winter scene with the trees using both couching for some, 12 weight thread for others,  40 weight polyester, and even 40 wt metallic for others.  It is the kind of practice piece I suggest you try if you are new to making trees with free motion fibers. As for all these quilts with heavy amounts of stitching, be sure to back it with a heavy stabilizer that either tears off or washes off to help with the draw in of the stitching.  I recently finished this as a little quilt sampler, but don’t have a picture of it yet but you can see the thread work here.

Sew happy everyone!  God bless you in this holy week and have fun in your studio while you await the end of the quarantine.  Have a blessed and happy Easter Sunday.

 

 

 

Keeping On Keeping On With Some Fun Too

I know some of my gentle readers are about to pull their hair out by about now being confined to their homes.  Sew let us all get up and do some stretching and bending.  Ten reaches to the sky, ten toe touches, ten swings from right to left with arms out, and 100 in place marches.  Ten deep breaths and giggle like a kid for ten seconds.  Now!  Grammy BJ (that’s me) suggests doing this several times a day and then get to work or play.  Here’s what I have been working on this past week.

Yes I finally made a bunch of facemasks, primarily for my family and friends.  A lot of my friends have devoted their entire work time to making these masks.  There is a need, and now that the study came out showing the properly made cotton masks using high end “quilter’s cotton” in at least two layers is, indeed, fairly effective (79 percent for the best, but poorly made with poor fabric choice can be virtually no use at all.  A surgical mask is 65 percent effective, and the N95 is 95 percent, jusf for comparison), we no longer have to contend with people saying it isn’t of any use.  Sew if you want to make some for you and your family or more I highly recommend Bethanne Nemesh’s mask method shown here in her video.  I made mine this way.  Here are a few of them (100 percent cotton…cotton fabric, cotton t-shirt ties, and cotton thread are easy to launder and sterilize.  I may be wrong, but I don’t like the idea of a non-woven interfacing.  A third layer of cotton something like flannel might add some additional safety, but the study was looking at a two-layer tight woven quilting cotton):

Sew after I made a bunch of these, I am probably done with mask making, at least for a while.  Now I am very excited about my current projects.  I have four I am currently working on or planning.  Yes, I know that’s a lot for all at once, but I can’t help it that all the ideas came at once.  Hahaha.

My primary project is my Mom’s memory quilt I am centering around five beautiful ten inch crocheted lace squares I found in her workbasket after she passed.  I have made substantial quilting progress recently, and am working on quilting the borders now.

Mom’s lace squares…10 inches of beauty.

  1. Here’s a peak…more quilting is in order here.  I really really love that blue polyester dupioni and off white polyester satin.  They quilt very well and did not break the bank like silk would have.  I think the dupioni is clearly different from silk dupioni, but it does have a rich beautiful texture.
  2. A wool machine appliqued quilting project that includes both samplers for my book I am writing and a larger show quilt using what I am learning as I build this part of the book and its samplers.  My goal is to take true advantage of the magnificent threads and machines we have today to produce wool applique quilts that are at once suggestive of hand applique and shows and teaches the use of advanced stitching by machine.  I will also add considerable amount of beads and possibly other forms of embellishment.  Here’s a little test I have done to determine what may be possible and think about the pattern.

    Just a test

    I have determined to use my accuquilt go! cutter to cut out a bunch of shapes and in real time place them in a good design and add stitching, then make a pattern for the book.  I have this nice tool, as many of you do or many have cutters of some sort, and I think it would be a fun approach, but I also plan on providing enough of a pattern for those who do not have one to make the resulting project.  And yes, it will all be done on black boiled wool because that is what I have on hand.  I am on a tight budget right now.  LOL

  3. My appliqued bed quilt I started some time ago using a beautiful pattern by Sue Nickels.   It’s sort of Baltimore Album like, but all done by machine applique.  I don’t have a picture yet.   This is my relax and stitch project where I don’t have to please a judge and I didn’t have to think of the design.  I am, of course, making my own changes and it will be just for me.
  4. And the fourth project for the near term is a new deep space quilt.  I love doing these.  I have worked out the technique, have all the supplies I need for one, and I take the design straight from one of the NASA photographs they so generously share copyright free, so I only need to put some size and spacing marks on a wholecloth black top and away I go.  I plan on putting how to do this either in my current book on embellishment or in its own book.  So I will be taking a lot of pictures as I go.  In case you are unfamiliar with such quilts, I have two below for you to see.  Both have won ribbons, and the Sky Horse was in the juried Houston show in 2014.

    Sky Horse photographed by Ken Tatum

    Spiral Galaxy No. 3

    These are so much fun to make.  I make them at my sitdown longarm because they are all free motion stitching.

    Sttitching with a reference picture

    And finally, my oldest son Ken who designed Pendragon for me is working on Excalabar design for the next in my ancient manuscript series.  If I manage to get all of these quilts done this year I will be doing very well.  I don’t work as fast as some of my competors in the show quilt world…hahaha.

    Pendragon
    34 x 45

    Sew happy everyone!  I love you all.  I hope you are keeping busy and making all kinds of fun things in your studio, or cooking, or gardening, or doing all of these things.  God bless you!

Planning the Day

I retired on January 1st of 2012 to become a full time fabric artist.  When I think about it, it is a surprise to me that is 8 years plus a few months! During this time I have developed a loosely professional approach to ordering my day and I have found it really makes me feel right about the day.  I guess it is because I spent decades working in sometimes pretty intense situations in my work life and got kind of use to having to put order in the day by necessity.

Now, even though I am home-based in my studio for work, I still like to take a professional approach to the day, and if you are sheltering in place at home you may find this really helpful.  So I start like I am planning to go to work at my former job, only I have a little more relaxing time about it, and my wardrobe is more casual (all happy things).   Here’s the list I give myself.

  1. Make my bed
  2. Get dressed
  3. Read my email and make a plan for the day…a to do list if you will…which I may or may not write down, but I thoughtfully think it through.
  4. Have breakfast
  5. Clean the kitchen
  6. Go to “work”.  I put it in quotes because it is so much fun for me to work in my studio working with with fabrics and threads, or designing my next project.  Remember that work can and should include some educational activities (like TQS offers and Bluprint or Iquilt) sometime during the week.
  7. Listen to podcasts, music, and audio books as I work.
  8. Keep to a (loose) schedule and actually have a “quitting time”, a day for chores (cleaning, bill paying, shopping), a day or a couple of half days I don’t “work” and just chill out.  Sometimes I chill out in my studio though because I love this fabric art thing so much.  Try hard to stick to this schedule.
  9. Eat well
  10. Try to get some exercise every day, even if it is just stretching or walking around in my house.
  11. Enjoy a relaxed evening during and after dinner (I might do some handwork here and watch a movie with my son).
  12. Get a good night’s sleep, but don’t set an alarm (that’s partly the fun of being home-based) unless I find I am way over sleeping more than one day a week

These may seem fundamental to many of you, and a lot of you would have a different list, but I know from watching myself and my youngest son, who is a writer and also a home-based self employed person) that it is easy to get sloppy about things and before I know it my production and self esteem suffer.  This helps me to stay away from that.

Sew happy everyone!  I hope I don’t sound preachy here, but I thought you may find thinking about this helpful in this stuck at home by yourself, especially if you are new to it.  Personally, I love working in my studio most all the time so that the only thing I miss is a few social activities, but I am somewhat making up for that with Facebook and YouTube videos.  There are lots of fun things out there for that…The Quilt Show, Pat Sloan videos…look around on the Internet.  I’m sure you’ll find some you really like.  And stay mostly away from the news so you don’t get all scared or depressed.  Just check briefly now and again or online.  That’s all from grandma BJ here.  LOL

Fine Tuning Quilted Art Projects: Part Three: Tools and Encouraging Words

This nice drawing is from Dover’s Chinese Designs. Whatever would I do without Dover!

A word about today’s situation

Hi gentle readers.  Life is a little crazy right now.  Among all the negatives, there are some positives in all of this…a lot of us have a little more time to spend in our studios working on our quilted art, for instance.  Some get to spend more time with their family members.  Maybe we can even sleep a little later.  We have time to wash our hands and do some praying (prayer at this time is, in my opinion, very important).  My church suggests we pray or sing encouraging hymns while we wash our hands.  I like this idea and am doing that some.

We have an advantage that past such events from history did not have…most of us can learn, shop, communicate, and entertain ourselves using our computers and our streaming services while we stay safely at home.  There is a much stronger understanding in the medical community of what a virus is and how to address it than there was in 1918, for instance.

Also, there is hope.  Many people who have had the virus are getting well.  Research is being done.  Quicker testing methods have just been approved by the FDA and shortly there will be mass testing stations set up in parking lots of several of our major companies, like CVS and Walgreens.  You won’t even have to get out of your car.  They also just announced they have a vaccine ready for testing (this does take time though).  There is an end for this and when it is over the US will have a gigantic party…we will all recover.

But in the meantime, let’s pull op our big girl or boy pants, go into our studios and get to work.  There may be, in the near future, need for some charity quilts.  In fact, there is almost always need for charity quilts, if you want to do that.  Our friends, family, and those around us also need to be cheered up and encouraged.  Quilted art that lifts the spirits can be part of that too.  If you know of a small business related to our craft, I urge you to use them.  Many of them have gone online or will help you via phone.  Boxes can still be delivered to your door (you can always wipe them off with a disinfectant if that worries you and wash your hands after disposing of the box…LOL).

A Look at the Tools of Our Tradecraft

So today I want to address the tools for our quilted art.  We all have them.  Some of us, like myself, are blessed with advanced machines and quilting machines, but even if you don’t have those, there is much that can be done with more basic machines.  I actually see a lot of bisic informational help out there for those with basic machines, I also see a need to provide encouragement and instruction for those of us who do have the more advanced machines to use them to their fullest abilities, and learn how to use them well.  I began addressing some of this with my books on Bernina design software, and I am working on a book (or books) on embellishment techniques by machine.

Preparing for our Quilt Quarantines or Even Anytime:

So what will your machine do?  It may be time to make yourself some sample squares to work on, cut some circles, vines, and shapes for applique, and test things out.  So check your studio and actually list out what you have to use and what you may need to order for delivery to your front door:

  • Do you need a new ripper…I’ll bet lots of you are still using the ripper you bought some years ago.  A new sharp ripper is really a blessing.  I buy a new one once a year.
  • Do you need needles (make sure you have the different sizes you like to use..I particularly like 90/14 Top Stitch Superior Needles, 80/12 Top Stitch Superior Needles, and 70/10 Top Stitch Needle the most.  I also have a few 60/8 needles for beading by machine (not something I am good at yet, but I’m working on it).  These are easily ordered online.
  • Ironing:  Clean your irons (there are many techniques for this.  I use Rowenta Cleaning kit I get from Amazon..it really works) and if your ironing board is really dirty and the cover is removable, wash it.  If it is not, do a wipe down (I use Mr Clean Magic Erasers for this…it removes some of the stuff that may stick to fabric, though does not necessarily make it look clean, and steam press it when finished).
  • Rotary Cutters:  Replace the blade in your rotary cutters and order more if you don’t have a stock of replacement blades.
  • Wipe off your cutting board (again with Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, though some may have other methods)
  • Dust every surface you can in your studio.  In fact, take our your Clorox wipe (or similar product) if you have it and wipe down your room, your  machine, your keyboards on your computer, your door knobs, your light switches, your phones, etc.)  And wash your hands when done while you sing or pray or quote Lady Macbeth or some such.
  • Clean and oil your machines and replace the needles, if needed. Make them ready to go.
  • Do a little “tidying up” as Pat Sloan likes to say and make your studio ready to go to work.
  • And finally, vacuum the floor.

So next pull out your project plan you developed in part one of this series, or your kit, or that pattern you’ve been wanting to make, and have assembled your fabrics as suggested in part two and prepare them for cutting.

Sew happy everyone, even in these times or especially in these times!  Let’s get to work.  There is much to do.  You may even have the opportunity to teach someone to quilt or sew.  Imagine what we will have done when we come out on the other side of this (and we will come out on the other side).  Please be sure to share online what you are doing.  It will make everyone else happy to see.  The Quilt Show asks that you share pictures and projects on Facebook and use #quiltersquarantine so we can have our neat community throughout this time.  I am doing that.  Hugs everyone…or maybe that is the Star Trek hand gesture…Live Long and Prosper…it does not require physical contact.  😀  Stay well everyone, and if you get it let us know…we will pray for you and prayer is powerful.

Fine Tuning Quilted Art Projects: Part Two, Collecting the Parts

Sew I got some interesting feedback from some of you on my last post where I discussed obtaining or creating the design and pattern, and thinking through the instructions.  Several of my quilty friends…some of them prize wining quilters and teachers…just dive right in and go.  So I want you to know that this series of blogs is primarily designed to lead people like me who need a plan to work from through building a good fabric art/quilting project.

Personally, I like to work with a plan.  Very often, however, I make so many changes along the way the end result is unrecognizable from the beginning.  But it helps me to approach a new project with a plan in mind.  I will say though that sometimes I get kind of stuck on the pattern making part and in this case I may just go with a loose sketch and not a fully drawn pattern. I know what I want to do in my head, but getting it down into a pattern or plan is often kind of difficult for me, but I like it when I can.  I have friends who can just draw it out on their background fabric and start, or even just cut a bunch of fabric and start.  That would be amazing to have such a skill, but that is not me.  LOL

Sew once you have a project in mind, how do you pick your fabrics?  Do you buy a bundle from a particular fabric line?  Do you shop your own stash?  Do you just go to the store and buy a new set of fabrics?

I have an extensive stash that I have organized more or less by color and fabric type.  So I generally take my pattern I struggled to make, lay it out on my table, and start pulling fabrics from my stash that I think will fit into the quilt.  This is quite a messy process.  I end up with a pile of fabrics on my table, floor, and chair that might work.  Once I get to that insane place, I do a second pull of fabrics.  Then I put away the ones I decide definately won’t work and lay out what I have to work with.  From there I may eliminate a few more.

My idea is to put together my own kit for the project.  Here I will find if I need to buy additional pieces to pull it all together, which is usually the case.  I will say, however, that I frequently do not need additional fabrics.  I almost always need additional notions like stabilizers for embroidered embellishments, or more spray starch, a certain paint color, or a specific kind of cording or yarn to couch on the quilt.  It all depends on my project, but after all these years of collecting and trying to keep things organized I can usually make a nice quilt without buying a lot.  I will occassionally make a comfort quilt just to use up some of my stash and then I have a quilt to snuggle in or give away.  I think the hardest thing for me to keep in stock is the right battings, because I don’t have a lot of storage space for battings and I like different ones for different projects.

Sew here are the steps I take:

  1. Referencing the pattern or drawing I pull from my stash the fabrics that seem to me might work.  If you are new to this or don’t keep a stash, this would be done in the fabric store making a stack on the cutting table and asking them to let it stay there for a bit.
  2. Then I arrange the fabrics in a stack according to color or part of the quilt.  Here is where those small pieces leftover from some great piece of hand dyed fabrics come into play if I only need a small piece to make that flower petal, piece of armour, or leather saddle (yes, I do use leather for leather saddles on my horses).
  3. This arranging with the pattern in hand enables me to remove the fabrics that don’t work either because the color is jarring, the print is simply not right for the quilt, the value change is either too much or not enough, or I don’t like the whole set of fabrics so I put them back and start over.  Yes, I have done that.  Sometimes this fabric selection part can take a considerable amount of tme.
  4. If I’m shopping from my home stash I can determine at this point if I need to purchase more fabric.  If you are at the store, you may find you need to pull another piece and put back a bunch. Sometimes you can get a lot of what you need in a bundle of precuts and save a lot of money.
  5. Sew now I put away all the fabrics I will not be using and usually spray starch and iron the ones I will be using.  I prewash all my fabrics (unless they are not washable for unusual uses) before storing them away, so all I have left is the spray starching and ironing in preparation for use.

Now that I have my fabric bundle/kit put together, it is a good time to pick the threads. Actually, if I’m going to be using a lot of thread changes in my stitching I will just leave the threads in their storage place but check to make sure I have the right ones and that they are sufficient.  In my art quilts I use a LOT of threads…different colors, different weights, different types all for different uses, and over the last few years I have built a very nice thread stash, but I use them a lot so sometimes I have to replace a color.  It can be very frustrating when I am working hard to finish something and run out of a particular thread at an awkward time.  My closest brick and morter fabric store that carries the kinds of threads I like is 45 minutes away, and they may not have the color I want or some such.  So I order my threads online and that takes time, especially if I want to wait for a sale.  I also purchase threads at quilting and sewing events where they usually have a discount, so I try to keep a list of colors I need in my bag when I go to those.  You can save a lot of money on threads if you pay attention to what you use a lot of and what you may need in the future and who is having a sale on those.

The next thing to check for your kit collections is all the additional things that make your project work right…the batting, the stabilizers, the embellishments (paints, cords, beads, and so forth), and things you may not think of like thread nets if you use coned threads, fray check if you use that, interfacing if you are backing your light weight fabrics with a fusible, for instance.  I’m probably forgetting something.

So do you have it all together?  Are you ready to start the fun part of actually making your project?  Do you have the right tools?  Oh, I’ll talk about tools in my next blog post.

Sew happy everyone!  Enjoy yourselves while you are picking all the pieces for your next project.  Petting fabrics and admiring thread colors can be a lot of fun.  If you can shop your stash for everything you need on this project you can pretend you aren’t spending anything on it, because once these things are there and settle down into your stash it’s free, right?!  LOL

 

 

 

 

Fine Tuning Quilted Art Projects: Part One, the Design to Pattern

I realized with some astonishment recently that 2020 is my sixteenth year of making quilted art projects, mostly, but not entirely in the form of wall art quilts.  I have been sewing since since I was five, when my mother began teaching me to sew, followed by years of learning and making my own clothes and helping my mother in her own sewing pursuits.  I retired from my intensive job with the US Government at the beginning of 2012, but I had already been working toward moving to full-time fabric artist upon retirement for a number of years.

Over the years I have learned a great deal.  I have almost always been in a learning mode, because I find it fun.  For me, a terrific development has been provided by generous fabric artists, digital artists and sewing technicians through online informative sewing and quilting sites, video classes, The Quilt Show with Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims, and YouTube.  This has enabled me to continue my love of learning new techniques and improvement of my skills while hanging out in my own studio and at a very low cost or even free.

What has all this to do with the title of this blog, you may be asking about now.  Well, I just wanted you to know that I do have a significantly solid and advanced basis to pull from for this series I will be blogging over the next month or so about building quilted projects for fun and excellence.

Sew approaching a new project should begin with a bit of planning and record keeping. Such projects can be divided several ways, but I like the following 10 steps, each of which will be dealt with in their own blog post:

  1.  Designing or Obtaining the Pattern
  2. Collecting the Parts
  3. Checking the Tools
  4. Cutting and Marking
  5. Constructing the Top
  6. Sandwiching Properly
  7. Quilting
  8. Blocking and Squaring
  9. Adding Embellishments
  10. Binding and Finishing.

Designing or Obtaining a Pattern for Your Project

Since I don’t normally use purchased patterns and usually create my own designs, for me that first step of designing frequently takes just under half of the time I spend on a project.  I use my computer heavily in this step.  Here are the computer apps I currently use for this:

  1. Corel Paint Shop Pro 2020 (for processing photographs)
  2. Corel Draw Graphics Suite 2018 (makes very good vector designs and communicates with Bernina Software.  This also helps me create my own pattern, size it, and print it out full size to tape together)
  3. Corel Painter 2020 (for painting.  It’s almost like having real paint,  brushes, and pencil collections with no mess and the ability to erase or add something in the middle layer.  I often start here for concept art)
  4. Bernina Embroidery Software V8.2 (for digitizing or personalizing embroidery designs, and even for some quilting)
  5. Electric Quilt 8 (aids in figuring placements, sizing, yardage, and if I need a traditionally pieced area for my quilt project, this is where I turn).

I won’t cover how to use these drawing packages for this, because I know even if you use digital design programs to help you out, you probably don’t use the same ones I do and they are expensive to gather, take time to learn, and there are lots of really good classes out there on youtube and on the sites where the packages are sold.

Once I have my design, I write out the steps, list the fabrics and threads, list the additional pieces, and think about the tools that will be required.  In other words, I create my own pattern with instructions. You may be surprised to learn that I mostly do this the old fashioned way in my planning notebook, where I glue in samples of the fabrics, write out steps, and keep other important notes as I go along. You can read about how I manage these things in my blog Project Management for Fabric Art from a year ago.  I still do things this way.

Now I know many of you don’t want to use the computer designing process, and if you want to design them yourself you would greatly prefer using a sketch book or graph paper and doing math to figure out what you need to make your project, or at the very least use Electric Quilt 8, which is an easy way to produce a good traditional quilt pattern.  This is a good approach, but I do encourage you to scan in your resulting images/designs,  keep a record of your project on your computer, and write out the steps you need to take for your project so you can start with a good pattern with steps to completion already thought through.

Also, there are those who prefer starting with a pattern that has good instructions.  That’s probably why you can make a quilt much faster than I can, and I think this is also a good approach if you have different goals from mine.  One of the keys to this is to use patterns from reliable designers that provide good instructions.

In other words, whichever your approach, the first step is to obtain or create the design with good instructions and project steps already thought through.

For me, I also want to load up my audible books, music, and podcasts to listen to while I work through the construction phase.  My next blog post will discuss building your own kit so you know you have what you need.

Sew happy everyone!  I encourage you to use an ordered approach to your quilted projects, however small or large, and you will really enjoy the process and probably come out with a wonderful result.

 

 

 

Back to My Beloved Studio

A couple of days after I got home from California I came down with a monster cold that has totally shut down my work for weeks.  I am finally emerging from that, though I still have a cough here and there.  Coughing, even though it is far less, does not work well with precision quilting.  LOL.  So for a few more days I will do a little video watching, a little writing, a little planning, and a little design work.  Still, it is progress for me to get back to work finally.  It is my sincere hope that you, dear readers, do not catch something like this. Apparently it is going around, since a lot of my quilty friends seem to have had it too. It’s a bear and antibiotics do nothing for it.

Sew we recently bought a ROKU device and I have been playing around with it while recovering. One of my favorite things is that you can get YouTube on your big screen TV with ROKU along with whatever additional streaming service you have subscribed to.  I have what came with Roku, Amazon Prime, and Netflix.  Yesterday, I found Alex Anderson’s Simply Quilts from years ago on the HGTV channel.  I also found It’s Sew Easy on Amazon Prime.  What a delightful way to be entertained while I lay around like a coughing couch potato.  I tell them where they could improve their techniques, and learn something to try later…hahaha.  I still have to watch TQS and my BluPrint and IQUILT videos on my computer, but I can connect to my tv with a cable for that. It’s just not as convenient.  I’m thinking I really need another day of video watching before I fully launch back into quilting and writing in my studio.

I did arrange with G Street Fabrics the other day that I will be teaching four workshops in April and May similar to the ones I taught last year. I have also talked with my oldest son Ken about helping me get fully set up for making some videos for YouTube on a regular basis.  He has designed and built a couple of camera holders that are attached to the ceiling and can manipulate them to give different angles for the cameras.  He just needs to install them.  I also need to purchase a second video camera to work with them.  I plan on launching a periodic video showing my techniques very soon, probably in early March.  I have slowly been assembling everything I want for this and am close to launch.

Beyond that, I will be spending most of my time making show quilts and samplers for my books all year, as far as i can determine.  I think I want to hang out at home and avoid any further disruptions to my work.  I am excited about that now that I am getting over the monster cold.

Sew happy everyone!  Stay healthy, enjoy your studio, and find a way to share what you learn.  Let me know what you think about my video plans.