Archive | September 2017

2017 San Antonio Quilt Expo & a New Quilting Ruler Stand

The San Antonio Quilt Expo was put on by the Greater SA Quilt Guild on Sep 22-23, 2017 and I’d never been to one so I donned my favorite sewing themed tee and headed out.  It was at the San Antonio Event Center WAY over on the west side of town, and I live about 25 miles east of SA, so it took almost an hour to get there.  Parking is $3 (cheap) and entry was $8.  I had a bit of nostalgia going over there because the building is an old furniture store that shares a parking lot with what once was a Cloth World.  I worked part time at that store during my days in the military just to make ends meet when I was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in 1995-96.  I was a supervisor in the military then which was its own form of misery which you would understand if you’ve ever supervised government workers, and I remember telling them I didn’t want any responsibilities other than putting away bolts that had been cut, organizing shelves, etc.  I loved that job.  It definitely satisfied my OCD tendencies to organize and straighten.  The zipper racks, threads, and embroidery thread skeins alone could take up an entire evening shift.  People are so messy!  I was in heaven.

I’ve been to the Houston Quilt Festival several times and of course this isn’t anything like that.  Well maybe, but just a very, very miniature version.  Just my style.

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I’ve been wanting to get a set of Leader Grips and I needed some batting so I hoped to find vendors there with those items.  Plus, I’m always eager to see new quilting stuff like machines, threads, rulers, etc.

Right away I ran into a couple of FB friends Mike and Sandy Berish from San Marcos, TX.  They have a laser cutter had made a couple of acrylic cutting shape templates for a friend and after I explained the outrageous markup on quilting rulers they were at the Expo on a fishing expedition to see what it was all about.

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I told him that one thing that is needed in our world that I haven’t seen is a ruler stand for quilting rulers vs. cutting rulers.  Cutting ruler stands have slots in them that are a scant larger in width than 1/8″ but a quilting ruler is 1/4″ in width and won’t fit the standard stand.  Here is the cutting ruler stand that Keith made me two Christmas’s ago.  There’s a couple of empty spots at the top so I must be slacking.

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Here’s is my current collection of quilting rulers that do not have their own home.  They are too thick to fit in my cutting ruler stand.

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Mike is such a sweetheart he went right home and made me one!  He needs to either get them for sale on a web page or start an Etsy shop.  Isn’t this awesome?? I can’t wait to put it to use.  I’ve decided to make clear covers for my stands to keep my rulers dust free.  Or maybe I’ll just staple a piece of clear vinyl cut to size on the back that I can flop over the top.  That’s sounds easier.

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I’ll be honest, I’m not much for looking at other people’s quilts and there were about 300 on display so I only saw those near the exhibit entry.  I’m not a big art fan so strolling around in a museum looking at things isn’t my idea of fun unless they are a gazillion years old.  History?  Yes.  Art?  No.  Abstract art?  Hell no.  In my book, abstract art is a total waste of time, money, and effort.  I tell you this now so you know how I feel about “Modern Quilts”.   When I hear the term “negative space” my eyes roll.  It’s called a blank spot sweetie.  But I guess “negative space” makes it sound intentional and artsy-fartsy.  Whatever.  To each his own, right?   Here’s an example of a modern quilt from the Quilt Expo in Wisconsin.  That vast expanse of gray fabric is what modern quilters call negative space.  I call it missing something.

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Now if you love modern quilts or make them, please don’t get all offended.  This isn’t about you.  It’s about me and my personal tastes on my blog as backwards as you think they might be.  I’m good with that.  However, I do love me some modern paper pieced lion that was shown at the Quilt Expo in Wisconsin.  Who doesn’t?  Straight line quilting here – that’s it.

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A girl (lady now?) that I’ve known since Junior High showed her quilt there.  Isn’t it gorgeous?  I snagged this from her FB page.  I can’t imagine the time this took.

LisaHaekerParns Quilt GSAQG 2017

The best in show at the SA Expo was an embroidered quilt of all things.  I really enjoy embroidering on a quilt and it looks like this was a Quilt as You Go.  Stunning.

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The Hobbs batting vendor was right inside the front entrance.  I’m glad I found them because they had samples of all their quilt battings that had been sandwiched, quilted, and washed on display that you could feel and fondle.  I’m such a novice, I couldn’t tell the difference between most of them except my usual 80/20 and the wool.   Which tells me that my 80/20 choice will suffice just fine for most of my needs.  While I needed batting, I didn’t want to haul it around the show with me so I figured I’d hit them up last on my way out.

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I came across a vendor with a nifty new way of creating HSTs (half square triangles) of all different sizes and she had some templates for $12 each or the whole set for like $150.  Her templates are on the same concept of stitching over a piece of paper on the dotted lines and cutting on the solid lines.

HST Template

On hers, you use a thin plastic template to mark lines or Pounce through the gaps in a plastic sheet.  Then stitch along the lines and cut between them.  Now what kind of a business model is this?  Unless you’re making a quilt like the one below, how would I know which size template I need?  I can see me buying the one that makes a ton of 2.5” HSTs thinking that that should be a pretty common size but of course the next quilt I make will need a ton of 3.5” HSTs and I’ll be like “Dang.  I should have dropped the whole $150 to make some squares.”  What if I only need 4 HTSs and the sheet wants me to cut 24?  Or…what if I skipped this gimmick and cut my own?  I moved on.

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After strolling around the vendors for about an hour, I decided I’d had enough, plus my back hurt and my dogs were beginning to howl (for you non-US readers that means my feet hurt), so I headed back to the Hobb’s booth.  The sales lady was chatting with another show goer so I waited politely.  And I waited.  And I waited.  And I waited.  Geez, give it a rest already would you two?  I’m trying to spend some money over here.  As I waited I turned around and spied an Innova booth from a vendor from Richmond, Texas (Jo’s Quilting Studio over by Houston) and they had entire ROLLS of Hobb’s 80/20 just staring at me.  The roll said, “Hey, come over here and check me out.”  OK, I’m game.

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There was a nice young man (above) with his back to me looking at FB and I said, “Hey sweetie, I want this” pointing at the roll of batting.  He turned around surprised and said, “You want this?”  Yep.  He said OK and explained that he didn’t know how to work the register and excused himself to get his fellow coworker to help who was customer chatting on the other side of the booth.  He got back and said she’d be right there.  So I asked him, “Do you have any Leader Grips?”  He said no but they did have Red Snappers (same thing).  I told him I’d take those too for a 10-foot frame.  The lady began to ring up my purchase and he said, “I’ll carry this out for you.”  I love Texans.  They are SO nice!  After I paid, I headed for the exit, Red Snappers in hand, with a handsome young man who was hauling my roll of batting on his shoulder like a lumberjack.  I explained to the lady at the door that I was taking him home with me.  LOL  Unfortunately, I had to leave that handsome young man behind.  Besides the fact that I’m old enough to be his mother, Keith would probably have an issue with it…I can’t imagine why.  🙂

My trip to the SA Quit Expo was a total success!  I got what I came for and my first quilting experience with the Red Snappers has been super successful.  Hard to see but there’s butterflies in that panel.  I’ll do another post on the Snappers soon.

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1st Pantograph on the Longarm, a.k.a. Two New Dog Blankets

A couple of months ago, my local quilt shop was having a season clearance and they had an entire bolt of “cheater cloth” up for grabs.  Not only was it on clearance, I talked the owner into another 10% off the sale price if I bought the entire bolt because I’m pretty sure I’m making her car payment.  Cheater cloth’s sole purpose in life is to help new longarm quilters such as myself, gain the necessary motor skills for following a pantograph.  It is pre-printed with a quilting design that washes away in the laundry.   I bought my longarm last November and up to this point, I’ve been making quilts using the Quilt Butler that is an auto-stitching computer.  All I have to do on the Butler is set the stitching boundary box, choose a pattern, make sure the needle is threaded right, and press start.  Well…there’s a little more to it…but not much.

My main reason for the cheater cloth was to become more familiar with the mechanics of the quilting process itself.  Since I began longarming, I have suffered numerous newbie mistakes (still am), and the machine still intimidates me.  After I got it, I remember staring at my Baby Lock Ellegante 2 sewing & embroidery machine (which I whiz around on) and thinking, “I can’t wait until I feel as comfortable on the longarm as I do on this.”  In my corner of the world as a quilter/seamstress, I love the zen feel with my machines that I “know” them.  We know each other.  I know how they behave, what type of thread they like, how they perform on different fabrics, and most importantly, what to do when something goes wonky.  Maybe that all sounds silly, but I believe it’s the same as how a mechanic feels about his/her car.  You know how it’s supposed to sound, it shouldn’t “chug” as my dad used to say, and know just what makes it purr.  Same goes with my machines.

Well, the only way to get comfortable with the longarm was to use the dang thing.  I watched video after video on how to load a quilt, videos on longarm tips and tricks, and pretty much anything else I could do to procrastinate learn as much as possible.  Finally, the purchase of the cheater cloth pushed me over the edge to actually load it and get going on it.  I think I figured the cheater cloth allowed me to make mistakes which I knew I would do without spending an arm and a leg on fabric or ruining a preciously pieced quilt top.

For the backing, the Fat Quarter Shop had one of their daily sales months ago where they were selling 5 yards of dark star fabric from a Moda Christmas line for like $5 or something stupid cheap like that.  I have no idea what that weird purple filter is on the left of this pic.

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First off, watching the video in the link below by Jamie Wallen made a collossal improvement in my quilting.  Correct tension – just that simple.  Someone on a blog somewhere mentioned this video so of course I had to check it out.  Jamie locked down the video so I can’t imbed it to my blog, but here is the link.  Changed my world.  I intentionally used black thread on the back of this project to see how the tension was doing.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1mRhcquZTM 

So how did it go with the cheater cloth?  Good thing I don’t drive like I quilt or I’d be arrested on the spot for a suspected DWI. At the bottom of this pic, you can see the tension improved.

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I had another newbie mistake moment where I forgot to lower the presser foot.  Look what the back looks like when THAT happens!  Yikes!  My sewing machine doesn’t do that on the back.  In fact, it never allows me to do that because it beeps at me when I forget to lower the foot.  Love technology.  Wups.

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After two rows of using the cheater cloth lines, I opted to go to the back of the machine for some pantograph action.  Not much better but I did improve as I went.  My goal is to get the rounds to be actually round without flat sides.  This will take me some time.  I’m still working on the body mechanics of  “do I use one hand or two?”, how best to stand or do I sit on a chair?  The smoothness of the designs will come with practice…or so I have been told by every professional quilter from here to the internet.  My goal is to be as good as Alice as my local quilt shop.  She knocks out 2-3 quilts a day at work.  She’s awesome.

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In a Whut the ??? moment when I tried to remove the quilt from the frame, it wouldn’t come off the top bar.  Then I noticed that somehow I got the top end of the batting in between the top and backing and managed to sew the quilt together around the back bar!  LOL  I had to cut it out to get the quilt off the frame.  Good grief!  LOL

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I put in about a total of 4 hours of practice on this particular piece.  I’m not sure I got better as time went on (which is why I have the Butler) but I really do enjoy the task of the pantograph.  I can already tell that at 5’9”, I need hubs to raise the frame 4-6” to prevent my now aching back.

Ugly though it may be, it passed quality inspection by my Australian Cattle Dog, Blue.  And my husband said, “Aren’t you going to put the ends [binding] around it?”  I literally laughed at him.

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I’m going to look for more clearance backing fabric this week to get back at it.

Efficient Quilt Piecing Techniques

I’m just beginning a Christmas gift quilt so I can’t show you the finished image yet, but this one has a ton of repetitive piecing.  A TON!  You know the type:  Cut 28 each of these 4 different width rectangles at 2.5”, 3”, 3.5”, etc.  And cut 128 2.5” x 2.5” squares.  Oh, and you need to keep them all organized and sorted. I literally spent almost 3 hours on my feet today standing in front of my cutting table.  This isn’t all of it. There’s sashing and borders on another table across the room.

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In my short life as a quilter, I’ve discovered that my natural tendency to be a bit organized is a benefit.  “A bit”  ha ha.  Even though I’m not one, I have a master’s degree as a Medical Librarian which is the ultimate in organization.  Maybe that’s why those Alpha Bitties called to me.   For the longest time, my thriftiness got the better of me and I just used tiny post it notes, but I found these little gems on sale somewhere and I really like them.

Cutting efficiency is everything when doing a project like this.  This pattern didn’t use a pre-cut so I ironed all the yardage before I started but I left the bolt fold un-ironed.  I normally leave the fabric folded in half as it came off the bolt and cut all selvages right away in one fell swoop.  That saves time cutting them off on each WOF (width of fabric) cut.  I normally cut multiples if possible as well.  So let’s say the pattern calls for 12 of something that is the same, I’ll stack 3-4 folded identical width cuts and cut the needed amount.  And I always start with a fresh rotary blade for these projects.

Sometimes Needle Center isn’t always the best spot on my machine for these projects.  In this case, I wanted to use the Needle Left because there is a guide mark on the face plate for the ¼” mark on this machine that is ¼” to the right from Needle Left.  I normally remove the presser foot and lower my needle into a Scant Quarter Inch Ruler.  The mark on my machine’s face plate is exact to the stitch line on the ruler.  Pretty cool huh?  I put a strip of painter’s tape down the front of my machine from that mark to use as a guide.

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The instructions in this case said to begin at the top inner background corner and sew to the lower left corner.  On the first one, I always draw a stitching line with a Frixion pen so I get it right.  The rest of the pieces don’t need the line after that.  That’s a HUGE time saver.  The trick here is two-fold:  line up the lower left corner first and snug up the starting point against the needle, and don’t watch the needle while sewing.  I watch the lower left corner of the piece to make sure it stays true to the edge of the painter’s tape.

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My sewing method is to chain piece and do as much as possible in one go.  I cut them apart on the cutter on the side of the machine and do as many as I can hold at once.

When I have a large chain piecing project, I always set up a cutting and ironing station right next to my machine.  My ironing surface is an old board covered in batting and extra fabric from my first grandson’s nursery.  He’s six now.  🙂    I have a small travel iron, a small cutting mat and cutter, and ruler if needed in this work space.

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I normally don’t use a ruler to cut whatever needs to done.  That takes too much time.

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After I cut one piece, I toss it to the side with the darker fabric to the top.  This way I can iron and press the seam allowance to the dark side without having to flip the fabric around when I’m ready to iron it all.  I do take the extra time to finger press the seams open after I set the seam with the iron.  I finger press to prevent the fabric from going wonky as I give it a final press.

Check out that perfect quarter inch!

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