Friday, May 26, 2017

Color Dash

I'm not a huge fan of rail fence quilts, but turns out I like rail fence inspired quilts. I made Snail Mail which is a rail fence pattern with a twist, and now this quilt is another rail fence variation. What makes this quilt interesting and striking to me, of course, is the play of the negative space with the colors. The pattern is Sweden by Brigitte Heitland, in her book Zen Chic Inspired.

The fabric bundle I used is Color Dash by Heather Jones. I'm a fan of Heather Jones, whose style is simple but striking, and her debut fabric collection did not disappoint. As soon as I saw Sweden and realized I wanted to make it, Color Dash flew to my mind, and I knew it was the perfect marriage.

I seem incapable of making strip sets without severely warping them, so what really helped in this case was pressing and coaxing the strip set straight with every seam I sew. I'm a steam fanatic! I wouldn't have been able to coax the blocks into shape without a lot of steam. And I mean, a lot.

I quilted this quilt with piano keys in the sashing, and I threw tons of linear designs on the blocks. I have to say my favorite design on this quilt is the square chain.

I also love my ribbon candies. Out of all of the designs I threw on there, ribbon candy is one I struggle with the most, especially this non-overlapping version. But when I step back, it looks much better. It's the magic of distance.

I meant to do one particular design, but somehow quilted something else. So I just went with it, and it ended up being another one of my favorites on this quilt. I will name it ... monster teeth. That's just what it reminded me of.

This is the first quilt I finished on my longarm, and I'm so happy with the way it turned out. Quilting on a longarm is even more fun than I imagined. Not having to baste is great, being able to use a ruler is awesome, but the best part ... no more drag!


This post joined in the link parties at Confessions of a Fabric Addict, Slice of Pi Quilts, Busy Hands Quilts, Cooking Up Quilts, and Crazy Mom Quilts. Link up and join the fun!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Starlight Symphony ~ Ready to Quilt

I used to say that I haven't met a batik I didn't like. And for a long time, that was true. But then I got into machine-quilting, and realized that my love of batiks started to wane a bit. I'm not really sure why, but it might have to do with batiks being more difficult to quilt over. However, after I watched the Scrappy Stars Quilt of the Midnight Quilt Show, I just loved the beauty of the batiks Angela used, and just like that, my batik fever is back.

Fabric audition is one of my favorite parts of quilting, second only to machine quilting, but boy, do I find it a challenge. For this particular quilt, I decided to dig into my batik stash. Luckily, I have a huge one due to my batik fever last year. I came up with the the same groups of colors Angela used: dark blues / purples, light blues / greens, and yellows / reds.

This is a paper piecing project, which means loads of printing / pre-perforating. I know a lot of people don't pre-perforate, but I picked up that habit early on and just prefer it, even if it's slower, because it makes folding and tearing off the paper so easy. Plus, there's something really satisfying about pre-perforating!

After that, it's time to piece this. Even though paper piecing is slow, I actually quite enjoy it. The beautiful batiks keep me happy throughout the process, and the usual problem I run into with paper piecing, ultra-bulky seams to quilt over, isn't much of an issue with this pattern, as Angela specifically designed it for easy quilting later. This is my 3rd paper piecing project, and it's actually by far the easiest. The most common mistake I make during paper piecing is getting the sides mixed up and having to rip, but with batiks, there is no wrong side, so that's great!

Until now, I didn't know I could keep the paper in during assembly. In the past, I always tore it off after I'm done with a block, and the bias edges usually mean it can be a pain to assemble. But keeping the paper in means assembly is just a tad easier.

I really like this top, and now it's ready to quilt!


This post participated in the link party at Cooking Up Quilts. Link up and join the fun!

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Lenni Chronicles

I've spent a week with my APQS Lenni now, and even completed a quilt on her. The first day was horrible, but then things got a lot better. I started to trust that she wasn't going to flip out on me randomly, and she started to behave better with me.

Day 0:

Arrival day was awful. I ran into a multitude of problems (repeated thread breakage, shredding, skipped stitches, loops, threads cut on the bottom), but I've since figured out the cause of almost all of them:

  • The needle wasn't completely facing forward. It was at a slight angle.
  • The bobbin tension was far too loose.
  • The extended ruler base attachment wasn't on properly (I think).
  • The top thread wasn't threaded properly and missed a guide.

    After the dealer left, I collapsed in mental exhaustion. I was terrified that I had gotten a lemon. It would be one thing if the machine just didn't work at all, as that's something I can get replaced under warranty. It's another if it works mostly, but just has little issues here and there that make quilting a lot less fun, but can't be considered truly broken. But I decided to start on a real quilt. When I first started, I was so paranoid I checked the tension on the back of the quilt every 30 seconds (which quickly gave me a headache). After awhile though, I got more confident that she wasn't going to just break randomly.

    Day 1:

    Shortly after I started for the day, my thread broke. I figured it might be a fluke. After rethreading and restarting, things started going badly. Really badly.

    I panicked, but then I remembered the words of Leah Day: "If things were working fine and then started going wrong, think about what you changed." The only thing I "changed" was I rethreaded the needle. I looked at the thread path, and sure enough, when the thread broke the thread jumped out of a guide, and I didn't put it back in the thread guide. I rethreaded it correctly, and after that, things were smooth.

    Day 2:

    Since I couldn't fit my 12-foot Lenni in my sewing room, she's placed in the unfinished storage room in the basement. That means she's far removed from my sewing supplies, so I had to figure out some solutions for storage. Well, the area under the frame is not used at all, so it's the perfect place for some stacking bins!

    I also got a pretty little rolling caddy, which is perfect for holding my seam ripper, my drink, my ruler, and my phone. When not in use, it tucks away perfectly under the frame as well.

    Day 3:

    Today was smooth sailing. I'm having so much fun quilting. Dare I say ... the most fun I've had machine quilting yet? In some ways, my stitching looks better than it did on my midarm, because I don't have funny stitches resulting from dealing with drag. On the other hand, it's harder to control. In my mind, I know where I want to go, but I can't always get the machine to go there. Even though Lenni is one of the lightest machines I test drove, it still has a fair amount of inertia, especially in stitch regulation mode. I know it's something I will be able to control in due course, but it will take time.

    Day 4:

    I decided to float my quilt tops, because really, who needs extra pinning? This means I find the top roller bar wholly unnecessary. One of the features I read about that I should look for in my machine is easy access to batting while quilting, and well, my machine doesn't have that feature. However, with the top roller removed, I'll be able to access it if I need to much more easily.

    So, as soon as I get my Texas Hold'em Bracket (an accessory by APQS for people who remove their top rollers so that the brakes still work) I'm removing the top roller!

    Day 5:

    My eyes hurt. I always knew the storage area where the longarm is kept doesn't have great lighting, but I figured I don't need great lighting because the LED light on the sewing head is strong enough, and I can see exactly where I'm stitching, right?

    Turns out ... the contrast between the strong LED light and the weak overall lighting in the rest of the room is causing some serious eye strain. So ... I'll have to get more lights.

    Day 6:

    On my midarm it's easy to check the back of the quilt ... I just flip the back up. On a longarm, I have to crawl around under the quilt. Doing that too much gets exhausting quick, and it really gives me a headache. I realize the solution is one of those nifty cameras that get attached to the sewing head so it shines on the back of the quilt, and I'll get to see the back of the quilt on a display somewhere. Something like this. However, I do not want to mount a big display on top of my machine, as any weight on the sewing head equals extra momentum I have to manage. So, I'm going to build my own solution.

    Day 7:

    And ... voila, a finished quilt! (minus the binding) I'm pretty happy with it. There are a few issues (varicose veins, sigh) but I learned a lot for my next quilt.


    I can say it now ... I love longarming, and I'm ecstatic I have Lenni now! It is so fun, and so much faster than my midarm, and I'm no longer afraid of doing big quilts. The beds in my house might finally get some quilts!

  • Sunday, May 7, 2017

    She's Here. She's Looking At Me!

    Oh. My. Gosh. I realize I should be excited. But what I'm feeling now, is utter terror!

    Lenni arrived over the weekend, and it was delivered and assembled by my local APQS dealer, Quilt Barn Studio. After teaching the usual including loading, bobbin, maintenance, threading, and tension adjustment, we turned her on to test her out. That's when everything went up in flames.

    I ran into a whole gamut of problems right away. First there were a lot of tension issues, then, lots of skipped stitches. After that, the top thread broke repeatedly, followed by loops on the top and a whole mess on the bottom every 30 stitches or so. After a lot of troubleshooting and fixing most of those issues, something really strange started to crop up. My top thread broke every once in awhile, but only after the stitch is formed. The top looked perfect and continuous, but the bottom had top thread tails hanging out. We couldn't figure it out, and it eventually went away, but now I'm afraid it'll come back with a vengeance. In fact, I was so paranoid that I find myself checking the bottom of the quilt every 30 seconds!

    I placed the machine in my basement storage area, for that's the only place it'll really fit. It's a bit distanced from my sewing room where all my supplies are kept, so I'll have to figure something out in terms of storing thread and other supplies.

    I figured the best way to get better at quilting on a longarm is to ... quilt on a longarm. As soon as the dealer left, I unloaded the practice top, and loaded a real quilt. I then did some simple piano key ruler work.

    Yowza. It's tough work. I'm hurting all over just from that little bit! (Partially caused by excessive crawling around checking the tension on the back of the quilt.) But I'm not going to give up.

    My first day of longarming certainly didn't go as smoothly as I had hoped. But I tell myself that this was the hardest day. From now on, things can only get better, right?

    Friday, May 5, 2017

    Aviatrix Medallion ~ Part Three: Borders 4 to 6

    Aviatrix Medallion is a quilt that really rewards patience and concentration. I was rather concerned that the patchwork would be beyond my ability, but I'm happy to say that the top is finally done ... and it's even mostly square!

    In previous posts, I worked up to Border 3. Border 4 is a scrappy border made of all gray fabrics, and because I messed up the center medallion's size previously and had to substitute Border 1, which was supposed to be half-square triangles, with a much skinnier scrappy border, it means Border 1 and Border 4 are nearly identical. But I think it looks pretty good, all things considered!

    Border 5 is one of my favorite things to piece: log cabins! I just love building it out from the center, and the chain piecing involved means it's very efficient.

    And finally, Border 6 is what I call the butterfly block. This was probably the hardest border to put on! My initial borders were far too long, so I had to do a fair bit of ripping, re-sewing, fudging, and easing, and in the end it managed to fit, barely.

    Whew! This is probably the most difficult thing I've ever pieced. I'm excited to quilt this, but it won't be for awhile, as I want to wait until I'm sufficiently comfortable on my longarm (which I don't even have yet). After all ... I spent a lot of effort on this quilt top, so I want to make sure the quilting is worthy of it!

    Previous posts on this quilt:

  • Part Zero
  • Part One: Center Star + Border 1
  • Part Two: Border 2 + Border 3
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