Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Needle, Thread, and Fabric

Many times finding the right thread, needle, and fabric combination is the key to experiencing non-frustrating machine quilting.

The sample of one of my new "Quilting Whimsy" digitized designs, above, was done on fine cotton fabric ("Gradations" by Caryl Bryer Fallert for Benartex) with #100 silk YLI thread and a #60 Schmetz Microtex Sharp needle. 

However, when I decided to do one line of echo quilting with "Sparkle," a YLI thread that combines #100 silk with a strand of metallic, I switched to a #80 Topstitch needle, which has always handled threads that tend to fray or skip just fine.  This time it did, but not as well as I would have liked.

Every so often a skipped stitch, oh no.  A bit of gold metallic showed through to the backing, oh no.  And worse, it would ball up behind the needle and fray to the point that I noticed no gold in the stitch at all, had to stop, re-thread, then continue, which resulted in.......frustration!

After doing some research, one of my students contacted me with the same problem and she went directly to the manufacturer of the thread, YLI.  I also did the same, and the answer was something I would never have considered, a JERSEY ball point needle!  Who knew!  I thought they were for knits only, wrong.

Evidently the friction from going through a pierced hole in the cotton fabric, rather than a nice opening made by the ball point needle was fraying the thread.  I bought some #80 SUK Schmetz Jersey ball point needles, put one in my machine, and gave the Sparkle thread a big workout. 

It worked perfectly.  None of the problems occurred.  I did have to quilt just a bit slower, lowered the top tension more, and I took a slightly larger stitch than with plain silk thread.  Sometimes it looked a little wobbly when going in directions away from myself, but all in all, very nice, definitely will use this again in a quilt and know I will have good results with the proper needle.

The thread itself is lovely.  It isn't a full-on metallic, so for me blends into the quilt well, but shows well too.  It is subtle bling, a touch of fairy dust on your quilt.  It comes in gold or silver with various neutral silk threads.

The new issue of the AQS magazine Quilt Life has a good article about thread with comments by many in the industry.  We do need to keep up on thread information so when we choose something that will enhance our work we can get it to work for us.

Keep quilting!  Your work gets better every day.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Unpacking and Napping

Home is wonderful after you have been away.  Everything seems new and fresh and bright, yet familiar and comfortable, welcoming you in.  I opened the door from the garage, came in the kitchen, and Oliver tore around the corner and ran full tilt into my arms.  He purred so hard he was shaking, with happiness and disbelief.  I guess I probably was purring too....oh my, so good to be home.

I had a terrific week at Empty Spools Seminars at Asilomar near Monterey, California.  It was cool and lovely, some fog in the mornings, low to mid 60's during the day.  One lunch hour I tried for about 10 minutes to stand and chat outside and get a tan but nope, just felt good, no tan for me. 

Unpacking is almost done.  I pulled out pile after pile of samples and things from my clown-car suitcase, above, and re-lived the week through the variety of interesting objects that surfaced, like my own archaeological dig. 

Top of the pile was my new tote, my Laurel Burch socks that my students told me Oliver made them buy for me, and my new bag of Pinmoor fasteners for layering a quilt with fine straight pins.  They caused a little excitement, as the inventor, Loretta Ivison was in our class.  You can check them out at http://www.pinmoor.com/.  Oliver liked my socks and tried eating them.  I didn't let him even see the Pinmoors.

He also tried eating the hand squeeze workout ball for quilters so that is already in a drawer, along with 2 yards of the new Pellon Legacy wool batt that somehow compressed into my suitcase.  If it was opened by security, I bet they jumped when all that batt popped out at them!  It looked the same as I had packed it, so they must have missed the fun. 

I'm thinking this wool batt is lovely, not quite as thick and sprongy as Hobbs has been recently, so I will post when I get a chance to try it out.

It was a great group of students, all y'all who were there know that, and I hope new quilting adventures await you with what we learned in class.  I left at 4:30 a.m. to the sound of the Pacific, and arrived back in Wisconsin about suppertime.  Long day, I was very tired, tons of holiday travelers, and it was really hot and steamy here, but so good to see the familiar Wisconsin landscape, and actually get in my own car and drive.  

It was nice to see some of my other teaching friends there, and hear a memorable presentation by Nancy S. Brown who made me wonder what have I been missing all these years with no penguins in my quilts?  I don't think I have laughed so hard in years. 

The next a.m. while diagramming what not to do with pod flowers on the board in class, those penguins somehow sneaked in after all to my work.  Below, I quickly added some jaunty sunglasses and now I think I can make a winner!

Yes, we do have fun in class.  But, I can only imagine Nancy's class....

Another thing I noticed on the way home was a floor mat in the airport that looked like an interesting variation on our Celtic Bubbles or fans, below.  Play with these echoing lines and come up with your own designs.


See you next year at Empty Spools, and keep quilting, your work gets better every day.