Monday, 15 September 2014

Playing with Thread

I have come to a bit of a standstill on my projects. No particular reason other that life is a bit busy at the moment. My hexagon quilt is still waiting for an appropriate backing piece and I am undecided on a quilting pattern for my Plus quilt...

Why work on my WIPs though when I can do something completely different? Have been FMQ a little bit here and there, trying new designs and in general giving my machine a bit of a workout. Fun, fun, fun...

For some years now I have been thinking about stitching up some very old designs...from 1885 to be precise. I once found this book in the bargin bin in one of the local bookshops...Decorative Flower and Leaf Designs...a republication of some 124 illustrations from Blätter und Blumen für Flächen- Decoration: Eine Vorlagensammlung für Zeichen, Webe, und gewerbliche Fortbildungsschulen, Fabrikanten und Masterzeichner, published by E. Twietmeyer, Leipzig, 1885. For a long time I struggled to work out which program to use to work with these images on the computer...finally worked it out and was able to print out one of them at 10 x 16 inches.

As you can see, still have a lot of work to do on this. I think this sample is too small which makes it somewhat too frilly. I probably need to simplify this a bit and enlarge it, maybe do some trapunto to make it pop a bit better. But can you see the potential?
I got quite excited about this...would be lovely to do a Wholecloth with just a few of these designs to showcase their beauty. But, and there always is a but...this requires a whole lot of more work.Next trial will be on black fabric, I reckon...this was a bugger to photograph!


Friday, 12 September 2014

Aurifil Thread

Have I shown you my beautiful Aurifil thread yet?

I am building up quite a collection on top of the single ones that I already have. As there is no shop nearby that carries a decent range of the thread, I thought it best to go for a collection of thread so that I did not always have to order single colours in. Going on the website I went through the collections for ages to find something that would make the most sense to me. Given that I am usually working with muted country type colours this box by Sheena Norquay appealed most to me. I reckon I will have no problem using each and every one of those colours.

The two yellows in the front are slightly variegated and I already used the lighter yellow for one of the baby quilts that I made earlier in the year. Of course, it was brilliant.

Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous...I love this thread!


Tuesday, 9 September 2014

99 Hexagon Quilt Top Finished

Finally...I finished the quilt top with hardly any scraps left.

Bit of a dark photo, but just when I was about to photograph this, the weather turned quite ugly. Also, my camera is still in for repairs which is a bit of a hassle...

Anyway this is it. All done! I have just enough black fabric left for the binding and that is it. Have been on the hunt for a backing fabric but cannot find anything suitable. This will have to wait a bit the moment I am thinking that I might just get some solid yellow for the backing, however this could take a while as the yellow seems quite difficult to match.

Apart from this I did some wild FMQ practice today in preparation for my Plus quilt that is waiting to be quilted. Watched some YouTube videos on different designs and then played with Angela Walters hooked swirl design

I love this design but still need to do some more practice on this, particularly the scale...I would like to get it a bit bigger. Not sure whether this will do as an overall design...might have to loose the hook and just go for a bigger swirl...

Anyway this was a lot of fun to idea yet what design I actually would like to do on the Plus quilt.


Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Progress on 99 Hexagons

Well, happy to report that I finished the center of my 99 hexagon quilt. My youngest daughter celebrated her 18th birthday the other day, so I spent most of the night in the front room with my hexagons trying to escape the noise but also having a bit of an eye on the front door.

Got heaps done and before I knew it had stitched the last of the hexagons. Very happy with the result. Now only had to read back over my posts re EPP from last year (or was it the year before?) to work out how exactly I tackled the paper removal and squaring up. This is where the blog becomes very handy...only have done that one other EPP project before so I was winging it a bit.

and a look at the back...

If you are interested in the other EPP, have a look HERE  ...I talked about that one for ages!

Continued on with my starching. Again I had difficulties getting the paper out, obviously used too much glue. In the end I had to wet the whole thing down (as the glue is water soluble) and that did the trick. This took me ages and looked like a right old mess but thanks to the starching it all turned out alright. As with my last EPP project I did stitch into the seam allowance around the edges at times. This is a hassle as you have to let the seams out around the edges to square it up. Not much I could do about this and I am hoping that the border around the hexagons will hide some of those little puckers.

This is how far I got today...squared up and ready for the inner border.

Looking good! Can't believe I have got that many hexagons in there...the whole piece is only 33" long, so I am looking at a very smallish quilt here, probably just coming in around 41"x 45".

Linking up to Lorna's Let's Bee Social Linky Party


Monday, 1 September 2014

Batting - Is There A Back and Front?

I knew it!...there is indeed a front and a back to batting. Had read about this before but could never remember how to apply this. As I have some issues with bearding from time to time, I researched this a little bit the other day. Found this great description at the  APQS blog

So started looking at the samples that I had, putting the side that I identified as the right side, i.e. facing your quilt top on the left side of the photo.

Bamboo batting

Cotton batting
 Initially I tried to look for the small needle holes that would be evident from needle punching...not that easy to see in the bamboo batting. According to the APQS blog, the small holes reveal the right side of the batting and you want to have your needle go into the batting in the same way that it was needle punched.

This visual inspection was easier for the cotton pieces that I had, but for the bamboo I struggled. I did read on another blog that you can test this with a sewing machine needle. The needle will go through the right side more easily than the wrong side. Was a bit skeptical of this but when I tried, there was definite resistance when I tried to push the needle through the wrong side as opposed to the right side. So, this will from now on be the method I am using to try to determine which way to place the batting.
I am pretty sure that my recent experiences with bearding had to do with me placing the batting the wrong side around, because I had it one quilt but not the other, probably placing it the right way by coincidence.

Linking up to  Anything Goes Linky Party at Stitch by Stitch


Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Progress on Plus quilt

Sporting a major head cold at the moment but managed a little bit of work. Also my camera is in for repairs so have not been able to take a lot of new photos.

Prepared the Plus quilt for basting

In line with my efforts to only use what's in my stash, went through and found a nice birdhouse print.  Some years ago I had this bright spark of an idea to buy yardage of fabric when it was on special to use for backing...great idea, except I paid little attention to the patterns. When looking at the birdhouse print I realised that I would have to piece it together to make it there was a hassle. Nearly went out and bought a wide backing piece.

Nevertheless I persevered to match the pattern. First, I looked at this fabric for a very long time to identify the pattern repeat...once I had this I then took the selvage off on both sides and then painstakingly marked the spot where I wanted the fabric to meet including the 1/2 inch seam allowance. Carefully cut both pieces at the marked lines and hoped for the best. Took my time with this and managed to piece this together nicely...

The seam is almost invisible. I wonder whether there is an easier way of doing this...this took me ages but turned out ok for the most of it.

Ready for basting once I put some batting together...have arrived at the last lot of batting. Feeling very frugal at the moment.

Linking up to Quilt Story Fabric Tuesday


Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.2 - Progress Report

It has been some 8 months since I exchanged my Pfaff Expression 4.0 for the newer version, the Pfaff 4.2. I talked about my first impression of the machine HERE. Be warned that this is a long blog post.

Several readers have in between emailed me and asked questioned or just inquired how it is going, so I thought it might be useful to give an update. Please be aware that these are my personal views on the machine and as I had said to one reader I am probably a bit biased as I only ever had Pfaff machines. However, I hope that people in the market for a new machine doing their research find this of interest.

As reported before, the main difference in the two machines were the new 3 LED lights, the Start/Stop button, the Dynamic Freemotion mode and an improved feed system (Optimised Box feed).

I have completed several projects since I had this machine.

The Whole Cloth: the new LED lights were an absolute eye saver as I had an enormous area to microstipple
Was very happy with this...for once I could actually see where I was going which is important if you are stitching with a blend in thread.

The Windmill quilt: used the new Dynamic Spring foot 6D (optional extra) in the Dynamic Spring foot freemotion mode for this and quilted my heart out with Wendy Sheppard's Jester Hat design.
Dynamic Spring foot 6D
I love this is round and the visibility is very good which was important in trying a new design because I had to stop and look ahead a number of times as I was not that familiar with it. I read a comment somewhere that the foot was particularly fiddly to attach. Yes, has this little groove in the part that attaches and I struggled initially as well, but it is really just a matter of getting used to putting it on. Bit hard to explain but once you know how it attaches, it goes on as easy as any other.

Dresden Plate: Excellent feed when sewing the small spokes together on the bias. This is actually the piece where I really noticed the improvement of the feed system. No veering off to the side at all. The individual pieces were 4.5" and the machine stitched them together like a dream.

Stitched around the Dresden Plate with Monafilament thread first and then echoed with beige thread. Not sure whether I am imagining things but I felt that this machine handles my Monafilament thread a bit better (maybe because they attached this little black rubber thingy on the lever that goes up and down when you stitch, holding the thread in place?).

The Chicken Quilt: Used both the IDT for straight line stitching and one of the decorative stitches for the center of the quilt. The decorative stitches (254 of them) is something I have to use more often. The machine comes with a number of quilting stitches that can be used in sashings or blocks. As I am so used to FMQ I hardly use them, but if you want a quick and no fuss finish this is very handy and looks great.
I posted about a selection of decorative stitches HERE  just to give you an idea.

More FMQ: I did mainly do feathers since I acquired this machine and there were some adjustments that I had to make. Please see the post FMQ on the Pfaff 4.2

I am used to stitching my feathers with the Springloaded foot on the Springfoot freemotion mode. I did find that the open foot created some issues on this setting, i.e. it did not perform the way the Pfaff 4.0 had performed...I had thread breakage and skipped stitches (unheard of!)...after further exploration and a talk to the technician at the shop I was able to solve this by using the Springloaded foot in the Dynamic freemotion mode (depending on batting, one of those Genie Bobbin washers was also helpful). As for the Springfoot freemotion mode I found that it is best to use a closed foot for this to work properly. Since that I have not had any issues seems that this new machine is just ever so slightly adjusted differently to the previous model...once you figure this out and adjust your habits accordingly there should not be any issues.
I have stitched with various threads and needles...Aurifil 50/2 (needle 70/10) and Aurifil 40/2 (needle 80/12), Signature thread 40/2 (needle 90/14) and Rasant Ployester thread (needle 75/11).

Which FMQ foot to use for what? Different designs will need a different foot. For anything that has to go a bit faster I now use the Dynamic 6D foot and the corresponding FMQ mode. For slower work like feathers I use my trusted Springloaded open foot, however now on the Dynamic freemotion mode. I do not use the Sensormatic FMQ foot a lot other than for quickly trying something out or using the Echo FMQ foot which is used with that mode. My main complaint with that setting is that when you stop and take off again, it forces you to make one more stitch into where you stopped. I find that quite irritating. Also, I rely a lot on listening to the machine stitch when FMQ...this foot lowers and raises with each stitch making quite a distinctive sound and then when you gather speed it floats across the surface. Don't mind the floating for a fast design, however the sound on the slower speed is irritating. Mind you this might just be me.

And yes, I have started to use more of the functions again on the machine (got a bit lazy with the other machine)
- definitely using the tie off again (On Pfaff 4.0 this did not work that well)
- using the programmable function, saving particular stitches and sequences of stitches and functions
- using Stitch Restart a fair bit
- Stop/Start button: have used this while chain piecing, but also recently tried this out for FMQ. For FMQ you definitely need to be able to do the design in your sleep as even on the lowest setting I feel it is a tad fast. Nevertheless, this was a lot of fun and I could use this for stippling allover...noticed that I was able to stitch the design much larger as I only had to concentrate on the moving of the fabric. As the machine rattled away at a constant speed I had to keep my movements fairly wide and open when stippling resulting in a larger scale design. This could be useful.

Also, some people find the Bobbin Empty Alert irritating...when the bobbin gets low the Alert will sound and the machine will stop. There seems to be the assumption that you have to stop and change the bobbin...I do not do this, but keep on sewing until it is finished, as sometimes there is a bit of thread left.

So, all in all I am very happy with the machine and did not expect any different as it is very close to the Pfaff 4.0 which I had for some years. For me the improvements delivered and made this machine perfect for the sorts of things that I sew and quilt.