Thursday, January 30, 2020

Camden Road Quilt Along

I love quilt-alongs and it's very exciting to decide to join one, so I was delighted to know that the Camden Road quilt-along has started!

Camden Road is a pattern designed by Cheryl Brickey, and I love that it's fat-quarter friendly. I have way too many bundles, and I know I should stop buying bundles without a plan, but I just can't stop! But I'm always happy to find a fat-quarter friendly quilt that allows me to use up a bundle I've been hoarding.

After a long audition process that involved at least 8 different candidates, 3 last-minute mind changes, a lot of guilt, and more time than I want to admit to spending, I finally decided to use up one of my most precious bundles, which is Hand Maker by Natalie Barnes.

Even though this pattern calls for 4-at-a-time flying geese, I prefer the traditional way of making geese, as I tend to get much better results. Usually I end up with a lot of half-square triangles that I feel guilty about throwing away, but these are small enough that I don't feel that guilt.

I know, I didn't wait for the quilt-along to finish! I usually don't, as once I'm excited about a project, well, I don't want to stop! I really love this quilt top, and certainly this is a better place for the fabrics than languishing, all wrapped up, on a shelf. (If only I can convince myself to cut up precious bundles more frequently ...)

Thursday, January 16, 2020


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!


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.

Update: It was not the needle threader the machine was warning me about, but the thread cutter. I'm not sure how I read it wrong for more than a year. But I stand by my comment about too many nannies.

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!

Update: Much thanks to Jill who showed me exactly how to disable the starting lockstitch, I'm happy to report that this complaint no longer stands!

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.

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