Wednesday 31 January 2018

Almost Finished

I have been steadily working away on my practice wholecloth. Started a rather crazy background filler
...and once started had to continue with it. Was a bit unsure of it as it is a rather playful background in a very traditional design. Grid probably would have been better but I did not feel like it. The texture this produced is really amazing and it does look interesting.

Today I finished the whole piece. Spend half of the day putting in a piano key border. This was not part of the original plan but I had so much fabric left over on the sides that I thought it was a pity to waste all of that.
I used my favourite ruler from the Handiquilter Ruler of the month program - the Line Grid ruler
This ruler is very easy to hold and produces very straight lines. Worked well and went along rather quickly. The only thing that drove me crazy was the Handigrip tape on the back. As I was stitching close to the batting, the end of the ruler really gripped hold of the batting all the time. In the end I took the Handigrip strip off on one end to be able to move the ruler more easily. That worked fine as I still had all my other Handigrips strips on the top. I am actually quite amazed on how evenly and straight this turned out. The only marking that I had  to go by were the center lines on all four sides.

End result before I gave it a bit of a spray with water to get rid of some of the blue marker pen that was still hanging around in some places.
Next comes the binding, then a proper wash and I will need to block this one properly as the tight background is trying to pull the whole thing in a bit. So, a little bit of work ahead still.
This was good fun and a really useless exercise in terms of just focusing in on some ruler practice, while at the same time just going for it and seeing how this would turn out. Love those types of projects.


Sunday 28 January 2018

Tension Expedition

Today I had some time to devote to the tension issue of the Handiquilter Sweet 16. After 6 months I felt in the right headspace to have a really good look at this, because  when I stitched out my Patsy Thompson ruler framework yesterday, I was not totally happy with my tension.

If you are researching these machines you would have come across quilters talking about this on the various forums and groups. There is a lot of information on the tension issue available on the net...oodles of YouTube videos, information on the Handiquilter website and on other websites dealing with longarm machines as well as individual bloggers talking about their experience. Would be good if they all said the same thing, however they do not, hence this makes this all the more confusing. One thing though is consistent...people talking about that you will somehow 'feel' when the tension is right on your bobbin. Must say that I struggled with getting the sense of what that should feel like, as there is a bit of play in the bobbin, i.e. from when you know it is too tight to when you know that it is too loose.

Also very confusing is what people use in the bobbin. A lot of people use prewounds, either DecoBobs (80wt) or SuperBobs (Bottomline 60wt). I have got some SuperBobs, but have not used them that much as I got a lot of thread to get through (although might try some DecoBobs in the future as some people swear by them).
So today I started with my Aurifil thread 50/2 both in bobbin and on top. I thought that I had this thread combination worked out, but apparently not as I have pokies either on the top or on the bottom. Must have had a super dose of patience today, because I was determined to get a good stitch out of the machine. So, started with the bobbin again however this time went with some feeling and set the bobbin way tighter than some of the You Tube videos would suggest. I set it so that it stood up in my hand and just about wanted to leave my hand, then lifting it up and letting it gently and relatively slowly drop. I noted the Towa number which was sitting around 220 which is significantly higher than what I had come across on some blogs. Never mind, I thought and continued, examining the thread path...decided that the thread needed to go through all 3 holes and then adjusted the top tension...yep, that worked fine and I was able to produce a decent stitch once I adjusted the top tension.

On I went, pulling out the Rasant thread. Still unsure whether I should always match bobbin and top thread, but for the time being I went with that
My efforts for the day...not that you will be able to see anything much. I quilted in blue Rasant on the top and white on the bobbin. Rasant has been a thread that I have not really mastered on the DSM either, so I was in for a treat with that one. I like the thread as it is fairly strong and bonus it is pretty inexpensive. Adjusted the bobbin again with the drop test, assuming that my machine enjoys a somewhat tighter tension in the bobbin. Rasant is a Tex 25 thread which amounts to 40wt, so thicker than the bobbin needed to be loosened a fraction (Towa value was approx.210). Threaded it through 3 holes and was able to get a decent stitch once I adjusted the top tension.

I then switched to Magnifico on top and Bottomline in the bottom, as I will need to continue with that on the Wolecloth. Already knew that the bobbin tension needed to be cranked up for this one. Checked whether I was still getting this one correct and as before this was extraordinary fiddly...luckily I had taken some notes and saw that I needed to only thread it through 2 holes. Also worked reasonable well, but pretty sure that this thread will not be my first choice in the future.

I then tried a really old variegated thread that I had from Anton Robinson...tried this with Bottomline and Aurifil in the bobbin and that gave a really nice balanced stitch
Somehow get the feeling the machine performs better when top and bobbin are not matched. Maybe this is only because I cannot get the balance a 100% right...this would make sense.

So this was my day...just playing with thread.


Friday 26 January 2018

Patsy Thompson's January Online Ruler Workshop

Spent some time yesterday and today catching up with lesson 7 of Patsy Thompson's January Ruler Workshop.

After having spent the last few weeks looking at how to put in tapered and parallel channels, we had to construct this framework
The framework was constructed from the outside inwards starting with the smallish arcs. I used the 6in leaf shape arc from Handiquilter (bottom right) which gave me a slightly smaller arc than what Patsy demonstrated, hence my channels (done with the Slice ruler, top right) are also smaller. Later realized that I should/could have used one of the circle rulers for this part...this would have given me a more pronounced arc. I stitched the second arc with the bigger 10in Handiquilter arc and then used the circle (bottom left) ruler to put a tapered channel in there. This worked really well. The smaller arced square was done with the 6in Handiquilter arc.

Then came the filling
Patsy makes this look so easy...I had to really concentrate for this part and this time drew my feathers lightly in with an air erasable marker. I like those as they are only temporary which is a good thing for me as I tend to be very messy with my marking. I put a mini grid in using the 6in Handiquilter arc ruler. Really enjoyed this and for once that worked without a hitch!

Finally, some pebbles
Looking good...wonder what comes next


Wednesday 24 January 2018

Background Work on Wholecloth Practice Quilt

This is a bit of fun. As this is for no particular purpose or reason I felt a bit freed up to try all sorts of things. It's easy to see that my quilting follows Patsy Thompson's love for hyperquilting.
I will mention again that I have got Patsy Thompson's DVD Feather set. If you want to learn how to quilt feathers I can highly recommend is lovely to watch and packed with information. In one of those videos Patsy introduced hyperquilting...I think you either love it, like I do, or you don't like it. I got completely addicted to it and use it most of the time. I recently heard or read somewhere that you should not use in-lining in formal feathers...can't remember who said that or where this was, but I we go again, people trying to put restraints around what one should and should not do in quilting. I think you should do whatever you feel like with your quilt. After all, it's your quilt! In this piece my choice of colours is maybe a bit bright for me (looks like a smack in the face), but it's all good practice. Patsy also has a few classes on Craftsy where she demonstrates her skill. Another option, if DVDs is not your thing.

On a side note, I did attend my Handiquilter group and checked out my assumptions about the thread I am using (Magnifico from Superior), as we did talk mainly threads this month. To my surprise what I had been thinking and doing was 100% correct. I am dealing with a very strong thread which is normally used at high speeds, hence you need to crank up your bobbin tension to a level which then does not correspond with how bobbin tension is normally taught on all those YouTube videos. I was very pleased with myself, to say the least. Definitely gave me a confidence boost!

I now filled all the blue sections and am back stitching with the yellow thread which seems a bit easier anyway. Still got a fair way to go though. In-lined the featherette with yellow thread which produces a fair amount of thread build up. Not sure I like the combination of red and yellow, but that's what it is. Came out a bit messy as my featherette is just about lying on the circle, so that is something to watch out for if intending to in-line one of those.

Another shot of the compaction that is happening
I am using two layers of batting...thin cotton and some wool on top, hence the puff in the wreath.


Monday 22 January 2018

Handiquilter Ruler of the Month Club - The Ditch Ruler

We received our last ruler in the six month series - the Ditch Ruler
It is about 6in long from straight line to straight line and 2.5in wide. See those little knobs at the end? This is similar to the Versa tool, however it is more rounded and the ruler foot just fits neatly into that. 
Well, what can it do? Obviously stitch in the ditch with those knobs being exactly 1/4in...perfect for alignment. I also like this size of ruler as it just fits your hand, something I have found important to me when working with rulers.

Some samples of the curves on the end
The curves fit exactly into a 5in block , but are also easy to use in a 4 1/2in block to make those continuous line designs. I actually found it easier to use than the slice ruler which was the first ruler in the series. Also discovered that it makes a rather nice wavy line which would be perfect as a spine line for feathers in a more narrow border, like you would have on a table runner.

Very nice ruler!

This is the end of the first Ruler of the month club. Handiquilter already has started the Ruler of the Month Club 2 with another six rulers for the next half year. Each month a new ruler is released (via participating retailers) with an accompanying video on the Handiquilter site. Even if you do not have a Handiquilter machine, it is still great information on how to use rulers in general. I did have a really good look at the second Ruler Club but decided to give that a miss as I do not want to start a ruler collection for the sake of it, but concentrate on the rulers that I will most likely use.

Here is a link to the previous Ruler of the Month Club which shows all of the previous rulers. Also, if you want to see them in action there is a very good video with Jane Hauprich as the guest quilter in Handiquilter Live demonstrating how she used all of those rulers in a sampler of designs. All of those rulers are now available for purchase, I believe.


Sunday 21 January 2018

Patsy Thompson January Online Workshop

Lesson 5 of Patsy Thompson's January 2018 Ruler Work Winter Course included stitching out some arcs with tapered and parallel lines to create some channels.

The tapered channels were no problem, but when I tried to stitch out the parallel lines I realized that my ruler would not be that helpful. I have got one the Handiquilter Arc Rulers
As I was quilting the arc I realized that I needed the inside arc to complete the channel. Well, with this ruler that obviously was not going to work, so I had to work from the inside out, i.e. marking all the channels in with tick marks and then starting on the inside...this is how that worked out...the offending arcs are in blue
This had not occurred to me before...could not believe it! I tried to put some tick marks in to complete the channels from the inside out but as soon as you start doing that you introduce a margin of error which becomes more obvious the more channels you put in. Also, doing that amount of marking to put in a few channels pretty much defeats the purpose of a ruler (in my mind they are supposed to make life easier, not harder). So after all this I realized that I needed a different type of ruler, one where I have the curve on the outside as well as the inside.
So I searched the internet and ended up ordering 2 arc rulers, called the Pro Echo Rulers,  from Lisa Calle's online shop. Had come across her rulers before and postage to Australia was reasonable. Also looked at Patsy Thompson's starter package. That would have been perfect too, but I already got several straight rulers, so do not need the included straight ruler. That package is perfect I reckon, when you start out...well worth considering.

There seems to be a lot to learn about rulers and which ones you need to use for what, and what size. As I have just found out, this seems to be a bit of trial and error. Probably the best thing for quilters who are just venturing out to buy some rulers is to have a think about what they are going to use them for and then research on the net the variety of rulers that are available...there are a lot of different types of rulers out there and you really have to think that through carefully and probably have to accept that you will get it a bit wrong every now and then, like I just did.


Wednesday 17 January 2018

Progress on Practice Wholecloth

My practice project is coming along. However today, when I finally sat down to continue we had a power outage, so I did not get as much done as I would have liked.

I have been stitching this wholecloth to practice a number of things
- to try my new circle and arc rulers
- to try a new thread - Magnifico from Superior threads
- to continue to explore the HQ Sweet 16, i.e. how different will it be to stitch something that is quite familiar to me but obviously will feel completely different on the Sweet 16

and then I added to the list
- used the wave ruler to put in a spine line for my feathers
- stitched my feathers freehand around just for fun

This is how far I got today

The thread continues to give me trouble...I used Bottomline in the bobbin. Funny enough the yellow thread is no problem but the blue and the red appear much more fiddly to me. Periodically throughout the piece I have had moments when I had to adjust the tension and literally go through the whole process of testing and re-testing etc. In between also watched several YouTube videos on tension. I think I know how to set the tension correct but for that blue thread, it just wants the bobbin tension so much tighter than I thought.  I will take the thread to my HQ group and asked about this. However I also have discovered that a different thread in the bobbin, something like SoFine 50/3 or Rasant  (i.e. something closer to the weight of Magnifico) works much better for me...the stitches look better and I get the correct tension without much trouble. So that is something for me to remember. If it does not work so well with one combination of thread, try another...
For this piece however I continued with the Bottomline...also a very good exercise for me personally to have something that is less than perfect. The feathers were a lot of fun to quilt. I felt in a pretty happy place with the machine...still going snail pace (how slow did I stitch on my DSM?) but getting into the rhythm of this machine. Stitching the feathers completely freehand was great. I used the backtrack method even though the bump back method would have probably been more appropriate, but I like backtracking...this worked very well for me at a slow speed and I was able to keep my feathers more or less consistent. Lesson learnt...the corners should really be marked in! I did them also freehand thinking that I could just have a little look of how I did them in the first corner but by the time you concentrate on your stitching, that reference point is gone and you are locked in fitting them into the space you are quilting. Let all of this go and was pretty happy with myself. Still looks quite respectable. Once I echo around that a few times the differences will not be that noticeable. Also did some in-lining in blue and practiced some speed. What a hoot! Made it up to 20% and had a laugh as I am very far away from being able to do them properly, even though the feathers are easier to quilt at that speed, i.e. they come out a bit smoother but my stitches were way too short at that speed for the time being. Will have to continue at my snail pace for a while.

From here the plan is to do a bit more filling in the center and to put some background quilting around the center and then I am thinking that I might put some piano keys as an outer border using my favourite ruler, the Line Grid ruler. I love this about wholecloth quilts...there is always something more you can do. However for this one that will then be the finish. I had ordered some fabric from the Fatquartershop for my next wholecloth which has already arrived, so I am already thinking about the next quilt.

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


Sunday 14 January 2018

Patsy Thompson's January Online Workshop

Patsy has packed a lot of thought and valuable information in her posts about quilting with rulers (I have her Feathers DVD series and it absolutely changed my quilting...learned so much from that). We are in the second week of her Ruler Work Winter Course and are learning about curved channels.

With my newly found confidence in rulers I thought...yep, let's whip this up quickly and the result was this
Looks ok, but if you look closely, the channels are drifting and are not centered. Why?...because I thought I could hurry this along and by not having placed some grips on the newer rulers they obviously started sliding.
So the next day I did it again, but this time properly with grips in place and paying a bit ore attention to center the rulers. I used the Slice ruler for the first curve and the Handiquilter arc set for the second and third curves. I find curves actually quite hard to do and while I did not have my stitching trail off the ruler anymore, I did find that I needed to stop in the middle of the curve and re-position my hands again to hold the ruler in place.

Much better!

On Friday then Patsy demonstrated some arcs and how to stitch some tapered channels into them. That was much easier than the above curves.
Here are my arcs
I did play around with this a bit and filled in some areas...lots of possibilities.

Wondering what we will be doing next😎

Friday 12 January 2018

Practice Wholecloth

I am making progress and learning a lot by my mistakes, mainly to do with my lack of planning with this little quilt. Absolute must to put your framework in first before filling anything else! I am sure I have said this before somewhere but obviously have not committed this to memory. Maybe it will stick after this time ☺
Decided my wreath needed something else and ended up putting another circle in underneath the arcs. Must say that this got a bit messy because of the compaction already happening so this is not going to be a 100%. However I did want to have a look what that looked like. Yep, like it!
Now, back to the filling.


Thursday 11 January 2018

2018 Finish-A-Long: First Quarter

Marci Girl Designs
Can't believe we are again at the beginning of the year and a new Finish-A-Long. If you want more information follow the link above, but basically this is an event where quilters all over the world outline what they hope to achieve over the next 12 months, split over four quarters. I participated last year however had to drop out in the middle of the year when I got the new machine as nothing got finished or planned, other than getting used to the new machine.
Here is my list for the first quarter (repetition from previous post, but the rules state that you need to write a new post about this):
#1 Finish off Practice Wholecloth
This is a practice piece trialing some different thread to what I normally use and also getting used to some different rulers that I purchased recently
#2 The 1000Pyramid Quilt
I am half way through and had another burst of energy in the last half year but motivation has come to an absolute zero again. Hoping to knock off the last few hundreds of rows...this seems really unsurmountable, but we shall see.

#3 The next Wholecloth
Fabric coming from the US from the Fatquartershop...planning to stitch this out on a blackish type fabric (think it was called charcoal gray). 

#4 Another baby quilt like this in a different colourway
This is a must as I bought some Accuquilt dies for this to make the job quicker

This is my list...not very exciting and seems very small but this is all I can work on in 3 months and I actually seriously doubt that I will achieve all of them. But like last year, if I only finish two things I shall be very happy.
Linking up to shecanquilt for the 2018 FAL Proposed Finishes for Q1

Sunday 7 January 2018

Tension Trials and Tribulations - Part 2

Before I continued on my wholecloth I stitched out Patsy Thompson's little task from her online January Ruler Workshop.
Patsy shared a stack of information both on Monday and Friday last week talking about the two different channels that give some life to otherwise pretty simple shapes. Don't be fooled...while this may look basic I did pick up a few hints (like you need to have a plan!) and definitely found out that I need to do some more work on parallel channels, particularly the 1/4in ones. While I stitched them with no problem they all are slightly different widths and this problem occurred seemingly always on the right side. Maybe the way I align the ruler on that side? Need to explore this a bit more.

I hope we don't need that sample for anything else as I then used it to trial a different colour for my wholecloth. Still Magnifico 40wt but this time in red. Strangely enough this had a slightly different tension and I had some difficulty working this out.

As you can see there is some red poking through on the back. I spent some time again going through the process of adjusting the tension. This was not easy and I think in the end I actually had the tension a tad too tight but I then went onto the wholecloth anyway to put in a featherette. Did not want to obsess about this as this thread is obviously a little bit difficult for me and for now this is good enough. 
Looks ok from afar, but I must say I do not like the stitches. What is it with the colour 'red'. I know I cannot blame the machine for this as I also have difficulties stitching with darker colours on my DSM. Just does not look that great. Anyway, I continued with hyperquilting with some blue Magnifico thread in the outer feathers.
Bit out of practice with the hyperquilting. Looking at the photo now realise that the heart shape in the feathers leaves a lot to be desired...I reckon that they should have been a little bit bigger, filling out the space a bit better, but so be it...not too fussed as this is just for a bit of fun/trial with rulers and some different thread. Was happy to get back to the yellow colour for the outlining which does not seem to give me the trouble that I had with red and to some extent with the blue as well. Incidentally I did try the Magnifico thread also with a different bobbin thread using So Fine 50/3 and liked the feel with which it was moving along much better. Seems that a thread closer to its weight might be better. Unfortunately I do not have So Fine 50/3 in a cream colour, so I continued with the Bottomline thread. 
I am going to stitch some feathers around this and I might try to pair the Magnifico with a cream Rasant thread (Tex 24) which is similar in weight and have a look whether this is less fiddly. Anyway happy with my efforts so far...not sure I will use this Magnifico thread on another wholecloth. While the thread is beautiful, I don't like its slippery nature. Just not used to it and had some trouble with the locking of stitches. But then again that might just be me at this point in time.
A little bit more filling as this looks way too naked and then I will stitch the feather border. 


Thursday 4 January 2018

Tension Trials and Tribulations - Part 1

I spent the last 2 days trialling a new thread on my Sweet 16. I have had the machine now for just about 6 months and after my initial meltdown over the adjustment of tension (see this post) have settled in to the new machine. It is starting to feel better but I am by no means as comfortable as I was on my DSM. Still struggle with speed, locking stitches in a tidy fashion and in general not being ‘in sink’with the machine.
But it’s getting better...I followed Jamie Wallen’s advice on one of his videos and stuck to just one thread for the last 6 months. Aurifil, of course! It’s the thread I love, I know how it behaves and I was able to get that to work most of the time on the Sweet 16. However, when I got the machine I also got a box full of thread from Superior...yummy colours, all sorts of types of thread, so I finally found the courage to give that a go. I chose Magnifico to start with...a 40/2 trilobal Polyester thread. The sheen on that thread is just out of this world. Very beautiful.
Looked on the Superior thread chart which gave me a Towa gauge number (find information about the Towa gauge HERE) to guide me in the right direction. Those numbers are measured with prewound Superbob bobbins. As I had some of those, tried that and got my first taste of how finicky that thread is...must emphasize that it is finicky to me and that is probably because I have only rarely used Polyester thread. Not sure I like the feel and how slippery they are.
I then used my (not prewound bobbin) Bottomline thread as I needed a cream colour for my practice wholecloth. Here is where the Towa gauge becomes particularly useful. My wound bobbin behaved quite different to the prewound one, i.e. I needed to tighten the bobbin severely on the one that I had wound on the bobbin winder (I did not question my bobbin winder as I feel it is set quite right - the bobbins are not spongy but also not super rock hard, so I did not adjust this as I feel the bobbins are wound correctly). So I started at about 200 on the Towa gauge...should have taken photos of the next steps but it was one of those slightly frustrating processes. However I got through that in about an hour...a huge improvement in contrast to my earlier experiences. It went something like this:

- bobbin thread poking through the top, so reduced top tension
- bobbin thread still poking through, so reduced top tension to a level where it was just too loose (was pleased as I definitely can feel that now by pulling the thread towards me above the needle)
- tightened bobbin tension, however still being pulled to top (how strong is this thread?)
- looked at my thread path; the Superior guide talked about a thread net-tried this but this increased the top tension even further
- decided to only guide the thread through 2 we were getting somewhere. Here is a bit of a practice run using the different colours (blue, cream and red Magnifico), but more on the colours later.
Can you guess which web site I have been looking at recently?

Over the next 2 days I did manage to get the tension acceptable and started my wholecloth with my new toys, the circle and arc rulers.

I must be the world's worst marker...a plan would have been good, but I am a bit hopeless when it comes to marking. Always start off really tidy (marked the main frame on the fabric and attempted to mark the arc in) and then the creative mind takes over and ...oops, this needs to be different, let’s just draw over this or even better, wipe away with some water etc...always end up incredibly messy and the need to put in special marks to work out where I am going. Hilariously annoying!

The wholecloth is a practice run for the different thread, but also to
- try out my rulers and I mean really try them out, i.e. explore the markings, look at how to best hold them and generally getting a feel for them
- work on a more puffy quilt scenario (used cotton and a thin layer of wool on this piece)
- continue to work on more tidy beginning stitches and backtracking over stitches when doing the feathers
- try to find a comfortable speed level for the feathers.
Maybe a bit too much all at once...maybe just a little😜

My rulers worked well, except I did not consider the puffiness and subsequent compaction. First learning! As I did stitch out the inner feathers after the first circle I had enormous problems with the next circle. Yep, pays to think this through a bit. Frame first, and then the filling in of detail!
This looks very much like one that Patsy Thompson had on her blog recently...did not mean to copy, sorry about that, but as I had not pre-planned the arc that I had wanted to do, it did not work out...should have made the inner circle a bit smaller for that, so ended up just doing a normal, straightforward arc around it. Haha...then realized if I wanted to make a channel, I should have stitched the inner arc first, then aligned the ruler and did the channel. Obviously did it the wrong way around and ended up with a tapered channel. Also looks good so I was not too worried about that. Here is a close up of the stitches.
Not too bad at all. I thought that the arcs would be difficult to do, but they went in quite easily. I stitched this with a needle size 14 even though the thread guide says to use a needle size 18. I figured that it probably needs a stronger needle when used on a longarm with high speed, but seeing that I rarely go over speed 20, I thought a smaller size should accommodate the thread just fine. A needle size 18 is just too big for me...I have stitched with a 70/10 or smaller needle on the DSM for the last 5 years or so, so that needle 18 looks like a big nail to me. Had no problem with shredding or breakage and while I feel I am making this up a bit as I go along, it seems to work, so why not.

This has been good fun until I changed to a different colour, but more of that in the next post...


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