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

 

 

Sew Happy with My New Machine

I have been blessed with a really fine new Bernina 880 Plus, aka Odette.  I have been doing a lot of work with the machine since I got it all settled down and I learned its little ins and outs.

I have been working on a quilt in  memory of my Mom.  Mom was a great beauty, a fabulous sewist. a woodworker, had been a nurse, and a home decorator.  She was a wonderful mother and wife during her life.  She taught me to sew and knit. This quilt is a hug and a bow to her sparkling memory.  I’m really enjoying working on it as I remember all the wonderful things she taught me and shared with me.

Mom (Zephana Bivens) in her woodshop at 78.

So my design for Mom’s memory quilt has a considerable amount of in-the-hoop embroidery in it.  Some of the embroidery designs came with my new machine, were some I had purchased or collected  in the past, and two of them I purchased just for this quilt.  In spite of when I got them, all the designs are from OESD and are amazingly well digitized and have stitched out wonderfully on my new machine.  I am so impressed with how beautiful the stitches are, how they don’t overly pull, and how wonderful they look when done.  I have three more to go, each requiring about two hours to complete.  Then I will sandwich, quilt, paint, wash and block, bind, and add crystals and pearls.

Mom, Dad, and my brother Pat before I was even on the way.

I also have done some additional sewing just to see how the machine works, testing all the attachments.  I got some special feet designed to work with leather and vinyl.  Just this week I bought enough beautiful faux leather to make my youngest son, the writer who shares this house with me, a coat and myself a jacket.  I’m excited about this project.

One of the things that came with my new machine is Bernina’s Big Book of Feet. I have been reading through it while babysitting the embroidery module doing its work.  I find I have most of the feet, since I had a Bernina 830 prior to this one and had collected them across the eight years and I got some new ones that came with the deal.  It’s so exciting when I can do and I will be sewing a lot of clothes and home decorating items over the next year as well as the planned show quilts on my list to explore some of these interesting techniques.  I’m thinking I might make some of the clothes as wearable art and enter them into shows also.  Maybe I will make a few bags and hats too.

Mom and me in May 1967. I am showing off the dress I made.

How exciting!  Will I get it all done?  Probably not, but it will be fun trying.  After nearly three months of working to get a good new machine following the breakdown of my 830, and another couple of weeks learning Odette’s ins and outs, I have concluded I have the best machine I have ever had.  It sews evenly, beautifully, and smoothly.  I foresee many years of exciting new projects ahead. Knock on wood!  LOL

I’m currently writing a book about embellishment that will include several sampler projects, just to fill in my spare time…hahahaha.  (Also, I am going to teach a class at G Street sometime in November on embellishment).

Embellish This! workshop sampler for November 2019 class.

Sew happy everyone!  Take time to learn what your machine can do.  Even some of the more basic machines will help you do some remarkable work if you take the time to explore it, but especially if you have a more advanced machine….take that time to read the manual, and try some new techniques to enhance your sewing.  It will give you lots of happiness in the process and with the items you make.

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.