Every year about this time the leaves turn glorious shades and begin falling, and I begin a quilt project inspired by the colors around me. Above, detail from "Shadows of Umbria," made "just for me" one autumn, because I simply had to dig into my fabric and work with these colors. I always do.
It has been so long since I've posted that I almost forgot I had a blog, but today I have some spare time and decided to check in and see what's going on in Blogland.
I've been enjoying retirement, although it seems life is as busy as ever, but no travel deadlines for me now, no packing stacks of quilts, samples, and handouts. Life is at my pace and that is good. I'm keeping up with quilting, what is going on, new machines, fabrics, styles, people. And every now and then Oliver and I spend some time at the machine doing a bit of quilting too.
Oliver turned 4 in August, and we celebrated with a bowl of fresh guacamole which he loved helping to prepare (he adores fresh veggies, especially sweet corn this year, the silk, of course). His godfather visited and brought him a playstation that he uses many times every day and loves it.
And adventures he has had! He made his escape from the house for an entire hour one day by figuring out a way to slither through the opening in the sliding patio door. I came down to see him OUTSIDE, looking IN! He couldn't get back in on his own, and how he squeezed himself into that opening I'll never know, but now that has been revised and I believe he will stay in the house from now on. I had a few new grey hairs from that little escapade, and perhaps his innards are slightly compressed too.
I visited Bigsby's Sewing Center in Elm Grove to see what's new, and had a great time with Riley, their saved kitten, now a large sweet cat, who showed me how to work an IPad. He has a game where he chases the pink mouse and he even knows how to swipe the screen to go to the next game. Ah, cats. Smarter than we knew.
Recently I held a small class for two professional quilter friends and it was wonderful to experience teaching again. We quilted, laughed, shared and had two good days at our machines. During that time there were many things that came to mind about quilting and I will list some of them here for you to consider too:
I know this is something you have heard over and over, but clean and oil your machine (if oiling is appropriate for your brand/model) frequently if you quilt or sew often - I do it every 3 or 4 hours. After a big project, be sure and do this thoroughly. The bobbin area is especially important, get rid of lint and gunk, shine a light in there, and gently get all the lint, threads, "stuff" out. Clean thread guides on top too. Then add a drop of oil where metal rotates around metal in the bobbin/hook area, slowly run the machine to distribute it, and remove excess. Quilt or sew a bit on a sample to work out any excess.
Above, using my microbrush (or a cotton swab, and a brush is good too) to clean the hook area. After all lint and gunk is removed I add a drop of fresh sewing machine oil here. Note the warning on the machine telling operator to close the door! I have to remind those in my classes to do this all the time. Just shut this door and things will be good.
If you hear strange noises in the machine or suddenly your tension is not right and no matter what you do can't be adjusted, you might have something damaged in the bobbin area. Stop; don't continue quilting if a noise alerts you or if stitches look bad.
In our class we discovered a metal part on the bobbin case had been damaged on an older Bernina. Once it had been repaired the machine worked perfectly. Many quilters have an extra bobbin case on hand or perhaps one comes with the machine and you can try that to see if it solves the problem.
Bobbins can become damaged or bent through use, over time. Try a new one, wind it, see how that works before you assume the worst.
Don't always blame your skill level or inexperience for something that isn't working right on your machine. It can be something very tiny, maybe that you can't see, that could be causing the problem. Many times the simply re-threading top and bottom of machine, checking to make sure the bobbin is in correctly and wound correctly, cleaning in the bobbin area, all might fix the problem. Replace the needle, try another spool of thread if you have one, a new bobbin wound with fresh thread. All these things are tiny tiny problems but added up can cause huge issues with free motion machine quilting.
When you are shopping and see new exciting products, make sure they can be used in the way you plan. That gorgeous thread might not work in the top of the machine, only the bobbin if at all. What needle will work best with it? Ask the people at the store for advice; a specialty quilt/sewing store will have trained people to help you.
We had fallen in love with an assortment of threads, but Rosemary said it did not work well in the machine even though it would thread ok, the "twist" of the thread caused problems. So we put that back and looked for other delightful choices.
Try something new with your quilting. Set yourself a challenge to research and come up with a new technique or design that you can add to your next project. This not only adds interest to the finished quilt, but keeps you interested in your quilting. It's so much fun to draw something, figure out how to quilt it, make some samples, practice it until you are proficient, and use it in a real quilt.
We tried some grid-based designs, zentangle ideas, freehand florals. You need more than loopy backgrounds for quilting designs; some focal point motifs are important too. Many floral designs can be done with some sketched in guidelines or a starting point, then add freehand petals, details, leaves, echoes.
Below, a grid-based background I tried around a feather. It appears to be on-grain squares, but in reality it is on-point squares stitched first, then each filled, one at a time, with a log cabin style spiral technique. It was a bit tedious, went faster the more I did, and I love the finished look, so definitely will be adding this to my projects.
I hope you are taking some time for October's bright blue skies, and autumn leaves if you have them where you live. It is one of the highlights of living in Wisconsin, the vistas of color as you make the turn in the road and see nature's glory for a fleeting time each fall. Even a bright red leaf fallen on the sidewalk is a chance to marvel at color, composition, design.
Enjoy, and keep quilting! Your work gets better every day.