Thursday, November 25, 2010

Turkey Day

The turkey is roasting (with Oliver's help), pie is baked (with Oliver's help), and the remaining food is next on our list to do.  It is a dreary day here, but cozy, bright and warm inside, with good food and each other.  Hope your day is wonderful, and you take some time to be thankful for the special things, sometimes the little things, that make our lives blessed.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving '10

Happy Thanksgiving, may you all have blessings too numerous to list! 

I tried dressing  Oliver as a Pilgrim, or a turkey, or even holding a pumpkin pie, but he was truly not interested.  His big passion now is crouching by the windows and front glass door and squeaking at the Juncos in the bushes outdoors.  We are counting our blessing of Oliver, our new cat, in our life.  He brought back sunshine to us.

I've been piecing a small quilt, discovering the pleasure of working with fabrics, arranging color and designs to form something I like.  It's very relaxing to sew small pieces together, press and starch, play on the design wall.  I hear my music playing softly, the leaves are still blowing past my windows, or the fog is rolling in.  Soon winter will arrive, but this is a great way to begin the season, when lights go on at 4:30 p.m., and wonderful scents come from the kitchen.

Try quilting on pumpkin fabric, it's far less fattening than pie.....although today I am shopping for ingredients for homemade pumpkin pie, my mother's recipe, including the pie crust.  It's my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner.

Keep quilting, your work gets better every day!


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Free Motion Feet: Observations

Free motion feet can make all the difference in the success you'll have for various techniques.  Above, two of my favorite feet for my Berninas, the #29 plastic foot, and the #24 embroidery foot.  Each is perfect for various types of free motion quilting.

Both have a built-in spring so there is a gentle "hopping" action as the foot releases and then presses down as each stitch is made.  This not only creates an excellent stitch but gives you the feeling that feed dogs are working and you are not skating alone on the ice. 

If there is too much of the up/down action, decreasing the pressure on the foot with a control on the machine itself smooths everything out and will let you move the quilt more easily as well.  This works for thicker batts, excess puff you need to work in, bulky seams in pieced work.

Open toe or not?  I love my open toe foot for the precise type of quilting I do.  I need to see exactly where the needle is, where I am stitching over a previous line of quilting, if it is in the right place.  A closed toe would make it so hard to see these crucial points, and I would become tense and aching, hoping to hit the line or design point "just right."  A closed toe foot prevents this great visibility.  Tiny clamshells with a closed-toe foot are almost impossible for me, but easy with an open-toe foot.

However, if there are long smooth lines of quilting needed such as the spines/centers of feathers then I like the closed toe foot that seems to be designed to keep everything smooth and even, like an embroidery hoop around the needle.  It distributes the puff of the batt perfectly, and keeps the fabric from creeping along and forming little ripples between two line of opposite direction quilting. 

For stay stitching at the edge of the quilt or any straight line quilting done free motion in the quilt I love my closed toe #29 foot.  It makes the job easier.  But, as I quilt, I look ahead of the needle, not the needle itself.

Recently in my Paducah classes I saw the new Janome foot, below, photo by Ann Fahl and used with her permission. 

This foot comes with three options for the base, an open toe, a closed toe, and a large circular plastic foot with rings in it used as guides for spacing free motion quilting such as echo quilting.

What attracted my eye immediately to it was the built-in way to adjust it in the spring itself, on the foot itself.  Instead of adjusting how tight the foot sits on the quilt, you can easily change the foot itself to float more easily, to eliminate the hopping action, and glide instead, whatever you like.  It worked very well for those who had it on their Janomes.

Sometimes we don't realize the right tool will do the job better and make quilting so much easier and more relaxing.

Looking at these photos you can tell there is a more unobstructed view with my Bernina feet too. 

See what your machine has available.  Investigate.  Try out something new, or something you've had all along but is now in the back of some drawer.  And keep informed with what your brand of machine has available.  Sometimes, like the Janome foot, there is a new tool for you that is super. 

Visit your brand's website, join a forum online, go to your dealer and browse, but use your own best judgment about what will work best for your style of work.

Oliver likes the #29 foot best to kitty-hockey around the sewing room.  Sigh.

Keep quilting!  Your work gets better every day.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Sandra Leichner's New Book, and Oliver Bites Back

Oliver fell asleep admiring the beautiful quilt on the cover of Sandra Leichner's new book, just released from AQS, Hand Applique with Embroidery.  He gave his "paw of approval" but was so tired from torpedo-ing around the house today that he fell asleep before a photo could capture the actual reading process.  Believe me, he is smart enough to enjoy a good book!

Sandi just received the Fairfield Master Award for Contemporary Artistry, a $5000 prize at the International Quilt Festival, Houston, for her cover quilt, Tea With Miss D. 

If you are lucky enough to have seen it at Houston Market or Festival or when it was in the juried AQS show at Paducah in April you will know the incredible artistry and skill it took to create such a quilt.  Yet, it is delightful, makes you smile, and somehow her technical expertise looks effortless.  It doesn't get in the way of the quilt's beauty, but makes it all happen.  
Go to and click on the winners' list to see her quilt, or to her website 

Although I will never be an appliquer, I did enjoy this book.  If you want to refine your techniques or learn applique and embroidery, find out how to get the perfection Sandi achieves,  how she embroiders all that detail, picks the fabrics, layers them for the best overall effect, then you need this book. 

I liked the charts with organized information about threads, needles, anything technical.  You don't have to search through text to find what you want to know.

The photos are great, the colors stunning, and you will drool over her quilts throughout the book.  Yes, there are patterns, and there are projects.  You will learn to do this and have small, complete-able projects when finished with various techniques she explains, step by step. 

I love the little bit in the book for each area called "Why is this important?"  It's great to have the respect of an author who tells you the why of it, really a good addition to the book's format. 

All her applique and embroidery is by hand, and it is exquisitely done.  Quilting?  Done on a home machine (Bernina 730), free motion, original marked designs and lovely freehand fills.  The combination of well executed artistic quilting and hand applique is a true winner.

Which quilt of Sandi's do I like the best?  I have seen Sandi's quilts from her first one entered at Houston in 2001, and through the years since then.  Their richness and detail, their art, will stay with you always.   Tea With Miss D will always have a special place in my heart though.

I like that she respects the art of machine quilting enough to use it to complete her hand artistry. 

Meanwhile, browsing the internet looking for info on Houston and wishing I were there, my computer suddenly died again.  Oh no! 

Two days earlier my husband's new laptop had a power cord failure and he had to get a new cord.  I had him check it for teeth marks.  Yes, there were teeth marks.  Mine too had teeth marks. 

Oliver strikes again!  We are so relieved he didn't get hurt but have to find ways to hide the cords from him.  He likes the thin cable from the computer to the adapter part, the kind my sewing machine has to the foot control, but that he hasn't yet discovered.

I used a light rubbing of Tabasco sauce on the tv cable that comes out of the wall, and one bite of that stopped him in his tracks.  His expression was hilarious.

I got a new generic power cord for my laptop, no waiting for Mr. Sony to send me one this time, and will get a new battery this week too.  I plan on using it on battery in waking hours, charging it overnight with the new cord in a closed room.  We have a mixing bowl over husband's cord on the kitchen island.  So far it is working, Oliver can't move it.  It's heavy English pottery.

Below, the photo of what I did to protect the cord.  They do have cord covers available to buy that are infused with citrus, but the reviews said they had a horrible insecticide odor, so I crossed those off my list.

Instead, I got drinking straws that were a special thank you gift from Ami Simms (don't ask why), cut them in half lengthwise, and slipped them over the cable, taped them together and closed.  Then I wrapped a twill tape around the whole thing and turned it into the Mummy Cord.  It is working!  He isn't even interested!  I do put it away when I am not around or am sleeping, and eventually with the new battery can keep the cord out of his life completely.

Hope you are enjoying fall, no snow yet in Wisconsin.  Cold, yes.  I am washing and sorting some lovely Moda fabrics received from Hancock's of Paducah for the new Pilgrim/Roy Challenge, "Twenty Great Quilts for Twenty Great Years," to celebrate the upcoming 20th Anniversary of the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY.    I get to add two fabrics of my own, and am busy designing a small wall quilt using all of them, and plan on trying out some of my new quilting techniques.  I have learned to do a deadline project right away.....just in case.  These quilts will be auctioned live at the AQS show in '12, and will tour in '11 so you can see them.

Keep quilting, your work gets better every day.