Saturday 30 June 2018

My HQ Sweet 16 Journey

Its time to write about my experience with the HQ Sweet 16. I bought the machine about a year ago. I had been looking at the machine for some years however was not sure whether I actually really needed it. I was by that stage proficient in my FMQ and was quite content with how things were travelling. However, doing mainly Wholecloth quilts I felt some kind of boredom as I was essentially doing the same thing over and over again. I then quilted this beast

 All was well until I realised that my marking of my framework was out by sometimes as much as 1/4in and more and I realised that I needed to use a ruler to set the framework down in order to straighten this up. The first problem was that I did not actually have a large ruler that would allow me to do this and I ended up using a normal quilting ruler to stitch my frame around the motif. This was hellish, to say the least...not because of the quilting ruler, but because I could not see behind the foot of the machine. I spent a good 10 min to align the ruler each time I wanted to stitch, making sure it would not slip and then stitched in absolute snail pace against the ruler. I think it took about four attempts to get that first frame around the motif and that definitely got me thinking that I had reached the limit of my Pfaff machine. I did use a smaller ruler to quilt the Orange Peel design in one of the borders and thoroughly enjoyed looking at the stitches I thought then that it looked so much more refined then if I had drawn the design in and then stitched it freehand. Well, this got me thinking about the Sweet 16 (again!)...then doing some more research on the machine I also was somewhat horrified how much they had gone up in price over here and I decided...its now or never! I had to decide whether this is something I wanted or not. If I waited any longer I would just have to pay more and more and with the Quilt Show coming up there would be a Special on offer on the machine.
So the journey began...I decided to buy the machine.
I had watched all of the instructional videos, had read other quilters' introduction to the machine and started initial reaction was one of utter confusion. The machine was very different to what I was used to and I also realised how much I had sat in my comfort zone. The machine had a different noise, rhythm and speed and the different set up, i.e. the larger room around the machine was utterly confusing. I would take a quilt and scrunch it up to quilt and the quilt would just unroll itself in front of my eyes and lie flat. While this was a good thing, this completely threw me!
Initially I had only minor issues in setting the tension on the machine. I successfully quilted 2 baby quilts with Aurifil 40/2 at some speed. All went well and I managed to quilt a nice meander all over, noting that this was incredibly fast, possibly because I hardly needed to shift and re-arrange the quilt.
At the same time I started the Handiquilter Ruler of the Month club with our local HQ group
Stitching more deliberate and slowly and now using my familiar Aurifil 50/2 in both bobbin and top, tension issues started to appear. In addition, I found that starting off gave me issues as I could not reach the hand wheel to position the needle where I wanted it to go. The more I tried with the tension the more difficult it became...also realised that I had only ever FMQ with Aurifil 50/2. As I had received a gift pack of thread with my purchase I started to experiment with all sorts of thread combinations, fiddled with tension and got incredibly frustrated in the process (see post where I was just about to loose the plot). It felt as if I was starting all over again.
I watched untold videos re tension issues, went on forums, web sites etc to find the answers...
It was my worst nightmare which continued for several months. In addition, I could not manage the speed, i.e. how slowly did I quilt before ? The fastest I could do on the Sweet 16 was 10% and as time went by I seriously started to doubt my purchase and started to hate my FMQ. I became increasingly annoyed with hearing 'you will get the feel for it' or you 'feel' when the tension is right. I was definitely not getting the feeling and definitely not loving it. At that stage it would have been 3 - 4 months into my purchase and I was starting to wonder whether I needed to sell the machine!

So, what helped me in this?
- Jamie Wallen's comment in one of his videos re sticking with one thread initially (at least for 6 months) and how to clean your machine properly (very important!)
- decided to follow my intuition and sense what I thought right tension feels like; the only advice I can give re this is that my tension works when I test the bobbin in my palm and set it so that the bobbin lifts up in your palm but will not leave your palm, however just about wants to leave your palm...just at that point; also got a Towa guide to note down the number which I now use as a bit of a starting point to set my bobbin; I am still stitching with Aurifil 50/2 in top and bobbin, however also have successfully stitched with 60 wt Bottomline in the bobbin and tried the Decobobs 80wt prewounds (really like them); each of those needs a different bobbin setting and I am managing this without any major dramas.
- I continue to stitch rather slowly and decided not to focus on that, i.e. one issue at a time
- I don't blame the machine every time something does not work; as I found out the hard way there are a number of factors at play like batting, thread, bobbin winder...

Since then there has been a definite change in my attitude to the machine and towards the end of last year I started to really enjoying quilting on it. The tension adjustments seemed so much easier; the speed, sound and rhythm started to feel more familiar and I could really appreciate the potential that this machine has:
- ruler work - love ruler work and all that it brings to my quilting; not great at it yet, but getting better all the time
- pantographs - have stitched out a pantograph design on a small baby quilt; while time consuming this got me very excited as I was getting really bored with my overall designs; also managed to stitch out a Baptist fan design on a smaller quilt recently - something I have wanted to do for a very long time
- larger scale designs - all I have to do is to crank up the speed and I will naturally make wider movements
- definitely faster process as I use the machine to baste the quilt (and stitch down the edges) and also have continued to use rulers to stitch-in-the-ditch (I use Invisafil for this which strangely enough has worked for me since I got the machine).

So, I am feeling that I am back to 'normal' with my quilting however if you look at it, this has taken me a good 9 months to get there. This is in contrast to some quilters who get these machines and are just loving it and do not seem to have any issues from the word 'go'. I tend to think that I was too stuck in my comfort zone with my DSM which made it difficult to accept any changes...who knows! Still have a lot of work to do...I got a whole box full of thread from Superior Threads that I have never used before, but at least now I do not feel so intimidated by that.


Thursday 28 June 2018

Absolutely love Ruler Work

I have been working away on the challenge of our local HQ group run by Heather Hopkins.
Absolutely love the ruler work! Getting better at it, bit by bit. For this piece we have so far used the HQ Skinny Ruler, some curved rulers and are currently using the Line Grid Ruler for the corner treatment (not shown).
For the arcs I used the circle ruler set combined with the Echo feet set for the Sweet 16 to get the right size. Bit of an adventure but I managed this in the end. The echo feet set for the machine is amazing, basically 3 feet with different echoes attached...3/8in, 1/2in and 3/4in. This makes is possible to customise your rulers to the size that you need. In my case, I used the 9in circle and attached the 1/2in echo foot to quilt out a 10in half circle. Very useful indeed.

Then I used another arc to create a bit of a swag. For this I used the Pro Echo 12in arc
As you can see I am starting to amass a bit of a collection of rulers to choose from. I did participate in the first Handiquilter Ruler of the Month Club that was run by Handiquilter through our local group. This just coincided with my purchase of the machine and I thought this was an easy way to get introduced to quilting with rulers on the machine...6 rulers in 6 months. They then ran a second ruler club and I did exercise some major restraint and did not sign up as I did not want to 'start collecting' rulers. Haha...have just signed up for the third Handiquilter Ruler of the Month Club though! There are some very interesting shapes in there that could be useful (it has a 1/4in Line Grid ruler in there!). Reality is I am just addicted to the ruler work...also saw the other day that Angela Walters has brought out another set of her own rulers. Very enticing indeed, hers are particularly useful for quilting on the DSM, I think. In fact, if you look around on the net there is a ruler for just about any shape and given that they are not cheap you really have to have a bit of a think about how often and for what you are going to use least that is what I am trying to do.
I might stitch together another Charm Square quilt for the next ruler club, so that I can practice the new shapes that are coming.

Apart from this I am trying to piece together the backing for my 1000Pyramid quilt. I am so spatially challenged...this always takes me an extraordinary time to figure out how to put this together. There is a free class on Craftsy run by Elizabeth Hartman called Creative Quilt Backs that was quite handy to watch for this exercise...she makes it sound so easy.

Wednesday 13 June 2018

Rookie Mistake!

I was working away on my little Baptist Fan quilt, when I decided to give it a bit of a spray with water to get rid of the blue water erasable lines that I had in there.

Disaster! Forgot that I did not wash this panel beforehand. Cannot believe it, as I am a quilter who definitely always pre-washes her fabric. Well, not this time obviously...when I went to pick it up from the washing line, the colours had run to the back

These are photos of some of the minor runs...had all sorts of colours come through to the back, particularly red and blue blotches. And this was just from spraying it with some water!

Had to quickly finish this quilt. I do know from experience (!) that you have to deal with colour runs pretty swiftly to have any chance of getting rid of them. Finished this little quilt with a simple black binding.
The front also showed some signs of colour run, particularly around the reds.

So the other day I went to the shop and bought some colour run remover. Was not looking forward to this as the fabric obviously bled a lot just spraying it and I thought that I might spoil the quilt altogether. However, had to be done...happy to say that this worked very well. Even the remover had improved...smelled actually quite nice and did not seem as harsh as when I had to resort to using it some years ago.

Now for the is winter here, so drying is a bit of an issue, particularly this week as it was supposed to be raining for most of the week. This is were our little washing stand comes handy...chasing the sun!
Disaster averted!


Tuesday 5 June 2018

Baptist Fan Design

So I finished my 1000 Pyramid Quilt. In thinking about how to quilt this and working on my challenge piece for the local Handiquilter group using the circle rulers, I started to wonder whether I could try a Baptist fan for an overall design.

I bought the Handiquilter Circle Ruler set (Gold Set) for Christmas as a bit of a present to myself. Since then I have played a little bit with it and have done a few select circles, however have not had a chance to give it a really good workout.

There are 5 individual circle rings which gives you a variety of sizes to complete circles with both on the outside of the ring as well as the inside of the ring. The circles start at 2in and go right up to 11in. As I had only used a few of them to start with (and mainly the easier inside circles)  the first task was to put more Handigrips on them because just 2 on each ring was just not enough, particularly for the bigger circles.

I had a try out on a piece of calico
Baptist fan 5 1/2in
Yep, that was it, loved it and was hooked, however not convinced that I could actually do this over a quilt because obviously I had some shifting and mis-alignments. I did not really have a quilt top ready apart from the huge Pyramid quilt that I could use for practice and I definitely did not feel like trialling it on yet another practice sandwich. I remembered that I had a very old panel from a good 10 years ago - bought this to cut out the blocks and do something really amazing with, however this never happened! Dug up the panel, quickly pinned and basted it and used this for further practice.
This was really good fun to do. Initially I had difficulties holding the ruler, i.e. not sure exactly how to align it properly and where to touch it to hold it in place. I had seen a YouTube video by Lisa Calle where she was using full circles to do the Baptist fan design...this seemed somewhat easier. However as these were circles, I did think that it was just a matter of paying attention to the lines on the ruler and making a note of the different points of alignment (and of course, then not moving the ruler which at times proved difficult). Did the first row of fans without any hassle, however then in the second row got very disoriented with the different colours and blocks I was going over. Realised that I needed to mark in lines indicating the width and height of the fans, in fact needed a 90 degree angle at each starting point! This was really quite marking became fairly sloppy and not entirely correct and some of the fans were not the same width or height, however looking at it after each row, you did not notice this at all. The overall design is incredibly forgiving and unless you are obsessed with consistency and examine it with a ruler it really did not feature at all. All the eyes see is the overall pattern and if the distance between the lines is approximately right it continues to look great.
How good does this look! I am so impressed with this. Always have loved this design, particularly for colourful, scrappy type quilts where you just want the texture over the quilt.
The panel is about  a lap size quilt and did give me a fairly good idea how a small quilt would need to be handled, i.e. I had to be able to quilt away from myself as well as towards me as well as quilting from side to side. As you are doing many of them, I fairly quickly got the hang of it and must say, I did enjoy the slow, deliberate action of changing size by size...not quick, but almost therapeutic and on a small quilt entirely achievable.

So this would definitely work well for a small baby quilt. Am debating a bit with myself at the moment whether I could pull this off over a large quilt...would love to see this on the 1000 Pyramid quilt, but a bit unsure at the moment.

Apart from this, I am working on a challenge quilt using different rulers for the local Handiquilter group and also currently working on the Pink Project initiated by Helen Godden over FB, but more on that another time.


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