Monday, 9 January 2017

2017 Finish-A-Long

Finish-A-Long 2017

Can't believe it...the 2017 Finish-A-Long is here. This worked well for me last year, at least for the majority of the year. Lost the plot a bit in the end and forgot to link up for the last quarter. Did actually finish one of my quilts that was on the list for the last quarter.
Overall I did very well and finished a number of projects over the year that otherwise would have lingered on...
So, a new year and a new list...this event is run by several bloggers all over the world. If you want to read up on it HERE is the link to one of them, Rhonda's Quilt Ramblings in the USA.

My list for this first quarter includes the following:

#1 Bird On The Wire Wall hanging

Made a great start on it end of last year to practice some free flowing feathers learned in a workshop with Bethanne Nemesh

Loved doing the feathers but got bogged down in filling in the background. This is taking me forever...hoping to get back into it!

#2 A Field Guide
Embarassing...for the second year on the list...really struggling with this. However got the new Clarity Ruler foot and am making some progress. This quilt was the  reason that I ventured out into exploring ruler work on a DSM and I have been experimenting ever since as I wanted to speed up the process of marking the continuous lines into the squares, i.e. less marking and more stitching.
The new Ruler foot is working very well indeed...however I must say, I might have wanted to start with something a bit less ambitious as it is one thing to quilt something on a little practice sample to practicing ruler work on an actual quilt. I am about half way through and will report on the experience in a future blogpost. So far, so good...really hoping to finish this quilt.

#3 Wholecloth
In the design stages, so this entry will probably not count, however this is by far the most time consuming element for me
Hoping to tidy up my center design and to finalise my draft, so that I actually can make a start on this. Also am struggling at the moment to decide what fabric I will stitch this out on...have some silk, however cannot come up with a decent way of marking this and am currently thinking of reverting back to just cotton fabric.

#4 Thousand Pyramids quilt
Absolutely no progress made on that one, so hoping to at least complete as many units as I can in the 3 months period
So here is the plan: finish the Bird wallhanging and do as much as I can on the Field Guide quilt. At the same time, work on the design for the Wholecloth and hopefully in between also do some more of those triangle units.
That is probably all I will be able to achieve in the next 3 months.

Linking up to Rhonda's Quilt Ramblings with my list. The linky will be open until the 14/1/17 and the finishes linky opens on 26/3/17.


Monday, 2 January 2017

Clarity Ruler Foot

Very new Ruler foot arrived from the US. This is the Clarity Ruler foot from Accents In Design
Completely 'see through' and comes with a little washer. The washer is optional and did not fit my machine (Pfaff QE 4.2) but as it turned out I don't seem to need it anyway. I attached the foot with one of my bigger screws from another foot I have. This was simply because the screw is easier to attach. The normal screw fits just as well. Attaching the foot was just follow the steps of the enclosed pamphlet and presto...
Here is the foot attached (excuse the crusty mat...I definitely need a replacement as you can see). In terms of adjustments there are only two things that you need to do 1) lower the ruler foot until it just glides across your quilting top and 2) center your needle in the middle of the foot (on the Pfaff 4.2 the needle setting was at +1). And then it's time to try this out and make sure that the stitching is right. Here is the extent of my adjustments
I am including this to show you that it does not take that long to get the setting right...for me it was mainly making sure that I had the foot at the right height, particularly when going backwards. The Pfaff machine can be a bit finicky going backwards and once the backward stitching had no skipped stitches, I had the adjustment right.

Next I stitched this out
Love this foot! It was so easy to stitch with some precision due to the 'see through' nature of the foot and this example brought this out beautifully.

Getting a bit sick of always stitching out practice pieces I decided to finish off a little something that I had lying around for a while. When making some baskets from an Accuquilt pattern I had these beautiful 4" batik squares left over. I had sewn them together with some sashing not really knowing what to do with them next...perfect to practice some ruler work on. This will now become a little mat for the cat.
I first stitched-in-the-ditch all around the squares with the straight Accents In Design ruler. Never done that before...this worked fantastic and was a real time saver. Really enjoyed doing this...

 As you can see I tried some other rulers out on this as well from the Westalee range. Now, this is not recommended by the makers of the ruler foot as they are thinner in height and I certainly would recommend caution with this. However as these rulers are out there, people will try this...I think it is easier when you have a thinner batting like I had on this piece as there is very little chance of the ruler slipping under the ruler if you watch it and be very aware of the damage that you could do. So in doing this I went very slowly and was very careful. Also got in the habit of aligning my ruler foot first against the ruler where I wanted to start to stitch, then flicking the ruler out of the way, taking the first stitch to bring up the thread, securing the stitch, needle down and only then re-aligning my ruler against the foot again. This acted a bit as a safeguard to avoid accidentally bringing the foot down when the ruler was in the way.
Overall I must say that I preferred the Accents In Design ruler because of its height and the handles that it has got. I might have to look at getting some thicker rulers for this foot.
Anyway, I had some fun with trying this only problem was my inexperience with rulers and reading the lines correctly. For the life of me, I did not seem to get the alignment right most of the time and also experienced the ruler slipping away at times...but that is just practice. The foot itself is can see where you are going and the stitching itself felt effortless...the foot also stitches beautifully without the ruler, so that you can fill in areas as you go along. Backstitching in particular was easy with this foot. I really liked it.
I then went on my know that one that has been sitting around for a year. Was curious on how difficult it would be to use the rulers on that.
I am not going to say that this was wasn't! The difficulty though was not the foot, but rather  the alignment of that little arc ruler that I have, as I had to eyeball the alignment and I am really not used to that. Also had to work out a way of stitching this out so that the ruler was where I could actually see it. Also, this is quite a puffy piece, so I went extra carefully along...worked well actually, only had a few wonky stitches here and there when the ruler was moving away or I inexplicably did not follow the ruler.

Overall impression...really like this ruler foot...I can see better where I am going and the foot has a similar feel to my other FMQ feet, so the stitching feels quite natural. I had no issues with adjustment whatsoever, however, in fairness this might also have been because I already fiddled for a while with the other ruler foot I have, hence already had a sense of what I needed to adjust.

So maybe now I will complete this quilt...those continuous curves look great, however they are thinner than the ones I had marked in by hand, so this will be fairly noticeable as I already had done one third of the squares...well, I decided yesterday that that cannot be helped...if I wait until I marked everything this will never get finished.


Saturday, 31 December 2016

Best Of 2016 Linky Party

Meadow Mist Designs is running a Best of 2016 Linky party. There are several options but I think I will simply go for my favourites and a bit of an overview of the year.

My year has been very successful overall. I decided early in the year to participate in the FAL 2016 and that got me going on my outstanding projects. Here is the first finish for the year

Cindy Needham's stencils had arrived over Christmas and I was off playing with them which actually continued for the rest of the year. As many of you would know if you read my blog, I spend about 70% of my time researching, trying new things, playing with gadgets and generally expanding my skill level and knowledge...often with very little to show for it as I get so easily sidetracked 😁
Started on my Wholecloth...and incorporated the stencils into that...this project took about 5 months to complete.
In the meantime I finished a project very close to my heart from 2012, a quilt I used during Leah Day's Freemotion Quilting Wednesday...this is where the obsession started with FMQ. I only had the binding left to complete and while the FMQ is nowhere near the level it is at now, there was something really special about finishing this off. Love this quilt!
The Mandala came next. I completed the Mandala using Cindy Needham's stencils to design and draft the Mandala (this took me ages to do!!!). The Mandala was for a challenge that the SA Quilter's guild had set. It turned out great, except in retrospect I had wished I had used lighter thread to make the stitching more pronounced.
The highlight of the year came next for me. Total Wholecloth did win First Place in the Small Quilts category. I was so impressed with this, considering that I completed this Wholecloth as a bit of a practice challenge to myself. While the quilt took many months to complete and looks somewhat crazy in terms of the intensity of the stitching, I must say, this was one of the most relaxing projects I had done in a while.
Recently also completed the quilt below. Not my favourite, but a nice design overall. I used Cindy Needham's Ultimate Shape to complete the quilting and duly got sidetracked into experimenting with those stencils.
Below is my absolute favourite quilt for the year. Designed by Shannon Brinkley and called 'Drifting Leaves'. I had won the fabric and the Aurifil thread...really enjoyed the quilt and the quality of the fabric...a joy to complete. To spice things up a bit I decided to quilt wavy lines allover, something I had wanted to try for a while. This was not FMQ, but done with one of the machine stitches...had a lot of fun doing this and it turned out absolutely great.
 Apart from all this, I spent hours designing...

...and recently also worked out how to draw on my Ipad.

As you can see I do jump all over the place...there are just too many things to explore and try out and my passion is FMQ.

Next post will be about my new Ruler foot 😆 It's a wonder I get anything finished actually.

Plans for the new year...hmm...2 Wholecloth quilts! Should be interesting to see what happens with my plans. Maybe my word for the new year should be 'Focus'. Nah...

Wishing all a Very Happy and Creative New Year!


Saturday, 17 December 2016

Design Process

I have not been blogging lately due to general hectic around this time of year. Layer that with getting distracted easily, a good dose of a migraine the other day and the annoying mess that had mysteriously spread out in my sewing room.

I have been FMQ my Bethanne Nemesh 'bird wall hanging' over the last few weeks, however half way through I thought it would be fun to start the design process on my next wholecloth.

For this wholecloth I thought that I put into practice what was demonstrated in a class that I attended earlier in the year run by Claudia Pfeil. In terms of designing I have to emphasize that this is only one of the many ways that one can design a wholecloth. In this class we worked from the center out. Basically you have your main design in the middle and then throw some borders around until you reach your desired size. In doing so you would use a select number of FMQ designs, use echoing and mirroring of design elements until you reach a visually pleasing arrangement. Easier said than done.

I did not want to repeat what we had done in class so I used one of the designs that I had drafted previously on Cindy Needham's Ultimate Shape and decided to use a diagonal layout. I start my first draft on paper and while this must appear painful for some, it is the only way for me to get my head around dimensions, how big I want the design to be, where to start the next border and how big the quilt top will end up. In this case I used Cindy Needham's Ultimate Stencils for orientation, first the Circle one to put a simple outline around the little drawn design and then I overlaid this with the Square Stencil to put the surrounding borders in. This worked fantastically and I now had a workable model. The stencils are enormously helpful.
As you can see I went it a bit overboard with the borders just doodling away. This looks laborious and it is, but for me this is a very important process...while I am doodling, I am thinking this through, i.e. what will this look like quilted? what will recede and what will come to the foreground? More often than not I do not get this right as you can see in the example, and the design will just fizzle out into mindless doodle as I already know that I will have to do this again. I would usually do this again several times until I feel I have got it right.

I have done some exploration around drawing on the computer and while I can get the basic motif and a general outline happening in my drawing program (which is useful to work out some sizing), I cannot draw the fillers to this level of detail with the basic drawing program that I have on the computer. Carla Barrett has some useful blog posts about designing wholecloth quilts digitally using a tablet...that got me a bit interested, however I do not have one of those and I certainly do not want to spend more money on yet another electronic device. Carla uses a tablet PC and Photoshop Elements. Maybe at some stage...for now, I have my Ipad, so I started to do some exploration around this. I have several drawing apps for the Ipad which I use to practice FMQ designs, nothing fancy, just a bit of doodling. When I was at the shops the other day I bought a decent pen for the Ipad. As it was, I also downloaded the Adobe Draw app and Adobe Capture (initially really clueless what I would use Adobe Capture for).

And then I started drawing...easy to use and the possibilities opened up. Some examples:
Planning my feather on a photo of the quilt top. This was useful as it gave me a bit of an idea of what shape to use in what section.

Next came a surprising fun design
Filled my little previously drawn design with colour. Really quite like this...could use the Accuquilt shapes that I have to construct an Applique design like this. You can see I did not get the border size right. In the App you just drag the shape out with a pinch and that is a bit fiddly at first, but the name of the game is not accuracy here. This is just to get a bit of an idea what this would look like and for that it does the job.

Then I tackled the wholecloth...haha, and worked out what that Capture app is for. With the capture app I was able to photograph my little design (which I had previously drawn out on the computer as the motif has to be accurate for later tracing). The motif then could be magically saved into the Library which I could then use in the Draw app.  This is how I got my center motif on the Ipad (as I was not going to draw that again!). From there I just placed borders around it and started filling them with FMQ designs.
I went into a lot of detail to see how difficult this was going to be. While the Ipad screen is somewhat limiting (had to zoom in and out all the time), it definitely is possible to add a lot of detail. A bigger screen would be better, i.e. a tablet, however depends really what you are going to use this for. For my purposes this is quite ok as it will give me a picture of what this could look like. Accuracy is similarly not important, as I am not going to use this picture as a template. The actual planning around this wholecloth in terms of sizes of the borders will be relatively easy to be worked out once I decide on how many borders and what fillers I want. The centre motif is already drawn up...just needs a bit of a tidy up. While initially awkward to draw on the screen I was getting the hang of it at the end. Had a bit of a laugh, this wholecloth looks suspiciously like the last one...had to do the grids, even on the Ipad. Just love doing that. Did not finish it ...the last border will be a feather frame, but my juice ran out.

Also played with 1/8 of a slice of a wholecloth...another way of designing a wholecloth. As the app has layers, it is relatively easy to draw your 1/8, then duplicate and rotate and construct your wholecloth that way. But more of that on another day.


Sunday, 4 December 2016

Feather Faster Wall hanging

Making good progress on my Feather Faster wall hanging. What a great practice piece! Learned so much from stitching this out. As mentioned before this wall hanging came from a class called Feather Faster that I did earlier this year with Bethanne Nemesh. In her class Bethanne taught us her method of producing gorgeous, free flowing, no marking feathers that are easier and faster to execute.
I was very curious about this and stitched out one of my more formal feathers first. I am a self taught quilter and have come to like the backtracking method (in comparison to the bumpback feathering technique). I find that backtracking is most useful as I can tidy up my feathers as I am backtracking...however I have become so used to it that I found Bethanne's method quite challenging.

So here is my first more formal feather
You can see how painfully orderly I am. Given the backtracking, this feather is dense and formal as I am only slightly changing shape and size. This is my muscle memory in action...I always stitch them like this and they do look very similar.

I threw in another challenge into only mark the spine and stitch the feathers out without any assistance. To my surprise, this worked very well. Usually I will draw in a few feathers at the start and then stop after a while to draw a few others just to keep the shape and size a bit consistent, but obviously I have done this so often that it just happens anyway now.

Bethanne's method...this is me trying to loosen up in the second feather...not that easy

While I had some different shapes in there, I struggled with not to backtrack and even that is still looking fairly orderly

Third feather was getting better but the real change came right down in the last one. The bottom feather is much more relaxed. Really enjoyed stitching that out and felt that I really had gotten the hang of this. Was able to be a bit more freeflowing and also discovered that Bethanne's method allowed me to make slightly larger feathers. Very useful!
Also really liked Bethanne's way of stitching the curl with her Feather Faster method. In the beginning, I did make myself a bit of an outline what I wanted to stitch, but did not need this in the next few...found that this works really nicely with those curls and leaf shapes and turns out beautiful, no matter what you stitch. Much easier than the formal feather curl
Only got some filling in to do in between the lines and then I can attach my birds.


Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.2: Tension

I have been merrily freemotion-quilting away over the last week. Very enjoyable indeed!

Since the last service of the machine which was earlier in the year, I did notice some tension issues, particularly when stitching on the thinner cotton batting. I was not particularly fussed about this as it was very minor. It made sense to me as the technician would service the machine, then try out the tension via the decorative stitches and make slight adjustments, if necessary. I doubt he would have tried the machine on its freemotion quilting capabilities...anyway, every now and then I did notice that the bobbin tension was just a touch looser than what I had come to consider normal. Made a mental note to mention this to him next time.

During my recent feathering though this started to become a bit more noticeable.
If you look at the left side for the third curl you can see that the top thread is starting to lie on top of the fabric while I was stitching the curvature of the swirl...while this is not a big issue it did, sort of, through my concentration off every time this happened. So it was time to tackle this. While my stitching looked ok otherwise, it was time to have a bit of a closer look. I put some dark brown thread in my bobbin
You could clearly see that the bobbin thread was coming through. While this is not entirely preventable, this was just a bit too much and definitively accounted for my top thread lying on top of the fabric particularly when going slightly faster.

The Pfaff machine has a drop in bobbin case which is similarly adjustable as in machines with the  'normal' bobbin cases. When I took the bobbin case out and pulled on the bobbin, it did feel particularly loose. If you need to start fiddling with your bobbin tension, I suggest that you make a note (or better still, draw or photograph the position of your tension screw) at where your tension screw sits before touching to change it. Alternatively, you can use a second bobbin case to alter your tension. I have got a second bobbin case and changed this. You will need a tiny screw driver for this

My tension screw in the bobbin that I am using was sitting at just after 12 o'clock, so I tightened the new bobbin case to about 10 past 12 o'clock, turning the screw to the right.

If you don't know which side I am looking at, here is a photo of the bobbin case in my hand. The closed section of the bobbin case is facing my palm
You can see that my tension screw has been set at about 10 past 12 o'clock. Tried this and presto...we are back to normal
This is still stitched with the dark brown bobbin thread so the tension is just right, enough to pull the top  and the bobbin  thread right into the batting.

You will probably wonder why I did not talk about the top tension...normally with tension issues, you will adjust your top tension first. In my case I have stitched with the same thread for years (Aurifil) and use the same top tension (usually sitting at about 3.8). In order to adjust the tension, I would have had to make the top tension looser...given the thread was lying on top that would suggest that the top thread is pulling the bobbin thread too hard making it come up through the layers. However going down in tension would mean that my stitching would not look quite right as the top tension would be getting too loose. So the problem was clearly with the bobbin tension. Hope that made sense.

Stitched the next section without any problems and was loving it. Almost done with my little wall hanging!


Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Lines Can Be Tricky

Started on my Bethanne Nemesh wall hanging. First step was to stitch blocks of wavy lines across the little quilt top (approx. 33in x 21.5in).

Easier said than done. I can imagine this to be effortless on a longarm just glide your machine over and you are done! Well, not so with a DSM. The machine is right in front of my nose, so even having a nice flat set up is of no great help as I cannot see beyond the machine. And while this would work for just one line, it would be difficult for several lines next to each other, as I just would not be able to see. Should maybe practice this.

So I looked in my tool box...what could I use to make the job easier? Remembered that I have the Sensormatic Echo foot
Gave that a go...and discovered that I am very much out of practice with this foot. In order to get it to glide across the surface, you need to have some speed, so on the lowest speed setting you need to depress the foot pedal all the way down (while at the same time watching where you are going) in order to get the gliding motion. Not used to that at all! Usually I start my stitching slow and gather speed as required. While you can also do this with this foot, when you are very slow it makes this annoying clunking sound...very irritating! Anyway, I did manage to get a grip on that and completed my first block of lines, only to realise that this was much too even (even with varying the width). This is actually not what I wanted for this quilt top.

So back to marking some lines on the top...I did this very loosely with an air erasable pen on the lighter fabric and some soap on the darker fabric, changed my foot back to the 6D Dynamic  Freemotion foot and stitched them out following my lines more or less. Afterwards I was thinking that I probably should have done this in the first place. You can see where I used the echo foot on the third block of lines...nice, but just too orderly.

Lines are done
As you can see there are some open spaces in the lines blocks...these will be filled with some FMQ later on. The spaces between the lines blocks will now be filled with some feathers a la Bethanne Nemesh, i.e. spineless, freeflowing, different types of feathers. This will be interesting. I think I might begin with a 'normal' type of feather first and then do the last three following Bethanne Nemesh method, weaving in different feather shapes as I go along.

Need to settle on a thread colour next...would like to use something light, maybe even different colours across the lot. Unsure...too many choices, as usual.

Linking up to Let's Bee Social over at Lorna's Sew Fresh Quilts