Quilt Big….

I am still trying to learn how to use Julio (my Juki Sit-down long-arm) and I think that it is going pretty well!!!

I am much more comfortable with using rulers and am seeing better speed control. But, I wanted to know if I could quilt BIG……fill a quilt with large format, unmarked designs.

I turned to another charity quilt for practice.

I visually divided the piece into four columns and started quilting using a different pattern in each area. The first was a simple side-to-side column down the middle of the quilt…..

Next was a simple stipple pattern…..

….followed by a loopy stipple…..

….and finishing with a funky flower with lots of echo quilting…..

The actual quilting only took about an hour….it took longer to baste and bind than it did to quilt!!!!

It was a great exercise in QUILTING BIG and was so much fun to just cut loose and quilt FAST….FAST…..FAST!!!

One thing that I learned is that I tend to clench my jaw when I am sewing on Julio, so guess I need to remedy that by putting loud music on and singing at the top of my lungs….you can’t clench and vocalize at the same time!!!

So….. if you are driving past my house and hear loud caterwauling, you will know that Julio and I are sharing some quality time!!

Winter Blues

Let’s get this new year started out with the quilt that moved me into my “monthly quilt series”.

When I first started quilting, I really needed a REASON to make a quilt….not like now when I will make one simply because I want to!!!

Our house didn’t have lots of wall space so hanging a bunch of wall hangings just wasn’t in the plans. So, I got to thinking about having one area (in the entryway) where I could hang a different quilt every month. You see what I did there…..I could make TWELVE quilts and still have a purpose for them!!!

And, to make it even more special, I wanted a surface underneath that I could decorate to match the quilt!! A friend of ours was a woodworker and he built this pie safe to match my specifications (mainly that it be tall enough that I could hang a 30-36 inch quilt above it)…..

But back to the quilt!!

One day I was drooling in my local quilt shop and saw this wonderful fabric….

I immediately thought of the term “Winter Blues” and the quilt seed was planted!! If I remember, the pattern came from one of the Trudie Hughes books about template free quilts (my introduction to rotary cutting).

I loved the way it looked……

The quilt was 34 inches square and I made it it 1994….over TWENTY FIVE years ago.

As my kids went thru school, I often did talks to classes about the art of quilting and this quilt was the one that I used to start my presentation. I would start by showing the various shapes of fabrics…..

…..and then show how these shapes were used to form the different blocks…..

I was younger back then!!!

…..and then I could show them a quilt that contained a four-patch…..

….flying geese…..

…..puss in the corner…..

….and square in a square……

The quilt is proudly displayed every January…..

….and makes a great start to the new year!!!

Making the geese fly!!!

Over the holidays I have been working on the “Crumbs For The Geese” quilt (soon to be a pattern) and have racked my brain for ideas to quilt the geese.

I hit upon an idea at the gym (go figure) and enjoyed some quilting time on Christmas Eve.

Check out this video for details and instructions of how I used a simple straight ruler to give my geese some movement……

This has been the simplest quilting that I have done on an actual quilt and am absolutely thrilled with how it turned out.

For the quilting outside of the geese, I decided to just do curvy lines….

I used one of the Westalee Spin-E-Fex rulers for the crumb blocks and all that is left now is the binding.

More “Parasol” decisions

Two days ago, I posted my initial thoughts about “The Parasol Dancers of Green Lake”, ending the day with the sample looking like this…..

Today I returned to the quilting and started playing with different ideas of how to complete the background. I added trees, shrubs, and simple line groupings with the final practice piece looking like this……

I am happy with this for the most part but here are the things that I learned in making this practice piece…..

  • Make sure that there are no strings under the white layer…..
  • Draw in some basic lines to use a guide when quilting…..
  • I will need to stitch down the edges of the parasols, probably with a matching thread. In this sample, they lifted up as I quilted close to them and the green one has already started to shred at the edges. Having said that, I kind of like the shadow that the fabrics leave so maybe I just need to use fray-check on the parasol edges!! Okay, so this decision is still in limbo!!!!!
  • I like adding trees to the background, but the one on the right (with the actual branches) looks much better than the ones that are more of a fountain. Naturally, the best one takes longer to quilt!!
  • I like the idea of having areas of background quilted with various designs. I can play with this more as I go.

My biggest concern is that this has basically become a “Whole-Cloth” quilt. Now there is nothing wrong with that, but it sure puts a lot of pressure on me to NOT make a mistake….particularly when I am working with the black threads.

The plan is to make a strip of each pose with 3 to 7 women in each strip. As I go along, I will figure out what types of sashing to put between these strips….probably something fairly low volume.

I have ordered more Wool batting and it will be here in about 10 days. So, between now and then, I need to decide which figures I want to use, get them enlarged and start laying out the design…..

Wish me luck!!

The Parasol Dancers of Green Lake

A few weeks back I posted a video from Kunming China showing women doing their morning exercises using highly colored parasols. Over these past weeks, this inspiration has slowly moved from the back of my mind to the front of my mind!!! After a lot of contemplation (AND procrastination), I have made a start!!!

The first thing that I did was to pull some screen grabs off of the video…

They are not high quality images but they served their purpose. I printed them out in black and white and used a sharpie to trace around several of the ladies in each of the poses…….

The good thing about using sharpie is that the ink soaks thru and you can see it from the back…..instant pattern!!…..

I picked out a couple of the pictures and enlarged them to the size that I was planning to work with.

Now it was decision time!!! How was I going to portray these wonderful women…..in fabric, in paint or in thread. At some point I had the idea to thread paint or quilt the women but add color for the parasols. This is the rabbit trail that I am currently heading down!!!!

For the first sample, I added a thin fusible interfacing to the back of the background fabric, traced the design, added the fabric parasol and machine stitched it…..

Then it was critique time…..

  • First of all, I had used a white thread in the bobbin and the white stitching came thru….NOT good!!
  • Second, I felt that the ribs on the parasol were too heavy
  • Finally, I wasn’t sure exactly how I could quilt it and make the ladies stand out.

Let’s try again!!!

This time I decided to layer the quilt sandwich and actually quilt the design in. And to take it one step further, I added two layers of batting (Warm & Natural on the bottom and Wool on the top) so that it would have a Trapunto look……

I put in a few pins to hold the layers in place……

….and it was back to the machine for stitching, using the normal 50 wt thread for the bodies and a bobbin weight thread for the parasol ribs…..

I REALLY like this a lot better!! Now to fill in the background!!

I had done the initial stitching/quilting on my normal machine (Juanita) because I had better control for the details and also because I could use a smaller needle. But, for the filler quilting, I turned to Julio (sit-down long-arm) to make the process fast and effortless!!

This is where it stands now…..

As I have written this post, I started thinking about the fact that the background could also contain some shrubbery, trees or other foliage and that would give it even more interest, both in visual effects but also for the quilter!!

There is definitely more to come with this project……..I will get back to you…………….

Don’t Throw That Away

As many of you know, I have recently expanded my studio and have been continuing to clean out “stuff” as I go. I pulled out yet another box full of “not remembered items” (aka UFO’s) and found this…..

This is not an actual rust dye but is a photo of one that has been printed on fabric. The quilting, however is real!! When I was making this quilt……

“Sunflowers in the Rust”

…..I wanted to practice before I took off on the real thing and decided that quilting on a copy would work just fine

I have no idea why I thought it was necessary to keep this practice piece but I am so glad that I did.

I used my special tool, a piece of card stock (read the blog here), and tried out several different orientations …..

When I was happy with the plan, I moved to the garage to play with frames. MANY, many years ago, I ended up at a craft supply sale that had wood frames for $1 each and mats priced at 4 for a $1. I stocked up, not knowing if I would ever use them….

….but over the years I have used over half of them and I’m dead yet so I have hope that my kids won’t have to figure out what to do with them!!!

I played first with just using a single frame….

….and then decided to dress it up a bit and use a mat as well…..

It now decorates a shelf in my office….

…….and I LOVE to see it when I walk to my desk. It not only reminds me of my favorite Sunflowers but also of the fun quilt that I made so long ago!!

So the final moral of this story is to Never….Ever…. EVER…..throw anything away!!! But, if you are reading this blog, I think that I am preaching to the choir!!

Meet Julio the 2nd

As I posted here last week, I purchased a Sit-down Long-Arm machine (Juki 2200QVP) and named him Julio!! Well, it ended up that Julio had a few issues so I had to take him back and pick up Julio II…..

I am thrilled with how the machine handles and am finding it easy to do the “fine-motor-skill” techniques. I grabbed another charity quilt and started practicing…..

I used a ruler to stabilize the top with some straight lines and then just started playing with various free motion designs……

I am learning how to keep my stitches even and learned that I needed to set the machine at 100% speed when I am doing these designs. That surprised me because I thought it would be easier at a slower speed. I was WRONG!!

The last thing that I need to get set is the height that the foot floats above the quilt so that it clears any heavy seams easily. I am slowly, oh so slowly, moving it up a bit at a time. When it starts skipping stitches, I will know that I have hit my limit!!!

I can’t wait to keep working with Julio and will happily post my results so be prepared for a LOT of quilting designs in the future!!!

One quilt done….MANY more to come

I spent this afternoon at my new machine and was able to finish the Charity quilt that I started when I was shopping for Julio, my Juki 2200QVP Sit-Down machine.

To say that I am thrilled with the results would be the understatement of the year…..

I quilted 9 wreaths using the Westalee rulers and then just started adding bits and pieces to the open areas. I used rulers for fill designs, rulers for border designs, free motion squiggles and free motion straight lines……

I have found that the rulers work wonderfully and the larger doodling is easy to accomplish. I can see that I will need to practice on the smaller FMQ designs to gain the fine-motor skills needed!!

I even got brave and started working on the borders for the brown stripe quilt. You remember this one…..I was pulling my hair out over it about 10 days back (see my post “FMQ With rulers is NOT for the faint hearted).

AND, the results were spectacular……

So far I haven’t had a single moment of buyers remorse!!!

FMQ with rulers is NOT for the faint hearted!!!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been working on the quilting for my Brown Stripe Quilt. I decided to do the entire quilt with rulers in the hopes that I will become more proficient as I go. Having said that, this is a nice quilt and I really don’t want to ruin it with poor quilting!!

With that in mind, I started making a list of things that I need to do EVERY TIME that I set up for FMQ with rulers. It looks like this…..

Without this list, I forget important things that made the quilting not work well….as you will soon see!!

I spent a fair amount of time playing with designs for the brown stripes…..

….and finally decided that I wanted to put a Chevron type design in each.

With the first few, I physically marked the center line of each block and also the starting square, but after using the ruler for a while, I noticed that there were perpendicular guidelines……

……that I could use for the first set of chevrons meaning that all I needed to mark was the center line and the mid point of the block.

When I started with the first block, my thread broke FOUR times and I moved too far off the line once meaning that I had to restart the quilting five different times and then tie off and bury the thread tails…..UGH!!! At this point I was having serious doubts about whether I wanted to use rulers anymore!!

I then remembered my list (from above) and started working thru the different items on it. First I realized that I hadn’t grabbed the Supreme Slider which made it hard to move the fabric around.

Then, I realized that I didn’t have the foot pressing hard enough on the quilt sandwich which was probably causing the thread shredding!!!

See….I should have looked at my list to BEGIN with!!!

The second block only had three new starts and the third block only had one. Fortunately, the next 12 went fairly smoothly so now I have accomplished 15 with 33 left to go.

One problem that I have been dealing with is skipped stitches and subsequent thread shredding when I am traveling a certain direction. I think it is happening for one of two reasons. Either I am not comfortable going in that particular direction so am jerking the quilt sandwich more OR it is moving in a direction that is opposite to how my needle is threaded, causing the thread to pull. As I work on the last 2/3rds of the blocks, I am going to try shifting my quilt sandwich slightly before I start traveling in that particular direction to see if I can alleviate the problem.

Somewhere along the line, I realized that I was trying to quilt the designs from top to bottom which meant that it was hard to see where I was going…..

Switching to a horizontal orientation made a lot of difference…..

So tomorrow I am prepped and ready to quilt a bunch more of the blocks…..

So, if someone hears screaming coming from Bishop, Georgia, just remind me to check the list!!!

ADDENDUM…..

I have finally figured out what is causing all of my problems!! The areas where the thread is shredding correspond to where the backing has been majorly pieced. It seems that when there are SO many seams to sew thru it messes with the tension and also the action of the needle!!! Here is the front and back…..

When I pieced this back, I was determined to use up all of the strip sets that I had left over. Next time I will keep things super simple!!!!

Tomorrow I will finish the quilting on the stripes, even if it means dealing with lots of stops and starts. Hopefully the designs in the light color areas wont be as hard to do since there wont be as many seams to deal with.

I am SUPER relieved to know what was causing my issues!!!!

Long Weekend fun!!!

Even though every day sort of melts into the other days, it was sweet to have an OFFICIAL 3 day weekend, and making it more fun was the fact that I spent almost the entire time in my studio!!!

Last week I visited the Charity Bee from our guild and picked up a quilt top with the idea that I was going to use it to further practice ruler machine quilting. It was the perfect quilt as it was smaller (33×40) and had 20 six inch blocks for me to play with. I decided to do most of them using different techniques and was so pleased with how they turned out.

I started with the easiest one…..the Square spiral that I have already shown here…..

After that I used a few of the rulers for their “intended” purpose……

The I just started playing around with the rulers. If I got stuck and didn’t know how to continue with one ruler, I would pick up another one and add something with it……

When I got to the sashing I had fun playing with Angela Walter’s ruler named “Chevy”. Here is a video of the process that I used to quilt the sashing….

After I had finished all of the quilting, I realized that this particular sashing design added another design element to the quilt which made me SO happy…..

For the borders, I quilted each one using a different technique and ruler and have made a video with each. I will post those over the next few days.

This is the finished quilt…..

It is sweet and cuddly and I am happy to know that some young child will enjoy the comfort that can only come from having a quilt of your own!!!

AND….many thanks to Sue L. for allowing me to quilt this top that she so lovingly pieced together!!!