Monday, January 31, 2011

It's in the washer!

Today I finished hand-sewing the binding on the challenge quilt.

I tossed it into the washing machine along with 3 Color Catcher sheets.

It is VERY nerve-wracking to watch all your hard work being sprayed with soapy water and being forcibly tumbled around the drum! I cannot help but wonder what condition this will be in when it comes out!

Half-way through the cycle, I looked inside to find that the color catchers were completely blue! Oh dear...I should have used more. MANY more! But it is in the rinse cycle I will wait until it is finished and perhaps do another rinse~n~spin with a few more color catchers in there...then I'll take it out for drying/blocking.

Cross your fingers! (Yikes!!!)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Making Progress

Since I haven't been whining each day about my quilting problems, you probably figured out that I was busily stitching!


I am using a size 18 needle.

There is still some poke-through of the batting to the backside, as seen here, but I will have to live with that.

I am ready to cut and apply the binding. After that, I'll be able to toss this whole thing into the washer, to wash away the markings I drew with the wash-away marker, and also, to see if I can resolve the earlier problem where my indigo fabric bled onto the adjacent goldenrod fabric. I bought some COLOR CATCHER to throw into the wash and I am hoping that will prevent the excess dye from settling where it shouldn't.

I am not sure what is causing the batting to poke-through.
  • The batting is Warm and White.
  • I did use the (previously mentioned) basting spray to hold the layers together, and...
  • I am using the size 18 needle. The larger needle is needed to penetrate the batiks on the face, but the backing fabric is not tightly woven like the batiks. Perhaps that is the problem...perhaps the backing needs to be more similar to the face fabric!

In any event, I am hoping that everything will come out in the wash...that the little specks of batting will 'disappear' from the back, the blue lines will disappear, and the indigo bleed will be a thing of the past!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Love Letter to Liz

a.k.a. 'Hooray, My Quilting Has Improved!

A big thanks to Liz A. for all the tips and advice she has offered.

While I cannot undo the spray basting on this one, I will NOT use it on the next one.

But her best advice for me was the "permission" to use a size 18 needle!

I would NEVER have seriously considered this, as it just seems too big...I rarely use a 16, let alone an 18. I didn't even have any!

I ran out today and got a pack of 18's...although they aren't titanium (I don't think they are, anyway) but they are "universal". I popped one in and started sewing.

Things went just fine.
I kept waiting for the thread to pop...nothing.
Then I got into the thick area where the seam allowances are.
There was a slightly different sound, but the stitches held...NO SKIPPING!!!
I am blown away!
And so happy!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Quilting Advice

I received several helpful comments on my last post and answered several of them in the comments there. But rather than answer another one in the coments, I decided that since the conversation was a bit long, I might as well post it here!

Liz A. commented:

>>are you using batiks? I've found that the tighter weave of the batiks tend to cause me to have some issues when quilting them. I usually use a larger needle.<<

Liz, with your batiks, do you use a needle larger than a 100/16?

I considered trying an 18, but I don't have that size on hand...not sure they are even available locally!

I DID look around and I found a small package of ORGAN needles, so I pulled out a size 100/16 to compare and try.

The Schmetz Topstitching needle was actually a tiny bit longer than the Organ, and the eye was much larger.

I turned both needles sideways and poked them through a small piece of fabric to hold them in a position to allow a side-view.

It seems that the Schmetz needle has a larger, deeper scarf on the back...hard to evaluate for sure. I am not sure what that means...perhaps the smaller scarf would be less likely to skip?

Who knows.

So I put in the Organ needle and tried it.

This needle made absolutely NO DIFFERENCE as far as I could tell. So I went back to the Schmetz needle with the larger eye.

>>I also like Superior Threads So Fine on batiks.<<

The Superior Threads So Fine...what size is that? So far, I have had the best luck with Gutterman Cotton thread, which is 50 wt. (the C~n~C polyester thread I tried was 40 wt.). My mind tells me I want to be using a larger thread so the work will show...but maybe not?

>>as for how taut your quilt should be on the frame, we generally say you should be able to grab your fingertip when poked from underneath. on batiks this is especially important. you don't want to be able to bounce a coin off the top -- that's way too tight. <<

Thanks! I need a guideline/rule of thumb, and this will help.

>>also, is it better going one direction than the other? sometimes some threads will only seem to quilt going from left to right and break when going other directions.<<

Yes!!! Yes, definitely the breaking thread is more likely going backwards and away from me. I am not sure about the skipped stitches though. I kind of think the larger needle is breaking the thread, but the larger needle is needed to pierce all the layers!

>>if you're using a very thin batt AND used batting spray, it could possibly be contributing to the problem. the thicker batts help give the batting spray someplace to go as the needle goes thru. I've had some brands gum up my needle and others not back when I used basting sprays and my sewing machine to quilt.<<

I definitely think the basting is a contributing factor to the skipping stitches, at the very least! I have used this basting spray before, but this time, I was on the phone with my daughter while layering the quilt, and was distracted from the task at hand. Suddenly I realized that I might be using way too much of this spray...but by then, the deed was done. It is wise to pay attention to what you are doing! duh...

I think the basting spray is making the needle and thread "lift" the quilt as the needle comes up and out of the fabric, which causes the skipped stitches. I could be wrong, but that seems likely.

The fact that the problem is worse in some areas of the quilt than in others also makes me suspect the I most certainly sprayed some areas heavier than others.

And the issue I mentioned about the needle poking the batting out on the backside of the quilt ONLY happened when I used the polyester thread. As soon as I changed to the cotton thread, this issue stopped completely! Now, occasionally, I started getting a little timy bit of batting being pulled UP to the top of the quilt, but as soon as I used some of the Sewer's Aid, as Etta suggested, that stopped.

>> if you're using your handiquilter, you shouldn't be using a basting spray.<<

I know...(grin)...but remember, my HQ is only a 'frame', not a quilting machine. I use a Brother PQ1500S mounted on the HQ frame...and this is a SHORT ARM machine. So, if I want to do any anything other than 'channels' or a narrow panotograph, I must stop stitching with the needle down (in the quilt) and roll the whole thing back and forth to do larger designs/areas. I was afraid that with all this repositioning back and forth, the batting would not lie smoothly, since it is just 'floated' between the layers. So, using the spray basting was my answer to doing larger areas and still keep the sandwich nice and smooth.

Basically, I put the layers together, then mount the quilt sandwich to only 2 of the 3 rails, one on each side, so I can roll it back and forth as I need to.

This quilt is not a bed-sized is 48" by 58"...for the wall. I wouldn't try to do this with a large bed quilt...I would just stitch smaller designs! I think...

On Wednesday, I did finally make enough progress on the stitching so as to run out of thread! Although yesterday was a 'meeting' day and I knew I wouldn't get much done, I DID manage to run out (in the falling snow!) and get more thread, so I'd be ready to begin quilting bright and early today. Well THAT didn't happen!

I had lots of correspondence to catch up on, so I have made exactly NO progress on the quilt today...none!

Well, not yet!

But the day is not over.

Wish me luck...

And, P.S. I appreciate the comments, everyone! Thanks!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Quilting Woes

Tell me again just *WHY* I make quilts? Grrrrrr......

Right this minute, I am taking a 'break' from my quilting...mostly so I won't throw things!

I have been having trouble quilting this one since the onset!

Tension issues, skipping stitches, shredding thread...I fix one issue and create another!

First, it was the tension problem I mentioned in my last post.

Then, the bleeding hand-dyed...which has still not been addressed.

Once I changed thread colors (and types) I started getting skipped stitches. I would go along just fine, then change directions, and wha-bam! Long stitches.

According to Diane Gaudynski, the causes of skipped stitches are almost always caused by one of the following:
  • • the needle being too small for the thread

  • • the batt being very thin and flat

  • • the presser foot pressure too low

  • • a defective needle

  • • threading done incorrectly

  • • hands too fast for the speed of the machine

I was moving so slow my stitches were tiny, so I could rule out that last one.

I rethreaded a thousand times, so that could also be ruled out.

The needle was changed ad I was pretty sure that wasn't it either.

But the pressure foot pressure? Hmmm. That is a possibility. So is the thin batting. BOTH of these work together...a thinner batting needs more pressure on the foot than a loftier batt. And duh, I am using a very thin batting! So I increased the pressure on the foot by quite a bit...there are no index marks, so I just turn the knob at will.

Also, on another forum (but I cannot remember which one) I read that it was NOT necessary to keep the quilt so tight than one could bounce a quarter off of it! Just keep it tight enough to be stable. Hmmm....I do tend to really keep the quilt taut on the frame, so I loosened it up a little.

The skipping stitches seemed better...and I sewed for a few minutes, feeling like maybe I would finally make some progress. Then the shredding began...

So, back to the internet to do more reasearch. Basically, shredding is usually caused by using the wrong needle. A TOPSTITCHING needle has a larger eye and is less prone to cause shredding. Plus, the larger needles have a larger scarf (groove) for the thread to ride in. But I had tried a larger needle (100) before and it was actually causing the batting to appear on the backside of the quilt!

That's right. Little white blobs on the black background fabric...not acceptable.

I had switched to the smaller needle (90) to prevent the batting poke-through, and it seemed ok until I reached a corner of the piecing, where the seam allowances were thicker...the thread would shred and break. But not every time! Good grief.

I decided that, in spite of the fact that I have now quilted several areas using this polyester embroidery thread, I was going to have to return to using cotton thread like I started out with. I only bought the polyester thread (Coats and Clark) in the first place was because the color I wanted was not available in the cotton (Gutterman). But I thought the shiny nature of the poly might be a nice accent. However, it is thinner and obviously less-strong.

So I changed the top thread and did a bit more stitching, still using the poly in the bobbin. Again, it worked for a few moments then wha-bam! breaking and shredding and skipping stitches.

So, back to the internet to do more reasearch.

Some suggestions for eliminating the shredding:

  • Turn the spool over to allow the thread to unwind in the other direction.

  • Don't put the thread through that last guide right above the needle.

  • Change the needle to one with a bigger eye, bigger scarf...a larger needle.

  • Loosen the top tension, and...

  • Use a HEAVIER thread in the bobbin.

This last one got my attention. While I had messed with the tension already, NOW I was using a thinner thread in the bobbin. So I changed the bobbin, putting in a cotton thread that was equal in weight to my top thread. I put my sample fabric back on the frame and stitched for quite a while...all fine! Stitch quality ok, no skipping, no shredding! Yea!!!

So I began stitching on the quilt again. Immediately, the shredding began again.

And that is where I am now.

Currently, quite frustrated.

I am wondering if using the basting-spray has anything to do with this?

I know, I am grasping at straws. But SOMETHING has to be causing it!!!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

a hot mess, aka the challenge quilt

Well, I started quilting on the challenge quilt today. I have been working toward that end for days now.

I loaded the quilt on my HQ frame several days ago.

After MUCH thought, I finally settled on a stitching/quilting design.

Then yesterday, I spent practically the whole day trying to resolve tension issues. This was tough...I tightened tensions and loosened tensions...rinse and repeat. I flossed the tension dial. I brushed out the bobbin area and bobbin case. I poked around with a pipe cleaner, to free any obstructions that might be there. I held my tongue just right. Still, the tiny loops occurred. And it was not just loops on the top or loops on the bottom. The loops would alternate between top and bottom, depending on the direction I was stitching or the speed with which I moved the machine! How can that be resolved? Eventually, after gettting the sample stitching as good as it was gonna get, I decided that the BEST option for overcoming the potential for these tiny loops was to use the same color thread in the bobbin as I was using on the machine...despite the fact that the back of this quilt is BLACK and despite the fact that I had already wound TWO black bobbins!

Next, I decided I needed to make some marks on the quilt to use a guidelines for stitching. I don't usually do that, but this quilt needed some. I started marking with my Dritz Wash-away blue marker...but it was nearly dried up. So I grabbed my keys and ran out to the store to pick up another one, so I'd be ready to start actually quilting in the morning.

Ok, so today, I used the new marker and marked off the areas to quilt...then I actually started stitching ON the quilt! At first, it was going quilt well. Then I stopped for lunch. When I came back, suddenly I was having 'issues'. The thread would break or there'd be skipped stitches. I thought, maybe the needle is I changed it. I tried a bigger needle...then back to the smaller needle. I raised the fabric and lowered the fabric...the poles which hold the quilt have to be raised or lowered to keep the target area on the bed of the machine as the rolled-up quilt gets fatter. Finally, I found that it was the straight stitching that was the most bothersome, so I'd stitch straight for a short bit, then, if a stitch skipped, I back up and start stippling! Eventually, after lots of starts and stops and ripping-out, the section I had marked off was done.

Time to change thread colors.

I figured this was a good stopping point for the day, as it was dinner time. I wanted to take a look at how this was turning out, so I grabbed a wet paper towel and began sopping at some of the wash-away markings, to make them go away so I could better evaluate the design I had stitched. Well, guess what?! One of the hand-dyed fabrics I have used in this quilt is bleeding!!! Yep...and of course, it is the INDIGO...which is right next to the very light basically, my blue is bleeding on to my yellow!!! I am pissed.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Library of Congress fun

Well, no sewing for me today...I just sliced open my right index finger on the rim of a tomato soup can! It is still bleeding, 30 minutes later! Even typing is awkward, so I'll keep this short.

On the Wild Ginger forum, I was alerted to THIS site, which has a must-see movie for anyone who sews clothes! Made in 1948, the actors won't win any awards, but if you sew it is fun to see how sewing and fashion and attitudes have changed since then.

Also, on Kathleen Fasanella's blog, KF mentioned a free Italian pattern-drafting book that is available for download (from the Library of Congress site also). Though the book is Italian, it is translated into English, too.

I DID get it, and having looked through it briefly, it reminds me quite a bit of the German drafting system that I have spoken of before. It looks very nice!

There are collars and sleeves, coats, jackets, pants, blouses, lingerie, swimwear...even men's and children's wear!

So if any of you are interested in seeing how to draft various styles, check it out!

I got the PDF version.

You can download this Italian pattern book for free! But since it is a fairly modern book, 2004, it is possible that it might have been posted by mistake and could be removed soon...who knows!?!

KF also mentions THIS BOOK, so I got it too. I haven't skimmed it yet, but maybe that is just what I should be doing, since my finger is all boo-boo'ed up!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It's a challenge.

Once again,, I am choosing to participate in the ULTIMATE GUILD quilt challenge. The challenge issued by my local guild is~
Color Saturation: Stay within the Lines.

At our meeting in September, 2010, we were to blindly draw a crayon from each of 3 bags, one containing light colors, one medium colors and one containing dark colors.

These are my colors.

Goldenrod (light)

Tumbleweed (medium)

Indigo (dark)

So in October, when I went on a day-trip to Paducah, KY, with my local sewing guild (a different guild from the quilt guild!), I visited Hancock's of Paducah and picked up LOTS of fabrics with these colors.

Now I am working on a quilt. But I can't post many details until after it is presented to the quilt guild for competition on the 4th Tuesday in February. But I'll try to sneak in a peak every now and then!
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