Timing is Everything

March 23rd, 2013

I was at a meeting of the Machine Embroidery Guild of Toledo recently and one of our members did a presentation on needles.  She talked about a needle I’d never seen before and it was called the Spring Needle.  Here’s an image of what the spring needle by Schmetz looks like:

spring needle

This needle enables you to do free motion work without any foot at all.  It sounded like a handy thing to have around and I left the meeting thinking I needed to try one of these out but I didn’t really have a particular need for one.

Two days later, I was quilting a border area on a quilt and I had divided the border into “zones” where one design would be in one area but another design would be in an adjacent area.  One design I did was a version of McTavishing I do where there is a heavy emphasis on swirls:



I started to quilt the adjacent area and quickly realized I really could not see where I needed to stitch, as part of the design required me to stitch backwards.  This photo of my darning foot illustrates how it just is in the way of my field of vision:



Enter my new spring needle!  In this photo, you can see that I’ve removed my darning foot and regular needle and replaced them both with a spring needle:



…and you can improve your visual field even better if you remove the ankle, although it’s not necessary:



…and here’s a shot of what it looks like as the fabric has been pierced.  You can see that this compresses the spring.  To me, this setup made me think of the hopping foot that you see on longarm machines.  The needle worked great for me and I highly endorse this product.  It’s not something I’ll use every time I quilt, but it’s a really nice too to have on hand if you need better visibility or if you are working around bulky objects and the free motion foot would have trouble with them.  Here’s a shot of the alternating border design:




If you’re interested in trying one, you can find them here.



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A Quickie and Some Class room Photos

March 11th, 2013

One of the things I learned when I started teaching is that it’s sometimes a challenge to impart the information/skills to the class while you’re also working on a quilting project.  Many of my classes are “technique” classes where we make absolutely nothing but learn a skill.  I’ve found, however, that students frequently want to make something tangible in the class.  It can sometimes get tricky trying to come up with a project that’s small enough that it’s largely do-able in the class, or at least the technique one is trying to teach is do-able within the class time period.  This was my challenge last week when I came up with  a quick quilted wall hanging for a new class:



(Sorry about the lousy photo.)  This class is really to learn how to stitch an easy split design in machine embroidery applique.  I had a fun time quilting it.  I used a soy batting which is incredibly soft and shows up the quilted texture very well, but it’s so soft that if I use it again, it will be the top layer with a different batting as a base.  (I say that because this batting is so soft that it has no “umph” to it and I need the batting to add some structure to the piece.)  The center section is just quilted with swirls:



(Of course, this was done after I’d done all my stitching in the ditch and also had outlined all the applique shapes with invisible thread.)  The floral  blue/green fabric zone was stitched with a pair of splayed feathers.  This look always looks pretty swish but it’s easier than you’d think.  I began by marking mirror image spine guidelines in soap, and I marked the same curves on the opposite side but they are facing in the opposite direction:



Next, I stitched the feathers and I used Accent Rayon Thread by Wonderfil.  I chose this because it’s a very heavy 12-weight thread so I knew it would really show up:



This is what it looked like once both sides of the inner horizontal borders were stitched:



I next quilted “continuous capsules” in the light green border zones (sorry for the name, but that’s what they look like to me!):



…and then I quilted the ribbon candy design in the outer vertical borders:



I couldn’t help myself…I had to go back in and add some hyperquilting inside the feather plumes with gold rayon thread.  You can see how much it adds by looking at this shot where the feather is only partially hyperquilted:



This class is one of the classes I’ll offer next month in out new classroom-full details coming soon. Ernie took some pictures of the new classromm but we can’t really get it all in one photo so here are few shots:


I tried to put in features that I really appreciate in a classroom, like adjustable height chairs on casters and heavy tables to reduce the vibration of machines. It’s hard to get a perspective, but right behind the classroom is a lot of our fabric. Notice the long cutting tables so close by…how convenient!


There are lots of colorful quilts hanging down on the classroom from above:


…and here’s a shot of part of the classroom from halfway up the stairs:


Hope you’ll join us for a class someday!

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I Love Free Motion Quilting and Some Exciting News!

March 5th, 2013

My time to FMQ over the last couple of months has been very fragmented but I got some really nice blocks of time to quilt last week and it really made me fall in love again with FMQ!  I’m still plugging away on that blue floral quilt and I wanted to do something different in the centers of the large 4-patch blocks.  I began by tracing arcs in the center sections like this:


…and then I used a different edge to trace an inner arc inside each melon shape:


I then stitched the traced lines in a light orange thread:


In truth, I’m not wildly happy with these stitched lines (notice the wobbliness, especially in the bottom lines) but that will come with more practice.  I’m not so great at following traced lines and I clearly need some work!  Next up, I filled the horizontal internal mellon shapes with an undulating inch worm-kind of design:


…and then I added the same design in the vertical internal melons:


I was really wanting to quilt that narrow yellow border, so I did that section next.  Look at the cool texture it created:


Here’s a closeup of that yellow border design.  It looks complex but is very quick/easy to do.  You stitch that undulating inch worm design in one direction and then just turn around and stitch it in the opposite direction:


And last but not least, I went in and did a background fill design inside the large blue blocks.  (I had done all the stitch in the ditch quilting and stitching around the perimeter of the applique shapes before I did anything else.)  You can see the marvelous texture developing here:


These pictures don’t do the colors of the quilt justice as I had to shoot them all without lighting in order to show the texture.  All I can say is that I am really liking this quilt better the more time I’m spending with it!

Sooooo, you may be wondering what this exciting news is….I had told myself that I wouldn’t put anything about this on my blog until it was all ready to go, but Nikki, Ernie and I have been busy creating a really nice classroom at PTD headquarters!  It’s taking longer than planned because we keep moving things around and we’re still moving things!  It’s become such an incredible space to learn, be inspired by color/shape/design whatever, that I can’t keep this secret any longer! I am promising myself to snap some pictures this week, even though it may get re-arranged again!  For now, know that this will be a wonderfully comfortable space to learn/be stimulated/meet quilting buddies and we will hopefully begin classes next month. If you’re anywhere near northwest OH, please think of  spending some time with us.   Pictures to follow, hopefully by the end of the week…


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