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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Good quilting, Sometimes it's all about the thread!

Although I already knew good quilting is so reliant on the thread, I thought I would try some of what I had been reading about--experimenting with different threads in the needle and bobbin.

Experimentation in this area was not fun. That doesn't mean I have given up; it just means that using different threads is now deemed well out of my comfort zone for now.

This table runner is the first free-motion quilting I've done with my new Janome DC2014 sewing machine. I have mixed reviews, but not about the machine. I love it! Despite it being so similar to my 30-year old model, there was still a learning curve. There are two new features on this machine that I didn't have before. 1) stitch speed and 2) needle up/down

Both were useful, but the needle up/down was a breath of fresh air. It was so nice not to have to grab and turn the wheel every time I stopped and started. 

Because this project had a white backing fabric, determined by what I had on hand, I wanted to quilt the center star in a gray 40wt. Floriani thread and everything else in white 40 wt. Isacord thread. I decided to thread the need with the gray and put white in the bobbin. Once I finally got the tension right, so that little if any of the gray showed through on the back, I began quilting. It was nightmarish. My machine did not like what I was doing. I re-threaded, changed needles, re-adjusted tension, and most of all, picked out lots of stitches. I limped through it the best I could with minimal gray loops on the back. 

The gray shows through, as seen in the photo at right. I'm thinking of painting it with white out or a little white acrylic paint just to camouflage it since this one square is the only one where the gray is so prominent. 

If anyone has any tips about using different threads in a domestic machine, please comment. I'd love to hear them. 
 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

R.I.P. Doris; the quilting world will not be the same without you

Earlier this week, I mentioned my first quilt and how it came about. I noted that Doris Kruger, a former home economics teacher from Peotone, IL in the far south suburbs of Chicago, greatly inspired me. Sadly, I learned that she died on Monday. She was 90 years old.

I hadn't heard from Doris in some years; she moved to an assisted living complex in another town. I moved to another state. I lost track of her, but she was never far from my thoughts. With each quilt I've made I have thought about her. I know that with every quilt I will make in the future, I will think of her as well.

In the mid-90's, I was the reporter/editor of the town's local newspaper. I called upon Doris for information often. She was a reporter's dream. Not only did she have her hand on the pulse of the community, but she was willing to share accurate information, and was never afraid to give her opinion. I loved that about her.  

Doris belonged to numerous quilt guilds and organizations. She started an quilt show at the First Presbyterian Church. Always the teacher, she wanted the shows to be a learning experience rather than just an entertainment venue. She insisted there be a speaker and often times a hands-on demonstration. I recall one woman who collected and sewed men's silk neckties. Another introduced needlework and cross stitch. 

Doris insisted that each quilt tell its own story. She compiled the information into a little booklet with each meticulously numbered item, its creator, and date when the quilt was completed, as well as a paragraph about it. When admission tickets were taken, each patron was provided a booklet and disposable plastic glove with instructions not to touch the fabric with bare hands. 

A fine, tasty luncheon always accompanied the show, served by church volunteers. Food was served on tablecloths, in china, using flatware. There were never paper plates.

 Not only did I cover the annual quilt shows, but once Doris insisted that I bring a family heirloom quilt my husband's grandmother had stitched many years ago. That may have been the beginning for me, as the shows started to become more personal. I remember the first time I saw a small quilt that was done with stippling overall. I had never seen anything like it before. I just loved it. I was bitten by the quilting bug.

Once I told Doris I was interested in making a quilt, she was supportive. When it was finished she insisted that I enter it into a show.

While I loved the quilting shows, probably one of Doris' greatest legacies was as co-founder of Helping Hands, an organization that began in the 1980's when Doris recognized that not everyone thrived in her small, upper middle-class community. She was moved by students who started school in tattered clothes and hand-me-downs. So she and a group of caring women sewed new clothes for more than a dozen families. They hand delivered them three times per year--at the start of school, at Christmas and at Easter. Doris told me about one little boy who was so pleased with a new shirt he had received that he put it on right over the one he was wearing. She and the other ladies delivered bags of donated food every other month to the same families, whose names were never revealed publicly.
 
She was quick to recognize that the real gift is in the giving rather than the receiving.

Helping Hands has since grown into a food pantry that provides for the needy and seniors in the area. The program has grown into a food pantry that last year, according to the local paper, collected 60 tons of food. 

I had often fantasized about having had a teacher like Doris when I was in high school. I imagine her being strict, demanding, but always inspiring, the kind of teacher that you would always remember. I know I will never forget her.
 

 




Friday, May 23, 2014

Cats and quilts just seem to go together

CHQuilts: Cats and quilts
Not only am I enamored with quilting, but so are two of my four cats, Ryan and Kasey. 

For me, sewing is rarely a solo act. 

I call these two the twins, the first and fourth born of a stray cat that came to visit one day about eight years ago. Timi picked us to be her forever family. The rest is history. 

CHQuilts:Cats and quilts 2Ryan and Kasey's siblings, Kenni and Junior haven't caught the quilting bug. They prefer their quilts to be completed and on the bed before they wrap up in them.

I quilt in front of a picture window that overlooks the backyard. These two simply love birdwatching out that window. 

Even when I am sewing, Ryan isn't afraid to walk behind my machine or on top of anything nearby, the higher the better; Kasey likes anything cushy where she can stretch out and make herself at home. The pile she seems to be holding onto at left, is a stack of ready-to-quilt blocks for two different projects. The quilt sandwiches are already layered, so this is probably as soft as a feather bed. 

I've even had times where Ryan, the most gutsy cat I've ever known, will sit on top of a quilt while I'm stitching it. The machine noise doesn't even deter her. 

That isn't true of Kasey, a.k.a. scaredy cat. She is probably the most nervous cat I've ever known. That doesn't seem possible in her stress-free pose, but if she heard a noise, she would be out of there in a flash.
 
The cats absolutely love my quilts, at all of their stages. In fact, most of the time, if I take a picture of a quilt, whether it is complete or in progress, Ryan is there. Here she is pictured on the quilt top of my now-completed yellow quilt.

 



Thursday, May 22, 2014

New Janome fits right in

My new sewing machine--a Janome DC2014--has arrived and is working great. 

CHQuilts: New Janome DC2014It came Monday, but not until 6:10 p.m., which really tested my anticipation skills. I failed. I am not very good at waiting. I tried to stay busy, but kept glancing out the window to see if the big brown truck was in view. It wasn't. Finally, while talking to a friend on the phone, I saw the driver with a big square box. Hurray!

Once I unpacked the machine, I decided to wait to set it up. I did, however, check out all the attachments and read the instruction booklet. I figured that in the morning I could scavenge the thread, bobbins, and whatever else I needed from my old machine before inserting the new one in its place. 

The next morning I removed my old machine and replaced it with the new one. Although the two are very similar, the 30-year difference in their ages was evident. My old one looked like a clunky old Nash sitting next to a sporty new Mustang.

I suspect this machine is simply an updated version of my old one, which makes the learning curve so simple. Threading it is identical, as is winding and replacing the bobbin. The only real difference besides age, is that this one has several more decorative stitches, which admittedly, I rarely used. It has a digital readout, which doesn't impress me in the slightest since I never had a problem turning a dial. 

The one feature it has that my other one didn't have, probably because it wasn't invented yet, is a programmable needle-up/down button. That one feature was my real motivation for wanting a new machine. When free-motion quilting, that feature is practically a necessity. 

I spent yesterday and today finishing a table runner, as seen above, while listening to Janome's steady hum. What a difference not to hear that whining, clicking, and clanging. I guess after 30 years, I really did need a new machine.


 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Awaiting a new tool for my quilting pleasure

I feel like a kid on Christmas morning. 

As I awoke this morning, my mind raced with anticipation. It is hard to concentrate on mundane tasks. Today I am supposed to receive my new sewing machine; I ordered a Janome DC2014 from Amazon.com. 

It was so hard to settle on what to buy, but I knew it had to be a Jenome. 

I have had one for about 25 years that has been a work horse. It was the bottom of the line when I bought it from Sears, but I bought what I could afford. Unfortunately, cost had to be a high priority, then as now. I am pretty sure there is no new $6,000 Janome Horizon in my future, at least not unless I win the lottery. That would be difficult because I don't buy tickets.

When I bought my sewing machine initially, it was to replace the old Kenmore my mother gave me. I wasn't a quilter in those days. Quilting wasn't even on my radar. I wanted to sew for my little girl. I did make an outfit or two, but mostly my sewing machine was utilitarian--patching jeans, fixing seams and replacing zippers, etc. For these things, my Janome Harmony 4200 was perfect. 

Then I began writing for a local newspaper. I covered several quilt shows, each time learning more and more about the historical, artistic, and many other aspects of quiltmaking. I met some of the quilters and simply fell in love with their work. It was there that my interest in quilting began. I was encouraged and inspired by the shows' organizer and former high school home economics teacher from Peotone, IL, Doris Kruger, a wonderfully spirited and insightful woman who was eager to help budding young quilters. 

My sewing machine finally had a new purpose--one for which it was intended. 

I made my first quilt, an appliqued rose pattern on alternating blocks. It was a very enjoyable first endeavor. I machine pieced the blocks, but the rest was done by hand. I decided I really loved hand-quilting.

That was my favorite method until I learned about free-motion quilting many years later. I didn't think such a thing was possible. That was a couple of quilts ago. Now, I can't stop. I want to perfect this skill because I love drawing with thread. 

Free-motion quilting caused me to think about a new machine. The day after I decided to buy a new one, the tension spring on my machine broke. So now I need a new machine. And, today is the day! 

Monday, May 19, 2014

My signature block and silly mistakes


CHQuilts:double star block
I have adopted a favored quilt block--the double star block. I have made so many of these that I am now calling it my signature block. 

There is something about this block, with its contrasting colors, all those various shapes within it, and all those not-so-perfect points, that just thrills me. I wonder if it were a different color if I would have become so taken with it early on. Purple, or more accurately violet, has always been one of my favorite colors. 

I made this block a couple of years ago as a part of a block-of-the-month (BOM) project in a Craftsy class, taught by Amy Gibson. I named this quilt, shown at right, Periwinkle Blue. My double star block is prominently located in the top left. This quilt was my first real free-motion quilting project--a quilt-as-you-go class also by Craftsy, and taught by Leah Day, who is arguably the best free-motion quilter and instructor ever. 
 
This quilt marked my first intoxicating step into the world of free-motion quilting, for which I cannot and do not want to escape. I was hooked. While the quilting on this project is rather flawed, it was so inspiring. 

In fact, speaking of flaws, can you find the huge mistake in the quilting in the above block? Despite my glaring error, I still love this block.

In fact, I love it so much that I have incorporated it into a table runner. I have made several of these for various friends and family members. In fact I have ongoing as we speak.

Each one is different and I just love how they turn out. Here is just one example  one of the many colors I've used. This was a birthday present when my mother turned 85. 

The funny thing is, I figure I've made five of these. That is three blocks each, plus two that I put into quilts. I have made 17 of these blocks. The latest one that I completed will go into the teal and yellow quilt I am working on now. 

Truth is--I screwed it up. This isn't a terrible mistake, but it is a mistake none the less. I didn't realize it until after I quilted it. I've quilted all of these the same way, so I should have noticed while I was doing it--but I didn't. I have no idea where my head was, but it was only after looking at it completed that I noticed the outer ring of star points is upside-down. It can hardly be called a double star when the star that would make it a double is not there.  

I suppose these are the kinds of things to laugh about, not to fret over. I don't suppose it matters anyway. The block is still beautiful. It is still one of my favorites.
   
If you would like the instructions to make this block, you can find a link to it here.

 
 

Additional content related to Periwinkle Blue

Periwinkle Blue, A quilt in the making
Quilting is a process 
Computers and quilting


 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Welcome to CHQuilts

For the past 15 years, I have been traveling a path that began with a historical interest, inspired by a creative journey, that has led to an endless joy filled with bright colors, warm feelings, and soulful peace. I am a quilter.

Quilting, whether it by by hand or machine, is unique to its creator. Quilting is a diverse activity that utilizes differing skills, from creativity of design to mastering precision techniques. I love every aspect of the quilting process, from choosing a design, deciding on colors, and finally picking out fabrics to fulfill an intended desire. Because I consider myself a newbie, with just a few dozen completed projects, I am still often surprised along the way.

The one thing that has never ceased to amaze me is a consistency to learn new things. Quilting is fun; it is work; it is talent; it is skill; it is therapy. Any degree of any of those is acceptable. A completed quilt is a wonder. I've never seen a quilt that didn't conjure up good feelings and warm thoughts. Every quilt I make is intensely personal.

Please join me on a journey of discovery that has surprised and enlightened, encouraged and engaged. Whether reading about my journey or sharing your own, I hope CHQuilts will be a place for inspiration.

Follow CHQuilts into the delicious world of quilting.