Quilting and the shape of your head

After many years about thirty minutes of thoughtful consideration, I’ve come to the conclusion that a good portion of success in quilting is dependent on the shape of your head. If your head is somewhat skinny and tall, and set back a bit, it’s easier to see what you’re doing and your back doesn’t hurt so much when you quilt for long hours. Those with shorter, somewhat wide and angled heads are at a disadvantage. What?? Oh, you thought I meant…no, no, no, not that kind of head! I meant the head of the sewing machine! 😀 Let me explain.

For years I was happy (and so was my back) with my Pfaff 1475 machine. Then when I bought the new 2056 model, I noticed I had a harder time seeing the needle without hunching down farther in the chair, and then I had more back pain, especially when machine quilting. Here’s the side by side shape comparison:

Pfaff 1475 headPfaff 2056 head

On the left is the 1475, and on the right is the 2056. As you can see, the head of the 2056 is wider, and the needle is set back farther from the front of the head. Continue reading “Quilting and the shape of your head”

The unorganized quilter?

I really don’t think I’m all that unorganized. Yeah, my studio (and the rest of the house, it could honestly be said) is a bit cluttered, but I’ve always said that know where everything is. I do have a pretty good memory, and that helps most of the time. Every once in a while though, I end up running around crazy looking for one stupid item that’s gone astray. I must point out here that I didn’t, in any way shape or form, help whatever it is to go missing. I didn’t put it somewhere weird, or lend it to someone, it just grew legs, and isn’t where I left it.

Every once in a while, I end up running around crazy looking for one stupid item that’s gone astray.

What does all of this have to do with my quilting and fabric art life? Today I set out to make some little napkin ring type thingys to give to my landlady for Christmas, to match the tablerunner and door hanger from last year. Nothing is ever as simple as you wish it to be. Considering that I haven’t used the embroidery machine since last Christmas, the first order of business was to excavate the thing from the clutter that finds its way to the table where the machine lives. Then I realize that due to major computer issues including a new motherboard and reformatted hard drive, the software that drives the card reader/writer that makes the embroidery designs available to the sewing machine isn’t loaded.

So I go hunting for it, and the box with the software and instructions is nowhere to be found. After an hour and a half of tearing the studio apart, Continue reading “The unorganized quilter?”

Favorite Things: It’s hip to be square!

Stanley Laser Level Square

Okay, I realize this is not your usual quilting type tool, and no, I’m not taking up carpentry along with all my other hats that I wear. This tool is a borderline “must have,” though, even for us quilter types, and it definitely saved me the other day as I was finishing up my latest quilt last week. I’ve never really had problems putting on the hanging sleeves and getting them straight. I’ve always just pinned them on parallel to the top of the quilt and it’s been fine, and the quilt hangs straight.

Well with this latest quilt, the top edge was scalloped, and even though I measured from the tops of the scallops to position the sleeve evenly across the top of the quilt, when I hung it up on the quilt stand to take a photo, the sleeve was obviously out of whack somewhere. It was really bad, with a great big wave in the bottom. I could tell by looking at the quilt hanging there that the sleeve ended up with a big curve in it somehow as I sewed it on, but I really couldn’t tell by looking at the sleeve itself.

So I removed the sleeve to start over again, and that’s where the Stanley Laser Level Square comes in. Continue reading “Favorite Things: It’s hip to be square!”

Favorite Things: Curved thread snips

Easy Kut curved thread snips

I love these snips! They are so perfect for machine quilting, because you can get really close to the quilt to trim the threads, but you won’t risk cutting the fabric (as I’ve done before with other scissors!). I need to order another pair so I have a spare, because if I lose them, it’s a really bad thing. I’ve also used them to trim threads when I do machine embroidery, but now I see there’s a new snip on the market that might be better for that:

Kricket scissors
Interestingly, it doesn’t seem like these are made by the same company. Go figure. Nancy’s Notions has both of these products.

Speaking of appliqué…

If I were to do appliqué by hand (and I don’t think I’ll be doing much more of it, ever, but I’ve done my fair share), here are a few things I try to keep in mind to make the task easier:

  • Good lighting! Yes, you’ve heard this from me before, but I just can’t say it enough. Use a bright task light, and aim it toward your work opposite the hand you’re stitching with. In other words, if you’re stitching with your right hand sit the light a bit to the left side of your work to eliminate shadows from your working hand falling on the fabric.
  • Prepare your fabrics properly. Fabrics that have been pre-washed are easier to work with, especially for something fussy like needle-turn appliqué. The seam allowances will turn under easier if the fabrics have been pre-washed to remove the sizing and finishing chemicals.
  • Use a good brand of very fine needles. Try hand appliqué needles and straw or milliners needles to see which you like best. Hand appliqué needles are shorter, and straw or milliners needles are longer but both kinds are very fine and have small eyes. I use the straw needles, since I have monster long nails that I refuse to be without, and the shorter needles tend to disappear.
  • Those small eyes on the needles mean using a needle threader. I don’t always need one, since if I cut the thread end at an angle I can usually thread the needle with no problem, but I keep one handy just in case. I’m sure that someday soon, my eyes won’t handle it anymore, and I’ll need that needle threader all the time! 🙂
  • Use silk thread. The one thing that improved my hand appliqué beyond measure was switching to silk thread. What a difference! The silk thread is so fine that it glides through the fabric, you have fewer knots and tangles, and your stitches sink down into the weave of the fabric so they are nearly invisible. Yes, it’s more expensive, but when I think of all the different colors of thread you need to buy to match fabrics when you are using cotton threads to appliqué, and then remember that you only need about five or six different colors of silk (because of how well it blends and those disappearing stitches!) I think we can just not worry about how much the silk thread costs.

So there you have it, my top tips for hand appliqué success. If I’ve missed anything you think is critical, do leave a comment to add to the list!

Hanging Quilts

How do you hang your quilts? Do you use the “hanging sleeve and dowel rod method?” I have for years, and still do, but recently I wondered if there wasn’t something better out there. I like to have a seasonal quilt hanging in my entryway that changes depending on the time of year. Now of course, these quilts are not all the same size, so it’s a bit of a hassle (not to mention bad for the wall) to have to put new nails up for each different size of quilt. Enter Arti Tec. Arti Tec is a company in the Netherlands manufacturing state of the art hanging systems for museums, galleries, offices and homes. I discovered this system at my local hardware store, but I do live in Germany, so I know it’s not necessarily available easily in the States. There is a distributor in Canada, however: www.arts-supplies.net. I’m sure if you head to your hardware store, you can probably find supplies to imitate this system as well.

Gallery rail with hooks, cables and picture hooks

I purchased a gallery rail, a moulding shaped wooden rail that is attached to the wall just below the ceiling, with hooks, perlon suspension cables, and picture hooks. Perlon is a clear plastic cable. So, I have the gallery rail that’s a bit wider than my widest quilt that will hang there, and the hooks can slide across the rail so that the system works for any size quilt. I use adjustable cafe curtain rods in the quilt sleeve, which are small enough to fit on the picture hooks. Problem solved!