Turning Pages in My Studio and Practice

Sew my second workshop on quilting with feed dogs up at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, MD went well on Friday and I am nearing completion of preparations for workshops three and four, which are both reportedly full and may even have a waiting list.

Ruler workshop sampler/design just completed the quilting. Ready to block and bind.

Yesterday I finally completed designing and quilting the sampler quiltlet for my fourth class, which is ruler work for sit down machines.  I had quite a challenge with that one, because G Street asked me to use the Bernina ruler set for sit down machines.  So it has taken me several designs and test samplers, but I wasn’t pleased with them until the one I finally finished yesterday (I still have to bind it).  I will now adjust the schematic for the handout to match the end results and that is all I have to do to complete the handout.  I was so happy to get this class designed.

Now I can turn the page to creating for the rest of the year and can think about my new show quilts I will make.

Speaking of pages, I created a new page with a link at the top of the blog on the right called Downloads and Links of Interest.  This page so far has schematics for markging guidelines for practice quiltlets.  In all my classes I am recommending that the quilters make themselves more quiltlets and practice, practice, practice. Actually, that sounds like work, but really it is more like play.

One of my students said she has been making a baby quilt to perfect her quilt making, though she has no baby in her family coming and was going to give it away.  I suggested she give it to Project Linus, so I added a link to that on the new page. This is a wonderful way to improve your quilting and do something wonderful at the same time.  Don’t send them real disaster quilts, but as you get some that are pretty and nice, though not necessarily perfect, wash them and go ahead and send them.

I also added links to rulers I like and videos of their creators using them.  I will be adding more links in time, and plan on making videos myself of work at my machines and more Bernina V8 embroideries, and I will provide links to those on this new page.

I was considering stopping making show quilting earlier this year, wondering if I was accomplishing anything with them.  So after some thought and prayer, I woke up one day really excited about work in my studio.  I decided I can use my show quilts for examples in new books and showing how tos for my classes.  Making a show quilt keeps me on my fabric art toes.  I don’t let things that should be unstitched and restitched go by.  I fix what is “wrong”, and I come out with a better quilt.  So for a few more years at least I will continue to compete.  I always get excited when I start working on a show quilt.  I get frustrated too, but will usually come up with a solution when I run into a problem.

So the future in my studio now seems bright and interesting with a concentration on show quilts and books, together with the occassional set of classes.  Join me in my journey…check out the new page.  I am also planning on providing more little tutorials here in my blog space and alerting you to my videos in the future.

Sew happy everyone!  Try something new in your sewing space and practice…consider it playing because it is fun!  Be sure to branch out and make a beautiful project.  Smaller quilts are great first items…table runners, lap quilts, baby quilts, dog quilts, vests, and quilted bags.

 

 

 

How to Stop Fearing Your Machine and Start Having Fun

I love this picture from early in the twentieth century.

Periodically in some of my Facebook groups that are focused around quilting and sewing I see a surprising number of people who have sewing or quilting machines they are truly afraid to use.  Now I can see how this might happen.  Today’s machines are often technically advanced, big, powerful, and fast.  That can be very intimidating, especially if you fear making mistakes on your creations or breaking your machine.  Maybe you are afraid of sewing through your fingers.  Maybe you think you can’t possibly figure out how to use that advanced machine.  These are legitimate fears, but you can take steps to stop them in their tracks.

Let’s talk about this a little.  In almost any creative situation you can figure out how to make an approach of taking things apart and moving step by step to find you can do far far more than you ever thought you could.  And yes, you will almost certainly mess up, make mistakes, have to unstitch, break a needle, break some thread, or even mess up so badly you throw a project away.  Give yourself permission to throw things away, and realize they have served their purpose in teaching you something.  This is just sign of progress and that you tried.  So here is my suggested method to overcome the fear of your machines, or even to advance your understanding of them:

  • Read the manual of your machine.  Yes, read it even if you have been sewing for 65 plus years, even if it is a somewhat simpler machine, or even if it’s boring or you don’t understand it, but read it anyway.  Later you will remember that there is an answer to a question you have along the way in your manual so you can go back and look it up in the index at the back when you need it.  You don’t have to remember it until you need it.  You just have to remember that there is an answer there.  Sometimes you may find you do things differently with this machine than you did with your mom’s machine you learned on.  If you don’t find the manual, they are often online free for download.
  • Get yourself a small notebook and make notes as you go.  Keep a record of your steps, the settings on your machine you used for what. Even after 65 years plus of sewing, I still keep notes on projects I do.  It’s so handy when I want to do it again, or have gone out of my project to hem my new jeans and need to get back to where I was on my project.  I have also taken those notes and made spreadsheets or lists that I can print out and stick on my wall for reference.
  • Take advantage of the tools your machine has.  These tools include both the functional tools built into your machine and the accessories (specialty feet, magnifying glass, differing sole plates, optional threading aids, cleaning aids, pinpoint lasers, and other things).  Yes, you have spent a lot buying your machine…so spend a little more and get those specialty feet as you need them for particular projects.  It makes your initial investment truly worth it.
  • Realize that even if you paid a lot for your machines they are not perfect (nothing manufactured is, really!), but usually they will work if you do things right.  They may have some things that might go awry from time to time.  So join those Facebook groups where you can ask what other people do about some things, look in the manual near the end where they have the section usually entitled  “Troubleshooting”, go on YouTube to find if it is something you can fix yourself (if you have a Bernina, take a look at Bernina Boys  on YouTube), contact your machine’s online support (I can’t tell you how many problems I have gotten solved this way without having to lug my machines to the dealer), or yes, lug your machine to the dealer and get that problem fixed.  But start with a cleaning, check on the tensions, and change the needle…maybe even change the thread.
  • And if you are not getting that nagging problem fixed by your dealer, contact the manufacturer (using the online support) and ask them what to do.  Remember, they WANT you to be happy with your machine.  If you are happy with your machine you will tell others about it, and they will buy one.  If you are happy with your machine, you might buy another one that has another function (I have three Berninas).  But I will suggest that if you buy a solid advanced machine and LEARN HOW TO USE IT, you will almost certainly be amazed at what you can do with it.

    My Bernina 830 LE named Gibbs

  • Realize that, surprisingly, sometimes it is the thread, the needle, and something amiss with your machine.  But normally problems can be solved by cleaning the machine, changing the tensions. using a different sized needle, or just replacing a needle that may be slightly bent or have a blunt end.
  • Learning to use your particular machine is like learning to play a new instrument.  You HAVE TO PRACTICE!!!  Yes, practice a little bit frequently and a lot once in a while at the very least.  Practice even if you have sewn for 65 plus years.  Practice is just that.  You are making a practice piece…something that may even end up in the trash.  But this can be really fun.  Remember that..it’s ultimately fun!

    My Bernina B350 named Edith Claire (E.Claire) after Edith Head.

     

  • Plan out your project in small steps.  Prepare your pieces (make the markings you need to make).  Be sure you have the right threads, needles, backings, battings, stabilizers and interfacings on hand.  These things make using your machine so much easier.

    My Bernina Q20 named Fritz.

     

  • And finally, if you have a computerized machine, make sure you keep it updated with the latest updates.  Sometimes the updates are put out primarily to correct some bug they have discovered and so you won’t have that problem happen to you.  Sometimes they add new stitches or new functions.  Find out how to do this in your manual.

Here I have attached a pdf file to print out a small practice project for free motion quilting.  It is sized so you can print it out with normal letter sized paper and tape it together.  Then use it as a marking guide for your fabric.

FMQ Practice

I developed it for a FMQ workshop I will be teaching at the sewing machine department at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, Maryland in October of this year.  I’d love to see you there.  There are only eight spots for students, so call them (ask for sewing machine department) and reserve your space.  It’s about organic fmq for fabric artists…no fancy feathers, but lots of fun.  I’m also teaching a class on 22 September in Machine Applique for Fabric Artists, and one in October on Feed Dogs Up Quilting for Fabric Artists.

Sew happy everyone.  Go read your manual and practice.  Then have some fun making a wonderful project.  You will be happy you conquered your machines…well almost conquered…or at least learned to use them.  LOL

 

Encouraging Enthusiasm in Quilting and Sewing

Woman sewing

Gloomy feelings are prevalent in the quilting community recently at the announcements of the closures of several quilt-related magazines and businesses, or parts of businesses.  I was recently talking with a close friend of mine about this. These things have a way of being self-fulfilling prophesies by making people hesitate to dive in and do things because they think the industry is closing and they don’t want to invest their time and money in a failing pursuit if supplies, or when fellow quilters might not be around.  Linda Thielfoldt captured it well in her blog post in which she ends up by calling on us to mentor a child.

Sew let us think about this a bit and brush the dust off of our dreams for making that piece of funky or pretty art for your wall,  a well-tailored jacket, a set of decorative pillows to spruce up your living space, a really nice outfit to wear to special occasions, some new pot holders, or how about that costume for your favorite fun festival or party.  Sewing and quilting can be calming and also a fun adventure.

I’ve actually seen recent comments from quilters or sewists criticizing other sewists for the way they shop or buy a class, or blaming problems on the “aging” quilters, who, they assume, don’t buy anything anymore (WRONG!!!); or on young sewists and quilters who have very little time and not so much money so they pull learning and patterns from where they can. Such comments are not helpful.

I call upon these naysayers and those who are worried to welcome all manner of quilting and sewing into our folds…the costume maker, the art quilter, the modern quilter, the traditional quilter, the tailored clothes maker, the hat maker, the bag maker, the doll maker, the sewist who makes items for charity, the ten minutes-at-a-time stitcher, the incredibly talented hand stitcher, and those who do all of these things just because they can.

man sewing 1912

Sewing and quilting is an adventure, an occupation that takes our minds off of the difficulties of life, the politics, the horrible things happening in the world, and gives us the opportunity to think about how to construct that tote bag, or make that art quilt, or tailor that jacket to wear to work.  In the end, moreover, we often end up with something truly wonderful.

I do also hope we can stop categorizing the sewists of this world into preconceived ideas in a way that may limit opportunities.  The younger quilter is not always interested in modern quilting.  The older quilter is not always interested in traditional quilting.  The middle-aged quilter is often ignored in discussions of this type.  The art quilter is often as committed to excellence in their craft as the traditional quilter.  Some people have jobs or other responsibilities that don’t allow them time to take half a day to shop or  go to that show.  Sew, wonderfully, they download classes (some of which are wonderful and thereby they support that teacher), they order on the Internet (maybe even from their local fabric store)…but they order and they take classes, they buy that fabric and thread and machines.  This activity will keep the industry alive even if it doesn’t help our neighborhood fabric store with the owners who have been in business for decades and are ready to retire to do their own sewing.

Red, my favorite color, is not as plentiful in my home as I would have expected. I staged this in my studio using the red things I could find that seemed to go together. Interesting challenge. Shot with my Nikon D200 on tripod, no flash, f14.

I hope we will continue to support each other and encourage the “ancient quilter” making something spectacularly different, the middle-aged man sewing a vintage costume, the college student making something for their dorm room, or the twelve year old boy quilting.  Let’s keep this industry alive with enthusiasm even as it changes to encompass the new methods of communication and shopping!

DSCN0129

Sew happy everyone!  I loved Linda Thielfoldt’s blog about mentoring new young sewers.  This is important.  Might I suggest, also, that it does not just have to be a young person (though, again, this is important)…an older person with a little more time and money on their hands might also want to get in on the fun and then pass it on to their young person.