Friday 16 March 2018

Sewing with a Twist

No, I have not developed a new sewing technique. "Sewing with a Twist" is just the name I have given to this quilt because all of the fabrics used are sewing-themed and I used the Twister ruler to make it. 
It measures 40" x 48" and I plan to use it as a wallhanging in my sewing studio. However, it's not one of my favourite quilts. While I like a lot of the individual fabrics, over all, it's a rather ho-hum quilt. It lacks panache. It doesn't have that "wow" factor that I strive for in my quilts. It's certainly not as pretty as the Evening Snowfall quilt that currently hangs on the wall in my sewing studio.
Perhaps if I'd chosen a different fabric than the thimble fabric with the beige background as the first border, I might have been able to give it a little more zing. Unfortunately, I chose what was availabe at a price I was willing to pay. Later on, the fabric I used in the backing and binding was on sale 
and fabric from that line would have spiced it up considerably. Regardless, it's done. 
I actually started this quilt a few years ago. I don't exactly remember when. I bought the half layer cake of sewing-themed fabrics from Keepsake Quilting. It's the second one I purchased from them that I wasn't really pleased with the final quilt. The previous one was the Sweet Dreams quilt. It's certainly not Keepsake Quilting's fault. It's mine for how I chose to use them. I was aiming for smaller quilts, and so I didn't add much in the way of extra fabrics in either. If I had, I could have done something totally different and likely ended up with quilts with a lot more pizzazz. Note to self for future reference...
When I finished the quilt top, I decided to add a second border. Otherwise, it would have had all bias edges and that's not something I like to deal with if I can avoid. That's where the button fabric came in. I'm not sure where I picked this one up and I think it was only a fat quarter that I managed to squeeze enough fabric from for a narrow border. 
I've been having a Staycation the past couple of weeks, so I had time to get into the longarm studio to finally get this one quilted. I used a pantograph called Sewing Time, which features needles and spools of thread. 
It was actually a much less intense pantograph than the last few I've used. It took me just under 2 hours to do the quilting, but, of course, that was for a fairly small quilt. I knew I wanted to use black thread for the bobbin, but wasn't sure what to use for the top. I made a bold choice and quilted it in black. I've never done that before, but I think it worked.
After finishing up at the Longarm Studio and having lunch, I headed to Johnson's Sewing Centre to determine what to about my sewing machine situation. I still have the Janome Memory Craft 6000, which I inherited from my mother. 
It's a good, solid machine that will probably last me the rest of my life. I'll use it as my back-up sewing machine and maybe I'll set it up for my garment sewing machine. While I do little of that, it's nice to not have to fiddle with changing threads, needles, pressure feet, etc. when switching from piecing quilts to garment sewing. Besides, I hate being without a sewing machine when I take mine in for servicing. In my current situation, it can be a month before I get a chance to pick it up again. If I have two, I never have to do without. I took the Memory Craft 8000
in to Johnson's as the touchscreen was not responding consistently, if at all. This machine was given to me by a friend in late 1998 or early 1999. She had both this Janome and a Pfaff and decided she didn't need both. I tried to tell her that I already had the 6000, but she basically just said, "When are you coming to pick it up?" So I did. This machine came out in 1990 and was the first home computerized embroidery machine. Unfortunately, being that old, the part it requires is no longer available. The machine itself still works fine, but without a working touchscreen, I couldn't even switch to the ¼" stitch I need for piecing. What to do? Sadly, I surrendered it to the repairman to use for parts. I feel rather melancholy about it. It moved from Ontario to Alberta with me and has seen a lot of sewing and quilting in the nearly 20 years I've owned it. It saw me through my divorce, restarting my career and pursuing my degree. It saw my daughter go from a little girl to an adult and a mother. And the friend who gave it to me has passed away. Is it foolish to grieve over a sewing machine? Actually, I think I'm grieving over what it represents - a big period of my life, all the lives it's touched through my quilting and the life passages I've gone through during the time I owned it. And I miss my friend that gave it to me. She was such a sweet, thoughtful person and I am thankful for the privilege of having her in my life.
Having said all of that, somehow I'm having a hard time warming up to my brand new machine.
It's a Janome Horizon Memory Craft 8200 QCP Special Edition. It's a beautiful machine, but perhaps I should have allowed myself a grieving period before purchasing a new one. 😉 I think I'm just going through too many transitions in my life and having to learn a new sewing machine was probably one of the last things I needed right now. However, it's bought and I actually did the binding on the above quilt with this machine. It also came with a table, but I need to tidy up the sewing room a lot before I can set that up.
Down to 6 quilt tops that need to be quilted, but still lots of WIPs and UFOs as well.

Tuesday 13 March 2018

Chelsea Rose Bargello

This is a quilt of firsts: first bargello quilt completed, first jelly roll quilt completed (though I have 2 other jelly roll quilts in progress, one of which is a bargello, that I started before this one, but this was the first one finished), first scrappy border... And first blog post in over 2 months! It's not that I haven't had anything to say. It's just that I prefer to finish a project before I blog about it. And, aside from small projects like dishcloths and potholders, there's not been a whole lot of finishing going on around here. I counted and I actually had 8 quilt tops finished and ready for quilting. With this finish it's now down to 7, but as soon as I put the border on the Licorice Allsorts quilt, it will be back up to 8 again. It's not that I've lost my zest for longarm quilting. It's just that it's inconvenient and expensive. If I was content to finish all of my quilts with Bumpity or a similar, simple pantograph, I could have them quilted lickety split and not have to pay so much for longarm rental. The Chelsea Rose Bargello would have probably been done in under 2 hours. It's only a 50" x 60" quilt. But it took me 4 hours of quilting time, not including the time it took me to load and set up. That's because I wanted a "suitable" pantograph. When I chose the Abstract Rose
pantograph, I knew it would be challenging. Anyone who does machine quilting knows that for each of those points and tips, you have to bring the machine to a full stop - even if just for a fraction of a second - in order to make them sharp. So, the more points and corners a design has, the more labour intensive it will be. And this one has lots! While I was wholly sick of quilting this pantograph by the time I was done, the results are really beautiful.
I have to thank Denise Schillinger for such a stunning design.
I think if I was ever going to do a whole cloth quilt, this would be a design to consider. It almost seems a shame to use it on a pieced quilt where the quilting just disappears into the background. However, I don't feel like I'm in a hurry to use it on another quilt. My feet were really aching by the time I was finished. If only I had my own longarm quilting machine, I could work on my quilts an hour or two at a time. Or even half an hour. And I wouldn't have to worry about how much it was going to cost me when I use a more labour-intensive pantograph. That's a contributing factor in why I have so many quilt tops waiting to be quilted. For most of them I have chosen pantographs that are more "involved." 
I want to use Farm Tractor for the Deere Country quilt. Look at all that detail, and all of those points!
I chose Pine Bough for the Wintry Woods quilt: yikes - it's mostly points!
So I have been rather reluctant to book the time to finish these quilts. Another consideration is what happens if I can't finish it in a day? Or even in the time I have booked. At one studio where I rent, you have to book in 2-hour increments. What if I don't finish the quilt in the 4 or 6 hours I have booked, and someone else has booked the 2-hour increment after me? And what if I book 6 hours, and the quilt only takes me 4-1/2? I doubt that they will refund me for the remaining hour and a half? And what can I quilt in that remaining time? A table runner? I had actually booked 6 hours to complete the Bluenose II Pixel quilt, and it ended up taking me 7. Fortunately I started early enough in the day that I had time to finish and there was no one booked after me, so I could take the extra hour. That's why I prefer the other place: you only pay for the actual quilting time, and it's cheaper, though they did increase their hourly rate when they switched to a newer machine with a bigger throat space. 
And $25/hour is still $25/hour. And it's a shame that I end up paying as much to rent a longarm as I would to pay someone else to finish my quilts. And, even though thread and prewound bobbins are included in the rental price, I often end up buying my own because I'm not always happy with the selection. I'm fussy like that. 😉
In the case of this quilt, I bought both upper and lower threads, the two Glide threads on the right. The two Aurifil on the left were used to attach the binding. 
And on the subject of thread, I had a discussion regarding appropriate thread for longarm quilting with the repairman at the studio. Since he repairs these machines, I think it's safe to assume that he knows what he's talking about. Cotton, specifically King Tut cotton from Superior threads, is what he recommends. Not polyester. Hmm, my understanding of the rationale for using polyester is that the high speeds of a longarm quilting machine would result in the thread breaking more frequently when using cotton thread, but Rod (the repairman) didn't seem to think that should be an issue. If I ever get my own machine, I will have to experiment and find out. The interesting thing is that both studios where I rent offer Glide polyester as the thread included with the rentals, but Rod doesn't recommend that. He said that Glide is actually an embroidery thread, which I've been told before. Meanwhile, I purchased a Glide colour card, so that I can chose thread colours at home, for when I order online or when I don't want to drag fabric samples along with me when I shop in person. 
Now maybe I need to buy a King Tut colour card. But I already have Aurifil colour cards. And the repairman didn't seem at all familiar with Aurifil, confusing it with Wonderfil. So likely an Aurifl 40-weight cotton would be as good as a King Tut? As I said, if and when I get my own machine, I will do some experimenting. 
Speaking of machines, the bad news is the touchscreen on my Janome Memory Craft 8000 can not be replaced. The part is no longer available. It has been giving me trouble for a few months now - working inconsistently. Sometimes it would work fine and sometimes not at all. Following instructions I found online, I was able to recalibrate it and it worked fine for awhile. Then it started acting up again. Sometimes I could "trick" it into working again by switching it on and off and sometimes by just switching it off and leaving it for a while. But towards the end, the touchscreen wasn't even responding to the recalibration technique. And I ended up leaving the machine on constantly if I was working on a project. Turning the machine off, the machine would default to the basic straight stitch when I turned it back on, and I needed the touchscreen to change the stitch to move the needle for the ¼" stitch. I finally took it in for repairs and that's when I found out that the part is no longer available. I haven't had a chance to pick it up, or do anything about it. I wasn't planning on replacing it yet. My "machine" priority has been the longarm. I still have the Memory Craft 6000, which doesn't have a touch screen. It's fine for piecing, but I tried using it to embroider the quilt information on a couple of quilt backs, which is what I do instead of a label. Unfortunately, unlike the 8000, it doesn't have a viewing screen to see what I've entered so that I can tell if I've messed anything up. It also isn't consistent in spacing the letters.
Rather messy, isn't it? But I wasn't about to rip it all out and start over. The 6000 hasn't been serviced in a while because I haven't been using it, so hopefully a good servicing will make the lettering more consistent. But if I take it in for servicing, that will leave me machineless, except for a really cheap Omega that I don't have a ¼" foot for, and the little Janome I bought for my grandson. And that's really only suitable for children's sewing: can't change the pressure foot and only 1 speed. So, maybe it's time for a new sewing machine. The longarm will have to wait anyway, as I've got some other developments in my life, which I will likely discuss in a future post. 
Meanwhile, back to the Chelsea Rose Bargello quilt - 
I have long wanted to do a bargello quilt, though I didn't originally order the Boundless Chelsea Rose jelly roll for that purpose. I intended to use the strips as setting frames for focus fabrics, but decided that a lot of this fabric is too busy and would distract from the focus fabrics. I was planning on doing the bargello with a different jelly roll, but found that jelly roll lacked sufficient contrast, and I ended up using it to make the Licorice Allsorts quilt (look for that one in a future post). And so finally decided to use the Chelsea Rose fabric to make the bargello. Here's the MSQC video: 
I also bought the pattern because I really needed it for the cutting directions and layout. However, I should warn you if you plan on making this quilt that the strips for the contrasting fabric (the teal in my quilt) need to be cut 8½", not 9". Not sure how this escaped anyone's attention, but it says 9" in both the video and the print instructions. 
So now I can cross "Bargello" off my quilting bucket list (though, as I mentioned, I do have one more bargello WIP), and I can't say that I will be in a hurry to try it again. It's rather tedious. 
Mystery has given this one his seal of approval. And it will soon be off in the mail to my newest great niece. 
I'm hoping to get Where the Charming Roses Bloom quilted soon 
but feel hesitant because I intend to use the Abstract Rose pantograph again. It's 70" square and I calculate that it will take about 7 hours to quilt. 
Now for some dishcloth finishes:
Orange ones for my daughter
a couple in pink and a Celtic Knot one which I think will be rather useless because of all the open spaces in it
finished all of these from one Big Ball of Bernat Handicrafter Cotton
Christmas Pretty Posies
and a container to put them in
several Pretty Posies
I also finally finished a CAL (crochet along) from 2015, I Want That Bag. I should say that I finished the crocheting part. I still have a zillion ends to work in, and need to line the bag. Will post once all of that is finished.