July 19, 2017

Oh, no... Longarm Problems

I've been going to town with my longarm rulers.  The more I work with them, the more I like them.

But now..

On Sunday I was working on my latest quilt and was using a ruler to help guide the stitching around some small, tight areas.  All was going well until my hand slipped and the ruler ended up under the needle just as it was coming down.


The needle broke into 3 pieces.  The top of it is stuck in the head (photo below).

I tried pulling with my fingers, then with pliers.  It won't budge.

Oh, dear... this is not good...

Once I realized I wasn't going to be able to extract it myself, I email'd Howard (the dealer who does maintenance on it) and asked what I should do.  I'm very concerned that I may have caused serious damage in the head, and this may not be an easy fix.

July 12, 2017

Quilt 93: "Outer Space Attic Windows" With Lots of Experimenting

For this quilt, I decided to be really brave and experiment quite a bit.  So with this project I tried 4 new things:
  1. cheap thread for the top thread (instead of the "good stuff")
  2. different threat colours for the bottom and top threads
  3. a new free motion quilt pattern
  4. RULERS!
I found a fabulous "planets in outer space" print on the online shop "Fabric.com".  It's perfect for the "attic window" quilt block.  I used bright orange and yellow for the border and window "lattice", pulling out the oranges and yellows from the print.  It's pretty bright!
48" x 59" - quilted on the longarm - 100% cotton batting
For backing, I chose plain navy homespun. 

With such wildly contrasting colours on the top (and the navy backing), it took me a while to decide how to quilt this one.  I didn't want the quilting to overpower or obscure the print and block patterns, so I opted to use two different colours of thread for the quilting: orange (over the orange borders) and navy (in over the planet print).  With the backing done in solid navy, I decided to experiment with orange thread on top and navy in the bobbin.

But what should I quilt first?  The border or the blocks?

I decided to do the border first - and used a free-motion pattern from Angela Walters' free motion book "Shape by Shape".  The pattern I chose is her "Back-and-Forth Lines", which I hoped would look like "space waves".
"Back-and-Forth Lines" on the top border
This is my first time doing this pattern, and I found it fairly challenging to stay even and neat - but once I'd finished the border, the results look great, even where I've not been as consistent as I'd have liked.

I was using a cheap thread (another experiment), and had to use a large needle (size 18) to keep the thread from shredding.  Because of the large needle, the bottom thread is coming through on the top - little navy dots along the orange line.  For this quilt it doesn't matter; it actually adds to the "outer space" theme (Morse Code?).

I managed to get the orange area quilted, but did have to restart the thread several times due to breakage.  My conclusion is that cheap thread is more trouble than it's worth on the longarm.  I won't do that again.
The same pattern on the side border
I kept close control over the quilt as I advanced it on the frame, and kept it pulled a little tighter on the frame than I ordinarily would.  I was worried that the center blocks would end up not laying properly after doing the edges.  If I had it to do over, I'd do the center and work outward.  The quilt turned out OK, but it was too difficult working from the outside and moving inward.  I won't do that again.

For the internal blocks, I decided to use my new rulers.  I'd played on scrap fabric first, of course, and watched several videos on YouTube about how to work with rulers.  Those videos and the practice runs turned out to be really valuable. 

Here's the lucite ruler base needed for this kind of work.  It pretty much just snaps over the machine base.
And here we go - my first attempt - using a straight ruler and stitching in the ditch.
The results: WOW!  Have a look at the photo below.

I have to admit I found it almost impossible to stay perfectly in the ditch.  And I was using orange thread at this stage.  The slightest slip to the right (into the blue print, especially) shows up like a scream.  I found it better to switch to navy thread and quilt on the blue print just to the side of the seam.  That was a lot easier to do and the few places where my line wasn't perfectly straight just don't really show up.
(Click the picture above to see a larger image)
Now to quilt the areas where the planets print is.  I needed a pattern to get the quilting dense enough so that the batting won't bunch up when it's washed - but I didn't want to quilt too much and possibly overwhelm the planet print.

I decided to use a round ruler and make arcs curving over the planets.  Here's the ruler:
And here I've place the ruler to create an arc going from one edge of the border to the other.
 Here you can see how I used the round ruler to insert curves and arcs over the attic window blocks.
 And here's how I quilted the border.
Here's the quilt back.  It turned out great.  There area few places where the orange thread shows up, but for the most part it's quite tidy looking.
I found the rulers awkward at first and made quite a few mistakes.  They don't really show up greatly on the quilt, but I know they are there.  But by the time I'd finished this quilt, I had worked through my initial difficulties and, boy, I love those rulers!  I'll be using them a lot in future projects.

July 8, 2017

Much More Than Thread, Fabric and Batting

I love quilting, and when I work on one, I put in a lot more than time and materials.  I sew in as much love and healing energy as I can.

About this time last year, I sent a special quilt to my friend Julie, who is living with metastatic breast cancer. Julie loves her quilt and tells me that when she's snuggled under it she sleeps better and feels more "grounded".  I can't even begin to express how happy that makes me.

This morning she posted this photo on Facebook:

And here's what she had to say about it:

"My sister Nicole straightened up my bedding, folding everything neatly at the bottom. Usually, the quilt rests atop the pile, but today it got folded inside. Charlie jumped onto the bed and started pawing at the pile. Not knowing what he wanted, I covered him with it. He dug himself out, found the quilt, licked it, and sprawled out to sleep."


June 14, 2017

2 Great Books For Free Motion Quilting

I've been doing free-motion "loop-d-loops" on my quilts for some time.  As much as I love doing that, it's high time I got on with coming up with some other patterns to use.

Well - I found two great books:  "Shape By Shape" and "Shape by Shape Collection 2" by Angela Walters.  Each book has more than 70 different stitching patterns, with easy-to-follow directions and lots of sample photos.

One of the things she recommends is to try drawing out the design you want with a pencil and paper (or, as I've done, with a whiteboard and marker).  It helps a lot to work out the motions associated with the patterns - and I found even simple patterns can be more challenging than you expect when you start out.  Much, MUCH better to make mistakes on a whiteboard.

Next I grabbed some scraps of fabric and batting and set up a small practice sandwich to mount on the longarm.  And away I go!

These wavy lines were fun to do - but, as you can see, keeping the lines straight wasn't all that easy.

I had better luck with the patterns below, especially the wavy feathers on the bottom.

Here's one (below) that didn't work out quite so wellI'll have to practice that one quite a bit, I think.  The sample in Angela's book looks terrific.  I'm sure I can refine my technique if I keep working on it.
It's great fun trying out these patterns.  I hope to be able to use some of them on projects very soon!