Friday, 15 September 2017

Charity Quilt

Since buying the new machine I am attending a monthly HQ group in the city. Last time a lady attended from the Orange Tree Quilters, an affiliated group of the Quilter's Guild of South Australia who donate quilts to children in need in the community.
She brought a whole stack of quilt tops that needed quilting...perfect opportunity to just practice as I have no quilt tops at the moment, so I took a small log cabin quilt.
This is where the HQ Sweet 16 shines...after some joining of the batting and basting I finished this little quilt top in a day.
Given that the log cabins were made out of colourful scraps, I chose the 'Ikea 'design that adorned the little white fleece blanket that we once purchased at Ikea...a bit of a mix between meandering and quilting loops
This worked really well and my tension issues seem to have largely disappeared. I used a soft yellow Aurifil 50/2 on the top and a beige Aurifil 50/2 thread on the bottom for the centre of the quilt and a pink Aurifil thread for the pink border.
...and here is the back
This was really useful as practice... as you can imagine none of those fabric pieces were of the same quality and gave me a really good idea of how my tension was performing. Happy to report that I had no major issues with the tension. Still some adjustment issues in terms of how to place my quilt and how to move it around...still find it confusing that I don't have to scrunch it up as I have done for years, so some of my stitching is more clumsy than usual. 
The border was a bit of an adventure. I don't think that was 100% cotton and my tension was ever so slightly out, i.e. had little pokies here and there on top, but I just did not worry about that and just quilted a loop design in there to finish it off.
Looks great and does the job.

Was again surprised by the efficiency of the machine. Did the meander first, then quilted in-the-ditch with one of the rulers around the pink border, then basted the slightly uneven border in place and finished it off with the loop design. This took me about 5 - 6 hours and it was done. Impressed with that.

Will continue on my ruler quilt next as I will be getting the next monthly ruler from the HQ Ruler of the Month club this weekend.

Karin

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Handiquilter Ruler Club - The Slice Ruler

Practising ruler quilting on the Sweet 16

First ruler of the month - The Slice Ruler
My practice ruler quilt is made from charm squares so the finished square is 4 1/2in.


Perfect little ruler...lies well in your hand and is easy to flip around. Very handy for those 'easy' line designs which are just perfect for some quilts. The ruler gives you very precise and neat curves fitting neatly into the square. Still struggling with alignment somewhat but that is just a matter of practice.

Must say that I like the Handiquilter Rulers better than some other rulers. Maybe not on this one however on the other ruler I bought, the Versa Tool, the lines are very intuitive, i.e. just where you need them. Also like the Handigrip patches that you put on them...they are see through and feel a bit like sandpaper, gripping very well.

Karin

Monday, 11 September 2017

Getting to know the Handiquilter Sweet 16

I have been largely absent from social media for the last month or so due to the new machine and trying to get used to it apart from being busy with work and life in general.

I should have called the heading...my worst nightmare or something similar. Have had the most frustrating time!

Initially everything was pretty peachy. The machine arrived and I was able to finish one of my quilts with relatively little hassle. I then tackled my ruler practice quilt as I am part of the Handiquilter Ruler of the Month Club. First I stitched in the ditch using Invisafil on top...

...and Bottom Line 60 wt in the bobbin
That worked well except for my inexperience in ruler work, but overall not too bad. Then tried the new Slice Ruler

Noticed some irregularities, particularly on the curves and devoted some more time just practicing on sample sandwiches and this is where that ended up
I have had the worst time, actually starting to seriously doubt my abilities...the problem was 1) the tension adjustment 2) the tension going out on the curves and 3) the tension not remaining the same across different speeds and 4) the stitches appearing different from left to right than they did from right to left...

Close up of flatlining in the back on curves
Not sure how well you can see this...initially I thought it had to do with my speed but after a while I was not so sure any more. Similarly, the issue of left to right and back again
How bizarre is this...I spent days on this thinking that it had to do with something I was doing, checking and re-checking thread path, needles, tension until I literally lost the plot....definitely was not loving this!

I had resigned myself to taking the machine back to the shop to ask them to check it over before resigning myself to that I was not able to quilt on this. Last weekend then I felt particularly chilled and had another go...checking thread path again, checking needle position, feeding it and also cleaning the bobbin area again. However this time I used a cotton bud for some reason and swished it once around inside the bobbin casing...well, caught a fluff ball and was wondering where the heck this had come from (as I thought I had regularly cleaned the area). When thinking about it I realized that my cleaning left a lot to be desired as I would usually go with the brush around the bobbin case gathering all the fluff and then often go once around inside the bobbin casing, therefore probably inadvertently depositing fluff in there I reckon (Duh!!!)

Well, not really realizing the significance I started stitching, this time using a prewound bobbin just for the fun of annoying myself a bit further...stranger than strange, my stitching was alright, so I kept going with that for a while changing the top thread to an Aurifil spool
front

back
Went well without a hitch...I then played around more with different threads on top and bobbin and the irregularities had largely disappeared! To my surprise, I realized that I knew by now (after one month of intense trialing and at times ready to smash the machine) about where different bobbin threads should sit with their tension and only needed to fine tune this a bit. Could not believe it and am not sure whether I truly trust this, but we shall see...at least we are moving forward.

Cautiously optimistic!

Karin

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Baby Quilt Finished (with Handiquilter Sweet 16)

Finished my Bugs Baby Quilt...not a minute too soon! The baby was born on a Friday and I finished the quilting on the Sunday.


I like this pattern, looks very cute indeed
I just did a simple meander design over it as I was quilting it on the new machine. Needless to say I am still getting used to it and thought that it is best to do a design that I am really familiar with. As time was of the essence I also used a wool batting rather than the thin cotton batting that I have, as I figured this would be more forgiving in terms of any tension issues.
The Sweet 16 performed consistently and I had no tension issues at all once I had set the bobbin tension to the correct position. I used Aurifil 50/2 in the bobbin as I had been practising with that thread and figured that I had that bobbin tension pretty right. On top I used Aurifil 40/2 thread in a yellow colour. While I was meandering over the quilt I checked the back fearing tension disasters or sloppy tension, but the tension remained consistently good and I had no issues (even when I had to put a new bobbin in when the thread ran out). Was impressed with this as I had read various horror tension issues on several forums on the internet.

I do find that once you get the bobbin tension correct, it is relatively easy to set the top tension and you are good to go. Speed was a bit of an issue for me and as I had predicted, I had to stitch at 20 %. Any more than that and my stitches were getting a tad too small. It was good to go on a real quilt to practice...I tend to learn more from that than just practice samples as I obviously have a stake in getting it right. There are many adjustments for me to make and some I am struggling more with then others, speed being one of them. I am used to stitching relatively slow and deliberate and quilting at that 20 % was faster than I normally do. At the moment I am getting slightly disoriented when looking at the needle because it feels and looks so entirely different, but time on the machine will fix this. When I started off I got very confused also as I was scrunching up my quilt as per usual and the whole thing unraveled to lie flat...given its lap size, I did not have to scrunch it up under the machine and that was the weirdest feeling...felt as if I was quilting in the wrong direction as I only had to slightly fold it over at the back. Also my hands were a hoot. As I was quilting faster, my hands were being left behind and I had to continuously re-adjust my hand position and stop and start. That initially produced some wobbles here and there but I soon got the hang of it.

What I did notice was the speed at which I finished this piece...I started quilting on the Sunday afternoon and was finished by the evening (with a few interruptions in between). I think this was mainly due to not having to re-position the quilt all the time...I literally could go freely from left to right and back again without having to do any major shifts.

Overall very happy with how this quilt turned out and pleased that I was able to do it on the new machine. It is onto the next quilt now for me as I have got a lot to learn and adjust to.


Karin

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

And Here She Is...

Got a phone call shortly after the quilt show to pick up the Handiquilter Sweet 16 from the shop which send me into a mild panic as that meant that I had to shift my sewing room around which meant cleaning up the mess and re-organizing my quilting space in general.

We picked up the boxes on a Saturday...4 big boxes, one with the machine, one for the table (very heavy), one for the overlay and another one for an extension which I purchased as an extra. The drive home was memorable as the car was filled to the brim.

As I bought the machine as a show special it also came with an added value box. Given that we were in the process of shifting everything around I opened this first as I had to wait for some other things to get in their place before we could tackle the machine.

The value box was incredible...just like Christmas
All these beautiful threads, I could not believe it...big thank you to Handiquilter. That is amazing...such fantastic thread!

Well, then came the unpacking of the machine and table. I was going to take photos but it was all too much with the change of room. The setting up of the machine is not difficult and it came together fairly quickly. There are several videos you can watch which takes you through the set up in some detail.

This is how I set up the room
Extension flap on the left and work table on the right. While this looks fantastic, I will need to change this again as my work table is now too low. Also a bit unclear at the moment whether I should have put the machine a notch higher...all very confusing, too many changes in one hit for me.

Well, it was a few days before I actually tried it and I must say, yes, very different. The first thing that presented as an issue was getting the right tension happening. I approached it with a sense of 'how difficult can this be?'. Wow...the frustration level got quite high after half a day of mucking around. It reminded me of when I started to FMQ all those years ago. As I got flustered I then switched thread, needle, samples and I soon had lost the plot. I then stopped and started to think 'come on, you know this stuff, think this through!' I had watched several YouTube videos and was following them to the letter. In the end I thought, go with what you think is going on. As I was using Aurifil 50/2 thread on a very thin cotton batting, I had the sense that the bobbin tension needed to be tighter to pull the top down...I then followed my own feeling on how tight I wanted it and got it to a stage where the bobbin was a nudge before being too tight. I then re-threaded the machine and off I went...perfect tension! This was encouraging and and I then played a bit with one of the beautiful Superior threads, using one the prewound bobbins that was included in the pack. Yep, that also worked for me with some adjustments to the bobbin and top tension.
Over the next few days I went back to the Aurifil thread and my own bobbins that I had wound on the bobbin winder (forgot to mention...that also comes with the machine) to see whether I could maintain the quality of the stitching or whether it was a bit of a fluke getting it right the first time. Was happy with my bobbin winding and the stitching produced good quality stitches both on the front...
as well as on the back
So, that's how far I got...now I will have to get used to the speed. Struggle to maintain control when going too fast and cannot find a comfortable speed that suits me at the moment. Everything is too new...I am looking at the needle differently, the sound of the machine is different, the set up is different altogether and the machine behaves differently altogether. One thing I do like is ruler quilting though...have two little Handiquilter rulers and am very impressed with them. Nice and chunky and the lines are just where you need them. Also love the basting stitch...very cool feature!
I will shortly go onto a quilt I need to finish...probably just going to do a meander because I will be able to do that at about 20% speed (haha...I think some people quilt at speeds of 50% and above). I feel that I am struggling against the rhythm of this machine and need to get a feel for that.  I'll see whether I can manage to do that with one of the new threads or whether I stick with the Aurifil for the time being.

Lots to learn!


Karin

Monday, 31 July 2017

Festival of Quilts 2017

A few weeks have passed but I thought I show you the finished Wholecloth that went into the quilt show.

I won 1st place in the Traditional Small category
Still thought the colour was somewhat odd when I was looking at it in the quilt show but was really happy with all the detail and obviously really chuffed with the blue ribbon.

The quilt show was from the 13 - 15th of July and I had planned to post some photos, however things got way too busy and I struggled to keep up with the pace.

Hopefully I now can get back into some sort of routine.


Karin

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Handiquilter Sweet 16

Sweet Sixteen In Studio
Image from handiquilter.com

So I went for my test drive on the HQ Sweet 16. I have been researching this machine for some time now and also have tried it many times at the local quilt shows over the years. I went to do a bit of a test drive to look at specific issues that were important to me, like
Thread: brought a spool of Aurifil thread with me and ask the lady to stitch with that as this is the thread that I use most of the time; she quickly changed over the thread, did a few adjustments and off we went. Stitched like a dream.
Speed: Obviously I am not used to that level of speed adjustment (from 0 -100%) and did a bit of playing with that, stitching initially at about 30%. Did some swirls at that speed...noticed that my points were very tidy due to the speed. There was no hesitation and stitching a couple of times into the point. Looked much neater overall. One of my main concerns was precision...I can stitch very precisely on my Pfaff 4.2, aligning my needle where I want it to be, stitching back over the same line of stitching in an orderly fashion (in fact I make a bit of a sport out of backstitching into the same hole of the stitching when I get bored with repetitive designs).
Actually quite funny, as I was talking about not being able to reach the hand wheel to align my stitch, I saw that I would not need that due to the visibility that you have. Sitting on my Pfaff QE 4.2 I am looking over to the needle which is a short distance away due to the machine being sunk into the table. On the Sweet 16 I felt that you are looking directly on the top of the needle due to being much closer to the machine...hence no issues with aligning the needle if you want to start at a particular spot. I then played with the different speeds, going right down to 10% to test the backtracking. While this would require some more practice, I found that I could be fairly precise...probably just need to find the appropriate speed for me (10 seemed a bit slow and 15 seemed a tad too fast for backtracking.
Ruler foot: the machine comes with two feet, an open toe foot and a closed ruler foot. They also now have a new Ruler foot (Sure foot) which is a bit higher but I did not try that. I asked the lady for a ruler and played a bit with that, being ever so careful 😀(had visions of breaking their ruler!). That felt obviously very different than doing it on my DSM, so I was a bit extra careful and went super slow. Loved it of course, as the visibility was really good.
Basting stitch: The machine has a basting stitch that you can set for several different intervals. I could have used that for my last wholecloth  (had to hand baste it as I had two layers of batting and going over that with my machine did not work). That was fun to do and I could see a multitude of uses for that. Very handy indeed.
Apart from that I was just playing, so much so that I told the lady I was just playing around and did not need to explore this any further. I have watched a ton of videos and read lots of reviews so I knew the other features of the machine and what was involved for example with the tension adjustments.

Cut a long story short, I put down a deposit and will have the machine in about 2 weeks. I love my Pfaff QE 4.2 and the way it FMQ. I am fairly proficient and have no trouble quilting a quilt on the machine, however my posture and the visibility have been an issue. Posture mainly because my machine is sunk into a Horn cabinet...which is great due to the flat surface, however I am slouching over the machine and no matter what chair I am using I quilt in that slouching position. Given that I quilt for hours this gives me a lot of trouble with my shoulders and back. Visibility on my machine is overall very good, however particularly when quilting with rulers the machine is in the way of seeing how to align the ruler. So you end up looking slightly sideways around the face of the machine...again, not good for the neck and shoulders. That is probably the main reason I started to look at sit down longarm machines. I did see the Simply 16 with the Little Foot frame, however I was pretty clear about not wanting a frame. I am a pretty lazy quilter and the thought of having to clamp a quilt repeatedly onto the frame was just not for me. I reckon that that would drive me crazy. I prefer freedom of movement and do not mind pushing a quilt through a machine.

Anyway, now I need to change rooms to accommodate the machine. While the HQ is not huge, I do want to keep my Pfaff in the Horn cabinet and also want to keep my cutting table and the current sewing room is just too small, so we are going to change one of the bedrooms around and make it into a sewing room. This will still be squishy but I think it will work. Bit of work ahead to move everything over, but I am just happy that I can have a dedicated sewing room.

As luck has it, the sewing shop will participate in the Handiquilter Ruler of the Month Club which will start in August, so I signed up for that as well. This will run over 6 mths with demonstrations and tutorials and you will get a different ruler every month. This will be handy as I only have one ruler at the moment which is the 1/4in thickness required, so this should give me a good selection to start of with.

Super excited!


Karin