Monday, June 27, 2016

Lately

Though last week was a no-blogging week, that doesn't mean I've been in a sewing slump. In fact I've found time to happily play in my sewing room on my new quilting machine. 

That new Janome 1600PQC has already proven it's capabilities as a quilting machine. I returned to quilting on this "Make it Easier" quilt, finishing it last week. 


I designed "Make it Easier" in 2014, specifically for teaching block construction in a Beyond First Time Quiltmaking class at the Lifelong Learning College. The top had been languishing too long, so several months ago I double-batted it (Quilter's Dream request loft poly with Quilter's Dream wool on top), and began quilting it.. That's was the first hint of machine problems on the Pfaff Grand Quilter - skipped stitches and broken threads. So, the quilt is done now, and I'm very pleased with it.

By the way, I sold the Pfaff Grand Quilter to a local friend who's a newer quilter. I didn't give her the feet with it, knowing new feet are needed for successful FMQ. I'm looking forward to seeing some nice quilting from her.

Most of the quilting on "Make it Easier" is with white Aurifil 50-weight, though I used orange thread to emphasize several arrow patterns. I did a lot of quilting with rulers, using FineLine rulers by Accents in Design. I recently purchased a set of concentric circle rulers, called Circles on Quilts Templates by Westalee, that I look forward to playing with.

Four different prints were used to bind the quilt! Usually I don't do that, but this quilt called for it and I thought it would be another way to get a good photos of my favorite No Tails Binding: Mitered Corners by Machine method. 

This also gives me an opportunity to mention again that I'm teaching this binding method through the Modern Quilt Guild. If you're a member, then you can attend the free webinar I'll be leading on Thursday, September 29 at 9 Eastern Time. I'd love your support! Register here. 

A full-size picture of the finished "Make it Easier" quilt is coming as soon as I get outdoors to take a decent photo.

On weekends in my sewing room, I've been attempting to design a quilt that's all solid fabrics. I'll admit that designing does not come easily to me... if it even comes to me at all! I had this idea, worked it up in EQ7, pieced the quilt top, and then decided I didn't like it, though it turned out very much like the EQ7 design.

I emailed a picture of the quilt top to my quilty friend Anne Sullivan of PlayCrafts - to whom it seems designing comes really easily (she's moving to Orlando in July, and teaching at QuiltCon East!) - and asked her to give me some suggestions to make it better. Following her idea, I took apart the top, rearranging units of dark medium and light blue, and still didn't like it. Too boring, probably because of the too-limited color palette: three aquas, and yellow.

I've been making a mess as I unsew blocks, sew them together again with accent colors, and then decide I don't like those either! 

This designing stuff isn't easy!

Next I tried some improv piecing with all the bits of fabric I've been unsewing.

They're in a revised version of the first block, but it still didn't make me happy.

This is the latest iteration. Better. Still not sure where this is going... or if it's even going. 

Instead of white on the outside of the block, I've been auditioning other colors.

Goodness. It's no telling where this will end up! Sewing has been only on weekends because last week my sister visited, for the first time, from Kansas City. We had a nice time. And this week our Texas family is coming. I'm looking at company as an enforced breather between frustrating hours of designing!

This past weekend proved rather exciting as at 10 a.m. Saturday registration opened for next February's QuiltCon East in Savannah, Georgia. I was at my computer on the strike of 10, and managed to register for everything I wanted - four-day admission; all-lecture pass; and two workshops: Playing With Solids, and Understanding the Rainbow: A Fresh Look at Color. I got in before the major crash of the whole registration site!

Many modern quilters are waiting for an email from the MQG about when they can try registering again. I feel very fortunate, and so does my friend Di.

QuiltCon East, February 23-26, will be a really big deal on multiple fronts. Not only is the show not too far away from where I live, but dear friend Di Jobbins (SnippetsnScraps, and DarlingDi on Instagram) is coming to the US from Sydney, Australia for the show, and a month-long stay with me! We've been FaceTiming about our plans for her visit here, which will be her first to the US. I'm planning to drive her as many places as possible, before and after QuiltCon, including the AQS quilt show in Daytona Beach March 1-4.

Di, and her friend Di (also a friend) were recently featured in a Vinelines blog post. Team Di deserves this recognition for all their donation/charity sewing, and the post also relates the story of how the Dis and I became friends - when I taught a beginner quilting class in Sydney. Here's a link to one of Di's posts about me teaching there. I looked much younger in 2009!

Anticipating Di's trip to Florida gives me the warm-fuzzies. I have so many friends around the world! It's pretty amazing how our world becomes small when it's shared electronically with quilters. Every one of you who comments, and who I have a chance to reply to, is one of those special friends. Thank you! Linda

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Quilt for Dr. Q

Today is the day I gifted a quilt to my cardio-vascular doctor, Dr. Q. He is a wonderful physician and has taken excellent care of me. I cringe to think what condition I'd be in now, without his medical expertise.

I was in his office today for a follow-up to last week's carotid ultrasound and echocardiogram. I was relieved to learn that plaque in areas are normal. Whew. There's no explanation as to why I have PAD (peripheral artery disease) so severely in my legs, and not elsewhere. It's most common that a person who has plaque built-up in one area of the body will have it everywhere. I'm an anomaly, and darned happy about it!

So after the diagnostic part of my visit, and learning that in three months I'll have a STRIDE test to determine how the blood is flowing in my legs - I'll always being monitored - I had the fun of telling him I'd made him something. By the way, that stack of papers under the wrapping is my arterial history for the past 2-1/2 years!

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing his reaction, and by every indication, he was genuinely touched. 


After opening the quilt, he said that he had been gifted many things over the years, but that this gift was really special.

I couldn't be more proud! I love this quilt for it's graphic quality, dramatic colors (Kona shadow, steel, charcoal, ruby, brick, orange, and curry) and distinctive air of masculinity. Perfect for a man. 


I put my best into Rebel, a pattern by Libs Elliott, in spite of my Pfaff Grand Quilter giving me fits of exasperation during quilting - many skipped stitches and broken threads. The textural quilty goodness shows best on the back. 


Batting is a single layer of Quilter's Dream Request loft poly. Using Aurifil 50-weight thread in my Bernina Aurora 440 with a walking foot, I first quilted five spirals of varying sizes. Those filled up more than half of the quilt. Then using my Pfaff, I went in between spirals to quilt designs that were appropriate for the shapes.

 

Rebel measures 70" X 71", suitable for cuddling under, or hanging on a wall. Wouldn't it look great in an office? In fact, when I suggested that he could either take it home and use it, or hang it on a wall, he said he'd like to hang it in his Ocala office. We're going to talk more about that at a later time, as I have offered to sew a hanging sleeve on it.

On the middle lower left side the one whole patch that's red is the "rebel" block. I intentionally quilted a heart in that block! Yikes! Many of you know how much I dislike hearts in any quilting design, but it's my respect for him and his profession that overroad my personal distaste for heart motifs.
A heart for a heart doctor

I pieced the quilt back attempting to use up fabrics from the quilt front. In fact, I did such a good job that I ran short and had to add a different solid grey to all the Konas in this quilt. You can see the greenish-grey Moda Bella solid in the upper and lower right.


Thanks Debbie and Frances for being my quilt-holders on a sunny, hot, blustery day.

Dr. Q. has taken exemplary care of me and this quilt honors him for that.

Linda

Monday, June 13, 2016

A Startling Revelation!

My quilting machine problems have finally been resolved, but not without issue or tears.

After talking with quilt-y friends, five different sewing machine dealers, and much consideration, I decided I want a Janome 1600PQC. The three main reasons are:
  1. The three quilting feet from my Pfaff Grand Quilter fit the Janome 1600PQC.
  2. The price was lower than the Juki 2010Q.
  3. The Janome 1600PQC runs quieter than the Juki 2010Q.
With the decision to buy Janome made, I checked the website of the local Janome dealer and found an advertised price of $999... a price I had been told, just one week before by the same dealership, that they would not meet, nor would he sell the machine without a quilt frame. So, last Friday morning when I saw that $999 price advertised on his own website, I phoned him to point it out. He immediately back-pedaled, saying that Janome headquarters must have changed the price on the website the night before, and that he didn't know about it because he doesn't stock that machine.

I made a phone call to Nancy's Quilt Shop in Winter Garden (43 miles from me), and learned that she had a Janome 1600PQC in stock. I arranged to go there and determine if my Pfaff feet would fit that machine.

Just before I left home, the local Janome dealer phoned me to apologize for not checking further into getting a Janome 1600PQC for me. He even called himself "an ass." I let him know that I'd found a dealership with the machine in stock, and that I was going to look at it. 'Nuf said.

While at Nancy's Quilt Shop, I tried all three Pfaff feet on the Janome - walking foot, darning/FMQ foot, and ruler work foot - using my double batt quilt sandwich to quilt samples. The Janome quilted beautifully. And gosh, it's almost identical to my Pfaff Grand Quilter! No learning curve.

I bought the Janome and brought it home Friday afternoon. But I didn't get time to actually set it up and quilt until Sunday.

That's when I shed my first tears.

The new Janome machine immediately began skipping stitches and breaking thread. My hubs, Dan, heard my cries of alarm, disbelief, and frustration and came into my sewing room to help sort out the problem.

He has years of manufacturing education and experience in a methodical approach to resolving an issue. It's called Root Cause Analysis, and he brought those skills to bear on my sewing machine situation. Together and infinitesimally slowly, we went through the owner's manual to:

  • rethread the machine
  • rethread the bobbin
  • try Mettler 50-weight, then 60-weight thread, versus the Aurifil I always use
  • try polyester thread
  • change the needle (the one original to the Janome)
  • check the tension settings and pressure foot pressure, none of which I'd touched since being in the quilt shop
Every time I tried quilting, the top thread skipped and broke... and I cried. 

Dan suggested I quilt with the walking foot. The Janome worked beautifully. Then he suggested I try quilting with the ruler work foot. Again, it quilted beautifully. 

Then, I put the darning/FMQ foot back on the Janome. Skipped stitches and broken thread.

Revelation! This is the culprit.

We compared this darning/FMQ foot with the ruler work foot, and the only difference we can find between the two is the amount of tension on the spring. The darning foot spring is looser, perhaps from all the quilting I put it through since I use it 90 percent of the time.

I pulled back out my Pfaff Grand Quilter, put the ruler work foot on it, and it quilted beautifully.

I put the darning/FMQ foot back on the Pfaff. Skipped stitches and broken thread.

Then, I really bawled!

I had just spent $1,036 (tax included) on a brand new machine, when the problem all along has been the foot! The blasted foot!

Let me tell you, then there was real weeping and wailing! 

Dan, the voice of calm and reason, assured me that it wasn't my fault, and pointed out that the Pfaff tech in Ocala, and several other dealers I had spoken with about the problem had not suggested that the foot might be the problem. 

Dan also said I deserve this new Janome machine. 

So, wiping my tears and blowing my nose, I gave him a hug and kiss and decided to make the best of it. After that, I used the ruler work foot to do a little FMQ. But honestly, after the trauma of the day, my heart wasn't in it. I couldn't stop chastising myself for not recognizing that the foot was the problem all along.
Quilting with a ruler work foot.
On the positive side... I can now in good conscience, sell my Pfaff Grand Quilter. There's nothing wrong with it! 

I want to extend a warm and sincere thank you to Amy Johnson of Amy's Quilting Adventures (she's amys_fmq_adventures on Instagram, and follow her blog for great FMQ information) in Lynchburg, Virginia, for working with me late Sunday to get the correct new feet ordered for my Janome - a darning/FMQ foot, and a new ruler work foot which looks a little different than the one I've been using on my Pfaff. And, I treated myself to Circles on Quilts Template (rulers for ruler work) for making 2"-12" concentric circles.

Now that I've slept on this for one night, that Janome 1600PQC is looking more like a good investment in my quilting future. Ahh. Linda

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Cartwheels Quilt

It's time to post pictures of a finish. It's always a good time to post pictures of a finish!

This is Cartwheels Quilt, a foundation paper pieced design by Lee Heinrich of FreshlyPieced.

The quilt top was pieced during Big Cypress Quilter's March 1-4 retreat to Kenilworth House in Sebring, Florida. It got quilted during Central Florida MQG's May 5-8 retreat to Luther Springs in Hawthorne, Florida.

This 46" X 56" crib size version of Cartwheels is for a class I'll be teaching at the Lifelong Learning College beginning Monday, September 26. (Learn more by clicking the above tab "Teaching Schedule"). Batting is Quilter's Dream Request loft poly. 

Quilting is with 50-weight Aurifil. Designs are: a long swirled hook along each cartwheel spoke; an outline of each cartwheel straight-line quilted in the background; and filler that's small swirls.

Notice the unusual print combo for binding. It's because I needed binding that would photograph well. I took lots of photos that I'll be presenting during a MQG Webinar on Thursday, September 29: "No Tails Binding: Mitered Corners by Machine."

Yep, a live Webinar! From my sewing room to quilters around the world! I'm more than excited and hope lots of quilters catch on to binding their quilts with this method.

If you're a MQG member you can register for the Webinar at any time. Go here.

The quilt back is cobbled together with one quilt block, and hunks and chunks of other fabrics. I'm a big proponent of using up fabrics in backings to lighten my stash... and make room for newer stuff. 

Thanks Debbie for being my quilt-holder for these pictures which were taken outside Big Cypress Rec Center on a sunny, humid day after Tropical Storm Colin went through.

By the way, I very much appreciate everyone's comments and advice about which machine for quilting. (See previous post.) Each of you helped me weigh the features and options.

I'm pretty sure I want the Janome 1600P, but haven't figure out where to buy it. Believe it or not, the Janome dealer who's closest to me will only sell the machine with a quilting frame (?!), and won't match the price quoted by the Janome dealer who's an hour away. Why is this so difficult? Linda

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Which Quilting Machine?


Out of desperation for a dependable machine for quilting at home, I've begun to research my options. I'm looking only at quilting machines - not machines that quilt and a have regular sewing machine features like decorative stitches, nor sit-down mid-arm machines with 16" to 20" harps. Those don't allow walking foot quilting, and most often have a built-in stitch regulator that I wouldn't use.

Last week found me visiting two dealers:
Bernina Sewing Centre in Lake Mary selling Bernina and Janome
 and
Sew Mini Things in Mount Dora selling Juki, Babylock, Elna, and Singer

These dealerships are in Florida.

The two machines I am considering look and behave very much like my Pfaff Grand Quilter.

The two machines I quilted on that day were a Janome 1600 QC at Bernina Sewing Centre, and Juki TL-2010Q at Sew-Mini Things. I tested each machine using my own quilt sandwich of double batting (Quilter's Dream poly request and QD wool), and my Aurifil 50-weight thread.

Features that are the same on both machines
  • Lovely stitches - without/don't have a stitch regulator
  • Industrial, all metal, high speed:
    • Janome 1,600 stitches per minute
    • Juki 1,500 stitches per minute
  • Speed control: "turtle" to "running rabbit"
  • Straight stitch only (no zig-zag)
  • Needle up/needle down by pushing a button
  • 9" throat (harp)
  • Separate bobbin winding (while upper threads and bobbin are threaded)
  • Knee lift to lower/raise the presser foot
  • Reverse (backstitch) bar, meant to be pressed by one's right forearm
  • Left-to-right needle threading
  • Automatic needle threader (I never use it)
  • Automatic thread cutter (I never use it because a long tweezer/hemostat is needed to capture the bobbin thread and pull it back up)
  • Extended sewing machine bed with adjustable surface surround table
The Differences

Different Janome features
  • Uses HL-X5 machine needles
  • Thread-cutting by pressing a button
  • Feed dogs covered by a separate single-hole throat plate
  • Price includes only a straight stitch foot. Priced separately: a walking foot, darning foot, and ruler work foot.

Different Juki features
  • Uses standard sewing machine needles
  • Thread cutting by heel-tapping the foot control
  • Feed dogs lowered or raised by moving a switch
  • LED lighting
  • Price includes a straight stitch foot, two darning (quilting) feet, and a walking foot
What I personally noted:
  • Comparing the sound of each machine, as I was quilting... the Janome runs quieter. Since Dan accompanied me to each shop, he's the one who noticed! Having worked in manufacturing for John Deere for more than 30 years, I value his opinion that the Janome is quieter because it may go through a more fitted, tighter manufacturing process.
  • The Juki seemed to require more "push" to get the quilt sandwich moving under the needle in spite of the pressure on the presser foot raised to the high position.
I'm reluctant to quote prices because those will change. But I'll say that the two machines are within about $100 of each other even though:
  • A Janome purchase means buying three extra feet - walking foot, darning foot, ruler work foot.
  • A Juki purchase means buying a ruler work foot.
In either case, I'd want to have the quilting foot "toe" cut out, so it's like the one on my Pfaff, on the left. The foot on the right is the Pfaff ruler work, quarter-inch heel foot. Interestingly, it's possible that both of these feet may fit the Janome! I need to check on that. 

By the way, I'm not considering a Babylock Jane purchase because the price for that machine is considerably higher, though she includes eight sewing machine feet.

Whether I buy a Janome or a Juki may come down to the warranty, and convenience/distance to the dealership. But if you have any input about either machine, I'd love to hear what you have to say. Thanks! Linda

Monday, May 30, 2016

Last Week

We don't often have company, so it was a treat to have friends visit for five days last week. Greg and Patty are from my husband's hometown - Mason City, Iowa - and I've known them since 1972. For two years now they've lived in Texas and we consider it an honor that they take time away from their home and family to be with us. A whole lot of laughing goes on when we're all together.

Patty always makes our visits a treat because she asks for girl time. So, via golf cart, we went to my hair stylist so Patty could get a trim, and then next door to the Nail Saloon (not a misspelling!) for pedicures and manicures.

Lunch out, a nice Dan-made evening meal, a rousing game of Mexican Train Dominoes, and a second day spent shopping fulfilled the request for girl time!

In between activities, Patty and chatted in my sewing room about 12 quilt blocks she brought along. They'd been stored away for more than 30 years! Talk about a UFO! :-) Patty says she made the blocks in 1984 when a group met monthly at the library (on her lunch hour) to get a pattern, and draw, cut, and hand-piece a block.

After playing with how to layout the blocks, we settled on this vertical chronological arrangement: January's snowflake in the upper left; May's basket in the middle top; and September's school house in the upper right, ending with the Bethlehem Star at the bottom right. June's block of the outline of Iowa and Iowa's Wild Rose (state flower) is special.

The blocks were pretty wrinkled - Cranston VIP Printworks fabric from the mid-80s is thin - and not the same size. After Patty left, I spray-starched, pressed, and trimmed each block, and added compensating strips of Kona Ruby to those blocks that needed just a bit more to measure 16" X 16" unfinished. They look much better now.

Patty and I figured out a quilt arrangement using EQ7, so she'll end up with a king-sized (104" X 111") quilt for her master bed, and ordered fabric online - Kona Prussian (blue) for sashing, and Kona Snow for the drop around all four sides. A batt of Quilter's Dream Select Cotton is coming too. Patty wants big undulating quilted feathers in the borders which seems just about perfect for this traditional quilt. We looked online and found hand-quilting: amishhandquilting.com for $1.10 per yard of quilting thread. Patty's hoping to find a group of Iowa Amish women to quilt this.

Our Central Florida MQG is participating in the 2017 QuiltCon East Charity Quilt Challenge. I've collected the fabrics for it, and have been thinking about our design. I'm working on it with Becky.

The MQG has rules that include what size to make the quilt, and which solid colors and manufacturer's brands are allowed. These are the Kona solids to which I have added Kaufman Blueberry Park prints. Prints are permitted that match the solid colors.

I wanted to play with the prints and the free foundation paper-pieced Beach Chair Block I found on the Cotton and Steel blog, so I made this 10" block. Doesn't that Kona Yarrow look good as sand? There's also a Retro Shell and Lawn Chair Block. I think I need to make more for a wall hanging.

This Memorial Day weekend found me making a huge mess in my sewing room. I have been thinking about an original design I'd like to create for QuiltCon East. It isn't coming together as I imagined. Even though I first drew and colored on graph paper, I've lost something in translation. Thought I'd make this with solids from my stash, but the background is coming out more pastel-colored than I imagined.

On the right side of the design wall are all the blocks and circles that have been made and discarded. I'm collecting some nice pieces for a backing! 

After two days of this, in frustration and disgust I sorted through everything and put it away - except for what's on the design wall. It's percolating. Ha! Perhaps I already have a name for this unknown entity! Linda

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