Saturday, 26 April 2014

Watching Paint Dry

The Great P and I are learning to 'long arm quilt'. We have a Pfaff workshop next week and need to quilt 3 metres of fabric for a jacket. We always had an interest in the possibilities of using the long arm quilter at the shop, so this seemed to be what we needed to get going.

What were we thinking?

The quilter hadn't been used in a while and we had a one day tutorial. This makes 2 strikes against us. I had done some puttering and could stick a design in a pattern box, so of course I thought I might be ready.

Now I know:

  • there are actually 3 oil ports, but only 2 of them are marked
  • the machine stops dead when dry
  • you need to hit it with a hammer, gently, to free it up. Lots of times.
  • Roy in Toronto is a tech god
  • but even he can't measure up to Rhoda in the classroom
  • I owe them both my firstborn
  • excess oil drips don't really show up on batik prints (major bonus!)
  • excess oil will change your bobbin tension. Not for the better.
  • thread breaks
  • again and again
  • for many different, difficult to diagnose reasons
  • when threads break, it's important to know where it broke
  • .1 cm to the left will take your machine in a whole new direction.
  • when you get to the end of a row, you need to start the next row in the precise spot that allows the rows to live nicely together
  • that precise spot is hard to find
  • Move Start Point is the best command ever!
  • joining 2 pieces of batt off the machine frame is easier than hand sewing them together on the frame
  • pick a simple design that goes end to end without stops and starts
  • pretty thread is not always happy thread
  • batik fabric dulls needles at a fairly amazing rate
And watching every stitch the machine makes is truly like watching paint dry. We newbies are intent.

However, the fabric looks amazing and I am having a ball! The possibilities are indeed endless. The good thing about having lots of things go wrong is that the learning curve has been intense, but rewarding. I believe the Pfaff P3 will be my next best friend. Of course, 3 days later we are not halfway through the fabric, and Friday is the deadline. That swift learning curve better come in handy soon!

Friday, 18 April 2014

A UFO No More

I started this quilt last fall and now it is complete. Thanks to the Great P for the binding suggestion. She nailed it.

I got this from Scrap Basket Surprises by Kim Brackett. It's a book all about jelly roll quilts (2 1/2" strips). I like it. It's cheerful and taught me lots. I was a bit unaware how important meeting seams could be. The little 1/2 square triangles that meet between blocks are a bit (just a bit!?) skewed at times. I can live with that.

Making quilt tops is easier than quilting the final product. I have a few of those puppies in the closet to prove it. You have to decide what you're going to do. There are many options, and then again you need to decide what options your abilities are able to tackle. I'm not much of a free motion quilter yet. Therefore I did the main quilt in straight 'stitch in the ditch'. I did go free motion in the two borders. It worked out fine, but I have a long way to go. The next quilt top will have to be more free motion as it is an appliqué, and I can't see any way around it.

Anyway, without further ado I present:
Beach Cottage

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Amazing Self Binding, Self Mitering Hexagon!

I love the simplicity of this technique. The regional Pfaff/Husqvarna representative showed it to me. She is amazing and generous with great ideas! I hope you have fun with it too. I have uploaded the file to GoogleDocs. If the link doesn't work, I'll get it fixed soon.

The Hexagon Tutorial

Saturday, 12 April 2014

And They Pay Me Money For This!

Yesterday we had a sew day at the shop. We were all working on the Easter kit, embroidering little chicks and hens on linens and making lace bunnies. Does it really matter what you're doing when sewers get together? My boss calls this work!

Now, go back and look at the word sewers. It seems to be one of those words where context is everything. Brits say 'machinists'. There has to be a better choice than sewers. Suggestions?

The Great P showed me how to load 1 chick embroidery into the machine, select a shape and # of repetitions, and Poof! Three chicks dancing in a circle! So cool! Seriously people, 2 steps!

So after I embroidered a few chicks I worked on a quilt sampler I was making to showcase a colour line of fabric in the shop. I rather like it and wanted to do something with it, and there was this neat quilting technique I saw on a web site. I'm in the back looking for batting, as I intended to do a 'quilt as you go' technique to make things go quickly. I found this bale of Hobbs 2 sided fusible batting. I've never used this for quilting before and hadn't thought of a use or it - but maybe the stars had aligned?

I put teflon sheets down on the ironing board and fused my backing first. Mind you, I'm working with a piece about 45" by 30". It was quite manageable. Then I cut the top background fabric into 2 1/2" strips (width of fabric) and the flaps into 4 1/2" strips. The flaps (olive green prints) were pressed in half lengthwise with right sides out. I couldn't decide which of 3 colours would make a better background, so I seamed 3 possibilities together so we could see all 3 (black, white, yellow). I was trying to showcase fabric, after all.

Now for the fun. I put the first background piece (black, white showing) right side up on the batting, placed a flap on top and then another background fabric wrong side down.

I sewed down the seam and opened the background  pieces up. Then I pressed them carefully to the batting. You don't want to get that fusible on your iron or your board, so a press cloth is a good idea.

Here you see the white/yellow part of the background being fused to the batting. The green flaps are facing away from the background and covering the other background strips.

Now the fabric fused quite nicely and I didn't need pins at that point! It was a quilt as you go project with a major helping hand! The fabric stayed fairly straight without any fuss on my part. Now if the piece had been bigger, I would have done some careful alignment, just in case.

However, I always prewash my fabric, and I didn't in this case as I was at the store and just doing a sample. The fabric did shrink a titch as I pressed and fused it. You could see this, and the batting did not seem to shrink. Therefore the fabric looks slightly stretched and strained. Interesting! I have some leftovers to play with.

 Here are the strips all sewn. Next you put the twist in place by stitching the flaps in alternate directions. I love to play with decorative stitches and thought this would be an excellent place for such. If only I would do as I was told!

If you look at that machine you can see the foot selection (upper left) indicates a 2A foot with no IDT (walking foot equivalent). The stitch goes in too many directions to stitch well with the top layer tugged as well. I forgot to check that, and my stitch was not pretty. Listen to your machine, people! You need to follow the directions! That's why you have all those pretty feet!


Here you can see the flaps sewn in alternate directions. Now, I love the fabric, and this shows it off well. The technique would make a really neat cuddly quilt! Scrap buster? Single colour family?

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Sewing Sisters

The sewing retreat last week was excellent! I could relax and just work through projects without any time constraints at all. That eliminates a lot of the frustration that comes up as you rush to get the fitting right, or screw up some step and have to redo it. You have time. You really learn a lot by just giving the process sustained attention. I made leggings and embroidered one of the legs. I worked through a top as a wearable muslin for a dress. I call it the Happy Hippo dancing outfit. Someday I may show you why. Really, it requires a video rather than a still shot. Then I got half way through the dress. For those who were there, inserting a zipper in a seam that breaks into a pleat is proving interesting. I'll let you all know how that goes.

Beyond that,  we just had a great time. We all kind of knew each other before we started, but we really enjoyed the time together as women escaping from the world for a bit. Thursday we had a stretching class (sitting is the new smoking). We went for a pub crawl (1 pub counts in my book) and then went back to sew.  Friday I gave a guided tour of Value Village for those who had interest. Several did. Saturday we tried for a fish dinner (closed), a repeat pub crawl (packed) and ended up at a pizza joint with a rather colourful clientele. Quite entertaining! Sunday morning saw a return visit to the local Farmer's/Craft market. But my fav part may have been the people who dropped in for a day of sewing and brought snack! Love snack!

I bought a bottle of wine for late night sewing. I took most of it home. We were having too much fun. There was a marvellous gift bag for each participant and a well stocked prize table. Prizes were awarded to everyone at least once a day, or when triumph or tragedy warranted. I asked the local Pfaff/Husqvarna representative for gifts as well as the Sew With Vision (Herring Cove dealer) and one of her fabric representatives. They were all pleased to contribute and really outdid any of my thoughts on the matter! People can be so nice.

The local paper has a column by Jan Wong. She happened to write this week about her sewing club. It's quite a different take on sewing, but only from an 'out front' point of view. I think we can all understand what she is talking about and count ourselves lucky when we find ourselves in a similar position. For me it's important to spend time with women in my sewing club, whether it's actually my sewing guild or lace group or work car pool or Pilates class.

When I was young I don't think I understood how important these relationships would or could be. Now that I do, I find I still need to remember to take time and enjoy time with other women in that context. It's a habit I didn't get into when I was young. I'm always happy on my own, but I feel myself shrinking without others around. When I am with other women I feel connected. Quite simply it stretches me and opens me up.

If only I could break that damn 5' barrier, instead of the scale barriers I seem to be breaking lately.