Sunday, July 29, 2012

Observations while quilting.....

Hello everyone, it's nice to be back on the grid, although there are always changes at Blogger and now I have to re-learn a few things, and remember my password too, eeeek.

We've had severe drought, over 100-degree temps, miserable miserable summer days here in Wisconsin and most of the Midwest.  It is a temperate 80 today and a bit of green coming back from a recent rain.  A failing AC finally died and we had to wait for repairs during some of the hottest nastiest times ever, wondering how we ever survived in the past without it. 

We LOVE our wonderful repairman who had it fixed within 20 minutes, cool lovely air flowing in again.  Oliver didn't know why he was so miserable, but soon he was bouncing around again.  We were too.

After that, a deadline for the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative and their celebrity auction fast approached, so I closeted myself in my sewing room with Oliver settled on the comfy chair stacked with my old quilts, and made a small quilt for this event.  I shall post links and info when it is all online, as the quilts will be amazing by fabulous quilters you know and love. 

The quilt, above and detail with a penny below, is a version of an old one called "Joy," and this small 17 1/2" square quilt is titled "Joy Remembered" and is in honor of my mother, Erma Hinterberg, who died in 2008 from Alzheimer's.  I miss her every single day.  I began the quilt on July 9, her birthday, and quilted a bit each day until it was done.  It was a joy to do. 

While I was working, I thought of the classes I will be teaching this fall and pondered what I have learned over the years, observations, things I might not remember unless I am at my machine and working:  
  • Sometimes I get too impatient and find I run the machine too fast, and my machine runs very fast indeed.  For the first time ever, I used the option it has to slow down the motor speed, and took it down a notch to 75% of power.  It was wonderful, and I did not even notice it after a moment or two, but it kept my speed in excellent control.
  • One thing I forgot to do is stitch in the ditch between the center panel and border with water soluble thread to stabilize this seam before quilting the designs and backgrounds.  Instead I used a neutral silk thread that was a permanent line of stitching, and that was fine.  However, there were many times I quilted up to this ditch from both sides and traveled on it, ending up with just a tad too much thread in that ditch.  The initial line of stitching would have washed out had it been water soluble, top and bobbin.  I use this thread for a lot of stabilizing quilting and ditch work.
  • If the music is too loud you can't hear the machine and get a nice rhythm.  Turn it down.  Darn.
  • Wind extra bobbins.
  • Use the same color top and bobbin, never mind what the backing color is.  I used gold in the bobbin and top for the gold border, and the back of the quilt was a deep murky green/gold Fossil Fern fabric, and the gold quilting looked beautiful on it.  In the past I would have used one thread in the bobbin, a deep murky green or neutral tan to match/blend.  It was easier to get a balanced stitch using same color top and bobbin, plus the back looks really, really pretty.
  • I added a row of quilting around the motifs using YLI Sparkle thread to add a soft halo and definition, and some richness.  I like just a touch of this, but go ahead and play with threads and colors to tailor your quilting to the ideas and images in your head.  I quilt slower with specialty threads with better success.
  • Don't let cats NEAR your thread trims.  Oliver loves to eat silk thread and I have to be ever so careful.   He also likes to eat any kind of sticky tape, from painters' tape and masking tape, to packaging tape that is very sticky.  He gets way too happy when he finds any on incoming packages.  And now.....the excitement of fresh corn and corn silk, just like thread, oh no.
  • I've never had the need to use gloves or hoops or any aids to move my quilt smoothly and evenly.  My machine bed is not sticky, and I use the Supreme Slider with extra tape on the corners just to be sure it doesn't move with the quilt, and make sure the choice for backing fabric will move smoothly too.  Some are sticky and don't move easily, so check that out before you layer your quilt.  I pre-wash my fabrics and that helps immensely.
  • If you have issues with getting good thread tension, try different bobbin threads.  Sometimes switching from one fiber to another, such as from cotton to poly, poly to cotton, silk to cotton, cotton to silk - will help!
  • Different designs require slight tension adjustments.  When I was quilting bananas as background on the border, I switched every now and then to groupings of circles or "froth," and did remember to lower the top tension for these.  Otherwise the top thread pulls too tightly, and stitches become tight and distorting on top. 
  • I used 3 upper tension settings in the gold border, one that was tighter for the Diane-shiko and feathers, a bit looser for the Bananas, and the least amount of tension for the Froth.  Don't start quilting without checking tension and making sure it is set where YOU want it.
  • Remember to check the back of the quilt every now and then and make sure all is well there too.  Bad things can happen in the basement.
  • Love my magnifier.  And yes, I need an eye exam soon.
  • If you are using #100 silk in the top, BEWARE the fan blowing on you as you quilt.  My thread actually blew out of my machine guides a few times.....
  • Do a more difficult type of quilting after you've done something that is easier for you.  I did my tiny circles or "pearls" in the spines of the feathers when I was warmed up and feeling confident.  I did them all with short breaks to keep consistency.
  • If you've always done one type of background, try something new.  Alas, I wanted to use one of my new backgrounds but the border area was too small for it to work.  It was a partial section of what should have been a fully developed design, so it simply didn't work.  I switched and was happy with the result and it was easier.  Don't be afraid to change plans.
Hope everyone is enjoying all the things summer can bring, despite the unprecedented heat.  I hope to see many of you this fall in Des Moines at the AQS show, Oct. 3-6 and in Septemeber at WI Quilt Expo.

Meanwhile, stay cool, and keep quilting!  Your work gets better every day...