Fine Tuning Fabric Art: Applique Styles

Hi all y’all.  Do you enjoy applique or do you only use it when there is absolutely no other way to get the look you want?  I was surprised several years ago when I attended a major quilter’s class and she introduced me as an applique-er.  After thinking about it, I think she is mostly right.  I thoroughly enjoy applique of several artistic techniques. I select the technique by their complexity, the kinds of fabrics I am using, and the style I want to show.  These include:=

  1. fused or glued stitched raw edge
  2. placed and held in place by veiling and then free motion stitched down.
  3. turned edge glued and blind stitched by machine
  4. applipieced/pieceliqued
  5. In-the-hoop applique

For complex edges, especially, my favorite technique is stitched raw edge applique.  This is where I fuse it down and stitch along the edge using either a narrow vari-overlock stitch (like a hem stitch but it has fewer stitches between the zig-zag stitch) with a Superior monopoly thread or a 100 weight polyester or silk matching thread so it basically disappears. Narrow blanket stitch also works well.  I don’t particularly like zig zag for this, but I know some who do. I also found I cannot get a good result for complex appliques without some kind of adhesive use along the edges.

The Announcer, the Horse, and Bird appliques From Canterbury Knight are all stitched fused edge appliques hand painted by me.

To show off the edges I very much like the blanket stitch using decorative thread picked to show.  I don’t see a difference when doing this using raw edge or turned edge appliques, because the edge is covered with the thread.  The blanket stitch may be either a double blanket stitch if you REALLY want to see it, or a single using a heavier 12 weight thread so it highlights the edges.  This is a particularly good approach if you are having problems with your applique not showing up well because you chose to use fabrics that are close in value or color.  Sometimes I have found it very difficult to carry out the design I have in my head with a clear value difference between the applique and the background. I also can fix this problem with a hidden edge applique technique combined with a straight stitch outline stitched along the edge in a contrasting color decorative thread.

Dad’s House Plan. The house and roof of this quilt were turned edge machine stitched appliqued in most places.

For less complex shapes, I have found the turned edge with the vari-overlock narrow stitch with monopoly or matching 100 weight thread looks very close to turned edge hand stitched applique.  In my case, the machine stitched looks much better.  haha. If you don’t have a vari-overlock stitch on your machine, it is very similar to the blind hem stitch that nearly all today’s machines have in their utility stitch set, it just has more straight stitches between the zigs or zags, so making the stitches shorter overcomes that problem.  I start by turning the edges around either a piece of lightweight interfacing that is going to stay in place, or a freezer paper shape ironed to the back.  I usually find that just grocery store starch I paint on with a small stencil brush works well to hold the turn in place, and then remove the freezer paper before gluing it in place to the background.  One can glue it however, with washable glue sticks, and a lot of applique-ers do that.

Here we have a complex edge that I have starched the turn over with starch onto freezer paper. The next step would be to remove the freezer paper, turn it over and stitch it in place onto the background fabric. You might want to iron the turn down a little more after removing the paper.

When I am making one of my deep space quilts, I make the “gas cloud” that surrounds and plays throughout a galaxy from hot fix angelina fibers.  These fibers only stick to themselves and flatten out into a sort of fabric so they don’t stick to the background fabric.  You can’t use a fusible web with it because it shows, nor can you use glue because even if it dries clear you can still see it through the clouds.  So I cover it with black nylon veil and just free motion stitch it into place.  I may pin it a few times, but I don’t even like to do that, because the holes remain if you happen to hit it just wrong.  So I just have to hold it in place and stabilize it with a little of the stitching before I do the free motion embroidery-like quilting. I think this method would work well for a net or lacy applique also.

Sky Horse photographed by Ken Tatum

And then for piecing together areas like adding mountains or suns or other large parts of a pictorial quilt, there is applipiece (Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry’s term) or piecelique (Sharon Schamber’s term) where the piecing is done using turned edge applque stitched  (as described above under “less complex shapes”) from the top by machine usually using monopoly or very light weight thread and the vari-overlock or blanket stitch and then cutting the area joined from the back down to a little less than a quarter inch seam.  The complex edges require snipping into the edge periodically to facilitate the turning around the shapes).  This is one of my favorite methods when creating a pictorial or other free style design background.

The Storyteller, a Hoffman Challenge piece where the entire background was applipieced/pieceliqued together.

In the hoop applique requires “a whole nother” set of activities and skills beginning with digitizing your design in software or purchasing a commercial embroidery design.  I use this occasionally, but not often.  It usually uses satin edge stitch to sew down the appliques, though it sometimes uses blanket stitch.  If I am going to use satin edge I try to do this in the hoop because the satin stitch can then be digitized to have beautiful miters and properly angled stitching, which is really difficult just using the satin stitch outside the hoop.  It is possible to get a nice satin stitched edge for simple shapes with care in regular nonhoop stitching though.  Then you can add additional decorative stitching in-the-hoop for nice results.

5″ x 5″ fabric greeting card or mug rug in the hoop

You can read more about this method in my book Twelve Skill-Building Projects for Bernina V8.

That pretty much covers the methods I use for applique.  I am using stitched raw edge applique that has been attached with Steam-a-Seam 2 for my wool applique by machine.  First I am stitching it down with monopoly and then I am doing the decorative stitching around the edges and inside the appliques.  This means I can use the decorative stitches to make the look I want without worrying about whether or not the stitch catches the edge of the wool applique, which I find a big advantage.

Detail showing some of the stitching on my practice wool piece

Sew happy everyone!  Put on some good music or an audiobook and start with a small applique project.  It is fun, but it does require some time to get it right.  Still, by machine is faster, or at least less problematic for arthritic hands than by hand, however beautiful it is.

 

 

Simple Shapes for My Wool Project

Sew earlier this week I got everything ready to make my first video and then discovered I was missing a cord to connect the little monitor I need to my Sony Handicam camera.  Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t think identifying cords needed in the computer world is the easiest thing to do,  Thank GOODNESS I have my own family geek squad.  Hahaha.  My son David helped me to identify what I needed and looked through our huge collection of cords, but we didn’t have the right one.  So I ordered it and it is supposed to come today. If it comes, I hope then to get my first video on YouTube sometime next week.  I don’t know how long this whole video making and editing will take me, but my tentative plan is to put one up a week at first.

Sew I got all ready to make the first item for my book/video wool project.  It is called “Simple Shapes” and it is a small wall hanging, and I really invite you to join me in making one yourself.  I will be providing all kinds of help here and even videos demonstrating it.

For several years now I have had an Accuquilt Go! cutter, and have, over the years, collected a fair number of their dies.  I find the dies are wonderful for this particular kind of project, and also I cut all my bindings and borders on it.  It’s much more accurate than I am…LOL.

I also use it to cut my 8 inch blocks I use for cuddle quilts.  I used it when I work with my grandson, who made a couple of simple quilts with my help several years ago, and he was able to cut his own quilt pieces safely.  It’s just a very helpful tool in my studio.  Yesterday it took me only about half an hour to cut out all the pieces I need for this, and most of that time was because I am backing them with Steam-a-Seam  fusible before I cut them, and I had to get that ironed on.  This makes the wool feed through the cutter so nicely and hold the pieces nicely in place.  I have other methods to do this too, but this one is my favorite.

However, if you don’t have a cutting machine and don’t want to buy one right now but want to follow along with me and try your own hand at wool applique by machine, I have made a pdf pattern with simple shapes that you can download and use.  You can find the pdf file on my Aids and Links page on this blog (see the links at the top of this blog).  I know you could draw your own, but why bother, since I have them all put together in the free pattern. They are not necessarily the same as those on my dies, but close enough.

Sew I cut out a bunch of shapes from fun several colors of the wool felt I talked about in my last blog.  As I promised, I also looked around and found you can get satisfactory quality sets from Amazon if you want to make one of these wall hangings yourself.  I would love to see you join me in this fun project. I recommend you get four sets and you will have enough for several projects. Just click on the links below.

I also found a melton wool blend in black that would make a nice background, or you can use a nice solid color quilting cotton for the background. If you get a single yard the wool, it is large enough to make two or even three small wool projects, because these are small little jewels of projects and the yard is 58 inches wide. These would make nice Christmas or other celebration presents.

Sew now that I have all these simple shapes cut out  I will arrange them in a flower arrangement of some sort.  Follow this blog in the future to see what to do.  Note that I also cut some stems and vines about 1/4 inches wide and some leasves shaped from the felt that are not on my pdf but I did use the stems and leaves die on the Accuquilt site also.

I will talk more about what to do with all these shapes in future blogs, but you might guess if you look again at my last blog where I show a lot of the test piece I did.  I will be demonstrating this on my video, assuming I am successful in getting that done.  LOL  I will be linking to my video in my next blog probably.

Test and practice piece

Sew happy everyone!  Teach someone to sew or quilt or at least encourage sewists and other fabric wizards you know.  Even the most advanced folks need encouragement.  Sending you all hugs!

Wool Applique and Other Things

Hi dear readers.  I am pretty excited because I have finally gotten a good start on my wool applique project and have made a decision about what I will work on for my secondary project.

Test and practice piece I made to make some decisions before starting the actual project.

So today I pulled together all the pieces I have had around the studio for a while that are available for my wool project.  I was pleased to find my packages of felt that I had bought some years ago are fine melton wool felt .  These are mostly two unused packages of a variety of colors I bought them from Nancy’s Notions probably 7 or 8 years ago and they are in wonderful shape. They don’t have these now, so I recommend Sue Spargo sets such as the blue set or the red set I highlighted available on Amazon.

Here are the melton wool pieces I will be using for this project. The background reddish brown piece is richer in color than it appears in this picture. It is one of the new pieces I ordered from a tailoring supply place in California. The smaller precuts were purchased years ago in multicolored packs and are also melton wool felt.

I have several gorgeous melton wool pieces in one yard cuts that I ordered about a month ago.  Since the wool applique projects I am making for my book and videos are small, these 60 inch wide one yard cuts will make two or even three of the projects background pieces, a test piece, and are likely to have small leftover bits that can be added to the smaller pieces for the appliques.

Detail showing some of the decorative stitching.

I have also been identifying where to find the supplies for people who want to make these projects themselves.  I will share those with you at some later point once I figure it all out.

A detail from the test piece showing how well the applique is stitched on by machine with almost no visibility of the stitches.

I have some interesting hand woven placemats I bought somewhere sometime years ago and decided they were not going to work for placements for me, but they were really interesting handwoven look.  I don’t know the fiber content though I think it is cotton and wool, and I can’t even remember when or where I bought them. I washed and dried them by machine and they came out in good shape.  They will be an interesting addition for appliques I can use in the future or for the show quilt I am planning on making at the end of the great wool project.  Before I cut them out, they will have to be backed with interfacing and/or Steam-a-Seam fusible, which kind of acts as a stabilizer and will keep them from fraying.  I will show those to you when I figure where and how to use them.

Additional detail stitching. I am saving a library of these stitches as I have them set in the files on my Bernina 880 Plus. I have had this machine for about a year now and the more I use it the better I like it. It’s amazing.

Sew I have made a couple of decisions  for studio activities for the future.  I plan on making a new deep space quilt as my second project to work on for when I need a break from the wool project.

Spiral Galaxy No. 3 one of my deep space quilts.

I always want two projects going at once to give my mind and sewing muscles differing things to do from time to time.  The neat thing is that deep space quilts are made almost entirely free motion with angelina fibers, a little bit of painting, and hot fix crystals.  That means it will mostly be done in Studio Fritz the room where my Bernina Q20 longarm sitdown machine (Fritz) resides.   While the wool project will mostly be done in Studio Gibbs where my Bernina 880 plus  (Odette) lives and where my cutting/painting/whatever island is.  I also plan a bit of needle punching with my little Bernina 350 for which I have the needle punch attachment. That, too, will be part of my book and video projects.

A Word About the Future of the Craft of Sewing

Okay.  I know I said two decisions.  The second one is to figure out the direction for my work for the future. I decided I don’t want to do online live classes like on Zoom, but I will do some hopefully enjoyable videos and put them on YouTube.  I have been and still am a studio artist and this is my main focus.  I did do some local classes at G Street Fabrics, and was kind of considering entering the larger teaching circuit, but that avenue is no longer available at the moment. I had found it so much work and it barely paid me back for the work and expenses I invested in the classes.  I loved it and glad I had the experience, but I won’t be returning to in person teaching.

While I still very much wish to share what I have learned, I am going to do this by writing books and making videos and perhaps the occasional trunk show if invited.  I will continue to work in my slow way toward these goals.

I don’t know if the quilt shows will fully come back for years.  I am going to still make professional show-quality art quilts, and capture the making of them in videos and blogs and books.  If the in-person shows come back, I will then have some to enter just for fun, but I’m not going to stop making them.  I don’t know what I will do with them beyond that and giving them away here and there or selling one every so often and enjoying them myself.

Don’t worry when you hear of shows closing and people changing their current paths in the quilting or sewing world.  The sky is not falling. There even appears to be some new interest in sewing and quilting brought on by people making masks and experimenting with sewing during the pandemic. Sew if you have the opportunity, teach someone to sew even if it is remotely.  As Becky Thompson on her YouTube Vlog Power Tools with Thread likes to say “Go sew something!”

Looking Forward to Some Sewing and Quilting

Hi y’all.  I have pretty much figured out the video making puzzle and have all the things lined up for that, and now I need to do some additional work on the fabric art projects I am planning to use for my videos before I can start this up.

So, with a lot of happiness, I decided I will spend the whole next week at least just “working” on fabric art.  I will be taking progress photos and probably small snatches of videos as I do this, of course, but mostly I will be playing in my studio with fabrics and threads.  I’m so glad I don’t have a deadline!

The question is, what am I going to work on now?  Well, I have the wool applique by machine project and I also want to start up one of my many planned items I already designed in the free motion/quilting arena.  It should be fun and I hope very soon to share the fun with you in my planned videos on YouTube.

One of the things I have found really fun while I was working on the video equipment was to watch old Sewing with Nancy shows.  I think I have found nearly all of them now to watch on my tv or computer monitor.  Pfaff has put her original older ones on YouTube where she used Pfaff machines (search for Pfaff Talk and you will probably see it there).  They nicely bunched all the parts of a subject into one longer video, which is nice. In searching for “Sewing with Nancy” on my Roku, I also found I could place a PBS link on my Roku that has the Wisconsin PBS collection of her shows they have.  They are organized by season going back to about the time she switched away from Pfaff to the BabyLock that her company owned.  I believe that almost covers her entire production, though there may be more.  There is a huge wealth of great shows between these two sources and I have been having a lot of fun having that on while I worked.  She was an amazing woman who gave us sewists a lot.  I miss her though I only met her briefly once at a quilt show.

Sew I am taking a full break today.  I sold one of my two cars yesterday to one of those companies that buys cars, because we were having trouble keeping the battery charged and running since we used it so little.  They gave me a fairly good deal on it.  Both my son and I work from home and we simply don’t need more than one car between us.

That was an almost surreal adventure.  I found I had a flat tire when I got there. It drove fine all the way there except I had noticed a little bumpiness at one point that I chalked up to the road. David was driving the car I sold, and on the way the EZPass in that car decided it was time for the battery to quit working and he had to stop and pay the toll with a credit card, and then I got there and realized I had left my wallet behind!  I never do that.  But I had put it down to grab my mask and forgot to pick it back up.  So we got the AAA to come and fix the tire, which apparently is not damaged in any way, and we discovered the other car had a low tire too!  Odd, don’t you think?  Suspicious?  He pumped up that tire too, which also did not appear to be damaged and David drove me back to pick up my wallet and we went back and completed the sale.  It was trying and tiring, but we came home all safe and sound.

Sew after a tough week that also included having my dishwasher die and getting a new one installed on Wednesday, as well as the real work of figuring out all that video equipment, and then to be topped off with the difficult day yesterday, I decided to just goof off today and pick up again tomorrow after church (I watch our church service online, even singing the songs, giving the responses aloud, and so forth. That helps make it more real).

Despite it all, this difficult week ends up with a nice new dishwasher, a check for the car, and my video equipment and methods figured out and ready to use with charged batteries and downloaded manuals on how to use the equipment, and I even made progress on learning the editing software.  Thank the Lord!

Sew happy everyone!  I’m really ready for some time playing with fabric and threads.  How about you?

 

 

A Notebook with Fabric Samples on Projects

I have sometimes seen on tv shows about history, costumes, or fashion development books from history that hold samples of fabrics used for interesting events or proposed for historic figures. They make me want to spend some time with them pouring over the interesting or beautiful fabrics. I recently saw a show “Stitches in Time” on Britbox streaming where such books were used in research to better understand clothing from the past and recreate a costume.

This got me to thinking about how, as a fabric artist, I have also made some attempt, albeit not suffiicient, at keeping such records as I work through my more advanced projects.

Here is a couple of pages from my notebook where I kept the records of my projets over several years. I recently filled it up and started a new one.  I did not use all these fabrics in this project, which was my quilt “Pendragon”, but my son had given me the fabrics for the project and I wanted to keep a record of all of them.

Pendragon, 34 x 45, this quilt was exhibited in several major shows and won some ribbons, including 3rd place in AQS Paducah (Fall) and was shown in Houston IQF

It is a delight to me to look back through these project pages, especially for those that were particularly successful.  I wish I had used more pages and put larger fabric samples .  Indeed, I am now adding larger samples for my current projects. Not all of them have fabric samples, but I find myself wishing I had added them.  Something to enjoy in years to come and pass to my family in the end, who may decide to pass it on to the trash bin (but I won’t mind at that point), or who may find it a lovely memory. Perhaps some anthropologist centuries from now may also find this intriguing, especially if the resulting projects are still around.  LOL I laugh in amusement, but the researchers from the show were looking at record books hundreds of years old with samples of fabrics trying to match them to paintings or actual aged garments. Sew it does seem likely that at least some of my work will be around long after I have gone from the earth.

1890 embroidered wool (origin unknown)

Keeping records as I make these projects is not only interesting, it is very helpful to me.  In the notebook I also put a lot of information as I go, such as stitch settings and a step by step list of things I need to do.  Then I can refer back to them if I put the project aside for a while and return to it or when I make a companion quilt, as I am planning to do for Pendragon.  I hope to begin on Excalibur this year.

Such records are also useful for me as I am writing books and blogging about quilted and embellished fabric art. It is my hope to get one of these out this year.

Sew happy everyone!  I encourage you to make a record with samples of the fabric along with information about the fabrics. It’s not a waste of time, doesn’t take very long, and can actually save you time in future projects if you make notes along the way of your project near the fabric samples.

 

What I Do to Make Thread Behave Better, Part 1

I just saw it again on social media from a quilter that has had a high end machine for two years that should bring them a lot of happiness but they cannot get the thread to stop breaking and therefore don’t use it much.  Often it is thread nests, or thread shreaddings.  Sew I decided to talk about this a little bit.  In my humble opinion, most machines, and particularly high end machines, should be able to use nearly any type of quality thread designed for machine stitching.  Note I did not say any brand, but rather any type. The owner should not have to find the thread that works for the machine, but the machine should work with the thread.  I think there is much that can be done to make this happen.

Sew today we have a range of really fine threads to go with our really fine machines accompanied by really fine needles.  Sew what’s the problem?  This is what I think and have experienced in my own studio.  I have a Bernina Q20 longarm set up as a sitdown, a Bernina 880 plus, and a little Bernina 350 (plus an older BabyLock serger and a vintage White that I am not including in this discussion today).  So I will be talking about these, since that is what I have, but I suspect there is a correllating set of steps and considerations for your own machines that you can take.  Your manual and YouTube videos can be very helpful for those, especially if you know what you are looking for.

One of my chief points I like to make is that it is important to test.  Test your setup before starting a project. Make a sample sandwich from more or less the same fabrics and battings. or prepare a test piece of fabric you are using for sewing or embroidery, and test everything first.  Then keep it close to periodically test if things go awry.  This can be a very important tool for you.  If you serge, or otherwise finish the edge, and put a large ring in the corner, you can hang this up or keep them together.  Be sure to make notes of settings and products you used right on the fabric for future reference.

Before you begin any project, you should pay attention to matching the needles with the threads and the tensions with the thread types.  Most of the better thread manufacturers have advice either right on the spools or on their websites as to what needles work best.  It’s a good place to start, but may not always be the answer for what you are working on.  Usually it is, however.

One thing to remember is that there are a lot of variables that can negatively affect our sewing that we may not think about on a daily basis and have nothing to do with the overall quality of our machines.  These may include

  • humidity and heat,
  • batting types,
  • adhesives, interfacings, stabilizers,
  • lint caught in the thread path or the bobbin holder that may not be apparent when we do a standard clean and oil,
  • a faulty needle,
  • a little bur or damage on the foot,
  • a damaged/bent bobbin
  • a well used bobbin brake spring that just needs to be replaced,
  • the tension settings for both the top and the bobbin not set correctly for the thread,
  • a bad spool or cone of thread even from a reputable dealer (it happens and usually they will replace it if you let them know),
  • and our own mood or health at the time.

I’m sure there are things I havent thought of in this list, but you see there are a lot of things that can make us have a frustrating sewing or quilting day.

Let’s take a look the Q20 sitdown longarm for starters.

Preparing to practice some ruler work on Fritz, my Bernina Q20

I have heard that some dealers appear to mistakenly tell their customers that they should never ever in any circumstancs change the bobbon tension from the recommended 220 for the Qs.  My own dealer is wonderful and does not do this.  This is decidedly poor advice, especially for a longarm such as the Bernina Q20 sitdown, especially if we use any kind of bobbin thread other than 50 weight cotton.  For the most part, I have found over the past four years of working with my machine that 220 is USUALLY too tight. Here is a little chart I worked out that works for my machine.

Here’s my chart. You should make your own that works for you, but you might want to start here.

If you conduct your own testing that will let you know if it works for your setup.  Sometimes adjustments need to be made to this chart depending on the weather, the batting and other variables. Making notes is really helpful.

Thread Management in the Q20

I keep on hand the following things to assist with thread management:

  1. thread nets for cones. I didn’t originally use these, but recently I find I have much fewer problems if I use a thread net.  I do note that Wonderfil threads have an alternative wrap for their cones that I have not yet tried.
  2. the horizontal spool holder to allow for use of stacked thread spools (when the spool is wound so it is evenly stacked rather than cross wound).

    horizontal spool holder is usually an additional attachment you have to purchase.

     

    Here is the spoolholder installed

     

  3. the pink liquid for the little applicator sponge in the threading path originally intended for metallic threads.  I find it also helps if I am having problems with thread shredding of, for instance, rayons.

    This little bottle is usually included in the purchase of your machine. It is a silicone thread lubricant and is tiny but goes a long ways.

     

    thread lubrication path on my Bernina Q20.

     

  4. Dritz sewer’s aid. It’s probably the same thing as the pink liquid, since it is a silicone thread lubricant, but it can be used more generously directly on a spool or cone without sendng the thread through the applicator sponge thread path.  I don’t use it in my machine’s little sponge just because it may be a slightly different weight or something.
  5. A package of M sized bobbin genies. This is really helpful if you are having problems with thread nests on the back due to static electricity.  I originally learned about this from Sharon Schamber.
  6. I like to keep a spare bobbin brake spring I order through my dealer, a spare bobbin case, and a spare threader replacement head all on hand.  Maybe there are other parts I should have but I don’t know about.  I have had my machine for four years of heavy use and these are the only parts I have had a problem with so far other than having to have my BSR laser sensors replaced early on.
  7. And a selection of the following needles:
    • Topstitch titanium needles (I prefer Superior brand, but Schmetz and Bernina are also ok) sizes 70/10, 80/12,90/14, 100/16
    • universal 70/10 and 80/12
    • Quilting needle 80/12, and 90/14.
    • I also have a collection of specialty needles, like leather needles or double needles in different widths for playful quilting fun. Note that you must have the double needle throat plate to use the double needles.

      Twin needle stitch plate

       

  8. A can of compressed air to blow clean the bobbin area and the brush.  The top area should be cleaned with a brush according to Bernina, but the bobbin area is ok to use the compressed air and it makes a big difference.
  9. Bernina machine oil
  10. I also have the multifunction tool that came with my Bernina 830 that I traded in for my 880 plus, which has another one, because I particularly like the way it helps me hold the needle in place while I screw it in.  You can buy this tool at the dealers, or here online, and there are other generic tools on the market that perform this function (a threader gadget has a needle holder end to it

    8 series multi-function tool..handy for more than the 8s

     

  11. The bobbin tension gauge (it’s made by Towa). If you don’t have this, you should have received it with your machine, so go to your dealer and ask for it.  Here’s a little video link to help you use it correctly, although Nina McVeigh, whom I admire very much, is saying the tension should be 220 always.  I hate to disagree with the extremely talented Nina, but trust me, the tension needs to play with your thread types.  Using the gauge

As you look at this list, you may figure out that when things go awry (and yes, they do for me too from time to time, but far less often than they did at first) that I have a selection of things to try beyond changing the needle and cleaning and oiling the machine.  I usually manage to quilt a full quilt now with no thread issues).

Steps to Take When You Are Having Problems

  1. Unthread the machine and check the spool/cone to see if by chance the thread is catching on the spool itself or there is a flawed area in the winding of the thread you can see.
  2. If it is a cone, make sure it has a net.
  3. If it is metallic, run it through the lubrication path after adding a drop of lubricant on the sponge.
  4. If it is monopoly run it through the lubrication path to help control this lively thread.
  5. It’s really important that the top tension and bobbin tension match the threads you are using.  The neat thing about the q20 machine is that it has a set of four programs where you can store your settings for the different types of threads for the top.
  6. Check the needle.  Is it the right one for your thread? If you run your fingers down the needle and across the tip carefully, you can sometimes detect that there is a bur or bend on the needle.  But this is not a guarantee you will find it if there is some kind of flaw.  You may need to change your needle even if it is new. Replace the needle using a needle holder to help assure it is fully up in place. Just holding it with your fingers can sometimes not get it quite fully engaged upward.
  7. Remove the bobbin and blow out the bobbin area, then oil the machine carefully.  Double check especially if you have been using monopoly recently.  It can tangle around things like it is alive sometimes and you can’t see it without a magnifier and flashlight!
  8. Run a needle around the workings of the bobbin case to see if there is a wad of lint caught in the case…I have had that happen and it can bring things to a frustrating point.
  9. Check your bobbin case brake spring. Is it in the proper place? Is it upside down? Is it wearing out (flattening or with a bur).  I had a very difficult to diagnose problem happen about a month ago with terrible thread nests on the back.  I finally replaced the brake spring and it has been working wonderfully ever since. I never did see what was wrong with it.
  10. Examine your bobbin to see if it is bent or damaged in anyway. This is especially important if you are a klutz like myself and drop your bobbins on the floor or if you have had it for years and used it for many miles of stitching.
  11. Run your bobbin through the  tension guage to make sure it is still set correctly for your thread weight.  It can change over time, especially if you do hours of quilting and everything heats up.
  12. Replace your bobbin.
  13. Check both the front and the back of your piece to make sure the tension is ok on both sides.  It’s a good test to put a different color in the bobbon of the same type of thread you will be using and test it to see if you have any tension problems showing up or down that don’t show when your threads are the same color.  Note that I have surrendered to the metallic threads.  I put a matching thread color (some polyesters look metallic) in the bobbin.  I have sometimes been totally unable to get the tensions set with a metallic so there are no little dots showing on the back.  I have also been successful from time to time with getting it right. I have to think it might be a batting issue. It doesn’t stop me from using metallics, however.  I may even put a metallic in the bobbin, which works fine.
  14. Run a length of tooth floss through the upper thread path slowly and carefully to pull out anything that doesn’t belong you don’t find with just brushing it out.
  15. Check your foot for damages.  I one time had constant breakages and then tried a different foot.  They stopped.  Upon close examination, I found the foot that has had many many miles of use had a bur on it.  I sanded it with an emory board and it works fine now.
  16. Remember to have the foot up when rethreading…a real necessity to make it all seat into the thread path correctly.
  17. Put it all back together and do some test stitching.  Make notes of any setting changes you had to do to get things right.

I realize this is really a long post and I still haven’t discussed working with my sewing machines.  Although a lot of the same things apply, I wanted to get more specific for them.  So I will break this blog into two parts.  Next week I will talk about solving thread problems in sewing machines.

 

 

 

 

 

Repurposing Sewing Patterns and Die Cut Shapes

Hi readers!  Yes, I am done with my mom’s memory quilt except for completing the hand sewing on of the butterflies.  They are taking a while.  I am very pleased with the quilt both front and back now, and if there is no show to enter it into this fall, I will go ahead and post pictures of it, which I have yet to take. But for now I am hoping to enter it first into the Mancuso show in Pennsylvania in September.

I was chatting with a friend of mine this week and we agreed that we both need new summer clothes…simple tops and simple pants made from pretty durable fabrics.  I took a look at the pattern sites and was horrified at all the ruffles and dresses straight out of the hippy Woodstock era that are definately not for me. But I did find just what I wanted in my own pattern stash and I realized some of them are still available online.  It might surprise you but I found a couple of particularly nice patterns in the “uniform/scrub” category.  I purchased McCall’s M6473.

Here is the pattern made up into scrubs.

But in looking at the line drawings accompanying the pattern, I realized they are exactly what I was looking for and, made in the right fabrics and adding some embellishments I would have the summer patterns I wanted…quick, easy, and stylish.  These are just right for my daily life.  Take a look.

The pants have a dual waistband with a smooth front and elastic sides and back and really fun pockets. All three versions of the top are perfect canvases for some interesting fancy stitches, embroidery or appliques to spice them up. These tunics are nice and loose but not pregnancy tops.

I also found in my pattern stash a Simplicity pattern I have had for some time, Simplicity 2371, that has a lot of the same characteristics, though I think the scrub pants are a little better.  I will do all the size testing/fixing on the scrubs slacks and make a couple of pair of those out of some nice sturdy knit fabrics I have for that purpose that I bought at least over a year ago.  But I will probably make some version of the long leeved tunic on th Simplicity pattern.

The Simplicity pattern from my stash. Note the pants have a simple full elastic waist and no pockets…not what I wanted exactly. But the long sleeve tunic provides a suggestion for the embellishment. I would be adding something more.

Now as I was browsing through my pattern stash I saw a plethora of bag patterns, my vintage pattern collection, and some really gorgeous jackets and suits for dressier, colder times.  I have the fabric for most of that too.  Yes, my clothing stash, though carefully trimmed, is still quite wonderful.  I will make at least one nice winter suit for this year, but mostly I am still losing weight, but not very fast, still…I want to save some of the nicer fabrics for later.  I already have some really nice summer dressier clothes.  Some of these I made and some I bought and I have kept them pretty much altered to my size as I have gone down.  So mostly I need casual summer clothes for daily wear in my studio and some nicer pieces for fall and winter.

Sew all of this clothing sewing I will fit in here and there between my quilting projects.

This made me think about how I was going to approach my wool applique project.  I have a lot of Accucut Go! dies with flowers, leaves, birds and animals, and decorative shapes.  I think I will simply cut out a lot of them in multiple colors after I back the small wool and other similar pieces  I have with a fusible and play around with making a hands on design.  Many of these have patterns with them and were designed for specific things, but I am breaking up the sets and making a bowl full of these pieces.  I also need to figure out some vines and stems, and I am thinking I may have to draw up another animal shape or two.  This should be a fun project and will result in a small sampler, a book, and a show quilt.

Sew you see, you don’t have to use the patterns or pieces like the original designer intended, and you can often find just what you want by opening your creative mind and looking further at the designs and giving them some thought.

So next I will start two new quilting projects…the wool applique one and a more complex art quilt design in one of my ongoing series.  This second half of the year promises to be much more fun than the first half.  I am hoping and praying that in spite of the darkness of the hour in the country, the light will begin to shine through and clear away the dark.  Like the hymn that has been buzzing around my head for at least a week “Morning has broken, like the first morning…”  Remember, morning starts at the darkest part of the 24 hours.

Sew happy everyone!  Make yourself something fun just for you.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Making Christmas Presents…A Comedy of Errors

OK gentle readers, I have completed making four in-the-hoop zip bags using this OESD design, and adding my own embroidery between step three and step four for both Christmas presents and me.  They are generally fairly easy to make, and they all came out just wonderfully.  But I made a comedy of errors while I was making them, to the point that it was downright funny.  Do you ever have days like that in your studio?

OESD’s Zippered pouches…their picture.

Thank goodness, all the errors I made were easy to fix.  Here’s my funny list each error only done once:

  • I forgot to open the zipper on one bag and had to undo the edge seam (while still in the hoop) and move the zipper pull (I opened just a small amount and caught the zipper pull with one of my old dull rippers and pushed it to the center.  Worked great), then I backed up the digital in-the-hoop program so that it restitched the edge seam.
  • I forgot to put the handle into the seam before stitching the back to the front.  I unstitched the seam as I did in the first error and put the handle in the seam and then backed up the program so it restitched the edge seam.
  • I got the back lining that I was stitching in with the back on the inside, so when I turned it the pretty cotton lining was on the outside.  I decided it really looked great that way and left it.  The lining is not suggested in their design, but I decided to add it just to the back.  The front is folded over and provides its own lining that way.
  • I got the zipper pull too close to the edge when I opened the zipper and broke a needle when it went by, or rather didn’t go by.  Sigh.  I replaced the needle, found all the broken needle pieces and moved the zipper pull further toward the center and restitched.

So how many zipper bags did I make?  four.  Did each one have an error?  Yes, listed above. Did they all come out nice…yes!!!

But really, these zipper bags are easy to make…just don’t forget anything.  I should have made a list and checked it off.  I suggest you do that.  I know I will for future little projects like this.

Ok, now I am ready to do the few other small Chistmas gifts I am planning on making, although I might make another one just for me. Maybe I should go back to quilting and just send Christmas cards only, or maybe I’ll quit for the day and hope I get my head on straight tomorrow.  LOL

Sew happy everyone!  Merry Christmas one and all.

Upcoming Fun Events and the “Leather” Coat Project

Hi everybody!  I have several items of news, which some of you already know about if you read by Facebook posts, but I’ll tell you anyway.

First of all my Embellish This! workshop at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, MD suffered a delay because on my way to the planned workshop my car quit running.  I was on the toll road and right at an exit that went downhill, which was quite a good thing since I was able to coast off the exit ramp onto a generous grassy side and was completely out of harms way.  Turns out it was some kind of air hose had come disconnected for no known reason and that was all.  But the nice AAA tow truck rescuer towed the car and gave me a ride all the way back to my preferred car repair place and they fixed it for nothing and did the annual checkup at the same time, which revealed I needed new brake pads and a new belt of some kind.  I did get those fixed the next day.  So the new class date is now December 15 and there are still places left, and I would like to fill them.  A full class is a happy class!  This class will be totally fun and result in a top that could be made into a nice wall hanging or pillow for a Christmas present and leaves you with a lot of knowledge of the techniques needed to embellish your projects.

Embellish This! workshop sampler for December 2019 class.

Secondly, I have been, as you know from my past several blogs, making a faux leather, aka “leather” coat for my youngest son David, who is a big and tall man of noble stature.  You can read the past two blogs to get an idea of what this entails, but I will say that it has been the hardest thing I have ever made in my entire sixty plus years of sewing!  And no, it wasn’t difficult just because it is “leather”.  The “leather is fairly easy to sew with, but it is black and slightly shiny and you can’t take anything out if the stitches are going to show.  But I had made the Frankenpattern from three patterns and then did a substantial amount of size changing.

I have only got the hems and the buttons to go on this project. I just had a fitting with David and it looks fabulous, fits perfectly, and I am surprised after all the struggle I had getting it right.  Partly it was difficult because it has been decades since I made anything tailored for a man.  Partly it was difficult because some of the pattern needed so much adjusting.  Partly it was difficult because I made several stupid mistakes (probably lack of practice) that resulted in my having to recut the right front piece along with its pocket pieces, and the collar, which didn’t lay properly (I used the Burda pattern collar and it was probably right if I had been working in wool, but it did not work for “leather”, so I remade it.  But anyway, I am down to the hems and buttons and I am happy.  Only one more day of sewing on it and it will be complete.  I discovered it is hard to work on it beyond 4 or 5 pm  because I have to rely a lot on the light coming in my studio window for this black shiny fabric.  Once the light oustide goes down the artificial light makes it simply too hard to see.  This is why I made the mistake on the front pocket that made me have to remake the front and its pocket, and I was too stubborn to stop sewing.  But I learned the hard way…LOL.

And now for the really fun news.  My quilt The Wizards’ Duel got into Road to California quilt show in Ontario, California, which is relatively close to San Diego where my brother Pat and his wife Carol have one of their homes, and where my nephew Whitlow and his family live.  Now since I had to purchase a new machine the middle of this year (you can read about that in several previous blogs..it was necessary) and have had some additional unexpected expenses this year, I told Pat I was unable to come out to see him and go to the show around that time, but that my quilt had gotten into the show.  The next day, he called me back and let me know that Carol and he were going to give me the plane ticket and most of the expenses for the trip for a nice ten day visit with them!  You could have blown me over with a feather!  He and Carol are going to drive us up to Ontario on Wednesday night before the show and stay all day Thursday and the morning of Friday!  They have been to the show themselves whenever I had a quilt in the show and it will really be fun for us to go together!  So I now have the ticket reservations, we managed to get into one of the preferred hotels, and the tickets for the show.  How about all of that?!  What a lovely present from my dear SIL and brother (it was her idea I was told)!

Wizards’ Duel.  Since this picture I have improved the mountainous rocks in the scene per a judge’s suggestion at MAQF.  I then sent it to PA Nat’l Quilt Extravaganza and it won a blue ribbon (Best Interpretation of Theme) and had wonderful comments from the judges.  R2CA will be the third show it will be shown in.  I entered it into several AQS shows but they rejected it from all of them for unknown reasons.  Perhaps I should have had it rephotographed, because the rocks make a difference and the flash made the bottom scroll work too bright.

So in my blog from Nov 2, I so confidently laid out grand plans for November in which I would do a lot of clothing sewing and end up with a refreshment to my wardrobe and David’s coat.  I had thought David’s coat would take about a week and a half, but it has gobbled up all of November.  These things happen, but now I have to decide whether to keep on with the clothing sewing or go back to quilting and fit the clothes in a little at a time across the winter and early spring.  I think I will do a little bit of both, in light of my trip to California and the fact that I have lost a full size over the past year.  If I make one pair of slacks at least I will greatly improve my traveling wardrobe.  I would also benefit if I could fit in a jacket…either the jeans jacket or the faux suede jacket with lots of embroidery.  I’m inclined to do one of those also.  both have embroidery and would be fun to flaunt at the show.  I KNOW they won’t take very long because the patterns are already fitted and don’t require massive refits.  I looked at my wardrobe and figured I can get by with just the slacks addition.  Sew we’ll see.  Nevertheless, I will still make all the items I listed for my November sewing plans but will spread them out over three or so months in between the quilting because I need them.  BUT, I WANT TO FINISH MY MOM’S MEMORY QUILT!!! LOL Not to mention I want to make several additional show quilts for 2020.  We’ll see how it goes.  And don’t forget, I’m working on books.

Sew happy everyone!  Even if you end up having to struggle through a project, make something wonderful for you or your family.  Stretch your sewing and quilting skills a little further.  Send me pictures and I’ll post some of them here if you would like.  Also, you are free to ask me questions if you run into difficulties.  I know a lot (just a fact, not a brag). LOL