New Machine, Managing Stash

Quilting on my 830 in my studio

OK gentle readers, many of you already know that I had a major crash of my wonderful old Bernina 830 LE (Gibbs).  I had it for eight years.  I used it a huge amount, especially since my full time retirement at the first of 2012…hours and hours.  It suddenly had problems in the bobbin area and I took it to my terrific Bernina tech Lew.  He is one of the best  He gave it a full service and adjusted a few things and got it back to work, for all of five minutes after getting home (it stitched out a nice couple of test stitching pieces at the store beautifully).  So I took it back and he managed to get it working again. 

I came home and got my little Bob Ross Cherrywood Fabric challenge quilt completed.  Then I made a shirt for my son for his sci-fi/fantasy writers’ conference down in Chattanooga where he is now.  But I made it on my little Bernina 350, which I use for taking with me places.  I also use it for several specialty sewing techniques and attachments I don’t particularly want to use on the big machine, like needle punch and the ruffler.  But I was wanting to give it a good little workout (machines are better if they are used at least a little bit, but perhaps not as much as I used Gibbs…LOL). 

Sew I got down to the top stitching around the edge and buttonholes.  I decided to do those on Gibbs.  First of all, all three of the thread sensors said I had problems with my thread and bobbin, so I turned them off.  Then the auto buttonholer messed up several buttonholes.  I managed to get the messup out (hard to do if you have ever tried it), and I used the manual buttonhole buttons to complete them.  Then I tried to do the topstitching.  I got three stitches along and Gibbs hung up (like before) with the gears of death.  I cleaned it, rethreaded and oiled it and tried again…again, the gears of death.  Just to make sure, I rethreaded it one more time and still got the gears of death.  I concluded that Gibbs has reached the end of its professional life. Even if Lew got it going again, it would not take the high level of work I put on my machines any longer.  Lew had told me that he thought there were signs that the mother board was failing, in addition to the bobbin case hook assembly probably needs to be replaced, he was pretty sure .  I am fairly certain he was right.

Well Gibbs, thank you for waiting until Bernina offered a great trade in deal for all 830s and 820s, and in the month they also are including a great package of gifts with it and a 60 month with no interest.  I traded for a Bernina 880 plus, which I will likely get in a couple of weeks from now.  It was a fortuitous timing on Gibbs’ part.  In human terms I think Gibbs was probably approaching 100 if you think about the hours and number stitches I have put on that machine….LOL…of course, that is just speculating.  Lew said I had an exceptionally large number of stitches on the machine.

* * * * * * * * *

So while I’m waiting I decided to address my huge studio storage of my stash and notions issue that has gotten increasingly messy and overfilled in the past five years since I did this last.  My dear friend Anita, who is an artist in her own right, and my student/apprentice came over and helped me for a full day of sorting through the fabrics.

We threw away two big bags of unusable scraps, filled another big bag for Anita to take away, go through and keep what she wants, and get rid of the rest somewhere.  But of course we didn’t finish.  She is coming back tomorrow afternoon for another session. 

Today, I am going through my threads and organizing those as much as possible, and sorting through my clothing and accessory patterns to try to reduce my three and a half filing cabines full of patterns I have collected for at least the past 15 years.  I want to eliminate enough patterns so I only fill one filing cabinet with them.  Then I can use them to store things like stabilizers, interfacings, other notions, and bag making supplies.  I have a lot of these things…Sigh.  So that will empty several of the drawers in my oak cabinet that I want to use for really special fabrics like my silks, satins, and so forth. 

It is my hope to end up with empty storage spaces.  This way, I can maybe even keep things in order for at least the next five years (I’m a realist…I know this will have to be repeated sometime down the road).

This way, when the new machines comes home, we can launch right into productivity.  I was really upset at the expense right at first, but now I believe the new machine will be a great blessing.  I developed many of my techniques on Gibbs and pretty much literally wore it out.  I now have a Bernina Q20 for my quilting and free motion embroidery.  I will still be using the new machine for feed dogs up quilting and zig-zag free motion, which can be done with the new BSR that is included in the package.  I suspect the old one I had with Gibbs, which goes back with him, is near being worn out itself.  It also comes with a new embroidery module and the old one goes back with Gibbs.

Sew I will likely be able to use the new machine for much longer if I don’t trade it in for the next top of the line in four or five years from now–which I might–since I have split off the major part of the quilting to my Q20 and some specialty attachments and activities to my B350.  I suspect there are a lot of new advances I will also like.  Despite my disappointment over Gibbs, I am really getting excited about this refreshment of my studio all ready for new quilts, book and workshop samples, and a few other projects.

Sew happy everyone!  May your stitches be beautiful and your machines work without problems for years and years. 

 

When Projects Go Awry

One of my wonderful mom’s favorite jingles was a song taken from an old movie that was as old as I am.  It was You gotta stick to it tivity:  You’re gonna do all right, you’re gonna do all right.  She sang that to me when things I was trying to accomplish needed more work or went really awry. I can still hear her from time to time singing to me from heaven.  😀  I did see that movie, So Dear to My Heart sometime in my childhood and remember it a bit.

5" x 5" fabric greeting card or mug rug

A little heart mug rug…just showing it because this story touches my heart strings.

It didn’t seem like it at the time, but over the years I realized her singing that little jingle to me repeatedly was a gift that has served me well across the years, and most recently in my quilting.  While working on the past several quilts I have had things go awry rather badly and I thought it may be the end for both of those quilt projects.

Just this week, I started embroidering an element on my Hoffman Challenge 16 quilt and took extra care to place it perfectly along the cross hairs with my brand new laser cross hair light.  It was stitching wonderfully, until I looked at it and….

Gasp!  I had put the hoop on sideways!  Oh no.  The element was turned a perfect 90 degrees wrong.  I stopped the embroidery machine immediately, but it had already stitched quite a lot.  I don’t know why I didn’t see it before I did.

Well, I honestly wasn’t sure I would be able to fix it.  Machine embroidery is very much harder to remove than ordinary machine stitching.

073

So I started the process with my stitch remover and tweezers and realized I was simply not making any significant progress and I had put a small hole in the fabric. So I thought I would not be able to repair this quilt.  But I was wrong.

I decided the next morning to research what other people do when this happens and found a couple of videos on you tube of people using a hand held shaver and and another with an electric shaver-like device to remove such embroidery from the bobbin side.  Someone noted in the comments that it was a regular small razor, which is what it appeared to me to be also.  I bought a “Peanut” razor by Wahl, which is a very small palm sized razor and significantly less expensive than the embroidery specific razor.

peanut razor

It came and I successfully removed the embroidery with no further damage to the fabric.  Woohoo! I turned it to the back, braced it on my sewing ham to give it a solid rounded basis and shaved the bobbin side holding the razor kind of upside down as shown in the videos.  I didn’t think it did anything until I turned it over and scratched at the embroidery with my tweezers, and it started coming up!  It took me a couple of hours, but it all came and left no further damage than the small hole I made earlier.

So yesterday I starched and ironed the area and restitched the embroidery off quilt on nylon veiling, which I will applique on.  It will cover the small damage to the fabric with no problem and it looks wonderful.

This event follows on the heels of my completing Drawing Nigh which I just finished after having multiple problems and nearly giving up on it more than once.

Sew this is what I think.  It is all right to abandon a project, but if you have spent hours and money on it, it can pay you to try to fix it.  You may want to step back from it for a while and give it some thought. Do some research on what you can do to fix a problem you may not know how to fix, and keep on trying through one problem after another.  If, in the end, you just can’t fix it to look like you want, you may be able to cut part of it into another project,  or simply throw it away.  But i suggest you don’t do that until you really try to fix it. You may end up with a wonderful end result.

Sew happy everyone and “stick to it tivity: you’re gonna be all right!”

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“Waiting…” 2: Finally Moving Along

Have you ever had a quilt that struggled with you to the point you nearly abandoned it?  Well, that was the second in my “Waiting…” series, but I picked it up and did some substantial fixing, and now I am at the point of coming close to finishing the top and I love it at this point.

First of all, I pieced a storm at sea section to become part of the ocean.  The piecing was challenging, but enjoyable and I liked the way it came out. Here are the first two blocks of that section.first two blocks

When I put it together with the fabric piece had for the rest of the ocean, and added the sky, the whole background piece seemed disjointed and the colors simply didn’t play well. So I took the ocean off the sky and overdyed the ocean (both pieces joined together) with a more sea-like color and they blended beautifully together.  The only negative result is that, even though I hand dyed it, the pieced storm-at-sea blocks’ seams tended to fray together, so I no longer had the nice flat open pressed seams I started with.  But really, by the time I spent several hours re-flattening and spray starching the sea, it looks wonderful.

But the sky…oh the sky.  It was just too dull and gray and lifeless.  I wanted a sky with an obviously approaching storm at sunset, just as the clipper ship can be seen on the horizon.  This is to add the drama to the story…can the ship make it into port safely, and will the family be reunited and get into shelter before the storm hits?

I had tried painting that sky three times already, and I didn’t like any of them.  So I took the one I liked the best and added clouds, lightening, sunset colors, and yes, I think it now has the drama (and color) I was hoping to add.  So I put the sky and the ocean back together.

Here is a quick pic of the ocean after I dyed it and got it back together with the sky.

Here is a quick pic of the ocean after I dyed it and got it back together with the sky.

Then I added the cliffs to the left of the picture and it began to look right.  I just put in a lighthouse on the top of the farthest away visible cliff, added the rocky steps and the stone platform in the nearest  stony area for the woman and her daughter to stand on and surrounded it with stones as it would be.  It has made all the difference.  I now finally like the quilt top.

But I was not happy with the original clipper ship I had chosen to use.  I am using a Dover high-definition painted ship and I have the collection.  They are much more beautiful than I could have made from scratch, and I don’t mind using commercially printed fabrics, so why should I mind using a fabric I print myself from a collection of great nautical paintings.  Using this still requires considerable advanced techniques in applique, thread work, and quilting.

tall ship

The ship I decided not to use.

The ship I'm using.

The ship I’m using.

So I hunted through the collection and found another one, which I printed out about five different sizes, and finally got it about right.  I like this one. It has life, the sails are billowing and are a better color.  I’m slightly leaning it on the quilt to add to the look of speed.  I printed it out both on the EQ regular cotton fabric and the EQ lawn.  I am appliqueing the whole ship down from the cotton fabric, and have added wool batting to the back of the front sails and will applique those in place to give it a bit of 3D billowing sales.  I am also adding a layer of wool batting behind the ship and trapuntoing it all in place.  Then I will stitch the rigging.   That will probably take me a couple of days to applique and another stretch of time to do the quilting and stitch the rigging.  Here is my machine stitching around the stones and stone steps up to the platform where the woman and her daughter will stand.

top under construction

Then there will be the stirring up of the sea with some Angelina fibers and some thread work.  That will be fun.

Sew happy everyone!  Wishing you all a wonderful National Quilting weekend, and a happy Palm Sunday on the morrow.

The Waiting… Series of Quilts and Other News

Waiting...

Waiting…

I just sold Waiting… yesterday.  It has been hanging in G Street Fabrics Bernina section for about a month now, along with a couple of my other quilts I have decided to sell. I love this quilt.  It took me over a year to make (off and on…probably about six months full time).  I sent it through several national shows, and used it a bit for my show and tell trunk shows, but the judges thought the borders were too wide and so forth.  I actually agree with them now, but I will tell you that feedback to me personally from people who have seen it was the most positive of any quilt I have made before or since.  Several people–even men–have actually wept over the quilt, as did the buyer.

The one-on-one responses have been so strong that I decided to make a whole series of quilts based on the heart-tugging circumstance of women (and some children) waiting at home for their men to return from war or other dangerous and totally necessary jobs down through history.  The women faced difficult and sometimes dangerous lives while their husbands were gone, and many kept the home going, raised their children, and fed their families while their husbands went and came back from their important jobs. Or they did not come back!  Currently, I am working on the second in the series.  This will be very similar to the one above, except the borders are different, or non -existent, and the woman is a little better dressed and has her daughter with her.  The ship is going to be better also, I hope, and there will be a distant light house.  I have been working hard to get the sky and sea fabrics right, and I think I have finally done that, so I am constructing the top and trying to come up with a name.

It is hard for me to sell my quilts.  I put a lot of myself into them.  But it is also an honor when someone loves one so much that they buy it.  I am so happy it is going to a couple who love it and told me personally they are planning to cherish it and pass it down to their family.  I need the money, I need the space in my home for more quilts, and I need to sell more quilts for these reasons.

Day before yesterday I took down my online shop where I had my quilts for sale because it was getting no response and I had originally been told that they were going to have downloadable product capabilities by the end of last year. They have changed that apparently.  So yesterday while I was investigating different ways to sell my quilts and downloadables I got the call from G Street.  I’ll leave the other two quilts at G Street for a little longer and then maybe make some changes.  They are beautiful, but don’t have the same emotional tug, so we’ll see what happens.  They are:

Quiet Celebration

Quiet Celebration, Second Place winner in Hoffman Challenge 2011 in its category and also shown in Ireland, and

 

The Storyteller

The Storyteller, Hoffman Challenge 2013

Sew happy, everyone!  Go make yourself some art for your walls.  By the way, I haven’t forgotten the idea of a quilt work-along that I advanced some weeks back.  I’m working on the pattern now.  Also, I am working on samples for my first book.