Thursday 31 December 2015

The Year In Review

What have I been doing all year?

Most of the year was committed to participating in the 2015 FMQ Challenge that Darlene from Quiltshopgal hosted. She did a brilliant job...posts were on time and super organised, heaps of options and wonderful tutors. Thank you so much Darlene!

I managed to complete 11 pillows...very proud of myself!
I did a different back for each pillow as well which is the reason why most pillows took about a month to do. 
Here are some of the backs that I really liked:

I basically freemotion-quilted the whole year, so there was not a lot of time to do much of anything else. Definitely sharpened my skills and got seriously addicted to grids. 
Quilted on silk for the first time
Stitched lots and lots of grids

Conquered the zipper
 Finished quilts...let's see
Stretched Star Quilt
WIP: A Field Guide

WIP: No Name as yet
1000 Pyramids in its infant stages
 Other fun projects

Most enjoyable year indeed...

Wishing everybody a very Happy and Successful New Year!


Wednesday 23 December 2015

December 2015 FMQ Challenge

Here comes the last pillow for the year for the 2015 FMQ challenge over at Quiltshopgal. What a year it has been...I did a total of 11 pillow, missing out on September. Not a bad result. I will do a bit of a collage towards the end of this year.

The expert for this month was Wendy Sheppard from Ivory Spring. I chose Option #6 using Wendy's Thread Talk series on her blog as my starting point.

For the front, I used Thread Talk #57 the Roundabout Wreath, starting off with a lot of drawings before I got the hang of it.
As usual, there was some drama when I was marking it...for some reason I had marked the motif with my white chalk marker rather than the water soluble blue marker pen that I usually use. And a good thing it was...half way through pinning, I pricked myself with one of the pins and bled all over it...could not believe it. As it was rather hot over here, it literally dried before my eyes and just water did not get it out. The blood had dripped smack bang in one of the plumes! In the end I used vinegar which did do the trick, but left me with very faint white lines. Had I used the blue marker this would have been a right old mess!

Wreath completed, on to the filler
 For the filler I used Patsy Thompson's method of plumifying the background. Love doing this and again felt that this background filler is extraordinarily forgiving which is always a good thing on a solid background
There are a great many odd shapes and arrangements in this but you would not notice as it is the texture that stands out rather than the individual shapes...I pretty much did my own thing, so much so, I watched that section of her class again and realised that I was not really following the mine is a bit of a combination of two fillers she demonstrated.

Here is the pillow (and that is the real colour!)
Front of the pillow
For the back I used Wendy's trademark design, the Jester's Hat (Thread Talk #34)
Back of the pillow
Luckily I had done this before, so it went quickly. Not quite as easy as it looks and a bit hard to keep consistent on a solid background...but absolutely lovely to look at.

Lastly, I used Aurifil 50/2 thread for the background thinking that it would just blend in. For some reason, this colour has an enormous presence and if you look at the front of the pillow it somewhat overtakes the wreath which was done in a yellow tone...go figure!

Linking up to the 2015 FMQ Challenge at Quiltshopgal.


Tuesday 15 December 2015

Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.2: Threads and Needles

I often get comments on FMQ on the Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.2 and previously also on the 4.0. Unfortuantely some quilters are No-reply bloggers so there is no way of emailing them back. If this is 'you' check your settings and consult one of the many posts on the internet on how to fix this. If not fixable via settings, please email me direct.

Tonight catie080 is ready to throw her sewing machine out of the window (oh yes, remember this well!). She was talking about the difference on stitching on little practice samples compared to when going on a real quilt. Apparently her Pfaff 4.2 just does not behave itself...the whole caboodle of skipped stitches and shredded thread.
Unfortunately there was not enough information to get an idea what this might be due to. Give me an email, Catie, with a return email if you want to discuss this further...

Let me start with - this machine should not have any problems with FMQ at all...
I am not affiliated with Pfaff other than owning a Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.2 and having learnt all my quilting skills on Pfaff machines, so these are my own opinions based on some research on the topic and trials and (many) errors I have gone through trying to master FMQ. Please don't get me wrong...I do not want to show off, but nowadays I do very few practice samples...I usually chuck my thread in, put my settings to what I need, do a couple of stitches on the practice piece to see that the tension is right and off I go on the real thing (unless of course I am doing a brand new design that I need to practice).
My current project

Skipped stitches and shredded thread seems suggestive of an issue with choosing the right needle for the thread used. The relationship between the weight of the thread and the size of the needle is very important if you want your sewing machine to perform well (and the Pfaff in particular seems very sensitive to that).
When I first started FMQ  and particularly when I got my second machine, the Pfaff QE 4.0, I remember thinking that the machine was extraordinary finicky and temperamental. At the time I questioned my decision in terms of having upgraded to a fairly costly machine with all the bells and whistles. As I delved into the topic I realised that I had some learning to do in terms of weights of threads and sizes of needles. I then found Harriet Hargraves book 'Heirloom Machine Quilting' - an older book but in my eyes an absolute treasure. She has a whole chapter on threads and needles and some suggestions on what needle size to use with what thread weight. Highly recommended. The other thing I would recommend is stopping to experiment with lots of different threads, needles and settings, instead:
- find a thread that you like and stick with it for a while, so you can experience this particular thread with different kind of designs/speed and with different kinds of wadding; I settled on Aurifil 50/2 thread at that point which is a beautiful thread with a nice sheen to it - never had any issues stitching with this thread; as you get more experience with time, you can start to experiment with different then you will have worked out your machine and will know what setting and what needle it needs;
- work out what tension you need for your particular thread; if unsure, make a practice sample where you literally go up or down in tension line by soon will learn where that perfect tension sits. While the tension may vary by a point or so depending on the way you stitch or maybe the alignment of the planets, it should only ever vary by a point up or down; my Aurifil 50/2 tension sits usually at 3.8
- next, go through your needle can stitch this thread (Aurifil 50/2) with an 80/12, which I would recommend if you are doing a somewhat faster design like stippling or swirls. For slower, more deliberate designs however, your stitching will look better if you use a 70/10 needle; try a normal 70/10 needle first and then try the same with a 70/10 sharp needle; your stitches will now start looking more refined;
- if you are a gadget queen like me, you will have several feet for your sewing machine; each of them will perform slightly differently and you will have to work out which one suits you best; I now stitch mostly with the Dynamic 6D foot...this is a good allrounder and performs well for both slow and fast designs; I am embarrassed to say, but I recently bought the old Springloaded foot again (after the little plastic knob at the top fell off again) other reason that I am strangely attached to that foot as I learned to FMQ on that; The visiblity on that foot is not that great, but I like this foot for doing the slower feather designs; I rarely use the closed Sensormatic foot, mainly because I find the noise it makes annoying, however it would be good to use for stippling, where you can literally just glide across the surface. Again I would suggest to stick with the foot that suits you best for a while to get your practice and confidence going.
- and finally, listen to your machine; I rely heavily on the sound of the machine and can tell by the sound as to whether the machine is performing well or not; there is that rhythmic purr that tells me all is well and my stitches are going to look good.

Skipped stitches: they are going to happen from time to time! Obviously, check the threading of the machine and your bobbin first if it skips every other stitch.  However, if you have the occasional skipped stitch, and everything else is alright, I find that it often has to do with the way I move the fabric...just not in sink with the rhythm of the machine, indicating that I am getting tired and loosing concentration. 

Hope this helps


Sunday 29 November 2015

November 2015 FMQ Challenge

Managed to finish my pillow on time.

Quiltshopgal's November challenge featured Sarah Vedeler as the expert freemotion quilter. I chose option 4, finally using Sarah's Accuquilt Go 'heather feather #1 cutting die. Now this took me a very long time. I do not do a lot of applique and had to re-acquaint myself with my machine (see post about the tapering function HERE). Also underestimated the time it took to satin stitch around each shape. This literally had to be done at snail pace to get the curves nice and round. I think I started about the middle of November so was starting to feel the pressure.

When it came to the FMQ, I chose to use one of Patsy Thompson's fillers, plumifying around the shapes. I had seen it before in several of her pieces and had tried it a couple of times on little practice pieces. I recently purchased Patsy Thompon's 'Ultimate Freemotion Feathers' on Craftsy...just could not help myself, even though I have her whole Feather DVD collection. Just love her classes and was not disappointed with this one either...always something new to learn. Anyway, in that class she demonstrates the background filler and several variations of it, so I thought I give that a go.
Plumification galore
Bit hard to see on the white backgound but I did struggle a bit with keeping a consistent scale as I was going around the shapes. Like Patsy did say though, it is a very useful filler and lends itself well to filling every available space. This was a great exercise as it is different to fill out an empty little practice space compared to going around various applique shapes. I pretty much did my own really have to let go of the perceived rules for any FMQ design and find your own rhythm and way.

The back turned out heaps better
Background filler on the back...getting better
Much more consistent and relaxed and considering the space I had to fill it actually went relatively quickly.
Close up

The pillow looks great
Front of the pillow
Back of the pillow
And another one for good measure...the latest pillow with some of the other challenge pillows in the backgound.
Completed all but one of the challenges...another one to go. Almost sad to see this challenge end. I must say, I did learn so much over the year.

Linking up to Quiltshopgal's November 2015 FMQ challenge.


Wednesday 25 November 2015

From Idea to Actually Getting It Down On Fabric

Working on the November 2015 FMQ challenge that is held over at Quiltshopgal. I am using the Accuquilt GO die "Heatherfeather" from Sarah Vedeler for this challenge ...finally! (purchased this over a year ago and have not used it yet)

Here is the idea

All cut out and ready to go. As I used two different colours I had enough to make an identical second arrangement for the back but then started playing around a bit with the leftover shapes
This little arrangement looked nice however after having used up some of those shapes to practice my applique skills on (which were very rusty indeed), I settled on another arrangement for the back.
Had a lot of fun playing around with this...there are many different arrangements you can come up with from this one die.

Spent quite some time sharpening my skills using the satin stitch around the applique shapes and also finally conquered the tapering function on my machine (see previous post)

Applique for the front of the pillow all done

Arrangement for the back of the pillow
This has taken me a very long time and was a lot harder than I had anticipated...mainly because I do not do applique very often. The first few shapes that I practiced on looked fairly rough and I realised that I had to literally go... stitch...move over a bit...stitch...move over...there was no way of hurrying this along if you wanted to get the curves nice and round.

I am now at the stage of stitching around it with a 100wt Invisafil thread (my new favourite thread replacing the clear Monofilament thead) and then finally I can get cracking on the freemotion-quilting. I am thinking plumes for the background fill in a blend in neutral thread to give it texture. Have recently bought Patsy Thompson's new Craftsy class " Ultimate Free-motion Feathers" which is full of FMQ goodness including a section on "plumifying" the background. Highly recommended!

Remains to be seen whether I can finish this in time.

Linking up to Freemotion By The River


Saturday 21 November 2015

Craft and Quilt Fair

Spent the whole day at the Craft and Quilt Fair a couple of weeks ago.

Had a list of things I wanted to purchase however could not find lots of the things that I was after...will have to make some Internet purchases there was no stand with Aurifil thread!

As always lots to see and try out. I specifically spent some time at the sit down midarm machines...unfortunately here in South Australia there are currently only two available...the Handiquilter Sweet 16 and the new Bernina Q20 (I think that is the name). Both stitched fantastically well, of course and all I can say is...I want one! It is actually not so much the space around the side of the machine that I am after, but more the height of the machine. When freemotion-quilting on the DMS, I do sort of hunch over and look on the side to see where I am going. With the set up of the midarms there is visually very little distraction and the height allows you to see clearly where you going and where you are coming from. Very nice indeed! Will have to think some more on this...

Anyway, here are my purchases for the day...

Bought this beautiful Robert Kaufman panel (Imperial Collection) for half price. Normally I do not go for the panels however this caught my attention as there is heaps of empty space to fill in with some detailed FMQ.
I am thinking concentric circles or maybe cannot see it properly in this photo but the beige top part has the same faint cranes as in the black background...oh, the fun...this will be great!

Very excited about this.

Also bought a range of blue fabrics (and some mustard tones just because)
Working on blue hexagons at the moment in my spare time so this will keep me going for a while.

Picked this for the November FMQ Challenge at Quiltshopgal.


Thursday 12 November 2015

Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.2: Tapering

Finally getting around to write about tapering on the Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.2

Tapering lets you decrease or increase the width of a stitch at a particular angle to create symmetrical or asymmetrical tapers. This is a fun program that I also had on my previous machine...
see the little bag that I made some years ago.

It is a fun thing to play with but takes some time to get used to and get the hang of it.

For my next pillow for the 2015 FMQ challenge over at Quiltshopgal I decided to use my Heather Feather Accuquilt die (design by Sarah Vedeler) that I purchased a good year ago. As Sarah Vedeler is this months' expert this seemed like the perfect opportunity. When I made the bag above, I had instructions from the Pfaff site...must admit that I have not used this function since then as I hardly do any applique work.

So out came the manual...
This is what the screen looks like when you hit the F1 button and then long press on one of the angles which brings up the whole program
Now I remembered that I had some difficulty last time with working out the different directions of the angles and this time was no different. I decided to spent some time on this to get my head around it once and for all. The way this made sense to me is as follows
- the top row provides for asymmetrical angles to the right
- the middle line is for symmetrical tapers at various degree, i.e. your sewing comes to a point
- the bottom row provides for asymmetrical angles to the left
If you look at my sample (top left) and take the first taper at 45degrees that is marked 'top' for the top row, you would go into the program and press 45 degrees once only for the taper at the end. As you can see you would be stitching along and then press the reverse button to activate the taper and the machine will taper the stitch at a 45 degree angle. If you then set your beginning taper at 45 degrees and turn your piece at a 45 degree angle and start again you will get a perfectly aligned corner to the right. Very neat!

You can see I then did a 60degree symmetrical taper, another 45degree taper to the left and so on...also tried the 30 degree taper on the right side of my sample but that takes some practice to align properly. The other thing I wanted to show you is the versatility of the can be used on many of the decorative stitches and create quite spectacular designs, i.e. the Greek Key stitch that also featured on the bag above (now some of those tapers do not line up because of pure sloppiness on my part).

Some people have commented on the net re the tapering and how hard it is to judge distances, i.e. when you should start your taper.  Agree with certainly takes some practice and knowing how this works. For example, the Greek Key design in the middle. I started with the beginning taper at 45 degrees, then the machine moves on to the next stitch and that is when you have to press the reverse button, i.e. you need to be clear about when you are on the stitch before the taper. For some of the stitches this will be easy to see however like for the Honeycomb or the stippling stitch it will not be as obvious.

Just discovered that I can get the machine to help me with that by using the Sequence function. If you look at the far right side I stitched out the Honeycomb stitch with tapers at each side. I went into the Sequence program and decided that my stitch would consist out of 6 units of honey comb. I then put a Stop behind each of the six units (I had 3 of them). When stitching this sequence, I started with the beginning taper and when the stitch reached my 6 units, it stopped. Then did the next 6 units and activated the taper, as I was in the stitch before the taper, stopped again and did the last tapered down version of the Honeycomb...while a bit labour intensive, this certainly helped in working out exactly where I was and when I had to press the button...will play a bit more with this.

Anyway after all this, I managed to stitch down my plume shape with the 60 degree symmetrical taper
Not totally lined up but it worked very well, just needs a bit of practice. With the satin stitch you do get a feel for when you need to start activating the taper.

And here is what I am working on

Hope this helps


Friday 6 November 2015

Still Doing Bags

Finished another one of those excellent Victoria Tote bags that I did in September (find two of the posts HERE and HERE)

Well, had some of that nice modern zigzag fabric left over and promptly finished another bag, this time a size in between as the last bag got a bit very roomy. This time I enlarged the original pattern by just an inch. That just left enough for the handles and a little piece for some additional pockets inside.

Used this very nice french inspired fabric for the lining
Had only bitses of fusible fleece left , so I started to piece them together as I was too lazy to make a trip to the shop. I do this with wadding, so saw no reason why this should not work with fusible fleece.
Piecing the fleece together worked absolutely fine
Put a zipper pocket in and the magnetic closure like in the original bag and then included some pockets on the other side using the last of the zigzag fabric.

Here is the finished bag

Came out very cute and will be claimed by my other daughter in due course.

I think that might be it for a while in the bags department...will need to get going on my next pillow for the November FMQ Challenge at Quiltshopgal. Bought some nice fabric at the local quilt show for this...

Until next time


Wednesday 28 October 2015

WIP: A Field Guide

Back to this...

Decided to quilt a simple line design in the surrounding areas
Looks great, but wow...this is going to take me a long time. Running out of thread in a minute too, so will have to wait until the Quilt Show next week to stock up on that particular colour.

While doing this and getting very bored I thought about the next thing (of course)...
This design is from Cindy Needham's Craftsy class on 'Machine Quilting Wholecloth Quilts', the idea being that you take what you like from this and design your own center medallion. I have got it enlarged and ready to go...this could be good and certainly would stretch me out a bit...

But before this, I am going to make another bag...still not over that bag obsession...

Too much to do...need to get going on the myriad of projects hanging around.


Wednesday 21 October 2015

October 2015 FMQ Challenge

Completed my pillow for the October 2015 FMQ Challenge over at Quiltshopgal.
Already talked a bit about the process in an earlier post HERE.
October 2015 FMQ Challenge
Different colour due to daylight, but same piece (still missing the cathedral window)

This months' expert is Lori Kennedy from The Inbox Jaunt and I followed Option #2 using Lori's 'Divide & Conquer' Craftsy class. As there were too many designs to choose from, I decided to do a sampler pillow of some of the designs. By now I have got quite a list of Craftsy classes and this was a good way to quickly remind me what's in the class. These are the designs I used from the class:

Paper Clip design: absolutely loved this; cute little design to frame something or put into a narrow inner border
Square Flower: this appealed to me as it could just be stitched out freehand and looked good no matter how wonky you stitched it;
Dots & Dashes: with just a few lines drawn, this is a nice modern fill
Flower Power: had trouble with this design when I last stitched it, and included it for more practice in this piece, filling out a 6" space
Hearts: formalised hearts in a row is something that I have avoided in the past as I am not that great at it; this time I marked half inches spaces in my section and that worked alright;
Ric rack: again marked some spaces but had some issues with this even though it only involved going up and down
Fabulous Flower: what a hoot...practised this on paper for a while and in the end I just stitched it out as I was not going to get any better at it; funny...the eye only sees what the eye wants to see. Initially I thought that my flowers looked sort of alright, but when I had flattened the area around it, I saw that all of the flowers except one, did not look like flowers at all. So, yep, suck at that design.
Lines: finished the bottom off with some lines
Gridwork: could not help myself and included my favourite grid, the cathedral window, in there

For the back of the pillow I choose to stitch an overall flower design to match the front; I did this fairly quickly and did not stress too much about consistency or scale or indeed anything...just wanted to get a feel for filling a larger space with that as this could make a nice larger scale, allover design. This worked reasonably well and was best stitched with the foot on the pedal. When I stitched slower, I tended to become smaller and smaller...
Really like the back of my pillow

As always, this was good fun!

Linking up to the October 2015 FMQ Challenge at Quiltshopgal.


Wednesday 14 October 2015

Progress Report

Working away on my pillow for the October FMQ Challenge hosted by Quiltshopgal. This month expert is Lori Kennedy from The Inbox Jaunt.

I have her Craftsy class 'Divide and Conquer" and decided to follow this and make a sampler of the different designs. Almost finished the front
Done some gridwork (not completed yet), paper clip design (which I loved), a heart design, the square flower, some pearls, more flowers, loops, ric rac and today the fabulous flower design. Well, the fabulous flower design on the bottom did not work out that well. Trying to follow someone else' drawing is always hard and I did practice this one on paper for a while, but somehow I could not get the flower shape right. The design is stitched in several passes and apart from the last flower on the right my wonky shapes are oddly consistent (looks actually like a chuck's head), so it seems that I just do not get it somehow. In the end I had to microstipple the fullness out of  the surrounding area and you can see that it is trying to puff through in parts.

Never mind, this has been good fun...we can't be great at everything! Not sure yet what I am going to do on the back, maybe an overall flower design...we'll see.

Linking up to Let's Bee Social over at Sew Fresh Quilts
Until next time


Monday 5 October 2015

FMQ October

Now that it is October I am back to FMQ. Just blissful! I did notice with the last quilt however that I probably should be piecing a bit more regularly, as my accuracy was woeful.

Never mind. Did some practice for the upcoming October 2015 FMQ Challenge over at Quiltshopgal. This month expert is Lori Kennedy from the Inbox Jaunt. Got her Craftsy class and started some practising the other night

Not sure what I am going to produce yet, but rather like that square flower and probably will design something around this. Maybe a sampler pillow of the different designs...Lori had some very nice border designs in her class, one of them being the paperclip design (see on top of first photo)...very neat.

Apart from that I have been spending much time on Instagram. You can find me @the kids got me into this and I must say that I am rather enjoying this, particularly over the last two weeks as I have been super busy at work and also at home. With Instagram I was able to just quickly put up a photo and move on. While scrolling around I came across Hexies for Healing about Carrie of @gotchacoveredquilting who was asking for some hexies so she could pass the time following some major surgery. The cause is close to my heart and so I spent Friday night making this little number
Just need to send it of...

While doing this hexagon I also stumbled across the Hexie Down Under #2 swap run by Bendigo Lioness. I was so tempted and nearly signed up...40 hexies until the 31/12/15! After much thought though, I resisted...calculating this through this would have meant about 3 hexies per week which does not sound that much, but with work, FMQ and life in general that had the potential to become stressful. They are running another hexie swap from January to March which I decided was much more feasible for me. Sounds like great fun.
However, having stitched that hexagon the other day  I again felt that this was so therapeutic, sitting there, hand stitching. So I went to work and cut out lots of hexagon shapes in all sorts of blue and white to stitch together at my own leisure.

But for the time being, back to FMQ...


Thursday 1 October 2015

WIP continued

Not much to report other than that I am working on my WIP. Quilt top is finished and I now only have the borders to do. Actually came out so much better than I thought. Always am surprised when the quilt looks just like on EQ7 which I use to design the quilts.
Bit of a close up...

I was rushing to get the quilt done by the beginning of October to set my machine back to FMQ. Have several things to FMQ....another pillow, my WIP: A Field Guide quilt and now this one...looking forward to this

Linking up to a new Linky Party by Zenia of A Quilted Passion

A Quilted Passion


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