Friday, June 25, 2010

A New Endeavour

I have had an informal part time hobby/business quilting for others the last couple years. I do all of my quilting on my Bernina home machine. Over the past year I have been thinking about starting a more formal machine quilting business and investing in a long arm machine. The time seemed right and I took the plunge. The new machine was delivered this past week and after much reading, watching video, and practice on some scrap yardage it was time to start a real quilt today.

I must say I have a lot of respect for long arm quilters, this is hard work. It has taken me all afternoon and evening to load the quilt, set up the pantograph, clean the blood out of the canvas leaders (from pinning my finger instead of the quilt top), and actually get started quilting.

My DH has helped set up the most wonderful room for my quilting. The lower level of our house has not been used since the kids have grown. We got rid of family room furniture and hung up quilts on those empty wall, DH replaced the ceiling lights with 96 inch fluorescent lights - I could suntan under these lights.
My little buddy, Jasper, has been guarding the doorway (sort of) all evening, wondering when I am going to come back upstairs.

Happy Stitching All...


Friday, June 18, 2010

From Bad Luck Quilt to a Blue Ribbon

Yea! My quilt entry in the Omaha Quilter's Guild show won a blue ribbon.

This is a red and green applique quilt, 4 blocks, a coxcomb design. I did the applique with machine blanket stitch and quilted it on my sewing machine. It is 82 X 82 inches. I saw an antique quilt on the International Quilt Study Center website from the 1840 - 1860 time period that I really liked. It was the inspiration for this quilt. I have been working on this quilt for several years and it has a rather unlucky history (or as I have referred to it often to my quilt friends, the quilt from hell).

This is the second set of fabric for this quilt, lesson one - purchase fabric for applique that is dyed front and back. The first red was just dyed on the front, white on the back, and it would get white "runs" just like a stocking while doing the needle turn applique. First year sitting in the closet.

Second lesson learned - be careful when designing patterns yourself that they are truly symmetrical. I completely hand appliqued one whole block and when I hung it up it the four points were slightly tilted. Another year in the closet.

Lesson three and the very most difficult - quilt markings not washing out. With new fabric, tweaked pattern, and a switch to machine applique I finished the top and it turned out wonderful. I planned my quilting and worked very hard on it. Time to wash out the blue ultimate pounce pad feather pattern markings and they would not wash out!!! EEK this had never happened to me before, I had used the product before and could not figure out what happened. (I have since had trouble with a second quilt and this product not washing out -I will no longer use it.) I washed this quilt a dozen times, I used every suggestion I could find NOTHING worked. Another year in the closet.

Along came a final suggestion for removing quilt markings, hydrogen peroxide, I tried it and again nothing, I could still see the markings, so I washed the quilt - because it now smelled like a hospital-tossed it in the dryer, and back in the closet for a few more months.

Just before Christmas a friend wanted to see this quilt I could not get the marks out of and when I pulled it out of the closet and looked at it - miracles of miracles - the marking were gone I had never looked at it after the last washing. So, Yea, a quilt entry for this summers show. I added a little more quilting in the border and put the binding on.

Now here is where it became the quilt from hell. After the binding was on I dampened it and was going to lay it out and pin it on the carpet to sort of block it nice and square. In crawling around stretching and pinning I poked my knee on a pin and got blood all over the quilt - ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!! I did not notice this until I had spots of blood over two sides of the quilt. Back into the washing machine it goes.

When the quilt came out of the washer my husband had set up some wood tables and old counter top so I would not have to crawl around the floor. We stretched the quilt out on the table top and since I could now not pin it flat into carpet, we used large binder clips from the office store and clipped it to the edges of the table. We went to bed that night to let it dry, it was looking good.

Next morning I got up, removed the clips and NOT AGAIN!, REALLY? ARE YOU KIDDING ME!...the clips had left rust marks on the quilt. I absolutely gave up thinking this quilt is just not meant to be shown. It almost went in the trash, but DH to the rescue again, he found on the internet that lemon juice removes rust from fabric. He went to the store, bought three lemons and we went to work on markings on this quilt yet again. The lemons did take the rust marks out, but all the edges of the quilt were yellow from the lemon juice so into the washer it goes for one final time.

After several years and lessons learned, I did not give up on this quilt, and the blue ribbon is the result. YEA!!

Happy Stitching All...


Friday, June 11, 2010

Pitfalls and Pearls of Blanket Stitch Applique

I like all applique and have tried several different techniques but my two favorites are: back basting with needle turn applique for a hand project and by machine, blanket stitch over a raw edge. A friend asked if I would post on how I do my blanket stitch applique. There are several wonderful books and teachers on blanket stitch applique (one of my favorites is Sue Nickels and Pat Holly's Stitched Raw Edge Applique) if you are completely new to this technique. In the past I thought blanket stitch applique was for quilts with primitive or folksy design applique elements or baby and children's quilts. I have changed my opinion, however, and am currently using this technique on my Ladies of the Sea (pattern by Sue Garman) album quilt. So here, in no particular order, are some tips for blanket stitch machine applique:

*For every project I am going to work on I make a stitch recipe swatch out of the fabrics in the quilt. I try a couple different stitch lengths and stitch widths and mark the one I am going to use along with the thread and the needle size so I know just how to set my machine when I return to a project.

*Know your particular sewing machine's blanket stitch. I have a Bernina and the blanket stitch has three steps: one forward straight stitch, a stitch to the right, and a stitch back to the straight stitch line. If I change my machine from blanket stitch to straight stitch when I return to the blanket stitch it ALWAYS starts with the one forward straight stitch. This is important when I am coming to a turn or a point on a leaf: if I am not going to land on the point or corner I press the straight stitch button and return right back to the blanket stitch button and it gives me one extra stitch forward. On my particular machine this is just a touch of a button and I do this back and forth often while I am appliqueing.

*There are 5 little tools I keep right by my machine while sewing: scissors, seam ripper, needle threader, a large eye needle, and a tweezers.

When I start an applique piece I straight stitch 4 or 5 stitches set on a short stitch length then I start the button hole stitch. After I have stitched a little ways I reach under the piece and pull my top thread to the back (using the seam ripper and tweezers to loosen that first stitch and pull the top thread back). When I get back around to the beginning of my blanket stitching I again switch to straight stitch and stitch 4 or 5 short stitches -over the previously stitched blanket stitch. I then pull the ending stitch to the back of the work and tie the bottom and top threads in a double knot, thread a needle and bring the tails under 3 or 4 blanket stitches on the back.
This sounds like a lot of fussy work and it is, but it keeps the back of the work very neat and you have no thread tails that show thru to the front of your quilt.

* I set my straight stitch to start and end an applique section with a short stitch length and one needle position to the right. This puts the stitch on the background fabric right next to the edge of the applique fabric. This is also where the straight stitch of the blanket stitch is (one needle position to the right). I will sometimes travel for a short distance with a straight stitch over a section of previously stitched blanket stitch to avoid a start and stop. If you enlarge the picture there is green straight stitching next to the brown thread of the stem.

*When blanket stitching a curve keep the applique straight ahead of the needle:

The orange on the left picture is lined up the one on the right will give slanted stitches.

*Turn your work while on the straight stitch part of the blanket stitch not the perpendicular stitch to the left or you will have an open blanket stitch.

*When appliqueing leaves or anything with a point, I will skip a blanket stitch and add a straight stitch approaching the point

When I am right at the point I will do a longer blanket stitch to the left and then another extra straight stitch leaving the point before resuming the regular blanket stitch. (Sometimes even 2 short stitches to hit the point correctly) Remember when you are sitting on the point the stitch will come straight over to the left. In the above picture I am pointing to the point on the machine foot where that stitch will hit - know where it is on your machine and have that positioned where you want it to be on the point of your applique piece.
*I use two products for my applique adhesive: Heat and Bond Lite and Steam A Seam 2.

The Heat and Bond is less expensive but a little heavier. I usually trim the inside of the traced applique piece away and only leave 1/4 inch of the adhesive around the edge of the applique piece. (sometimes called windowing)

The Steam A Seam 2 is my favorite product, very lite weight and repositionable before the final ironing to stick it down to the background.

*Lay out your applique pieces on the bias of the fabric as much as possible for less fray. I also spray starch the applique fabric before I cut it out. I really have no problems with fraying before or after the quilt is appliqued.

*When I was beginning I used black thread for most of my blanket stitch applique and I still like the look of a black outline on some pieces. The big advantage of black thread is if you miss a stitch on a point or corner you can just draw it in with a black pigma pen : ) On my album quilt I am using a variegated thread, I like Superior Thread's Rainbows because the color change is every inch. variegated thread save a lot on thread costs because it blends in with a lot of fabrics.

Well, this is a long post, I hope some of these tips have helped, I truly enjoy this method of applique and the finished project looks wonderful.

Happy Stitching all...


Friday, June 4, 2010

Clematis are Blooming

What a difference a week makes, last week I could not stand to look out my back door, the trees were making such a mess with the seed dropping going on. This week the pool is open (albeit a slight tinge of green going on - still need to work on that today), the roses I planted this spring are learning to grow up the trellis, and the clematis is blooming. I love clematis, they are so pretty in our area and you see a lot of color varieties. It has taken me a couple years to get this one established, even when the petals drop off I think the center dried bud is just gorgeous.

Another block is completed on the CWBQ, the peacocks. They were fun and I loved the green and blue bird colors. I think the birds are really the stars of this quilt. The next block I do with birds I am going to try ultrasuede for the feet, no turning under seam allowance with that. I am currently working on the bride block and she is coming along nicely. I could spend my whole day off just sitting outside with my feet in the pool working on this quilt. However, that slighty green water would spoil the view, so guess I will go mess with pool chemicals and vacuums.

Happy Stitching All...