Monday, June 18, 2018

Is it Cheating?

I am doing free motion quilting (FMQ), and work on a sit-down, domestic machine.  I don't have rulers because I have chosen not to spend the money on a special foot and all the rulers.  Straight lines are problematic when FMQ-ing.  They are probably one of the hardest part of any design.  I have done many of them and am not too bad at it, but I would prefer to avoid the imperfections that I invariably create.  So I cheat.  I put on a standard straight foot (actually my appliqué foot for visual clarity) and stitch with the help of the feed dogs.  In the designs I am currently doing there are a lot of almost straight lines and they look so much better with the cheat method.  I thumb my nose at the Quilt Police.

Is this really cheating?  Of course not!!  I believe that you need to do whatever will accomplish your vision.  I am not a purist, but you need be sure it will work on your quilt without puckering either the top or backing.  The only way to test this is to try it on your actual quilt.  You might have to do a little ripping if it don't do too much for starters.

TIP:  The best way to prevent puckering is to stitch all your piecing and appliqué in the ditch (SID) before you begin any fancy quilting.  This way you have small areas secured.  Every line of stitching takes up a little bit of fabric so there is just a little bit less to bubble up.

Stitching straight guided by my favorite marking tool (Sewline Pencil).
Even those curved leaves came out nicely and there were no puckers.
Another thing to think about is the size of your quilt.  If you need to outline even a little 2 inch square, you will have to turn your quilt four times to make it around.  This may not be practical on a bed-sized quilt.  I make smaller quilts and have a machine with a roomy harp so I am not having a problem except that it is a bit of a nuisance.  However, I think it is worth it to get the straight lines and even stitches.  I also have the whole quilt well secured with lots of SID (every single seam!).

TIP:  You can use your dual feed or walking foot, but the SID allows the use of a regular foot.  I find it hard to maneuver my thick quilt under the dual feed foot.  It depends on your machine and quilt.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you success in evading both the Quilt Police and puckers.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Second Place Stitching

I am in a place where stitching comes second.

Summer is here:  lots of yardwork after the plumbers tore up the yard to hook us into the city sewer.

DH recovering from major surgery:  double duty for yours truly.

24 hour stomach upset:  just me, thank goodness; 48 hour recovery.

Ponderosa pine pollen:  all over the place, leaving us with headaches and sneezes.  It looks like yellow snow on the cars, furniture, kitchen counters, etc.  Lots of dusting to do every day.

Ponderosa pollen covers everything with yellow dust.
Clearly sewing takes second, third or fourth place in this scenario.  However, free motion thinking proceeds as usual, and I think I finally came up with a solution for quilting four, black blocks in my quilt.  I tried it on the actual quilt and below is the result.

Top motif on the black square has been the troublemaker.
Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you inspiration that solves your problems.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Where Have I Been?

Actually I have been home.  It started with house guests - my daughter and grandaughter.  What fun!  We got one hike in when DH developed some scary symptoms and within a week had donated a kidney to the pathology lab.  It all happened so fast, but he is now recovering well.  It sent the family into a spin and I have been too busy doing double duty here at home to spend time writing or sewing. Sewing was curtailed additionally by the fact that my granddaughter was sleeping with my sewing machine until time to report to camp where she is a counselor this summer.

I am now back to quilting and making good progress on a lot of tedious, small designs.  I am slowly making my way to the outer verges of the quilt, and looking forward to working on large feathers in a wide border.

I am also pondering what to quilt on four squares, each 4 inches.  I drew a design, but now that I am there I don't like it.  What do you do when you get stumped on what to do?

1.  Head for Pinterest for ideas.  I do not mean copy verbatim, but be inspired and let your brain digest what you see until your own creative ideas emerge.

2.  Grab pencil and paper.  Draw your ideas.  Some work.  Some don't.  Some lead to interesting effects.  Pretty soon you will have a design worth trying with your needle.

Playtime with pencil, trying a couple of ideas.
3.  Work it out on a scrap sandwich made from the same batting and fabric in your quilt.

Playtime with needle; three ideas on one block.
I still don't like any of the ideas with needle.  The corners are a serious issue.  Yes, it is wonky in the tester, but will be straight and precise on the quilt with better stitching.  This is only a scrap venue for trying it out in a hurry.

4. (optional)  Go back to #1 and hunt for more ideas.  Go further afield than just Pinterest.  Play with it.  In the meantime there are many other parts of the quilt to stitch.  It will come together eventually.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you a plethora of ideas.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Crunch Time

I am having guests all next week.  I'm down to the wire trying to get things done, but life doesn't always cooperate.

Thurs - Slush storm.  Have you ever seen slush come straight from the sky?  What a slippery mess and too cold to work in the unheated "Guest Cottage" (GC) (repurposed garage).

Sat - It is finally warmer.  I will do laundry while I clean the GC because my daughter will be sleeping out there if it doesn't turn too cold.  One load done and hung and the washing machine died so I spent my morning washing the rest at the laundromat.  No cleaning accomplished.

I did get some sewing done this week, but not on my quilt.  I will be traveling in the Fall and need a small bag to hold some knitting.  I will make some lacy bookmarks from crochet thread.  Check Pinterest.  They are so pretty.  I can't stand to sit around doing nothing.  I am a flea on a hot stove.  Thus, I ALWAYS take some kind of handwork.  I am also making an afghan, but it is too bulky to take along on planes and ships.  But I'll take it to work on in the car.

I bought a bag pattern that had a whole bunch of different bags to make...all sizes.  I am not a big fan of stitching bags, but the one I chose went together beautifully, even though I added canvas lining.  I didn't have any heavy fabric so used cotton from my quilting stash for the outside of the bag.  I am so pleased.  It is the perfect size (8 x 10"), and has a zipper closure at the top so I won't dribble knitting supplies everywhere I go.  It is squash-able for packing.  Don't you love it when things work out just right?

The new knitting bag on an afghan that I designed and made.
Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you a week of things working out just right.

PS.  Here is a pasque flower amazingly in full bloom even though it had been flattened by the heavy, slushy snow that buried it.

Pasque flower in full bloom.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Time Travel

The weeks go so fast.  The quilt goes so slowly.  Spring seems to have come to the mountains.  We have wild pasque flowers all over our yard.  I have never seen so many.  They are small but so special...about the size of crocuses.

Pasque Flower
Another motif quilted.  This is such fun. I never get bored doing these intricate designs.  This isn't complete, but I couldn't sew today.  The feather will be repeated on the other three sides.  Those stitches really look bumpy in close up photo.  Do them over or not?  That is the question.

Motif with metallic gold and Isacord turquoise thread.
This is a busy time getting the house into Spring/Summer mode.  Pulling winter-stored stuff out of the Guest House (repurposed garage) so that visitors can stay there.  My daughter and grand-daughter are coming in another week and the sewing room has to be turned back into a bedroom as well.  To top it off we are due for snow in the next few days.  So much for Spring!

Life is never dull at our house and we love it.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you joy in your spring cleaning and straight lines in your FMQ.

Monday, April 23, 2018

My Talking Quilt

Do you have conversations with your quilt?  I do.  Sometimes my side of the conversation needs some cleaning up, but we do converse.  When I stitch nicely my quilt dances.  When I try to go my own way my quilt chastises me.

I draw my designs out on tracing paper, but I forgot something.  I filled in all the spaces and it looked so nice on paper, but when I began to stitch I realized that if I fill all those spaces with stitches, there will be no puff.  Empty spaces don't look good on paper, but they look beautiful on a quilt.  My quilt agrees, "YES!"  See below.  I filled one side with the pebbles, but the remaining un-quilted sides showed me that the fill was no good.  Have you ever ripped out pebbles?

Pebbles = No Puff
My designs are drawn with pencil on paper that is basically white so there are still thread color choices to make.  I thought I had them all worked out, but the quilt disagreed.  I have tried all ideas and threads on the scrap sandwich, but it is different when translated to the actual quilt.

Here is our conversation regarding the latest motif:

Quilt:  "Get rid of the black thread.  It makes me feel dirty and depressed." (no photo)

Me:  "OK.  It is gone.  I will use red."

The upper motif is filled with red and a diagonal grid.
Quilt:  "Ick.  It doesn't show.  Now I feel completely invisible.  I know you didn't plan on using orange thread, but I think that is the answer to make me feel alive.  The diagonal grid is bad."

Me:  "OK.  Red is gone.  I give up.  Orange it is and I'll change the grid."

Quilt:  "I LOVE it.  Now I can dance. I can fly. I will be noticed.  I love being surrounded by gold.  I feel like a queen."

Success!  You can't see the puff on the lower motif, but it makes a nice frame.
(photo slightly distorted)
I was ripping out the curved, diagonal grid (see the other photo) on the upper motif and noticed that the vertical seam in the middle really disrupted puff.  I changed the grid to vertical instead of diagonal with the center grid line on the seam, and worked out to the sides.  Now the seam doesn't even show.  The gold metallic pebbles don't shine in the photo, but they are a real WOW factor.

TIP:  Keep your seam ripper, scissors and tweezers close at hand.  Don't be lazy and leave it if the quilt begins to scream at you.  The more you ignore the quilt's conversation the more ripping, or the less you will love your quilt.

I hate to rip as much as the next person, but I will continue to do so if it doesn't look right.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you perseverance to achieve your goals.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Ripping Orange

I told you about my tension troubles and the resulting need to rip.  The thread that needed to come out is all orange.  It was a tedious task and needed to be carefully done.  I am so glad that I had stitched the seams in the ditch.  I didn't have to worry about distortion.  I spent three evenings watching free Amazon Prime movies with an Ott-light glowing over the quilt on my lap.  The first two movies were very enjoyable.  The third I was glad to shut off when the last stitch came out, I don't intend to watch the rest of it.  I am now off and stitching again and this time the tension is right and it looks like it is supposed to look.

Before sitting down to sew, I got down on the floor and pulled up all the loose thread flying around so it won't wrap around the vacuum cleaner brush.

The ironing board is a trap for all things extraneous.  Note to self:  Do something about it!

Dinner is left-overs.  Can't let them go to waste.

A little bit of housecleaning.  Not much.  I don't want to get addicted.

Keep the brain creating.  Photoshop has a new Technical Preview so I slowed down briefly to learn how to use it.  This could be a real time usurper, but I may be able to translate it to quilts or quilting in some form or another.

Butterfly Mandala

Physical Therapy is helping a bum arm.  Hiking helps to restore my whole body. I am accomplishing all kinds of dumb stuff that has been sitting around for weeks.

Mailed a quilt off to hang in the Utah Quilt and Sewing Marketplace Show.  It is a non-juried show, but the quilts are judged and ribbons and prizes awarded.  We'll see how it goes first weekend in May in Sandy, UT.  If you go to the show, say "Hi" to my quilt.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you time to get lots done and have fun.

PS.  Photo from last week's hike.

Mills Lake, Rocky Mountain NP

PSUtah Quilting & Sewing Marketplace

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Thing About Thread

I cannot offer a master class on thread.  If I have questions I turn to Superior threads and their great chart.  Of course it is only for Superior threads, which are excellent threads.  I have one store an hour away that carries some of their threads, but I often have to order from the company.  They have thread cards with actual samples so you can accurately judge colors, for a price of course.  However, I also use threads that are more available in the stores.  In the end you have to choose what you like and what will look best on your quilt.

On my current quilt I am using Isacord (polyester).  I was stitching away having a great time and very pleased with the results using Isacord on top and Superior Bottom Line in the bobbin.  When I had a thread that wouldn't pull to the top, I turned the quilt over and almost cried:  the tension was wacko.  I had those little thread pokies on every sharp turn of my feathers, and the micro-stippling (silk and Bottom Line) looked like a starry sky on the back because there were so many pokies that were long. This happens when the upper tension is too loose so the bobbin pulls the upper thread visibly to the back.  I tightened the tension and played with it a bit on my sample scrap, but it didn't help.  Re-threading the machine and changing the needle was no help either.  Next I spoke to my professional quilter daughter who suggested I put cotton in the bobbin.  So I put the quilt away for 24 hours!

Thread pokies on the back of the quilt. Anathema to judges.

Next day, fresh and ready to tackle the problem I ripped out the stippling and used Aurafil cotton thread top and bottom.  Not only was normal tension fine, it looked so much better.  The stippling texture is more visible now than it was with silk on top and I really like the way it looks both front and back, even though it is black on black on the front.

The tiny feathers were next.  The front looked fine, but the back was too sloppy to suit me.  I still want to use Isacord because I love the sheen, so I decided to use it both top and bottom.  Beautiful!  I'll have to do some ripping, but it will be worth it.

Quilt back.  Stippling redone and good.
Feather imperfections circled in white:  pokie, bump, loop.

TIP:  This is strictly my own opinion.  I was told by my machine dealer that Bottom Line has a little elasticity and when it relaxes after being stretched in the stitching process it puts too much tension on the top thread and pulls it through.  I haven't talked to the Superior Thread company, but if I use Bottom Line again I will do a more thorough test run before stitching my quilt.  Isacord is not a Superior brand thread and my machine is clearly unhappy when I try to match it with Bottom Line.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you no tension mismatches, no bumps, loops or pokies.

Monday, April 2, 2018


Excitement:  "A feeling of great enthusiasm and eagerness." (from my Mac dictionary).

If you are a quilter or creator you are very familiar with this feeling.  Starting a new project.  Designing a new project.  Starting a new portion of a project.  Rejecting a failed project and, yes, starting all over from scratch.  A cleaned up sewing room.  I could go on and on.  lf you are a passionate artist you know what I am talking about.

After spending a week sewing with pencil and tracing paper, I was finally ready and excited to start sewing with a needle.  A poor start meant a few ripped stitches instead of an eraser, but once I got going I was thrilled to see my designs come to life.  So exciting!  This quilt will be a palette for quilting and will be heavily stitched.  It will have very little puff, but lots of texture.  It will be one of those "cardboard" quilts, but my piecing design does not lend itself to big, soft, quilted puffs.

The start.  Pinwheel star waiting for thread so not done yet.

TIP:  Practice your quilting for 15 minutes if you haven't done it for awhile.  Keep a scrap sandwich for this purpose, knowing that it only works if you use it for some practice.  Do as I say, not as I did!  I made a mistake early on, but only needed to rip out a couple of inches so it wasn't a big deal...this time.

It is truly exciting to see the designs come to life under the needle.  It was even exciting to take down the card table on which I did my drawing.  Now I have some breathing space around me.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you time to spend with something exciting.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Inspiration Needed!

Oh my.  Here is Monday again and I have no post and no inspiration except that my walk this morning was so lovely:  clouds, fog, blue sky and sunshine intermingling and frisking around the mountains.

I finished my SID (stitch in ditch).  I thought it would take forever, but it didn't and now it is done.

I tried something new this time by designing my quilting on a 15 x 15 inch version of my quilt from the computer.  I drew what I thought was a really nice design.  However, when I compared the drawing to the full sized quilt it was clear that my designs were no good on the larger format.  Back to the drawing board, literally.

The drawing table.  Designs still subject to lots of changes.
I printed out one quarter of the quilt full sized.  This took quite a few pieces of paper and the time to tape them together.  I stapled tracing paper over the top and sat down with audiobook, pencil, eraser and a few ideas.  When you get one idea going, others begin to flow.  I find it relaxing to draw.  Another day or two and I will be ready to actually stitch.  I have tried out a few ideas with needle and scraps and so far they are satisfying.  I don't think the quilting will get tedious because I will be doing lots of different things.

This is all part of sewing a quilt.  I drag it out.  I don't do deadlines so what is the hurry?

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you time to play, reflect and create.

PS.  A photo from this week's lower elevation hike.