Sunday, 26 February 2012

One week in - Bernina 820 update

So, I've been sewing on the 820 for a week now, and I'm definitely happy - althugh there are additions to the dislike list! The main one is that I had a lengthy battle one evening trying to get the top thread sensor to stop telling me I was out of thread and allow me to keep sewing more than a few inches at a time. I eventually resorted to googling it, and discovered that a recent update has an over-ride feature for this, so I disabled it and have been happily sewing ever since.

This is going to be a fairly text-heavy post, so I'm going to try and find some interesting, but probably unrelated images to break it up. I'm not taking anything outside to photograph in today's awful heat - our overnight minimum was 28C at 5.30 this morning, and we got within a fraction of 40C about an hour ago. The photos are from Christmas morning.

Eleanor sees her Christmas present; the Orginal Funky Monkey Bars

I got very used to piecing with a clear foot on my Pfaff, and the 820 doesn't come with one, so I've been using the 1/4in patchwork foot. I like several of its features, but it doesn't cope well over any seams without the dual feed engaged. However, once the dual feet is in operation it sews beautifully. It does concern me that with this foot, the right-hand lower feed dogs don't come in contact with the fabric at all - but as yet that hasn't actually caused a problem, so maybe it's not an issue.

Without the dual-feed in operation, the 820 really objects to even small seams (possibly a factor of the point above, now I think about it), but once I remembered and engaged the dual-feed foot, it sews across them beautifully. It'll be interesting to challenge it with some bulky seams at some point.

A point I touched on in my first post is that it takes a while for the presser foot to raise to the hover position. I have it set so that when I stop sewing, the needle remains down and the presser foot hovers; this is ideal for a lot of things, and I used it all the time on my last machine. Then when you start sewing, it lowers automatically - but both features on this machine have a few seconds' pause whileyou hear it whirring in preparation - not a lot, but enough to be frustrating. I think that because this really is a computer, it wants to think a little about everything first (it seriously takes between 20 and 30 seconds after switching it on to be ready to do anything at all - that's a LONG time; my last machine was fully computerised, and took took 1/10 of that). I've tried using the knee-lift, but don't like it so far (again, possibly that's just because it works differently from what I'm used to, and so far doesn't do as I expect) - and it didn't make a shred of difference with this issue.

Eleanor climbing on her new monkey bars

Some adivce for anyone buying a new sewing machine - don't just test it thoroughly before makig your decision, have a go at doing for yourself all the things you would normally want to do (threading, changing feet, personalising settings, etc...) before you take it home - especially if it's a make you're not used to! I thought I remembered, but have been wasting time trying to figure out some of the basics. For example, I'm pretty sure there's a way to set the default stitch length shorter on a specific stitch, but I haven't been able to figure out how, so I have to do it maually each time I turn it on. Just watching someone else do it isn't enough - actually try yourself.

Someone did ask me whether the 820 is the next step from the 440QE. I can't really answer that, having only very briefly used the latter once several years ago. Logically the answer would be yes, given the features and increase in space, but I really have no idea what the two have in common or what has improved/changed between them. From my perspective (as someone who really only makes quilts) any other Bernina is not a consideration, as the space is one of my key requirements. I'm also one of those who don't see the BSR as a selling point personally - I have promised myself I'll try it out, but I really don't intend to use it. It's hard to say this without appearing both big-headed and critical of the BSR, but put simply, with the years of experience I have quilting, I think it's more likely to hamper rather than help me. However, it does seem to work nicely, and I can see how some quilters could find it of enormous benefit, especially while learning to FMQ.

James testing Eleanor's present

I've stuck carefully to piecing this week, giving myself the chance to familiarise myself with the 820 before moving to free motion quilting. This is really what I've bought it for (if it were just the piecing and applique, the Pfaff was perfect) and I'm hoping it will live up to the test and my expectations in the coming days (and years!). I'll share my thoughts on its FMQ abilities next week.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Word verification apologies

Firstly, apologies to anyone trying to comment on this blog and being stymied by the awful new word verifications blogger has instituted. I have tried to turn it off for you, but that functionality has mysteriously disappeared - as have any help pages which might assist. I suspect my inability to turn it off is linked to the recent (and unannounced) change which has seen Australian-based blogspot blogs gain the '.au' extension which appears to have caused other blips, such as the loss of our quick-edit facility. I've logged my complaints with Google / Blogger regarding both issues, and the more people who do, the sooner we can hope for it to be fixed. In the meantime, I hope you'll persist if you do want to leave a comment!
Meanwhile, I've been working on this nautical themed quilt. The sashings are all trimmed, and I've removed the foundations. The cornerstones I'd made before - excpet for the 4 outer corner ones, which will be slightly different fabric in the centres; I was waiting until I cut and pieced the main blocks before I cut those. Today I made the main blocks, and now I'm in the process of joining them with the sashings.

The centres of these blocks were cut on-point, and I only had a limited amount of the feature fabric for them. I did have enough, with a little left over (though nowhere near enough for my orginal design). I'm easily about to cut the extras I need for the corner cornerstones from the offcuts left from cutting these on point. I remembered the bolt of solid navy I've had for years and only recently cut into. It's an almost perfect match for the navy background of the feature print, and has been the ideal substitute elsewhere in the quilt.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Pieced sashings

I didn't fully realised when I designed the quilt I'm working on just how many sashing sections would need piecing. The quilt is a 4-6 layout, but with a sashing border as well, that means 58 sections! And 35 pieced sashing cornerstones although I pieced those ages ago. Now I get to trim all 93 of them!

And here is my 820 in situ:

Bernina 820 - Day 1

Wow, there's a steep learning-curve on this machine!. Oops, it's not a sewing machine, it's a 'sewing computer'. That sounds a but pretentious, but it's a fair call!

I spent the afternoon setting it up and looking through the manual, and have done some foundation-pieicng this evening. Here are my thoughts so far; I'll continue to give a few updates as I try new things out and get more familiar with it.

  • The lighting - wow!
  • Smooth stitching
  • Curved extension table
  • Good vision of the needle due to the shaped head
  • Built-in clock
  • The denstist's mirror that comes with the accessories - just because it's fun!

  • It's a bit too computer-y, but I'll probably get used to it
  • The presser-foot is slooow to lift (hover) when I pause stiching - fine for chain-piecing, but slow for appliqueing curves
  • It's just so different from my last machine that for now the basics are taking me too long - but again, I'll get used to it
  • The buttons near the needle (e.g. needle up/down, presser-foor up/down, reverse, etc.) are hard to read - the shaped head means the buttons face slightly downwards, and the images on the buttons are mostly obscured from view

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Matching too well

While I was busy making flannel quilts, I made a third. This one has  plain blaocks of the feature owl print alternated with 9-patch blocks in matching colours - but they matched too well, and when I spread out the blocks, I quickly realised they'd need sashing:

They have since been sashed in a deeper blue (a vast improvement) and the quilt has been sandwiched in preparation for the new quilting machine

Stepping back

This evening I pieced this 12-inch block on my old sewing machine. I designed it myself and though it came together nicely, I don't think I'd want to do a lot of them due to the mixed construction techniques.

I am thrilled to announce I sold the QE 4.0 over the weekend (although it was kind of sad to let it go) and am piecing on this machine for the week, until I get my new machine this weekend - yay! It pieces beautifully, but I keep forgetting about the manual presser-foot, and start sewing with it up! I'm missing a few of the extra features of the QE, but for the most part it makes no real difference for piecing, once I rememeber, and somehow this one actually seems smoother and steadier. I won't be doing any quilting on it, but I've plenty of cutting, piecing and other work to do.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

For my DQS12 partner

Sorry I've been absent lately; I have no real reason or excuse, and hope to get back into it once my second summer cold has past.

I always find it easier to start on a swap quilt if my partner has provided lots of information about their likes and dislikes - not that everything needs to be taken into account, but I find it all helps.

So here's some expanded information; I hope you find it helpful (it's not meant to be prescriptive) and not daunting!

  • First, let's get the negatives out of the way: I don't like murky colours, shabby chic, naive, country, '30s or civil war repros. I don't like buttons or yoyos, and am not keen on ricrac. I never got into the red/aqua colour combo. You won't find any Denyse Schmidt, Aneela Hoey or Heather Ross in my stash - for good reason!
  •  If you can't think of a colour for the solid: I'm not into pinks or oranges, I like any shade of blue from greeny-turquoises to purples and I've discovered a recent fondness for greys.
  • I love fresh lines and colours. Generally I prefer colours which have some contrast, so you can actually see the design of the piecing. Althernatively, designs where the piecing is 'hidden' but a pattern emerges from the fabric selection and placement is wonderful (think Paula Nadelstern).
  • I would love something with a little cuteness/whimsy - it's not something that tends to come out in my own quilts, but I think it's fantastic.
  • I love detail and texture added through quilting.
  • I love New York Beauty blocks and the options for adapting them.
  • I love frogs, pandas and anything to do with snow.
  • What always gives a quilt some zing is something unexpected - whether in the quilting, the colours or the piecing. I like a quilt to make my eyes travel around, finding new things.
  • My favourite fabric designers are Sandi Henderson Kate Spain and Paula Nadelstern.

And because I can't have a post without photos, below is a sneak look at Reflections:
It was returned to me today, along with an advance copy of the magazine it's in. Full photos soon.