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.


  1. Your threadwork is just beautiful. I have not tried this, but your work is very inspiring.

  2. This is truly a work of art! Very beautiful.

  3. Congratulations on your new sewing machine, Mardi! Your phoenix project looks spectacular -- I'm looking forward to seeing more of it. Hopefully your reason for setting it aside is something GOOD that's keeping you busy for a few days.

  4. I knew about stabilizers for thread painting, but never thought to use water soluble thread to baste. Great tip!