Sunday, January 31, 2010

cold as ice

On Friday, like much of this country's midsection, we got blasted with a wintery mix. It rained and sleeted and snowed and sleeted and was just generally COLD. Great days to stay in side and sew, though!

Today, Sunday, the sun is finally peeking out.

The trees, many of them broken and bent, are glistening as if adorned with diamonds!

Although the temps are still WAY below freezing, the ice is beginnng to melt. But it is pretty now...


The new handles I made for the HandiQuilter worked very well! It did take some getting used to working on the front side, though.

For example, when I set the needle and pull up the bobbin thread, I find it easier to do when standing BEHIND the machine, because I can hold the carriage in place, as opposed to having it roll uncontrolled on the tracks while I grope for threads!

So I start out behind the machine, pull up the bobbin thread and set the needle into the quilt, then walk around to the needle-side of the machine and begin quilting.

When I stop, I walk around to the back side to cut threads and reset.

So I am getting more exercise than I would if all the steps could be done from the front of the machine! This is not a bad thing, though...standing in one place too long is not good either!

When I first started the quilting on this particular quilt, I was having THREAD TROUBLE. It kept fraying and breaking...that stupid top thread! Because I needed so many different colors, I was using threads from my Dual I had been told that they work fine. I didn't find that to be the case.

So I called my friend, Marilyn, who is a fabulous seamstress and quilt artist, and she advised me to a) use an even bigger needle, and b) get some Gutterman cotton thread (which is available locally). I did BOTH of these things and $75 worth of new thread later, my quilting improved!

I have been quilting on this quilt off and on this past week, making great headway. Feeling especially satisfied with the progress I was making with no more thread breaks, I was finally doing more sewing than ripping! As I rolled the quilt to expose new area to quilt, my hand felt something on the underside that just didn't feel 'right'. When I looked under there, sure enough, I had a problem.

Who knows what caused started and stopped for no apparent reason, but I had an obvious tension issue. There were loops on the backside on what was about 3 full blocks of quilting!

I was pissed.

But the good news ripped out pretty easily!

I have now completed the quilting and am busy burying the start/stop threads. I may get this finished before the deadline after all! :) This is a 'challenge' quilt for my local quilt guild, and must be presented at the meeting on February 23.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Modifying the quilting foot

Another 'issue' I have been working to correct is the issue of the pressure foot I use for quilting. Reading this blog has empowered me to remove the plastic section in the center of this foot that is totally blinding! I mean, what is up with that? You can't see through it worth a flip! Plus, it has a hole in it...not a slot, but a you cannot slip a thread to the back. No, you have to thread it like a needle! duh, who came up with that design? I am sure it is supposed to provide better support or something during quilting, but I am game to try it WITHOUT the plastic insert. so I popped it out! I just took it to the workshop and put it in the vise. Using a big nail and a hammer, with one pop out it came!

Well, this was thrilling, but not enough. The metal left behind still had no slot in it. The foot had a 'notch' in front, but no slot...the thread would STILL have to be threaded through this opening. So I pulled out my handy-dandy Dremel rotary tool and started grinding! I cut a slot where the notch had been, then dug around the toolbox until I found a set of jeweler's files. A little filing by hand and this foot is as smooth as a baby's bu...well, it is smooth enough for my purposes!

New Handles for the HQ

I have a HandiQuilter quilting frame that I use with a Brother sewing machine to do machine quilting. I also have a set of HandiHandles that allow me to start and stop the machine (instead of using a presser foot).

But the handles mount on the back side of the carriage...near the machine's flywheel, as opposed to being on the needle end of the machine. When following a pantograph to quilt this is fine, but if doing free-motion quilting where one needs to see where one is going, this is not the best set up.

So I decided to make a new set of handles to mount on my carriage, to allow me to stand on the needle side of the machine while working.

I found some pictures of handles that others had made in the Files section of the HandiQuilters (Yahoo) chat list, but there were no instructions included. So I bought some PVC pipe and connectors and made it up as I went along!

Once I got the handles made and temporarily installed, I could see that there was just too much 'play' in the handles...too much bounce.

To correct for this, I decided to modify!

I went back to the store again for one more 'T' connector, plus some rubber chair tips...the kind you put on the feet of your folding metal chairs so they won't scratch your handwood floors.

I cut the cross-piece on the front/top
area of the new handles and inserted the additional 'T' connector. Into the bottom (stem) of this 'T', I slipped a short segment of pvc pipe with a rubber chair tip forced onto it...this will rest on the top of the machine to provide stability to the handles during use.

This worked great!

Nothing is screwed to the machine itself, but the rubber sort of grips a bit and helps to keep the handles stable.

While my pvc welding skills are adequate for sprinkler and plumbing work, they are not pretty! The purple primer gets everywhere, sometimes dripping and running on the pipes. I didn't want to have UGLY handles! So I decide to paint them!

The weather here in Tennessee is not really warm enough for outdoor painting this time of year, but I did it anyway. The paint dried in a few hours, but the handles are taking forever to lose that 'just painted' smell!

Now it was time to attach the HandiHandles to the new handles. The screws that came with them were not long enough to penetrate the 3/4" pvc pipe, so I bought new screws (8-32 2") and replaced the 1" long screws with 2".

This is after replacing one screw.

New issue: the wire that plugs these handles into the machine was now too short to reach from this new (front) location all the way around to the backside of the machine. Electrical work is not my forte, so DH took care of that issue for me, splicing in some wire to lengthen the cord.

Here is an over-head shot of the HandiHandles mounted on the new handles.

Because I didn't want wires running all over the place, I went to the office supply store and purchased some black velcro bundling straps. I was able to get by with using only 3 of these because they are long enough to cut in half!

Here are my new handles, mounted and ready to use!

This is the end where I will be standing. I have a better view of the needle now, although you can't tell it by this picture!

Don't the new handles look cool? Like a long-horn...

This is the backside, where the handles 'plug' into the machine. I stood on this end of the machine before making these new handles...the HandiHandles were mounted to the clear plastic carriage under the machine at this end. Oh btw, the new black pipe handles are mounted to the carriage using a couple of those same 8-32 2" screws...we just drilled through the el connectors and into the carriage, then added a washer, lock washer and nut.

That is my sewing room that you see beyond the door ahead.

Yeah, I leaders are maroon! Who makes maroon leaders? But I had the fabric and I didn't want to cut the long muslin ones that came with the HandiQuilter. See? it is not set up to its full length! When doing smaller quilts, I set up with fewer sections in the poles, so need shorter leaders. But when I want to do a large quilt, I still have the long leaders (made of muslin).

This is the little rubber bumber that sits on top of the machine to provide stability...the chair tip on a pipe section! Ok, it is low-tech, I'll give you that...but it worked and was quick and easy.

Perhaps using 1" pipe instead of 3/4" would have made for a more stable handle system. But I suspect that even that would need the extra support. My design isn't perfect, but I am ready to try it out!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bias Top

This week, I decided to try the BIAS TOP that was featured in THREADS Magazine, issue 143 (July '09). There was lots of feedback regarding this top, including a revised set of instructions printed in the following issue. There was a bit of discussion here, too, including comments by a Threads Editorial Assistant. I decided to use the REVISED instructions to make my top.

The object of the game is to make a top using only two squares of large and one small. Once the squares are sewn together, the top hangs on the bias, yet all seams are sewn on the straight grain...the hem is bias, though.

Since shapeless garments are NOT my best look, I decided to shoot for a night shirt...that way, I can try out the bias top without sacrificing a favorite fabric from the stash! This is a satiny polyester which has good drape.

The ORIGINAL instructions (which I did NOT use) have you cut a small square where the diagonal of the square is equal to your half-hip measurement. Then you measure the sides of the square, double that, and cut the large square. For a 40" hip, the half-hip is 20"...and a 14" square has a diagonal measurement of 20", so you'd cut the small square 14 (not counting seam allowance). Then you would double the 14" measurement and cut the large square 28" (plus seam allowance). So you have two squares...29" and 15". These are the original instructions...which produce a shorter tighter garment.

The revised instructions (which I DID use) have you cut the small square equal to your half-hip measurement...not the diagonal, but the sides of the small square. Then cut the large square equal to your WHOLE hip measurement. In this case, if your hip measures 40", your large square will be 40" square and your small one will be 20"...not counting seam allowances. Once again, you add 1" to each square for seam allowances, so your squares are actually cut 41" and 21".

As you can see, this produces a BIG shirt!

Our local sewing guild met today, and the topic was Bias garments, especially THIS bias top. Several members made it, and one (Paula) made both the original and the revised versions in various fabrics before finally coming up with a THIRD VERSION which she liked best of all.

In Paula's version, she makes the big square equal to her hip size, but makes the DIAGONAL of the small square equal to her half-hip (instead of making the sm square's sides equal to the half-hip). This is basically a combination of the original instructions and the revised instructions...using the small square of the original and the large square of the revision. In her version, though, the large square is NOT twice the size of the small square, which the Threads Editorial Assistant emphasized. However, with Paula's version, you get the additional length of the the revision with the more narrow silhouette of the original. The underarm is lower, though, on Paula's version...but these are dolman sleeves anyway!

I considered taking mine apart to remake it.

I considered using Paula's version so I wouldn't lose length, which would mean only reducing the size of the small square (although Paula did not add anything for seam allowances).

But I think what I will probably do is just recut this using a different pattern. I will cut the shoulders to give a slight angle, cut the sides and put in a side seam, and add sleeves.

It isn't really long enough to be a gown, but long enough to be a shirt.

As you can see, there is no lack of width at the hips!!!

All in all, this is not my style!

Monday, January 11, 2010

The blue river quilt (still?)

I haven't talked about the blue river quilt lately. You remember, the the art quilt I have been working on for a year and a half! I finished the quilting on it last February (2009) and began embellishing it.

First, I did some big stitches on the trees with pearle cotton.

I hated it! So I ripped it out.

This is how the piece looked after quilting at the beginning of the embellishment stage, with only that one tree done, and even that one was later 'undone'. The colors here look odd, though!

Next I tried just stitching on ONE side of the trees and I liked that better.

I applied beading along the rays of the sun and various other places. This took months, as I generally only worked on this on Mondays, and not every Monday at that!

When I was trimming the quilt after the initial line of stitching to put on the binding, I accidently cut off a corner of the binding. Arrrgh!


This was supposed to be a continuous binding atround this corner, not one that starts and stops! It is NOT supposed to have two halves! So I had to rip off a big section of the binding and make a new section for that corner. Fortunately, the binding was pieced from a variety of pieces anyway, so this won't be seen as a mistake.


This is how the quilt looked in October of 2009...I was trying so hard to call it finished!

I sewed with pearle cotton...I ripped out pearle cotton.

I sewed on beads...I took off beads.

SOMETHING about it still bothered me, but I was so sick of looking at it that I just put it away and called it 'done'.


This is the lower half of the quilt...this is the area that bothered me the most. In addition to being so much lighter in color than the majority of the background, the piecing was also 'chaotic'...seams going in all opposed to neat and orderly like the seams in the upper areas of the background. Plus, the leaves and flowers in this lower area were stylistically different from the background trees. At first, I liked that, but it later began to bother me.

I had tried scattering beads along the river bank, like flotsom and jetsom, but that didn't give me the satisfaction I hoped for!

Even the cute turtle bead was later removed.

So I decided to paint the background of the lower right section! (what?)

First I used a very watered-down solution of DynaFlow to darken the light areas a bit. Better, but not enough.

I used some colored pencils and crayons to color in the quilting, to see if I might want to REALLY do some painting...with Shiva paintstiks. I decided that, NO, that wasn't the look I was after either.

By now, it is 2010, so the label on the back that says this was finished in 2009 will certainly have to be changed!

I recently decided that the way to fix this quilt was to whack off the lower part! Now, this was a difficult decision. I have never done anything like this before and was not sure whether or not I would ruin the whole thing by doing this!

But I did it. And it wasn't too bad...not too hard! I ripped some of the binding on each side then cut the quilt off where desired...then I rebound the lower edges on each side of the 'river'. Since I didn't want binding around the river itself, I undid some of the quilting in that area so I could turn under the cut edges of the quilt and the background and slipstitch them together for a clean edge. Then I reapplied the fuzzy yarn that surrounds the river edge (also by hand).

I removed the remaining pearle cotton stitches in those upper trees and added beads instead, also beading the remaining trees that were 'beadless'.

Now all trees had made more sense.

Then I decided to add beads to the water! I beaded for about an hour and (at left) is what I had:

I hated it. I was about to rip it out when I talked myself into waiting...telling myself , "Perhaps do a little more and then you'll like it."

So I did more.

I worked on this quilt for 4 days last week...or was it 5 days? It was ALOT! But I was more pleased with the overall result at this point and was trying so hard to get it finished!

Until I began beading the river, that is!

I had purchased several types of beads, since there was no pre-mixed packagesin the colors I needed at my local Hobby Lobby. I even got some sequins, just to jazz it up a bit!


This is where it stands today...Monday afternoon.

I am once again NOT pleased.

I think the beading on the water is NOT good....not a good thing.

I am pretty sure I liked it better without any beads on the blue water.

I am CERTAIN that I want to remove the small, 'S' shaped cluster near the bottom...but nearly as sure of removing them all.

I am forcing myself to sleep on it.

Friday, January 1, 2010

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