Tuesday, January 31, 2012

They're Back!!!!

Jaye over at Artquiltmaker, is still posting weekly prompt words, I think this might be close to three full years already (now that is dedication!!!) Thanks Jaye!
At first, I kept up my responses in the form of doodles with fair regularity, but have to admit, I have not given the Creative Prompt Project my attention for a very long time. I thought it was time to pick up my pen and get back to a bit of doodling.
So this is my response to #122 Dress........The dress form was an important tool during my time as a Dressmaker/Designerand for #140 Birthday.....(which was actually the prompt word given within a couple of days of my own Birthday) I drew these Balloons.While I have no plans to try to "catch-up"on all the prompts I have missed, I will try to get back to playing along.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Machine Quilting.....Starts and Stops

One of the first things we covered at the machine quilting workshop on Saturday, was how to start and stop your stitching. What I showed at the time, was how to simply begin and end with very tiny stitches, but while this is effective, it is not the best method.
I think the best method is done in such a way so that you (or judges) can NOT detect where your starts and stops are, AND that your stitches are absolutely locked and will not come out. This of course is also the most time consuming way to do it.You will begin as always by taking 1 stitch and bringing your bobbin thread to the surface, hold the tails in your left hand and begin stitching.Now you want to separate these two threads and then tie a knot, lay that knot right tight against your work......then do it once again.....you have now knotted these threads twice, below is a close up of the first knot as it was being pulled tight.Next you will thread a needle.........one with a larger eye and a needle threader helps or you can use a self threading needle if you prefer. (both thread tails are threaded into the eye together)The next step is to insert your threaded needle into the quilt right where that first stitch was taken, carefully slip the needle into the batting/quilt middle only, bring it out about an inch and a half away, give it a gentle tug to cause the knots to "pop" into the quilt and then you can clip your threads closely
To do this method in areas where you have ended your stitching, you will first need to thread a needle with your bobbin thread so that you can bring it to the top....now that both threads are on top you simply repeat the knotting/threading/burying process.
and there you have it, yes it requires a little effort but your starts and stops will be secure and undetectable.

Edit:  Just a note about dealing with your threads at the end of a stitch line....there is a way to do it at the machine, without threading a hand sewing needle....I do it this way but a commenter Rebecca Grace has described the process perfectly so I will use her words

Rebecca says... when you get to the ending, there IS a way to bring up the bobbin thread without using a hand needle. When you finish the line of stitching, DON'T clip threads, but just raise the presser foot and pull the quilt a few inches to the side. Then move the quilt back where it was, holding onto the loop of excess thread on the top of the quilt, lower the needle into the hole of the last stitch and bring it up again. Give a little tug on the loop of top thread, and the bobbin thread will pop up just as it does when you were starting out.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Workshop refresher

This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of conducting a machine quilting workshop. The ladies in attendance (all members of The London Friendship Quilters' Guild) came with great attitudes, eager to soak up everything I had to share. The current skill level of these ladies ranged from the absolute beginner to fairly accomplished quilters, so I tried to cover as much as I could in the time we had and because of this, I am well aware that it may have been difficult to absorb, digest, and remember all of it. I thought a post touching on some of what was covered would make a great spot for them all to come to for future reference and perhaps there will be some tips you can use as well.

We started with a basic primer on proper quilt preparation, talked about having the backing be slightly larger than the batting and the batting being larger than the quilt top. This allows for shrinkage or minor distortion that can happen with all the stitching and gives you a place to "hang"on to your quilt while moving it through the machine, especially as you work near those outer edges. I tried to emphasize the importance of always working from the center out.
We discussed basting with pins and with thread, we talked about posture at the machine and about providing proper support to the quilt as it is moved through the machine. Everyone was given a little card with a checklist to keep beside their machines at home to help them remember the simple steps to going from regular sewing to a free motion sewing set up.I covered some methods for marking and explained how to use a variety of marking tools. I want to point out that you should always test any marking tool you choose to use on each and every project, to be certain everything is working as it should, and that you will be able to remove the markings satisfactorily.
Almost all of the products shown in this post are likely easily found at your local quilt shop.

I LOVE this white ink pen by Clover.....it flows nicely, gives a smooth, consistent thin line on dark fabrics, and it doesn't go away until you use heat from your iron.
These chalk pencils are made for quilting by General's, they are super easy to use, glide on smoothly and can be removed just by giving the marking a good rub. That little red tool you see on the right is a marker with a tiny little wheel that dispenses a fine line of chalk, it is wonderful for marking grids or just simple guidelines for things like free motion feathers.Below,on the left, you see my absolute favourite pencil, it is another product made by General's and unlike the other tools I am showing, is not made for quilting, you find these at craft and art supply stores. They are called Sketch n' Wash (use a light hand with them) they mark easily and will wash out. On the right is the old standard wash out blue pen, and while they do wash out, you need to be very careful to be absolutely certain you have removed the ink before it ever gets near your iron.........if you iron this ink it will NOT come out.I also demonstrated using a pounce pad with stencils, the chalk is available in white or blue and can be purchased in forms that simply rub off or remain until they are removed with the use of an iron.
Here are my favourite needles for thread basting a quilt. I put a bit of emphasis on the use of quilting gloves (they are a must have for the machine quilter) but you can even use gardening gloves.........just be sure you have a good snug fit. We talked about different types of quilting feet, you will want to visit your machine dealer to find what will work for your machine.
We looked at using stencils, both purchased and ones you can make yourself as well as super simple ways to create shapes from cardboard (you can just trace around) or freezer paper (a quick press holds it in place, stitch around the shape, peel it off and stick in in another spot, repeat the process. I also tried to give a few tips on planning how you will tackle the quilting, having the layout and even the individual blocks on paper allows you to do a little auditioning and is a great way to help you see what your finished quilt might look like with your choice of stitching.While I did spend time at my machine demonstrating a variety of stitch patterns, I also brought with me some "training" samples. These are nothing more than quilt sandwiches with stitch lines drawn using permanent ink........by removing the thread from their machines, workshop attendees were able to sit and get a hands on feel for the smooth rhythmic movement each stitch might require. I thought this might be a valuable learning tool as it can be used over and over. Even though you are not using thread you can see where you stitched by the holes left by the needle, give it a rub, the holes disappear and you can try it again! I did show how to stitch with out any guidelines but I think for those just starting out, having a line to follow is helpful. In the second of the photos below I had drawn the complete pattern at the top and just the grid at the bottom, once you get the hang of the movement you can thread up and stitch the pattern using the grid only.
One of the most important tips I can give about following a line to stitch, is the need to look ahead, in other words, have your eyes focused on the line where you intend to go (not on the needle) if you look at where you want to go, the machine will follow. One of the gals in attendance had a great analogy for this..........she said "it is just like driving your car.........you don't look at the steering wheel or the front end of your vehicle, you look ahead in the road to where you are going." Wonderful advice!!!

and the MOST important tip of all is, practice, practice and more PRACTICE! We all want to be able to achieve nice even stitches, smooth, beautifully flowing thread lines, we want to have a whole repertoire of lovely designs that we can apply to our quilts but like any other skill, it takes time, patience and oh, did I mention practice?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Do you like puzzles?

I LOVE puzzles. Sometimes I see something and I just HAVE to figure out how it was done. This was the case last week, when at guild, I saw a quilt that was made using a Japanese folded fabric technique. As I got an up close look at it I immediately recognized that it was basically a cathedral windows sort of thing but done using circles instead of squares.............well I became obsessed with figuring out how to do it. Will I make a quilt using this technique? No, not likely, but I do love the effect and now that I have a few samples created, I'll file it away in case I do want to use it one day.
So with the templates I created, I made a few pieces that when arranged and rearranged can make an amazing amount of varied designs.............and keep in mind that because this uses a "quilt as you go" method, these become a completely reversible finished quilt with designs on both sides when all stitched together.

Below are just a few examples of what can be achieved using just 4 of the five pieces you see in the top photo............. oh the possibilities!!!!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Samples and something different

I have been asked by my guild, to conduct a machine quilting workshop, I did one a few years ago and it was actually a lot of fun. Workshop day is fast approaching and I understand that quilters of all skill levels have signed up, so I have been busy working on getting prepared for it, as I hope to have something of interest for all. (from beginner to the more experienced) Maybe some cool tips and tricks to share.
This workshop benefits our outreach program, instead of having to "pay" to attend, participants will work on and complete quilts destined to be given to children at the Children's Aid Society.

............and now for something completely different.........A couple of months ago, I picked up this cute little loom at a vintage/antique/nostalgia show. I have no idea what I am doing, but am always intrigued to try something new. This is how I found it (actually is was folded flat in the box.) this little loom measures a mere 14" long by 11" wide by 11" tallLooks like someone had started to "warp" it with string, I removed that stuff and replaced it with about 4 yard lengths of this brightly coloured thread/yarn. I don't expect to be able to do much with this set-up, but I plan to have fun "experimenting" with possibilities. As you can see, I began doing a very basic weave to start with. I think it might be fun to try selvage edges, maybe some unconventional materials?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Working with Wool

This past October, while at the Creative Festival in Toronto, I picked up a little penny rug kit. I have wanted to try working with wool for a while but just had not gotten around to gathering the supplies. The kit contained everything I needed to get me going and I absolutely loved making this little piece. (it is about 11" across)
This, of course, has me now wanting to do something more substantial with wool, an idea has begun knocking about in my head so I am now collecting interesting threads, pearl cottons, silks and recently, at a thrift shop, I came across this full length (and at one time, very expensive) wool coat. It really had kind of outlived it's usefulness, as it did have a few holes and stains.....but it will be reborn.After a HOT bath, a ride in the dryer and lots of "un-sewing" here it is, now a pile of wool pieces, waiting for me to get started.
Copyright Jill Buckley