Saturday, 15 September 2012

Basic and Very Quick Machine Quilting by an amateur

I am not an artistic machine quilting expert but I am feeling more confident than when I started machine quilting "way back in the olden days". There have been many lessons learned along the way, many stitches ripped, many wrinkles sewn down and even more "nests" and "eyebrows" on the back side of my quilts.

I thought that I could share a bit of this experience with some quilters who are just starting out and wanting to try a bit of machine quilting on their own. I am going to show the process that I used to machine quilt the "Berries and Cherries" quilt in June. 

After the quilt top and back is neatly sandwiched and basted.....

Firstly, and most importantly, start with a fresh, sharp needle; preferably a "quilting" needle sized 12 or 14. The groove along the needle eye is specially designed to handle thread through multiple layers.

Secondly, I used a walking foot on my machine. It is well worth the investment because it helps to regulate even stitching, it feeds the layers evenly and helps keep a balanced tension as the fabric sandwich moves across the needle plate.

Thirdly, I used "The Bottom Line" bobbin thread, it is much lighter in weight (60-wt) than the machine quilting thread so it is less likely to peek through the top and leave dots. It works so smoothly when matched with a machine quilting thread of 30wt. It is nice if you can match the colour of the bobbin thread to the top thread or the quilt top in case there are any little "peak a boos".

I always do a test drive of the set up, using a scrap quilt sandwich - to check my stitch length and tension. Do I need to say that the machine will have been freshly cleaned and oiled before each project? I am quite obsessed with removing lint, stray threads and oiling my machine regularly (follow the instructions in your manual since most machines are different).  I stop and clean the machine again at the first odd unbalanced sound.

A great tool is a locking tweezers (bought from a surplus store for $2) and a small swatch of cotton quilt batting. I swipe this everywhere inside the machine and it picks up an amazing amount of lint, thread bits, dust. Sometimes it is hard to believe that there can be so much lint!!!!
Good music and a glass of wine helps to keep a good rhythm going for the machine quilting. A good rhythm helps to avoid the "eyelashes" from turning faster the quilt than the machine is stitching it.
Pulling up on the bobbin thread to bring it through to the top before you start sewing should prevent the birds nests on the back. I always start with a very short (just past 0) stitch length for the first 5 or 6 stitches, then increase it to a comfortable length for the quilting (6-8 stitches per inch); then I lock the stitches as the end by reducing the stitch lenght to nearly 0 again.  

This is the quilt top before it was quilted.

I am using a ruler with a line marked on painter's masking tape as a Poka-Yoke
First I did the stitch "alongside the ditch" on all the inner squares and along the borders of the red pieces.  Next, I created a Poka-Yoke (or template) to follow. For my straight lines within the borders and sashing I simply marked a piece of tape on a ruler.

I held the ruler with one hand and followed the line with stitching. It was much easier than it appears and the line was quite straight.

In the centres of the squares I traced a line (still following my Poka-Yoke).

The triangles were sewn using a paper template so that they would all be the same size.
I think they look fine!

The corners need to be trimmed to square, I use my largest square ruler for this.
It looks so neat and pretty when it is trimmed.

I used the straight ruler to trim the sections between the corners.
What a neat edge.

Some times it can be a good idea to attach the label before quilting, and then quilt right through it.

See how pretty this is, all quilted and bound.

It is easy to see an overall quilting pattern . I simply followed the lines of the blocks.

Here is a closer view of the quilting pattern from the back.

The very first baby quilt that I made was machine quilted. It had wrinkles, polyester batting, and was made from a fabric panel (in 1980). I have come a long way.  This method would not be suitable for an heirloom quilt or something that was being prepared for artistic value but, as I say often, "Done is perfect".

This technique suits baby quilts, cuddle quilts or any quilt that is made to be used, loved and washed.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Sweet Summer

I have just enjoyed the most wonderful summer weekend in years. The weather here in South Western Ontario was Goldilocks perfect (not too hot, not too cold; not too sunny, not too cloudy; just right).

The weekend started on Friday afternoon. The Honey and I went to Moxie's for lunch. Mmmm, patio al fresco, Steak Sandwich on a baguette and fries for me, luscious Mango Chicken for he. A lovely walk along the Thames River, up to the Black Friars Bridge and back. Time to enjoy tress. I am entranced by the texture of bark and the elegant arching of branches woven in the canopy.

Then a movie, "Hope Springs"',  amusing for married and over 40's. I could think that it is sad but probably everyone could see something that brings on a smile, that rings true, somewhere in the film.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Summer report #1 (Quilts, laptop cases and a purse)

Time is speeding by in blog world, but it is even faster in real life. Sorry that it has been 7 weeks since my last post. I have been sewing, quilting, working, visiting much loved family and taking a couple classes at the local college.

I know that the best way to build a huge blog following is to post often, but my blog is about how life fits into quilting and stuff, or is it how quilting and stuff fits into life. There are times that it just does not get moved to a higher spot on today's "to do" list; this is okay because that is really what this blog is all about.

I have a few finishes to share: Dr. Suess "The Lorax" quilt and the sweet baby that it belongs to:
Turning Twenty pattern, 'Dr Suess' and Kaffe Fasset prints

"Berries 'n Cherries"
Next on the agenda was a quilt that was donated as a Silent Auction item in support of  Salthaven Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Centre. I had been saving these great fabrics for a few years: the Strawberry Flower Fairies and the tiny print that looks like charries. This quilt was made using the "Mazey Daze"  pattern. It is a quick and easy pattern that highlights the prints.

 During the process of making this quilt I took quite a few photos with the intention of  creating a tutorial for easy machine quilting tips and "how to square a quilt". I will try to publish that early next week since I have a mid term test to write and curtains to hem.

I also managed to make a few lap top slip cases and a new summer purse. The slip cases were a simple design of my own, using fun fabrics, a side opening and an extra wide elastic to hold the flap down.
The Cabo Bucket purse (designed by Penny Sturges) was also made using happy summer fun prints. I like this purse pattern because the interior is lined with pockets. I need special places to put my stuff away, even in my purse. I usually add extra pockets to fit my wallet, bank cards, cell phone, keys... this pattern had it all covered. I did a slight variation by using some elastic along the sides instead of the requested tabs and magnetic closure.  It is the same Ricky Tims "oodles of doodles" fabric that I used for the laptop slip case & cord/mouse bag.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Baby Quilts

I have been occupied with work and some college classes so I have not had much time for quilting lately. There are baby quilts on the priority list though!!! Lots of them!!
Wiggly Worms Quilt Top
This Wiggly Worm Quilt is a group effort for a dear friend's new grandson, due to arrive at the end of June. We have made this pattern before (Caterpiller Quilt) , it is from Country Woman Magazine, April/May 2009. We have made it three-dimensional though by having the mouth lift up, and there is a little red tongue underneath! This one is so much fun to do.

Both this one and the previous Wiggly Worm quilt were created from random fabrics. Three of us brought some cheerful yardage and we just mixed and matched. I love it. I think I will make another as a fundraiser donation for later this month.

I have a new baby nephew  and this is his quilt. It should be quilted next weekend (as long as I do not have a ton of homework to do, the housework will have to wait) . I used Dr. Suess "The Lorax" prints, some Kaffe Fasset and the "Turning Twenty" pattern.
Turning Twenty, "The Lorax" by Dr. Suess
I added a narrow inner flange instead of the narrow border. The blocks were cut for the  smaller size quilt (using fat eigths). The backing will be made using the rest of the Fat Quarters that were purchased to make this. I really, really love this quilt, I hope that CJH does too.

...and there will be more baby quilts this year. JUST WATCH THIS URL!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Purple and Red quilt is done, I am happy and sad.

Shiraz, resident quilt inspector, is on the job (finished at 102" x 92").
The quilt was handed over to my daughter on Easter Sunday. This was inspired by a quick look at a photo in a magazine (2005). The finished piece worked out to be even better than I had hoped given that I simply made random cuts into strips of purple and red fabrics. These were collected over a period of five years. I have referred to this project often in this blog and now happily it is completed, sadly it is now done and gone like a child who has grown into and adult and moved on to live an independent life.

Extra light is very helpful.
Working on machine quilting.
Sewing on the binding.

I am missing the pile of purple and red fabrics that have been on my work table for the last 2 years. I am missing the anticipation of putting the last stitches in the binding. I am missing the conversations that M and I have had about my progress on her quilt. This quilt was so much a part of my quilting world over the last 6 years, so seeing it grow up and move away is bittersweet.

My favorite part of making a quilt, stitching down the binding.
 I did use EQ6 to design the quilt, just so I had an idea of what I might need to do to acheive this random, assymetrical striped appearance. The design image before I started is quite similar to the finished result. I used FQ's to create one strip (the centre), then the outer 2 strips were created using cuts across the WOF. I did 2 sets of these, cut them vertically to match the width of the centre strip. The outer strips were reversed and then all five strips were joined together. The backing fabric is a red, wide quilt back to help minimize the seams. There are some special fabrics included, some from Roisin in remembrance of Halifax (bespoke uprising) and some hand dyes.
Concept in EQ6
Finshed quilt

There is only one solution for this sadness, I need to make another special quilt for my other daughter, C. Over the last five years, we have been collecting vintage embroidery pieces for the quilt that caught her eye.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Basting, Quilting, and appreciation

I have been a "good little quilter". The Purple and Red quilt is all basted. I do it the slow way. I layer the pieces,  carefully checking that any wrinkles are smoothed out and then I hand baste. Most often I start at the center and radiate the rows of basting stitches (about 10 cm long) outwards in each direction, like a compass.

Yes,  it takes longer than pinning or spraying. I know that I have to watch the threads catching on my foot as I machine quilt. This method makes me feel close to my quilt, and my quilt is all soft and snuggly before it is even quilted down. It feels good to own the process of making a quilt. All of it, from choosing the fabrics, to cutting, stitching blocks, assembling the top, basting, quilting and binding. Not everyone feels this need, but I do.

The long basting needles are wonderful to use.  I try to use up any spools of thread that are nearly empty.

This would be on the sewing table and being quilted tonight but I wanted certain colours of thread that I did not have on hand. I ended up ordering online tonight, King Tut #949, Brandywine for the top quilting and Bottom Line #603 Red for the bobbin. I tried to purchase this at any local quilt shop but none are open on Sunday in my area (within 40 minute drive) and none are open after 5 PM (I do not leave work until 5:30 or 6ish ), Saturdays the shops close early and my day is already full. So, I am purchasing online. The mail will arrive before I have an opportunity to visit any LQS.

This past Saturday, a dear friend and I took a workshop on feather quilting. It was a lot of fun. I am encouraged that I will be able to do my Remembrance Poppy Quilt myself. I want it to have a lot of quilting, including feathers.  And yes, I want to do it myself.

Sue Clarke taught the class "Feathers Everywhere" at the Ingersoll Creative Arts Centre which is also the home of my guild, Oxford County Quilters Guild. I feel very lucky to be able to attend such a talented guild. The work that these quilters have done is truly amazing. I am a quiet member but I have been feasting on the eye candy that is on display or presented at "show and share".  Lucky me!!!!

There is a lot of practice and play ahead of me before I can show something that I will be proud of. This class was very encouraging.

I love my morning drive to work. There are no specatular geographic features, simply farm land and bush lots, but the sun and weather  create such amazing vistas. I often have to stop driving, (pull on to the shoulder) and take pictures. This morning was so sunny, warm and bright, yet in the lowest parts of the fields there was a fog.....

Friday, 17 February 2012

Mid-February Friday night and a Camel

During most winters this would be another weekend buried under snow. We would be lusting after sunshine, envying friends who managed a tropical vacation and dragging tired boots, scarves and mittens everywhere. Ahh, but here in early 2012 the thermometer keeps hugging the 0 C mark. Not quite winter enough for snow shoes or X-country skis but too much winter for sitting out in the sunshine at lunchtime.

I have been finishing lots of little projects, like pillows and PlayBook, Kindle + Kobo covers. And I made a new pilllow for my Camel.   Why do I have a Camel and why does it need a pillow? Excellent question....

The Camel belonged to my Aunt and Uncle, gifted to me by my special big brother/cousin because he knew how much I loved it.  Uncle brought it home from Gaza while he  was peacekeeping with the Canadian  Armed Forces in the 60's.   If you looked at it closely you would see that it is actually all cleverly hinged together and could fold nearly flat (sort of).

His leather saddle cushion was filled with felt and straw.  It looked very tired and sad.  A washing did not help and fluffing the stuffing resulted in some serious disintegration.  I decided that the most respectful option would be to create a new one.  Decision making: 1- find similar fabric to the original cushion and duplicate it, 2- find fabric that matched my loving room decor, 3- create a pieced quilt block as the cushion top 4- play with the Egyptian theme, 5- do nothing .

I had some interesting Egyptian prints aging in my stash  (Aging must be a requirement for stash do that the fabric becomes as wonderful as fine wine).  Since this has been such a pleasantly mild winter I have been able to tackle these smaller projects as I think of them and still work away on the larger quilt
projects; this should be a great quilty-sewing year.

So here is my Camel with a new cushion. So making pillows, post cards, gifts and covers are not all that winter weekends are for,  I still can baste the Red & Purple quilt and even pull out the fabric purchased last winter to make curtains.  This mild winter is helping me to be very productive, and it is only the middle of February, and a Friday night starting a long weekend.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Fabric Post Cards for Valentine's

Super Bowl Sunday was also a sew-fest day. I was able to make a slew of fabric postcard Valentines for some of my nearest and dearest. (Note to family and friends: don't look too closely since you may or may not be finding one of these in your mailbox someday soon)
MMMM, loving that chocolate....
I like to make larger pieces then cut them apart into separate post cards

Desert Blooms


Lovin' that F1

For a cute little boy

Surf and sand dreams

There was a bit more sewing, lots of food (Buffalo chicken,hummus,chili,Brie, chips)and fun. My dearest friend Penny came to play with me in the studio while the male species smoked cigars, hung about the man-space and did a bit of side-line coaching.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

WIP's are coming along

2012 is promising to be a good sewing year! I have completed more projects in the last 4 weeks than I was able to for half the last year. I have added a Kindle case and a table runner to the PlayBook covers that were made as Christmas gifts.

The big deal for me is that I was able to complete 2 tops that have been on my "to do" list for a few years.
The "Rememberance Poppy Quilt" (Pam Bono designs) and Melissa's "Purple &Red Quilt".
Penny, Lyla and I have been working through the hundreds of baggies of little pieces of fabric together. So, to be fair, some of the reason it has taken so long is because we committed to work  on this quilt only when we could work on it together. It is exciting now that the tops are done.

 I will wait to quilt it however until the "Purple & Red Quilt" is completely done.

 I have been collecting these fabrics for quite a few years (since 2006 ?) because Melissa showed a magazine photo that had a quilt in the background that she liked. I saw the image for only a few minutes and this is the inspired result. I will quilt it vertically, perhaps in slightly curvy lines, alternating purple and red quilting thread. Watch this space... maybe in a month or so I will have it finished!!