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.

 

On Organic Quilting for Landscapes

I always need to work at coming up with how to quilt my landscape and pictorial wall art quilts, as I suspect most quilters do for their quilts.  I went through the recent past couple of years thinking I needed to learn a  more formal quilting style and to avoid the natural flow of organic quilting patterns that came to my mind when looking at a landscape or pictorial quilt.  This probably stemmed from my observations of the details of winning quilts at major quilt shows where the quilter had often used a very formal style of quilting even for pictorial or landscape quilts.  This is a fine way to approach it and probably entered in to the judges’ decisions to award the quilt a ribbon.  But for my quilts, I truly prefer a more organic approach, though I do admit there are places where formal quilt patterns would be in order.

As of this writing, I am currently in the process of quilting my Hoffman Challenge quilt for 2016.  This quilt is heavily appliqued to form a whimsical pictorial quilt of a fantasy forest path with trees, birds, animals, and butterflies.  Since it is so heavily appliqued, it has only small spaces in which to develop any formal types of quilting patterns.  I struggled for some time trying to come up with a good sky pattern for a quilt where the sky is supposed to be sunny and calm…not a lot of wind and no approaching storms.  Believe it or not I found this harder to decide on than I did the “sculptured stormy sky” quilting  that I came up with for Drawing Nigh.

"sculpted sky" quilting pattern for Drawing Nigh

“sculpted sky” quilting sample for Drawing Nigh

In the end, I decided on a simple meander using a 100 weight silk.  It makes the sky recede into the background without implying wind or clouds, and brings the appliques to the foreground, exactly like I wanted.  It’s not perfect (my quilting almost never is), but it seems reasonably good also.

quilting-1-web

This quilt is still in process…for instance, the butterflies don’t have their antenna and beadwork yet. The leaves on the big tree aren’t quilted yet. But this pic shows how the simple meander pushes the sky back where it belongs and brings forth the appliques. I quilted the big tree in a simple bark-like line.

For past quilts, like Noel, I have also struggled to find just the right pattern, or in truth, fill, that maintains the organic feel of the area and still provides enough added interest.  (This quilt won a Honorable Mention in HMQS 2013).

Noel quilting

Mossy side of the cave where the Nativity Scene is pictured within.

For me, it helps my end results to keep it simple, and for these types of quilts the shapes need to be organic and easy to use around complex shapes.  I think every quilter needs to develop their own style that suits them.  I am pretty sure it does not mean that you have less skill if you use organic shapes, although I think some judges think that, but it is an artistic design choice. Some of these organic styles actually require considerably more skill than you may think…for instance large areas of simple meander should be as evenly and appropriately sized for the project as possible, which is not always easy to do.  You also need to figure out if the areas are so large they need breaking up with something for interest sake (wind creatures or clouds, for instance).  I hope that judging is moving toward an understanding of this.  Nevertheless, I think that I will continue along this path, though I do think I should do a formal quilt at some point.  I have something in mind.

Note:  My Bernina sitdown longarm is arriving next week, perhaps Monday, followed by a day of set up and training by my dear Bernina dealer and friend Mei Ling and my magician tech Lew.  I hope very much that this addition to my machine family will not only help my other machines last longer, but provide me with a higher level of quilting.  It seems possible it might also speed up my quilting, since the stitching speed is twice that of my Bernina 830, but that is not a given.  After an enormous reorganization effort of the whole upper flour of my home, I have a wonderful space for the new machine, a nice space for my smaller Koala cabinet where i use my purely domestic machines, and maintained my big cabinet space for my 830 that I also use for cutting clothes and other projects.  This reorg has already brought many positive changes to my studio that I probably should have done earlier.  I’ll post pictures when everything is in place.

Sew happy everyone!  Try some organic free motion quilting for your next landscape scene.

 

Studio Revamp: Throw Away, Give Away, Keep…Repeat

Now that I have ordered my Bernina Q20, I have to prepare a place for it by mid June.  This is a pretty big project, because it involves reorganizing my whole upper level, starting with my bedroom and master bath (there are drawers in there).  I have to eliminate one of my two dressers from my bedroom, move the Koala cabinet where I use my alternative machines into my bedroom where the dresser is now, and finish up with some reduction of fabrics and other assorted junk and a good vacuuming and dusting.

So I have begun by cleaning out the dresser I intend to keep, and I found a whole big black bag of old work things to toss and a bag of things give away in that dresser.  I no longer wear panty hose, business tops, and skirted suits except on very rare occasions.  Back when I worked, wore these everyday.  Now my “uniform” is a long sleeved shirt or top, a pair of jeans, and socks and shoes. So I will keep a few business dress outfits and get rid of the rest.

I have fashion fabrics in under bed storage boxes.  These are currently out in the room and need to be sorted and put back.  There you will find some lovely woolens, silks, and other dressy/business fabrics.  I will probably keep a few and give away the rest.  Every now and then I want to sew some clothing, but I don’t need that much and the clothes I want to make are different for me now.

I should have done this right after I retired in January 2012, and, in fact, I did a little, but I was still attached to things, thinking I would wear them, but I haven’t at all.  I now think they look dowdy, no longer match my coloring, (I have let my hair go natural, with lots of gray and it looks a little blond), and I have a different life style altogether.  So I will be able to do this without a problem…just a lot of work.  And in the end, I will be much happier with my bedroom as well as my studio.

Then if I have time before the machine gets here, I am going to prune my stash down so it all fits in the generous storage units I have for them and give the studio a good cleaning.  My taste in quilting fabrics has changed over the past few years as well.

Sew happy everyone!  Is it time to spring clean your bedroom and studio?  When done well, it helps the work flow for a long time, I think.

Thoughts about Machines

One thing for certain, my kind of fabric work requires a good quality sewing machine, and I need to be able to both embroider and free motion quilt on it a great deal (to a professional level).  Working as I do, I put a lot of stress on my main machine.

On Thursday my wonderful Bernina 830 LE, whose name is Gibbs (after the Gibbs in Wilcox and Gibbs who were historically important in the development of sewing machinery) went berserk in the middle of a simple embroidery stitch-out.  First it started sewing really really fast, which I managed to stop.  Then it started back sewing ok for about 10 stitches, and suddenly there was a “clunk” and the needle stopped going up and down, but the bobbin was spinning at a steady pace.  I tried to stop the embroidery, but the bobbin still spun.  I turned the machine off and on again, and, after a few seconds, the bobbin spun.  I had noticed one time before that it had stitched very fast for no apparent reason, but that was months ago and it stopped after one incident, and I cleaned and oiled it and it went back to sewing ok. I was in shock and actually cried a bit.

Machine appliqueing with very narrow zig zag

Gibbs at work machine appliqueing with very narrow zig zag. Note the Sashiko that I stitched out on Gibbs using the embroidery module.

Sew I don’t know whether it is prohibitively expensive to repair it (in other words, it is “dead”), or whether it is repairable.  I have put about 9 million stitches on it over the course of the past four and a half years, and have used it on average probably more than 25 to 35 hours a week, with some weeks being about 50 or 60 hours. I’m taking it in to the shop on Monday.  I am blessed with a very good Bernina dealership and a first rate tech (Lew) at G Street Fabrics.  It is about an hour from here over heavy traffic, so I only go when I have to.

This comes at a really bad time…not that these things ever are good times…but I had just begun working on building my son Ken’s special quilt design project.  This is something that requires some bits of machine embroidery.  I wanted to complete this very challenging project by mid August so I could enter it into the Pennsylvania National Quilt Festival.

I took Gibbs in for his spa treatment and to fix a minor problem in March, and Lew told me then that I really used that machine hard and should buy a longarm to “share the burden” of all that stitching.  I knew then that I could not even get a longarm in the house even if I could afford one.  But I also started thinking about a sit down longarm.

Yesterday, my oldest son came along with my daughter in law to pick up Kevin, my grandson.  While he was here we all talked about the possibilities.  They know that I have been putting extra effort this year into moving my quilting up a level competitively, and am also working on a couple of books…one on applique for fabric art and one on surface design.  And I have really been making a lot of good progress on all of this. Also, I have limited funds and can’t really afford to buy a new 8 series Bernina or similar machine every four years.  Besides, it interrupts the flow of work when it is out of service.

Sew something needs to be done if I am to continue on this path, which I hope will eventually start making me a bit more money..in fact, it already has, but not enough to pay for a new machine.  It’s a wonderful career for me as I move into my senior years.  I am not the type to not have a career even if I were very wealthy.  It’s the joy of creativity, and I must continue in some fashion.

Yesterday I packed up Gibbs with everything he came with to take it out on Monday, and realized my studio really needs a good cleaning.  So I started that.  I am setting up my Bernina B350 (Edith Claire Head…ECLAIR) and my Bernina 1230 (Betsy Ross…BETSY) and getting them all cleaned and oiled to help me through this crisis.

I know there are a lot of fabric artists out there who do not have a big advanced machine, and they make beautiful fabric art and quilts.  My problem is that I am something of a techie and I have developed paths that take advantage of what these advanced machines can do.  I know I could go back to not having an embroidery machine or a big harp space, but I don’t think that is the right path for me.  So it is a crisis.

I am considering what to do.  I can’t decide, of course, until I know whether or not Gibbs can be repaired, or if I have to replace it.  But even if it can, I need to figure out what to do about the possibility of a sit down longarm to add to my store of machines.  It would be a wonderful addition, and would allow me to use the main machine mostly for quilt top construction.  I do like to use decorative stitching sometimes in my quilting, but it is a small percentage of my quilting and I could still use it for that.  Mostly I do free motion with my Bernina Stitch Regulator. Besides, I think I could do ever better fmq on such a machine.

Sew happy everyone!  I’ll let you know how this goes.  Have a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend!