Monday, June 29, 2015

The Phoenix has Wings

I have a brand new sewing machine.  I got a Baby Lock "Aria," and am loving it.  It is a European-made machine and has a few quirks that are a bit different from my old Viking, but they are minor adjustments.  I will continue to learn as I do different types of sewing on my quilts.  Why did I turn in my Viking for a Baby Lock?
*Viking sewing machine company has been sold and the quality has plummeted.
*My local Bernina dealer didn't seem particularly interested in trying to sell me a machine.
*My trusted sewing machine dealer and repairman tells me the Baby Lock is the best on the market.
*I checked reviews on the Web and they were all positive.
*My repairman has always given me outstanding service and advice, and he and his wife give me personal attention when needed.  I am sure that will continue.  In fact it has!
*I got a trade-in deal so saved significant dollars.

One of the first things I did with my new machine was to break a needle and it bent the needle threader so my new baby was in the shop within the first week.  I blame pilot error, but am also finding that the "touch" is a little different and we are still getting used to each other.  It is like a piano - no two feel exactly the same when you sit down to play.

As I get acquainted with the technical aspects of my new equipment I have been thread painting the wings of my Phoenix and the new machine does a great job.  As I have mentioned before, this is a new process for me and my early experimentation and practice have paid off.  Now that I have some of the bird completed, there is a great article in Machine Quilters Unlimited on stabilizers for thread painting and the way three different people put the layers together.  Murphy's Law - I wish I had seen that article before I started.

Phoenix Wing
I am using Isacord thread on top and Superior's Bottom Line in the bobbin, and it is a good combination.  Isacord thread has a sheen to it that is just beautiful.  Each feather is sewn with lines coming out at an angle from a center spoke - kind of like quilted feathers, but straight lines like real bird feathers.  I discovered that in a certain light the same color thread going at one angle looks like a different shade when going at the opposite angle (you can't see that effect in the photo).  It is very interesting and changes with the light and its direction.  These lines are done with a zig-zag stitch by moving the quilt back and forth.  It fills more quickly than a regular stitch and I like the way it looks.   After sewing the directional lines, I changed thread color and stitched the spoke over the top.

What are those lines of white stitching?  I originally used safety pins to secure the quilt sandwich, which consists of top, two layers of stabilizer, batting, and backing.  Once pinned I stitched an approximately 4 inch grid over the whole quilt with Vanish water soluble thread from Superior...then removed the pins.  I knew the stitching would be intense and would cause rippling around the bird so I didn't want to mess with pins.  You can see the ruffles in background, but they will submit nicely under the control of background quilting.

I did the under-tummy feathers a little differently.

Under-tummy feathers.
I used a free motion zig-zag stitch here too, but made the stitches stay in zig-zags instead of stretching them into lines.  I didn't cover the fabric as heavily so the color variety would show through.  Click on the photo to see the stitches better.  The deliberate result is a rougher, more ragged look for these small one inch feathers.

Stop back next week and I will explain why I have had to stop work on my Phoenix bird temporarily.

Sew many happy stitches this week.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Wool, Beautiful Wool

Have you ever been to a Wool market?  It is so much fun that I am going off topic today for the benefit of all you quilters who dabble in other fiber crafts.  We have a big Wool Market in our town every year.  The ranchers bring their animals in for judging, and set up shop to sell their wool.  It is a fabulous activity for kids as there are lots of animals and some of the vendors have projects geared specifically for kids.  Many youngsters show the animals that they have raised and trained.  What animals, you say?  Alpacas, vicuñas, llamas, goats, sheep and rabbits.  There are also demonstrations of herding dogs working sheep.  There is appropriate food available.  We had delicious lamb kabobs for lunch.  You don't have to be a kid to enjoy this, and it is free to the public.

A huge building houses a multitude of vendors selling yarn, unspun wool, equipment for all types of fiber crafts, rugs, clothing, felted wool hats and stuff, footwear with wool inside, weaving items and books.  I could go on and on.  If you enjoy any of the fiber crafts there is something for you and some truly luscious yarn.  Have you ever squished a skein of alpaca yarn?  Oh my!  So soft (and expensive).  If you insist on spending money you can drop a bundle here, but it is voluntary.

I continue to thread paint my Phoenix bird.  It is coming along nicely and I will tell you some about it next week.  In the meantime visit the Wool Market vicariously:

Angora rabbit.

Paco-Vicuña - so cute!
Goat - Isn't that a wonderful crop of fiber?
Goat - sometimes nosy, sometimes noisy.
Bags for sale to carry your yarn.
Unspun wool.
Hand knit garments and skeins of yarn.
Spinning demo and weaving loom.
Vicuña or alpaca girl-watching - don't know how he can even see them!
Yes, he is a living animal!

TIP:  No matter how passionate you are about quilting.  Take a break sometimes and have some other kind of fun.  You will settle back into your project with more peace in your soul and creativity in your brain.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Disaster or Not?

Regarding last week's post about freezer paper I got the following comment from Penny about her method of designing borders:
"I have also used a long pieces of freezer paper cut a little larger than needed then pencil marked for the exact size of borders needed for my Baltimore Album quilt. I then planned, designed and drew what I would applique on the border to match & complete quilt. After completing I then traced out the applique design to make freezer paper pattern pieces to use with the fabric I selected for border!" Thanks Penny.  Great idea!

Do you ever get so deep into creative mode that you begin to toss things around?  Nothing big, but the spool of thread misses the table and you have crawl under to find it.  The fabric scraps that are too big to throw away end up in heap on the bed or the floor.  You just don't take the time to maintain order.  I have a handy, little, hobby iron:

My handy, dandy, little iron
Now, I am a reasonably orderly person, but when I get into a project I can become a disaster, as happened a few days ago.  Take a look at the photo below.  I don't even have to explain my horror when I looked down and saw this.

Disaster strikes!
I love this little iron.  It has a handle I can grab ahold of, a sharply pointed tip, and it stays nice and hot.  It has a wonderful little stand that holds it well when it is hot as long as I set it down right, which I didn't.  I thought I did, but obviously wasn't paying close enough attention.  I sighed, saddened that the iron was ruined just when I really needed it.  The cutting mat is ancient, no great loss, but still plenty usable, and I have another.  I lived with my sadness for a day or two and then headed for the Internet, my go-to problem solver.  I found several sites that addressed the problem.  I read them and thought about them for a few days before I "bit the bullet" and tried it.  Here is the amazing result:

It looks like new!
The fix is very simple and only took about 10 minutes; and this is my TIP for the day.  First I heated the iron to the "warm" setting, which was just enough to melt the adhered plastic.  Then I grabbed my only plastic spatula and scraped the plastic off the iron.  Finally I unplugged and held the iron in ice water for a few minutes after which time I should have been able to pull off any residual plastic.  This last part didn't work so I heated the iron again, went over it with the spatula again, and finally wiped it with a thick pad of paper towel until I could no longer feel or see any lumps or bumps.  It was thick enough to prevent my burning my fingers.

My last step was to use Iron-off to clean the surface of the little iron.  I don't know if that is necessary, but I figured it can't hurt...and it didn't.  This stuff is a wonder and has cleaned away the gunk on lots of my irons.  Read the directions on the tube - very simple.

I am such a happy camper now!

Stitch some happy stitches this week and keep your hot iron off the plastic cutting mat.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Freezer Paper - a Modern Miracle

Freezer paper is an old, kitchen product used for wrapping butchered meat for safekeeping and freezing.  When did you last butcher your meat and wrap it?  Never?  Me too!  However, I use it all the time for quilting.  Freezer paper is versatile with a dull side for drawing and a shiny side that will lightly stick to fabric when ironed, it can be reused numerous times, it is easily stored, you can see through it enough to trace, you can run it through your printer, and it is cheap.  Its only drawback is that it doesn't do dishes or clean house.

It is available at the nearest grocery store.  It comes 18 inches wide on a roll 33 1/2 YARDS long for about $6.00.  Template plastic at Joann's is $1.49 for one sheet 18" x 12", so 33 1/2 yards of that would cost over $150.  Did that wake you up?

Freezer Paper
You can use the freezer paper as a pattern.  Just iron the cut piece to the fabric and cut around it.  Remove the paper and iron it onto the next piece of fabric.

Pattern pieces ironed onto fabric.

You can use it as a stencil.  Cut out the design, place on fabric, and paint in the cutout spots.
Homemade stencil (freezer paper was colored in my printer and
ironed onto a second piece of freezer paper to strengthen the stencil).
It was used to paint the dots on the orange fabric.
TIP:  If you want a sturdier pattern or stencil iron two pieces of freezer paper together.  You can iron them shiny sides together.  You can also iron them dull side to shiny side if you want to be able to adhere it to fabric with your iron.

You can use freezer paper to do paper piecing especially if you have wonky shapes with bias to deal with.  You place your fabrics together in the usual way and iron the pattern to the first piece, but instead of sewing through the paper, you fold it back at the seam line, trim the fabric to 1/4 inch for seam allowance,  and sew right beside the fold of the paper.  Press the seam, and then open the paper  and iron it down to the newly stitched piece before folding on the next seam line and adding the next piece of fabric.  (There is no space for a full explanation of this method.  Let me know if you would like me to do a post explaining it in more detail.)
Sewing beside the folded freezer paper.

Finished piece - freezer paper has been lifted off of the top.

Freezer paper is an integral part of paperless paper piecing.  It is used as the critical guide for placing pieces, and as patterns for individual pieces.  See Christy Fincher's website for detailed directions on how to accomplish this fabulous, precise method of piecing.

TIP:  Using freezer paper for paper piecing doesn't work as well for teeny, tiny pieces.  If your design has very small pieces you are better off using a lighter weight paper such as Solvy Water Soluble Stabilizer and the traditional method.

 You can use the paper for designing.  I have done some Rhapsody quilts as taught by Ricky Tims.  As he suggests, I used freezer paper for designing these quilts.  You can draw with pencil and eraser on the dull side, then turn and fold the paper so the dull sides are together.  Using a spoon, or some sort of hard utensil you can scrape over your pencil lines and they will reproduce in reverse on the other side of the folded paper.  Remember doing that as kids?  Magic!  This will produce symmetrical, kaleidoscope-like designs.

You can trace.  If you draw with dark pencil lines or go over your lines with black pen you can trace the design onto another piece of freezer paper.  It is opaque-ish, but darkened lines can still be seen.  I like to use my plexiglass sewing machine table with a light under it as a light box to make it easier to see.  You can also tape the original to a big window and copy it that way.

You can use freezer paper as fabric backing for printing in your household printer.  Cut a letter sized piece of freezer paper, and iron it to the back of fabric.  You can then run it through your printer.  I use this to print the labels that I design for my quilts.  You can also create fabric from photos or your own graphic designs and print them in this manner.

TIP:  Cut your fabric slightly smaller than the freezer paper, iron it down well, and get rid of any loose threads.  You don't want any fabric or threads hanging off the edges of the paper.

Is your freezer paper too small for your project?  Lay one piece of freezer paper shiny side down on the ironing board.  Cut a 1 inch strip of freezer paper and lay it shiny side up under the edge of the large paper leaving 1/2 inch sticking out.  Iron the big piece of paper to the hidden part of the strip.  The shiny sides will be together.  Take a second large piece of freezer paper and butt the edge to the edge of the first piece on top of the remainder of the narrow strip. Iron.  That narrow strip will hold the pieces together as well as any tape on the market and it won't make a mess if you iron over it.  Have you ever ironed over a piece of Scotch tape?  Gulp!

TIP:  Freezer paper shrinks!!  It shrinks slightly in one direction, but it is enough to affect your pattern pieces and mess up the size of your finished product.  Before cutting patterns iron the freezer paper to your ironing board with a dry iron.  Take it up and then iron it once more.  Then mark and cut your pattern.  That is all it takes to preserve pattern precision.

Now go have fun playing with freezer paper, and let me know if you use it in other creative ways.

Stitch some happy seams this week.