Monday, 25 September 2017

Handiquilter Ruler Of The Month Club - The Skinny Ruler

Picked up the next ruler - the 2x10" Skinny Ruler

If you are wondering what this Ruler of the Month Club is all about, head over to the Handiquilter site and have a look. They have a video for the rulers as they come out each month. Over here in Australia we are a bit behind as we started about a month later.

So, I tried the skinny ruler
Did not find it that easy to use as it is a bit longer than other rulers I tried and if you do not hold it correctly, i.e. move your grip as you go along, it will slip.

The grid gave me the biggest issue...for the life of me I cannot do a grid with a ruler! Kept getting the spacing wrong and for a 1/2in grid any sloppiness in alignment shows severely after a while. So in the end I drew it in and followed the lines with the ruler.
Diamond in a square was easy to do...might just have to get the spacing a bit better.
Enjoyed this one! Just lines spaced 1/4in apart. That was quite manageable and after a while I also managed to stitch along the seam with some consistency with the ruler to get to the next space. So yes, it was getting easier.
More lines and a bit of filling in. That was quite fun to do.

And in the end I did the Paradox on a scrap fabric piece, as I could not get it together on the quilt square as I could not turn the quilt all the time. Definitely more practice needed
What you think of my stitching? I think I am getting more used to the is all getting a bit easier.

Next ruler is one with lots of little circles...that is going to be interesting.


Friday, 15 September 2017

Charity Quilt

Since buying the new machine I am attending a monthly HQ group in the city. Last time a lady attended from the Orange Tree Quilters, an affiliated group of the Quilter's Guild of South Australia who donate quilts to children in need in the community.
She brought a whole stack of quilt tops that needed quilting...perfect opportunity to just practice as I have no quilt tops at the moment, so I took a small log cabin quilt.
This is where the HQ Sweet 16 shines...after some joining of the batting and basting I finished this little quilt top in a day.
Given that the log cabins were made out of colourful scraps, I chose the 'Ikea 'design that adorned the little white fleece blanket that we once purchased at Ikea...a bit of a mix between meandering and quilting loops
This worked really well and my tension issues seem to have largely disappeared. I used a soft yellow Aurifil 50/2 on the top and a beige Aurifil 50/2 thread on the bottom for the centre of the quilt and a pink Aurifil thread for the pink border.
...and here is the back
This was really useful as practice... as you can imagine none of those fabric pieces were of the same quality and gave me a really good idea of how my tension was performing. Happy to report that I had no major issues with the tension. Still some adjustment issues in terms of how to place my quilt and how to move it around...still find it confusing that I don't have to scrunch it up as I have done for years, so some of my stitching is more clumsy than usual. 
The border was a bit of an adventure. I don't think that was 100% cotton and my tension was ever so slightly out, i.e. had little pokies here and there on top, but I just did not worry about that and just quilted a loop design in there to finish it off.
Looks great and does the job.

Was again surprised by the efficiency of the machine. Did the meander first, then quilted in-the-ditch with one of the rulers around the pink border, then basted the slightly uneven border in place and finished it off with the loop design. This took me about 5 - 6 hours and it was done. Impressed with that.

Will continue on my ruler quilt next as I will be getting the next monthly ruler from the HQ Ruler of the Month club this weekend.


Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Handiquilter Ruler Club - The Slice Ruler

Practising ruler quilting on the Sweet 16

First ruler of the month - The Slice Ruler
My practice ruler quilt is made from charm squares so the finished square is 4 1/2in.

Perfect little ruler...lies well in your hand and is easy to flip around. Very handy for those 'easy' line designs which are just perfect for some quilts. The ruler gives you very precise and neat curves fitting neatly into the square. Still struggling with alignment somewhat but that is just a matter of practice.

Must say that I like the Handiquilter Rulers better than some other rulers. Maybe not on this one however on the other ruler I bought, the Versa Tool, the lines are very intuitive, i.e. just where you need them. Also like the Handigrip patches that you put on them...they are see through and feel a bit like sandpaper, gripping very well.


Monday, 11 September 2017

Getting to know the Handiquilter Sweet 16

I have been largely absent from social media for the last month or so due to the new machine and trying to get used to it apart from being busy with work and life in general.

I should have called the worst nightmare or something similar. Have had the most frustrating time!

Initially everything was pretty peachy. The machine arrived and I was able to finish one of my quilts with relatively little hassle. I then tackled my ruler practice quilt as I am part of the Handiquilter Ruler of the Month Club. First I stitched in the ditch using Invisafil on top...

...and Bottom Line 60 wt in the bobbin
That worked well except for my inexperience in ruler work, but overall not too bad. Then tried the new Slice Ruler

Noticed some irregularities, particularly on the curves and devoted some more time just practicing on sample sandwiches and this is where that ended up
I have had the worst time, actually starting to seriously doubt my abilities...the problem was 1) the tension adjustment 2) the tension going out on the curves and 3) the tension not remaining the same across different speeds and 4) the stitches appearing different from left to right than they did from right to left...

Close up of flatlining in the back on curves
Not sure how well you can see this...initially I thought it had to do with my speed but after a while I was not so sure any more. Similarly, the issue of left to right and back again
How bizarre is this...I spent days on this thinking that it had to do with something I was doing, checking and re-checking thread path, needles, tension until I literally lost the plot....definitely was not loving this!

I had resigned myself to taking the machine back to the shop to ask them to check it over before resigning myself to that I was not able to quilt on this. Last weekend then I felt particularly chilled and had another go...checking thread path again, checking needle position, feeding it and also cleaning the bobbin area again. However this time I used a cotton bud for some reason and swished it once around inside the bobbin casing...well, caught a fluff ball and was wondering where the heck this had come from (as I thought I had regularly cleaned the area). When thinking about it I realized that my cleaning left a lot to be desired as I would usually go with the brush around the bobbin case gathering all the fluff and then often go once around inside the bobbin casing, therefore probably inadvertently depositing fluff in there I reckon (Duh!!!)

Well, not really realizing the significance I started stitching, this time using a prewound bobbin just for the fun of annoying myself a bit further...stranger than strange, my stitching was alright, so I kept going with that for a while changing the top thread to an Aurifil spool

Went well without a hitch...I then played around more with different threads on top and bobbin and the irregularities had largely disappeared! To my surprise, I realized that I knew by now (after one month of intense trialing and at times ready to smash the machine) about where different bobbin threads should sit with their tension and only needed to fine tune this a bit. Could not believe it and am not sure whether I truly trust this, but we shall least we are moving forward.

Cautiously optimistic!


Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Baby Quilt Finished (with Handiquilter Sweet 16)

Finished my Bugs Baby Quilt...not a minute too soon! The baby was born on a Friday and I finished the quilting on the Sunday.

I like this pattern, looks very cute indeed
I just did a simple meander design over it as I was quilting it on the new machine. Needless to say I am still getting used to it and thought that it is best to do a design that I am really familiar with. As time was of the essence I also used a wool batting rather than the thin cotton batting that I have, as I figured this would be more forgiving in terms of any tension issues.
The Sweet 16 performed consistently and I had no tension issues at all once I had set the bobbin tension to the correct position. I used Aurifil 50/2 in the bobbin as I had been practising with that thread and figured that I had that bobbin tension pretty right. On top I used Aurifil 40/2 thread in a yellow colour. While I was meandering over the quilt I checked the back fearing tension disasters or sloppy tension, but the tension remained consistently good and I had no issues (even when I had to put a new bobbin in when the thread ran out). Was impressed with this as I had read various horror tension issues on several forums on the internet.

I do find that once you get the bobbin tension correct, it is relatively easy to set the top tension and you are good to go. Speed was a bit of an issue for me and as I had predicted, I had to stitch at 20 %. Any more than that and my stitches were getting a tad too small. It was good to go on a real quilt to practice...I tend to learn more from that than just practice samples as I obviously have a stake in getting it right. There are many adjustments for me to make and some I am struggling more with then others, speed being one of them. I am used to stitching relatively slow and deliberate and quilting at that 20 % was faster than I normally do. At the moment I am getting slightly disoriented when looking at the needle because it feels and looks so entirely different, but time on the machine will fix this. When I started off I got very confused also as I was scrunching up my quilt as per usual and the whole thing unraveled to lie flat...given its lap size, I did not have to scrunch it up under the machine and that was the weirdest feeling...felt as if I was quilting in the wrong direction as I only had to slightly fold it over at the back. Also my hands were a hoot. As I was quilting faster, my hands were being left behind and I had to continuously re-adjust my hand position and stop and start. That initially produced some wobbles here and there but I soon got the hang of it.

What I did notice was the speed at which I finished this piece...I started quilting on the Sunday afternoon and was finished by the evening (with a few interruptions in between). I think this was mainly due to not having to re-position the quilt all the time...I literally could go freely from left to right and back again without having to do any major shifts.

Overall very happy with how this quilt turned out and pleased that I was able to do it on the new machine. It is onto the next quilt now for me as I have got a lot to learn and adjust to.


Tuesday, 1 August 2017

And Here She Is...

Got a phone call shortly after the quilt show to pick up the Handiquilter Sweet 16 from the shop which send me into a mild panic as that meant that I had to shift my sewing room around which meant cleaning up the mess and re-organizing my quilting space in general.

We picked up the boxes on a Saturday...4 big boxes, one with the machine, one for the table (very heavy), one for the overlay and another one for an extension which I purchased as an extra. The drive home was memorable as the car was filled to the brim.

As I bought the machine as a show special it also came with an added value box. Given that we were in the process of shifting everything around I opened this first as I had to wait for some other things to get in their place before we could tackle the machine.

The value box was incredible...just like Christmas
All these beautiful threads, I could not believe it...big thank you to Handiquilter. That is amazing...such fantastic thread!

Well, then came the unpacking of the machine and table. I was going to take photos but it was all too much with the change of room. The setting up of the machine is not difficult and it came together fairly quickly. There are several videos you can watch which takes you through the set up in some detail.

This is how I set up the room
Extension flap on the left and work table on the right. While this looks fantastic, I will need to change this again as my work table is now too low. Also a bit unclear at the moment whether I should have put the machine a notch higher...all very confusing, too many changes in one hit for me.

Well, it was a few days before I actually tried it and I must say, yes, very different. The first thing that presented as an issue was getting the right tension happening. I approached it with a sense of 'how difficult can this be?'. Wow...the frustration level got quite high after half a day of mucking around. It reminded me of when I started to FMQ all those years ago. As I got flustered I then switched thread, needle, samples and I soon had lost the plot. I then stopped and started to think 'come on, you know this stuff, think this through!' I had watched several YouTube videos and was following them to the letter. In the end I thought, go with what you think is going on. As I was using Aurifil 50/2 thread on a very thin cotton batting, I had the sense that the bobbin tension needed to be tighter to pull the top down...I then followed my own feeling on how tight I wanted it and got it to a stage where the bobbin was a nudge before being too tight. I then re-threaded the machine and off I went...perfect tension! This was encouraging and and I then played a bit with one of the beautiful Superior threads, using one the prewound bobbins that was included in the pack. Yep, that also worked for me with some adjustments to the bobbin and top tension.
Over the next few days I went back to the Aurifil thread and my own bobbins that I had wound on the bobbin winder (forgot to mention...that also comes with the machine) to see whether I could maintain the quality of the stitching or whether it was a bit of a fluke getting it right the first time. Was happy with my bobbin winding and the stitching produced good quality stitches both on the front...
as well as on the back
So, that's how far I I will have to get used to the speed. Struggle to maintain control when going too fast and cannot find a comfortable speed that suits me at the moment. Everything is too new...I am looking at the needle differently, the sound of the machine is different, the set up is different altogether and the machine behaves differently altogether. One thing I do like is ruler quilting though...have two little Handiquilter rulers and am very impressed with them. Nice and chunky and the lines are just where you need them. Also love the basting stitch...very cool feature!
I will shortly go onto a quilt I need to finish...probably just going to do a meander because I will be able to do that at about 20% speed (haha...I think some people quilt at speeds of 50% and above). I feel that I am struggling against the rhythm of this machine and need to get a feel for that.  I'll see whether I can manage to do that with one of the new threads or whether I stick with the Aurifil for the time being.

Lots to learn!


Monday, 31 July 2017

Festival of Quilts 2017

A few weeks have passed but I thought I show you the finished Wholecloth that went into the quilt show.

I won 1st place in the Traditional Small category
Still thought the colour was somewhat odd when I was looking at it in the quilt show but was really happy with all the detail and obviously really chuffed with the blue ribbon.

The quilt show was from the 13 - 15th of July and I had planned to post some photos, however things got way too busy and I struggled to keep up with the pace.

Hopefully I now can get back into some sort of routine.