Accessories Mini Quilt with Silken Stitches

Time for another show and tell! I’ve actually had this finished for a while now, I just didn’t get the pictures taken right away. I made this quilt as an example of what can be done with the postcard size accessory appliqué patterns for the Silken Stitches workshop. I love the way the quilt turned out, which is probably not surprising since I’m a little addicted to the shoe, bag and hat accessory motifs, and I suppose the same could be said for the fun Michael Miller prints that I used in the quilt.

I’m not sure that I’ve had my fill yet either, and I still have some yardage left, so at some point there may be another coordinating project coming. A lap quilt or pillows perhaps? Of course, none of this really fits into my house with it’s current decor, so any more quilts in this style or colorway might require some major redecorating…and shaking of the head and rolling of the eyes on ITMan’s part… 🙂

Here’s the crisp, colorful, summery-looking goodness (just in time for fall?): Continue reading Accessories Mini Quilt with Silken Stitches

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My First Quilt (for the Parade of Quilts)

My first quilt--Irish Chain

Over at Simplify, Camille is hosting a Parade of Quilts (and lots of parenthesis) along with Carrie@La Vie en Rosie (who I’ll honestly admit I don’t know, but obviously I’ve been missing out because her blog looks wonderful and I’ll have to go get lost over there for a while after I’m finished here). Camille and Carrie want to see first quilts and last quilts, and I thought I might pass on this one (especially since I’d just posted something already this morning, and I’m lucky to post something twice a week but twice a day is unheard of and y’all might think I’m having an out of body experience and some other strange quilter has taken over and is madly posting to the blog). I mean, I could just be a sponge and soak it all in once the links to everyone’s entries were posted up on Monday but then I remembered that my first quilt (or what I call my first quilt anyway, which was really “one of the first quilts” if you need to be all technical about it) was an Irish Chain. The only picture I can find of it (well easily find anyway, since a 10 minute dig in the hard drive didn’t turn up anything bigger or better) is this little bit of a thing you see at the top of this post.

I made this quilt for my first daughter (who is now 17), to use in her crib and then on her toddler bed when she got bigger. It had cute fabric with baby foot prints all over it, which was what I used to decorate her whole room. What I learned: I don’t like Warm & Natural batting (or anything cottony for that matter); cotton poly blend isn’t that great for quilt backings, even when it’s sold as “quilt fabric;” Continue reading My First Quilt (for the Parade of Quilts)

Marking Border Quilting Designs

Since Joyce asked, here’s a short tutorial about fitting border quilting designs when marking a quilt. This is the Swanky quilt, which is about 24″ x 29″ and the border stencil is 2″ wide. For a first try at this method of border marking, use a small-ish quilt, so that the borders aren’t really long. Here’s my slap-dash method for border marking: Continue reading Marking Border Quilting Designs

Machine Quilting: Your Ticket to Speed Control

Some time ago, I asked for your tips and questions about machine quilting. I haven’t forgotten that I still owe you the followup on that, but I got a little sidetracked! Well, more like completely derailed! Forgive me?

Sue asked:

I just can’t seem to get the right speed when I machine quilt. I wish I could afford a sewing machine with a stitch regulator but that won’t be for a long time.
How do I ensure the length of the stitches stays consistent?

I know that this is something many quilters struggle with, and it’s not easy by any means. Getting it right is a combination of many things, and it may be worth it to go back to ground zero and begin learning a few things again to get it right. Try the following:

Start with some machine-guided quilting, with a walking foot attachment or dual feed feature on your sewing machine. Set the stitch length for an average length, not too long, not too short. Quilt some straight lines on a practice sandwich that’s about 12″ x 24″, using a medium speed on the machine. As you quilt these lines:

  • Keep your speed consistent. When you stop to reposition your hands on the quilt and then restart, try to continue at the same speed you were going before. Listening to the pitch of the motor will help, as will being aware of the pressure of your foot on the pedal on the floor.
  • Listen to the sounds of the machine. Listen the sounds that the machine makes as it’s making a stitch. Try to identify one particular sound and concentrate on the rhythm of that repetitive sound.
  • Concentrate on how fast your hands are moving as you’re guiding the quilt sandwich through the machine. Remember you’re just guiding, and letting the machine have the speed control.
  • Notice the combination of things happening. When does the quilt sandwich move forward in relation to when the needle is moving up or down? When does it move forward in relation to that one particular sound that you’re listening for when it makes a stitch?

Try to connect these things all together, and memorize them. You need to develop these skills into habits, so that they are a part of you and you can duplicate them over and over again. The machine is just that, a machine, and everything moves in a synchronized way automatically, but this is what you should try to imitate when you are controlling the speed and movement during free motion quilting.

I’ve always likened machine quilting to driving. When you drive, you don’t think, you just do. If a car or an animal darts out in front of you, you don’t think about putting your foot on the brake, you just do it because it’s a habit and an automatic reaction. Develop your machine quilting skills to this level, and you will see improvement and success.

I also call this “being ONE with your machine.” Knowing how it sounds when it’s running well, knowing exactly how much pressure to put on the pedal to take just one stitch or sew at a certain speed, and being so in tune with your machine that you can tell the moment it runs out of bobbin thread because it sounds different as it sews. Knowing your machine this well is an important part of producing the kind of machine quilting that I know you want. Once you get to know the machine this well, you can match your rhythm to its rhythm and work with it instead of against it. It’s a little be mystical maybe, but you’ll know when you’re “in the zone.”

Once you’ve practiced quilting these straight lines and you are really in tune with your machine, try some free motion quilting. Lower the feed dogs, attach a darning or free motion foot and start with a new practice quilt sandwich. Quilt a few straight lines, top to bottom, just as you did on the other quilt sandwich. Try to run the machine at the same medium speed and move the quilt sandwich at the same rate as it was when the machine was in control, and see if you can make stitches that are consistent in length and about the same size as the machine guided stitching.

Keep quilting at that same medium speed, but throw in some curves and zigzags. Once you’ve got the rhythm, guard it carefully! What I mean is, make sure your environment is conducive to keeping it. Cut out distractions and interruptions if at all possible, because every interruption means you have to get back into the zone and find that rhythm again, and your stitches may be wobbly until you do.

Practice free motion quilting at this speed until it feels easy and you don’t have to think about it. It may take a long time! I quilted for years at that one special speed and rhythm, until I needed to learn another for a different technique! Don’t get me wrong, I probably didn’t need to quilt at that one speed for years, I just didn’t know I could do anything else and get the results I wanted, and I hadn’t run into a reason to try until I wanted to quilt small stippling and other background designs where the stitches must be smaller and the machine must go faster or it just doesn’t work.

The point is, once you really own that speed and rhythm and can duplicate it on demand, it becomes much easier to speed up or slow down to do different types of quilting and still keep a consistent stitch length. Try these tips, and let me know how it goes!

Keep It or Bin It: Lickety Grip, WonderFil Rayon, and the Clover Embroidery Threader

I’m finally getting around to sharing some of my experiences with some new products I picked up at the quilt shows last October. Up on the Keep It or Bin It review block today are a few products that I’ve been using and testing since then. Did they make the grade? Let’s see:

Lickety GRIP

Lickety Grip: One of the challenges when free motion machine quilting is getting (and keeping) a firm grip on the quilt. I used to use gloves with gripper dots on them, but had to take them off every time I needed to start or end a line of quilting, because I couldn’t manipulate the thread and everything else with the bulky gloves on. Then I started using a very tacky (not tacky, as in “without good taste”, but tacky as in sticky-ish) lotion, Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream, a tip I picked up from Diane Gaudynski.

We all like to try new things once in a while though, and I thought maybe this Lickety Grip stuff might turn out to be even better than the lotion trick. Lickety Grip says it provides “Better Grip For Better Control,” and maybe it does, but the first problem is that it comes in a little box and you rub your fingertips across the top of it, instead of squeezing it out into your hand. I can see that after using it for a while, it will be hard for me to get the remaining product out of the box because of my nails (yes, I realize that this is a personal problem, but I’m probably not the only person to have it). The other problem: it claims to have no perfumes, but the stuff smells like exceedingly strong soap (and not in a good way, really) when it’s on your hands, despite being virtually odorless in the box. Eeeewww. In actual usage tests, I found it to be a poor replacement for the Neutrogena lotion. Verdict: Bin It.

WonderFil Rayon Thread

WonderFil Rayon thread: I use rayon thread an awful lot these days, so I thought I’d see if there was something better out there than Sulky (that comes on spools that are not ginormous). Not that Sulky is bad, not at all, but you never know when you might run across something better. I bought two assortments of ten colors each of this WonderFil thread at the Quilt Market Sample Stampede. I think I’m sorry I’m stuck with this much of it now.

From beginning to end, it’s totally frustrating. I couldn’t easily remove the plastic wrappers without sticking very sharp embroidery scissors under the wrapper to cut it, and catching the thread on the spool in the process. When I did finally get the wrapper snipped and started to peel it off, it only partly came off, and then I had to repeat the process with the embroidery scissors to remove the rest. When I put the spool on the machine to use it, instead of a hole getting poked in the paper label on the end of the spool, the entire end of the spool fell off in my hand. After using the thread, I tried to anchor the thread at the end of the spool, but the thread anchoring system on these spools is completely worthless. The thread broke more often than not while I was trying to get it to go under the little knobs, and when I could get it to go under the knobs at all without breaking, it wouldn’t stay.

Rayon thread being the slippery stuff that it is, what I’ll shortly have is a giant mess because none of the thread ends are anchored on the spools when not in use. Qualilty-wise, the thread itself is fine and comparable to Sulky so that’s not an issue, but it’s just such a pain to use because of the way it’s packaged that I know I’ll have to be desperate for a color match that I can’t get with 300 spools of Sulky to bother even looking toward the WonderFil. The WonderFil spools are just total junk IMO. Verdict: Bin It. Not worth the trouble.

Clover Embroidery Threader

Clover Embroidery Threader: I knew I would love this threader, and I hunted high and low through two quilt shows to get it. I was right, and it is a gem. The packaging says it all and doesn’t lie: “Unique design”, “Flat tip for easy threading”, and “Smooth threading even with thick threads”. I’ve been using quite a bit of embroidery floss and thicker specialty fibers lately for embellishments, and a regular needle threader just doesn’t cut it. Rather than just a slender (and easily breakable) wire threader, this threader is a folded piece of thin metal which slides through the needle eye vertically.

The instructions in the package are well written and worth saving as there is a needle chart showing different types and sizes of recommended needles as well as tips and tricks in case of difficulties with certain needles or threads. The threader itself is well made and the cover attaches firmly. It’s cool to look at with it’s elegant design in limey green, and even has a hole on the end to attach it to a cord or chatelaine to keep it handy. Verdict: Keep It. Definitely.

Note: In all honesty, “Bin It” is probably not an entirely accurate representation of what will happen to these failure products. I generally don’t throw anything away, and you never know when you might need some sticky stuff in a box for some odd job or other (though it’s too light to be a paper weight), and maybe I can think of something creative to do with the tangled mess of rayon thread that won’t stay on the spools. They probably should go in the bin, but I’m way too much of a pack rat for that!

Have you tried any of these products? Have a different view or experience? Share it!

AQS Show Des Moines–The Loot

I gathered the loot from the AQS Show back up so I could share! Here’s the first batch:

AQS Show Loot

Looking at it all now, I’m sure it’s not terribly exciting to anyone but me, but I’ll tell you what it all is anyway. From the top center, sort of counterclockwise, we have:

  • Something called a Waterbrush, which you fill with water and then you can brush small amounts onto fabric or quilts. The folks selling it were using it with Caran D’ache colored pencils to make a watercolor effect (a bit of a strange technique that wasn’t quite ready for prime time, IMO), but I’m thinking it will be great for correcting mistakes with the blue washout marker, and it will probably come in handy for many other things at some point.
  • I bought a strange and lethal-looking seam ripper thingy, after the vendor demonstrated how it could be used to cleanly slice through fabric layered between fusible web and freezer paper. Think fusible appliqué pieces.
  • The Magic Bobbin Washers were something I’ve wanted to try, and the Lickity Grip is probably just an alternative to my favorite free motion machine quilting “get a grip” tool, the Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream. Worth a try to see if it’s better.
  • A couching foot for my Bernina 440. This thing makes couching soooo much easier. You use it like a free motion quilting foot to stitch down cording and fibers to fabric.
  • Some new embellishment glue and fabric markers that I haven’t tried before. It never hurts to try lots of different brands to see what’s best.
  • I renewed my AQS membership, and they gave me free curved thread snips at the show. I love these thread snips and they’re at least $15, so that was a steal!
  • I searched all over the show floor to find that little green thing there on the left. It’s the new flat needle threader from Clover, and I LOVE it. Works great for threading fibers through small needle eyes.
  • I bought a couple of new types and brands of hand needles that I haven’t tried before. So far, I really like the Bohin Crewel Embroidery for embroidered embellishments on quilts. It’s nice and long and sharp, and pretty easy to thread with that new Clover threader.
  • The clear box is a bead storage box from Embellishment Village. You can never have too many beads, until they outgrow your storage options, that is. 🙂

That’s it for the first round. My goal at the show was to catch up with (and buy) the new things that I’ve missed because I live here, and don’t see or hear about the new stuff until it’s old news most of the time. I’m off to try out some of the Loot! More to follow!