Sunday, 9 July 2017

Handiquilter Sweet 16

Sweet Sixteen In Studio
Image from handiquilter.com

So I went for my test drive on the HQ Sweet 16. I have been researching this machine for some time now and also have tried it many times at the local quilt shows over the years. I went to do a bit of a test drive to look at specific issues that were important to me, like
Thread: brought a spool of Aurifil thread with me and ask the lady to stitch with that as this is the thread that I use most of the time; she quickly changed over the thread, did a few adjustments and off we went. Stitched like a dream.
Speed: Obviously I am not used to that level of speed adjustment (from 0 -100%) and did a bit of playing with that, stitching initially at about 30%. Did some swirls at that speed...noticed that my points were very tidy due to the speed. There was no hesitation and stitching a couple of times into the point. Looked much neater overall. One of my main concerns was precision...I can stitch very precisely on my Pfaff 4.2, aligning my needle where I want it to be, stitching back over the same line of stitching in an orderly fashion (in fact I make a bit of a sport out of backstitching into the same hole of the stitching when I get bored with repetitive designs).
Actually quite funny, as I was talking about not being able to reach the hand wheel to align my stitch, I saw that I would not need that due to the visibility that you have. Sitting on my Pfaff QE 4.2 I am looking over to the needle which is a short distance away due to the machine being sunk into the table. On the Sweet 16 I felt that you are looking directly on the top of the needle due to being much closer to the machine...hence no issues with aligning the needle if you want to start at a particular spot. I then played with the different speeds, going right down to 10% to test the backtracking. While this would require some more practice, I found that I could be fairly precise...probably just need to find the appropriate speed for me (10 seemed a bit slow and 15 seemed a tad too fast for backtracking.
Ruler foot: the machine comes with two feet, an open toe foot and a closed ruler foot. They also now have a new Ruler foot (Sure foot) which is a bit higher but I did not try that. I asked the lady for a ruler and played a bit with that, being ever so careful 😀(had visions of breaking their ruler!). That felt obviously very different than doing it on my DSM, so I was a bit extra careful and went super slow. Loved it of course, as the visibility was really good.
Basting stitch: The machine has a basting stitch that you can set for several different intervals. I could have used that for my last wholecloth  (had to hand baste it as I had two layers of batting and going over that with my machine did not work). That was fun to do and I could see a multitude of uses for that. Very handy indeed.
Apart from that I was just playing, so much so that I told the lady I was just playing around and did not need to explore this any further. I have watched a ton of videos and read lots of reviews so I knew the other features of the machine and what was involved for example with the tension adjustments.

Cut a long story short, I put down a deposit and will have the machine in about 2 weeks. I love my Pfaff QE 4.2 and the way it FMQ. I am fairly proficient and have no trouble quilting a quilt on the machine, however my posture and the visibility have been an issue. Posture mainly because my machine is sunk into a Horn cabinet...which is great due to the flat surface, however I am slouching over the machine and no matter what chair I am using I quilt in that slouching position. Given that I quilt for hours this gives me a lot of trouble with my shoulders and back. Visibility on my machine is overall very good, however particularly when quilting with rulers the machine is in the way of seeing how to align the ruler. So you end up looking slightly sideways around the face of the machine...again, not good for the neck and shoulders. That is probably the main reason I started to look at sit down longarm machines. I did see the Simply 16 with the Little Foot frame, however I was pretty clear about not wanting a frame. I am a pretty lazy quilter and the thought of having to clamp a quilt repeatedly onto the frame was just not for me. I reckon that that would drive me crazy. I prefer freedom of movement and do not mind pushing a quilt through a machine.

Anyway, now I need to change rooms to accommodate the machine. While the HQ is not huge, I do want to keep my Pfaff in the Horn cabinet and also want to keep my cutting table and the current sewing room is just too small, so we are going to change one of the bedrooms around and make it into a sewing room. This will still be squishy but I think it will work. Bit of work ahead to move everything over, but I am just happy that I can have a dedicated sewing room.

As luck has it, the sewing shop will participate in the Handiquilter Ruler of the Month Club which will start in August, so I signed up for that as well. This will run over 6 mths with demonstrations and tutorials and you will get a different ruler every month. This will be handy as I only have one ruler at the moment which is the 1/4in thickness required, so this should give me a good selection to start of with.

Super excited!


Karin

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Relaxation

My Wholecloth has gone into the Festival of Quilts which will run over here from 14 -16/7/17. Looking forward to this and have taken a few days off work for this.

So now I am back to piecing and let me tell you, it shows that I have not done any piecing for approx. 5 months.
However thanks to the Accuquilt GO cutter, at least my cutting is accurate. I am actually amazed with what ease the half square triangles come together even though you are sewing them together on the bias. Much more accurate than if I would do it the normal way of sewing two squares together and then cutting it on the diagonal.

This is what I am working on...a baby quilt that needs to be finished before 4 weeks are up
Finally using that 'bug' fabric that I have had for years. Very cute! The quilt will look something like this (except for the mistake in the corner)
Very colourful...there are actually a number of ways to lay this out and I have not completely settled on one design. I am playing around with it in the EQ7 program to see which one I might like best.

In addition I am chain-piecing another quilt together while I am doing the above. I won some Moda Charm Squares at our local Guild meeting some time ago - Get a Clue with Nancy Drew. Not sure who or what this is...looks like coming from a teenage novel. To use this up I decided to just put some sashing in between.
I am planning to use this for ruler practice. The quilt should come to about lap size and I am sure, someone will like it. Thinking of doing some simple arcs in the squares, practising some in-the-ditch quilting with the ruler and something simple in the sashing. Looking forward to this.

Linking up with Let's Bee Social over at Sew Fresh Quilts

Karin

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Finished!

I actually finished my Wholecloth.
Here I am echoing around those feathers...that took the longest time. As I am entering this quilt in the upcoming Festival of Quilts I was on a very tight schedule to finish in order to be able to take a photo for my online entry. Had to make a to-do-list as I was seriously dragging my feet. I think I have been working on this for the last 5 months or so and in the end I did run out of steam a bit. No idea what I think of it, however that is not unusual for me. Happened also last year when I was doing the white Wholecloth...I think after so many months you just loose perspective and any sense of what this looks like.

Nevertheless I have entered it and it will look great on display, no doubt. It is a smallish quilt measuring only around 30in x 30in. Not sure exactly how that happened, but I think I forgot to add another echo around one of the borders that was there in my original drawing (hilarious!). At the moment I am adding the finishing touches. Managed to finish the sleeve and the label and have spend the last few days sewing this to the back of the quilt. Also figured out a better way to make my labels which I will blog about a different time. Now I only have to sew a cover piece to the label, label my bag and then I am done! Quite a process always and I am always glad when the quilt is finally gone.

Apart from this I am spending most of my time on the internet, researching midarm machines, Yes, the time has come for me to make a decision. I have been looking at the Handiquilter Sweet 16 for the last few years and now am cursing a bit as the prices have gone up a fair bit...feel that it is time to either go for it or let it be. I am quite conflicted about this as I love my Pfaff QE 4.2 but particularly with this quilt I really felt that I need more space to see what I am doing (particularly with larger rulers). So lots of soul searching going on at the moment for me...do I really need this? No, probably not. I could continue on my Pfaff and muddle my way through some of the challenges. On the other hand, if I go for the HQ16 I could extend myself a bit more and focus in on ruler quilting a bit more. I have read a number of reviews by now and am a bit unsure as there seems to be a fair bit of fiddling with the tension. That in itself does not deter me however I do enjoy that I can just sit down at my machine and go for it. Nowadays I do not need to make a lot of adjustments as I know the machine well. So well actually, that I mostly quilt by sound...very rarely do I look at the back to see whether my stitching is ok as I can hear when it is going out of whack. Getting used to another machine...just don't know. We shall see where this leads me...probably will organise to go for an extended test drive and then have a look what sorts of specials they offer for the upcoming show.


For the time being it's back to piecing for me...have to make a baby quilt and am hoping that I'll finish this before the baby actually arrives. Left that a bit very late.

Karin

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Compaction Issues

Still stitching away on my Wholecloth...

Thought I show you a picture of the compaction that occurred having stitched the broad structures first and then working my way back into the middle to do the background quilting
This was taken in front of the window on a fairly sunny day, hence the shadows. Even I got a bit nervous about the amount of compaction that I had and wondered whether this would actually be able to be quilted down.

Too late to do anything about it other than giving it a shot...

 You would not have thought that this could be flattened, but it did! Amazing...all I have left is to fill in the grid and go over the feathers again, doing some in-lining. Not sure actually whether I still like this piece, but so be it...just needs to be finished now. This looked so easy when I started, but probably one of the more challenging projects I have done in a while.

Karin

Monday, 8 May 2017

Progress On Wholecloth

Well, I have been basically missing in action...stitching away on my Wholecloth. There is only so many photos and posts you can do about the same thing! This has been very challenging as some of my lines were not marked on straight and with added compaction this turned into a right old nightmare (every end of almost every line was about half an inch out - not really sure what happened here). In the end, the only way to achieve straight lines was to stitch the straight lines with a ruler. I silently cursed myself for putting in three lines 1/4in apart from each other just for a bit of pizazz.

Anyway, here is the completed orange peel design stitched with the Clarity Ruler foot and the Westalee Clamshell template. While I dreaded this, this turned out quite 'easy' and looks fabulous.
Nice and even...seriously worked like a dream with a little bit of fudging to fit it into the compacted space. Next came those lines. I did need a few attempts but finally got there. Once the first line was down straight, the others followed a bit easier. Probably one of the more challenging things I have done in a while because the tiniest of deviation was very obvious when looking at it.
After the lines I tackled the structure of the grid because the compaction was getting obvious. I love grids but must admit, I forgot how much work they are. While I could have done this also with the ruler foot, I decided against it as I wanted a tidy and secure beginning and end of each line (not that the FMQ beginning and end is untidy, but doing it with the walking foot was just neater - I tie the ends off the same way a longarmer would do it, which makes for a very neat beginning and end). This took forever as this left me with gazillions of threads to bury as I went along. Again my marking left a lot to be desired in parts and a few corrections had to be made here and there. I am truly the world's sloppiest marker.

With that done I needed to do the feather border before continuing to fill the center and this is how far I got to date

I did spray the corners of my border as this got really messy with my blue marker and I find this distracting when I quilt. You can see the compaction that has occurred and it is going to be interesting to see how well the center can be filled. Theoretically this should all be flattened. The feathers turned out beautiful once I got rid of some of the blue marker
I like the feathers just dancing around the outside...not sure yet exactly how this will end up and none of this is exact in terms of its placement. I will probably go back into the feathers to in-line them and make them a bit more pronounced, but we shall see. Next I will have to tackle the center of this Wholecloth, then fill in the grid (probably with the cathedral window design and then it is back to the feathers.
I am thinking of calling this 'Wedgewood meets Brass'. Wedgewood from the beautiful Aurifil colour that is called Light Wedgewood and Brass from the odd colour of this shot cotton which is woven with bright blue and almost orange threads. It should look great once all the blue muck is rinsed off but it may not be to everybody's taste. Doesn't matter...main thing is that I liked it when I started it. As I have been working on this for the past month I am already a bit over it, however I am curious about how this will turn out once it is all done.

Karin

Friday, 21 April 2017

More on the Clarity Ruler foot

So, I am seriously 'playing' with the new Clarity Ruler foot by Accent in Design. I am in the midst of stitching out my wholecloth, having changed the choice of fabric at least 3 times. In the end I settled on some lovely shot cotton in a blueish/yellow colour which allowed me to use my favourite blue Aurifil colour (#2975)
Clarity Ruler foot
I posted a few photos on Instagram after I had stitched out my motifs. Mental note to self: next time when you design a motif, make sure it can be stitched out without breaking thread...this was a bit of a hassle, to say the least. While a bit apprehensive, I decided to stitch the surrounding lines with the new ruler foot...after all, what did I get it for!

The foot is just a dream...there was no fiddling, just attach it, set your machine to springfeet freemotion mode, shift your needle to the +1 position and off you go. A little bit of fine tuning in terms of getting it to the right position height wise, but that was it. I tried different waddings on this  sample...in the end I decided to use one layer of cotton and a thin wool batting on top of it to give it more definition.
All set, off I went to stitch my surrounding lines...only problem was that my marked on lines (the second big square in the project), while straight, were distorted in the corners, hence did not give me a perfect square. This was not due to the quilting but must have occurred when marking the fabric...just sloppy marking as usual. This caused me several headaches...the rulers that I was using were no longer than 6in, hence this left a lot of room for additional error in terms of them slightly shifting while I went along. I cannot tell you how many times I re-stitched those lines! In the end, after several unsuccessful attempts it occurred to me that I needed a bigger ruler that went down the length of my line if I had to have any chance at getting it to come out square. In addition, I found that those little stable tape blobs for those rulers did not do the trick in terms of holding your ruler in place.

So, I used my normal ruler (yep, gasp!). After inspection, I determined that my normal ruler was really only a smidgen higher than the Westalee rulers...as I was not going to do anything else but stitch a straight line, I thought that this would be alright...next thing I tackled the movement. The stable tape that is sold through Westalee is adhesive on one side so that you can stick it on your ruler, but apart from that is exactly what I have in my kitchen draws from keeping the cutlery from sliding all over. So, this is what I did...I cut a piece the length of the ruler and put it on my quilt...the stuff is pretty sticky even without the adhesive. I then placed my ruler onto it, adjusting the way I placed it until I was sure everything was aligned and straight (which in itself was a nightmare).
This is what this looked like. Clumsy...time consuming...yes, absolutely! But I was getting desperate, as there was no way to re-mark the lines on the quilted piece and the only way to achieve a square was with a ruler. I spent most of my time aligning, the stitching was no issue...the foot produces a very straight and tidy stitch (not one skipped stitch!). In the end, I got there and was able to stitch the 1/4in echo with a bit more ease once I had the first line down.
This was such a relief. Then I tackled the next section. In my initial enthusiasm I had decided to do an orange peel design using the Westalee clamshell template to speed up the process. After the lines I was dreading this a bit, but stuck with it as there is no other way to learn than to do it! Well, first issue was that my piece was shrinking from the quilting, hence my nicely worked out measurements of how many clamshells I would fit into that section obviously no longer worked out exactly. Oh, wow, you have to laugh...so, fudging was the name of the game! This was an interesting experience...ruler in one hand, sticky material on the quilt, going snail pace with the stitching, I went around the border. As you are stitching on the outside of a curve, I had to really concentrate not to stitch away from the template while at the same time observing the markings of the center of the template and where the clamshells meet. To my huge surprise, the fudging was easy...I made myself a mark on each high point of the clamshell and then shifted the template ever so slightly to reduce its width on a few selected ones and this worked out fine. In fact, it looks really good

You just cannot achieve that level of evenness in the curves by doing this freehand. I forgot to take a photo of the completed orange peel design...obviously I went around it another time in the reverse which produced the design and this turned out to be super easy by aligning the stitched clamshells to the template. So, overall the clamshell experience was much easier than the lines.

Will show you a photo of the progress the next time because no doubt there is going to be another major issue to be tackled...I have got more lines coming up and I am not sure how straight they are...we shall see.


Karin

Thursday, 6 April 2017

2017 Finish Along Second Quarter Goal List


Finish-A-Long 2017


My list for the second quarter is very small and includes the following:

#1 Wholecloth
Ready to start, the design process took forever
Starting the marking only to decide that I needed to re-draw some aspects of my design...just was not happy with it and another one of those times when I thought that you should never rush this process. Starting from scratch...

#2 Thousand Pyramids quilt
Absolutely no progress made on that one in the first quarter, so hoping to at least complete a few more units in the 3 months period


Well, I actually doubt that I will be able to finish any of this, but here is hoping that I will have done most of the Wholecloth and maybe some more of those triangle units.

Linking up to Eleven Garden Quilts with my list. The linky will be open until the 8/4/17 and the Finishes linky opens on 25/6/17.


Karin