Friday, April 30, 2010


Oliver has been helping me with some piecing lately.  I am making a small wall quilt to showcase my new collection of digitized designs and decided it was long overdue to figure out how to piece on my Bernina 730.  I honestly do not want to switch between machines, but I always feared the wide feed dogs.

While rummaging through my machine's feet in my sewing drawer, looking to see if perchance I did have a #37 foot somewhere for this machine, I discovered the #57 foot, below.  It seems to be the #37 foot with this cool little guide on the right to keep everything going straight and even through the process.

I put it on the machine, cut some triangles and squares from muslin, put in some lovely YLI Soft Touch thread for piecing and my trusty #60 Sharp needle and WOW!  It was amazing, the fabric was controlled from beginning to end of each piece, the seam was perfection.  Yowza!

The stitch length I used was 1.8 for a fine thread and for piecing.  It is nice and secure for a lighter weight thread, but I can still insert the tip of my seam ripper in a stitch if I have to un-sew.

I  may buy a #37 foot for those times when I don't want the extra guide that the #57 has.  All you have to do with the #57 foot is make sure the raw edges hit the guide on the right.  I also look at the 1/4" line on the throat plate, and keep an eye on the fabrics as the emerge behind the foot to keep everything straight and even. 

The seam from beginning to end was straight and even.  When I did triangles the seam stayed perfect right to the tips.  Later I  tried it for sewing a pieced row to a solid border strip and the results were perfect, triangles all lined up with no tips nipped off, and it fed smoothly through the machine with no problems. 

I am thrilled to know I can piece and quilt on the same machine!  All because of this great little foot.  It reminds me of discovering the #24 open toe foot for quilting; I was delighted when I could quilt so much better, just because of the foot I was using.

I love sewing on my 730 because of the smoothness of the rotary hook, the great thread delivery with no glitches, the fabulous sound and perfect stitch/tension of this machine.  Those birds' nests of thread when beginning a line of stitching don't happen as often on my 730, although I do try and remember to hang onto the loose threads when beginning and that helps a lot with any machine.

There is a single hole, or "straight stitch" throat plate on the machine when I quilt and when I piece.  It really helps keep problems from happening, and keeps the stitch quality the best. 

My machine has a security feature so if you do have this throat plate on instead of the zig-zag plate, and you enter that info in the machine (easy!), it will not do a zig-zag stitch or any stitch with width, and break the needle.  The machine does not run if you try a wide stitch with this throat plate.

Check your machine's owner's manual to see if you have this feature, and an available foot for piecing, and a straight-stitch throat plate option.  With new electronics on all brands of machines you might be surprised to find things you didn't know you had, always a good thing.

In the past I would stick a red label on my machine to remind myself that I had this throat plate on, but sometimes I forgot and tried a stitch and oops, broke a needle.  Love the security feature on this machine.  No more problems.  If you do not have this, then by all means do something to remind yourself that this throat plate is on, and zig-zags are not allowed.

Years ago I discovered that if I used a smaller stitch length and finer thread my piecing looked so much nicer.  Thread did not show in seams, and pieced patchwork came out  much closer to the desired "finished" dimensions. 

I press well with a spritz of starch, press the seam before I open it or press allowances to one side.  If I am pressing to the side, I set the seam with heat, then press from the top, very gently so as not to distort.  Then I add the spritz of starch and hold the iron on the seam without moving it, so the starch is pressed in and dries. 

Some of my favorite threads for piecing are, from left, Superior MasterPiece cotton, YLI Soft Touch cotton (Oliver is eating it), small cone of brown Aurifil #50 2-ply cotton and large large cone of the same in all-purpose tan, and in front, brown Mettler #60 2-ply cotton. 

I try to use a neutral like tan, ecru, grey, but I recall with the fabrics in my quilt "Shadows of Umbria," below, I used Aurifil #50 in a dusty purple and it was by far the best option for a "no show" thread in the seams.  It melted into every color I was using, perfect, plus I had a huge cone of it as a gift in my teacher's bag of treats from Harriet Hargrave.

If my piecing goes well, I will then proceed to tracing a zillion designs on this little wall quilt and then begin quilting it, my favorite part. 

Those of you who know my methods from classes know that before I put needle in quilt I will play on some leftover bits of the fabrics layered with the batt and backing in the actual quilt.  I use this to pick out thread color, warm up on my motifs, check thread tension, see how it works and feels.  I will try some thread colors out of my comfort zone to "see" what they look like, I will get the feel of the quilt and be ready to hit the real one and do a great job.

Keep quilting!  Your work gets better every day.


Quilts and Cats said...

I have a 440QE and also have the #57 foot and it really is a great guide, especially when doing alot of chain piecing. I've never tried the Aurofil Soft Touch. Do you also use it in your bobbin. I see Oliver is being as helpful as always.

Diane Gaudynski said...

Hi Quilts and Cats, they do seem to go together so well...! Oliver loves to help me in the sewing room; I think it is his favorite room.

The thread is YLI Soft Touch cotton and I do like it for piecing, top and bobbin. I also love Aurifil #50 cotton for this, top and bobbin. Many times it is hard to find different brands of threads where you live, so I like to mention several that work well.

These all work well for quilting or for bobbin thread for quilting with a variety of different top threads.

Low lint, smooth and soft, these fine cotton threads make a huge difference and are very well worth the extra expense.

Diane Gaudynski said...

One other thing about feet and piecing -- I do try and use the same machine throughout a project and the same foot. Consistency is the thing to remember, and even though you think it might be the same, even a tiny difference can create problems in piecing.

Amy said...

Hey Diane ... I've got the Bernina Aurora 440, and I've been using the #57 for about 3 years. I totally agree with you, it's a fabulous foot to use for piecing. The only time you can't use it is when you're using some of the shortcut piecing methods for making half-square triangles. But that's easy, just switch back to #37 or the regular sewing foot. My cat likes to lurk about in my quilt room too!

Mary said...

I don't think I have the #37 foot, I LOVE my #57 foot and it stays on my Bernina all the time! Since I seem to be piecing a lot these days. More 6.5" squares to get finished for a SBS SWAP.

Diane Gaudynski said...

Amy and Mary,
So I was the only one who had no idea? LOL! I was like this with the magnifiers too, and they are near my machine all the time.

I honestly cannot believe the killer piecing this foot produces, amazing.

I actually think Oliver knew about it but he was being coy. He did enjoy getting into my drawer in my cabinet where the feet live, lots of good cat stuff in there.

Anonymous said...

I have 3 questions, I hope that's not too many
when you spritz the starch, is it on the right side (quilt top) or the wrong side of fabric (were the seams are)
Do you use the stitch regular when quilting with your bernina
Do you have the bernina 830 since your designs are in it ( i think thats so cool) also have you had any other machine besides a bernina

Diane Gaudynski said...

I spritz on the top side but for no reason other than that's the way I do it! I don't think it matters.

I have never used a stitch regulator (BSR), but was shown how to use one so I am knowledgeable when I teach. For some it is a lifesaver and allows them to create beautiful free motion work, and some do better on their own without one. I already could quilt well with even stitches when this foot was invented.

I do not have the 830, just had a chance in March to quilt on it in class, and oh my it was heaven.

Nope, no other machines, except for my first one, a Singer Silver Touch and Sew from 1969-ish. When I tried to machine quilt on it in 1990 the motor burned out, and I bought my first Bernina, a 1030, still love that one, still works beautifully.

I do get to quilt on just about every machine brand/model in classes if students will let me. It's just like driving different cars, too much fun.

Joan said...

Hi Diane, Great post as usual :) I just went and had a peek in my Bernina tool box...( I have a 440QE) and I have a #37 foot - never used it - had no idea how is was used...I will have to see how it works. Its so great to get all the information from you. Thank you so much - its so helpful.

Jane Moxey said...

Hi Diane: Glad to see you in Blogland! I love Oliver! What a nice Studio helper! I love my Bernina 440 and your post is reminding me it's soon time to get mine a service! I do love my machine, though, after trying many other brands! Always thinking that the sewing machine I used would improve my free motion stitching. Hah! Not true -- it's the operator's skills, isn't it?

Diane Gaudynski said...

Hi Jane - how nice to have you part of my blog! Welcome!!

Definitely part of success is the machine, and your relationship with it. Then it is the pilot, of course, and your focus and concentration. Ask Oliver, he knows he can distract me so easily and cause a major goof in my quilting.

I keep saying "oh no, Oliver!" and have to jump up to rescue something or him. But what a total joy it is to have a young cat again and a helper with all that I do.

If I throw a dark chocolate wrapper in the trash and he is watching, he will hunt it down in the trash container, then kill it and present it to me with great joy. I have to be ever vigilant. It is not easy being an older cat mom to a young rascal.

Diane Gaudynski said...

I have used the #37 for all my piecing for many years, and still look at the 1/4" line on the throat plate too. I also like the places cut into the foot so you can stop exactly 1/4" from the raw edges for a pivot.

I like the open-to-the-needle feature - you can see the seam, the joins in piecing. This is a nimble foot, a precise foot, and it works with the feed dogs for incredibly even feeding of your pieces.

The #57 has the extra help of the guide on the right, and if you have issues with seam consistency this is going to help. I loved the way it did not distort my piecing, the seams fed evenly into it, and it had no problems with bulky seam allowances. The 37 is like that too, a terrific foot.

Whatever brand of machine you own you always need to check out available feet and maybe get some specialty ones for specific jobs you do a lot. It can make all the difference.

Anonymous said...

Hi Diane,
What is the color number for the all-purpose tan aurifil 50 wt you commonly used?

Diane Gaudynski said...

I don't have any of that light tan/pale khaki thread right now, but any neutral shade will work just fine, from light tan to medium or grey, deep cream too. You want to find something that blends into most fabrics and can't be seen in the seams when they are pressed.