It’s Spring…Finishing Up the Wool Project!

Here is the finished wool applique by machine prototype.

Hi everybody!  Spring is pushing up the flowers and the trees are leafing out.  The birds have donned their spring mating feathers and are laying eggs and having a spring party.  I have just finished the embellished wool applique by machine final video in which I sandwiched, quilted, and bound the prototype piece. I also added some hot fix pearls to the centers of some of the flowers because I had some left from another project and I thought it needed a little more something.

Here’s the video link:  Wool 3

Here is the downloadable pdf of free motion fills that you may want to use for practice either before you quilt your own wool applique piece or just for free motion practice. This is the only handout for this third video.  So before you quilt your piece, print this out, build yourself a practice sandwich, put on that audio book, and have some fun practicing stitching.

FMQ Basic fills

You will notice that in my video I used the red Bernina Gripper rings to help me in my quilting but I forgot to mention them there.  They really make a big difference in my control, and I don’t have to wear gloves. They are designed for sitdown longarms and sewing machines with a longer harp space.   They have to be purchased directly from a Bernina dealer.  I got mine on sale, but even so they are kind of expensive. You can also get a very similar product by Martelli that are slightly cheaper and you can buy the sizes seperately. They are worth the price, though. Lots of people saw the center front hole on the Martellis rings in a similar fashion to match the Bernina rings, but I don’t know if that is necessary. I have heard that Martelli makes the Bernina rings anyway, so they are almost the same except for the gap in the front and the color.

I would love for you to watch this video, and the others if you haven’t yet. If you made a wool sampler along with me, please send me a picture bettyjo@bjfabricartist.com and I can show them on my blog, if you don’t mind.  Or at least tell me you made one in the comments.

You can use these same techniques I showed on some of those absolutely beautiful commercial patterns intended for hand sewing of wool applique I have seen out there.  My hope is by the fall, I will have some patterns of my own available.  I might even do another video or two on wool applique using my own patterns, but not next.

Keeping the Experimental Quilting Process Going

I am so excited about all of this.  I am finally getting in the swing of working through the design and creative process of the projects in a similar fashion to my show quilting work, and just filming most of what I am doing so I can share it with you.  It has required a fair amount of adjustment to my studio and my thinking, but I believe I will be able to produce some really fun and professional-looking fabric art even while I film the process and I hope you will enjoy it too.

I am planning to do a little show and tell VLOG and talk about my experimental fabric art quilting.  I think you might enjoy it, and it will give you an idea of where I may be headed in the future.

Oh and don’t forget to get my son David’s latest book (if you have a Kindle reader, you can read it for free) and we would be most grateful if you  review it when you are done.

In Division Imperiled (The Law of Swords Book 3) by [David A. Tatum]

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studios!

 

 

 

 

 

A Book, Videos, Sons, and A New Project Idea

 

Books

My youngest son David, the author who shares my home with me and helps me in so many ways, will release a brand new book within a few days.  It’s the third book in his Law of Swords fantasy series.  I have read it and it’s terrific.  Truly, I think each book he writes is better than the last one and this one is no exception.

I am so proud and excited about this because David had to overcome a series of major difficulties (starting with a computer crash that somehow took both his regular data and all his backups in one event that included years of research, databases, and even bunches of writing.  Even the very skilled professional data recoverers were unable to get the data back.  He now has a new and better computer setup with all kinds of backups so it is unlikely to happen again. This and a handful of other obstacles has delayed his books for several years beyond the expected.

Now, though, he is rapidly producing what I am sure are wonderful writings right and left.  There is this book, as well as a requested short story for an anthology are written and nearly out the door, and he is diligently working hard on the second book in his sci-fi space series too with plans of completing that one by the end of the year.  Please wish him well on these endeavors. He is now a full time author without a secondary job so success is imperative. I’ll let you know when the new one is actually available for purchase.

My Videos

With a great deal of assistance from my oldest son Ken, the second in my video series about embellished wool applique by machine, is likely to be published early next week (there will be a blog for that one with a second downloadable handout).

I ask you please to subscribe to my YouTube channel if you haven’t already.  This is a great help to me with YouTube.  I need a minimum of 1000 subscribers and lots and lots of views before I can sign up for the small monetary return to support this work.  If you don’t know, “subscribe” is like “follow” on other sites and doesn’t sign you up for anything more than letting you know the videos are there.  You have to be logged on to Google or YouTube to subscribe and then to make a comment there or ask a question.

Ken is doing the video editing at least until I get my new computer (which has been delayed “because of Covid”).  I hope it gets shipped within a day or so, but in the meantime Ken is editing and publishing my videos for me.  He is so professional at this. I will have to try really hard to match that level when I finally get my computer and take back a lot of this work.  The third video will probably be out about two weeks later.  It is my plan to publish a video about once every two or three weeks for now.

In case you are wondering, all on my own I “film” the parts where I am at the machine and you only see my hands, and Ken helps with the part where you see my face.  Ken has, in fact, set it up so I can eventually do that part of the filming too, but I really like having his directing and filming with his fancy camera.  He does, however, have a job and a family.  LOL But he came to my rescue with microphones and  brackets and lights and instructions and editing.

My Idea for the Next Project

Ok.  The wool applique set will be done soon, so what am I going to do next?  Well, I have a long list of techniques and projects that I am considering on presenting in 2021. Only a few are wool based.  The videos on my YouTube site are and will be continuously free.  However, I am planning on offering downloadable workbooks and sometimes patterns to go with them for a reasonably low price (on my new website shop) that you can purchase to use with the videos.  This will hopefully help underpin the video work, which so far has required considerable investment.

Sew I have given it a lot of thought and decided the next subject will be “Trees”.  This will be really fun, but I leave it to you to wonder…what will BJ do with trees?  Later…I’ll tell you later.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio and try making/learning something new that makes you stretch every now and then.

 

Hand Stitching and Machine Stitching

I hand stitched this little crewel scene using wool threads years ago. It has a special meaning for me because I stitched it during my frequent visits with my mother in the months that lead up to her death in 1998. My youngest son took it and had it framed in a museum quality acid free framing to protect it.

I love both hand and machine stitched fabric art.  I do most, or nearly all my stitching by machine now, but that was not always the case.  I have done some rather beautiful, even if I do say so myself, embroidery, cross stitching, and crewel work by hand.  I used to d0 a lot of hand stitching when I made wedding dresses and couture tailored garments decades ago.  But I am now in my 70s and my hands get really tired in short order when I am doing hand stitching.

Besides that, I have wonderful Berninas that can help me do some remarkable things and I love exploring all they can do.  It seems to me possible to not only get an exquisite handmade look for some fabric art using my machines, but also to do some equally exquisite stitching that is clearly done by machine.

“Canterbury Silk”. This quilt won several ribbons in national competitions. All the stitching in this quilt is by machine.

I am not sure how much faster it is to do the stitching by machine, though I am sure it is a little bit.  This is especially the case when I am trying to embellish with specialty threads and decorative stitching.  To do that well, I often need to stitch slowly.  I imagine that there are some of you who can stitch more rapidly with super results, but I totally enjoy the slow stitching around appliques, for instance, or embellishing parts of an especially nice quilted wall art piece. It is as enjoyable to me as the hand stitching ever was.

Kanazawa Memories, Completed August 2015
Sashiko designs machine stitched with 12 weight Sulky cotton on to Peppered Cottons.  Appliqued with Monopoly. I love how the Sashiko came out on this piece.

High end machine work requires planning, testing, practice, and a fair amount of knowledge, but it is sometimes thought to be less artistic 0r less appreciated somehow than hand done work.  While I love hand work, I disagree with this point of view.  I think both are important and can be exquisite and  admired as something special.  I also think it is wonderful what can be accomplished by machine.

Sew happy everyone!  Have a delightful Merry Christmas!

Detail from “Noel”.

 

300th Blog Post! and Other Things

This is my 300th blog post here!  Sew I thought it was a good time to talk about several things planned for the near future related to my little micro business.

I am rebuilding my website and will be adding a little shopping cart that I am planning to use just for downloadable files, such as workbooks, patterns, and other downloadable aids for sewing and quilting.  I am almost done with the new website and hope to introduce it to you very soon.  The shop will be added a little later.

Now the main website is different from my blog, just in case you are wondering.  This blog will remain the same at least for some months.  Eventually, I am hoping to move this over to the blog space that comes with my website upgrade, but I don’t want to lose my older blogs.  If you haven’t done so for a while or ever, scroll back through my blogs.  You have to do it by the month by going to the archives box and selecting the month.  But you will find there are a lot of things you may find helpful in my blog archives.

Perhaps I will instead of moving the blogs, pull the more useful information from them and put them into a book or books with a bit of editing, and then start a totally new blog.  What do you think?  I would love to have your input on how to handle this.

In the meanwhile, I am still working on getting my videos going on YouTube.  The first set of three or four videos on Wool Applique by Machine are nearly done and will be posted by the end of December.  I have a long list of video subjects I am planning on developing.  For this first set, there will be free handouts for download from here, but for the next of them there will be a mix of workbooks and patterns for a small cost from my main website shop I am setting up, and the occasional free downloads will still be from this blog.

Of course, all of this is centered around my continued quilted fabric art work (multi-use work..LOL).  Once I get over the hump of setting all of this up, and I am almost there, then I will be able to go back to mostly sewing and quilting and designing, but just using a lot of it for my videos.  It has been a bit of a bear getting it all set up, but I have had a great deal of help from my sons.

So 2021 looks to be really exciting for me and my studio, and I hope for all of my readers.  Here is a little list of some of the subjects I am thinking about for the first half of 2021.

  • Wool Applique by Machine Techniques Sampler
  • Advanced Wool Applique Wall=hanging Project
  • Cotton and silk applique techniques and when to use what technique
  • Fabrics of several types and their properties when making fabric art
  • Embellishment threads, ribbons, roving, beads, and findings with machine work and how to get the best results
  • Free motion and in-the-hoop embroidery and using it well
  • Start with a fabric panel and end with a piece of exquisite embellished fabric art
  • Sit down longarm videos  (free motion embroidery and quilting, using rulers, mixing things up)
  • Bernina Q20 specific videos (short videos)
  • Some Bernina V8 specific videos
  • a bunch of really short technique videos.
  • I am thinking about doing some  real tailoring videos and workbooks. It’s something I know well and I think is something others would find interesting.
  • and on and on…not much if anything about piecing.  But there are a ton of piecing videos out there by real experts.

I don’t really know what I will do in what order.  Part of the fun for me is moving through the things I know that I want to share by using the projects I want to work on myself.  I don’t have deadlines, and I don’t plan on setting them, but I will let you know when they are ready to do.

Sew happy everyone!

 

Dealing with Stitching Pull and Video Update

I digitized this olive tree from a non copyrighted photograph and stitched it out on black nylon tulle with wash away stabilizers. I then removed the stabilizers and tore away the visible tulle. What you see here is the tree ready to applique to my quilt Noel. It would have produced a great deal of thread pull had I stitched it directly to the quilt top.

Heavy machine stitching always pulls the fabric and if done directly on a project can leave the surrounding fabric unacceptably ruffled.  Some of this can be dealt with on shrinkable natural fabrics, such as cotton or wool but not so much silk, by steaming the area upside down on a wool ironing mat or a thick pad of towels.  Polyester fabrics will not respond to steam shrinking attempts and is possible to damaged it with the  amount of steam one might try to use.  Really heavily stitched motifs are almost impossible to steam out regardless of fabrics except wool, but it may be possible to  “quilt that out” in some cases though it is not easily accomplished and doing this is very stressful in any case.

Such headaches and fails can be avoided by stitching off-project and appliqueing the finished motif on to the project background.  If you do it right, it is most often very difficult to tell that it is an applique and not directly stitched, but even if you can tell, it is preferable to the pull.

So there are several ways to approach this that usually involve machine work inside a hoop and wash away stabilizer.  I have a relatively large collection of embroidery hoops I collected over the years.  I found most of them can work for machine work, but some are just too wide to easily get under the presser foot.  There are hoops that are designed for working with a machine, and can be used for hand embroidery. I find a 7 or 8 inch hoop works well.  Here are a couple of models I like:

  • three plastic spring hoop set I have had a set similar to this for years, and this may be the same set.  I don’t know for sure, but it works well for free motion embroidery and is thin enough to slide under the foot.  It is also easy to adjust the area in the hoop when you need to without taking it out from under the foot of the machine.
  • three wood traditional style set.  This is .6 inches high,  I think this will happily slide under the foot if you angle it a bit.  I do not have this set myself although I do use a couple of very old wood hoops that I have had around for a while and they are .5 inches wide and work ok with the machine.

Here is the setup for free motion embroidery.  I do also add the Super Slider on the machine to make it work really smoothly when I am using my domestic machine.  I find I really don’t need the slider when I do the embroidery on my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm, which I find I prefer now that I have that option.

 

Here I am stitching a horse’s tail for my quilt Canterbury Knight using the method described herein.

Here is the tail on the horse on the quilt. There is not enough contrast to see it well, but after it was quilted it showed up fairly well.

Horse with newly groomed tail

And the final finished quilt that has won several nice ribbons.

Canterbury Knight

Surprisingly, I found when working with my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm that the heavily weighted gripper rings designed for quilting work wonderfully as hoops for free motion embroidery when using that wonderful machine.  I don’t have a link for that, but they are available probably for order at a Bernina dealership.  I balked at the price, but waited for a really good sale and I really really like them.  I know you can get a cheaper black set without the open space on the rings for sliding on, but I love the lovely red of the rings as well as the little open spaces.  For these, you just put the layers together and the first thing you do is stitch around the layers  well away from your design to hold them together much as you would do for a quilt sandwich.  These would probably not work well on a domestic machine, even the machines with larger harps, but they are divine on my sitdown longarm for both quilting and embroidery.

https://www.franknutt.co.uk/media/catalog/product/b/e/bernina_gripper_rings.jpg

So I set up my motif build with a layer of heavy clear washaway stabilizer, such as OESD badge master, or Sulky Super Solvy on the bottom, on which I have lightly marked the design guidelines with a Crayola Fine Line Washable Marker.  On top is a layer of nylon tulle to hold everything together even if it isn’t a stand-alone design.   I find when it is finished and I soak away the stabilizer, the tulle can be gently torn along the edge of the stitched motif and not seen at all once appliqued.

If the motif also includes a fill of applique fabrics, I cut the shape and glue them to the tulle with washable glue stick and that is the first thing I stitch around to hold them in place before beginning.  Then I hoop the whole thing together with the inside hoop on top so the fabric/stabilizer bundle is flat on the bottom.

Now I use the same kind of sandwich if I am doing digitized in-the-hoop machine embroidery motifs.  Here’s one I made that way that also went on Noel.

I digitized this star and then embroidered it off the quilt using the method described herein.

After I soak off the washaways and let it almost dry but is still a little damp, I will press it upside down on my wool ironing pad with a light weight cotton ironing cloth over it.  It then can be basted down in place on your project and attached with a narrow zig-zag or free motion off and on the motif using the same thread you used at the edge of the motif.  I usually also stitch inside the motif just a little where appropriate to give it some concept of having been stitched directly in place and highlight some of the shaping.  It doesn’t take much stithing to make it wonderful.

You would be amazed what you can do with this method by just adding that little bit of tulle and over=stitching a tiny bit after placement on the main background. Then  you won’t have the ruffles.  You can also use this method to make some interesting trapunto designs.

Video Update:  My oldest son decided he needed to provide some significant help for my video making and asked me to pull the original video on Wool Applique by Machine.  Don’t worry folks, if you were interested in my videos, they will happen and will be far better than they would have without his assistance.  I will certainly announce the videos when they are available.  This should not be very long from now…maybe a week or two for the first one, but I will let you know.  I have a long list of vlogs and video classes I am planning.

Sew happy everyone!  Go make something wonderful.

 

 

Simple Shapes for My Wool Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Test and practice piece

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

Wool Applique and Other Things

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

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

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

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

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

Detail showing some of the decorative stitching.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Word About the Future of the Craft of Sewing

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

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

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

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

Interfacings or Stabilizers?

So recently a friend of mine asked me about the use of interfacings and  stabilizers and what was the difference. I consider interfacings and stabilizers both indispensable in fabric art creating of various types.  They make the difference between a successful project and a lackluster or even failed piece. Understanding them is one of the basic skills for everything from fashion sewing to quilted art.  I can fully understand her need to know more about them.

The Byzantine world of stabilizers and interfacings can be very confusing,  because there are so many of them and they all have different uses.  Adding to the confusion is all the different brands that are out there and may call them something different and what do they mean by “lightweight” anyway?

The Back Wall of Home Dec Fabrics at G Street Fabrics

First of all, let’s discuss her question of what is the difference between interfacing and stabilizer.

  1. Well, for one thing, stabilizers do not always stay in the project, but sometimes they can.  They are largely designed to assist in making machine embroidery work both in the hoop and free motion thread painting.  They are also useful for decorative machine stitching.
  2. What makes this confusing is that interfacings can also serve as stabilizers but they are designed to remain in the project and interfacings often look like stabilizers.
  3. You may need both or even two or more for specific projects.
  4. You can even use spray starch or other spray products to work as stabilizers.
  5. And then there are those clear plastic looking stabilizers of varying weights made with corn starch or similar ingredient that washes away.  They have a variety of interesting and helpful uses in the fabric artist’s studio.
  6. Interfacings provide stability for fabrics that have a tendency to disintigrate, spread the stitching, or simply need a heavier hand for the project you are making.  They help to properly shape clothing, and is particularly required for any high-end sewing like fine couture sewing, tailored garments, wedding dresses, simple dressmaker jackets or vests, and shirts with buttons and collars.  I use interfacings extensively in both my clothes making and art quilting to make my wide selection of fabrics work together.

Sew I am focusing this discussion by using popular brand names  just because it is easy to identify and I know from using them they are a good product, but there are other brands that are also fine and some that are just terrible (shrinking, bubbling, wadding up with use). Buy a good grade of these products so your project will be successful.

Interfacings

I have a handful of stabilizers that I keep stocked in the studio so I have them when the need to sew or quilt hits me in the middle of the night and it also helps to save lots of time.  Also by stocking, I can save a lot of money by buying them when a good sale goes by. There are a large number of Pellon interfacings, but I try to keep at least three yards available of these four weights of interfacings. I buy the first two of these by the bolt when they are on sale because I use a lot of them.  They are usually much cheaper–three or four times cheaper–by the bolt, and even more if you hit a good sale.

  • For stabilizing (there’s that word that helps make this all so confusing when talking about interfacings) such fabrics as silks, very light weight cottons, dupioni  and satin polyesters, specialty fabrics, and to use for some wool or wool like tailoring fabrics, I stock a woven fusible lightweight interfacing like SF101 Shape Flex by Pellon  This nice woven interfacing does not have much affect on the hand of the fabric and, if quilted, it causes the fabric to drape better and to be smoother and more attractive. It can be used for shirt making also, but you may want to use a heavier weight for more tailored shirts.  I would not use this as a rule on good quality quilting cotton unless you are making a shirt or dress out of it.
  • For an even lighter hand (fabric drape and feel) backing up fabrics that need a little help, such as high quality silk dupioni or cotton lawn I like one of the nearly sheer nonwovens, such as Pellon 906F sheerweight. This particular interfacing is scarce right now because it is one of the choice interfacings for making masks more effective.  So I linked to a pretty good price for the bolt.
  • For a little heavier interfacing that you might want to use for crisper collars in tailored shirts, or costumes, for instance, I like Pellon 931td Some people are using this for mask making also, making it a little scarce, but I think it is just too heavy to comfortably breath through for me.
  • For bag making or some such with leather (artificial or otherwise) or heavy upholstery fabrics when you want to quilt it I use Pellon’s naked foam. I thank Nina McVeigh for alerting me to this product on her fascinating The Quilt Show show (if you aren’t a member, you are missing a lot).  I layer it with the leather or heavier upholstery fabrics and add a cotton backing fabric.  This is approaching a batting discussion that will be a future blog post, but I felt it also fits well in the interfacing discussion too.
  • For high-end tailoring, especially with wool projects like coats and jackets I usually, but not always, move away from Pellon and use mostly Hymo.  Note that I have already run a few blogs about tailoring coats, and plan on making a wool slacks suit and a raw silk tailored jacket for this fall and winter and will blog the making of those, since I have some beautiful fabrics on hand that I should use before they age out.  You can easily obtain high quality and varying weights of these from tailoring supply houses online.  I generally buy these by the project.  So you will want to first consult your pattern or a tailoring book to get the right thing.   Here is a link to A group of Hymo tailoring interfacings especially good for wools from B. Black and Sons a wonderfully supplied company where I buy my tailoring supplies:  Hymo
  • And B. Black also has these lovely canvas/cotton interfacings that I have used with success for non-wool or light summer tailoring:  Canvas/cotton.

Stabilizers

I use several different stabilizers for my fabric art projects and even for embellished clothes, but I only stock a few of them because they could take over my storage space otherwise.

  1. The primary stabilizer I use for my in-the-hoop embroidery and free motion thread painting for my quilted art pieces is either OESD’s Ultra Clean and Tear Fusible or Madeira Cotton Stable, which I have a slight preference for but it is increasingly hard to find and has gone up in price. Both of these stabilizers give the fabric enough stability to take a higher amount of stitches than most of the stabilizers will do and they both tear away easily after stitching while remaining in place when you are stitching.
  2. A heavier film wash away stabilizer, such as OESD’s Badgemaster,  and a slightly lighter film stabilizer Madeira Avalon is especially useful in the studio.  I use both Madeira and OESD film stabilizers.  Washing it away can be interesting.  It’s like a science fiction slime creature at first…hahaha.  I just soak it in clear cold water and then rinse it well in running water.

I really like OESD’s Aqua Mesh Washaway, that looks like an interfacing, works well for marking designs on,  and easy to use for stitching a free-standing thread motif, applique, or free standing lace.  In such cases I will almost always add a layer of black  or white nylon tulle on top and a double layer of Aqua Mesh Washaway.  Then when you rinse it away, your piece will hang together and you just cut closely around the veiling, which basically disappears to your eyes on the fabric you applique it on to. Black veiling or matched to the background veiling works well for this. It is especially useful when you are embroidering or even free motion couching cords and yarns to build a heavy design to make them free from the main project and applique them on.  It helps deal with the pull and keeps your main project nice and flat.

I embroidered this freestanding lace star on blue nylon veiling with a double layer of wash away stabilizers and then appliqued it on.

Fusibles can act as a stabilizer/interfacing

And don’r forget that when you are making a fused on applique for a wall project, for instance, you may wish to keep the fusible whole rather than windowpane it if you are going to do a lot of heavy stitching on it later.  Then it acts just like a combination interfacing and stabilizer that does not get removed from your project. So you have to give some thought to how you are going to complete the project and how it is going to be used to decide whether to windowpane (cutting out most of the middle of the fusible leaving just the edges) to maintain a soft drape or is it a good idea to use the fusible whole.

There are several high quality fusibles on the market and everyone seems to have their own preferences.  I personally prefer steam-a-seam 2 with the two sides of paper.  One side has one inch squares on it and that’s the side that you draw your design on, cut roughly around the design about 1/4 inch away, peal off the plain side, stick the side with the grid and the drawing onto the back of your fabric, and cut it out. After that you remove the paper and you have an applique with a lightly sticky side that you can move around until you have it just right before hitting it with a steam iron that glues it in place ready to stitch.

Sew happy everyone!  This blog took me too long to write because I was trying to identify what I felt were the best links to online resources.  If, however, you are fortunate enough to have an open fabric store that carries these good products near you, then bless them with your purchases there.  Blessings to everyone.  Have a wonderful time in your studios!  Feel free to ask questions. I might know the answer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sizzling Hot in the Studio

We certainly are having a heat wave! My studio Fritz is the warmest room in my home.  This is where my longarm sitdown Bernina Q20 and my computer setup lives. I also have Studio Gibbs, where I store my fabrics and where my Bernina 880 Plus lives, and there is little Studio Betsy, where my little Bernina 350 and my old Baby Lock Serger lives in one part of my bedroom.  These rooms are all on the top floor of my home. It’s over 100 outside, supposedly it feels like 117 here in Ashburn, Virginia, right now and is very humid. Our AC is good, but is struggling to keep up for the upper floor.

So I am working down in my main level on my laptop writing this blog and doing some planning for some videos for YouTube I hope to make. I finally have gathered all the cameras, software, and so forth I need for that and am currently getting it all setup and figuring out how to run it all.

  • I now have three cameras and several tripods and clamp-on holders.
  • My son Ken gave me two of the cameras and a gadget he made with a remote that attaches to the wall so I can focus one camera over my island where I cut, do some paint/dying, and can even set up some ironing.  That will allow me to show a lot of things flat from above.  I still have to install that on the wall, but that should be easy and I will probably get that done tomorrow.
  • I will be able to use two cameras surrounding wherever I am working, which is always a great help when you are trying to show techniques involving sewing.
  • I have a nice video editor from Corel that I have been studying how to use and trying to set up some templates for the videos. This allows me to use multiple cameras in a single video.
  • I also now have a webcam, a clip on microphone, and  even some stuff I haven’t yet figured out that Ken gave me. hahahaha  I think some of it assembles into a device that I can hang a background or a green screen on.

I guess when you ask a tech-oriented family to help you get setup for videos, they think well beyond your own simple thoughts into a reasonably professional production set for the self producer.  LOL.  I may need some help doing some of the videos, but I think I will be able to do most of them alone once all is set up.  I’m hoping to get this all done this week, but we’ll see.

It is a great blessing, and I am thrilled, but it is taking me some time to figure it all out.  I figure I need to do some plans…not really a script but maybe some talking point and gather the pieces for the projects and other videos I will be showing.  I’ve been planning this for several years and am finally getting it all put together.

So in the late afternoons when it is too hot upstairs I will work on scripts or guides or whatever they should be called.

That’s probably more than you ever wanted to know about my production setup, but at least I have it all recorded so I can possibly figure out what I’m doing…hahaha.

My plan is to produce videos, books, and downloadables for intermediate to somewhat advanced people interested in advancing their fabric art/quilted art.  After doing some research there appears to be a plethora of these informative things for beginners, but a bit of a gap for the intermediate and above people.

I will be presenting what I have learned over the past sixty years of sewing and sixteen years of quilting (overlapping), while acknowledging there are many ways of doing things but these are the techniques I like.  I feel compelled to share this before I age out to the point I can’t.  Some of it will be free, and some will be for sale at reasonable prices.  I hope to get this fully launched at least by September, and there will probably be a few videos within a few weeks.

These are the main categories I am planning on addressing:

  1. Working with a sitdown longarm…quilting, free motion thread work, couching, and a few specifics for the Bernina Q20.
  2. Using high end sewing machines with all those wonderful things they open up to the fabric artist, going beyond the obvious.
  3. What you can do in-the-hoop embroidery and more on the Bernina software V8 to go along with my book I already have published.
  4. Projects that use multi media techniques and/or take advantage of a studio that has both a high-end 9 mm sewing machine and a sit down longarm and even occassionally includes a little 5 mm sewing machine.
  5. I am hoping to develop workbooks, project books, and patterns for sale to go with some of this. I’ve been working on these this past year but I still have a ways to go,

So there you are.  I will not be teaching out of my home for some time, so I thought it was really time to push forward with this plan that has been in my thoughts for years.

Sew happy everyone! Let me know if you have a particular technique or some such you wish you could learn more about.  Maybe I can work it in.  Stay happy everyone…go do some sewing or drawing or reading or watching of videos or just chilling. Cheers.

 

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.