Bernina 440 – My favorite “feature”

When I was twelve and I asked my mom to teach me to sew, one of the first lessons was how to use her Riccar sewing machine. It was a pretty high-end model, built to last, and as far as I know, still runs great. The only thing I specifically remember from that lesson was my mother’s stern admonition: “Never, NEVER, turn the hand wheel backwards.” She threatened me with death if I did it, and demonstrated how to turn the handwheel properly. She meant that the handwheel on the machine should never be turned away from me as I was seated at the machine, and she explained that that would cause the threads to tangle and possibly break the machine.

Many years later, I was quite surprised by how many people I saw doing just that in classes, and wondering why the threads were all jammed up and they couldn’t get the fabric out of the machine. I guess they missed that part of the lesson? More recently, I’ve (carefully) risked my mother’s wrath by turning the handwheel on my Pfaff backwards just one half of a complete turn, to get the needle to come back up without completing the stitch if I’ve taken just that one stitch too many (or the stitch landed in the wrong place) when I’m machine quilting. (Theoretically my mother wouldn’t care anymore, since it’s not her costly machine I’d be breaking, but do me a favor and keep my malefaction between you and me!)

One half of a complete rotation of the handwheel doesn’t seem to damage the machine, but frequently it will tangle the threads, so sometimes the technique works and other times it doesn’t. If it works, I’ve saved myself taking out a whole line of machine quilting because there’s one wrong stitch at the end. If it doesn’t, sometimes I can keep stitching (and ignore the little jig of the misplaced stitch or try to work it into the design somehow) and other times the threads are so tangled that stopping and restarting is the only option. It’s a 50-50 chance with the Pfaff. Continue reading Bernina 440 – My favorite “feature”


Another bit of creativity finished

Way back when (like 10 years ago), some members of the Black Forest Quilters banded together to do an Around the Block Round Robin quilt swap, with guidance from Round Robin Quilts: Friendship Quilts of the 90s and Beyond. My quilt is finally finished as of today, and I mean really finished, with the label, hanging sleeves and all.

Around the Block

I remember when we started this project, that I had a really hard time figuring out what to do for the center block, which had to be 16″ square. I actually made three center blocks (or was it four?) and I still couldn’t decided which one to use. The first one I started turned into the little quilt with our old kitty-girl CB rendered in appliqué (years later, obviously). The second one was a watercolor sort of thing, with 1″ squares that I cut out of a fat quarter with fruits on it and arranged them in a heart shape (this block is still sitting in the closet waiting for me to figure out what to do with it). The third and fourth ones were nearly the same; the pattern was a variation of a paper-pieced little girl in a kimono from a magazine, but I made some improvements to the fourth, adding three-dimensional sleeves:

Center block

The Japanese characters on the left translate to Long Life, Love and Happiness. I printed them onto the fabric with a laser printer, and colored over the printing with pigma pen; this was before the advent of Bubble Jet Set! The idea of the Round Robin project was that each person who worked on the quilt would add six 4″ squares to the quilt, in keeping with the theme: two “feature” or more detailed blocks, and four “spacer” blocks.

Pagoda and Lantern blocks

Lots of lovely little blocks were added to my quilt while I was busy adding blocks to everyone else’s quilts. This type of project really stretches your boundaries, and exercises those creative muscles. Every quilt had a different theme, and we had a month to work on the blocks. Sometimes, the night before that monthly deadline was a bit stressful!

Crane, Heart and Butterfly blocks

I loved all the wonderful blocks that my friends added to the quilt. They’re all so unique and creative!

Rose and Fan blocks

Some of the blocks are embellished with beads and embroidery, and some have special fabrics like silks and lamé©.

Fish, Flowers, and Bird blocks

I started the quilting by hand thinking it would be easier to get around the beading and such, but I did finish it up on the machine, figuring it would never really be done otherwise! A journal traveled around with the quilt as it was made, and I made a pocket behind the label to hold the journal pages and some photos of everyone else’s quilts that I dug up earlier today. I sat here for a while trying to think of what to call it, and then decided it had to be Long Life, Love & Happiness, of course!

The quiet, the memories and the quilting

I was a bachelorette this weekend, as ITMan took the girls to Girl Scout Camp (is he a great dad, or what? Good thing he likes that kind of stuff, because nobody will ever get me to do that camping thing ever again. “Roughing it” in my book is a hotel without room service and a spa!). I decided that I wouldn’t go check the mail on Friday to see if my thread was there, since I began to see light at the end of the 11-year-long tunnel that was the Dresden Plate Drama quilt. I started this quilt in 1996 (I might have said ’95 here before, but I really think ’96 now), so it’s long past time to see it finished!

This quilt carries many memories with it; not surprising considering it’s older than my youngest daughter. I spent a lot of time sifting through them as I finished it up. The pattern is from the May, 1994 issue of McCall’s Quilting, the first quilting magazine issue I ever bought, even before I was “a quilter.” I can’t lay my hands on it right at the moment, but I do still have that magazine. I know I have it somewhere, because there’s another quilt in it that I’ve always wanted to make, and besides that you all know I’m a confirmed packrat. The fabric is my absolute favorite fabric of all time, a Christmas print from VIP Fabrics. I had to have my mom search out more of it for me and ship it over, and I ended up with a total of 18 yards of the stuff, 13-14 of which went into this quilt in one place or another. (I still have the rest, wonder where it’ll end up?) This was the first block I made (you can see all these pics bigger if you click, but beware, they’re big files!):

Dresden Drama Block

This wonderful kaleidoscopic effect is just so stunning in this fabric. Every single plate in this quilt is slightly different. I cut a total of 364 (or was it 384?) petals the old fashioned way, by hand with a template. I took my first appliqué stitches on these plates, sad as they were! Too big, too far apart, using the wrong weight and color of thread, Continue reading The quiet, the memories and the quilting

Quilting Good Times

Today I had a wonderful visit with Kristin La Flamme, to shop, do lunch, and quilt! What a lovely day we had, getting to know each other, sharing opinions and stories, and machine quilting in the afternoon. Despite the fact that we are near to complete quilting opposites (well, except for the fact that we both collect fabric and thread and “stuff” to an incredible degree, anyway!), we have a whole host of things in common, and we definintely didn’t suffer from a lack of conversational material.

Kristin brought a few quilts to share, so I got to paw all over them. Seeing her quilts up close and personal was a treat, since sometimes the small details that mean so much are lost in pictures on websites. Of all the quilts she brought, Am Rand von Omas Weizenfeld, Traumwald and Hansel und Gretel were my favorites. You can see all three of these quilts (and more) in the Gallery on her website. I think what I like most about her quilts is the little touches of embroidery and after-quilting embellishments she adds. Love it, love it, love it!

I was saying to Kristin that she’s a much better blogger than I am, especially in the picture-taking department. Everybody likes pics, and I’m terrible at that part, especially when it comes to anything but quilty stuff. She took a picture of me quilting for her blog, “to prove she was really here” she said, but could I have thought to get my own camera out?? Are you kidding? In my own defense, I did say that we could have ITMan take a picture of us together, but then he was busy staying out of our way for the afternoon, and I didn’t remember to grab him before he left to take GuitarGirl to her lesson, so the picture never happened. So, no pics of Kristin on my blog :(, but one of me on hers maybe!

So, here’s to new quilting friends and quilting good times. We definitely must get together again soon!