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Tricks for Great Quilt Piecing

Many of you know my dad passed back in 2014 (I can’t believe he’s been gone for more than 4 years!) and I miss him dearly (daily).  One of things I remember most about my dad was that he was handy with things.  One of the phrases he always used to say when I was attempting to do something that wasn’t working out was, “Here, let me show you a trick.”  His tricks always showed me there is a better or best way to do something other than what looks like the obvious.  So in honor of my dad, I’m going to show you some tricks to nearly perfect piecing.  I say nearly perfect because my piecing is not perfect, not by any means, but these techniques help.  This post is image heavy but it’s a must to show you how things can go wrong and how to fix them.

First of all, even the best quilters – the best in the world, make mistakes.  They have made more mistakes than you can imagine but what makes them great quilters, is that they have learned how to overcome them.  Not a single quilter in the world, with all the special, expensive rulers and gadgets, or all the experience the quilting world has to offer, makes a quilt without making piecing mistakes.  That’s why you won’t find a single quilter without a seam ripper!  😀

I’m in the middle of a quilted table topper pattern I picked up while in Las Vegas last week.  Hubs had to go there for business so I told him he had to take his wife.  🙂  It’s a Barn Star pattern so it has its share of straight seams and intersections with bias (half-square triangles (HSTs)).  Whenever you are seaming with anything on the bias, your odds of getting it right on the first go are a crapshoot.  And I played Craps all last week so I know what I’m talking about!  LOL  I won about $1,000!  I dropped a little over $200 in the Vegas quilt stores and lost probably about $400-500 so…  I’m going to call my trip to Vegas a WIN!

Let’s start with the basics – a true 1/4″ seam.  Do whatever you need to do to validate that you have a 1/4″ away from the needle marked on your machine.  I’ve used a Sharpie and even scored a groove with an Exacto knife into a brand new machine base to ensure my 1/4″ is true.   The best way to do this is to take a ruler and measure from where your needle drops into the feed dogs and measure out 1/4″.  This machine, the Brother PQ1500SL – identical to the Baby Lock Jane but is less than 1/3 the cost – is designed specifically for quilt piecing so it has a marked 1/4″ line.  My previous machines that were designed for garment sewing didn’t have a specific line for 1/4″ so I kind of had to give it my best guess from the center of the needle.  If that is the case with you, then make a mark or place the edge of a piece of tape at where you believe the 1/4″ away from the needle is, so all your seams are the same.  Your blocks may not match exactly in size to what the pattern says they should, but your quilt will come out correct as long as the seams are all the same.  Before I bought my 1500, I purchased a 1/4″ seam allowance ruler where I could drop my needle into a hole on the 1/4″ line of the ruler and then find the true 1/4″ SA.  This ruler is from PMQuilting (not an affiliate link) and it’s one of the best you can buy for just $7.99.  See the hole above the 3″ mark?  It says “Place Needle Here”.
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If you put your needle into the hole, you can see where the 1/4″ edge is.  This is where you need to align the left edge of a piece of painter’s or washi tape…or a Sharpie line. 😉
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If you don’t have one of these rulers, align a mark in the middle of your presser foot where the needle comes down and then make a FINE TIP Sharpie mark on the bed of your machine where the 1/4″ line is.  Don’t worry, not only will you not be sorry you permanently marked your machine, you’ll re-mark it when it fades.
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I have to put these two pieced sections together.  There’s a straight seam on the left (yellow-red on top to red-yellow on the bottom) and a bias seam in the middle of the two brown fabrics to make a point of the barn star.
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Trick #1 – The first thing to do is to start matching things in the middle.  In this case, I want to “nest” the straight seam first which is the first seam on the left.  When you match seams between two pieced parts, always begin somewhere that is not on one end or the other.  It can be in the middle or somewhere near there.  “Nest” means to make sure that one seam allowance (SA) goes one way and the other goes the other way where the seams meet.  Push these together until you feel them butt up against one another.  If your seam allowances go the same way, fix it with your iron to iron one in a different direction or clip one seam allowance near the closest intersection so the seam allowance can fall to the proper side and press it.  Due to what garment seamstresses call the “turn of cloth”, it’s virtually impossible to get a join to look right if the seam allowances go the same way due to bulk.  Here the top SA goes to the left and the bottom SA goes to the right.
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Once you have them butted up right against one another, take a pin and pin them together starting the pin on one side of the seam and coming out on the other making the pin perpendicular to the seam.  Get as close as possible.  This ensures that the seam will stay nested while you fiddle with the rest of the edges.  In the image below, I’m only one thread away from the seam on either side.  That nest is not going anywhere!
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Once you have a straight seam anchored (if there is one), now you need to secure the top and bottom edges.  If you don’t have a straight seam in the middle to work with first, find the center of the two fabric pieces and pin the two pieces together in the middle.  This ensures a balance between the two pieces from the start.  Below, now that the straight seam is nested and pinned, I’ve pinned both ends leaving the brown (bias) seam for last.  Always leave the hardest join for last.
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Trick #2 – Create a sewing line with a pin.  Where the join is supposed to happen on the bias part, set the fabrics flat as they lie, and 1/4″ away from the edge, “sew” a 1/4″ seam with a quilting pin by weaving it through the fabrics at the join.  Quilt pins are long enough to do this.  Don’t guess, don’t stretch, just pin them as they lay.  The brown is on the bias (a triangle) and it needs to meet up with another bias cut accurately on the bottom piece at this seam.
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Once pinned, lift up the top piece to check the join.  Wups, it’s off.  The bottom fabric needs to move to the left about two stitches.  Now, if this works for you, then fine.  It’s your quilt and you press on.  But that’s not what this post is about.
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Unpin and move the bottom fabric to where it needs to be and re-pin.  Keep doing this until you get it right.  There, that’s better.
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Now sew.  From one end, take two to three stitches leaving the needle in the down position and then match up the edges of the top and bottom pieces along the 1/4″ mark.  With a slight tension with your hands (don’t pull), slowly sew down the length of the seam.  Again, don’t pull, just keep the edges flat to one another.  When you get to a pinned intersection, slow WAY down as you near the pin.  Take one or two stiches over the pin and THEN remove the pin.  If you remove the pin before you get to it, you risk a fabric shift.  I know sewing over pins is taboo, but everyone does it even if they say not to.  Does that make it right?  Maybe.  If you go slow enough, (like handwheel-turning slow) the needle will find its way over the pin without breaking or messing up the timing of the machine.  Your join will be perfect.  Here, my needle is one stitch over the pin.
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Keep sewing and do the same over the bias seam join.  Then sew to the end of the pieced set.

Trick #3 – After sewing, do not press the seam open yet.  Set the seam with an iron by pressing on top of both fabrics – not using a back and forth motion.  Ironing back and forth will stretch the bias piece.  Just press the entire length of the seam.  Using steam is up to you, but my experience shows that steam can distort fabric cut on the bias.
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Then finger press the seam open.  This turned out perfect.  The nest of the straight seam is perfect and so is the bias join of the brown fabric.
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Once the finger press is complete. Press again the length of the seam with the iron until everything is nice and flat.  Look at the 1/4″ seam on the edges of the block at the 1 o’clock and 3 o’clock positions.  Perfect.
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So what do you do when you think everything will work out right and it doesn’t?  Hey, things happen.  Sometimes even the best laid plans go awry.  Is this good enough for government work (as my dad would say)?  Sure.  Is it what I’m after?  No.  This topper is going on my dining room table.  Missing this point will drive me crazy every time I look at it.  Perfectionist much?
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Trick #4 – When joins don’t meet, unpick about 10-15 stiches on either side of the oopsie and try again.
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Shift the fabric until you think it’s right and pin.  Then begin sewing about 5-10 stitches above where you stopped unpicking on the INSIDE of the seam allowance.  Cross over the SA before you get to the unpicked part and stitch exactly on the previous sewing line.  About 5-10 stitches after you stopped unpicking, cross over the seam line again into the SA and stop sewing.
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The crossover above and below the stitching line will lock the stitches without a bulky backstitch.  Here you can see where I crossed over at the end of the fix stitch.
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There, that’s better!  Clean up any unpicked threads.
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OK, so you’ve shifted the fabric and now you have bubbles in one side or the other.  Dang, can’t a girl catch a break?  Not to worry!  See the bubble on top in the photo below?  If you pull the bottom fabric hard enough so the bubble on top pulls out, you’ll distort the entire block because the bottom fabric is not cut on the bias.  If you sew over the bubble, you risk a pucker in your seam.  Scandal!

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Trick #5 – If you can’t massage the section toward you enough to flatten the bubble without tugging hard, flip the entire unit over so the section with the bubble is on the bottom.  Garment seamstresses know this by rote.  Place the piece with the most amount of fabric closest to the feed dogs.  The feed dogs will ease the extra fabric in invisibly while leaving the top piece without effect.  Keep stitching until you reach the other end.
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Trick #6 – This trick of flipping the fabric works even before you start.  If you have more fabric on top, flip it over so the excess fabric is closest to the feed dogs.  If you have to flip the unit over halfway through?  So be it.  Make it work!  If it is WAY off and just wont’ fit, you’ll need to unpick your previous piecing and begin again.  Hey, them’s the breaks kid!

So that’s it!  I hope my tricks can help you become a better piecer!

New Addition to the Power Tool Arsenal, Brother PQ1500SL & Flutter Glow Quilt Sample

Yep!  I have a new quilting machine!  I know, some of you are like, “Yawn, what else is new?”, because I seem to collect sewing machines like some women acquire shoes.  This new doll was on sale $100 off on Amazon Prime Day and I’ve been wanting one forever.  Meet my new Brother PQ1500SL!  Ain’t she purdy???  🙂  Just look at those sleek lines, the minimalist gadgetry, and large harp space to accommodate bulky quilts.  Ahhh, she’s like the perfect model with curves in all the right places.  Simply stunning.
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She is absolutely identical in every way to the Baby Lock Jane but hundreds less because she’s marketed under the Brother name.  And y’all know I LOVE my Brother machines.  Somebody actually said on a FB comment that Brother was the low-end of Baby Lock.  Well if you’re a snob, then yes.  For the identical machine, it’s like purchasing a Lincoln MKX vs. a Ford Edge (same car/company with different packaging & prices).  But if you’re smart, then you know your wallet is happier to go Brother.  Now you BL owners, don’t get all bent out of shape.  I have a BL Ellegante 2 embroidery machine and love her, and to the poster’s credit, Brother does make very inexpensive machines that sell for less than $100 at Wal-Mart for beginners.  So in that respect, the poster was correct.  However, the parts and mechanics inside are identical – the cheaper machines just have less bells and whistles.  Oh speaking of Baby Lock, did you see their new Solaris Embroidery Machine?  $19k is what I heard my friends – for a single needle machine.  Holy Moly.  It should drive me to work because I can buy a car for less than that.  I wonder how it compares to the Brother Dream Machine.  woops!  I digress…

The first thing you’ll notice about the 1500 is that it is NOT what I would call a regular domestic sewing machine.  It cannot zig-zag, do button holes, do decorative stitching, or do a blind hem stitch, etc.  It does straight line stitching only.  So you might be thinking, “How limiting is that?”  Well, this machine, much like the serger and the coverstitch machines, is designed to compliment your sewing machine arsenal, vs. replace a regular sewing machine.  While it only does one thing, it does that one thing exceptionally well…much better than a regular domestic sewing machine.  This machine has limited computerized functionality with only a needle up-down feature.  Every other aspect of stitch length, reverse, speed, etc. is all manual.  Pretty close to old school.

Let’s get into the weeds.  First there is the 1/4″ line on the plate of the machine.  This is extremely accurate.  I kind of wish they’d put a stitch continuation line in the housing and extension table like I created with my piece of wall-tape.  The first thing I noticed about this machine when sewing is that when the feed dogs pull the fabric through, they pull it through completely straight – there is no wobble at all.  When you get to the end of a piece of fabric, it doesn’t pull one direction or the other.  It’s a thing of beauty for quilters.  And see the horizontal 1/4″ line?  Perfect for seam join accuracy.
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The no wobble can probably be attributed to not only the feed dogs, but also the single needle hole which you can see directly under the needle.  The fabric cannot be pulled left or right by a wide set of feed dogs like on a regular sewing machine.  The accuracy of the seam allowance is incredible as is the symmetry of the stitch length.
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Did you notice the eye of the needle goes left to right vs. front to back?  So let’s talk about the needle threader.  Every review of this machine will tell you that it sucks and they are right.  Totally right.  Hey Brother / Baby Lock, the needle threader sucks.  I’ve figured out a fairly good method of doing it because my eyes aren’t that good anymore to thread it manually, but it normally takes me a couple of tries to get it threaded.  Honestly, that’s the only gripe I have with this machine.  Oh that, and the thread cutter could leave more than 1/2″ of thread on the backside of the needle…which frequently comes unthreaded because it’s so stinking short and then I have to doink with the sucky needle threader again.
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I mentioned old-school.  This machine needs to be oiled.  The last several machines I’ve purchased have not required any oiling.  The gears and mechanics of today’s domestic sewing machines are made of high quality plastics and do not have the metal-on-metal parts like machines of yester year.  Well this machine has metal-on-metal and it requires oiling twice a month if you sew daily like I do.  I’ve already added oil to all the points shown in the manual even though it probably had it done in the factory.  Doors open on the extension table and into the machine so you can get to the bobbin case.
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The bobbin case and the housings are metal vs. plastic like the drop in bobbins in a regular Brother machine.
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Also metal are the bobbins.  This machine uses the L bobbin vs. the M that normal sewing machines use.  They hold more than a regular bobbin and you can’t find them in Walmart so if you get this machine, be sure to order some from Amazon.  I think this pack of 50 was like $15.
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The bobbin maker is amazing.  This machine can do 1,500 stitches per minute which then creates a bobbin in 23 seconds flat.  Seriously.  I timed it and I couldn’t believe it.  The result was a perfectly wound bobbin without any hills or valleys in the wind like you get on a regular machine.  My first couple of attempts (without reading the manual) didn’t work because I discovered that the groove in the metal bobbin actually snaps into place on the bobbin spindle.
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If the red light is illuminated on the front of the machine then it is in needle-down position which means that the machine will always stop with the needle down.  This is very handy for quilters and it acts like an extra hand to hold things in place when you get started.  I will do a single stitch or two at the start of a piecing set while the needle is down, then I line everything up down to the bottom of the set (intersections, ends, etc.)
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The position of the feed dogs is scalable based on the thickness of the fabric.  I WILL be using this machine to sew denim jeans/shorts/capris/skirts and do topstitching on them.  The fact that this machine is mostly metal means that it can handle multiple thicknesses of denim unlike my other machines.  In the photo above, do you see the pink line where there is a little point that sticks up above the needle plate?  That is a pin that comes up to secure everything in place for shifty fabrics like finished leather…for a new purse!  Hmmm, maybe I need to review that leather purse making class I bought on Craftsy a couple of years ago.  🙂  Tandy Leather, here I come!  HA!

There is a double spool stand and thread tree in the back.  I prefer a vertical spool thread discharge as opposed to a horizontal.  It seems to get less tangles and the tree helps to support the high speed of the machine.
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Oh speaking of high speed, yesterday I accidentally pushed the presser foot down to hard and scared myself silly.  My heart was racing and I had to check the tip of my index finger to make sure it wasn’t stitched into the fabric and the pain just hadn’t hit yet.  It was like ZOOM!!  ACK!  It happened that fast.  This machine will take some getting used to.  Last night I literally (and I mean “literally”) whizzed through binding a quilt in half the time of what it used to take me on my regular machines.  I sew a binding strip to the front of the quilt, iron the binding out flat, and then fold it over to cover the stitching line on the back and then stitch-in-the-ditch from the front.  Normally I have to pin the part that is folded over so it doesn’t slide around and get missed from the top, but not this time.  I was able to completely omit this step except for the corners where the miter is finicky.  This quilt is a gift for my granddaughter so I can’t show the whole thing, but you can see the stich quality here on both the front and back.  No STID foot required…the accuracy is THAT good and I was finished in less than an hour on this 68″ x 74″ quilt holding everything in place with just my fingers.
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So in all, I’m THRILLED with this machine and the new level it has taken my quilting accuracy.  Right now I’m in the home stretch of a sample quilt for my local quilt shop, Scrappy Quilter, called Flutter Glow.  They are offering the purple version.  The fabric is absolutely stunning!
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The pattern states right up front that 1/4″ seam accuracy is a must and it’s not kidding.  This thing is what I would say would be good for the intermediate quilter.  Even though the pattern is based on a panel, there’s a ton of bias cuts and if you don’t have the seam allowances correct, the points won’t match up in all the parts around the panel.  I’m SO happy I have this new machine to help me.
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Here is the finished product!
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The quilt top will be hanging in the store for other quilters to purchase the kits.  Isn’t that cool?  I’m published!  lol  Honestly, my skills are diminished by the beautiful samples they have hanging in the store and I was just honored to be asked.  I hope the finished product lives up to Jo’s expectations.

So that’s it!  I love this new machine and I’m excited to see what we do together in the future.  Have a great week!
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My Fabric Vacation

Hubs and I just took our first real vacation since 2011.  Oh, we have 3-day weekends at the coast but these past 10 days we caravanned to New Orleans, Louisiana with 4 other families in our RVs, and then traveled to Manhattan, Kansas for Keith’s 40th high school reunion.

May 24, 2018 we headed for Louisiana and stopped at 12 Oak RV Park in Lake Charles.  We proceeded to lose some cash at the local casino (only $150) and then took off the next day for New Orleans.  We had an amazing 4 days there visiting Bourbon Street, shopping in the local open air market, and hanging at the pool in the resort before heading back to the RVs to grill up dinner.

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While we were shopping in the market, I came across some marble dice imported from Pakistan and while some might think Yahtzee, I saw pattern weights!  I HAD to have them!  They are substantial…look at their size against the grid mat, and are just the right weight and smoothness to be moved around on pattern pieces.  I can’t wait to use them!  And I love to play Yahtzee so they just represent fun to me in every way.  🙂

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One day when some of our group wanted to do a plantation mansion tour, I opted out for fabric shops!  LOL  My first stop was Mes Amis Quilts and they had a really cute easy quilt with Ghastlie’s fabric.  I loved the ladies in this shop!  For those who don’t know, the Ghastlie’s are like the Adams Family of today and kids just love them.  Keith’s 11 y/o granddaughter is totally into Monster High (ghoul-like Barbies) and I thought she’d love this quilt for her birthday.  Of course I brought along a sewing machine, and even with limited space in the RV, I set up shop and whipped up her quilt top!

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The pattern is Bookends, and while the cover on the pattern is “ghastlie” LOL (I don’t think they could have chosen an uglier sample on the cover), it is perfect for any group of novelty prints you might want to make up.

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On another day, I absolutely HAD to visit Promenade Fine Fabrics. This shop is highly recommended by my 2018 RTW Faster’s group and they didn’t disappoint.

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You garment seamstresses wouldn’t believe this place.  Seriously…just look at the button selection!  Those are all tubes and drawers with thousands of buttons.

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Here is a photo from inside the front door.  If all you have ever shopped in is big box fabric stores (which I do all the time) you really should put this on your bucket list to see and feel textiles you’ve never seen in your life.  You want $50 a yard lace for your wedding gown or Louis Vitton swim fabric?  They have it.

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This fabric has an underlining that is the color of orange sherbet and the 3D lace just sparkles.  The photo doesn’t do it justice.  I just stood there and stared going “Oh wow”.  I looked for the price but couldn’t find it.  If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.  This stuff is royal wedding quality.

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Mr. Herbert Halpern is the owner and one of the sweetest!  He is the epitome of old school customer service.  Absolutely one of the best in the business.

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He sold me on a panel piece by Maggy London.  I see a new dress in my future!  Can’t you just see the border print in the flare at the hem on the dress in the link?

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After Promenade, I headed over to the Quilted Owl and found my summer quilt project!

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I LOVE this quilt and absolutely had to make it for my bed.  Can you believe this quilter doesn’t have one of her own quilts on her own bed?  It’s crazy but that madness is about to end.

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The ladies there were amazing as well and helped me find the exact same background fabrics and made great suggestions for scrappy block pieces.  The pattern is Love Worn.  Really y’all, this quilt just “spoke” to me and I just had to make it.  Don’t you love it when that happens?  I’ve never had a reproduction pattern or fabric do this to me but it will look amazing in my master bedroom.

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We got home on Thursday, May 31, and then flew to Kansas on Friday June 1st.  I had just enough time to do laundry and pack!  On Saturday morning while Keith caught up with his BFF from high school, I headed out to All About Quilts and found some gorgeous panels.  I love to make these up because they are so quick and easy.  I’ll donate the finishes to local fund raisers.

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Right when I walked in, they had some yummy fat quarters that called to me.  Seriously, you could hear them…”Psst, hey Becky, check us out!”  LOL  Can you say GORGEOUS?  They are from Charming from Planted Seeds Designs.  That dark is a very navy blue vs. black.  I did a little searching and found, Flutter, a pattern that was designed just for this fabric by the fabric designer herself!  MSQC has lots of this in stock so I’ll be getting my backing from them.

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So that’s it!  That’s my fabric vacation!  I had so much fun and hubs was such a sweetie to indulge me as I headed off to locations unknown in foreign cities.  That Google Maps lady is invaluable!

We stopped at another casino on our way home and I won back what I’d lost so I broke even.  That’s a total win in my book!

What’s in your queue for your summer projects?

Fall into a Quilt Along – Hedgehog

I need to start another block of the month like I need a hole in the head.  But… this little guy is SO cute!  It only took me about an hour to make the block.  I found this blog, Quilting with Vanda, when I read a post from another quilter that I follow who is doing it too.

The good thing about this particular BOM is that I don’t have to buy any fabric or patterns.  The pattern is sent to me via email and I will make the blocks from my existing fabric stash.  That’s a good thing right?

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I printed the pattern and then I scanned it into my Brother Scan-n-Cut and uploaded the pages to the Brother Scan-n-Cut Canvas in the cloud.  The reason for this is to remove all the extraneous marks like size indicator blocks and pattern piece identifiers.  If I don’t do this, the machine will want to cut them out.

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The canvas workspace is really easy to navigate and use.  It has a ton of features that I don’t use because I’m not a paper crafter.  In this image, all I have left to remove is the 1 inch square block.  Now, there’s a step here I’m not showing.  It’s hard to see but some of the pieces have open spaces in the shape. That’s to show that they go under something else.  I used the draw tool (the one with the pencil) to draw a line to finish off the shape.  If I didn’t do this, the cutter wouldn’t cut it out completely.

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Then I downloaded the images back to the cutting machine and cut them out with the push of a button.  I LOVE that machine!  I didn’t get a photo of the mat with the fabric ready to cut (sorry), but here are the pieces after the cut outs.  I backed them before cutting with Heat-n-Bond Stretch.  See how cleanly they cut?  Did I tell you I love this machine?  I have the Scan n Cut 650Wireless version.

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I’m not a fan of blanket stitching applique on a domestic sewing machine so I used my mid-arm sit down to stitch down all the pieces using a straight (ha ha) line.  Now, it’s dang near impossible to get the stitching as neat and perfect as a domestic machine so I used a tactic I learned in my quilting class.  Use repetition to hide mistakes.  I stitched many times over a very uneven line to create a kind of child’s cartoon-y effect.  I’m going to do this for each block in the quilt and I think it will be adorable!

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Can’t wait for the next block!

 

Quilting with Claudia Pfiel

On May 14-15, 2018 I attended my first-ever quilting class.  It was held at Over the Top Quilting (OTTQ) in Cedar Park, Texas (west Austin).  I found out about the class late last year from one of the quilting FB groups I belong to and scheduled immediately to save myself a seat.  Good thing too because it sold out quickly.  The instructor was Claudia Pfiel from Germany.
Claudia Pfiel
I had never heard of Claudia.  Turns out she teaches at the International Festival in Houston and her quilts have won ribbons around the world.  Like 1st place-in-Dubai around-the-world.  Wow.  This lady is truly an artist.

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For the benefit of you locals, I took the 130 toll road and the stupid GPS on my car brought me out in South Austin at 8:30am.  Fortunately I was really early and made it in plenty of time for the 10:00 class.  For you non-locals, Austin traffic is HORRENDOUS during rush hour – or any hour for that matter.  IH-35 even has multiple levels and traffic just comes to a complete stop on the highway as you come into the city limits from either direction and you just creep.  You better have well-planned bathroom breaks!  Once I got through the traffic jam, the rest of my trip was done almost completely on toll roads.  I switched over to the GPS direction lady on Google Maps on my phone and she gets me exactly where I need to go every time.  She even tells me which lane to be in.  Love her!

There were a total of 30 ladies in the class of all skill levels.  Some quilted for money and some don’t have a machine yet.  I detected one “quilt police” lady and promptly avoided her.  The sweet lady that sat next to me had a sit down mid-arm machine and was just a beginner.  I think the farthest distance went to a lady from Colorado and I did talk to several from the Houston area.  That’s my arm in the red shirt in the bottom left corner at the end of the table.
 Class

I was in the office area during a break and I overhead one student talking to the co-owner Chris asking about advice having to do with leaders.  She said, “My cousin has this STUPID Tin Lizzie and I can’t understand whether to pin or do a zipper.”  You know I couldn’t let THAT go!  LOL  So I chimed in smiling with, “Well I have not ONE but TWO of those stupid Tin Lizzies and they have nothing to do with the leaders!”  Chris was like, “WHOA! I’m not getting in the middle of this!” LOL  Another student was standing there and burst into a belly laugh at the faux paux.  I gotta stand my ground you know?  No worries, it was all in good fun.  The lady sitting next to me said her neighbor has a Tin Lizzie and loves it.  In fact, two of the ladies there with the same high-end machine (I won’t mention which one but it’s initials are HQ) both complained of having performance issues with theirs and were complaining about the lack of local tech support, etc.  Just goes to show that spending a lot of money doesn’t necessarily guarantee not having issues. Both of my girls are running just fine thank you very much!  My frame is another story but I’ve covered that ad nauseum in previous posts.

 Sisters Susan and Chris, the owners of OTTQ were wonderful hostesses.  They are both so nice!
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They had set up a large TV screen and Susan did a wonderful job of manning the camera both days so we could see up-close what Claudia was doing.  The classroom was bright and had lots of space.  There were two restrooms so if you timed it right, there was little to no line.
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The classroom was beautifully decorated with quilts made by Irene Rodrick, the featured quilt artist of the month at OTTQ.  She has a very modern style.
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We had lunch brought in both days of sandwiches, chips, fruit, and sodas/water and Susan and Chris even scheduled a dinner at Texas Land and Cattle restaurant the first night.  I went to dinner with them since I was staying at the Holiday Inn Express overnight.  There was no way I was driving 4 hours home and back between the days.  About 8 of us went to dinner and had a great time.
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 Now for the meat of the class.

The first hour, Claudia explained her theory and basic inspirations, shapes, and styles.  It’s funny how overwhelming FMQ can be but when it’s broken down into baby-steps, it becomes so simplistic and certainly less intimidating.  Of course, that’s in theory.  Once you get behind the handles, it’s another story.  Her first rule was P-P-P!  Practice, practice, practice!
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We were told to bring a sketch book and pencils and I used about 6 of the gridded pages in my Scrappy Project Planner.  This is the same book I log my daily sewing activities in.  Claudia had six bound booklets that we purchased that showed the basics of her designs too.

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She is a wonderful instructor and checks with the class frequently to make sure we understand what she is doing and how.  It’s mesmerizing to watch her work.  She lets you ask questions as she goes and then even allows you to come up close and personal to see exactly what she’s seeing in the foot.  Her English is very good and she has a great sense of humor.  On the second day she showed how she colors on silk to create appliques for use on her quilts.
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It was great to watch her do borders, corners, and circles.

20180514_114119870335359.jpgShe demonstrated a use of pounced stencils I’d never considered.
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How does she make her feathers look so effortless?
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A fascinating thing – she always floats her quilts.  They are loose and floppy on the machine because she doesn’t even use side clips.  There’s so much give in her quilts, she takes her index finger and pushes it up from the underside to pinch a bit in the top with her other hand.  Then she knows the tension on the frame is right.  After she takes the quilt off the longarm, she soaks them down with buckets of water to block them, and then cuts them after they have dried for 5 days.  Of course, she’s over in Germany and doesn’t have AC.  Our quilts here would just mildew!
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A real treat happened on the second day when a quilt she had sent away to be judged was FedEx’d to the store and she shared the judge’s comments with us.  It had not won, (she knew it wouldn’t), and to me, it gave great insight into the mentality of not beating yourself up if you don’t win.  All of the comments were “Excellent”, “Great”, “Very good” with no improvement areas and yet she didn’t win.  However one of the ladies in the class stated that had happened to her too but when she saw the competition, then she understood.  Claudia says the birth of this quilt was from a frustrating time with a family member and she just went into the studio and started sewing scraps together.  As you can see, she quilts with silk most of the time.
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Look at her binding method.  She sews a strip of fabric around the quilt and then folds it over and hand stitches it.
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Here is the back of her quilt.  It is just as beautiful as the front!
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She had several samples on display and to pass around.
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In all, I’m very glad I attended this class.  Even though it was more lecture than actual time on a longarm machine, I learned a great deal and can’t wait to put those new lessons into practical skills!
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WIPs Mother’s Day Weekend 2018

Just a short note to share the latest things recently under my needles.  We just came back from the coast with my step-mom for Mother’s Day Weekend 2018 and we had an absolute ball.  My mom is so much fun and early every morning while hubs was still sleeping and the  house was quiet, we had our coffee and she and I would chat and I’d work on quilt piecing while she kept one eye on FB and shared videos of adorable lab pups.  Really…does it get any better than that?  Mom, coffee, quilting, and cute puppies?  I think not!  🙂  My latest is a Riley Blake design called The Corner of 5th and Fun.  This little gem is so adorable!  I’m making it for a little tot across the street from us at the coast who is just as adorable.  Her mom designed her room in neutrals and I thought this would be perfect.

Corner of 5th and Fun Quilt

This weekend I finished the pinwheels and made it halfway through the 2.5″ squares around the border.  The images are from a panel.  Once I get the border squares finished, it will go together in no time.  I ordered the 4 yards of backing material when we got home.

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Last Thursday we had an office picnic and I was asked to bring our grill.  Of course I needed a cute apron so I hopped over to Emblibrary.com and found “Smokin’ Hot”.  Gotta love it!  The apron is a blank I bought in a pack of 3 from Sam’s Club for like $12 – that is the BEST place to buy white and black apron blanks. They are good quality at a great price.  I used a single layer of black cut away stabilizer and floated the apron in my jumbo hoop.  It stitched out beautifully and wasn’t too dense.  Here are my co-workers and I:  Juan, moi’, Kenny, and Tabitha who was born and raised in New Orleans.  I let her admire my BBQ pit (inside joke) and she shared a killer gumbo recipe with me.  This was Kenny’s 2nd time to cook with me so he got to wear an official team apron – we are Nice Rack BBQ.  Last March, I took 4th place chicken out of 26 teams at a BBQ sanctioned by the International BBQ Cook-off Association.  It’s kind of a big deal around here and I’m fairly serious about grilling my chickens.

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I’m still having a bit of trouble with my longarm giving me long stitches but I’ve discovered it’s not the machine at all – it’s the frame.  Right where the two halves of the frame come together, a couple of the front wheels on the lower carriage don’t touch the rail.  It causes the carriage not to know exactly what to do.  I end up getting long dragging stitches and usually a thread break to boot.  It happens in the same location on every pass regardless of whether the carriage is moving right to left or left to right.  I took the frame nearly apart last month to figure it out and I was able to solve almost all the issues.  But that one spot has me frazzled.  Is there an engineer out there who can come over to help?  It’s totally level, the rails are parallel, and the frame is square.  I simply cannot figure it out and it’s preventing me from finishing my BILs t-shirt quilt.  I’m terrified to snag the nylon in the t-shirts and create runs that cannot be repaired.  Can you see the long stitches?  I was able to push down slightly on the base of the machine right near the needle at this spot to prevent a thread break but wasn’t so lucky on the next pass.  I still have to fix this even though the thread didn’t break.  The Grace Frame company is going to be getting a call from me soon.

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I’m stitching the Sasquatch Quilt with a computerized design – Ebb and Flow from Intelligent Quilting.  I really like it.

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Tomorrow I leave for a two day trip to Austin for a Master’s in Quilting Degree with Claudia Pfiel who is from Germany.  I booked this class at Over the Top Quilting last December and I’m spending the night in Austin (Cedar Park actually) tomorrow night so I don’t have to make the 2 hour trip back and forth between the days.  I’m SO excited!  It was my Christmas and Mother’s Day gift to myself.  I’m a very, very beginner in FMQ and I’m sure I will be a trial to her.  She teaches at the International Quilt Fest in Houston so she’s one of the best in the world and I’m certain I’m totally out of my league.  I’m determined to do my best though and hopefully I gain some confidence on the longarm while I’m there.  I’ll be sure to blog my experience!

Quilter’s Planner Turned Diary

I bought a Quilter’s Planner late last year when that type of thing usually floats around the interwebs trying to get you organized for the new year. I think I saw a blog on this one and liked it because of the awesome way #LoriHolt organizes her scraps and she shows you how-to inside.  Have I done that yet?  Um, no.

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I’m usually not much for planners. I’m more of a spontaneous quilter that runs after shiny, pretty things than a planner. Actually writing things down that I plan to do over the next year usually ends up making me feel crappy about how much I actually didn’t get done after all.   I wrote these five projects down in January and haven’t touched a one of them.

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However this particular planner has a part for something like a daily log or diary and I thought I’d put it to use to truly capture any little thing I did that pertained to quilting or sewing. There are lots of quilters on FB that say they don’t have time to quilt or sew and I usually try to tell them to do just one little thing a day and then after a couple of weeks, the project is finished…provided a shiny object doesn’t intervene.   Taking my own advice, I decided to log what I had done that day.  I keep the planner on the end table in the living room so I can jot down a short note while watching TV with hubs.  I started on Jan 1st.

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I’m REALLY surprised at how much I actually do every day that pertains to my quilting or sewing when I don’t think I’ve gotten anything done!  I try to make a note for every day if I can, and if I can’t, I try to write why I couldn’t like a conference I attended March 8-11.  See March 13?  I watched quilt ruler videos on YouTube.  It’s not stitching, but it pertains to my learning so I captured the activity.

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I’m feeling much more accomplished than trying to keep up with a planned list.  Have you thought of doing this or do you do it?  How do you stay organized with your stitching time?