Christmas gifts and Pfaff vs. Bernina experiments

No, I didn’t go on vacation, just been super busy here! Just FYI, busy+notmuchquilting=nofun. Well, maybe not “no fun,” just not as much fun! Anyway, things may be winding down to an acceptable level, so I can just coast through Christmas now. The last party is over, thank goodness, and I finished up my last online programming class for this month yesterday. I’ve been working on a gift for my landlords and I finished it up today:


I made them a set of eight placemats to go with the table runner and the napkin rings that I’ve made in previous years. I was a bit worried as I was making them, since they seemed to be a bit “floofy” and weren’t laying flat after they were quilted. I think I should have used a thinner batting. 😦 I decided to toss them in the washer and pray to the quilting goddess for a boon. Since fabric placemats need to be washable anyway, I also figured it would be better to get it over with now in case the machine embroidery didn’t survive.

Placemats detail

The embroidery came out fine, and after a bit of judicious steam pressing, the mats are wonderfully flat! I guess the quilting goddess figured it was my turn or something. Whew! I’m probably going to have to think of something else entirely for next year, since I’ve used up most of the green fabric for the embroidery, and I’m not sure what else to make anyway. Napkins?? Hmmmm…

I got a little bored quilting the placemats (okay, really bored!), so I decided to do some Pfaff vs. Bernina experiments with my machines. If I’m going to do machine guided quilting, I usually use the Pfaff because it has the built-in dual feed, so I started quilting the placemats with the Pfaff 2056, my favorite machine until the Bernie came to live here. When the quilting wasn’t turning out so well, I thought I’d see what the Bernina 440 had to offer with the walking foot. Continue reading “Christmas gifts and Pfaff vs. Bernina experiments”

All Night Parties and the Eternal Quest for Visibility

I was out half the night partying on Saturday and let me tell you, the body paid for it the next day. Talk about suffering! I had a headache, and my back was killing me, along with my forearms. This is what happens when you overdo as we all know, and no, I’m not looking for sympathy! We had a great time, so no regrets at all.

This is really all about machine quilting until the wee hours (when I haven’t been machine quilting at all for a while!), and having my body complain vociferously the next day. I have these wimpy forearms that don’t like too much repetitive motion or stress, and then I abused them badly. Not only that, I was sitting at a table that was too high so that didn’t help either. So the forearms are botched for a bit until they recover.

The other problem is the neck and back, which probably caused the headache too. See, the biggest issue is the machine itself. These machines are just not made for people like me, with a long upper body. I’ve looked for solutions before, but the tilt table idea didn’t work well for machine quilting with the Bernina. The Bernina has the same problem as the Pfaff: the machine head is so big that it obstructs the view of the needle and surrounding area when my chair and table are at the right height for machine quilting. I end up hunching down in the chair so that I can see the needle area better, which is no good for the back. This is what I see if I’m sitting up straight(er) in the chair when I machine quilt:

View of Bernina needle area when machine quilting

Heh, you see that? (See what?) Exactly. I can barely see the free motion foot, much less the needle, and anything behind it is a total loss. This is why I usually sit too low so I can see better, and hunch down as well, which places even more stress on my arms and back than machine quilting does to begin with. I finally got frustrated with the whole thing between the back pain and the arm pain and all, and removed the cover from the machine head to get all that white plastic out of my way:

Bernina needle with machine head cover removed

Oh look! There’s the needle! And I can even see some of the space behind it! Okay, it’s still difficult because of all the parts in the way, but it really did help some to remove the plastic cover from the head of the machine. Maybe I won’t have to hunch down quite so far in the chair to see where I’m going with the quilt. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this and it’s not the perfect solution by any means, but it was better than the alternatives that ran through my head, which would have required more than a screwdriver and probably would have been more permanent. I will put the cover back on when I’m not quilting to keep the dust out (and also keep the cat from sticking his nose in there), and perhaps I’ll be in a little less pain. At the end of the day though, what I really want to know is when the heck are machine manufacturers going to get it together and build a better mousetrap machine?

Thursday Thirteen #3

Okay, yeah, it’s been awhile since I did a Thursday Thirteen, but hey, this one just had to be said:

Thirteen Things to love about the Bernina 440
(in no particular order)

  1. The CFL (Cool Fluorescent Light) that is three sided and wraps around the foot for fewer shadows on your work. No more extra lights all over the table in my way!
  2. Three (really!) thread cutters, one on the machine head, one on the bobbin winder and one in the bobbin case area. Do we really need thread snips any longer?
  3. The separate bobbin winding motor. Fast, easy, and usable during embroidery.
  4. The #24 free motion quilting foot. Neat and trim, with and offset shank and an open toe for better visibility.
  5. The magnifier attachments. Three separate pieces with different mag levels, and you can even use them without attaching to the machine. Yeah, sometimes my eyes are tired (or is it just age?).
  6. Built-in vertical spool holder. No more digging in a messy attachment box trying to find it.
  7. Buit-in needle threader. It works much better than what the older models had, and better than what some other machines have now. Thread goes in the first time, every time.
  8. The embroidery module. Waaaay better than what I had before, super easy to use, and virtually dummy-proof.
  9. The knee lifter. Lift the presser foot with your knee and keep both hands on your work.
  10. Infinitely adjustable motor speed. Not just a “half speed” setting, but a truly adjustable motor with a slider control. You can adjust the motor speed for different thread types during embroidery to minimize breakage, or use it to control the speed during machine quilting.
  11. The foot control. Very sensitive, with the “tap of the heel” function to bring the needle up or down, and I love the cord storage on the bottom. Very neat.
  12. The accessory box! Silly, but this is almost my favorite feature! Customizable storage for all the feet, bobbins, needles, etc. that you need near your machine while you work. No more digging through a cluttered box attached to a machine bed for whatever you need that’s always on the bottom. Add more shelves for bobbins or feet as needed.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
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The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Another one bites the dust!

No, I haven’t started listening to old rock from Queen, I’ve just finished another UFO! Woohoo! I had a bad design moment with some fusible web a week or so ago while I was working on the Feathered Lone Star with the bird embroidery, and now I have to start the embroidery part all over again. URGH! But that’s another rant for later. I decided to put it all back in it’s little box for a bit, and finish up the Irish Chain quilt that I’ve been working on. It was getting close to done, so I decided I could use the “boost” that comes from finishing a project right about now. So here it is:

Irish Chain

A detail view of the main motif:

Irish Chain detail

And my favorite part of the quilting, the heart chain border:

Irish Chain border

That little border was super easy, and it looks so elegant. It fit nearly perfectly too, since the repeat lined up with the squares in the chain, with only a little fudging to fit at the corners. I still have to clip thread tails off of the back, and it needs a label. I have to think of a name for it before I can label it though, and nothing is coming to mind immediately here.

I did think in the beginning that I would stipple around the motifs in the large open spaces, but my friend Brenda said “don’t do it,” and I really didn’t need to do it, especially since this is just going to lay around the house and keep someone warm. This quilt was originally a class sample from years ago, so it’s good to have it finished finally. This quilt really became the “get used to free motion quilting on the Bernina 440” quilt. The Bernina and I are fast friends now, but I still pulled out the Pfaff to put the binding on. I just wasn’t willing to try to put binding on in my usual way without my dual feed on the Pfaff. And why should I? That is why I’m keeping both machines, after all…:)

Edit: Oops! Forgot to share the stats on this quilt: cotton fabrics, Hobbs PolyDown batting (using it up so I can switch to wool!), quilted with two colors of #100 silk thread on top, Aurifil 50/2 cotton Mako in the bobbin.

Quilt Retreat: Quilt, Eat, Sleep, Repeat!

High on the (very) short list of things to love about living here: spending the weekend quilting (and eating and sleeping) in an 850-year-old monastery. The Kloster Schoental, to be exact. The condensed version: good food, good company, good quilting, happy weekend.

The uncut version: Kloster Schoental is about one hour from my house, the last 20 minutes or so through little towns and scenic curvy roads. The Black Forest Quilt Guild has held it’s spring Quilt Retreat there every year for the last three, I think, and it’s just wonderful. The monastery has been modernized of course, but not to the point of losing it’s essence. We had a giant well lit room for quilting, and single or double rooms for sleeping. They feed us five times a day (yes, FIVE!): breakfast, coffee and tea break with pretzels and savory pastries, lunch, coffee or tea break with sweet cakes, and dinner, and drinks are available anytime. There’s plenty of room for everyone to spread out everywhere, for relaxing, quilting, talking, quilt basting, Irish dancing (really!), whatever. Continue reading “Quilt Retreat: Quilt, Eat, Sleep, Repeat!”

Bernina 440 – Free motion foot is a drag

So we’re still making friends here, my new Bernina and I. Doing some free motion quilting and getting to know each other better. When I used the machine in the workshop at the Museum, I was working on sample sandwiches with no patchwork, just two pieces of plain fabric with batting in between. The quilt sandwiches moved and glided like a hot knife through butter. I’m having some issues with that gliding thing here at home though, when I’m working on an actual quilt, and it’s more like slogging through mud sometimes than gliding. Some of this can probably be attributed to the difference in size: the samples were about 18″ square, and this Irish Chain quilt is, well, lots bigger obviously.

The foot on the Bernina sits lower and closer to the quilt than the free motion foot on the Pfaff…

I ordered a Free Motion Supreme Slider to hopefully help with the drag. I thought maybe just the difference in the machine bed texture and angle could be causing me some adjustment issues. Got the Slider, love it (the Supreme is way better than the first edition, BTW, since it has the self adhesive back, you have to get one of these things!), and things are better, but free motion quilting is still a drag in spots. What is this??? I’ve finally realized today that the problem is the free motion foot! The foot on the Bernina sits lower and closer to the quilt than the free motion foot on the Pfaff, and the Bernina foot catches on thick seam allowances sometimes, and creates way more drag on the whole quilt. I’m quilting along just fine, and then the drag starts, and I get smaller stitches. Then when the foot finally makes it over the lump of the seam allowance, the whole quilt jumps and I get a giant stitch before I can compensate. Even on wide open spaces, I also notice the fabric being pushed around by the foot more sometimes than it ever was on the Pfaff, just from the thickness of the batting. What to do??

I begin to wonder if the people who design and engineer these machines ever actually make a real quilt with them. Do they have real quilters test them out at all? If they did, wouldn’t this kind of thing have been noticed before? Continue reading “Bernina 440 – Free motion foot is a drag”