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


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