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.

 

 

 

 

 

Fall Is In the Air

Color Swirl by Kevin Tatum (my grandson) using Corel Painter.

Ever since I was in High School, which was a long long time ago, I have gotten excited when I started thinking about fall and winter sewing and quilting.  This year is no exception.  In fact, having just reorganized my fabric, thread, paint, and notions stashes, and purchased a new Bernina 880 Plus, I am more excited than usual about the projects I have before me this year.

One of the things I always like about going through my studio to sort things out is finding pieces of fabric I had forgotten about or had at least pushed to the back of my to do list.  This is for both clothes and quilts.

When I cleared up my studio this year, I also went through my clothing patterns, pruning out about 75 percent of my old patterns and keeping only those that seem right for me now.  The remaining patterns and fabrics for clothes on hand are inspiring me  to think about making some new clothes. My wardrobe really needs an update too.

When I bought my new machine, I got it at a time when they were providing a gift that includes new feet, some machine luggage, additional embroidery motifs for use in the hoop and a variety of other neat things.  I was able to exchange some of the feet that duplicated those I already had for some new ones.  So now I have a lot of feet that are inspiring ideas for using interesting techniques.

Remember when I talk about all  the things I have found in my studio, I have been sewing since I was five years old and I am 72. I retired in 2012 to be a full time fabric artist.  So some of the things have been hiding for a while from me in some of the closets, in boxes under my bed, and even in plain sight…LOL.  I feel very blessed.  Because of all the things I recently rediscovered stashed away I don’t have to buy anything new for most of the projects I want to make.  I did restock some threads and paints that I anticipate needing.  So I have resolved to myself that for the next year I will attempt to do m work without new stuff.  Now I want to make:

  • a new bag, in leather (I now have feet for use with leather and vinyl and some leather).
  • a new suit, in black denim (I have a stash that includes a fair amount of denim) with embroidery
  • a blue denim jacket
  • a new dress suit in wool with a silk top to go with it
  • a new jacket in raw silk, maybe 2 since I have 2 nice pieces
  • several new tops and use some heirloom techniques  (I have a nice collection of feet to use for this now) and embroider some of them.
  • I also want to make several new show and utility quilts.

It is fairly certain that  I won’t get all of this done this year, but it’s nice to have them on the list to pick from as I do have time.

Clearly I have an exciting and busy time ahead that will last well beyond fall and winter, and I have already started.  I will have to plan my days in order to fit other important things into my life.  I’m excited!  I’m sure the nicely rearrangement of my studio, and my wonderful fleet of machines will help me accomplish a great deal of these projects though.  So I won’t have to buy any new clothes for fall through spring either. I don’t have much in the way of summer fabrics, unless I use my quilting cottons.  LOL

Oh, and last year I made a new dressy overcoat with a “fur” collar using some of the fabrics on hand.  It’s warm and cosy.  So I really do complete a lot of these dream projects.

Messy work table with coat pieces


Progress Report on My Mom’s Memory Quilt

I have made a good start on my Mom’s memory quilt, which is going to also be a show quilt, but I have a long ways to go on it.  It has a large pentagon in the middle of it on which I am appliqueing her needle work.  The pentagon fabric is a lovely medium blue dupioni that sets off the beauty of her crocheted lace.  It’s a pentagon because I thought I only had five of the ten inch squares I found in her work basket, but during the reorganization I found a sixth square.  It’s a slightly different shade of crochet thread, though, so I will find something neat to do with that one.  The color difference is probably why it was in a separate  place.  There are  some more crocheted items, but they don’t work with this quilt.

I had no idea how difficult it would be to make a perfect pentagon that has 21 inch sides.  It was a challenge.  A good friend of mine sent me a Corel Draw pattern for one to print in tiled sheets and taped together.  I thought that it would then be easy to get it right, but putting the tiles together that way gave many opportunities for slight variations in the shape.  I had to try it several times until I got it right, but finally succeeded when I started using a lot of rulers to help.

So yesterday I cut out the freezer paper pentagon, cut out the fabric, and then glue basted the edges down.  I checked the edges for straightness and measurements.  It’s very good.  the sixteenth of an inch off I had on the paper pattern disappeared as I worked the fabric from it.  I love how it looks.  I placed the crocheted pieces around  it in a way that forms a star in the middle, just laying them down to see how it looked for now.  (No pictures until its debut show, whatever that will be).

It is in many ways a gift to my Mom. It would be so much fun if she were still here to show it to her, but I am having a lovely time making it while thinking about all the great things she taught me and the lovely things she made herself. She did not quilt, but she was a real expert seamstress.  She has been gone now  twenty years, but sometimes I think she is nearby.

Sew happy everyone!  What are your planned projects for this fall and winter?

 

 

 

Making Samplers

I am writing a book on embellishment techniques and have a plethora of samplers to make for this book.  I will also be using examples from some of my show quilts.  One of the projects in my book includes  several samplers teaching how to make trees using couching and a variety of interesting decorative threadwork.The starry night in the winter forest scene above is almost complete.  I still have to bind it and add hot fix crystals in the sky.  But I thought I would show you what I have on this little sampler, which I stitched on with no premarking.  This is such a fun activity to just sit down with a small quilt sandwich and play.  Initially I had planned just to practice and test some tree making in preparation for this sampler, but I liked it and decided to just trim it down and make it one of the samplers.

  • The two front larger trees are couched on sport weight yarns using a couching foot #43 on my Bernina Q20 and white 100 weight Microquilter by Superior Threads with Bottom Line in the bobbin. (Q20 settings: net on the cone, bobbin tension 180 with a magic silicone bobbin washerover the spring, top tension 1.50, threaded across the silicone gadget with the pink liquid, 80/12 universal needle (note…for small thin 100 weight and monopoly threads the universal needles work best, because the top stitching needles I normally use tend to “step on” the thread and break it instantly.  This is true whatever machine you us).
  • The middle tree, though you can’t tell in this picture, is sparkly silver Ricky Tims Razzle Dazzle by Superior that I couched on also with the couching foot #43 using a silver Superior metallic thread in the top (same settings except top tension is 3.0 and needle is 90/14 titanium top stitch Superior).
  • Then I free motion stitched the two smaller back trees using Aurifil 12 weight wool/acrylic blend thread and a 100/18 top stitch needle (Bottom line bobbin set as above, top tension 3.0, spi 9, bsr1,  100/18 top stitch titanium Superior neeedle, threaded as normal, stitched slowly, use a tooth cleaning threader to thread the aurifil thread through the take up bar hole and the needle).  Clean and oil your machine after using wool blend thread.
  • After that, I free motion stitched with Superior metallic thread the lines showing the hilly shapes, ruler stitched the moon shape, and painted the moon with Setacolor paints.
  • Then I used 100 weight black Microquilter (set as in the first dot section) and did a simple stipple all over the quilt and outlined the trees.

I encourage you to try such a sampler.  It can make either a neat Christmas decoration once all the crystals are placed on it, or you could add a halloween pumpkin or owl applique for Halloween.



Progress on Mom’s memory quilt:

Now that I have it all designed, I decided I had to make a sampler to practice everything especially on the satin part of the quilt where I will have pictographs of flowers, birds, and embroidered items that are related to Mom’s interests.

So I managed to get all the marks out of the test piece when I used the heat away pen after a four hour soak and a cold water wash in Synthrapol and finally a reironing to take away the last of the marks, which were very light at this point.  I then refroze it thinking they would come back but they did not.  I will retest this on the sampler when I am finished with it.  This is the kind of treatments you have to do when your fabrics or thread colors bleed onto your quilt, so I do not recommend the use of these pens except in very rare circumstances and after much testing.  I plan on making a decorative pillow for my bed with this sampler.

Sew I thought the hardest part would be to quilt the pictographs, but I found that to be really fun and, while time consuming, they were fairly easy to do at a slow stitch with my Q20 using BSR1, spi 12, and Magnifico 40 wt thread by Superior, and a 90/14 top stitch titanium needle with top tension 3.5 and bottom line in the bobbin at 180 tension.  Now I am working on figuring out the background, but first I will be doing really really tiny scribble stitching for about a quarter inch out from the edges of all the pictographs with 100 wt thread to set them apart and make them look like trapunto.

I am using a double bat on this quilt (80/20 thin bottom and wool on top), a cotton backing, a beefy polyester crepe backed satin and two colors of polyester dupioni.  But the only pictograph quilting is only on the ivory satin.  Here are the sampler pictographs.  I think it is coming along really well, but I am puzzled about what kind of background I am going to put on the white.  I am thinking of using walking foot stitching with some simple decorative stitches on my 880 plus in some kind of grid work, but I am not sure yet.  One thing at a time on this project. LOL  It’s hard to see in this picture, and it looks like there is more problem with fabric management than there is, but here is the sampler so far.

Sew happy everyone!  Take some time to play on some samplers that you might want to use or just throw out later.  It gives you the freedom to try things you might be hesitant to do on a full quilt project.  Cheers.

 

Exciting New Beginnings

So I’m excited.  Bernina came through and replaced the original Bernina 880 Plus with a new one.  I will get it either Tuesday or Saturday next, depending on several factors.  So I have been working on preparing to start a new show quilt, which is my Mom’s memory quilt incorporating her pieces of crocheted lace I found in her work basket and have held on to for the past 20 years.  It’s time.  I have completed the design, which really took me days and days and days, and have printed it out full size and taped it together (that’s a project, believe me).  It is one of my biggest…59″ x 59″ and will be satin and dupioni and include painting and beads, and ……well, we will see as I go along.

I will also finish my appliqued bed quilt I started a while back using a Sue Nickels pattern I bought from her at MAQF a couple  of years ago.  And clothes…I have tons of fabrics for fall, winter, and early spring clothing and the best patterns I kept from my pattern pruning when I reorganized my studio.

I also have to complete the sampler for my fall workshop on embellishment.

Sew let the sewing begin!   Did I say I am so excited?

Sew happy everyone.  It’s time to start sewing for fall, winter, Christmas, and next year’s shows.

An Organized Functional Studio…Waiting for Machine…Then What?

My computer work station in my studio with colorful bubbles. This is where I do my design work mostly.

This is an odd point in my fabric arts career.  I am between projects and without a main sewing machine as I await my new Bernina 880 Plus to arrive.  It will be another week or two at least.  I still have my little B 350 and my wonderful Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm available, but to add to that I do not have a UFO except for my bed quilt that requires the 880 to finish the top appliques.  I could do this on my B350 if I hadn’t already started some of the special touches on the 830, but it would look too different I think on the narrower width stitch area of 5mm vs 9 mm.  So there you are!  Between projects.

And wonder of wonders with the help of my friend Anita I finished organizing my enormous stash of fabrics, threads, and other stuff related to my fabric art work!  The last time I did this was over five years ago.   Here’s a link to a video walthrough of my studio, if you are interested:  Walkthrough

But I do have a lot of ideas and concepts and even a few designs nearly completed for upcoming projects.  And I am SOOOOOO looking forward to my new machine.  Maybe I should complete those nearly finished designs, cut them out in preparation, and also work on my books.  That’s a great idea, except I came down with a little cold yesterday (Sunday July 6) and am sneezing or nose blowing every few minutes.  Sigh.  I absolutely intend to get over it really soon and get back to work!!!  Meanwhile I will look at videos on YouTube and The Quilt Show.

Sew the second half of this year looks to be really fun and maybe a little sparkly.  You all KNOW how I love sparkly things.  Here’s a sparkly fashion show that makes me think a black and gold and sparkly quilt would be really fun to make!  Fashion Show

Sew happy everyone!  Get your studio sorted out and have some FUN!  You’ll be amazed what you find stashed away in the corner of that shelf.

 

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. 

 

Workshops, Quilt Plans and Start!

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

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

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

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Coming up with a plan

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

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

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

Join Me in Making a Major Quilt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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