Sunday, November 22, 2020

IntelliQuilter Learning Continues: Exploring Digital Pantographs for E2E + Background Fills, with No Sew Zones

 Good morning, lovelies!  After my little R.B.G. block detour, I returned to the cheater cloth panel that I'd loaded on my long arm frame for IntelliQuilter practice.  Feeling comfortable with resizing and distorting block designs to fit less-than-perfectly-square quilt blocks, I decided to practice laying out and sequencing some E2E (Edge-to-Edge) designs.  Oh my gosh, you guys -- I LOVE how my APQS machine stitches these designs out with R2D2 (yes, that's what I've named my IQ) doing the driving instead of me!  Smooth feather curves, crisp points, and perfect circle bubbles with beautiful stitches on the top and bottom of the quilt, no matter which direction the machine is moving.

Aphrodite Grande E2E on Practice Panel

This particular E2E design is called Aphrodite Grande from Urban Elementz.  It's an E2E because this type of design is intended to cover the quilt from edge to edge, irrespective of the piecing lines, borders, etc.  It's a lot faster way to finish a quilt than treating individual blocks, sashings and borders separately, but it also has the advantage of being very evenly distributed quilting method that retains the loft (and therefore, retains the warmth) of the batting better than heavy custom quilting.  E2E quilting generally results in a soft, drapable finished quilt, too, even if the quilt top is heavily pieced to begin with.  So there are lots of reasons to choose an E2E design for a quilt besides just the wallet-friendly price point.  E2E quilting is great for bed quilts, baby quilts, charity quilts, etc., and there are literally thousands of designs to choose from. 

Aphrodite Grande E2E Design

Now, this E2E design and most others like it are available as paper pantographs for use with non-computerized long arm machines.  With lots (and lots!) of practice, some quilters become quite good at following the quilting design on paper from the back of their machines using a laser pointer to guide their machine along the stitching path.  After a few years of trying that, I've discovered that following paper pantographs is not my superpower -- especially not designs like this one with lots of circle details and tightly nested rows of quilting.  I'm excited about being able to vastly expand the number of allover designs that I can quilt out reliably.  

Setting Up a Computerized E2E Pattern on IQ

But there are more advantages to computerized E2E quilting designs compared to following a paper pantograph pattern by hand.  If purchasing a paper pantograph pattern for Aphrodite Grande, it comes in one size/pattern density only -- with a 12" row height.  With a digitized design in IQ, I can stretch any design bigger or smaller, changing the density of the quilting to make the scale of the quilting design more appropriate to the scale of the pieced blocks, or to adapt the design to my (or my customer's) preferences for lighter or heavier quilting overall.  

Stitching Out My Aphrodite Grande E2E Design

Yet another thing I am loving about quilting computerized E2E designs is that, instead of having to keep my eyes on the laser light to follow a paper pattern at the BACK of the machine, I get to be right at the front of the machine where I can see and supervise the actual stitching when the computer is involved.  My hands are free to work in any fullness or "personality" that a particular quilt top may have, as well, whereas if I was quilting a pantograph from the back of a quilt that had "C-cup blocks," a pleat or two might get quilted in those areas of excess fullness.

Other cool things about the IQ screen in the photo above: When I set up an E2E design, or any kind of computerized quilting design in IQ, it tells me how much thread the design is going to use in yards ("Remaining Length: 16.1 yd" in the above photo means 16 yards of top thread and 16 yards of bottom thread are required to stitch the remainder of this practice quilt).  It also tells me how long the whole thing will take to stitch out (excluding the time it takes to stop, advance the quilt on the frame, and baste the edges).  I have two speed settings that I can adjust, the regular Speed that is set to 2.0 inches per second for this pantograph, as well as a Details speed that I've got at 1.6 inches per second for this design.  I can also program IQ to pause or "Dwell" at the sharp points and other intricate details ("dwell points") of a design, and fine-tuning Speed, Details speed, and Dwell enables IQ to sew even the most intricate, complex designs with accuracy and precision.  So very cool! 

Speed and Details Slowed down for Intricate Block Design

In this photo, you can see that I've got IQ slowed down to 1.3" per second regular speed and slowing to .9" per second for this Willow block design.  I also have Dwell on the highest setting (3), which I learned NOT to do because it caused too many stitches to land in the points, creating knots where the machine was pausing too long.  I got better results with Dwell set to 1.  

Willow Block 4 Design

That's the block I was working on in the photo above.  I have a collection of coordinating blocks and border designs in this Willow set and I really love it.  It's what I'd consider a "transitional" feather style because it can work equally well with traditional or more contemporary quilts.  

Willow Block 1

Willow Block 1, Stitched on Practice Panel

Isn't that pretty?  But back to those E2E pantograph designs.  Remember that I said I can change the scale of the designs to make them more or less dense?  I can also use that feature to shrink a pantograph design way down and use it as a background fill for custom quilting, like "behind" an appliquéd or embroidered area in a quilt top.

Shrinking an E2E Design Down as a Background Filler

That's what I've done in the photo above.  This is an E2E digital design called Dewdrops that, in the paper pantograph version, has a row height of 12" just like the Aphrodite Grande pattern I showed you a few moments ago.  But here, I've shrunk Dewdrops all the way down to a row height of 1.75" with a pattern density of 5.73.  The triangular boundary that I've filled with the design is a partial on-point quilt "block" from my practice panel that I mapped out with my machine needle so that IQ knows exactly where the edges of the block lie on my quilt.

No Sew Zone Created so Filler Doesn't Stitch Over Star

Next, I used the same technique of moving my machine along the edge of the area where I didn't want stitching to map out a No Sew Zone for IQ.  

Ruler Work Sashing + SID, Computerized Block + Background Filler

I'm not 100% pleased with the background filler yet to where I'd put that on a real quilt, but I found some additional educational resources that will help me to get better results with it next time.  Same thing with my first attempt at programming the computer to quilt circles in the sashing -- I found that it was faster and easier to just grab my 1/2" Pro Pebbles acrylic template (available from Lisa Calle here) and quilt them by hand with the ruler.  For now, as far as custom quilting is concerned, I feel pretty comfortable delegating some of the block and border stitching to R2D2 in conjunction with hand-guided ruler work and free motion quilting.

But meanwhile, I have a few real quilt tops patiently waiting for E2E quilting and I'm looking forward to picking out the perfect design for each of them.  And then, don't hold your breath, but maybe I can get my Ginormous Pineapple Log Cabin quilt top turned into an actual finished quilt on my bed soon, after all these years!  Remember this one?

Computer Rendering of 120 x 120 Pineapple Log Cabin Top Waiting to be Quilted

That's actually an EQ8 rendering I created by tiling a photo of the first block I finished piecing, repeated and manipulated in the software to "preview" the way the finished quilt would look with borders and everything before I invested the work of actually making all of the blocks.  Here's what the actual finished quilt top looks like, draped over my 12' quilting frame, so you're actually just seeing half of the quilt top in this photo:

Actual 120 x 120 Pineapple Log Cabin Top, Draped Over 12' Frame

Each of those pineapple log cabin blocks has 97 pieces and the strips finish at just 3/4" wide, so this is a VERY heavily pieced top.  It weighs a ton.  In fact, that's why I don't have a photo of the entire finished quilt top to show you.  I was afraid that if I had my husband and son hold it up by the top border, the weight of the quilt top might cause the center to rip away from the border!

At first I was leaning towards a very traditional Baptist Fan quilting design for this 120" x 120" monster, but I really liked the way that Aphrodite Grande E2E design looked when I stitched it out on my practice panel:

Aphrodite Grande E2E on Practice Panel

An allover, updated feather design sprinkled with pearls like this one might be just the thing for my pineapple log cabin quilt, preserving the loft and warmth of my wool batting, without any thready buildup or stiffness from backtracking.  Hmmm...  Decisions, decisions!  Too many choices is a good problem to have!  To all of you in the United States, have a wonderful (and safe!) Thanksgiving this week!

Tuesday's To-Do List for the Week of Thanksgiving:

  1. Finish getting another tumbler charity top kitted for my mom to piece
  2. Quilt at least two pediatric outreach tops for donation through my guild
  3. Bake pumpkin pies, cook Thanksgiving for our small gathering (just immediate family)
  4. Christmas decorating on Black Friday!

That should be MORE than enough to keep me busy for the next week or so, don't you agree?  I'll be linking up today's post with the following linky parties:

SUNDAY

Frédérique at Quilting Patchwork Appliqué

Oh Scrap! at Quilting Is More Fun Than Housework

MONDAY

Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts  

Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt

TUESDAY

To-Do Tuesday at Home Sewn By Us

WEDNESDAY

Midweek Makers at Quilt Fabrication

Wednesday Wait Loss at The Inquiring Quilter

THURSDAY

Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation  

Free Motion Mavericks with Muv and Andree

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Foundation Paper Piecing + Needle Turn Appliqué: The Notorious R.B.G. is Ready to Join Her International Sisters

Do you remember seeing "a little secret sewing" on my to-do list last week?  I had SEW much fun making this "Notorious R.B.G." block for my quilting friend Preeti, based on her popular International Sisters Block Tutorial (find it on her Sew Preeti Quilts blog here).  

My Notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg Block, Ready to Join Her Sisters

If you haven't seen Preeti's International Sisters blocks yet, you should pop over to Preeti's tutorial to read how the block came about.  Preeti stumbled upon a quilt block called African Queen a few years ago and drafted her own 10" finished version of the block when she was unable to find a pattern or instructions for making it.  Then she started experimenting with all different skin tones and it became an International Sisters block.  Here are some of Preeti's lovely International Sisters:

Four of Preeti's "Sunshine Sisters" (blocks and photo by Preeti Harris, Sew Preeti Quilts)

One of the great things about Preeti's International Sisters blocks is how fabulously they showcase wildly colorful print fabrics, and I think that is a big part of their appeal.  But of course R.B.G. needed to wear a plain black Supreme Court Justice robe instead, so I used a Japanese print from my stash for her background to set off the black dress and help her to work in a quilt with other sisters blocks, should Preeti choose that.  (She can do whatever she wants with it, or nothing at all.  There are no strings attached).

Justice Ginsburg at the 2015 Elle Women in Washington Power List Dinner

The red and orange Japanese print from my stash reminded me of this gloriously colorful embroidered Chinese silk kimono jacket that Justice Ginsburg rocked at Elle magazine's Women in Washington Power List Dinner in 2015.

My Foundation Paper Piecing Pattern, Created in EQ8 Software

In order for this international sister to be recognizable as The Notorious R.B.G., I needed to swap the head wrap for Ginsburg's trademark swept back hairstyle, topped with a crown.  I recreated Preeti's International Sisters block in EQ8 software, carefully following her tutorial specifications so the block would finish the correct size and with the correct proportions.  Then I just subdivided what would have been the head wrap with some additional seam lines. 

Foundation Paper Piecing Ruth's Crown

Foundation Paper Piecing Completed

Once I'd finished foundation paper piecing the four units that make up the whole block, I starched and pressed them nice and flat before trimming away the excess fabric 1/4" from the seam lines.  Then I removed the paper foundations and joined the units together.

Needle Turn Appliqué for the Broderie Perse Eyeglasses

I needed just a few more customizations for my R.B.G. block, and those were added with needle turn applique.  First, I cut out a pair of appropriately sized eyeglasses for my Supreme Court justice from Geekery "Spectacles" fabric (available from several Etsy sellers here).

Spectacles Fabric from RJR Fabric's Geekery Collection, Available on Etsy here

Back view of Appliqué Stitches

The white seam allowance was pretty skimpy in the deep V of the nose bridge, so there are LOTS of tiny stitches there to ensure it doesn't unravel.  For reference, those machine stitched foundation paper piecing seams have a stitch length of 1.5 and the seams sewing the sections of the block together are stitch length 2.0.

The "dissent collar" was done the same way, cut out of a Spoonflower RBG's Dissent Collar fabric (created by jbtsparkle, available from Spoonflower here) with a fat 1/8" seam allowance and then added to the already-pieced block by needle turn appliqué.

But something was still missing:

Tiniest Perfect Circle Template + Scrap of Kaffe Fassett Fabric = Jade Earrings

Justice Ginsburg Never Went to Work Without Her Earrings!

I used the smallest size of my Karen Kay Buckley Perfect Circles templates and a scrap of backing fabric from a recently completed baby quilt to recreate Justice Ginsburg's iconic jade statement earrings.

Properly Accessorized, Justice Ginsburg is Ready for a Day in Court

This block was a fun little diversion after wrapping up the two baby quilts.  I'm scheduling this post so it won't publish until after Justice Ginsburg has been safely delivered to Preeti.  I hope she likes it!

I'm linking up today's post with the following linky parties:

THURSDAY

Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation  

FRIDAY

Whoop Whoop Fridays at Confessions of a Fabric Addict

Peacock Party at Wendy’s Quilts and More

Finished Or Not Friday at Alycia Quilts

Off the Wall Friday at Nina Marie Sayre

 TGIFF Thank Goodness It’s Finished Friday, rotates, schedule found here: TGIF Friday

SATURDAY

UFO Busting at Tish in Wonderland

SUNDAY

Frédérique at Quilting Patchwork Appliqué

Oh Scrap! at Quilting Is More Fun Than Housework

Slow Stitching Sunday at Kathy's Quilts


Saturday, November 14, 2020

Baby Steps Into Computerized Custom Quilting: Using the Cropping and Distort Features of IQ to Fit a Perfect Design to an Imperfect Block

I played with my new IntelliQuilter (IQ) computer robotics yesterday, and I am GIDDY!!!!!!!!  Is that enough exclamation points for you?  If not, here are a few more!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!😁

Okay, here's what I'm so excited about.  Check out the feather design I've stitched below, and how the four corners of the quilting design are about the same distance away from the four corners of the "block" printer on the fabric:

Distort Feature in IQ Made My Feather Fit My Wonky Block!

I've loaded about a yard of this vintage cheater cloth on my long arm for practicing custom quilting with IQ, and I was experimenting with placing individual designs in each block the way I might want to do with this quilt if it was pieced rather than a printed design on fabric.  You would think that a preprinted fabric panel would have perfectly square "blocks" to work with, but as I started working with the panel I realized that these printed "blocks" are just as wonky and imperfect as blocks pieced by human beings would be.  

Compare to This Block Without Distort.  See how the Top and Bottom Points are Too Far Away?

The photo above shows the first time I stitched this design, before I discovered the Distort tool.  The digital feather design I'm using is designed to fit inside a perfect square, so when I center it in my imperfect block, it really draws attention to what would be imperfect piecing if this was a real quilt top.  That makes the quilter look bad.  Even if I was using a stencil to mark this design onto a quilt for either hand quilting or freehand machine quilting, I would still have this problem because I'd have a perfectly symmetrical, perfectly square stencil motif that I'd be trying to position on an imperfect block as best as I could.  The Distort tool in IQ lets me drag those corners out of square just enough to align with where the corners actually are on the quilt block in front of me, and when the quilting design is just as crooked as the block, the whole thing looks pretty darned perfect.  Scroll back up to the first picture to compare.

Using Distort Feature to Fit Design to a Crooked Block

I know this might seem complicated when I explain it in writing, but I was able to sew out several of these blocks in the amount of time it would have taken me to just MARK this design on one block for hand guided quilting.  And it comes out so smooth and even and perfect with no wobbles or swear words!  

Red Laser Light Indicates Needle Position

I moved the laser light that used to be attached to the back of my machine (for following paper pantograph patterns) to the front of the machine, and positioned the light so it shines right down into the center of my hopping foot to mark my needle position.  The first step for every custom quilt block is to map out the outline of the block for IQ so it knows the exact size and shape of the space I'm wanting to fill with a design. That's four quick clicks as I move the red dot of light to each of the four corners of my block.   (In the photo prior to the one above, the purple square represents the outline of the block I traced on my quilt).  Then I insert my design into the block and can resize, rotate, or distort as needed until it looks good to me before sewing it out -- all without having to make ANY markings on the quilt top.  

The second exciting block tool I learned to use today is the Cropping feature.  This lets me position a whole block design onto a half block, like you might have along the sides of a diagonally set quilt, and just crop (chop!) off the part of the design that extends beyond the edge of the quilt.  I mapped out my triangular half block for IQ using Mark On Quilt to define the block boundaries, positioned the same whole block design I'd been using before, and used the Rotate, Resize and Distort tools just like I'd done in the full block.  Then I used the Cropping feature to chop off all of the stitching that would have been hanging off the edge of the quilt, like so:

Resized, Distorted, and Cropped (Chopped!) to Fit Half Block

And here's how that one stitched out:

Same Digital Design, Cropped to Fit Half Block

Eight years ago, when I was quilting Lars's Drunken Dragons quilt with my Bernina Artista 200/730E embroidery module, I encountered this same situation where I had a commercially digitized quilt block design file for the circles, and I needed half block designs at the top and bottom edges of my quilt.  Let's take a quick detour down Memory Lane...  

Adding Awkward FMQ Around the Too-Small, Commercially Digitized Half Block

Whole Circle Block, FMQ Completed

Finished Quilt.  Half Blocks at Top and Bottom.

I remember spending hours trying to edit that design in my software to make a half-bock version and was ultimately unsuccessful (but SHERRI at Lee's Creative Sewing & Vacuum came to my rescue and created an altered file for me that worked).  So it was like magic yesterday to just go CLICK-CLICK-CLICK in about a minute and have IQ chop off half the block for me instantly, leaving me with a beautiful half block that stitched out perfectly where I needed it to go.

The other thing I'm remembering as I look at that quilt from 8 years ago is how frustrated I was that "quilting in the hoop" with my embroidery module restricted the size of my quilt motifs to what would fit in the embroidery hoop for my Artista machine.  One of the primary attractions of my current Bernina 750QE machine when I bought it was the additional throat space that would accommodate larger embroidery hoops for this technique.  So there's a continuum for me between those early quilts where I wanted to quilt a beautiful, intricate design beyond what I could free motion using "in the hoop" and what I'm doing today, which is a lot like "quilting in the hoop" but without any hoop size restrictions at all!  

Back to the practice quilt on my long arm frame today:

Cheater Cloth Practice Quilt, Awaiting Further Experimentation

Now, if this was a real quilt instead of practice, I would have done SID (stitch in the ditch) around the blocks and sashing before I started in with the block designs.  And I probably would not be picking an ornate feather design to stitch on top of a busy pieced block, either.  I foresee that there will be more empty alternate blocks in my quilt tops just so I can quilt out pretty designs like this one where they can be seen!  

So, what's next?  I think I might pop my ruler base on the machine today and switch back to my ruler foot so I can do some fake SID along my fake printed sashing.  Then I can try telling IQ to quilt a background fill design all around -- but not through -- the star blocks in the next row. Probably ought to review the videos on using those features before attempting it in real life, but really, the Help feature in IQ makes it pretty easy to just fumble around and find what you're looking for.  The most valuable thing I gained from the training videos is that I know what the software is capable of doing and I know the tools are in there to be found.

Also, it is so gratifying to finally quilt a pretty feather design that does not look like a macabre necklace made of ogre toes.  And I didn't have to spend 900 hours practicing them before I got them to look nice.  I just had to delegate the execution part of it to my new studio assistant, R2D2!  She is DEFINITELY the droid I've been looking for...

My Quilting Droid, Awaiting Instructions

Happy quilting, everyone!  I'm linking today's post with the following linky parties:

SATURDAY

UFO Busting at Tish in Wonderland

SUNDAY

Frédérique at Quilting Patchwork Appliqué

Oh Scrap! at Quilting Is More Fun Than Housework

Slow Stitching Sunday at Kathy's Quilts

MONDAY

Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts  

Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt

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