Thursday, January 16, 2020

Santorini

When I first saw Cheryl Brickey's pattern Use Your Illusion, two thoughts ran through my mind: wow that is so striking, and wow that looks like a lot of fun to make.

And when I stared at the pattern, I started to see a Greek spiral effect, and then my mind went straight to Santorini. I thought about the lovely blue dome in pretty much all the photos of Santorini, and I found a shade of Kona cotton that matched it.

Piecing of this quilt definitely took awhile since paper piecing always does, but it was as fun as I expected. It was truly exciting to see each perfect block come out one by one. But how do I quilt it? The pattern is so striking and I wanted the quilting to enhance it.

I completed each "incomplete" block with lines, and then proceeded to densely fill in every other space so that all the foreground and the spirals remain unquilted and will pop to the front.

To keep monotony down, I filled the background of the quilt with several different designs, flower, back-and-forth lines, swirls, and wavy lines. Simple in concept, but boy did this quilt take forever and forever to quilt! It wasn't all that hard, but my hands kept getting numb due to all that small intricate work, and I had to take a lot of mental and physical breaks. Sometimes the breaks lasted weeks.

But at the end, it was all worth it when it was done. I really like how the end result has such a richness and elegance to it. Even though I took much longer on this quilt than I intended to, I'm so happy with it and it's a great one to start the year with!

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Linking up with: My Quilt Infatuation, Busy Hands Quilts, Confessions of a Fabric Addict, Cooking Up Quilts, Powered by Quilting, and Meadow Mist Designs.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Machine Matters ~ A Bernina 770 QE Review

One week after I began quilting, I got a Pfaff Expression 3.5. I had bought it intending to trade it in within a year (and get all my money back towards a trade-in as my dealer promised), but when I was ready to make the upgrade, my dealer reneged and I was left stuck with a machine that worked, but I was dissatisfied with.

I sewed on that machine for another two years, sometimes with a lot of frustration, but I decided it was time to make the ultimate upgrade. I had been drooling over Bernina for a few years, and I saw the Bernina 770 QE as the ultimate machine for quilters. Maybe it's all the marketing they did, but I convinced myself that I had to have it! The problem was, it cost as much as a small longarm, it was hard to justify. I finally talked myself into it because knowing me, I'd just obsess over it and eventually get it anyway, and in that case, isn't it better to get it earlier so I can enjoy it that much sooner?

That was a year ago. I've had my Bernina 770 QE for a full year now, so I can finally write a review about it. I don't even think I scratched the surface of what this machine can do, but boy, do I love this machine! It is sheer joy to use. It could explain why in the last year I've enjoyed piecing a lot more.

5 Things I Love:

1) Stitch Quality

This machine sews perfectly. Period. My main problem with my Pfaff was the inability to adjust presser foot pressure, and I think that caused a lot of issues, from wonky half-square triangles, to shrunken flying geese, to walking foot quilting that makes me cry. When I looked for a new machine, I made sure it had adjustable presser foot pressure. But I didn't even need to adjust it! It's already perfect, and my piecing comes out a lot better than when I was on the Pfaff.

2) Empty Bobbin Warning

Sometimes I find myself happily sewing away until I realize I've been sewing nothing for ... minutes. That doesn't happen on this machine as the machine recognizes when the bobbin is empty, and I barely get a few inches away before it stops sewing and warns me that my bobbin is empty. I love that!

3) Knee Lift

Before I had knee lift, I was told that once you use it, it becomes a must-have. But since I didn't have it, I couldn't understand why everybody loved it so much. As soon as I got this machine, I realized everybody was right. Now that I've had knee-lift, having to manually raise the presser foot seems so archaic! I know a lot of machines have this feature, but it's definitely one of my favorite things about my machine.

4) Dual Feed

Again, a lot of machines have dual feed. I think Pfaff invented it to begin with and its patent finally ran out and now everybody else has it. But I like the dual feed on the Bernina so much better than the one on the Pfaff. I can tell it really works. I'm not sure what was wrong with it on the Pfaff, but considering how unhappy the stitch quality was, it clearly didn't work, right? Rather, when I turn it on and off on the Pfaff, it looked the same (as in not good). I can't even tell that it's on. On the Bernina, I can tell a big difference when it's on vs off!

5) Big Bobbin

It's fair to say that a big bobbin is always better than a little bobbin. Well ... almost always. Bernina's big bobbin means that I can sew and sew and sew and the bobbin takes so much longer to run out than on most other sewing machines. That's a clear advantage! But there are downsides to this, as I will mention in the dislikes section ...

***

But no machine is perfect, and this would not be a proper review if I didn't mention my top dislikes of this machine.

5 Things I Don't Love:

1) $$$

Yes, the Bernina costs a lot of money to begin with. But what about afterwards? Remember those big bobbins I like so much? Well, they cost a pretty penny apiece. And then if I wanted a presser foot that didn't come with the (admittedly very nicely stocked) accessories box, well, be prepared to spend big. It's a good thing I don't need a walking foot with the dual-feed working so well, because if I did, it costs hundreds of dollars. I wouldn't dare cheap out and get some knockoff either.

2) Low Bobbin Warning

Even though I love the no-bobbin thread warning because it prevents me from sewing with nothing, I hate the low bobbin warning. Bernina's low bobbin warning comes on so early with so much thread left that it's basically useless for me. Many times after I get the low bobbin warning, I ignored it and went on to sew a whole quilt top ... and the thread still didn't run out!

3) Nannies, Nannies Everywhere

Every time I turn on the Bernina, it warns me that I need to clean my needle threader. The thing is ... I've never used the needle threader, I see no lint in that area, and I don't know what it's talking about. I cannot start sewing until I dismiss all the nannies, and that gets old really fast. On one hand, I appreciate it reminding me to oil the machine, on the other hand, the message sticks around for awhile even after I've oiled it, and at the end of the day I'd rather make my own call about that.

4) The Starting Lock Stitch

Oh boy, do I hate this "feature". Is it a feature? I think it's a bug. The Bernina will always do a mini lockstitch when you start sewing, after a thread cut. It's not something I can turn off, and I've asked the factory. The only workaround seems to be to use a leader and ender and/or avoid the thread cutter. This is a shame, because I think the thread cutter on this machine works much better than the one on my Pfaff!

5) Needle Positions

My Pfaff had 37 needle positions (I think), and I got used to adjusting it ever so slightly as needed to get the right seam allowance for what I was working on. For example, I know that if I plan to press a seam open, I will sew a less scant seam allowance than if I was going to press it to the side, because when I press to the side, the piece comes out a bit smaller unless I adjust by sewing a scanter seam. However, the Bernina only has a handful of needle positions, so I can't adjust it ever so slightly like that.

***

In conclusion ... I love this machine, because it truly sews like a dream! I've never been as happy with the quality of my piecing, my flying geese, my walking foot quilting, as I am now. I'm so glad I got it, and I really don't think I'll need another another machine for a long, long time.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Best of 2019

It's that time of the year again! This is my 2nd time participating in Cheryl Brickey's Best of Linky Party, something I really enjoy because it gives me an excuse to look back onto my year of blogging and projects, and forces me (in a fun way) to pick my favorites.

As I look back onto 2019, I realize that it was a fairly low-volume year. In fact, I only completed 11 quilts in the entirety of 2019 (plus a few wallets and one handbag). But, here are my top 5:

I'm Most Grateful For: Mod Mountains

Earlier this year I experienced my first burnout. For a few months, I just didn't really want to quilt. I couldn't control the passion for quilting when it arrived, and I couldn't control it leaving me, either. But then something happened. Suzy Quilts started a quilt-along for Mod Mountains in April, and something about that stirred up the fire in me, and I felt a renewed passion for quilting.

Favorite Top: Rock Star

It was a very, very close race between Rock Star and Circuit for my favorite quilt top of the year, but at the end Rock Star won out because I'm just so crazy about the fabrics, and I have a thing for star quilts.

Biggest Save: Bridges

I really hated Bridges when I first finished the quilt top. In fact, I couldn't get over how much I hated it, and that's why it got quilted over so many others I have in the stash ... to get it out of my mind! But as a result, I took more liberties with the quilting, experimented, did things I normally wouldn't, and it turned into one of my favorites, to the point that it's now hanging over my fireplace.

Most Inspired: Seahorse Sanctuary

Seahorse Sanctuary is one of my most inspired quilts, both in the fabric selection and the quilting. The inspiration came in the form of putting the seahorse print inside the houses and quilting a little underseas neighborhood. All the houses are "decorated" with different quilting designs, and I really enjoyed this one.

Favorite Finish: Totality

When I finished Totality back in February, I said it was my favorite quilt ever. That still holds true today! Everything about this quilt speaks to me. The graphic pattern, the special fabric I got from Spoonflower, and of course, I love the quilting.

***

So that's my 2019. Between months of burnout, fear and loathing in the longarm room, and lots of trips, I didn't get as much done in the sewing room as I would have liked to, but of my finishes, I'm really happy with and proud of each one. Here's to 2020!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

A Rocking Duo

When I think of rock stars in the quilting world, there are a lot of names that come to mind. But when I think of someone who literally has the aesthetic of a rock star, I think of no one but Libs Elliott. I absolutely adore her fabrics and her designs, full of skulls, glitter, and fun.

So one can imagine just how much I enjoyed making her Double Trouble pattern with her Greatest Hits Vol I collection. (The black / white fabrics are not from that collection, as I didn't have enough.) I love star quilts, and this one is just pulsating with rhythm and beat! (Maybe because I listened to too much pounding bass while making this.)

Well, I'm totally in love with it! However, while cutting the black and white fabric, I misread the instructions and cut out twice as many. I decided it's time to make another Haphazard quilt, this time in just black and white fabrics. I didn't have enough for a throw-sized quilt, but this 36" x 36" quilt makes a good size of a wallhanging.

I just love it! It looks so graphic and striking. This is my 3rd Haphazard, and I think it's my favorite yet! All in all, it's been a happy week in the quilting studio.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Swooning Over Swoon

Possibly the most exciting but simultaneously the most stressful part of making a quilt for me is fabric selection. Out of the quilts I've made, if I messed up somewhere, that was almost always where I messed up. That's why I love to buy kits.

But once in awhile, I get an idea to marry a quilt pattern with a fabric collection in my stash, and I get so excited about it that I drop everything else. That happened to me when I envisioned Camille Roskelley's Swoon quilt in Katarina Roccella's Mediterraneo collection.

Mediterraneo features amazing saturated colors and beautiful prints that evoke the ambience of the Mediterranean coast. But I was terrified at the same time, because this could either become one of my favorite quilt tops, or fail spectacularly. There's not much in between.

The first thing I did was choose 3 fabrics for each of the 9 Swoon blocks:

Next began the piecing for the Swoon blocks, and these are some really fun blocks to piece. And after they started coming out one by one, arranging them on the design wall was very exciting. These are really big blocks and I didn't want to move them around a lot, so I took a picture of each block and arranged it using an app until I found a layout I liked:

These quilt blocks vibrate with life and color, and that's what I love about them. Though I hate adding borders and sashing, having more negative space will allow them to breathe much better. Fingers-crossed that this will turn out well!

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Never Say Never

I said I wouldn't do another block of the month next year because I'm still tired from the last one, Stargazer, which did turn out beautiful but was so exhausting.

So what did I do? I've thus far joined 3 block-of-the-months next year for a total of 4 quilts. I should have known I wouldn't be able to resist when they come calling!

The first one I signed up for is Angela Walters's Build-A-Quilt. I fell in love with 2 colorways and 2 of the layouts ... which means I'm making 2 quilts! The fabric will be mailed to me every month so I won't have a lot to work with at a time, which helps keep stress down.

The Stargazer quilt I did this year was run by Rebecca Bryan, who does these beautiful and intricate designs. But it was challenging and a lot of work, so I decided not to do another one next year. Of course, as soon as Rebecca showed off her design, Solstice, for next year, I caved. It is so beautiful and unique looking, and I really need a purple and orange quilt in my life.

And finally, I also signed up for a block of the month from Freshly Pieced called Paper Chain. I plan to audition my own fabric for this one.

And I already got started on Angela's build-a-quilt, since that kicked off a few weeks ago. The first month's blocks came together nice and easy:

I'm so excited about these block of the months! I hope I will find ways to manage the journey and not burn out too quickly.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Bridges

Bridges is a pattern by Anne Sullivan that appeared in Modern Monthly of the Modern Quilt Guild 2 years ago. As soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted to make it, even though at the time my curve piecing skills were non-existent. Now that I'm a little better at it, I can finally take a crack at this!

I used the fabric collection Diving Board by Alison Glass, which I thought was very fitting given the theme. The pattern is for a wallhanging size, so I expanded it to be a throw sized quilt.

When picking quilting designs, the first thing I look at is what the theme of the quilt is. In this case, the inspiration is clearly suspension bridges, so the quilting followed that.

The part above the arches is the sky, so I quilted swirls and added an extra row of bridges with the quilting. I like to do these types of ghost blocks a lot, because they add visual interest and fill up space, so I don't have to do as much filler quilting.

The printed fabric is quite busy so I just did straight lines and some dot-to-dot quilting in the bridges. The straight lines further emphasize the suspension bridge theme.

The portion below the arches represents water, so I got to practice a design that I really like but still struggle with, which is wavy lines. The main challenge is working this design so that I'm never quilting from right to left for too long a distance. Otherwise my stitch quality deteriorates and eventually the thread shreds.

I could have filled up that whole region with wavy lines, but I decided it would be boring, so I added some elements for more visual interest. And why not a feather? It can represent an underwater plant of some sort. And at the last minute, I decided to throw in a treasure chest. I've never quilted something quite so literal before, but it was fun and adds some whimsy.

To be honest, I didn't like this quilt top a whole lot when I was finished with it, so I took some liberties with the quilting and was more experimental, but the quilting totally saved it for me, and I sort of love it now!

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Linking up with: My Quilt Infatuation, Busy Hands Quilts, Confessions of a Fabric Addict, Cooking Up Quilts, Powered by Quilting, and Meadow Mist Designs.

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