Sunday, October 26, 2014

It's all about the foot!

I had a major ah-ha moment last night.  I'm quilting this at the moment.

Originally, I wanted to hand quilt it.  I chose some Warm & Natural cotton batting because I thought it was a good choice for hand quilting.  I took the quilt top, batting and backing to a longarm quilter to be basted so that I could manhandle the quilt during the hand quilting process without the basting taking a beating.

I wanted to go with this swirly stencil pattern on the quilt:

but after some advice from an online hand quilting group I decided that was too ambitious and that a simple outline quilting pattern would be better.  And so I begun.  After one block I realized this was a mistake.  I should have done better research on my batting.  It was not the 'smooth as butter' experience I had heard about from other quilters.  It was like pulling a needle through concrete.  No way.  Not doing it.  Too much pain and frustration and that's not the goal!  I decided that I would machine quilt this one and enjoy the hand quilting process on another simple pattern with less intersections and humps and bumps.
I started stitching in the ditch but the walking foot wasn't happy.  And I wasn't happy.  I didn't want a frustrating experience.  When all was said and done I decided that a simple meander is what I was going to do.  The pattern is so busy that I didn't want anything to detract from the colours and the block interplay.

So I removed the walking foot, dropped the feed dogs on the machine and added this closed toe darning foot:

See the bottom hole is totally enclosed and metal?  Well this is what I use for standard free motion quilting (FMQ) so I assumed this would be the ticket!  Nope.  It was another exercise in frustration.  It kept stopping at the intersections and my quilting was inconsistent because I felt like I was forcing the foot over the humps.  Argh!  What's a girl to do!!??  I thought a couple of times when frustrated that I should have just had it long arm quilted and called it done.  Quilted by cheque!

And then I had a thought...what if I switched to my other FMQ foot that came as a basic tool with my machine (Janome 6500).

The difference was immediately noticeable!!  The plastic foot hopped right over the seams so much better than the metal small circle closed toed foot.  I can't believe it took me that long to figure it out.  Maybe it's obvious to everyone else but the penny sure dropped for me at that moment.

Here's my quilt under the foot:

You can see the long arm basting stitches more than you can see my free motion stitches but here is a picture of the quilt using the closed toed metal foot and I can see the difference in the flow of the meander stitches.  These look jerky to me, not rolling and smooth like mine normally do.

You can see how the thread I chose doesn't stand out very much and that's what I wanted.  I chose Superior Bottom Line in a light grey.  I've learned this year that grey thread is a good choice for a disappearing act on the front of the quilt.

I'm almost done quilting this top.  I was working on the borders last night which were a different quilting pattern.  I'll upload more pictures when the quilt is finished.  I'm going to have to go and cut some binding because soon enough this baby will be on my lap for the final touches...hand binding, which I truly do enjoy.

As for my hand quilting, I need to do more research on the best batting to use.  I've heard that poly is the best which is encouraging news because it's also cheaper than Warm & Natural.

I've learned some valuable lessons on this project.  Assess your tools!  Assess your batting.  Don't make assumptions.  Do your research.

I'm about to go online and find what I can on this foot because this whole exercise in choosing feet has made me think about the untapped potential of my tools.

I've got one of those in the package of feet and have never used it.  Maybe I'll learn something new today too!

Happy Sunday everyone!  Until next time,


Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Hexie Bug Has Bitten

I'm not usually what is called a "late adopter" in the behavioural science arena, but there have been a few times where I've pondered, and pondered again, and resisted starting projects that everyone seems to be on the bandwagon of.  I've preferred to stay with my current projects, leaning towards scrappy quilting but enjoying a variety of styles and methods, and not adding yet another new project to the pile.

The Accuquilt GO cutter was one of those things I resisted thinking it was just a gimmick (and yes now I have one and love it!).  English Paper Pieced Hexies is another one, and Dear Jane quilts yet another.  While I am still firmly entrenched in the "I'll never do a Dear Jane Quilt" camp, I am now among the thousands of people worldwide who are working on a hexie project.

By way of background...I am the proud owner of this antique quilt:

I think this was the beginning of my love affair with the hexagon.  I found this one in an antique mall in North Carolina. I cherish it.  It is all hand pieced, hand quilted and threadbare in places.

My next foray into hexagons was this quilt which is an original design:

And then a One Block Wonder which I started in 2013 at a Retreat but not yet finished:

And my Wild Child quilt:

Seeing a common theme?  All of the hexagon quilts so far are done by machine.  I guess I just never considered that I would have the time or patience to work on a hand sewn quilt project of that magnitude.

But then, in a twinkle of an eye, and more to do with the fact that I'm awaiting hip surgery and needing a sanity project not requiring a sewing machine during recovery, I converted.

It also has to do with the fact that I love the thought of slowing down and enjoying the rhythm of contemplative sewing.  Keeping my hands busy somehow releases my mind and heart.  I get some of my best insights while doing something else, be it driving, walking (when I could walk more than a block) or sewing.  It's just the way I'm wired.  And I'm good with that.

Here is the quilt that captivated me enough to consider the EPP (English Paper Piecing) hexie world:
Grit has offered this pattern free of charge on her blog:  La Passion Hexagon Quilt and it is nothing short of amazing.  And there is a facebook group where there is all the inspiration you could every need or desire:

I love Grit's blue and green but decided for my colours to use lots of different ones to look like a mosaic tile floor.  My idea was inspired by this hexie project by Brigitte Schlomer of Germany.  I saw hers on the facebook page.

There are as many approaches to hexie quilting as there are hexie quilts (ok maybe not THAT many approaches but you get my idea!).  So I asked my friends, as some of them will be doing La Passion as well.  My friend Kelli suggested buying the Fiskars hexagon punch because buying the papers is extremely cost prohibitive.  $7 for 100 around here and there are 17,250 hexagons (I think that's what Grit counted) in this quilt.  You do the math.  Can't afford to spend that much on just the hexagon papers.  I'd rather spend it on fabric.

Back to tools.  Then I saw this:

Pure genius!  Way to go Accuquilt!!  The top six hexagons on this die are for cardstock (2 stacks at a time) and the bottom six are for fabric.  And bonus - the top six hexagons are the exact size of business cards, so if you have any outdated business cards, that you've already paid for (!!!) then the paper is basically free.  And that is cool.

I think I prefer the Fiskars punch for the papers when you are doing a bunch to make a I did for a recent trip.  In fact, I cut two kits, one for me and the bigger size for my sister, who I am trying to get hooked on this as well (mission accomplished by the way).

Here are a few photos of my progress to date:

Cutting the bigger hexagons from card stock for my sister's kit

The centre starting point of my quilt

Oh so much fun!!  I did these individual flowers before attaching them to the centre piece.  Most of these were done on a flight home from the East coast of Canada to the West coast where I live.

I know it's a huge project and yes, it's quite daunting but this is a project with no deadline.  If it takes my entire remaining lifetime to get it done, then so be it!  Then what will remain is an heirloom for family and that's what's important to me.   Kinda of like the antique quilt I bought in North Carolina, maybe someday someone will have mine after I'm gone and will cherish it as much as I cherish the one I found.

Until next time,


Sisterly love...

My sister loves my hobby.  And I love my sister.

Last year she asked me if I would make her a quilt for her bed.  She has a king sized bed.  We talked about designs; we talked about colour. She wanted shabby chic and she wanted something traditional.  "How about a log cabin?", I suggested.

I played in EQ7 (Electric Quilt design software) to give her somewhat of a visual of what I was thinking (top right block is turned the wrong way in this diagram but this will give you an idea of what I was trying to accomplish).  She loved this one.

Then the journey began:

A little shopping!  I started at The Cloth Shop in Vancouver at Granville Island where I found some fat quarters.  What a wonderful day that was.  My son was at the medical day unit at Children's Hospital for the day so I decided I would walk down to Granville Island (with that store in mind of course) and then I took a taxi back to the hospital before we headed back to Victoria.  Sometime thereafter I ended up getting more of the shabby chic fabrics from Satin Moon Quilted Garden.  I did use some stash as well.  The scrappier the quilt the more charming, I think. Even though I used yardage I really tried to mix up the colours to provide a scrappy feel.

I used the Accuquilt Log Cabin die for cutting and I LOVE IT!  It reduced the cutting time by a big chunk and saved my shoulder from a lot of pain from too much rotary cutting. 

The logs are 1 1/2" wide and I used all of the logs except the longest one.  I set those ones aside  in the event that I needed a few shorter logs that could be subcut as needed to complete my blocks with enough colour variety.

And now for some sewing...I used my treasured featherweight for piecing.

This quilt took me a few months from start to finish with one interruption to work on a wedding quilt with a deadline in July.  But when all was said and done, I surprised myself at how quickly this quilt went together.  I know I gained some valuable time by using the Accuquilt die for cutting the fabric.  Chain piecing helped too.  I sewed inside.  I sewed outside.  I used my clothesline as a design wall (that was a fun day) as I put my rows together.

Once the top was done I sent this quilt out for long arm quilting by Theresa Harbidge and then it was back to me for binding.  I love the binding process.  I just have a label to do and then it will be off to my sister.

Ta da!!

I love my hobby too, because it allows me to give gifts of love to others. There you go little sister!  All yours!

Until next time,