Saturday, September 29, 2012

Thinking About Quilt Market

I'll be going to Houston this year, both Quilt Market and Quilt Festival.  I get to sit and sew, doing demonstrations on new machines -- exactly my idea of a good time!

Thinking about Quilt Market led me to review the pictures I took at Spring Quilt Market in Kansas City this past May.  This picture was in one of the vendor booths:

I REALLY wanted to buy the sign!  But that wasn't the business they were in.....

Dreamweaver's MuVit Foot

Still learning my Dreamweaver machine and needed to do some straight stitching, so got out a foot I hadn't used before.

This feature is actually called MuVit digital dual feed -- it's a honking big foot! 

Here's a picture of my regular "J" foot that I use for piecing next to the MuVit foot. 

I used it to sew the binding on this Radiance piece -- selecting Radiance for the binding was madness, because it's slippery and not the easiest fabric to handle.  Cindy Needham likes to use Bosal woven stabilizer to give Radiance some body when she uses it and I probably should have done that.  I didn't use Bosal for either the binding or the quilted piece.

That said, I expected more difficulty than I got.  The MuVit foot did a good job of getting it sewn down with a minimum of hair pulling.  I just have to steam the piece to flatten the binding a bit.

Next, I decided to do some straight stitching.  I already had a diagonal grid stitched on the olive green Radiance piece that I have almost finished and wanted to add some up and down straight stitching to give it more density.  This was a good opportunity to use the MuVit foot with the laser sew straight guide.

As shown on the screen above, my needle position (lower right hand corner) and laser position (just to the right of the picture of the laser) are both set at 3.5 because I want the needle to sew right down that laser line.

I'll be able to stitch from corner to corner following the laser line.  For illustration, this picture is taken as if I'm sewing from the right side of the fabric; since the Kimono Silk that I'm working with is on a bobbin, I'm going to sew from the back of the work.

And here's how it looks as I stitched it on the back....

And here's the right side -- I think it looks really good and the laser was easy to follow.  I have wool batting in this piece and the MuVit foot did a good job keeping everything flat.

I will definitely use this foot for binding and diagonal grid.  At this point, I won't use it for stitching in the ditch because of the closed sole plate -- I just can't see in there to make sure I'm on the correct (low) side of the ditch.  However, I have asked for an open toe sole plate and Brother has been extremely and quickly responsive to requests in the past, so keeping my fingers crossed as to delivery date.  I hope it's soon!

Tomorrow I fly to Chicago to do some more video work.  It's going to be over 100 degrees here at home all week and in the high 60's/low 70's in Chicago -- hooray!  Boot weather!

Brother has provided me with the DreamWeaverTM XE, but all opinions expressed are entirely my own....

Thursday, September 27, 2012

"My Designs" Workshop with Cindy Needham

Last week, I made a trek up to Northern California to take a five day workshop from Cindy Needham.  Cindy does an entirely different style of quilting than what I do -- I make big soft quilts to wrap oneself in; Cindy makes incredible show quilts.  I had taken two days of her instruction at the High Desert Quilt Guild in Ridgecrest CA last year and was eager to learn more about her style.

I took my Brother DreamWeaver XE and really put her through her paces.  Four and a half solid days of free motion sewing -- I don't take a lot of breaks for shopping and such -- were a pleasure with this machine.  I tried a lot of different threads and got beautiful stitch quality.

Cindy teaches how to combine stencils and freehand work in the same piece.  Sometimes we only traced part of a stencil; for instance, the spine of a feather for guidance and then filled in the rest with freehand quilting.  I also learned a number of interesting backgrounds to show off the primary work.

But that's enough talk -- let me show you what I did!

This is the first piece I worked on.  It measures approximately 9" x 12"; I used Radiance fabric, both front and back, and wool batting.  I marked one side of the fabric with the curvy lines that were on one of Cindy's handouts to us and stitched the lines with Glitter in the top of the machine and Bottom Line in the bobbin.  The rest of the work was done freehand with Kimono Silk in the top of the machine and Bottom Line in the bobbin.  Cindy is an educator for Superior Threads and brought her "thread bar" for us to use as well as a good assortment of Superior threads from her personal stash.

This is the second piece that I worked on; it measures 21" wide by 17-1/2" tall.  I have white Kona cotton on the back and Radiance on the front.  This also has wool batting in it; Cindy's a big fan of wool for its lightness and loft.

I traced guidelines from three different stencils, giving me the "bones" for the spine of the feather, the pinwheel in the lower right and the 8 sided geometric figure at the top right.  The rest was all filled in freehand, including all those feathers!  Didn't think I could do that, but it was what I was hoping to learn....

Since I was working from the back of the piece, I used Bottom Line in the top of the machine and three different threads in the bobbin -- for the "bones", the part I wanted to stand out, I used King Tut.  At Cindy's urging, for all the feather work and other foreground stitching I used a contrasting, light brown, shade of Kimono Silk; all of the background fills are done with a shade of Kimono Silk that more closely matched the fabric.

I still have more work to do on the piece to make the grid in the upper left hand corner more dense, particularly around the feathers.

Here's a closeup of one of the backgrounds based on a 1/2" diagonal grid.

The center of the four sided feather shows another background fill, a bit of echo as well as an S-curve fill.

This is the third piece I had brought; it is composed of four orphan blocks from a workshop I took from Miriam Nathan Roberts at Asilomar several years ago.  I whomped the four blocks together and brought it along.  All I got done were the center feathers and a little bit of stitching with gold Glitter thread in the upper left hand block.

To do the feathers, I just hand drew the spine, stitched it, then filled in with the feathers freehand.  I expected this to be difficult as far as spacing and such.  Either it's not that hard or it was beginner's luck!

Here's a closeup of the feathers; to stitch these, I used a variegated King Tut in the top of the machine and Mettler 100% cotton Silk Finish thread in the bobbin.  You can also see a little bit of the work in the upper right hand corner that I did with Glitter in the top.  I started out with the Mettler in the bobbin and had a bit of trouble balancing the tension.  At that point, Cindy advised me to switch to Bottom Line in the bobbin with the Glitter in the top, but I didn't notice much improvement.  I was running out of time and didn't take the care that I normally do when choosing upper machine tension, so that is something that I will be working on this week.

I want to get the first piece bound and the second piece finished and bound so I can take them with me to Chicago on Sunday.  Cheryl Hoffman, Brother's VP of Education, and I will be playing with the DreamWeaver next week and making some videos for Brother's website -- I always love hamming it up for the camera, so this should be a lot of fun!

I really appreciated Cindy's teaching style; she would lecture each morning and then turn us loose to practice what she had taught us.  She's always circulating around the room, ready to help if you have a question or are at a sticking point in your work.  A thread suggestion here, a design suggestion there, and we all came out with really nice work at the end of the week.

Cindy has a number of retreats in McCloud CA (I'm less inclined to do those because it's a 12 hour drive from home rather than the 6 to Rancho Cordova) and in Rancho Cordova CA.  If you would like to experience Cindy's magic for yourself, you can read all about it at  I've already signed up for the April 11-14, 2013, "linen ladies" workshop, so now I'm on the prowl for a couple of beautiful pieces of vintage linen to take with me!

Definitely an enjoyable week that vastly improved my machine quilting skills -- I have to say that it was worth every penny and every minute and firmly bonded me with this new machine....

Brother has provided me with the DreamWeaverTM XE, but all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sew Cal Gal's Free Motion Challenge

As a quilting teacher, you would probably expect me to understand the value of taking classes, honing one's skills, practicing a lot -- easier said than done for those of us on the road a lot!  But for the next five days, I'll be in Rancho Cordova taking Cindy Needham's "My Designs" workshop.  From what I understand of Cindy's background, she was once in the place where I am now -- very proficient with stencils, but not as experienced or confident with freehand designs.  This is what I want my emphasis to be over the next few days.

One of the other students brought in a piece she's been working on and it's from Sew Cal Gal's current Free Motion Challenge tutorial -- I was very excited because the current free motion tutorial is mine!   Here's the link:

So Cindy was Ms. June and her tutorial is awesome -- here the link to it:

It was fun to be Ms. September!  If you get a chance, check it out!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Early Morning in the Antelope Valley

Dan and I went to breakfast early yesterday morning and look what we saw!

Another beautiful southern California day!

V-Sonic Pen Pal (Part 2)

Still having fun playing with this machine and discovering features!  One of the things that can be done with the sensor pen is indicating an end point where the machine will stop stitching before you lift your foot.  Let me walk you through that process and then some musings of mine about how to use it.....

I've chosen to demonstrate this function by sewing together two pieces of fabric that are unequal in length.  As in previous posts, I've decided on a 1/4" seam, so I have set the sew straight laser guide to 10.5, with needle position at 4.5 and the "J" foot on the machine. 

I start sewing my seam, stopping at any point where my intended end point is within the length of the laser light. 

To activate the pen, I touch the pen icon on the screen....

...then touch the last icon on the screen.  That's the icon that lets me set the point at which the machine will stop sewing.

A screen comes up instructing me to touch my desired sewing end point.

I touch the tip of the pen to the exact point where sewing should stop.  In an ideal world, the machine will slow down right before that point and then stop at the point exactly.

I can think of several uses for this "end point" function.  For piecers, it would be very handy for stopping exactly 1/4" before the end of the seam while adding borders to a quilt that will have mitered corners.  Or for stopping at the 1/4" point for set in seams, such as Y-seams.

I have also played with this using decorative stitches.  For instance, let's say you have a table runner, place mat, pillowcase or other piece where you are using a decorative stitch around the edge to form a border.  Using the end point function will actually alter the length of the stitch slightly (+ or - 10%) so that the corner turns without a pattern interruption. 

I know many of you sew other things besides quilts.  Can you think of other uses for this "end point" function?

Tomorrow I leave for a teaching trip to Dallas and San Antonio -- if you are in either area and want to hang out with me and take a class, here's a link to my schedule.  I'll be at Richland Sewing Center in Hurst TX through Thursday and then Creative Sewing Center in San Antonio Friday through Sunday.  There is also a shop hop going on in TX, so I'll be available to schmooze and demo on Sunday at Creative Sewing Center.

If you're doing the shop hop, be sure to stop in and see me!

Brother has provided me with the DreamWeaverTM XE, but all opinions expressed are entirely my own....
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