Friday, 30 March 2012

Customer quilt

Just quickly tonight, here are a few photos of the quilting I did on this small quilt for Kayscha, made using blocks from a round robin she participated in. She wanted something simple, so we chose this meandering open feather.

I decided to use the heart-shaped feathers, to match one of the fabrics used in the quilt.

Here it is from the back; folded up and ready to send back, with a copy of AP&Q with my Reflections quilt and a piece of Prints Charming lime green starburst fabric tucked neatly inside.

This evening I finished sewing the binding on that large single (twin) bed quilt and cut out the fabrics ready for James' next quilt. He's going to make a start on it over Easter and through the school holidays.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

More micro quilting

I finished quilting my DQS12 quilt! There's a lot of stitching in this 18in square quilt - enough to shrink it by nearly an inch in either direction!

Above the pink row is pale green (also a Rainbows variegated 40wt thread) and the top is silver metallic (also from Superior), which sparkles beautifully. It all stitched out perfectly. Each clamshell si a different quilting design; from the bottom row, right to left: R1 - swirl, pebble; R2 - double-pebble, McTavishing, filigree; R3 - freeform feathers, double-paisley; R4 - swirl variation. My favourite is the filigree. There's a small amount of quilting on the pieced blocks, following the fabric pattern - just enough so that they lie flat. The remaining clamshells (and parts thereof) are filled with very slightly larger McTavishing, in navy Bottom Line (fine, 60wt) thread - again from Superior.

I've picked out a binding fabric - also Paula Nadelstern, but from an earlier range (Deja Vu, I think). I've trimmed the quilt very precisely, and will need to be very careful to sew the binding on perfectly at the edges of the clamshells.

Binding company

I spent some time yesterday morning sewing the binding down on a bed quilt while Eleanor played nearby. Shadow loves nothing more than to rest his chin on the quilt while I do this, and since this quilt is going to a pet-friendly home, I obliged. Eleanor helped out by taking a photo and did a terrific job; you can see him (the black fluff!) by my left elbow, on the right of the photo:

She's at a bit of a low angle though, so this one below is zoomed in on him. Being black, it's a bit hard to work out; he stretches his nose right out on the quilt, then tips his head in to rest against me as well - you can see his left eye just above his nose, and his greying chin. He's a bit scruffy; next week he and Cocoa are due back at the dog groomer's.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Tiny quilting

The quilting is taking a while; each clamshell has 5-8,000 stitches:

The outlining was done in navy BottomLine, the rest in Rainbows (both from Superior); the bottom two clamshells are a variegated purple and the upper is a variegated pink. The unquilted strips around each clamshell are about 1.4in wide. Still plenty to go...

Monday, 26 March 2012

A little piecing

First of all, I've finally been able to remove the word verification for comments!

I haven't quite finished the last quilt yet, but I started on a new one this evening. I've had the idea for my DQS12 quilt for a while, and drew out the details while Eleanor had her swimming lesson on Friday morning. It meets the swap requirement for a minimum of 6 blocks, but this is just the start. The curved seams took a while to get exactly right, but even so, this part of the process was pretty quick. My favourite bit (so far) is the top corners.

The print is from Paula Nadelstern's latest range for Benartex; Patternista. I love the colours, although they're not totally accurate here. The navy isn't really that bright, either. There's not a lot of natural light to be had at 2.30am!

Next up - a LOT of quilting!

Friday, 23 March 2012

Unknown solution

Quilting on this stalled a bit this week, for a couple of reasons. The first is I'm having a really hard time deciding how to quilt the borders (I want something which fits with the rest of the quilt and doesn't require marking, and suits relatively narrow strips) Borders always challenge me. The second reason is I was getting frustrated with the machine; I'm using The Bottom Line in the top (as well as in the bobbin) - something I love doing, but it kept shredding, or catching underneath (leaving a mess) or skipping stitches - the latter two when I was going 'backwards'. I tried all sorts of potential solutions without any real effect. Then I walked away and did somethng else, and then decided to have one last go for the night, and it quilted like a dream! I wish I knew why - but I'm hoping it lasts!

Being the same fabric, I treated the setting triangles and the first border as one. I used my largest round platter and a Hera marker to mark the shallow arcs, then filled the rest of the space with feathers - I'm really pleased with how this went.

Now I'm dithering over the remaining borders. I'm considering leaving the narrow burgundy one unquilted (they're already quilted in the ditch) but will reassess once the line and grey ones are done.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Moving along

Having finished the last quilt, today I sandwiched another; this one's a bit bigger, at 67 x 87in. I've made a good start at the quilting; I've quilted in the ditch around a couple of the borders, feathered the large white spaces, done some more ditch quilting on some of the blocks, and now I'm up to the combined lime green quilting, with the little feather sprouts along each side of the diamonds - there are another 14 of these left to do, and still plenty more after those are done.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Making Waves

I've been busily finishing this nautical-themed quilt. Most of the quilting is in the ditch, but it needed something in the large feature diamonds. I didn't want to do much, to avoid detracting from the print, and my first sketch was luckily exactly what I wanted - I was expecting to have to try several things, so I was really pleased my first go was successful.

I took some transclucent paper, laid it over the quilt, and put pencil to paper - first marking the edges of the shape. Then I used some small scissors to turn the design into a temporary template - cutting a channel about 2mm wide, and stopping in selected places the restarting, to ensure the template held its shape. Then I used a Clover white marker to quickly mark each block, alternating the direction of the wave in each row for a bit of variety. Before doing this, I tested the marker on a scrap of the feature fabric, then ironed it to remove it, and waited a while to check it was out properly - I now do this every time I mark a quilt, having being caught out before, even with products I've previously used.

I quilted the waves using navy Bottom Line, and am really pleased with the result.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Visiting Laura

Just a quick one tonight; today you'll find my guest post about McTavishing (one of my favourite quilting designs) over on the lovely Laura's blog, Quokka Quilts. Laura hosts the tongue-twisting QAYGFMQQAL - a quiltalong encouraging participants to gain free-motion quilting confidence and skill through trying new quilting designs and patterns; what a terrific idea!

(McTavishing is the background filler in Crowing, below.)

900 and a new quilt

Hmm, 900 posts in 4 1/2 years. I'll have to start thinking of something special for the big 1000 in about 4 months' time! In the meantime, a little housekeeping - you may have noticed I've added some 'pages'; they're sitting under the header across the top. I've renamed the old gallery page to My Quilt Gallery, and all the new ones relate to machine quilting; there's a guide to preparing your quilt before sending it to a professional quilter, a list of my quilting services and prices, some FAQs about getting a top quilted (I'm planning to keep adding to this and am keen for question suggestions), a gallery of quilting examples arranged by category, and a new link to directly email me. While I will continue to share quilting on customer quilts on occasion, I've no intention to make that the focus of my blog, other than those pages sitting (hopefully fairly unobtrusively) there.

This is the quilt that's been keeping me out of mischief and up late over the long weekend. I've finally added the last border; although they're plain, there are 5 of them (below, starting with the white/grey spot, going out to the white/grey dandelions), including the 1/4in white peeper border. Sewing borders on is probably my least favourite part of quiltmaking; it's tedious doing it properly - but even worse unpicking and redoing it if it's not done properly in the first place! Anyway, it's done, and I'm particularly pleased with how even the white peeper is.

Now it's back to quilting for me, but there are two ahead of this one in the queue, including the one below. I'm trying out the stitch-in-the-ditch walking foot, and am pretty impressed with it. It's a bit loud, but effective - even along seams where the ditch keeps changing sides because I've pressed the seam allowances in opposite directions to butt them against each other.

And, just for Adds - they made good fuel:

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Baby boy boom

I've received three baby boy birth announcements within 36 hours - luckily the two required quilts are already made and just need labelling! I shared one the other day, and this is the second:

 I've called this one 'Is it Night or Day?'. The name references babies' sleep patterns and parental lack of sleep, and seems appropriate given the feature print is of owls on a (day)light background.

This is the quilt I wasn't going to sash, but as soon as I laid out the alternating feature blocks and nine-patch blocks, it was obvious it was needed. Normally I'd continue the sashing around the perimter, but I rather liked this one without, and it was already plenty big enough - especially as I need to post it half-way around the world!

This is the first quilt I quilted completely on the Bernina 820 - in the meandering open feather I mentioned before.

I love this quilt, and I think it's just right for its new owner and his special parents.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Reflections in AP&Q

This is a very belated post, but my quilt using the Terrain scraps I won from Kate Spain was in the last issue of Australian Patchwork & Quilting (Vol 21 No 3).

The scraps were offcuts from Moda's myriad precuts (a nice use of what would otherwise probably have become rubbish), and were mostly in 40in strips, but of varying and inconsistent width, so I ended up trimming them and sewing the strips together to form a single piece of fabric (below), from which I cut all the coloured sections of the quilt.

The only non-Terrain fabric is the white-on-white snowflake print. I even bound the quilt using the scraps.

I decided the white block centres needed something a little fancy in the way of quilting, so I designed this motif, based on one of the fabrics (the widest strip in the block above).

The motif and all the quilting on the coloured sections was done in a pale aqua Bottomline thread - it blended nicely on the varied colours, and helped the motif to stand out a little more than plain white would have. I used white thread on the white block borders.

I  quilted in the ditch between the centre of each block and its border, but not between blocks.

I used a fun wavy line in the block borders and eventally decided that a large stipple was best on the coloured block centres, since that would keep the quitling density consistent, and the fabrics are busy and bright enough that no more detail was needed.

The finished quilt measures 65in (165cm) square.

A special thank you to Kate for the giveaway, and for designing one of my favourite fabic ranges of 2011! I still have more scraps left (plus a good amount of yardage!) for another fun quilt.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

James and quilts

I wanted to share this picture that James did at school a little while ago. They had free choice, and he decided to draw a picture of one of my beach quilts for me. I think he did a terrific job from memory, although the scan didn't come out very well.

I love that he remembered to put in details like the shells on the sand and the beach huts. Then he even thought to use the snowflake punch around the edge because he knows I love snowflakes!

Last week we were at Spotlight selectig some gumnut baby fabrics (below)for a quilt, and next to them was some Spot fabric. I could clearly see his brain ticking over; working out that he needed a good reason to buy them, and saying he wants to make Edward (his cousin) a teddy quilt for his 2nd birthday in August. How could I argue? So we came home with some Spot as well! He also has plans for a quilt for Eleanor's Care Bears for her birthday. And several times he's brought home pictures which he thought I might like to use when designing quilts.

(A note to any fabric manufacturers - it's wonderful to see fabrics from Australian childrens' books - how about Possum Magic, please?)

Saturday, 10 March 2012

A Circus Every Day

Every time I look at this baby quilt, it makes me think of a circus - even though there are really only a couple of animals on it that ever used to be in circuses (performing giraffes, anyone?)! But the bright colours made the concept stick, and this quilt will be for a new baby, whose (first-time) parents will soon discover that this is an accurate description of their upcoming lives!

This was one of the quick baby quilts I made, and I did actually quilt this one on the Pfaff, though I've only recently got around to completing the binding and photographing it.

I specifically chose several of my snowflake-print flannels for this quilt, because the father-to-be is a keen snowboarder, and when he stayed with us in Canberra a number of years ago, we did a few day-trips to Perisher.

I used the open feather meander again, just with a different feather tip shape. It's so quick and easy and enjoyable to quilt, and is just the right density for a snuggle quilt - though I've done it much smaller elsewhere.

I don't know if they're having a boy or girl, so this bright quilt should do for either.

Very hungry quilting

This gorgeous Very Hungy Caterpillar quilt by Kayscha is the first customer quilt I've quilted on the 820, and it went swimmingly for the most part.

The multicoloured background is quilted in a large swirl pattern in a red/yellow/blue/green Rainbows thread by Superior coloured. I love Rainbows and am so pleased i cna use them more now; I quilted the whole lot in one go (have I mentioned how terrific the huge 820 bobbins are? Although they come at a price - the best I've found is about $3.50 each - yes, each!) and without a single thread break or other problem!

I used the same rainbow thread to quilt around the butterfly, then filled the wings with a few open feather plumes.

I used a green Auriful 50wt cotton to quilt around the caterpillars, including around each of the 'bumps' on the main caterpillar.

Then I swapped to white bottomline to quilt in the ditch around the snall caterpillar blocks, and fill the background wth wavy McTavishing-inspired lines, and I did experience quite a few thread breakages here.

I dithered for a while about how to fill around the large caterpillar and the butterfly, then inspiration hit, and I chose large pebbles to match the ranbow spot print surrounding them - perfect! For these I switched to a white 50wt Gutermann cotton. Although I think the Bottomline would be better for pebbling, until I figure out how the 820 wants me to treat it, the 50wt cotton was much easier. I quilted in the ditch around these blocks, too.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Quilting on the Bernina 820

I might not have been blogging much recently, but I've spent the last week or so busily quilting on the 820. It has so many bells and whistles, that I keep rediscovering things which I was shown at the shop, but had already forgotten! I think I need to arrange a class for myself to make sure I'm getting maximum benefit from it. The computer aspect is probably the most challenging. Yesterday I spent ages trying to unjam it, because I'd caught my hand on the auto-threader while it was in action. I eventually rang th dealer, who was able to explain the simple fix immediately - instead of tryign to push the threader back up to its usual resting position, I needed to pull it down (with a bit more force than I'd expected) to it's lowest level, then it sprang back up automatically, and then I could sew again. As she explained, it's not like most sewing machines where you can do several things at once; you need to allow it to do its thing. I didn't even reach my hand in intentionally, but no doubt I was trying to do something else while the threading was in action. Lesson learned!

The first thing I quilted on the 820 was a flannel baby quilt - a real mistake (above). I'd half-finished it on my Pfaff before I sold it, but I'm not in love with the quilt top (the colours didn't work together quite as I'd intended/expected - I'd planned it to be pinks and blues, but didn't take into account that the blues had a fair bit of green, and the pinks had plenty of oranges), and I hated my choice of quilting pattern! Anyway, I made myself finish it, and am hoping the addition of the binding will impove it in my eyes, otherwise I'll need to start again for that particular baby.

So I moved on to the blue flannel baby quilt, which I do love (below). And instead of trying a different quilting pattern as intended, I decided to stick to something I knew and loved while I was learning how to quilt on the 820, so I did an open meandering feather.

I've been quilting (free-motion) a lot with Superior BottomLine as the top thread (and in the bobbin), but the 820 doesn't seem to like it - and from what I've been able to research, it doesn't like thinner threads in general, so I have had some shredding/breakage. I've found a few ways to reduce that, but am still hoping to find a tip to eliminate it entirely. I switched to using the BSR (stitch regulator) foot, but with the actual stitch regulation turned off. This somehow seems to adjust some other settings automatically, which improves matters - if anyone knows just what, I'd love to know! I'm also adjusting the presser-foot pressure to suit my quilt, and adjusting the thread balance - I'm coming up with my own list for the latter depending on what thread combination I'm using, and have it on the wall next to the machine.

My main problem with using the BSR foot is that no matter which foot attachment I use, the BSR component itself gets in the way of visibility.

The biggest thing I seem to be able to do to reduce thread breaks is slow right down - but it's significantly slower than I'd like, and I do find that quite frustrating.  I've also noticed that the problems only seem to occur in 2 directions; it's fine sewing 'forwards' and to the left (moving fabric right), but I get occasional skipped stitches and it's more likely to shred or break when going backwards or to the right (peek at a customer quilt below).

However, it quilts with thicker threads like a dream - a million times better than the Pfaff. I did a large amount with Superior Rainbows (a 40wt trilobal polyester) without a single skipped stitch or break, and I'm thrilled about that. It also quilted nicely with the Gutermann 50wt cotton, and I'm sure it'll be the same when I use the Aurifil Cotton Mako 50, and I can see me using a lot more of these threads where I might have stick to Bottom Line before. But I love BottomLine, and would love any tips on how to get to to work better as the top thread when FMQing from other 820 / 830 quilters.

I mentioned last time about wanting a clear foot, and am more definite about this now - if I can get exactly what I want. When I sew bindings on, I mark the diagonal mitre line to get a perfect corner, and without the clear foot, I just can't see that clearly enough - and the 1/4in foot is no good, because I need a wider seam there. So I want a normal-width, 'D' (suitable for dual-feed) clear foot, preferably with a slot for the thread, or even slightly open at the front - it's a nuisance having to poke the top thread down through the hole in the foot on some of the Bernina feet. Frankly, I can't imagine why most of them don't have a slot!

Oh, and that reminds me, I don't like how short the threads are cut for either the bobbin or top thread, when threading the machine. The bottom one only pokes up about 1/4 to 1/2in when I bring it up through the stitch plate, and sometimes the top one is too short to stay threaded. Which brings me to another question - am I supposed to need to bring the bottom thread up? It doesn't seem to like it when I don't, but I seem to have to do it manually (as in, really manually, using the handwheel) and then pull it longer.

I also dislike (or have to get used to) the fact that this machine doesn't seem to have the ability my Pfaff had to override the selected needle finish up/down with a quick tap on the foot pedal to move it to the opposite position, and I miss that.

I realise that this reads like a big whinge, but it's not. It's about sharing my opinions and experiences as I learn how to use the 820 - maybe someday it'll be useful to someone else! And maybe an experienced 820 or 830 user might pop in and tell me that I can actually do some of the things I want - juts not in the way I'm used to.  I think even going from a 'normal' Bernina to an 820 would be a huge leap, let alone swapping brands as well!

I'll be back in the next  few days with full photos of my recent finishes.