Problem Solving in the Studio 3: Free Motion Couching

One of the things I have really been enjoying experimenting with lately is couching by machine.  Couching, or laid work in which cords or yarns are laid onto a fabric and attached using small stitches, reaches back into history at least as far as the llth century, usually gold cording.  Of course, that was by hand and gloriously beautiful.

I have been working on a book on embellishment and one of the techniques I will be covering in the book is couching.  Or rather, several of the techniques I am discussing are several different types of couching by machine.  Our machine companies have developed or are developing couching feet designed to help us apply interesting cords and yarns to the surface of our projects by machine.  Like many things, though, success in this endeavor requires a bit of practice.

 

This is the start of a small sampler of winter trees that I am making. The largest tree is couched on sports weightyarn, using foot number 43 on my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm. The next largest tree on the right uses a thinner baby fingering yarn and so I used the ruler foot 72 with the largest of the three couching inserts. The silver tree in the center back is couched on Ricky Tim’s Razzle Dazzle decorative heavy thread, the thinest of the bunch, that I couched on using the smallest insert in the ruler foot 72. This was pure fun to do.

I also used free motion couching using Bernina 43 foot for my quilt Night on the Bayou, which will be in this year’s Houston IQF show.  Isn’t that terrific?  No, it will not be winning a ribbon, but I’m very happy to have it in the show nevertheless.

A close up of the Night on the Bayou showing the tree limbs I couched on with yarn using foot 43. I also couched on the bushes and grasses growing in the water (not shown here).

Sew there are some problems I have had sometimes especially in free motion couching.

Normally, I use either Superior Thread’s wonderful Monopoly thread or a 100 weight matching (to the yarn or cord) silk or poly thread to couch the thread on.  I use a small 70/10 needle.

When I first started trying this, I had trouble with the thread breaking periodically, especially the monopoly.  Then I saw someone, and I cannot remember who or where, say that using a universal needle helps prevent thread breakage for monopoly threads.  Sew I tried it and found a 70/10 or even a 60/8 universal needle actually does make a big difference. Lowering the top tension also makes a difference.  My biggest problem is getting these small needle eyes threaded with thread I can barely see. It just takes magnification and time. for me to do that.

The other problem I have sometimes is stitching off the thread when doing a curve or circle, leaving the stitches in the right shape and the yarn hanging there.  To make this better, I have found from experimentation that it is a matter of making sure to provide sufficient looseness of the yarn or cord feeding into the foot and stitching slowly enough.  I pile on a bit of loose cord/yarn onto the fabric and watch to make sure it doesn’t feed a loop into the foot, stopping and adding more cord/yarn as it uses up.  If the yarn/cord feeds in with even a small amount of too much tension, it will pull it out of the stitch path.

For the most part, this is fixable if you take your time by going back and stitching over it, using a stiletto or bent tweezers pulling the cord/yarn into place while you slowly restitch over the yarn, following the stitching now on the fabric.  Alternatively, you can remove the yarn beyond the skipped area by pulling gently on the stitched down part and clipping the thread.  But if there is enough looseness of yarn, and you sew slowly enough in the first place, you probably won’t miss the yarn/cord in the first place for the most part.

Of course, like every really good technique, you need to practice.

A word about practice and testing:  I know it takes time to test and practice techniques and products, but it can save you a great deal of time later and even the ruination of your project.  Keep a notebook and staple samples into it and write up what you did.  That way, next time you use the same kinds of items to do the same thing, even if it is months down the road, you just have to look up what you already did and proceed straight to your project.

Do I sound like an annoying nagging teacher now?  LOL…well, maybe I am.

Sew happy everyone! I hope you try couching and have a lot of fun with it.  I have lots of plans for using this technique in future quilts.

 

Problem Solving Tools in the Studio 1: Needles

The other day I was having trouble with a metallic thread I was using breaking periodically.  It sewed beautifully for a bit and then broke.  I rethreaded and it did it again.  I was using a Superior 90/14 titanium top stitch needle, which is the one I use the most and which handles 40 weight embroidery threads extreamly well.  The metallic thread was about a 40 weight.  I finally decided to change the needle for a Klasse needle that I happened to have on hand that is designed for metallic threads.  It sewed so well I managed to finish my project without another thread break.

I have had the same good results when sewing with monopoly threads when I use a 70 universal needle rather than a top stitch needle I was using.  I think the needles kind of “step on” these specialy threads and the slight rounded needle point just slides by the thread rather than break.

Sew as I am getting to know my new Bernina 880 plus, Odette, I have been planning new projects and testing various techniques for them.  This process has highlighted to me a happy thought that I have greatly enlarged my understanding of sewing, quilting, and problem solving in the studio since I retired from my government job to be a full-time fabric artist.

As well as using the right needle helps to solve thread problems, so does the little things like using a net when sewing from a cone of thread.  The net keeps the thread from “pooling” at the bottom of the cone which will cause uneven feeding through the thread track and produce some tension problems.

I know that many of my readers already have a full understanding of the use of various types of needles. In the past, even though I really kind of knew what should be used,  I did not take full advantage of the substantial differences using the proper needles can make.  I used to just put in a universal 80/12 and use it for almost everything, changing only for specialty sewing.  After I retired to my studio career, I decided to pay more attention to the needle I used.  I found to my delight that it solved some of the stitching struggles I used to just power through.

Today I keep on hand an array of needle types and use them appropriately, often changing the needle several times during one project.  For the most part, I use Superior titanium needles, which I believe to be the best on the market.  However, I do also think Organ, Schmetz, Bernina, and Klasse needles are excellent brands.

The needle companies are doing many new things with needles now, like special needles to reduce stickiness when you are sewing through layers of fusibles, for instance.

Several of the brands have guidelines on their websites for their different needles.  Here are some helpful links with a wealth of information on needles and their uses:

Side note: I get quality needles and don’t always use them up as I change them, so the first thing I had to do when deciding to change needle types for different threads, was to come up with a way to keep these needles for future use.  I have two things that I do this with.  One is a big red tomato pin cushion that I have marked around it which type of needle is in which section.  I keep this by my big Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm.  It uses domestic machine needles, which I like.  The other method for keeping track of these partially used machine needles  is my needle book I made several years ago that I have marked areas for different needles on the flannel pages in the book.  I keep this with me for use wherever I need them.  I even take it with me when I go to workshops, retreats, or downstairs when I need to do hand sewing.  Also, I try to keep a record of what needle is in the machine.  Odette has a useful built in program for doing this, but neither my little B 350 nor my Q20 have this.  So I keep a notebook close by  for that and other reminders along the way.

Sew if you are having problems with your thread breaking, splitting, or not stitching with an even tension, it might just be your needle.  If you think your machine “doesn’t like” a particular thread, it might really just need a different needle type or size.

 

 

 

 

 

Satin Sampler

OK.  I have been working out a satin sampler to test markers, techniques, threads, paints, and background designs for several projects, one being my Mom’s memory quilt.  The cool thing about this is that I am making it with polyester crepe back satin.  It has a lovely beefy hand and I wanted to test it for future projects.  Why?  Partly because I can get a 58 inch wide piece for about $5 per yard for a lighter hand up to $8 a yard for a heavy satin instead of the $17 to $40 a yard for 43″ wide fabric, and partly because there are some wonderful colors available in the polyester that don’t run when washed.  I am using the heavy polyester crepe back satin for this sampler.  I will be making it into a pillow top for my bedroom since I can tell I will like it when finished.

Sew I have layered it with a cotton backing, and a double bat of Quilter’s Dream 80/20 select loft on bottom and Quilter’s Dream wool on top.  I marked it with a heat-away gel pen (see my blog on marker testing for this satin) that I do not recommend unless you are prepared to go through a removal process that requires much effort and time.  This ink returns when frozen (such as in the airplane when you check your luggage or ship it someplace). Also, my marker testing is incomplete, because I want to finish the sampler, freeze it, and completely test the removal process again on this sandwiched piece. I am quilting it with 40 weight Superior Magnifico and, where needed, 100 weight microquilter.

I painted this sampler with a combination of Setacolor and Jacquard Lumier fabric paints in order to get the colors I wanted.  Their steadfastness will also be tested in the freezing/washing test.

Here is a little look at my work on this little sampler thus far.  I am really having fun with this.  While most of the stitch work has been on my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm, some very small amount was done on my new B 880 Plus machine, just to see how it quilts.  LOL

 

 

So my conclusion about good quality polyester crepe back satin as a quilting fabric…it works, it’s beautiful, and it both paints and quilts well.  I do back it with a very light weight pellon fusible to make it behave well.

* * * * * * *

Something I didn’t tell you all earlier is that just after I got Odette all sorted out with a new machine from Bernina because the first one seemed to have a serious problem, I made a mistake in threading it and got a huge glob of thread nest in it that I could not remove myself.  So I had to take it in to the dealer to get it fixed.  It made me weep. I was really gloomy when I found that Lew, the magical tech guy, was out for two weeks and so I had to wait.  He fixed it almost imediately when he got back and I got it safely home on Tuesday and have done considerable sewing and embroidery on it since then.  It is clearly a wonderful machine.  It was my mistake, and I have since figured out what I did wrong (with Lew’s suggestions).  I didn’t want to whine again or have people tell me I was wrong to buy it in the first place because their prefered brand works so much better they think.

Anyway, that meant that I was without my main sewing machine for nearly three months with the exception of a day or two twice!!!  So I did a lot of sewing on my little Bernina 350 and a lot of free motion work on my Q20, and a lot of non-machine prep work for future projects, and stacked up quite a bit of work for the new machine.  I will, therefore, be missing a few deadlines I had tentatively planned on.

I have begun attacking the stack of work and have been having a huge amount of fun and the icy fear of further machine problems has begun to melt away over the past week.  In addition to some “regular” sewing, I did some in-the-hoop embroidery last week that came out so perfect and beautiful that I was nearly weeping again, this time in joy.  You should know that I seldom cry for anything much, and am known as a “tough old bird” as one of my former colleagues told me.  But this machine saga seems to have loosened a few tears from me.

Sew happy everyone!  May your stitches be beautiful and your machines play well with you for many years.  Hugs to you all!

 

Marking Satin Fabric

Sew today I decided to begin working on the satin pillow top that I am making to test some methods I plan to use for my Mom’s memory quilt.  I am using polyester crepe back satin, a beefy satin that I have tested previously for quilting with great results and I am trying to figure out the marking method for my Mom’s quilt, because it has a LOT of detailed stitching/painting lines to produce the designs.

I used it as the border on one of my favorite quilts Pendragon because I could not find the right color in a natural fiber under twenty dollars a yard. I only used it on the border though.

Pendragon
34 x 45

But for this quilt, I prestitched, painted, then constructed, sandwiched and quilted. I over-quilted the border with monopoly, which gave me the opportunity to bring out the over and under characteristics of the Celtic border designs.  I used quilting paper with temporary adhesive dots for the marking.  This works fairly well, but when you use really small details, it may break away at an awkward place or may be really hard to remove after stitching.

This may end up being the method I use for Mom’s quilt, but I really wanted to use the border method I did for Canterbury Silk and Canterbury Knight, where I appliqued on a few things, quilted it, then painted the quilting designs. For both of these quilts I used Radiance Cotton/Silk blend, not polyester.

practice pieces for Canterbury Silk

I marked those (and remarked them, and remarked them before all the original marks quite disappeared along the way) with Fons and Porter’s mechanical white pencil.  It doesn’t stay on the satin very well, but was the best I could find at the time.

Mom’s quilt will be made with off white polyester satin and two blues of beautiful polyester dupioni (I LOVE these fabrics), and of course, the pieces of crocheted lace squares I found in her workbasket after she died.

I want to mark it in a way it will stay, I can actually see it, and then I can get rid of the marks completely when I block it.  Is this a dream?

So today I tested multiple markers.  The blue marker many of us use immediately bleeds all around the mark, as does the crayola washable marker I frequently use.  This blurs the lines so they are not usable for this quilt.

I tried marking pencils, which I know go away as you work through it on satins, in particular, though I can kind of see it.  The pencil pulls the fabric as I mark it, and I have to hold it really carefully.  It sort of put slight pulls in it in places, and the detail is kind of hard to see under the light of my machine.  In other words, it’s not really what I need.  Colored chalk comes right off after just a tiny bit of stitching.  Clearly not the winner.

Out of frustration, I am trying  pen similar to Frixion, which works so well for seeing it, doesn’t go away as you work through the construction, and disappears when ironed.  But it comes back when frozen (i.e. when shipped to the quilt show in an airplane or transported in the winter).  I am testing to see if there is a way to get rid of this marker without destroying the work I do on the quilt.

I am still testing that one, however.  If I can figure out a way to use it and then remove it completely this would be almost ideal.  So I have ironed off the test piece and have it in the freezer to have a sample to try really removing it.

I say almost ideal because I would probably have to remove the marks after I have all the stitching done and then do the painting.  But I am going to test that too.  IF I can remove it, and NOT remove the painting, then I would say it is ideal.

Anyway, I completely marked the pillow sample top with the gel pen so I can practice the quilting/painting method I plan to use, and then try to remove the marks so they won’t come back.

Let me say that I would strongly not recommend this marker for most quilts.  It does come back when frozen, while all the other markers…Crayola washables (my favorites), blue markers, chalk, and marking pencils come nicely off either by washing or erasing.

But this is a special case, and something I would use a lot if I can come up with a good marking method for light colored satins.

Next I will have to test the paints.  I’ll let you know how all this goes in my next blog post.

Sew happy everyone!  Test your techniques, fabrics, markers, threads, tensions, needles, paints, markers BEFORE you invest all those hours (and money) in your projects to prevent frustration.  Also, I highly recommend you prewash your fabrics.  Except for machine problems, there are few things in your studio more frustrating beyond completing a beautiful piece and have it get ruined (or nearly ruined) in the end when blocked.  Have a great week everyone!

 

 

Workshops, Quilt Plans and Start!

   Blessed Memorial Day everyone!  I like this eagle on this old     label.

Yesterday I completed my four part quilted fabric art workshop at G Street Fabrics for 2019.  I am planning on doing the same set next April/May session there, but nothing in between.  I have other plans for the rest of this year.

We finished up with ruler work for sit-down machines.  Everybody seemed to enjoy it, though I think they all (but maybe one) felt a little like they needed to go away and practice a lot before they really feel comfortable with it.  For those people, do that practice and to help ou out please go to my downloadables and links page and find the info there for making more marked practice sandwiches.  I will also add links to some products we talked about in the classes.

* * * * * * *

Coming up with a plan

I think of things in steps.  I don’t know why, possibly it came from my long years of sewing clothes before I did any quilting and progressed through solving problems at work and back to sewing again. So I have come up with steps for making a major quilt, masterpiece quilt, or show quilt that you probably already do in your everyday quilt making but I have defined them below just because.

  1.  Come up with a plan.  I don’t necessarily mean a pattern, but it could be. This can be as simple as drawing a basic project design in your sketchbook or on your digital drawing package on your computer and enlarging it to full size.  Or you can find a pattern you simply love that another quilter has designed and purchase it.  Some notes about this:
    • I will tell you that for most of my quilts, this part of making the quilt is about one-third to a half of the work.   Sometimes, however, I only need basic placement guidelines for something so clear to me where I’m going, and kind of organic or freeform in nature that I don’t really need a pattern.  I do however always need help in keeping parts properly sized and placed.
    • If you are using someone else’s photograph or drawing for this, make sure you have permission from that person to use it for your quilt.  This may involve purchasing the rights (something I have done on occassion) or writing a letter and requesting the use of the inspirational piece.  Get that answer in writing to protect yourself.
    • Frequently you can find an inspirational design in royalty free designs, such as that available on Dover Publications books, or even online at museum sites for ancient documents that are so old they are free to use.
    • Don’t assume that the inspirational resource is free to use just because the creator has passed on.  The families or organizations behind these people may still hold the rights.  They must be in open domain.
    • Or you can draw it yourself.  Even just a simple placement drawing will help you keep things right.
    • Enlarging to full size for printing is not difficult.   You can use your printer’s tiling (if it has one), Microsoft Excel where you tell it the size of your picture you import and it divides it into page-sized tiles for printing to tape together, or a drawing package such as Corel Draw that does the same thing (remember, if you have Bernina Design software you have a limited version of Corel Draw that includes tiling).
  2. Now build your background.  Once you have your plan in hand, you need to have a quilt top background.
    • Even if you are making a whole cloth quilt, you need to get your fabric sized, cut, and marked, allowing additional space around the edge to make up for the drawing in that occurs in a lot of stitching.  You square it to size when ready to bind.
    • If you are making a landscape, you need to start from the farthest thing away in the background and move forward piecing or applipiecing (piecliqueing) the parts together forward.  Darkest to lightest maybe.  You might find that working through this on freezer paper or tracing paper will help you, which is how I started, but now I find I don’t need it at all.
    • Or if you are making a pieced quilt, you need to do the piecing and build your quilt top.  I’m not a piecer, so I have no real advice for this step.
  3. Assemble any applique parts.  One thing that might help you, is to make free motion or in-the-hoop embroidery parts of your design independent from the top and then applique them on.  I mostly use black or appropriately colored nylon bridal veilling for this with washaway stabilizers.  It can save a lot of tears.  LOL

Remember to do the best job you possibly can.  Take the time to draw it right, print it right, tape the pattern together right, wash your fabrics, if washable, and starch and iron the fabrics, and piece the background right. Also if you are using a very light drapey fabric, such as silk or polyester dupioni or satin, backing it with a very light weight fusible interfacing will help it behave.  Redo if it is wrong.

Join Me in Making a Major Quilt

I have finally cleared the deck and am now able to begin a period of making new show quilts.  I have two quilts I will be making first, and one I am making for myself that is not a show quilt that is for my own bed.  Sew I thought it would be fun to make a journal of these quilts as I make them and thereby share with you how you might approach a major quilt of your own or even provide some encouragement on your current projects.

I encourage you to chose a project get your planning notebook and join me.  The first step is figuring out what to make and either obtaining or creating the design for the top.  Even a basically simple quilt design can become a masterpiece quilt by the time it is complete.  The second step is gathering the fabrics, threads, and notions.

Such a quilt does not have to be for a show quilt. It may be for the beautification of your own home, or to honor someone for an achievement, or to give to your Mom, Dad, or grown child when they leave home to build their own adult life.  But whatever you are making such a quilt for, you want it to be made with your highest level of art and technique and not skip the correcting of mistakes or doing the boring or hard parts thinking it is “O.K.”   I assure you that it is a great journey full of interest and fun, a  little frustration and joy in overcoming problems.  In the end comes a sense of real accomplishment and satisfaction that continues every time you see it.  You will learn a lot and use what you learned in your future projects.  You will find after making such a quilt that the cuddle quilts will be so much easier and faster than you ever thought possible.

This brings up a point.  Even quilts made for charity should be lovely to look at.  They may not be as perfectly pieced or quilted as well as a major quilt, but they should be soundly made to last through washings and attractive to look at and lovely to cuddle with.  Making a major quilt (as if it were a show quilt) will so improve your abilities you will be amazed.  Stretching for that best quilt is overall fun, and you may decide to show it in the end.

Sew next I am making a small 20 x 20 inch contest quilt for Cherrywood Fabrics challenge honoring the late Bob Ross, who gave so many of us a lot of joy watching him and learning how to paint beautiful landscapes simply like magic.  Fabric will require more work, but will be fun.  It will be a challenge, but is a great way for me to get back to show level quilt making. I already have this designed and acquired the materials I need for this project.

My mother’s crocheted blocks. 10 x 10 inches. I am likely going to place them in this configuration to form the star in the middle with the pentagon around it.

In the meantime, I am working on the design for what may be my most challenging show quilt using as the centerpiece several beautiful pieces of crocheted lace my late mother had left in her workbasket that were obviously meant for a large piece (bedspread? Table cloth?).  She had made five of them and sewed four together.  I was able to take them apart with only a slight bit of fixable damage to one of the blocks.  I will be making a more traditional quilt than I usually make, although it will likely not be truly traditional in any pattern, not very symmetrical, and have some interesting machine techniques with lots of beading planned.  We will see.  I haven’t yet completed that design by far.

And then I will pick up and continue my fun applique quilt that is a Sue Nickels pattern.  Yes, I am using a pattern, although making a few simple changes to make it large enough for my bed and choosing my own colors.  I have a bit more than half of the blocks made and the others have the pieces fused down and are ready to stitch.  This is my stress-lowering project I will work on from time to time.

Pick up your needle and thread and let’s go!

Start thinking about a main quilt project of your own.  If you don’t feel you are ready to design your own, then hunt for a pattern you simply love but may seem a little beyond your current talents.  Or make a simple top and use it as a background for advanced quilting and embellishment work.  Or draw a design you love and think about how to make it.  If you join me, this will be your time to stretch and learn.  I will be here glad to answer questions if I can and find a link or other way of finding the ansers if I cannot.  I hope to provide encouragement.  You should start by making several small practice pieces (see  link at the top bar on the right to my new page on downloadables and links).  If you just took my classes at G Street you have a good bit of the skills you need already, but make a small practice piece using the techniques you plan for your major quilt.   Take as long as you need for this, and either work exclusively on it, or work on it a little bit every week.  I know it is nice outdoor weather, but you will still want some indoor cooling off time.

Sew happy everyone!  I plan on future blogs to help you in your journey…markers, threads, needles, design, fabrics, battings, surface design and embellishments, machine work, and quilting.  I also hope to create videos to go along with some of this.  Cheers.

Happy Easter and Workshops

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

Happy Easter everyone!  The Lord is Risen!  Above is the banner that my BFF Anita and myself made for Our Savior’s Way Lutheran Church in Ashburn, VA.  You can see this banner in person this coming Easter Sunday at the church.  We added ribbon streamers with brass bells on each side of the banner so it rings happily as it is moved down the aisle.  there are three dimensional embroidered butterflies and the lilies are in-the-hoop embroideries I did.  Anita painted the lamb and I added its curly fur when I did a light bit of quilting.  This banner is technically a quilt, although the batting is extremely light (Hobb’s Thermore Ultralight), and really is more like a soft interfacing.  But it really does not have the loft a quilt would normally have.  Still it needed a bit of very light quilting to keep the layers hanging nicely together over the years we anticipate it being used.  So I stitched around all the appliques, added some curly fur on the lamb, and did some glory rays coming from the cross.  We shared the making and stitching of appliques, and Anita made the background with the hills and beautiful fabric we found for the sky.  I did the final batting,  facing, edge stitching, and quilting.  We are hoping the church enjoys the banner for many years.

So now that I have my Fabric Arts Workshop 1 on applique techniques behind me, we have finished the banner, and I have now prepared the kits for Workshop 2 on quilting with feed dogs up and optionally a walking foot.  I am well along to getting the kits for Workshop 3 on organic free motion quilting done, and I still am a little bit behind on preparations for Workshop 4 on Ruler Work for a Sitdown Machine, but I have a month to get that done.

Once I complete all the Workshop preparations I will joyfully return to making show quilts, and taking pictures along the way for use in my books.  I’m really looking forward to getting to that point.  Several months back I felt nearly buried with things I had to do and was a bit overwhelmed, and I am now having much more fun in my studio.  I really appreciate the assistance my BFF (aka my “apprentice”) Anita has provided to help me get unburied.  Just picture a quilter buried under stacks of fabrics, threads, battings, deadlines, and paper and a friend comes along and rescues her.  That’s Anita.  In return, I continue to teach her what I know and help her with her own projects.  Plus we have a lot of fun gabbing.  She’s the same age I am and we have a lot in common.  Meanwhile Mei-Ling Huang, my other BFF who is also my Bernina dealer, has also been helping me get the pieces together for my kits, and David, my youngest has picked up much of the things around the house I had to do.

So God bless you all!  Sew happy! Take time to be creative and enjoy your work.

Adventures and Misadventures in My Studio

Wow, what a week in my studio. It was full of both frustrations and accomplishments.  So I thought the picture above, which is something resulting from one of my playful edits in one of my digital art software programs seems about right.  LOL

So anyway, this week I realized I am only a few weeks away from my first quilted art workshop at G Street Fabrics in Rockville Maryland.  April 12th!  Yikes!  It’s almost here and I’m not ready!  Well, I know what I’m going to teach, because I have given this class once before, and I have the kits figured out…but I frantically found the bag I had left over from the last class to see if I have enough pieces to make any kits at all for the class.  I put together five finished ones ready for use, three that are partially finished, and I need ten altogether.  Yes, it’s just a little class of not more than eight students and not less than three.  Sew I make ten kits..eight for the students, one for me to use in demonstration, and one for oopsies.

A frantic text to my friend Mei-Ling, who is the Bernina dealer there and with whom I am running the class, solved the problem of missing pieces.  She has the thread.  She has the needles.  I shopped my stash and found I have the fabric.  I can print off the handouts.  SO all I need now is time.  Well, in truth, I can do all the things I have left to do for workshop 1 in one day.  I’ll tackle that early next week.  And then I must put together kits for 2, 3, and 4, but they are less difficult and take less time.

There is also the Easter banner my friend Anita and I are making for the church.  It seemed to be progressing very slowly for a while, and I was feeling a little frustrated, but yesterday we got the main top or front together and it is looking fabulous.  We just need to stitch down the embroideries, which are large sets of lilies I edited from an old design and stitched out in the hoop.  There are two sets and each set took about five hours to stitch out, but they look really good.  There were some odd skips of stitching and missed outlines, probably resulting from the wrong setting on pull compensation and other editing errors on my part, but I took them to the machine and free motion stitched the repairs and corrections…so they look great.  We have them glue-basted on to the banner and all we have to do is zig zag them on with monopoly.  The cross, the lamb, and the little applqued banner at the top are all on.  And yes, I will be taking pictures and posting them here for you to see.

So I have been trying to solve the problems related to making instructional videos for posting on YouTube and to give a little taste of some of the things in my Bernina V8 book, Twelve Skill-Building Projects for Bernina V8.  I also want to develop a series of videos on quilting using both my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm and my Bernina domestic machines.

So I had first to learn to use the software…that was and is a challenge.  But I have succeeded in making several test videos now.  Then I couldn’t get the software to connect to my microphone, but today, I finally figured out where to find the setting on my computer to allow this to happen.  Eureka!

The first voiced video showing how to take a simple design and turn it into a really pretty wreath design on Bernina V8 is really quite funny,  I am thinking I will leave in all my mistakes and backups and fixes along the way because it shows how to overcome things and is much more amusing too.  In the end I managed to crash my computer and will have to take it up again and edit the pieces together.  Gosh I wonder how hard it is to add additional RAM (random access memory), which is what I need to not crash the computer.  I thought I had plenty in my current machine, but when it gets into making videos coupled with advanced software like Bernina, it isn’t quite enough.  Oh sigh.

Anyway, when I finish this first demo I will put a link here so you can find it if you are interested.  Even if you don’t have Bernina software you may find it funny enough to watch it.

Sew now I’m going to work on the sample for my fourth workshop, which is on ruler work with a sitdown machine.

I am so looking forward to getting the workshops prepared, the Easter banner done, and getting back to making quilts.

Sew happy everyone!  Stay tuned for future videos.  Also, would you like a podcast about once every couple of weeks?  I think it would probably be just me talking to you, but once in a while might include a guest?  Let me know.

 

Digital Fabric Arts Adventures

Background fabric design for use in upcoming quilt

This has been a busy and interesting month so far, and the end of the month promises to be just as unique.  First of all, I want to tell you about the background fabric piece pictured above.  I spent some time (more than a forty hour week) painting this design I wanted to use for a background, to which I will be adding a lot of objects, including trees, rocks, train trestle, train, steam clouds as appliques.  But I painted it digitally in Corel Painter and sent it off to be printed full size by Fabrics on Demand, which has a wide selection of fabrics and does a good job.  I’ve used them before.

So after about a week I got word that they had printed the fabric and shipped it.  I waited, waited, decided I would have to contact them because it had been weeks and no fabric.  In the meantime, we had a snow week, with an 11 inch snow followed by very cold weather.  Then we had a thaw.  Just as I was about to contact the company, my son brought in a wet package that he had found on the side of the front porch under a bush.  Yes it was my fabric.  It had apparently been blown off the porch under the bush and covered in snow and ice.  We might not have found it until even later if the cold weather had continued.

The fabric was in a plastic envelope and carefully packed, but it was totally soaked.  I washed it in the washing machine, thinking that I normally would have hand washed it with Synthrapol detergent, since it was a custom printed piece.  So I wasn’t sure how it would come out.  But it is totally beautiful.  The colors are strong and lovely and the piece is clearly not going to bleed or shrink now as I use it in my quilt.  My friend Anita was amazed at the piece.  She is an artist herself but is new to the fabric art world.  I could tell she is excited to consider that she might be able to turn her art into a piece of fabric. She would have to take a good picture or scan of her art since she doesn’t work digitally in order to get it into fabric in this way, but that works too.

Twelve Skill-Building Projects for Bernina v8

Okay readers, I have been working full-time for several weeks now just to update my Ten Skill-Building Projects for Bernina V7 to a new book for Bernina V8, and I have finished the basic manuscript, sent it to my Beta readers, and designed the cover.  I am looking to have this out by the end of February.  So if you have either V7 or V8, I think you will find working through the projects of these books will provide you with a solid understanding or improvement in your use the software to go forward and make some wonderful in-the-hoop embroidery designs.  You can make what you want for your projects.  These books are designed so if you work through the book the later projects build on what you learn in the earlier projects.  Additionally, you will end up with some fun small items…mug rugs, a color wheel, a needle book, and a bunch of nice designs to use in other ways.

I’m very happy to be more or less finished with this Bernina software books project.  I have more or less been working on this for several years now.  It’s not that the projects are that hard, it was the difficulty of figuring out what should be presented and in what order to help fabric artist that still has the program in the box or has only used it a little because it was a little confusing, or that may not know how much is really there.  It is an amazing software…almost magical.  It has tools to help you get where you need to be, but it does not do a good job of telling you what tools are there.  The reference manual is well presented, but you may not know what you don’t know and you don’t know where to look.  The books are not exhaustive in covering all the tools, but they are enough to give you a real feel for what you can do with the software.

Just as I neared the finish of the first book for V7, Bernina came out with the updated V8, so I put it aside.  But my dear friend Mei-Ling Huang, who is also my Bernina dealer, encouraged me to go ahead and put out the V7 book, because there are a lot of sewists out there still using that software.  And then she pushed me a little to also write the updated V8 version.  I truly don’t think these books would be finished without her encouragement.

Sew now that I have completed these two projects and have gotten my fabrics for the next several show quilts and workshop samplers and kits, I have to straighten up this studio!  It’s a mess!

I’m so excited about the work I have in store for the future.  I made a list of things and put a date I wanted to get them done by, just so I can figure what I need to work on next and next and next.  Let’s get to quilting and embroidering!

I also am thinking about what book I should write next.  I have found that self-publishing through Amazon KDP is not too difficult for me to manage.  I want to get what I know out for people to use. I have learned a great deal in the past sixty plus years of sewing and art work.  Maybe the next one will focus on surface design and embellishment.  I have won several prizes at major shows based on my work in this field.  But I have to get to quilting first.  Just need…to….quilt!

Sew happy everyone!  There’s a fabulous bunch of tools and supplies out there to make some wonderful fabric art.  Teach someone to sew or quilt or try something new yourself!

A Book, Christmas, and Thoughts about 2019

Hi Gentle Readers.  I hope you are having a lot of fun and sometimes actually managing to get into your studio or wherever  and play or write, or whatever you do for enjoyment and relaxation.  I have almost gotten my book Ten Skill-Building Projects for Bernina v7 Effectiveness ready to publish.  I still have to take two photographs and insert them, plus come up with the cover and the front material.  Sew I’m thinking this will be available sometime in January 2019 for you to purchase from Amazon.  I am self-publishing this book through Amazon’s KDP print on demand company with the valuable assistance of my sons and daughter-in-law.  It is about 90 pages long and jam packed full of illustrations and step-by-step instructions that, if you do them all, will leave you with considerable improvement in your proficiency in digitizing in-the-hoop embroidery in this software.

Yes, I know that v8 is already out.  But one of my best friends convinced me that there are enough people still using the v7 design software, or that have it and never could figure it out, that it is worth publishing anyway.  And then…I plan on doing an updated book for Bernina v8.  Hopefully, I can get that out before they come out with v9!!!

Formatting the book for publication to KDP specifications has taken me considerable time, but it is mostly done.  I hope to completely finish and do a final read over by the end of the year at the very least.  Maybe somebody will buy it.  That would really make me happy.  And yes, I have permission from Bernina to do this.  Well, actually, they said I don’t need their permission as long as I don’t claim it is through Bernina that I am doing this.  But not wanting to get into trouble with one of my favorite companies I asked.

Believe it or not I am ready for Christmas.  I have all my shopping done, and David (my youngest son) and I got all the decorations up already.  There have been years I didn’t get them up until the day before Christmas Eve, back when Marvin was alive and we did a lot of singing for Christmas.  Some years when the kids were small, and we did a lot of singing, we didn’t get our Christmas shopping done until a few days before Christmas.  Back then, at least, the malls had great sales at that time and we found everything we wanted despite the lateness of the time.  Now I just do it all online and it saves enormous time.

Memories float up as I open the Christmas decorations and the time approaches to celebrate the Lord’s birth.  Marvin and my parents have all departed this earth along with many of my favorite cousins, and all my twelve uncles and aunts. So it is a sweet time of happy musical memories, full of sparkle and light.  I fully believe in the hereafter you see, and sometimes believe I can feel their presence too.  I love Christmas and its memories.  My kids live nearby and my only grandchild, Kevin, is 15 this year and he is nearby too.  I am truly blessed.

I have started to wonder what 2019 will bring for Betty Jo’s Fabric Arts.  I know I have four workshops I am going to teach at G Street Fabrics in April and May.  I am going to Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival in late February/early March, and I have plans for other books and other quilts.  I have “Night on the Bayou” in Road to California in January, and I have entered that one and “The Wizard’s Duel” in several additional shows, so we will see what happens there.

I am thinking of giving up competition quilting in 2020.  I have spent much time and effort doing these quilts and won a few ribbons, learned a huge amount, and want to share what I have learned.  I get frustrated when I get annoying or confusing feedback from the judges, and also when I get great feedback and no ribbon.  Both happen.  I don’t blame the judges.  They are faced with a huge job and little time to do it in. I have gotten some wonderful feedback that helped me improve a quilt or my next quilt too.  I still have not won a really top ribbon yet.  That is kind of a goal of mine I would still love to reach.  At this point, I normally (but not quite always) get into the shows I enter, and I sometimes win a lower level ribbon.  Is it still worth it to spend the time, money, shipping, anxiety, and so forth entering shows, or should I concentrate on writing and making quilts and samples for the books and maybe even come up with some that will sell?  I don’t know.  I have a few more show quilts I want to make, and will decide then, or I may just veer off and make quilts I would love to make that are really off the wall and only enter them if they end up something that might really work and not if they are not there.  I also am making a bed quilt for my bed.  It’s high time I get rid of that old box store coverlet I have had for decades.

I am already experimenting with a variety of additional techniques that can help me produce some interesting looks…like yarn and cord couching, 12 wt thread stitching, developing quilts using some of those fabulous fabric panels, and seeing if I can make my digitized in-the-hoop embroidery produce some unusual things…three dimensional insects or animals, for instance…or maybe needle punched bears roaming a deep woods, or discover ways to use my machine in other ways to create hand looks.  But what would I do with it if I don’t compete?!!!

Sew happy everyone!  Take your work to the next dimension and have fun doing it!  Merry Christmas!!!!!