Getting to know Julio – Part 1

If you haven’t already met, this is Julio……

He has been part of our family for about a month. He and I are slowly getting acquainted and learning each other’s quirks and perks!!!

I started out by quilting Charity quilts and was pleased with the results…..

BUT…..those quilts didn’t have a specific pattern and I honestly wasn’t too concerned if things weren’t perfect. But now, I am ready to work on one of MY quilts…

and one that I really want to do a great job on!!

The issues that I had with this particular quilt were one of the reasons that I bought Julio. And now I was ready to take advantage of those issues being gone……but they were still there!!

If you remember, I HEAVILY pieced the backing and the front was strip pieced so there were a LOT of seams. I was SURE that Julio would jump those seams just fine…..HE DIDN’T!!

I started trying to figure out why. First, I started adjusting the presser foot tension by loosening it using the knob on top of the machine. I turned and turned and sewed and then turned some more, but THIS happened….

I had twisted the knob completely out!!!

After about 10 minutes of panic, I was able to get it back together but still hadn’t fixed my problem.

As I dejectedly sat there staring at Julio, I noticed that there were some hash marks on the foot where it was screwed in. And I noticed that the foot was about halfway up and could potentially go even higher. My heart quickened as I thought that MAYBE there was hope.

Then, I had to remove the foot and boy was the screw on there tight!! After consulting with Dr. Google, I sprayed a few shots of WD-40 on it and, after about 15 minutes, it came loose. Resetting the foot to its highest position was easy now…..

Now I was concerned that it was too high up and that the stitches wouldn’t work, but Julio didn’t disappoint and I was soon skimming over all of those seams with the greatest of ease!!

There have been other issues that I will discuss later but I just wanted to share the sheer joy of figuring out that I was, indeed, going to be able to use and enjoy Julio!!

It was an “ARGGHHH” sort of day!

On Saturday, I had one goal….finish quilting a piece that I started several years ago. I had been excited to use some of my new-found ruler technique and Thursday I had tried it out on one of the borders. I didn’t do any measuring nor really try the pattern so it was an unmitigated disaster!!.

On Friday night, I patiently pick out ALL of those stitches including all of the places that I had traveled over previous stitches.

When I started working on it again, I decided that I would do some practice and figure out the sizing of the design and do it right. This photo is three different tries with various spacings……

Once I thought that I had a good feel for the design, I tried it on the quilt. The design looked OKAY but not great and, when I looked at the back, I could see that the tension was horrible, so I picked it out AGAIN!!

Now I moved back to a practice piece and started trying every ruler that I could find and every 5 to 10 inches the thread would jump and wrap around the needle and, of course, cause a huge thread nest. Believe me, there were MANY spicy words spoken!!

I was describing what was happening to my husband, Michael, and had the thought that I needed to go thru my list of settings and see what was different. What I found was this……

The ruler foot has a spring at the back with a thumb-screw on top.

This determines how close the circular foot is to the fabric. If it is too close, it binds the fabric against the machine and it can’t move. If it is too high, the fabric moves around too much and the needle and bobbin thread cant nest properly and THE THREAD GOES HAYWIRE!!!

HURRAY….I figured out the problem.

At this point, there was no way I was going to work on an actual quilt so I spent the next 30 minutes just quilting all over my practice piece. This is what frustration looks like…..

At lunch, Michael mentioned that he needed to make a stand for a piece of steel that is used to protect equipment that he needs when doing firearm reviews. As we talked about possibilities, I started channeling my Dad (who loved to do projects like this) and thinking about how to build one from leftover lumber in the garage. Now the challenge was on!!!

I got all of my tools out…..

….and yes that is a quilting ruler!! I mean, what else does a quilter use when she wants to draw a straight line!!!

In a little over an hour, this was my accomplishment…..

It works perfectly and at least I accomplished something for the day. It is always amazing how the act of creating something makes my day!!

Tomorrow I will tackle the borders again…..maybe……or maybe I will start a new project!!

Stay tuned!!

Quilting for Charity (and practice)

A little ways back I posted a video about how to spray baste a quilt. As I mention there, it was a charity quilt top that was given to me so that I could practice some quilting.

I normally quilt with a 50 weight thread and have been happy with the results, but when I was at the Houston show last year, I started thinking about trying some heavier threads. I bought three, two 30 wt Aurifil threads……

…..and one 12 wt Superior thread…..

I did a little bit with the rulers but didn’t have much luck with making it look okay (sometimes it is just that way) so I ended up doing most of it freehand. These were both done with the Aurifil……

I did a very SMALL amount of quilting using the 12 wt thread but it kept breaking so I quickly put it aside.

For the border, I turned to an old favorite thread….a 30 wt Variegated Sulky…..

I did not end up spending as much time on this quilt as I had planned but am okay with how it turned out……

I have learned that I REALLY like working with the 30 wt threads but am not sure that I will ever use a 12 wt thread again… least not without a LOT of practice!!!

Quilting in a real big empty….

Well, the construction started out going great guns, but then as projects often do, it came to a screeching halt as we wait for the Drywall guys to come in and close in the new wall.

But, today I had time to do some more work on the Henna Girl and I was not going to let a big open space deter me!!! I swept the area well and moved my machine table out of the corner and got everything set up……

I couldn’t figure out why it was so cold in the room, but Michael reminded me that there was an area that was open to the attic…..

……so a space heater was added to sort that out!!

I spent the next few hours happily quilting along and dreaming of when this room would be completely finished!!

I am pleased with my accomplishments for the afternoon, finishing the bottom portion of her shirt…..

…although when I cropped this photo, I realized that I have the top portion to do as well!!!

I was going to work on her arms, but didn’t have the right color of thread. Instead, I added some to her head scarf…..

Also, last night I finished all of the applique on the Color Wheel quilt so now it is time to get serious about figuring what to add to the corners. I took one of my photos of the finished portion, pulled it into Powerpont, and added the corners……

Now I have printed out a bunch of copies and hope to spend part of this evening playing with possible ways to finish the corners. Originally I didn’t have any ideas, but now have several in mind. Sometimes that makes it harder!!!

Now to get off of this computer and get to it!!

I love a good challenge…..

Every year our quilt guild does two challenges with one being due at the December meeting which was this past Tuesday. My long-time method for these challenges is to start out with tons and tons of ideas, slowly winnow them down over the 3 or 4 months that I have to do the challenge, and then finally settle on an idea and get to work on the Friday before the Tuesday meeting and normally finish it with minutes to spare. My friend Sheila calls this the “Frances Method”!!! This challenge was no different.

The rules were to make a quilt, of any size, that featured a Silhouette in black or white. The challenge was to make the background be the exciting part of the quilt.

Now, I LOVE a good sunset and immediately started thinking about several photos that we had taken in Australia and India…..

Then I found this photo…..

This is my husband, Michael, sailing in Canyon Lake in Lubbock, Texas. Lubbock is at the base of the Texas Panhandle and is known for it’s wind, which made owning this Banshee racing boat a LOT of fun, but it is not known for it’s large bodies of water. This small, man-made lake was filled with treated sewer water!!! You were not allowed to swim but could ski or sail.

Obviously there is not a sunset anywhere in this photo, but I loved the idea of using the silhouette and the idea was born.

First step was to draw a basic design and I googled how to paint a sunset to get my starting point…..

I then covered the pattern with a super lightweight fusible interfacing and started adding fabrics…..

Most of the fabrics came from my scrap bin of pieces that were too small to sub-cut into usable sizes…..

I cut each piece in a wavy pattern…..

….and added it to the background, trying to overlap them slightly…..

I really liked the bit of yellow that shows thru in the pink and decided to mirror that “break through” in the blue…..

After I finished with the water, I carefully ironed all of the pieces to the fusible interfacing and then went back in and glued down the pieces that were overlapping and not touching the interfacing…..

I decided that it needed a few more highlights on the ocean waves and originally planned to use fabric snippets, but after cutting a few out, I decided that paint would be easier. I also added an aura around the sun so that it would stand out more…..

I always try to do something new with each challenge and this time I wanted to add tulle over the top and then do the quilting over the tulle. We had seen a bunch of quilts done this way at Houston and it looked like an easier way to handle raw edge applique. After I pinned it in place, I decided that it needed some stitching to hold it in place….

Then I basted it and started quilting!! The problem with the tulle is that you can’t easily rip out stitching so I tried to make every stitch count. I did have to rip out a small amount and it was HARD to take out the stitches without catching the tulle in the seam ripper. Most of it was done from the back but there were a few stubborn stitches that I had to do from the front. It was nerve-wracking!!

I did change to a smaller needle and used Bobbin Thread in the back and I think that helped some with the quilting.

I normally use a facing on my landscape quilts but was concerned that the thickness of all of the layers (backing, batting, interfacing, overlaid fabric, and tulle) would make it hard to turn to the back. Instead I planned to make a binding where the colors shifted as it moved around the piece. Unfortunately, because I had done this quilt using the “Frances Method”, I was completely out of time and didn’t want to play with doing the binding. So, a good old plain binding was attached!! In the long run, I think that the binding is a nice frame around the quilt……

I called this “Dreaming of Sunsets” and I am very pleased with how it turned out. The jury is still out about the use of tulle which is concerning because that was how I was planning to finish my Henna Girl portrait so I need to do some thinking now!! I didn’t use the finest quality of tulle and I think that was part of the problem. I will definitely look for “wedding quality” the next time.

So I can mark that challenge off of my list and now get back to the portrait….

Practice, Practice, Practice

When I teach my “Beginning Machine Quilting” workshop, the best piece of advice that I give to new Free Motion Quilters is to Practice…..PRACTICE….. PRACTICE!!!!

Earlier this year, I decided that I wanted to “up my game” in the FMQ department so finally realized that I needed to follow my own advice!!!

I started this project back in May and first blogged about it HERE. As I had some free time on the week prior to the IQF show, I determined to get this project finished!!!!

I was pleased as I started using the rulers again and have found that this is my favorite one….

It has a straight line on one edge and a slight curve on the other and it is so versatile!!!

I enjoyed using one of the “petal” rulers to add some interest to this block….

And, for this block, I just played around with several rulers to see what type of design I could come up with…..

One of my favorite (and fastest) designs was this block…..

I started by marking alternating dots at specific intervals…..

….and then used the ruler to quilt back and forth between them (and this is a better photo of my favorite ruler)…..

Back in the summer, I purchased a set of circle rulers and this was my first try at using them. They were interesting and I think that they will be helpful, but I will definitely have to get used to how they feel!!! They are pie shapes with a small hole at the top of each one.

You place a thumbtack in the hole and then quilt around the circle…..

It worked well, but I had to really concentrate on how to hold the ruler and to remind myself that I didn’t have to press down on the thumbtack as that caused the quilt sandwich to stay in one place and not slide!!!

This is how the circle block ended up…..

….certainly not perfect, but something that I think I could learn to do!!!

Here is finished quilt…..

I truly enjoyed my practice sessions and hope that this quilt will find a good home thru our Guild’s charity work.

Now it is time to push myself and try something new (that I am scared of)!!!! Will I do that or will I go into displacement activity…..only time will tell.

Back in the studio….

Thanks to several rainy days in Naples, and some fairly good time management (if I do say so myself), I am heading into November with NO outstanding accounting work to be done. The only things are my usual monthly clients. This is SUCH good new!!!

On last Friday, I ventured into the studio to start working on one of my three outstanding projects (they aren’t called UFO’s until I have been working on them for a year or more)…….

So, in line with what any red-blooded Quilter would do, I started…..

It actually started with my trying to find a place for the two new coats that we had purchased in Italy, which lead to cleaning out the coat closet, which lead to pulling out my old blue jean jacket that I haven’t worn for years!!

As I was about to pitch it into the “Goodwill” bag, I remembered seeing a jacket that had the back panel decorated and I decided that I NEEDED to do it!!

As I looked at the back panel…..

….I kept going back to flowers but wasn’t sure how to do the design. I looked thru my closet for a book that I thought might help and happened upon one of the stencils that I bought at Houston last year…..

This is definitely me!!!

I first drew out an approximate design on paper (minus the stem)…..

I started to just copy this exact design but instead started doing one flower at a time, using one of the Crayola Washable markers….

I am glad that I did this because, in the end, I decided that I didn’t need so many flowers, particularly small ones. It made the design much easier to do.

I started cutting out the first flower but realized that I was going to greatly reduce the stability of the jacket so decided to add Wonder Under and another piece of fabric to the back. BAD idea. Now it was way too stiff!! So, I carefully peeled off the fabric …..

and started cutting again…..

Then I realized that I still needed a layer of wonder under on the back to fuse it to the accent fabric that I was going to use.

I REALLY wished that I had thought it thru better, but it all worked in the end!!

I also learned that it was easier to cut with the fabric flat on my cutting table rather than holding it in my hands…..

Once I had it cut out, it was time to figure out what to put behind the cutouts. I considered adding lots of different fabrics but then this fabric caught my eye…..

After a few minutes of placement practice, I was ready to fuse the jean fabric in place. I did add one more fabric, replacing each of the flower centers…..

The final step before sewing was to add a heavier fabric to the inside of the jacket. This time my eye fell upon a fabric piece that Michael had bought for me MANY years ago on a trip to the Netherlands…..

With that in place, it was time to quilt. I chose a variegated thread and quilted around each opening at least two times. Then I went back in a added another outside quilting line.

I thought about adding more quilting lines, but decided that I liked the simplicity of it.

I am very happy with the finished product….

….and have already worn the jacket once!!!

Now let’s fast forward a few days….. As I was working on my next project, I was looking thru quilting books for some ideas and ended up with the Jenny Lyon book that I bought earlier in the year, and guess what I found……

….picture and instructions for how to make a “Lace Work Jacket”!!! She did it a bit different by doing the sewing first and then cutting out the denim. I am actually happier with my method since it meant that I could better place the accent fabric.

I am looking forward to wearing this next week when I am at the International Quilt Festival in Houston….

FMQ practice has begun

PREFACE:   I am NOT a novice to machine quilting.  I began using the technique back in 1988 and have machine quilted ALL of my quilts since that time.  I started it back in the days where machine quilted quilts weren’t considered to be “PROPER” quilts.

I have, however, gotten into a bad habit of believing that I can rush thru the quilting and get to the fun part of starting yet another project.   I have stuck stubbornly to the motifs and designs that I am most comfortable with and have not fully explored the new and exciting FMQ motifs that are being developed.  This post is about my efforts to reacquire the fun and excitement that I first had when I started machine quilting.

Now….back to the blog……


I have heard that there are three tricks to great Free Motion Quilting…..


I have mentioned here previously that I want to “up-my-game” where my quilting is concerned and that is the next project in the queue…..named FMQ3P!!

I purchased a top from Spoonflower and added a couple of borders to bring it to a nice size….


I pulled out a number of quilting books, both old and new to help me plan out the quilting…….img_8473.jpgimg_8472.jpgimg_8474.jpgimg_8471.jpg

To prove my determination to do this FMQ study well I made a few changes to my usual set up.

First, I decided to pull out the Little Genie Magic bobbin washers and see if they would help reduce thread nests that I was sometimes seeing on the back of my quilting…….img_8468.jpg  Previously, I had only used this with a drop-in bobbin so it was interesting to see how it fit insde the bobbin case.

Finally, although it makes no difference to the actual quilting process, I switched to a new, clean pair of gloves rather than the old, VERY dirty ones…..


I began by using the walking foot and doing all of the dtich quilting although for most of this process, it was just following along the printed line.  I did find that since I was trying to be so careful that it helped to turn the machine speed down so that I had more control…..img_8469.jpg

I also concentrated on stopping to reposition my hands more so that my “hand hoop” was never far from the needle.   I ended up stopping about every 50 stitches.

I decided to do a funky flower in the first block and was getting ready to mark some guidelines but remembered a product that I had bought at Houston but had never used. It is called the “Cross Hair Ruler” from Sew Steady …..


and it did it’s job perfectly. ……img_8478.jpg

My design sizing is not perfect, particularly the petals heading into the corners (those long curves are hard to quilt with marking them), but I am fairly happy with this first foray into FMQ3P……img_8479.jpg

Now I wanted to try the “Paisley Tulip Motif” from Murphy’s idea book…


…but on a smaller scale…..


Not too shabby!!

Now that I was having some success with free motion motifs, I worked up my courage and  pulled out some of the rulers to give them a try.   I started with the straight edge and had no problems with it.   I was encouraged by that so wanted to try one that was a bit more complicated….ie CLAMSHELLS.

I began sewing on the two block borders and was pleased with how it was working, although I did have a hard time figuring out exactly where my ruler needed to be positioned on the successive rounds…..   The “oops”is on the left with the amended version on the right……

After quiting clamshells on half of the border, I opted for a simple undulating line for the other two sides.   The finished block looked good…..


The last block for the day was one of the funky, slanted stripe blocks.  I did the first two sections with a simple right to left sway design and then added pebbling of various sizes to fill in the rest of the “patches”…..


Since I was trying to do everything free-motion I was avoiding  marking as much as possible.   I was happy to remember that I could use the outside of the darning foot as a 1/4 inch measure……


At this point it was time for me to stop for the day and am happy with the practice time that I accomplished.  But…..

Note to self…..being uber careful takes time!  It does take longer when you are concentrating and trying to do a better job, but it is definitely worth the effort.

This isn’t a “quilt it fast and get it finished” project…..  Three blocks done……nine to go!!!


A new toy for the studio…..

Work wise this past week was a good one and I accomplished a lot.  SO, I decided to give myself a reward today (Saturday) and spend a few hours in my studio.  The goal of the day was to get my new toy ready to use……..

During our guild quilt show I spent some quality time ($$$) with a couple of the vendors and came away with a few new toys…..

The first vendor was who have a store in Atlanta and was where I purchased my Juki machine several years ago.    They demonstrated an acrylic table that would allow you to turn your machine sideways so that you were sitting at the “needle” end of the machine.   The idea is that you can easily move the fabric from side to side without running into the edge of the machine.

Right now, when I quilt, my table is set up like this…..

IMG_7816.jpg….with my view of the proceedings being this……IMG_7815.jpg

Under the new system, my machine needed to be perpendicular to where I sit.  The only problem is that my table has a cut-out that the machine sits in…..


So something had to fill this hole!!!   I went out to the garage and found some of the “extra” wood pieces that we had laying around, pulled out a tape measure and the jigsaw and got busy.   I quickly put together a “table” that would fill the space…..


It isn’t pretty, but it works…..IMG_7822.jpgSo, this will be the new view of my quilting…..

IMG_7823.jpgIt may just be an illusion, but I sure feel like I have more room to manuever…..time will tell!!

I played a little bit with this set up and at first I wasn’t impressed at all, but as I practiced longer, I really started to enjoy the freedom of movement.  The biggest thing to get used to is reaching across for the needle up button.

The other booth that I visited was Angel Oak Stitchery, interested mostly in their free-motion quilting rulers.   They had tons that were sized for both Long-Arm machines and Home Sewing machines as well.    I came home with a nice selection……img_7825.jpg

…..and added those to the ones that I already had……


And yes, I realized that I now have TWO  2 inch circle rulers…..argh!!!

I did some playing with these today and plan to start using them on a charity quilt in the next few weeks.

The final problem that I had to fix with this new setup was that my chair needed to raise about 4-5 inches higher so that my arms would stay at the suggested “90 degree angle”.   I spent some time looking online but couldn’t find a desk chair that would raise that high.   I ended up thinking about a drafting chair.   Michael then mentioned that he had one in his shop and that I should try it out first.   It works perfectly!!!   AND, since he isn’t working much in his shop right now, it is making the move from the garage to the upstairs studio!!

Now I am COMPLETELY ready to start “upping my game” in the free-motion quilting arena!!



On another note, the wedding plans are going great and we are getting really excited about the upcoming celebration….just two weeks to go!!!