Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Paint it Blue

I finished the Spring Awakens sampler scarf and took it off the loom. First, the good. This scarf is incredibly soft and drapey, and is very lightweight. I had done a complete random assortment of brooks bouquet, 1x1 and 2x2 lenos with plain weave in between and it actually works. It was random, I didn't plan it at all, yet overall it looks rather cohesive. However, I just can't get over the color.

Now that I know this is a nice scarf hidden underneath the color that I hate, I'm more determined than ever to save it. I had overdyed a shawl previously that ran into some bleeding issues during blocking time, so I already have a dyeing kit, which consists of a cauldron (actually canning pot), rubber gloves, a stirring spoon, a towel, safety goggles, and a measuring spoon. I sort of feel like I'm brewing potions when I'm stirring the pot. But then again, turning ugly into beautiful is kind of magical.

I added some blue dye and let it heat up, then soaked my scarf for a good 20 minutes while it boiled. Then I washed it with some Soak to get rid of the smell. When it came out of the pot, I really liked the color. It was a shiny black-blue. After it dried though, the color got a bit lighter, and I could see what happened. As I somewhat expected, the warp didn't absorb the dye very well, though it did get a few shades darker and bluer, it mostly retained its old colors. However, the gray weft absorbed dye very nicely, and is now a shade of teal.

Still, I think it's a major improvement. This is definitely something I'd be happy to wear, and it's giftable too. The scarf itself is made of high quality materials, and nobody has to know it used to be ugly.

Friday, June 24, 2016


Spectra by Stephen West is a rather popular and well-known pattern in knittingverse. The thing I looked forward to most in Spectra is using my Noro yarn that is a nice gradient. Noro is known for their amazing gradient yarns that change from color to color beautifully, and is one of the few dyers out there who can combine so many colors in their yarn and have it look actually good instead of crazy.

I started this project by combining the gradient yarn with a dark gray yarn, but a few wedges in I realized I really hated it. The colors just didn't pop. I then restarted it with the black yarn for contrast, and I knew I made the right choice. It really made the color pop, and watching the color wheel develop is really fun.

I've done quite a few Stephen West patterns by now, all shawls, and while I found the patterns to always be well written and interesting to knit, I've never found them particularly easy to wear. Like all the others, I had to bunch and shift this one just right. That's fine for a photograph, but for real life, I can't constantly adjust it to make sure it looks good. So I might not be wearing this much.

A Dog On the Loom

I read about the expression, "A dog on the loom" in a weaving book, and at first I chuckled. I like dogs, and I couldn't help but picture an adorable puppy playing with yarn.

But it wasn't so funny anymore when I realized that I truly had a dog on the loom. My Spring Awakens scarf is definitely turning into one. In fact, the more I work on it the more I disliked it. I'm tempted to cut the project off the loom, throw it away, and never look at it again ... but I don't like that idea either, the yarn was so expensive. (To that note ... I've cancelled my yarn-of-the-month club for good and I'm never going to let someone else decide for me what color to get ever again.)

I had been treating this as a practice piece, trying some of the weaving techniques that I was learning, such as different combinations of leno and brooks bouquet, so it has a very open, lacey look. When I look at it, I try to think about what it is that I hated so much. Is it the texture? No, the texture feels nice, the smooth warp with the fuzzy weft. Is it the open look? No, I don't mind it, and I hope it'll close up a bit better after blocking anyway. Is it my weaving? No, I actually think I did a decent job with keeping the selvages nice and beating it even. What I truly hated about this scarf is the color.

Then I remembered that color is a relatively easy fix ... I can overdye it. There's potential yet in this scarf. However, this yarn is silk/bamboo warp with a cashmere / nylon weft, so I have no idea how well it would receive dye, but considering this dog of a project, an overdyeing experiment really can't make it worse.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Pebbles, Pebbles Everywhere

My favorite free-motion filler design is probably pebbles. From the first time I saw it, I fell in love, and I've loved it since. The texture feels wonderful, and the look has a river rock look that just feels so Japanese to me. Pebbles is the reason I was eager to learn to free-motion quilt.

After practicing wiggles and loops and straight lines, today I finally practiced some pebbles. I discovered to my delight that this design is easy! Indeed, it's a lot easier than stippling is to me, as I feel I don't have to think as far ahead, and mistakes hardly matter, as I can just convert them into little bubbles and fill the area a bit better. There's a lot of traveling in pebbling, and I'm not too proficient at traveling yet, but toward the end I was getting better.

When I first started free-motion quilting, I used Gutermann's 100% Polyester thread, which I could get easily from Jo-ann's and seemed to work fine for piecing. It even worked for free-motion until I started traveling, and then the thread started skipping and breaking. I was so surprised the first time it happened, as I had never had that happen before!

Per Leah Day's suggestions, I decided to give Isacord a try. I'm a total fan now ... that entire patch of pebbles had no skipped stitches or thread breakages, it didn't leave a lot of lint, and the part that makes me think this is too good to be true is ... it's quite a bit cheaper than Gutermann's! Isacord is a little harder to wind in the bobbin, the first time I did it was very uneven, but I found if I just hold the thread while I wind it, that extra tension is enough to encourage even winding.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Book Review: The Quilt Block Cookbook

As soon as I heard word that Amy Gibson had published another book, The Quilt Block Cookbook, I preordered mine on Amazon. I had enjoyed her previous book For Keeps immensely, and looked forward for months to receive this new book of hers.

I get lots of quilting patterns online, but the reason I buy and keep quilting books, even if they only have a few quilts that I want to make, is the experience and the presentation. Reading the introduction, seeing the layouts and the little blurbs that go with the quilts is what makes the experience for me. To this end, The Quilt Block Cookbook does a superb presentation.

This book is presented like a cookbook, which I also happen to love despite the fact that I don't cook, with all the analogies to cookbooks from ingredients, recipes, staples, and every block is presented with food and spices. The photography is great, it makes my mouth water to read this book, but it's a quilt book! There are 50 blocks in this quilt, and though some of them are very simple, some are rather complicated and are composed of many smaller "ingredients." All in all they look very approachable, yet are interesting due to the way Amy combines familiar elements.

My favorite part of the book, however, is when Amy presents 7 sampler quilts. These aren't your traditional sampler quilt layed out in a grid with sashing, which I do love and respect as well, but new and modern layouts for sampler blocks. I found these layouts innovative, and can actually see myself making quilts with sampler blocks to outfit my bedroom.

This is a beautiful book that is delightful to the eyes, and it makes me hungry for chocolate, for some reason.

Crossroads Quilt

When I learned about 9-patches early on in my quilting life, my first impression of them was that they had a checkerboard look, which I wasn't fond of. However, a very quick search on Google led to some gorgeous 9-patch quilts, and one of them in particular made an impression on me due to the quilter's color choices. Charming Plus Quilt by Sew Mama Sew was the basis for my quilt. However, her quilt was 36" x 42", which is a good size for a baby quilt, but I wanted to make a lap quilt. I made each individual square 3" instead of 2", so that I ended up with a quilt that was 54" by 63".

I used a black / white layer cake that I really treasured, in addition to some random fat quarters I had. I basted differently than I had done before, and I much like my new method for basting. For the first time, it didn't leave me the problem of excess fabric that led to puckering and distorted blocks. For quilting, I did a diagonal grid, as the 9-patch was just asking for it.

Visually, I'm very happy with this quilt, but it feels different from everything else I've made, because it is the least densely quilted of all by far. I'm in fact a little uncomfortable with how much less quilting there is here, even though the batting's specification says it's okay. As a result, it is a much softer quilt than my others, but it makes me feel a little nervous at the same time. Time will tell if it will hold up!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

My Adventures in Basting

I'll have to admit, basting is my least favorite part of quilt making. It can be painful and rigorous, and at the end, I'm still not satisfied with the results. I've experimented with several different ways of basting so far:

#1 - Traditional Pin Basting: This method involves taping the backing to some hard surface, usually the floor because I certainly don't have a table big enough for most of my quilts, and then laying the sandwich down and pin basting it. The problem I run into is that it is back-breaking work, I despise taping it, and at least the way I do it, I still end up with tons of excess fabric during quilting time. (I suspect the reason is because for anything but a runner, I need to sit on it while I'm pinning, and that makes it hard to smooth the puckers out of the fabric.)

#2 - Spray Basting: I tried this next, as it came so highly recommended. I'm leery of the fact that it's got chemicals, though. I tried spray basting outside, though I do not really have a good space to work in, and my deck is especially windy. I also had trouble making sure there are no puckers, and I was constantly readjusting. No doubt I can get better with experience, if I wanted to continue down that path ... the one advantage of spray basting is that it's so much faster than the other methods.

Since I wasn't happy with either of these 2 more traditional methods, I decided to try some other things and see if they can work better for me:

#3 - Machine Thread Basting: This method takes advantage of the ditch, and though not particularly fast, seems to result in less puckers and block distortion than #1, and it certainly involves no expensive spray bastes (or chemicals) like #2. I like to call this method iterative stabilization, but it simply involves iteratively stitching and pinning. It involves roughly the following steps:

1) Tape the backing to the floor and make the sandwich as usual. (Sadly this part cannot be avoided).
2) Pin-baste very lightly, just enough to prevent major movement.
3) Starting from the middle and in a grid layout, stitch in the ditch. After every stitching line, put the quilt on a smooth surface and take care to smooth out puckers between last stitching line and next potential stitching line, and then readjust pins if necessary.
4) Continue stitching, but it's probably best to do 2 horizontal lines, then 2 vertical lines, etc, until the quilt is stabilized and there are no pins left.

I tried this with my Puppy Pieces quilt, and it actually worked quite well, there was much less block distortion or fabric puckers than there could have been.

#4 - Table-top Pin Basting - Much as I liked method #3, it still required me to tape the backing to the floor, and I hated that part, not to mention the fact that it was so wasteful. I decided to explore a table top option that didn't use tape. Leah Day had an option with using elastic to secure the fabric, but I didn't want to use elastic to hold tension, I'm kind of afraid it'd break and slap me, so instead I used binder clips.

1) Find a table-top, and know its dimensions so that you can find the center point later on by measuring.
2) Identify the center of the backing piece, the batting, and the top, and make a small mark.
3) Place the baking fabric on, matching center to center of the table, and secure the edges with binder clips. Make sure the fabric is tight and smooth but not overly stretched.
4) Place batting on, and match center to center. Smooth out batting, and then reclip all the clips around the table, this time to accommodate the batting.
5) Place top on, again matching center to center. Smooth out as best as you can, then reclip all the clips to enclose all 3 layers.
6) Begin pin basting from the center out. As you pin baste, excess fabric will probably come out, so constantly readjusting the binder clips is crucial to the success of this method.
7) Once the entire table top is basted, loosen all clips, then shift the quilt until a new section is on the table. Reclip and restart.

I used medium sized binder clips that held about 1", so it was just big enough, and it held it great with perfect tension. (Constantly opening the binder clips hurt my hands, though, I have to admit.) This method isn't fast, it's about on par with #1, but out of everything I tried, it yielded the most pleasing result to me with the least amount of puckers during quilting time. The key is to constantly be readjusting clips to hold excess fabric that we "press out" with our hands while we pin.

I can't say that I'll exclusively use any of the above, as they all have their own pros and cons, but depending on the project at hand, any of them is a viable option.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

WIP: Spring Awakens Scarf

I'm sort of a weaver in addition to the other crafts I do. At least, my loom downstairs tell me so. I'm such a beginner on weaving though, and I don't think I can say I've fully gotten into it yet. That's not to say I won't become addicted at some future point, but I'm not there yet.

I recently acquired some yarn from a yarn-of-the-month club that while it is a great blend and also feels nice, is really not my color. The yarn is a blend of 51% silk and 49% bamboo, which means it'll drape really, really beautifully, but it's a spring green with some orange pink, very bright and absolutely not my favorite color in the world. I decided the best thing for it is to become my weaving experiment. I also had quite a bit of brushed cashmere yarn that I picked up for super cheap at a yarn store that was going out of business on hand, that I think the two might work well together. I have no idea though, it's all just an experiment!

My plan is to weave something that's very loosey flowy and drapey, to highlight the ethereal nature of the brushed cashmere yarn. I used my 8-dent reed and made it about 10 inches wide. The worst part of weaving is winding the warp, I find, though unlike the last 2 times I did it, this time I both used a warp separator and had help holding the tension. I didn't realize until I was nearly done, that this so-called "Worsted" weight yarn is almost 12 wraps per inch, and that I should have used a 10-dent reed. Using a 8-dent reed makes this extremely open, more than I had intended. But I'm not going to redo it at this point, this whole thing is an experiment anyway, and if it goes awry ... oh well. I doubt I'd end up with something completely unsable, but it might be more suited for summer than fall at this rate!

All ready to weave!

Moonlit Poncho

Even though I was knitting virtually nonstop for the better part of 3 years, when I got into quilting a few months ago I was so overcome with infatuation for my new hobby that I dropped my needles for awhile. However, what better motivator for getting back into knitting than to do a gift knit for a loved one? I recently completed this Moonlit Poncho by Liz Capik for my mother-in-law.

The knit was very easy, but the silk yarn was not the best in the world to work with. Not only was it very intent on splitting, but it bled so much that my bathtub looks like something out of a horror movie. After 4 baths, it was still bleeding! It's a good thing I didn't combine this yarn with a light color.

I'm very pleased with the finished result, and hope my mother-in-law enjoys wearing it.

Monday, June 13, 2016

My Favorite Quilting Bloggers

I collect quilt books, but my main source of inspiration is from quilting bloggers. My version of the morning papers is reading feedly and seeing what new projects and posts they've posted. Here are some of my favorites!

Stitchery Dickory Dock by Amy Gibson - Amy deserves a special mention on the list, because she was the first one who inspired me to quilt. Until I saw (and took) her classes on Craftsy, I associated quilts with old, antique, vintage, and other words that do not appeal to me. Through her, I learned that quilting can be very much now, all it takes is fresh fabrics, and I'm grateful!

Oh Fransson by Elizabeth Hartman - I own 2 of Elizabeth's books, and I just love reading them so much, especially Modern Patchwork. Her blog also radiates her sense of fun, color, and originality. Elizabeth's designs are possibly some of my favorites in the quilting world.

In Color Order by Jeni Baker - Jeni is a relative new find for me, but reading her blog just makes me smile. I love her fabric choices and her simple but gorgeous designs. Jeni's specialty is half-square triangles, she's even devoted an entire book to it.

Stitched in Color by Rachel Hauser - I've shed quite a few tears reading Rachel's blog, and it's because she's shared some very personal struggles on her blog, things that I cannot imagine going through myself with nearly as much grace. That aside, Rachel's quilts are more traditional than most of the bloggers I read, but I find it very beautiful and appealing, and it's proof that traditional doesn't have to look old.

Tallgrass Prairie Studio by Jacquie Gering - To me, Jacquie is one of the pioneers of modern quilting. Her designs are like modern art (in the nicest way), and if you see pictures of her apartment ... wow, I wish I can live there! Her style very much falls in line with an urban, minimalist, and improvisational feel, and the best part of it is, it's not nearly as hard as most of the traditional quilting out there is! On top of that, Jacquie is also extremely innovative with her walking foot quilting. Whoever thought the walking foot can make designs as beautiful and complex as hers?

Man Sewing by Rob Appell - Man sewing, the title says it all. Rob is one of the rare male stars in the quilting world, and his designs are also extremely modern, innovative, and interesting. He brings a different and fresh sense of style and color into the quilting world, and results in quilts that we can actually give to the men in our lives, not just the little boys!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Puppy Pieces Quilt

After nearly 2 months of working on and off, I can finally say that I've finished the Puppy Pieces quilt! When I embarked on making a quilt of puppies with paper piecing, I had no idea how much work I was in for. Apparently, between cutting the paper templates, punching and perforating holes, paper piecing the 35 puppies, and appliqueing eyes and tail bows, not to mention actually quilting this, it was a ton of work! I think I burned through the first 6 Harry Potter audiobooks working on this.

I encountered a few challenges while working on this quilt, the first of which was that the tail seams didn't match up perfectly. I decided to just use a sharpie to color it in and fudge it a bit on most of them, and some of the more egregious mismatched tail seams ended up getting pink bows appliqued on. Then, quilting this turned into another little nightmare. I was having a lot of trouble pushing the quilt through, despite the ample throat space on the machine, as a lot of the challenge came from the great hunk of quilt hanging to the left of the machine, and the fact that the quilt was getting caught on my hated extension table a whole lot. How I wish I had a table that allowed flatbed sewing! Since getting new furniture isn't feasible at the moment, I finally caved and invested in Jennoop quilt suspenders and hope it will make my next quilt easier to maneuver.

But when a project is done, I hardly remember the difficulties. There's a great sense of accomplishment when the final stitches of the binding are done, which is part of the reason why I like binding quilts so much. I'm very pleased with the result, I think it's quite adorable and know that my daughter will love it.

Monday, June 6, 2016

9 Common (And Not-So-Common) Household Items For Quilting

As I look around my sewing room and others' sewing rooms I was quite amazed at how many things that are there that were designed for other uses originally, but quilters have claimed them to make our quilting lives easier and more fun. Here's a very quick round-up, some of which are quite obvious, some of which you have to admit are brilliant. (And I didn't come up with any of these, so I do not take credit!)

9) Painter's Tape - Obvious but must be said for all the use I get out of it for quilting purposes. Securing the backing while making a quilt sandwich, marking lines on the quilt, organizing rows, I use this every day.

8) Elmer's Glue - Another very common sight in the sewing room, mostly for basting seams, securing bindings, and a few souls prefer this for glue basting a quilt sandwich over spray basting. I admit, I'm intrigued, I must try that some time.

7) Lint Roller - I find the best way to clean the cutting mat and the pressing board from all the little lint and threads that get on there after vigorous cutting is a lint roller. I even have to lint roller myself before leaving the sewing room, or I find little threads sticking to all my clothes.

6) Freezer Paper - Originally used for packing meat (really?), I suspect it's used more for crafting than not. For quilters, it's a wonderful item for tracing templates, or doing turned edge applique, and it's even reusable quite a few times.

5) Pipe Cleaner - Ever used the brush that came with your sewing machine to brush out the lint under the throat plate? It's pretty bad, right? Mine just brushed the lint from one corner to another. But after getting a tip from Christina Cameli, I bent a pipe cleaner in half and used it to clean, and it's wonderful. It gets in all the tight places and the lint naturally clings to it.

4) Post-it Notes - A stack of post-its is both a great seam guide and a great seam jumper! My sewing machine (and yours too, maybe) gets very very upset going from 0 to a very thick seam, and this helps to coax it into working again.

3) Laser Level - Squaring up a small quilt is easy. Squaring a large one, on the other hand, is really difficult, as no matter how hard I try, I can't ensure that my lines are straight over a really really long edge. A teensy shift in the ruler adds up over many ruler lengths. But with a laser level, squaring up is easy! Though it might expose that the quilt you thought was a rectangle, is actually veering toward a diamond, but I digress ...

2) Sandpaper - Marking on some less stiff fabrics, especially with a pencil, can be tough sometimes, as the fabric likes to stretch around. Putting a sandpaper beneath it makes it cling and provides it with a good base for marking.

1) Dog Grooming Arm & Muslin Clamps - All I can say when I saw this, was brilliant! And so cheaply achieved. This came from Katie's Quilting Corner, and suspends the quilt so that free motion is much easier. See her blog post for more details.

Quilters are quite resourceful, aren't they?

Pfaff Expression 3.5 ~ A Few Months In

I've had my lovely Pfaff for a few months now. I'm still very much in love with this machine, but I'm now able to give a slightly more objective review of it. Before this, I sewed on my Brother CS6000i, a very good beginner machine that even has a lot of whistles and bells, but I'm really glad to have made the upgrade to my Pfaff Expression 3.5.

My Favorite Things:

  • IDT - of course, the reason I got interested in Pfaff. The IDT is basically a built-in walking foot, and I just love being able to use a lot of different foot on my machine even during the quilting phase. For example, I use the blind hem foot for stitch-in-the-ditch, and sometimes I put on an open-toe applique foot for better visibility.

  • Stitch Look & Tension - I've never, ever had to adjust tension on this machine, it automatically handles that, and with the exception of my messed up bobbin (see Issues) all the stitches came out perfectly. Even when I'm sure my needle is dull, it keeps on stitching perfectly.

  • Automatic Thread Cutter - I love this feature, but it is also a pain (see Issues). When it works though, this little feature makes me feel like I have something really fancy.

  • Automatic Needle Threader - I know this is a very standard feature on a lot of machines, but they're not all the same. With my Brother machine I had previously, though the feature existed it took more maneuvering to get it to thread and it doesn't always work. It always took multiple tries. On this machine, however, it has worked 99% of the time. (The 1% is probably user error.)

  • 37 Needle Positions - Another major upgrade from my Brother machine that only had 3 stitch positions. 37 Needle Positions mean that I can adjust my needles for that perfect size and still use the edge of my standard presser foot's edge as a guide. I never use my quarter-inch foot for piecing, I prefer instead to use the standard 1A zig zag foot while adjusting my needle position to 3.5, which is a scant quarter seam. I find that much easier to use than the quarter inch foot.

  • Ease of Changing Needles - Changing the needle with this thing is a cinch, I don't even have to use a screwdriver, I can tighten and loosen the needle screw with my fingers very easily. It also comes with a little tool to hold the needle so that it doesn't fall into the throat plate, as well as to help the needle get back into spot. After changing needles on my Brother machine, I know that this one is much easier to work with.

  • Load / Save a Stitch - I never knew I wanted this feature until I had it. It is so useful to be able to load / save favorite stitches, or even remember stitches as you're using them. For example, if I'm using a certain setting for quilting, such as a serpentine stitch that I've adjusted to be just the right size, I definitely save it so that I can come back to it later and have it be identical. (Since the machine resets if you turn it off.)

  • Continuous Reverse - This is another feature I never knew I needed until I used it. On my Brother machine, if I wanted to reverse a few stitches I needed to hold down the reverse button and stitch a few stitches. This is fine if I just wanted to reinforce a seam, but it is impractical to have to hold it down for fancy reverse designs. But on this machine, I just press it once and the machine stitches reverse perfectly until I press it again. I've used that a lot during quilting, to quilt in reverse for the designs I want instead of turning the quilt 180 degrees, which would be much, much more painful.

  • Large Throat Space - This machine has a good 10" from the needle to the back of the machine for quilting, which is pretty great. I do need to maneuver and squish a bit, but in general I'm my current bottleneck to be lack of space *behind* the machine where the parts I already quilted get bunched up, not lack of space in the harp.

    Of course, this machine isn't perfect, there is no such thing. There are a few things I've found somewhat annoying about this machine.

  • Automatic Thread Cutter - Yes, this is one of my favorite features. But it's also a feature that I've been most annoyed about. That's because it only works about 80% of the time. When it doesn't work, if I press it again it frequently does work. I clean out my bobbin area very often of lint, so I'm not sure why it fails so much.

  • Bobbin Issues - The bobbin of this machine is a sensitive beast, I've discovered. You have to drop the bobbin in correctly and pull the thread through just correctly. There's supposed to be a little "click" that tells you it's in the right place, but in truth I've never ever been able to hear it. Usually issues don't show up until you start stitching and realize your stitches look funny, and it's even kind of subtle. Luckily I've run into this issue just twice, and I can hear that the machine sounds different so I can fix it without having to rip back too much. However, the *number one* annoying thing about this machine is pulling up the bobbin thread. It just doesn't work like other machines I've seen, where you basically take one full stitch, and the bobbin thread comes up. In this machine, unless I have a piece of fabric, the bobbin thread doesn't get pulled up at all no matter how many stitches I take. In normal sewing I don't bother, I just let the bobbin thread bit get trapped in the seam. But in quilting where both sides are visible, it's virtually required that I sew on a piece of scrap fabric first in order to pull the bobbin thread way up. I can deal with this, but it's annoying.

  • Lack of Presser Foot Pressure Adjustment - not an annoyance, but a glaring lack of feature. I know some features are reserved for really really fancy machines, but it seems machines much cheaper than what I paid for has a presser foot pressure adjustment, and I don't have it.

    Extra Accessories I Purchased Since:

  • Extension Table - Ooh, I hate this thing. I meant to buy a quilting table, but bought this instead thinking it was the same thing. It's not. I do use it for quilting since I have it and can't get rid of it, but it annoys me a lot. Mostly, because the lower left corner of this thing is *very* pointy. That means not only do I accidentally hurt myself on it sometimes, but my quilt gets stuck on it *so freaking much*. I might toss this and buy a real quilting table sometime out of sheer annoyance. But this thing was not cheap! Sigh.

  • Circular Attachment - it's a cute little attachment but it's a lot to pay for for what it does. I think I would have been better off with a compass and a marking pencil. I've also seen people rig up their own, and they're quite brilliant and resourceful to do so.

  • 1/4" Foot - I don't use my quarter inch foot for piecing, I find it really difficult to use for piecing, because the guide area is so short. I use my zig zag foot for piecing instead and adjust the needle position. However, what I do use the 1/4" foot for is to sew on a marked line perfectly. I find it very easy to do with the quarter inch foot. One caveat is that if I pop the foot on just after popping the other foot off and forget to reset my needle position, I end up with a broken needle.

  • Open Toe Applique Foot - I actually got the generic version of this foot as Pfaff no longer manufactures it. But it's really great for visibility during applique or for machine finishing the binding.

  • Open Toe Free-Motion Foot - I use this instead of my closed-toe free motion foot for better visibility. It's otherwise identical, and stitches well (or not well) identically. I'm glad I have it though, as it helps me see where I'm going better.

    As for the value of this machine, I think I could have gone with a different brand to get more for less money. It's no question. But there's something about Pfaff that I find ... seductive. So I'm glad to have gotten this machine, and I think it's absolutely worth it to plunk down a large chunk of change for a machine that makes sewing joyful. It is most definitely much, much more joyful to sew on this than on my old Brother. I'd rather spend money on the machine than on a vacation, as sewing *is* my daily vacation!

    Instead of upgrading this machine at some point, I'm debating getting a midarm. I really don't want a longarm, but a midarm like the Pfaff Powerquilter 16 or the Handi Quilter Sweet 16 (and I heard these are the same machine, branded differently) might just be the ticket! I would have to wait for the next quilt show to try it out in person, though, before I make a decision. Until then, I'm leaving some space in my sewing room for the potential addition ... and will continue to practice free-motion on my Pfaff.

  • Sunday, June 5, 2016

    Cutting Fabric for Applique with Silhouette Cameo

    In order to cut out the puppy eyes for the Puppy Pieces quilt I'm making, I needed 70 little circles. I thought it would take too long to trace and cut by hand, not to mention be potentially imprecise, so I decided to try cutting fabric with the Silhouette Cameo. (Note that this method uses fusible web, so it's only for applique) I experimented a bit and my first few attempts were abysmal, but I think I've since learned a few tricks about cutting that I want to share.

    In addition to the obvious like the Silhouette Cameo & cutting mat, I used a separate blade for fabric. Silhouette sells a blue fabric blade, but it's actually the same as the paper blade, except it's blue so that you know it's just for fabric. I already had a spare unused blade so I put some electrical tape on the top to designate it as the "fabric blade." I also used fusible web, which I found critical to the process.


    1) Bond your fabric to the fusible web. I made the mistake of using steam the first time, and not bonding it super well the 2nd time. I discovered that a hot dry iron is a must, and that the better the fabric bonded with the web, the better the results were. So take time to bond every inch of your fabric with the web, *especially* the edges and corners.

    2) Remove the back sheet of the fusible web to reveal the sticky glue.

    3) Carefully apply the fabric to the cutting mat, fusible web-side down. Take time to pat and make sure there are no creases and wrinkles.

    4) Change the blade in the cutter. I turned the blade to 4. In the Silhouette Studio software, also specify that you're cutting fabric.

    5) Cut!

    6) Carefully peel the unused fabric from the cutting mat. Quite a bit of the fusible web will be stuck to the mat, but I got it off easily with my nails.

    7) Carefully peel the cut pieces from the mat. A spatula would help for really delicate pieces, though I got all my pieces with just my fingers. Now it can be directly ironed on to the fabric to fuse.

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