Friday, October 19, 2018

Desperately Seeking Squares: The Pursuit of Pineapple Piecing Perfection Continues

I got my first two rows of pineapple log cabin blocks sewn together yesterday!  Woo-hoo!

I still have the mailing label stickers on all of the block centers because I'm paranoid about messing up the layout.  Pinning these blocks together is going SO slowly and, now that I'm trying to pin two complete rows together, the pins I've already put in are getting caught up on each other and getting pulled out...  Grrr...  

I've got my #97D Patchwork foot with seam guide on my Bernina, which I love -- because it lets me focus 100% of my attention AHEAD of the needle and presser foot, so I can make sure the raw fabric edges are perfectly aligned and the lower seam allowances aren't flipped BEFORE they get to the needle.  But using that seam guide means my pins are in "backwards," with the pin heads to the left and the tips of the pins pointing to the right, and no part of the pin is protruding beyond the edge of the fabric.  

See How I'm Using Just the Tip of My Pins?
That's why it's so easy for my pins to get caught on things and pulled out accidentally while I'm working with these large sections in my lap.  I wish I had some extra fine but SHORT pins for this, like 1/2" sequin or applique pins.  Do those even come extra fine?  If anyone knows of a good source for them, or has any other ideas for me to try, please share in the comments!

First Two Rows Together!
So I now understand why this Fons & Porter foundation paper piecing pattern was rated "Challenging!"  Paper piecing the blocks was time-consuming but super easy, even beginner friendly, but joining these blocks together once they are pieced, with a bazillion non-nesting seam allowances fighting you every step of the way, is like wrestling a grizzly bear or trying to catch a greased pig...  Or like trying to prevent your teenager from eating potato chips and Pop Tarts in his bed...  You get the idea.

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy!
My favorite thing about this design is the secondary pattern of green and blue four-pointed stars when the blocks are joined together, with "twinkling" red center squares, and I was worried about accuracy at the block intersections.  The (free!) Fons & Porter pattern is a reproduction of a 19th century quilt owned by the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, and as you can see from the close up below, the original quiltmaker had some trouble where the blocks come together.  I felt like, with all the advantages of 21st century technology at my disposal, I ought to be able to piece squares at the block corners rather than rhombuses, rectangles or kites.

Original 19th Century Pineapple Log Cabin Quilt
So it really felt good to press this seam open and see my completed four point stars with cute little red SQUARES in the center for the first time yesterday!

As Square As I Can Manage

With 36 blocks rather than 16, my quilt is twice as large as the original even before factoring in the borders mine will have.  Here's that original 19th century quilt again:
Full View of Original Quilt, 74 x 76

I absolutely love how vibrant and MODERN this antique quilt feels, don't you?  Although, gotta confess -- with as long as I've been working on this quilt, I've got misgivings about actually putting it on my bed and sleeping under it once it's finished.  Maybe I should make a clear vinyl "duvet cover" to protect it like the Italian grandmothers used to put on their sofas?

Clear Vinyl Cover For My Pineapple Quilt?  Yea or Nay?
-- Can you believe that I sewed ONE seam and I have THIS MUCH to say about it?

Okay, break's over -- back to work, everyone!  Today I'm linking up with:
Whoop Whoop Fridays at 

Finished Or Not Friday at 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Tuesday To-Do: Machine Embroidered Sawtooth Star Name Tag

Happy Tuesday morning, y'all!  I just have a couple of quick things I wanted to share with you:

Name Tag Embroidered and Sandwiched, Ready for Quilting!
This is an "orphan" 4" sawtooth star block leftover from my Paint Me A Story WIP (that quilt top is finished and waiting for me to quilt it).  When I joined the Charlotte Quilter's Guild last month I discovered that I need to make myself a nifty little name tag to wear at guild meetings.  Since I have plenty of projects in progress already, I decided to repurpose something that I had already made rather than starting from scratch.  Keepin' it simple!

Creating the Embroidery File in Bernina v8 DesignerPlus Embroidery Software
I used my Bernina DesignerPlus Embroidery Software v8 to digitize my name for machine embroidery.   This is a computer program that is separate from my sewing machine.  Although the software is capable of really advanced digitizing, I most often use it for quick and easy, down and dirty digitizing tasks like this one.  All I had to do was type my name, select one of the TrueType fonts already installed on my computer (the font I chose is Bradley Hand ITC) and resize it to fit the 2" square center of my sawtooth star.  Then I saved the embroidery design to a flash drive, plugged the flash drive into my sewing machine, and I was ready to go.

Bernina embroidery software will default to the smallest embroidery hoop that will accommodate your design, which would have been the Small hoop in this cases, but I overrode that in favor of the Medium hoop because I didn't want to actually hoop my star block and risk "hoop burn" indentations or distortion.  Instead, I hooped two layers of lightweight tearaway stabilizer.  I marked the center of my star block with a chalk pencil dot, sprayed the back of the block with 505 Spray and Fix Temporary Spray Adhesive, and carefully positioned my block on top of the hooped stabilizer.  

Then I lightly sprayed a scrap of Sulky Solvy water soluble embroidery stabilizer with 505 Spray and Fix, and stuck that down on top of my block. (In my test stitchout of this design on a scrap of the same hand marbled fabric, the embroidery stitches were sinking into the fabric too much.  Using a topping stabilizer really helps with that). 


My Bernina 750QEE (predecessor to the current B 770QEE model) has an automatic basting feature that I absolutely love.  It's kind of tricky to find that option when I haven't done machine embroidery in awhile, but when you engage the automatic basting function the machine will baste a little box right around the area of the embroidery design, which is perfect for a situation like this where I'm floating my block and my topping rather than securing all layers in the hoop.  Those basting stitches hold everything in place so there's no shifting while the lettering is stitching out.  I believe the auto basting feature is on all of the current model Bernina embroidery machines, but if you have an older model Bernina you have a similar option.  There are basting files for each of the Bernina hoop sizes available for free on the Bernina web site that you can download and transfer to your sewing machine.  They are like embroidery design files that just stitch out a basting stitch around the perimeter of your embroidery hoop, so you would stitch the basting file first to secure your project in the hoop, and then stitch out the real embroidery design.

Embroidery Completed, Basting Stitches and Stabilizers Removed
So anyway, here's what my block looked like after I'd carefully removed the basting stitches, topping, and tearaway stabilizers.  I think it looks great.    I chopped off the corners of the block because I decided that an octagon-shaped name tag is more interesting than a square-shaped name tag, and I found a length of leftover black and white striped binding that I can use for this as well.  However, I cut into a precious floral fabric FQ from my stash for the backing, even though no one will see it.  I couldn't help myself!  So now my little embroidered block is layered with floral backing and a scrap of quilt batting, and it just needs to be quilted, bound, and possibly further embellished in some way...  And of course, I need to decide how I'm going to wear it.  I don't want long strings around my neck; I'm leaning towards magnets instead.

All Ready for Quilting!
And, since I'd already chopped a big hunk out of that fat quarter for my name tag backing, I took a moment to trace as many 9 1/2" clam shells as I could fit onto the rest of that fabric.  

Freshly Cut Giant Clam Shells On My Design Wall!
Won't those be fabulous?  (Pay no attention to the abandoned Jingle BOM project on the left side of the photo -- that's just a scale reference.  I'll get back to that one eventually, I promise!)

My Jumbo Clam Shell Acrylic Template, available on Etsy here
In case anyone's interested, I'm using an acrylic 9 1/2" finished clam shell template that I purchased from an Etsy seller here.  What I like most about this particular template is that there are lots of little holes along the concave and convex curves that will make it so much easier to align the edges correctly whenever I get around to piecing these together.  

Anyway, that's all I have for you guys today.  My Tuesday To-Dos for this week are:

  1. Finish my name tag
  2. Load and quilt the Outreach Cuddle Quilt that I showed in my last post
  3. Continue pinning and piecing pineapple rows together

Of course, those are just my WANNA-Dos.  I've got some HAFTA-Dos on my plate as well, like preparing for a meeting with an interior design client, making sure my son gets his college applications in on time, and figuring out what I'm going to sing at a friend's wedding in a few weeks.  So don't judge me too harshly if next Tuesday rolls around and I still have the same three items on my Tuesday To-Do list!  

Oh, and I'm going to see Hamilton tonight!!!!  Can you tell I'm excited?!  YAY!!!!!

Okay, so today I'm linking up with:

Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts  
Main Crush Monday at Cooking Up Quilts 
Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt 
Moving it Forward at Em’s Scrap Bag: 
To-Do Tuesday at Stitch ALL the Things: 
Let’s Bee Social at 
Midweek Makers at
WOW WIP on Wednesday at 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

October OMG Charity Quilts Finished, Pineapples Progressing, and New Outreach Quilt Headed to My Frame

First, I have to show my friend Colleen that YES, I am still working on my pineapple log cabin quilt:

S.L.O.W.L.Y., Joining These Blocks Into Rows
I timed myself, and it takes me a solid ten minutes just to get two blocks pinned together and ready to sew, due to all of the seam allowances stacking rather than nesting.  Once they're pinned, I'm sewing them together at a fairly slow machine speed, watching out so my needle doesn't hit any of the pins, using my stiletto to swipe beneath the work to ensure seam allowances aren't flipping underneath, and correcting for the tendency of the diagonally place pins to create wobbles in the seam.  But it's worth it when I open the seam and see that all of my seams are matching up just the way I want them to.  Today's big accomplishment is that all 36 blocks have been joined into rows.  Woo hoo!  There is LIGHT at the end of this tunnel!!

Of course, at this pace, it's going to take me a full HOUR just to pin two complete rows together before I can stitch them.  That means I have five hours of pinning to look forward to...  That is Downstairs On the Sofa Watching Evening Television work for sure.  But it feels good to walk into the studio in the morning and have things all pinned together and ready to sew.

Diagonal Pins Fight With Feed Dogs
But my pineapple quilt isn't the big news for today.  Oh my gosh, you guys -- I finished a goal!  And I finished it ON TIME for being last week's Tuesday To-Do goal (even though I neglected to post about it on Tuesday), and EARLY for being my October One Monthly Goal!!!  Pinch me!

I have been sitting on these two charity quilt tops that I offered to quilt for my church for months now.  Well, to be more precise, I've been alternating between procrastinating, panicking, and fighting with them.  These quilt tops were challenging for me because:

  • The piecing and pressing weren't as accurate as what I'm used to with tops I've pieced myself.
  • Both quilt tops and one of the backings were made of bed sheets and other tightly wove, non-traditional quilting fabrics that contributed to excessive needle flex/directional tension issues.
  • I'm still such a beginner with my longarm machine, fumbling along and learning as I go.
  • I opted to load both of these 60" 80" bed quilts sideways so I could quilt the edge-to-edge pantographs in fewer passes, with fewer stops to advance the quilt, baste the sides, and reposition the laser -- but that meant I had LONG rows to quilt in a single pass.  As a newbie, those long passes of quilting were tiring, so I might have been better off loading the quilts along the short sides instead.

Church Charity Quilt No. 1 of 2, With Bed Sheet Backing
Anyway, I finished quilting the first of the two tops a couple of weeks ago and I finished quilting the second top a few days ago.  On Wednesday morning, I returned them to the church quilting group so they can bind them and deliver them to the YWCA Women In Transition program.  

Church Charity Quilt No. 2 of 2 Completed!
I definitely had an easier time with the stitch quality on this one, using Glide trilobal polyester thread top and bobbin and a 100% cotton quilt fabric backing rather than a bed sheet.  I used the Scribble pantograph pattern from Anne Bright Designs.  It's a less dense design than the Floral Meander panto I used on the first quilt, and more forgiving for a newbie -- however, without any points in the design, there wasn't really a good stopping point where I could sink the needle, stretch my neck and shoulders, and adjust my feet as I was working.  

60 x 80.  My Quilting Looks So Much Better From a Distance...
The other nice thing about choosing my own backing fabric (in addition to knowing it wasn't going to fight my needle with every stitch) is that I was able to pick a nice, busy print and a color that could match the quilting thread.  Even though my stitches on this one look a lot better front and back than they did on the first quilt, it's still nice that those occasional wobbles here and there are camouflaged by the paisley backing print:

Much Better Stitch Quality on the Backing Side on Quilt No. 2
Wobbly Quilting Camouflaged By Busy Print
Well, I've certainly learned a lot from these two charity quilts!  Like, no more bed sheets.  Never, Ever, Ever!  I am still not enjoying following these pantograph designs from the back of the frame, where I can't see the fabric as I'm quilting it.  Also, I am totally spoiled by the ginormous bobbin on my domestic Bernina 750QE sewing machine, and it's really annoying me how quickly the APQS size L "Smart Bobbins" are running out on the longarm machine, especially with these edge-to-edge pantographs.  With the custom quilting I did on my last personal quilt, I was changing thread colors so much that the smaller bobbins didn't make a difference anyway.  I mounted this 60 x 80" quilt top sideways to minimize how many times I'd have to stop, advance the quilt, baste the edges, reposition the needle to align the pattern, etc.  

Following Pantograph Pattern From Back of My Machine
So I quilted the first pass of this very open, 14" pantograph pattern, advanced the quilt, quilted the second row...  Only to walk around to the other side of the machine and realize that my bobbin had run out in the middle of that second row, and I'd just been wasting my time and poking needle holes all over the place without actually making any stitches for 15 minutes!  Boo, hiss!

Supposedly the smaller APQS size L "Smart Bobbin" (the size for which my machine is currently configured -- it's the same size as the bobbins for my Singer Featherweight machines) enables me to use a greater variety of specialty threads without any issues.  Because Physics and Inertia, Blah Blah Blah.  However, reviews from APQS owners who have the larger M style bobbin configuration are not reporting any regrets or remorse, and their bobbins hold twice as much thread as mine do.  I believe I can order a kit from APQS for my 2013 Millenium that would allow me (and by "me," I mean my husband) to switch out the hook system to the larger M bobbins, fairly inexpensively -- and if I didn't like the larger bobbin/hook system, we could just change it back again.  Seriously considering that.  

But MEANWHILE, my quilting frame is not remaining empty for long, because another (much more manageable!) quilt is getting loaded today!  

This Week's Goal: Charlotte Quilter's Guild Outreach Quilt
Yes, another charity quilt is going on the frame this week!  This one is a baby/crib size for the Charlotte Quilters' Guild's Outreach program.  It's much smaller and more manageable than the last two charity quilts -- a 33" x 41" baby quilt destined for the children's cancer unit at either of the two main Charlotte hospitals.  Someone else has already pieced the top, cut the backing fabric and batting to size, and even provided binding strips all ready to go for me, all labeled and packaged neatly into a nice little kit.  Since this one is all made from quilter's cotton fabrics, with 1/4" seam allowances, and the batting is more like what I'm used to, this one should quilt up more smoothly -- and I'm jazzed about the bright colors and cute little novelty prints, too.  

33 x 41 CQG Outreach Quilt is Next On the Frame 
Meanwhile, our schools are closed AGAIN due to Hurricane Michael, even though we're just seeing steady rain and occasional strong winds here.  There have been power outages reported in Charlotte already but thankfully we've still got power at our house -- Son the Elder, also known as He Who Is Responsible for My Gray Hairs and Wrinkles, is working on his college application essay, and he does NOT need any more excuses from the power company...

I'm linking up with:

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

My One Monthly Goal for October: Church Charity Tops Quilted and Delivered

This is the third time I'm linking up with One Monthly Goal over at Elm Street Quilts.  I did not manage to ACCOMPLISH my goals for either of those previous months, but what the heck -- I'm giving it another go.

Just. ONE. Goal...  Hmmm...

OMG for October: Load and Quilt Second Church Charity Quilt Top
Okay, you guys, here's my goal: I have already quilted the first of two charity tops that I volunteered to quilt for my church, and struggled with it dreadfully due to the mix of fabrics in the top itself and the tightly woven bed sheet backing that was provided to me.  After having such a difficult time with the first of these charity projects that were supposed to be quick and easy practice, I've been DREADING the second one...  But at the same time, I really want these off my conscience and out of my house so I can move on to other projects.  

So that's my One Monthly Goal for October -- I'm going to finish loading this charity quilt top, quilt it, and deliver both of the quilts back to the ladies at my church by the end of this month.

Now honestly, I should be able to get this top quilted in one or two days if I don't run into any major problems, so this is also my To Do On Tuesday goal for the week.  It would feel SO GOOD to have this finished by Friday!  But life has a habit of intervening and throwing my lofty plans into disarray.  Also these are not my favorite colors, and that makes it even harder for me to get motivated to begin...  So my "super goal" is to get it done this week, and my "reality check, backup goal" is to get it done by the end of the month.

Thread Selected: Smoother, Slippery Fil-Tec Glide Trilobal Polyester
I strongly suspect that this second quilt top is also made primarily of bed sheets, and some of the squares feel like that same poly/cotton almost twill of the backing bed sheet that I was fighting with on the last quilt, so I've been thinking about what I can do differently to get better results with less frustration this time.  I'm switching to Fil-Tec Glide Trilobal Polyester thread (which reminds me of Isacord machine embroidery thread except that it comes on much bigger cones), in hopes that the slicker surface of this thread will help it to slide through the tight sheeting weave easier and form better stitches.  

I chose a thread color that would blend okay across the quilt top fabrics, but more importantly, it's a close color match to the backing fabric this time.  For this second charity quilt, I'm not using the bed sheet I was given for backing.  Instead, I bought an extra-wide quilting cotton with my JoAnn's coupon in a busy paisley print, and as of this morning that backing is already partially loaded on the quilt frame.  The hope is that if the tight sheeting weave of the quilt top fabrics continues to cause directional tension issues even with a quilting cotton backing and slippery thread, at least the intermittent flatlining won't be as apparent on the back of the quilt when the thread matches the backing AND the backing is a print.  A print backing hides a multitude of sins!

Do You See That Strand of Thread Across the Backing Fabric?  Neither Do I!
I did a partial float for the first of these charity quilts, thinking that having the top rolled up nice and straight on the quilt top roller would help coax it into the straightest, squarest quilt it could possibly be, but I'm thinking I might just do a full float with this one.  My vertical and horizontal channel locks make it easy to check and adjust seams for straightness every time I advance the quilt, for one thing.  But the other factor I'm considering is that pulling the quilt sandwich too taut on the frame can contribute to the needle flex/directional tension problems I've been dealing with.  I know I have difficult fabrics in this quilt top that are already going to be fighting my needle with every stitch.  I wonder whether fully floating the quilt top might give me extra "insurance" by reducing the likelihood that I accidentally have the quilt top too tight in the frame.  I can't pull it too tight if it's just basted in place on top of the batting and backing and not attached to any rollers, right?

The next decision is how am I going to quilt this one once I've gotten it loaded?  My APQS dealer, who was patiently helping me troubleshoot the problems I was having on the previous quilt, suggested that I quilt an allover freehand design from the front of the machine rather than following a pantograph in a situation like this where there are questionable fabrics involved and possible bulk challenges at some of the seam intersections, and that makes perfect sense.  However -- I always have a HOWEVER, don't I? -- my personal learning objective with these two quilt tops was a chance to practice hand guided pantograph quilting.  I don't trust myself to maintain the same quilting density from one end of the quilt to the other with a freehand design, and I can't imagine it would look very good when it was finished, either.  So I hunted through my trove of paper pantograph patterns, looking for something that I could execute quickly AND successfully.  

14 Inch Scribble Pantograph by Anne Bright
I'm leaning towards the 14" Scribbles pattern by Anne Bright Designs.  It's a nice, openly spaced pantograph that will give me good practice on smoothing out my curves, with no tricky backtracking points to slow me down.  It doesn't look very exciting on paper, but some of the simplest pantograph designs surprise me by how much better they look once you see them actually quilted on a quilt.

Okay, so now that I have committed to the entire Internet that I am going to get this quilting done, I need to sign off the computer and get into my studio to do some quilting!  That quilt guild I joined is meeting tonight, too, and I'll feel better about going if I actually accomplish some quilting today!

Today I'm linking up with: