Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Belated FMQ Challenge from January: Frances Moore

My Belated January FMQ Challenge
I actually watched Frances Moore's January YouTube video tutorial for the SewCalGal 2012 Free Motion Quilting Challenge several months ago, and I've attempted this leafy vine motif several times in the past.  At this point, I've just sort of accepted that this particular design is not my thing, but I'm committed to completing all twelve challenges by the end of the year, so today I got out some pretty blue-flowered fabric, rolled up my sleeves, and made up my mind to do the best with it that I could.  

A few points of interest for this month's tutorial: Frances quilts without using any frames, hoops, special quilting gloves, or stitch regulators.  She suggested using a heavier 40 weight thread for this design with a 90/14 Topstitching needle and a lighter 50 weight thread in the bobbin.  When I first watched this tutorial a few months ago, I emailed Frances and asked for more details about how she quilts so successfully without the obnoxious sweaty gloves that everyone else is using -- can you tell I hate wearing gloves?! -- and she wrote back that she rubs a few drops of pure glycerin into the skin of her palms and fingertips to get them just tacky enough to to grip her quilt without needing to wear rubber gloves.  I have tried several different brands of gloves that other quilters rave about and have loathed them all, finding them cumbersome, uncomfortable, and sweaty, so I sent my darling husband out to CVS for the glycerin.  The people who worked at the drug store were not aware that they stocked it, but Bernie eventually found a little bottle of CVS brand glycerine for a couple of dollars and, for me at least, this magic sticky potion does the trick.  I am so grateful to Frances for sharing that trick with me!

What I SHOULD have done!
One of the reasons I selected this fabric for this particular quilting design was that the shape of the blue flower petals is so similar to the leaf shape I was trying to quilt.  In looking at what other challenge participants had done with this motif, as well as how Frances has used it in her own work, I had decided that the leafy vine quilting design was most effective on projects that had a tree or flower theme.  As I worked my way through my own sample, I was discouraged as I began to realize that my all-over quilting design looked like scribbles and was detracting from the fabric pattern rather than enhancing it.  Not until I had almost completely quilted my 15" x 15" practice piece did I realize that it would have looked a lot better if I had outline-quilted the flowers printed on the fabric, and quilted the leavy vines in the spaces between the flowers.  Unfortunately, by the time I had this epiphany I only had one little flower left to test it on, at the very corner of my sample.  You can see it on the left in the photo above.  Much better, right?  That way the leaves complement the flowers instead of fighting them.  Woulda, shoulda, coulda!  I'll keep that in mind for next time, for sure.  I wish I had enough of that fabric left to do a do-over!  

As for Frances' other suggestions: I don't ever quilt with a hoop (unless it's attached to an embroidery module, heh heh!) so that one was easy.  I switched back and forth for this exercise between using my Free Motion foot #24, like what Frances uses, and using my open-toed BSR (Bernina Stitch Regulator) foot.  It's good to know that I CAN quilt without stitch regulation if I need to (I didn't use it at all on Lars's Drunken Dragons quilt), but it REALLY is so much easier to learn a new design when I can just focus on "drawing" without having to also think about coordinating the machine speed with the speed of my hands to keep my stitch length even.  Also, I paid a lot of money for my fancy gadgetry upgrade, so I might as well use it!

Bob the Builder on the Back Side: Different Bobbin Threads
I did use the 40 weight thread in the needle (mine was YLI 40 wt Machine Quilting thread) with  a 50 weight thread in the bobbin (I used a turquoise shade of G├╝termann cotton thread in my bobbin), and I used a 90/14 Topstitching needle, all Frances' recommendations.  I struggled to get my tension just right using that combination, though, and I ended up putting the same YLI 40 wt thread in the bobbon towards the end -- which instantly improved the look of the back of my quilt sample.  For one thing, I prefer the look of a longer stitch length when I'm using a heavier thread and a shorter stitch length with a very fine thread.  When I use a lighter thread in the bobbin, I just don't like the overall effect from the back side.  

So, there you have it, Folks!  Another FMQ challenge completed.  I still have four more months to make up in addition to the new challenges that will be posted in November and in December.  I want to thank Frances Moore for sharing this tutorial, and SewCalGal for hosting the whole shebang.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

November 5th-9th: Machine Embroidery Blog Hop

I'm so excited to be participating in an upcoming Fall Machine Embroidery Blog Hop, sponsored by SewCalGal.  Seven bloggers will be sharing machine embroidery inspiration with a seasonal theme, incorporating machine embroidery designs specially digitized to work with die-cut fabrics.  You are officially invited to hop with us from blog to blog, picking up tips and tricks, tutorials, and opportunities to win great giveaways along the way.  Whether you're a machine embroidery enthusiast already, just getting started, or wanting to learn more about how computerized sewing machines and die cutting have revolutionized tradititional embroidery and applique, there's sure to be something for everyone.
My post will appear on the last day of the Blog Hop, Friday, November 9th, and I'm already busy plotting and planning.  Mark your calendars for November 5th-9th so you don't miss out on any of the fun!

Monday, November 5th
Tuesday, November 6th
Wednesday, November 7th
Thursday, November 8th
Friday, November 9th

Saturday, October 20, 2012

October FMQ Challenge with Teri Lucas

October FMQ Challenge Piece, 15" x 15" Silk Taffeta with Double Batting
I just finished my free-motion quilting sample for the October tutorial on SewCalGal's blog.  Although this is the 10th month in the 2012 Free Motion Quilting Challenge, I still have several months that I need to make up in order to get all 12 finished before the end of the year.  I have to say, I really am seeing huge improvement each month.

This month's tutorial was courtesy of the very talented quilter Teri Lucas.  Some of the interesting twists for the October challenge were:
  • Teri suggested a silk or silk/cotton blend fabric for the sample instead of a quilting weight cotton.  I found a yummy scrap of terra cotta silk taffeta that was leftover from a client's drapery project years ago, so that's what I used for the challenge. 
  • I almost missed this, but Teri directed us to put TWO layers of batting in this quilt sandwich, a bamboo or needle-punched low-loft polyester batting closest to our backing fabric, and a layer of wool or silk batting on top of that, just beneath the silk fabric.  I found some thin Mountain Mist poly batting and layered Hobbs Tuscany Silk batting on top of that.  I attempted to baste this much-thicker-than-usual sandwich with safety pins, but that was a disaster -- I ended up using 505 Temporary Spray Adhesive between each layer to prevent shifting and distortion.
  • Teri also wanted us to play with different threads, which I don't normally do.  Since the silk fabric had a sheen, I decided to experiment with a box of forgotten Sulky rayon 40 weight embroidery thread.  I used the same thread in the needle and in the bobbin, and reduced my upper thread tension down to 1.5 in order to get a nice, balanced stitch on both sides of my quilt sandwich.
Pebbles, Nautilus Shells, and Feather-Like Leafed Thingys
I practiced several motifs that were new to me, like the nautilus shells, pebbling, and the feathery leafy thingys.  Oh, and notice how nice and even my tiny little stitches are?  I have finally gotten comfortable with the "laser" powered Bernina Stitch Regulator (BSR) on my Artista 200E/730E sewing machine.  I set my stitch length to 1.8 and worked slowly, and had no problems whatsoever.  The laser actually counts fabric threads as I move the fabric beneath the needle so the computerized machine can speed up or slow down the needle speed as necessary to maintain that even stitch length.  Pretty cool!

Meandering, Jester Hats, Feather-Like Objects and Today's Date
I also worked on improving a couple of motifs that I'd attempted in the past but was never really satisfied with.  Today's meandering fill stitch (upper right area in the photo above) is the best I've ever done.

One last look:

Completed October Challenge, approximately 15" x 15"

Thank you, Teri, for sharing this wonderful tutorial with us!  It was a lot of fun.

Monday, October 8, 2012

I Survived My First Substitute Teaching Assignment!

"Substitute Teacher" by Omnitarian, for Shirt.Woot
I spent all day Friday and today as a substitute 6th grade Language Arts and Social Studies teacher, and I lived to tell about it! 

I was filling in for one of Lars's teachers, who left me very detailed plans for both days, tidy little seating charts, and sticky notes of encouragement.  I got to read a short story to the Language Arts classes on Friday, which was fun for me and held their attention.  The worksheets and almanac activities that came after that, well, not so much.  For some bizarre reason, this year's sixth grade is about 75/25 boys to girls, and the boys all have LOTS TO TALK ABOUT.  CONSTANTLY!  I finally broke out my iPad and pretended to videotape the class, panning the room as I narrated like this: "Hello, Mrs. Regular Teacher, this is your 5th period Language Arts class!  This is how they behave when you aren't here."  It's amazing how quickly they settled down when they thought their every move was being captured on video.  After all, I might not be able to instantly put a name to every child whose mouth was running or who might have been smacking the kid next to him with a ruler, but their teacher knows exactly who they are...

Other than talking out of turn and minor silliness, they were a pretty well-behaved bunch.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Laundry Room Window Treatment Sewn from Scraps

It's Done!  Quit Nagging Me!
My kitchen drapery panels were installed back in 2008, and I've been holding onto a scrap of leftover drapery fabric ever since.  I knew I could do something with it for the small window in my laundry room, which is adjacent to the kitchen and has the same cabinetry and granite, but I've been very busy for the past four years and have not had time to do anything with it.  Um, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it!  My husband started nagging me about it a few months ago, and I retorted that he needed to repaint the laundry room before I could even think about making a window treatment.  When he hauled out the paint rollers and called my bluff I had no more excuses.

The fabric is Monado in Havana colorway from Vervain.  I found a reddish fabric for the contrast pleats in a pile in my studio, left over from a client's project so long ago that I don't remember where it came from.  (Note: I really should have contrast lined those pleats instead of using white drapery lining for those pieces, because I don't like that I can see white lining peeking out there from the front).  The trim at the bottom of the valance was another leftover piece from a long-ago project, a Robert Allen braid that is now discontinued, and it was top applied (NOT machine stitched).  The valance is interlined and board mounted, with a narrow contrast piping at the board line.
On the Cutting Table, Ready to be Mounted!

The colors are truest in the photo above, taken just prior to mounting the valance.  I really love this fabric, especially because of the little red-headed birdies.  We have birds that look just like the fabric frequenting our bird feeders in the back yard. 

So here's my newly improved laundry room!  It's really tiny, more like a laundry closet, but the door is always open because I like having the natural light from the window.  The dogs' water dish is in there, too, another reason the door has to stay open.  I think the new window treatment dresses it up a little bit.

I must confess that I loathe sewing window treatments anymore.  I still have some remaining naked windows around the house that I promised to sew for, including the F. Schumacher drapery panels for my office, but I would SO much rather start cutting out my next quilt instead!!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

FINALLY!!! The New Kindle Paperwhite has PARENTAL CONTROLS!!

New Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, Now with Parental Controls!
Isn't it great when product manufacturers listen to what their customers want?  Today I learned that Amazon's newest Kindle e-reader device, the Paperwhite, actually has the parental controls I've been begging Amazon for.  I just ordered two of them for Lars and Anders.  They are backordered, and expected to ship out sometime in November.

With the boys' current Kindle Keyboards, the devices are registered to my Amazon account and the boys were able to purchase and download new content on their own way too easily, with a couple of clicks, and it would automatically charge to my American Express card.  One little boy was able to play by the rules and ask permission first, but the OTHER little boy has some, ahem, impulse control issues

On the whole, I really love the Kindles for my kids.  The digital books are slightly less expensive than their paper equivalents, they are environmentally friendly, they can both read the same book at the same time without fighting over it (and I only have to pay for it once, since both devices are registered to my account).  I really love the ease with which the kids can pull up a dictionary definition for unfamiliar words on their Kindles just by highlighting the text, and -- best of all -- I don't have to buy any more bookshelves for their bedrooms or figure out where to fit yet another bookcase.

I don't know the details of how the parental controls work yet, but Amazon says I'll have the ability to restrict my little Book Bandit from the Kindle Store as well as from the Internet.  I'll post an update once the new Kindles show up.

UPDATE, 10/7/2012:  Even better news -- the kindle keyboard e-readers that we already own were automatically updated wirelessly today to the newest version 3.4, and this new software update has optional parental controls that allow me to restrict access to the experimental web browsing AND to the Kindle Store.  I enabled the restrictions, and all is smooth sailing.  I canceled my order for the new Kindle Paperwhites.