Wednesday 29 January 2014

TV project

Done some planning and decided to do a hexagon paper piecing project again. This is a bit funny as I do not like hexagons that much, however I do find the process of making them and stitching them together by hand so relaxing...ideal to do when watching a bit of TV or just for quiet time out.

I had these 2 packets of charm squares that I picked up in a sale last year together with coordinating border fabric. Have not really planned anything around size, will just do them all up and see what comes out of it. So, bought a packet of 100 hexagon paper pieces with an edge length of 2 inches size of hexagon is 4 inches). Went ahead the other day and made myself a template to cut out the material.

Carefully drew around the template that I had cut out on template plastic on my material, cut it out and continued to make a hexagon. Then it occurred to me...duh!! I did not need the plastic template at all.
All I had to do was use my trusted fabric glue pen (to hold the hexagon in place on the fabric), whack it on the square and cut around it with a generous 1/4in seam allowance.Why did this not occur to me earlier? On my last project I had this tiny hexagon template (came with those tiny hexagon shapes that I bought for that project) and painstakingly cut out all those tiny hexagons. In retrospect not really necessary. As I said before, I have very little experience with this.

This is a great time saver and makes this even more enjoyable.

Use a little fabric glue to hold the hexagon in place
Line up your ruler allowing for a generous 1/4in seam allowance
Cut around all sides

Sides ready to be folded over
I use a fabric glue pen when folding over the seam allowance rather than securing it with thread. This works well and the glue will come out in the wash. I think the only thing to watch out for is not to use excess glue closer to the edges where you are going to slip stitch  the pieces together.

The finished paper hexagon ready to be sewn together
Two hexagons slip stitched together
This is fun...made about 10 of them yesterday watching some TV...highly recommended. I wonder what this will become...

Linking up to Lorna's Let's Bee Social Linky Party over at Sew Fresh Quilts, WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced 
and  also...Fabric Frenzy Friday

Until next time


Monday 27 January 2014

Continuing On My Wholecloth Quilt

Remember this beast?

Sat down yesterday to start to fill the middle section. In retrospect probably should have made the wreath a bit bigger. There is a lot of space to fill. Thought for a moment about what filler to use but not having FMQ for a while I thought I better stick with the microstippling. Used my new Dynamic Spring foot which worked like a dream. Visibility was very good which still surprises me given that it is a closed foot. And the 3 LED lights in the new machine were fantastic, definitely made a huge difference in seeing where I was going. This is how far I got in one sitting. Had to stop there ...can only do microstippling for a few hours and then I start losing the rhythm...


Close up of Microstippling

Not bad for an evening's work...really want to get this finished as it has been lying around for a while. And then there are other UFO's to finish...

Linking up to Anything Goes Linky Party at Stitch by Stitch


Saturday 25 January 2014

Dynamic Spring Foot

I have not had that much time to play with the new machine, however I did manage to squeeze in a play session with that new Dynamic Spring foot.

For readers familiar with the Pfaff machines, it does look like the open-toe spring loaded foot in its design, however is obviously round rather than square. Now the the manual says that the Dynamic Spring foot measures the fabric thickness and will raise and lower with each stitch to hold the fabric on the needle plate while the stitch is being formed. It certainly raises and lowers but I am not sure how it would work out the thickness of the fabric. If you look closely it also has that little groove in the pin where it attaches to the machine which means that there will not be any movement at all once attached to the machine. This is good as I do FMQ for hours at a time.

This is what it looks like attached to the machine...probably would have been better to take that photo from the side. As you can see the front of the foot is slightly raised...when I started stitching I was not altogether convinced that this foot was going to have good visibility given that it was closed. However, due to it being raised in the front I found that I had no problem whatsoever seeing where I was going off I went...

First I stitched a marked on scroll design to see how it behaved following a line, going backwards up, and down again completing the design on the other side. This foot, in comparison to the Springloaded foot on the Pfaff 4.0 was very precise. I often had some issues with the other foot going backwards, nothing major, just that the thread every now and then went spontaneously from the left side to the right side or vice versa. Not a big issue, but on something like delicate feathers definitely visible. This foot did not behave like that at all and kept on going in a nice straight line keeping the thread consistently to the left of the needle. 

Then came the doodling...had to adjust my speed a bit as I am not used to this foot and kept it just in between half and slow speed. I must say that I felt that the quality of my stitching was better on this foot, but am not sure whether I am imaging this or not. Wouldn't it be lovely if we found a foot that gave us instantly better stitches. I still think the only way to improve your stitching is practice, practice, and more practice. My stitches are generally quite good, but I did have the feeling that they were particularly consistent on some of the designs, particularly the microstippling in the corner. Was quite amazed with that. Then, of course, I tried the echoing around shapes...definitely works well, except I have no practice using a round foot and it definitely shows. I am really used to the other square foot with me eyeballing the distances. With this foot I had to really concentrate looking at the round edge and of course, while I was doing that, started to make a few jerky movements here and there. But that will disappear with practice and the the ability to just use the round foot as a guide will be so useful. 

Did the feather on the slowest setting and found that it was equally as good as the Spring loaded foot both in terms of the visibility as well as in the execution of the stitching, so overall I was very happy with this foot.
Will give it a bit of a workout in the near future as I will have to complete my Wholecloth feather quilt. Need to quilt the background and will probably do some microstippling to flatten it out. I am also working on some new designs for some usual too many ideas all at once...definitely will need to do some planning.

Until next time


Tuesday 21 January 2014

Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.2 - First impression

My machine, a Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.0 had to go for a service as I had a certain clunking noise again when FMQ. While I was at the shop I checked out the Pfaff  Expression 4.2 that came out last year.

Well, I ended up trading my machine in for the new model as I already had been thinking about an upgrade. At first I dismissed the new machine as it really did not look any different (except for the colour) to what I already had. However, I had some time and discussed it at the shop and got a bit of a run down on the improvements which are mainly internal improvements.

Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.2
To digress a bit...this is my third Pfaff machine. I learned to quilt and FMQ on the Pfaff Classic Style Quilt 2027. This was a very simple machine with basic stitches and very basic functions. Despite the lack of bells and whistles I liked that machine. As I got more and more into FMQ I realised of course, that certain additional functions such as Needle Up/Down, Speed Control and FMQ modes would be an advantage and eventually upgraded to the Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.0. Now that machine had all the bells and whistles (and more) and I remember being initially quite overwhelmed with this. Well, I obviously got acquainted with all of those functions and quite frankly would not want to be without some of them like the throat space, Needle Up/Down function, the Auto Lift and also the ease of the FMQ modes.

I don't want to slag the Pfaff is a good machine for quilting. And I do want to stress  that these are my personal opinions and experiences. When I first got the Pfaff 4.0, I did notice and commented that it was somewhat temperamental, particularly when FMQ. In retrospect I realise that temperamental  was actually the wrong word to use. One thing that Pfaff is known for is its precision and I soon realised that my Pfaff 4.0 was very precise. For that machine I had to learn the relationship between size of needle and weight of the thread...after some exploration I found the answers in Hariett Hargraves' book Heirloom Quilting...a whole chapter on threads and needles. That was a bit of a turning point for me and observing how size of needle relates to the weight of the thread used made my Pfaff 4.0 very happy. Since that time I have not had any tension problems or any other thread hassles for that matter when FMQ. However, I did notice very early on that the machine produced some irregularities in stitching when going through the 3 layers of a quilt, particularly when attaching the binding. Initially I thought that this had to do with something I was doing, but I have since read that this has to do with the feed of the machine. This is not a huge problem and you probably only notice once you have been quilting for a while. I did not have some of the other reported problems like struggling to go over multiple seams or thread nests when starting off at a seam. What has been a problem though was that my machine has twice produced a very alarming mechanical clunking noise inside during FMQ and needed to go for repairs. While the  stitch quality or running of the machine was not affected that noise definitely did not sound healthy and  I did not want to risk damaging the machine. Another feature that was starting to present difficulties was its lighting. It had dual normal light bulbs and I started to have issues with seeing my stitching, particularly on very dark fabric when using a blend in thread. On one of my last projects I had to use my Ott-Light and lay it down on the quilt behind the needle to actually see where I was going when microstippling. Now this was a hassle.

The new Pfaff 4.2 appears basically the same machine and the major differences on first glance were that its appearance had changed (the whole front of the machine is now in a maroon colour, including the buttons, it has upgraded to 3 LED lights,  254 stitches instead of 222, a start/stop button, a new FMQ option which uses a Dynamic Spring Foot (optional accessory) and  a new feed system (Optimized Box feed). Now, the latter was what I was particularly interested in and spent some time discussing with the technician who services these machines at the shop.

If you are in the market for a new machine and want a run down on all of its features, there is an excellent YouTube video by Village Sewing on the net which gives a very detailed introduction to the machine.

Anyway, I did take the Pfaff 4.2 for a test drive at my local shop to have a look at some of the differences. I read somewhere that 95% of people who go for an upgrade usually stick to the brand that they know. Certainly true I think, but even more important I reckon is the service you receive at your dealer. I have been very fortunate in the dealer that I am using...great service, advice and most importantly, trust. Being a regular customer, I was able to just play with the machine by myself for some time and the following is a bit of a rundown on what I found. This list is not going to address all of the features of the machine...
  • I was actually quite happy that they did not change its dimension or general appearance. This means that I can use all of my accessories that I have purchased over the years for the new machine. And bonus, I am by now very familiar with all its functions.
  • the 3 LED lights definitely made a lot of difference ...such a relief for the old eyes.
  • the first thing I noticed was its sound. I am an avid FMQ and rely heavily on the sound of the machine. I have no specific word for the Pfaff 4.0 but on switching the Pfaff 4.2 on and stitching a few lines I thought that this machine was positively purring. Not sure whether this is due to the new feed system or just because the machine is new but noticeably different.
  • stitching: I stitched a few lines both on Stitch 1 which is used for normal sewing and Stitch 52 which is used for quilting through your 3 layers of quilt. I tried the tie off on both stitches and there I had my first surprise. The tie off on Stitch 52 (which is different from Stitch 1 and  is specifically designed for quilting giving it a very neat and tidy start and finish at a line) did not work that well on my Pfaff 4.0. I tried it a couple of times when I first got the machine but found that it was not secure enough...when tugging at the thread it often came out altogether, so I stopped using it). On this machine the tie off is very secure...being surprised, I tried it a number of times and no matter how I fiddled and tugged that baby was tight. So I reckon I will start using this again because it is a really neat feature.
  • 254 stitches: I must admit that I did not try out the new stitches in the shop. Pfaff is known for its beautiful decorative stitches and this is not a major draw card for me even though I promise myself every year that I am going to use them more. I have used the decorative stitches on my Pfaff 4.0 and they are absolutely have great variety, 9 mm stitches, 3 alphabets and then there is the tapering function...
Here is an example of what it can do

This was a little make-up bag project that I downloaded from the Pfaff website when I first got the Pfaff 4.0. Amazing fun to make and took me through the tapering function. BTW, the Pfaff website has some really nice sewing projects on its site that are free to download.

In terms of the stitches, they added a few more decorative stitches here and there, but of interest was that they also improved on their Handlook quilting stitches (both in the manual in terms of explanation as well as on the machine in the setting). I noticed that some of the Handlook stitches appear to be repeated but on closer look they have now included a number of stitches at the end with different settings. Now this might be useful...I did try the Handlook stitches on the Pfaff 4.0 and could not get the setting right so I will try this out a bit later down the track.
  • next I tried the start/stop button...what a hoot! Should you ever try this in a shop make sure you set your speed to slow as my machine was set to full speed and the machine just went basically just press the button for the machine to foot control needed. I tried this again at home and I must say this is most useful when using your decorative stitches as you can fully concentrate on keeping the stitch and fabric straight. I like this and think that this is very handy.
  • Dynamic Spring foot: now it was getting interesting...

  • the manual says that the Dynamic Spring foot measures the fabric thickness and will raise and lower with each stitch to hold the fabric on the needle plate while the stitch is being formed. I have long been waiting for them to bring out a round metal FMQ foot. For my Pfaff 4.0 I mainly used the open FMQ Spring foot...I am used to that foot and it provides the greatest control when FMQ. The hassle with that one is its is a clear, square foot which makes echoing around shapes at a consistent distance a bit difficult. Over the years I had to become very good at eyeballing distances but I often wished that I had one of those round feet. I have an optional extra, the sensormatic Echoing foot (have a look at a previous post re this foot HERE) which is great if you need to do echoing over a larger distance, however it does require you to dismantle the shank of your machine ( not something that you are going to do for just sewing around something unless you got a sizable area to quilt with echos.) The Dynamic foot is quilts just like my other FMQ spring foot but takes the eyeballing out of the equation. Very happy with that. The foot also a little groove in the pin where it attaches to the machine, so it will not move at all during FMQ. This is clever, I think...the upper part of my other plastic Springloaded foot recently just fell off and I think that this was due to the hours upon hours of use and I would imagine that there is that tiny amount of movement in that pin. As the Pfaff 4.0, the Pfaff 4.2 has the additional Sensormatic FMQ mode which is good for faster type designs like stippling. So altogether now the Pfaff 4.2 has 3 different FMQ modes...Dynamic, Springloaded and Sensormatic.
  • internal improvements: unfortunately I am not able to explain the internal workings of the machines as I am obviously not a technician. This is where trust comes into the equation.  My understanding from my talk to the technician is that they replaced the feed of the Pfaff 4.0 to address (what I had already noticed) the irregularity in the feed when quilting through several layers. He did explain to me how this looked like inside and how it worked, however I would struggle to describe this, not ever having seen the inside of the machines. In addition, they apparently made several minor adjustments in the internal workings and parts of the machine. Interestingly, my clunking noise in the Pfaff 4.0 was connected to its feed. Through my sustained FMQ some of the adjustments in the feed went out of sink and hence made this unhappy major noise. Not a huge issue, however, each time it happened, obviously needed fixing.
So, sorry,  this got a bit long, but overall first impression is very positive. I am planning to report back with some more pictures on the new foot and the stitching and of course, once I have gone through an entire quilt.

I am linking up to Lorna's Let's Bee Social over at Sew Fresh Quilts. (Still need to put her button on the sidebar...will get there eventually), hoping that people find this useful, particularly for those that might be in the market for an upgrade or even new machine.


Wednesday 15 January 2014

Disappearing Four Patch Quilt finished

Wow...this has felt like the longest time completing this quilt. But, it is finally done and is looking quite nice.

The quilt comes to approximately 62in x 70in

This was a fun quilt to make as it could be chain-stitched in assembly line manner and ultimately came together quite quickly. Unfortunately, I was in such a hurry that I did my quilt-in-the-ditch sewing with an incorrect bobbin thread and Monofilament on top which caused some major pulling of the fabric. Once I realised I had to undo a fair bit and hence, it has taken me an extraordinary long time to complete this one.

What's next...well, had to give my machine in for a service as it is making an alarming clunking noise again when I am FMQ. Will have a bit of a break and then start on another adventure...have this new design in my head which needs to still be tweaked here and there...

Linking up to Lorna's Bee Social Linky Party over at Sew Fresh Quilts and WIP Wednesday over at Freshly Pieced

Until next time


Saturday 11 January 2014

I love FMQ

Back on the sewing machine again finishing off my Disappearing Four Patch. Of course, found out that I did not have enough of the binding I wanted to put on...only checked my supplies briefly before I went on holidays. So off to the shop it was...yah! Found some more of the border fabric, however also found some striped material that matches the border. Of course, I bought both...just in case!

In terms of quilting I did the centre of the quilt with an overall meander of about 1/2 inch scale before I went on holidays. That worked out really quite well and gives it a nice soft feel. While I was sewing in-the-ditch around my borders (had to re-do this as I made a mistake earlier) I felt like some FMQ...not having quilted for the last 4 weeks really made me hang out for just some doodling on the machine.

I must say, FMQ is like riding a don't seem to loose it. Maybe a bit wonky in parts, but overall, not a lot of difference from 5 weeks ago. I decided to go with my "go to" sashing design, just a vine of leaves down the inner border. This is one of the first few designs I learned and obviously the rhythm of this is ingrained. Had so much fun stitching this around the inner border and did not pay too much attention to getting it exactly right. I think this design looks best when it is a bit more variable in terms of shapes of the leaves and size. Hence, there is no marking involved and I just allow it to every time and goes quite quickly around the border.

Now I only need to attach my fantastic new binding and I am done.

Linking up to Leah Day's FMQ Link Up at the Freemotion Quilting Project 

Happy Quilting


Sunday 5 January 2014

Home, sweet home

Home again...cannot believe it. Only yesterday we were roaming the streets of Dubai.

Well, I have not had the use of my sewing machine for a good 5 weeks now and am itching to get back on and also have a look around what other people are up to in blogland.

I did end up finding a quilt shop in Germany, Moelln (on the main road, No 134)...however it was closed as it was close to Christmas. That might have been a good thing because they had some wonderful things in the shop window and the shop looked absolutely filled with fabric. Saved heaps of money, I reckon.

Mind you, as a quilter there seems to be inspiration all around. Found some interesting patterns/motifs in Dubai

from a vase in Dubai Mall...

Also from the Dubai Mall. I believe I saw this on a blog last year...I think somebody did go ahead and quilted this....this was just a pattern on one of the walls. Really beautiful...would make a wonderful quilt.

And last, what about this as a motif for a wall hanging?

Absolute inspiration overload.

Well, for me though it is back to my Disappearing Four Patch quilt...still need to finish off the quilting and binding and then write up the pattern as it is going to one of the magazines and I have a little bit of a deadline to meet. Busting to see what everyone has been up to in the 5 weeks that I was gone as I was only sporadically able to surf the net.

Until next time


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