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Showing posts with label sewing machine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sewing machine. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

New and better tools

Last summer, I wrote a blog post entitled "It is all about the tools." I referenced the benefits of my new Dritz Petite Press mini iron. 

Today I'd like to expand on the tools theme to add my latest acquisitions--a new adjustable height task chair and a sewing extension table. 

I don't have space in my house for a sewing room, but I do have a dedicated sewing area off the kitchen. It is sometimes a challenge to work in a small space, but I manage pretty well. 

Probably the hardest part is keeping the area neat and clean. I just finished my latest quilt, so there were threads and scraps and fabric yardage everywhere. I had bags of this and bins of that littered all over the place. 

There is little hope of keeping this area tidy while I'm in the middle of a #quilting frenzy. That is what I call the time when I'm finishing up a project am so busy I forget to eat. Fortunately I have a husband who cooks. 

During those times even my coffee gets cold because I'm too engaged to remember to drink it. 

But once that time is over, I actually enjoy the cleaning. I like folding fabric, sorting into sizes and colors, and then putting it all back into flat storage bins I keep under the bed. That is the primary place where my stash is kept. And those bins are invaluable tools.

My sewing machine is new and I want to keep it looking good, so this is also a good time to clean the surface of all the thread and dust as well as all that lint that collects near the bobbin. It is amazing how much builds up there. 

I also like to change the needle and rotary cutter blade. Quilting just isn't possible without those essential tools. Besides, I love being ready for the next project.

Latest tools
Since this new chair has black fabric on the back and seat, I made a covering for it, one that will not be a magnet for white cat hair, since my cats love my sewing area. That window faces south, so the sunshine, especially at this time of year is attractive to those with paws.

My new sewing table, made by Sew Steady, was custom made, ordered through my local sewing machine dealer. It is a tool that extends the base of my machine, mimicking a sewing cabinet. The machine is flush with the table, so I'm hoping it will help to support large quilts. It hadn't arrived in time to finish my last quilt, but I have no doubt it would have made the process of binding all those individual blocks together just a bit easier. Sewing all those seams was a bugger, and gravity was not my friend. 

I also hope this table will inspire me to try something new--to quilt an entire quilt--rather than simply blocks at a time. I've been thinking of doing this for some time now, but until now wasn't quite ready. I am now. 

As it turned out, this new chair, a typical office chair with no arms, is a necessity since the height of the table requires me to sit higher than I could with the chair I had been using. It also allowed the fourth dinging room chair to go back to where it belongs.

Tools are meant to help us be more productive. Although there are many things I want, I'm happy to settle for the things I need, those things that make me more efficient. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

More than meets the quilter's eye

sunflower quilt
While this may look like a sunflower quilt wall hanging, to me, it is so much more.

My thanks to Jenny Doan of the Missouri Star Quilt Co. for the pattern that is "so me," as observed by my good friend Nancy. I am all about yellow, and happen to love sunflowers. This pattern brought me back to my childlike sketches of flowers. And, like Jenny Doan has admitted, I too love Dresdens. In fact I have a purple Dresden Plate quilt in the making. (Hmm, need to get back to that.)

Not only is this the first time I have ever free-motion quilted a piece larger than a 12-inch block, but this quilt taught me more than I ever imagined. I consider it totally instructional. I can almost imagine free-motion quilting an entire quilt, though I recognize that is some distance into my future. The bottom line is that learning is doing and practice is invaluable.

The best thing about this little piece, which measures about 22" x 35" is that I was able to stipple over the entire background surface of a quilt for the first time. I've never done that before. I love stippling and found it to be comfortable and relaxing. I completely love the texture after washing the quilt. I think it is beautiful. 

I've previously mentioned that my quilting story began fifteen years ago. I was hooked on quilting when I first saw a stippled quilt. It was a small wall hanging, not unlike this one. I was completely dumbfounded about how much I loved the texture created by stippling. To me, a quilt isn't done until it is washed. Doing so creates absolute magic where the entire background puffs up in just the right places. 
McTavishing 
I tried my hand at McTavishing, the technique pioneered by award-winning quilter Karen McTavish, and now used by quilters the world over. I've never done it before either. I admit I need practice, but I will definitely be doing this again. I like how it looks. I like doing it. 

My weak areas continue to be stitching in the ditch, (SITD). More practice is needed because I'm just not good at that. I also need work on travel stitching. I suspect that I get so comfortable that I get careless. Need practice.

I'm thrilled with my new sewing machine, which I've discussed previously. I was careful to change my needle when I changed my bobbin. I believe that was twice during this project.
picket fence

I loved quilting the pickets in the fence, because I decided to try to make them look like wood, including a tiny knot hole here and there. I was comfortable enough to simply play with that whimsical touch. 

The other part shown in this picture, is the binding that I am totally unhappy with. I will be taking it out. I never sewed a binding on a quilt before and will likely never do it again. I was tired though, after working on this for the entire day. That is a poor excuse. I will rip out both the top seam and the one that affixed  the binding to the back of the quilt. I will sew it to the front and hand stitch it to the back, as I usually do. I need the practice hand-stitching anyway. 

The border--arg! That was a real bone of contention with me. I prefer not to mark quilting patterns if I can help it. I now realize the value of marking in borders and sashing. I initially had, as the pattern depicted, a 2.5" border made from varied brown 5" strips. It really looked nice initially. Then I attempted to quilt them in a braid-like pattern free hand. Not good! So, before squaring and binding, I shortened the length and width of this piece by about 2.5" all around because I simply cut off what turned into an ugly border. I will not do that again! From now on, I will mark the pattern. Borders are so prominent and when the quilting is ugly, well,...it just won't happen again.

The three flowers, all different, all fun to quilt. I already know I'm not good at making spirals, so I actually marked this one in the first center. I also marked the grid lines in the second circle, just to keep it uniform. Those are the only marked parts on the whole piece. The third center uses pebbling, one of my favorite overall textures.

The bad news is that I got pretty good at "unquilting," or ripping out seams. I always tend to make stupid mistakes. Taking out free-motion quilting stitches is far less enjoyable than putting them in. For the most part, the stitches are small and difficult to take out. It is very time-consuming, which is why I spent two entire days at this. 

I have one more tip. When unquilting, or ripping out a seam, I hold tiny threads with a pair of tweezers. That is so much easier on the fingers. Instead of a seam ripper, I like to use an old sewing machine needle. It is sharper generally, so it gets into tighter places. Because free motion stitches are much smaller than regular stitches, a tiny needle seems easier to maneuver than a standard seam ripper.

I have no idea what my next project will be, but I can't wait to begin.


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. 
 

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!