Sunday, September 27, 2015

Let the Sun Shine -- Brackets, Feathers and Straight Lines

Hi all -

I've done some more quilting on my Let the Sun Shine quilt. I started off by quilting the brackets that I marked in my last post. I spent a bit of time trying to decide what thread to use. These are background areas so I want the quilting to be subtle, but I really like the designs I chose so I want the quilting to be visible. I know I want the lines to be thin, so I went to my standby background thread -- 100 wt silk. So I pulled out all of my silks and started looking at the colors. First I looked at blues. I didn't want to match the fabric color, so I looked at lighter and darker blues, but they were all too visible for my taste. I thought about grays, but they still looked too visible for me. Finally, I tried some greens and ended up choosing a dark khaki green. Not the color I expected to use, but I really like how it looks.

I stared with the brackets and the feathers in the middle. I'm better at shorter feathers, so this was going to be an easier area for me. I did all of these without breaking thread. Here's what it looked like on the back where you can see the quilting better:

Not perfect, but I'm still liking it. While I was in the groove, I went to the outer brackets and feathers. These feathers were more difficult for me because I needed the plumes to be long and thin:

I did better on these than I expected. The next part I wanted to add was the straight lines. I picked up Lisa Calle's longarm rulers for quilting 1/16" and 1/8" parallel straight lines and decided to give them a try with my new ruler foot. I love them and will definitely be getting the other widths! Here is how the center area turned out with the 1/6" lines:

And the outer area with the 1/8" lines:

 And a view of the whole thing on the back:

And on the front:

I think this quilting creates a really dramatic frame for the center of the quilt. It's subtle, yet visible. I'm very pleased.

I also worked on getting all of my class supplies together for Houston. It always seems like Houston is further away than it is, and I end up scrambling to get everything I need. This year, I have everything gathered and ready to go:

The only thing I didn't already have is some write-on transparencies which I've ordered from Amazon and will be here in a couple of days. So everything is in the suitcase, ready to go.

Fall colors have also come to the area. Here are a couple of pictures from my yard before it goes away and winter sets in:

Lance and Wesley came out to help me with my pictures:

Hope you're having a great fall!!


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Let the Sun Shine SID

Hi all -

I'm starting to get my mojo back now that I've made a reservation for some time on a longarm to baste my sister's wedding quilt. My appointment isn't until Tuesday of next week, so I have some time to work on some other stuff. There's a place that rents time that's only 45 minutes from my house, but I called them and they wanted me to take a $120 class before being able to use their longarm. Well, that seemed a bit excessive to me so I called the place that is a couple of hours away and they just charge $15/hr and that includes support and instruction, if needed. Much better deal! So I asked for a couple of hours and I'll take a day off of work to head up there and baste as many quilts as I can before I run out of time, water-soluable thread or quilts. I have 4 quilts all prepared, just in case.

So, to pass the time until then, I decided to pull out my "Let the Sun Shine" wallhanging and start the quilting. I pieced this wallhanging a year or two ago along with some other TQSers from a pattern by Jacqueline de Jonge. I can't seem to find the pattern right now so I don't know the name, but we all did the piecing when TQS had her video available for us. Here is a picture of my quilt top:

I really love how the top sparkles with the scrappy fabrics! I had started a plan for the quilting a while ago and have really been itching to quilt this one. For smaller quilts, it's really nice to just trace the quilt components on paper to give myself a platform for testing out design ideas. I just do a quick tracking of the quilt in pen, then add ideas in pencil so I can erase what I don't like:

I don't have all of the quilting planned out, but I needed enough done so I would know what marking I would need to do before layering and basting the quilt. The small areas I can do without marking, but I really needed to mark the brackets before beginning. I was hoping that I could just use a lightbox to mark the lines, but the fabrics were just too dark to see the lines well enough, even after going over them with a thin sharpie. A thick sharpie would have worked better, but I wanted more precision in the lines so I had to come up with something else. My solution was to mark the lines on some cardstock and cut the edges to create a stencil. This worked really well. The cardstock was thin enough that I could see the lines well using the lightbox, so tracing was easy. Then I just cut along the edges. Here are the stencils for the small bracket to give you a better idea of what I did:

I made marks at the points where the stencil would line up with the piecing so I could get everything as consistent as possible. Here are the stencils stacked to give you an idea of how they go together:

And here are the small brackets marked on the quilt:

I used Clover's white marker since the lines are visible on the dark fabric and I've never had trouble getting these lines out. The brackets in the background were larger so I had to make the stencils just for one side of the bracket:

In this case, the marks indicated where the stencil lines up with the piecing and with a diagonal line marked on the quilt. I had to flip the stencils to mark the two sides of the bracket. Again, this is how the stencils would line up:

And the markings on the quilt:

Even though I haven't chosen all of the designs, I'm sure everything else will be able to be quilted free-hand or with registration marks that will be easy to put on the basted quilt. I'll still use the quilting plan from above to try out the designs as I make my decisions.

So I got the quilt basted and finished the initial SID quilting. I'm using two layers of batting: a cotton batting on the bottom for stability and a wool batting on top for definition. It's a little harder to quilt with all that puff, but it's worth it in the end. I used invisible thread on top and SoFine in the bobbin for the SID. I used to have trouble using the invisible thread, until I figured out this set-up which makes it work perfectly for me now:

What you see is a spool of Superior's Monopoly thread with a thread net around it. The thread is then run through a packing peanut, up through the hole in the thread stand, then through another packing peanut before going through the guide at the top of the stand and then normal threading through the machine. For some reason, Superior puts their thread on a really heavy spool, so if you put it on the top of your machine the thread will stretch as it tries to turn the spool, so you really have to keep it off the back of the machine. The thread net keeps the thread from unwinding from the spool and tangling. The packing peanuts keep the thread from kinking up on itself. I also loosen the top tension a little bit (I was using 3.5 on my machine) and then the thread runs like butter through the machine.

Because the curves in the top are fairly flat, I was able to do all of the SID quilting using my walking foot. It was still tedious, as SID always is, but it really is important to highlight the piecing in the quilt. Here is the top with the SID finished:

 And here is the back where you can see the quilting better:

 I sewed around the outside edge and trimmed the batting a bit to try to reduce all of the fluff that I get all over my gloves and the quilt while quilting with the wool batting. Once I figure out how I want to quilt the outer border, I'll get that done and get the binding on so the fluff will go away completely. But until then, I'll keep plugging away at the quilting that I've decided on already.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Bird Song

Hi all -

Sorry it's been so long since my last post. I keep hoping to post weekly, but I'm not accomplishing much right now so I keep putting it off. I'll try to be better!

First, the good news. I got an email yesterday letting me know that Tea for Two won a ribbon at Houston! I'm stunned and thrilled!! I won't know exactly what I won until awards night, but it doesn't really matter since I will cherish any ribbon that they decide to give to me!! And my friend Janet Stone won a ribbon for one quilt and one of the big prizes for her other quilt. And my friend Peggy Kragnes won a ribbon for her quilt. I'm hoping that other friends have won, too, but that's all I've heard about so far. It's so exciting being a part of this impressively talented group and I can't wait to see how everybody did! I'll be attending the awards ceremony for the first time, so Janet warned me that I'll have to find some nicer clothes to wear. She knows my standard wear is shorts and a T-shirt, so she didn't want me to be embarrassed when I get my picture taken on stage. Thank you!! I'll share the whole experience with you after the show in early November.

Now on to my current projects. My latest accomplishment was finishing the background quilting on Bird Song, the little quilt I started in my twilling class at the Kansas City Regional Quilt Festival this summer. As a reminder, here is a picture of the finished quilt;

 If you want more information, you can see my previous post about this quilt here.

The last time I showed you this piece, I had echo quilted around the twilling in the middle, but had left the rest of the center unquilted. I had also quilted the borders and added the binding so I could think about how to finish the center. The first thing I was worried about in the center was that the echo quilting was 1/4" from the edges of the twilling. I had to do this because the twilling stitches are very thick so I couldn't run my darning foot over them. But the bird and tree branch were just too big to leave without more quilting so I had to come up with a way to quilt closer to the stitching.

I started looking at the different FMQ feet available for the Bernina, but none of them seemed like they would work for this. Then it dawned on me that I might be able to use my regular FMQ foot and move the needle over to the right to get closer the the edge of the foot. But as I thought about this, I didn't think that it would work in the tight areas and I really wanted to get closer to the stitching that this would allow. I wanted my stitching to run right up against the outside edges of the twilling. So back to the drawing board.

Then it dawned on me that I didn't need to use a free-motion foot for this. I have several regular feed that have space on the bottom for things like couching. So I looked through my feet and started with the #12 foot. This is a metal foot with a really big arch on the bottom that works great with couching and piping.

I put it on and gave it a try and it worked really well except that I could see where I was going. I had to stop every few stitches and raise the presser foot to make sure I was staying on course.

So I decided to try my #23 foot. This foot has a cut-out on the bottom, but it's not nearly as deep as the arch in the #12 foot. But the bottom of this foot is clear so I could see exactly where I was going. Here's how it looked on the machine:

I was very pleased with how this foot worked, but I was a little uncomfortable with how it smashed the twilling a bit,especially in places where the stitching intersected with other stitching.

Then I made a trip to my Bernina shop and picked up some other feet that I'd been wanting, including the #44C free-motion echoing foot. I'm really bad at echo quilting so wanted this foot to see if it would help me improve. After I got home, I realized that this was probably also the perfect foot for going around my twilling. The bottom of this foot is a clear circle with raised edges. The raised edges would allow the foot to float over the twilling. I tried it and it was perfect:

It really does pay to collect feet! It's hard to see the stitching next to the twilling, but here's a close-up to hopefully give you an idea:

Finally, I had to do some background quilting to tack everything down and make the stitching stand out. I've been wanting to try Nemeshing, a really cool background fill invented by Bethanne Nemesh. If interested, you can see her book here. This fill is made up of sprigs of classic and fanciful feathers, optionally surrounded by a tighter background fill. It's funny, but what attracted me most to her Nemeshing was the way she did her pebbles, where she periodically threw in some much larger pebbles. I'd always done my pebbles with varying sizes, but my variations were smaller -- just enough to make them more organic. But throwing in those larger pebbles really gives them some pop. And having the feathers really speeds up the quilting while adding that extra interest. My background was kind of oddly shaped so I had trouble fitting the feathers in nicely, but I still really like how it turned out:

And I was really happy that this evening's lighting was perfect to see the quilting because it's really hard to see with the white thread on the white background! Just to be complete, here's a picture of the back with the hanging sleeve:

I'll add the label later. The software the I used to use for creating labels on my old computer (Greeting Card Factory) was bought out by Hallmark and I just recently bought the latest version to use on my newer computer. I played with it a little bit but don't like the new interface. It looks like you can't zoom in to see your images at their actual size so it's going to be frustrating getting things sized appropriately, but I'll persist and figure something out soon so I can get my latest quilts labelled. It's really nice to have this one done!

I also spent a bit of time trying to baste my sister's wedding quilt so I can start the quilting. I just can't seem to force myself to do the pin-basting even though I've done this many times on all my other quilts. I guess I'm just getting too old to crawl around on the floor! So I thought I should baste it using water-soluable thread on my HQ16. Those of you who don't know me might not know that I have this machine. I bought it over 10 years ago and back then they just dumped the pieces on your doorstep and you had to put it together. Anyway, long story short, my machine is not easy to use because the table is pretty bad and I haven't had the time to spend figuring out how to fix everything up right. Sounds silly, but I'll really need to dedicate some time to get things working better and I'm not ready to do that yet. So, I decided to get the quilt that's been sitting on that machine for a very long time quilted to the point were I could take it off the frame, then load my sister's quilt and get it basted. I finished the quilting and unloaded the quilt. Then ran into another snag. Even though I have my HQ16 set up with the queen-sized table, bars and leaders, it turns out that my quilt is an over-sized queen so it didn't fit on the leaders. Guess it pays to measure! But it didn't dawn on me that this would be a problem. And I don't have room to add the last piece of the table to make it king-sized. Back to the drawing board..... My next thought was to load the quilt anyway and just baste the middle, either pin-basting or reloading to get the sides done. That was another bad idea. Even though I only had 8-10 inches of extra backing on each side of the leader, the extra fabric kept me from being able to roll the back on the bars evenly, so that just wasn't going to work. My current plan is to call the local Bernina shop and see if they are ready to start renting time on their new longarm yet and just take it there to do the basting. Wish me luck!!

Finally, when going through these times of low motivation, I tend to watch a lot of Craftsy classes. I own and watch a lot of classes and often only get small ideas from each, but I still find them enjoyable. However, I came across a new class that really kept me riveted and has me wanting to try a bunch of new techniques. The class is called Stitch Savvy by Lynda Faires. OMG! The things she has figured out how to do with a sewing machine! I haven't tried any of the techniques yet, but I did start on my stitch dictionary:

These are the stitches from just one folder on my new machine. I have MANY more stitches to go, not to mention being able to mirror image and combine them into other stitches. Amazing! I happened to sign up for her Artist's Bag class in Houston before even trying this class, so I'm really looking forward to that now!

Well, that pretty much covers what I've been doing lately. I'll leave you with just one more picture:

Does this seem like a bad idea to any of the rest of you? Luckily in this case the iron was unplugged. Yesterday I caught her laying just a couple of inches away from the hot iron. I'm not sure how to teach the kitties to stay off of the pressing table. I might have to start putting the Scat Mat on the table when I'm not using it. We'll see if this gets to be a bigger problem......


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Colors of Velvet

Hi all -

I've finished my thread wreath color wheel. Except, of course, the final naming and putting on the label. My current thought is "Colors of Velvet", but I'll live with it for a little while before I make the final decision. Don't want to rush into anything as important as a name! ;)

If you remember, this wallhanging started as my July FMQ Challenge pillow, but turned into a wallhanging when I realized that I wasn't going to finish it in time anyway. The earlier work on this quilt is described here. At that point I had the colorful wreath quilted. After quilting the wreath, I added a gray echo line around the wreath to give it some unity and quilted the corner plumes in the same gray. I decided to leave the centers of the corner plumes unquilted so that they would puff out.

For the background quilting I used a dark purplish blue Kimono silk thread. I got the idea of using this color from one of my favorite quilting Web sites, Machine Quilter's Resource. The dark blue/purple is easier to see while you're doing the quilting and adds a very subtle sparkle to the background. I liked how that worked out. For the background in the center of the wreath, I just did echo lines. I'm not that pleased with them, but they aren't that noticeable so it doesn't really matter. For the rest of the background, I quilted parallel straight lines. I had to quilt the lines 1/8" apart to match the quilting density in the wreath and get the quilt to lie flat. Here's how it looked after completing the quilting:

Now to finish the edges. I need to try other edge techniques besides binding, so for this piece I decided to try a piped facing. And to make it even more interesting, I decided to use a solid gray fabric with stitched colored threads on it for the piping. For the piping, I would fabric strips cut on the bias. I didn't want to stitch a lot more fabric than I would use, so I cut a bias strip of fabric about 8.5" wide. I figured I could get 4 strips of 1.75" fabric out of that for the piping. When I'm cutting fabric on the bias, what I do is fold the yardage so that the cut edge is even with one of the selvedges:

The folded edge will be approximately along the 45 degree bias, and, really, with bias close is good enough. There's really not much difference in the stretch of a 45 degree edge and the stretch of a 50 degree edge. Then I very carefully press the folded edge, being very careful not to stretch anything:

It's the pressing that really makes this long edge usable. I don't know if you can tell in the pictures, but the edge before it's pressed is really puffy and hard to deal with. Once it dawned on me to press this edge (took me a long time to come up with that!), this method became easy and I don't avoid bias strips anymore. Now I can just fold the fabric to give me a manageable length and cut off the folded edge to get the first side of my bias strip:

I happen to have a longer ruler that I can use to cut this edge with the single fold. Before I got this ruler, I would use my 24" ruler and make a second fold so the fabric would fit under the ruler. This is a little fiddly to make sure the edge is completely straight, but really isn't too bad. And in most places where you use bias strips (binding, piping), it doesn't really matter if you get a little bit of a wiggle in your cut.

Now for all of the tedious stitching. I tried starching the fabric but couldn't get it stiff enough to stand up to the stitching, so I ended up using a stabilizer instead. I have a roll of Floriana tear-away/wash-away stabilizer that I thought would be perfect. That way, I don't really need to pull out the stabilizer after the stitching. I pinned the stabilizer on the bottom of the fabric and just started stitching:

And stitching, and stitching, and stitching.....

I must say, I've very good at threading my machine now! I had to change the top thread for each line of stitching because I knew that if I tried to do all of the red lines first I would never get things evenly spaced. At least I could use a gray thread in the bobbin so that didn't have to be changed.

Now it was time to make the piping. I decided to leave all of the stabilizer in because I didn't want to pull out the stitching while trying to tear out the stabilizer. I was worried that this would make the fabric too stiff to deal with, but it really worked out well. I used a thicker cording that I had since this piping was going around the outside edge of the quilt. I thought about using a single length of piping around the perimeter of the quilt, but I know that it's hard to get very square corners that way, so I decided to try something different and made individual lengths of piping for each side of the quilt. Here's the prepared piping (or at least 3 of them, the 4th was already on the quilt when I took the picture):

I sewed a piece along each edge, overlapping the piping at the corners. Then I pulled out the stitches down to where the two pipings met and lined them up in the corner like this (sorry I didn't get a picture before trimming):

I stitched across the pipings in the corners to hold them in place before trimming. Here's the whole quilt with the piping attached:

Then I just made a facing and put that on top. I stitched it on from the back, like Susan Cleveland teaches. Then turned the facing to the back, pressed everything in place and hand stitched it in place. Here is how it turned out:

And here's what the corner looks like:

Not the best look, but it's still okay. I might decide to put some sort of embellishment in the corners later on if the corners bother me.

Here's a picture of the back with the colorful hanging sleeve:

 And a close-up of some of the quilting:

I really love how this turned out. I love the colors in the wreath and the background straight-line quilting creates a really cool texture. At first my friend thought it was corduroy and then she said it reminded her of a velvet Elvis, so I wanted to include "velvet" in the quilt name. I also love the puffiness of the plumes in the corners.

That's all for now. I'll move on to another project and let you know how that goes.