Thursday, September 26, 2019

How to Create a Custom Block Library in EQ8 for Accuquilt Qube Blocks, Step By Step

You guys, remember how in my last post I was wishing that the Electric Quilt software company would get together with the Accuquilt company to create a block library for EQ8 containing all of the 72 blocks that I can make with my Accuquilt Qube dies?  Well, I changed my mind.  I'm glad they DON'T have a library available to download, because creating my own Accuquilt block library in EQ8 has turned out to be a really good learning exercise.  I'm going to show you how to do it in today's post.

Disclaimer right up front: I have no affiliation with either the Accuquilt company or the Electric Quilt company.  I'm just a satisfied customer sharing what works well for me.  However, as disclosed elsewhere on this blog, I do participate in the Amazon Affiliates program.  If your local quilt shop sells Electric Quilt software and/or Accuquilt products, by all means -- support your LQS!  But if you choose to make purchases on Amazon via the links in my blog posts, I'll be compensated by Amazon for the referral at no additional cost to you.  Thanks for your support!)

To recap, Accuquilt GO! is a fabric die cutting system that significantly speeds up the process of cutting out quilt pieces while also delivering more accurate cuts than with template tracing or rotary cutting.  There are several different sizes available, with the biggest one motorized (great for those with arthritic hands).  Initially I'd bought the smallest cutter, the GO! Baby, but I recently upgraded to the regular size GO! pictured below so that I could use the larger dies that don't fit in the Baby sized machine.  Basically, the die cutters work the same way that cookie cutters work.  In the picture below, the gray rectangle with green sides has dies (very sharp cookie cutters that can cut cleanly through 6 layers of fabric) embedded in gray foam.  Your fabric is like the cookie dough, and as you crank the handle on the side of the machine, the die rectangle with fabric on top is pushed through the machine with that big roller bar (the "rolling pin" that says accuquilt on it) pressing down hard enough to make contact with the die blades and cleanly cut out your fabric shapes.

This is the Manual GO! Fabric Cutter I Purchased, available on Amazon here
The benefits of the GO! die cutting system are speed and accuracy.  The only downside is the high cost of the dies themselves and the fact that you can only cut shapes in the sizes that correlate to the dies in your collection.  This is very different from rotary cutting, where one ruler, one cutting mat and one rotary cutter is all you need to cut out almost any block you can imagine, in any size you want.  [NOTE to SELF: I just did a quick search on Etsy and found a couple of sellers who were offering pre-owned Accuquilt GO! dies at 40% below retail, such as the 12" Churn Dash block for $49.99 versus the $80 MSRP for a brand new one.  I need to remember to check there first, especially for those specialty dies that I might only use for one or two quilts!]

Another way to reduce the cost of building up a die collection is to purchase a bundled set.  The Accuquilt company recently introduced the Qube system whereby quilters can purchase an assortment of eight dies that can be combined to create a wide variety of quilt blocks of a certain size.  The Qube set that came with my Ready, Set, GO! starter kit creates 8" blocks, but I could also purchase the same Qube set of dies in sizes that will create 6", 9", 10", or 12" blocks.

These Are the Cutting Dies That Come in the 8 Inch Qube Set
Buying a bundled set of interchangeable dies in a Qube set is a good way to ensure that you have what you need to create lots of different quilt blocks -- 72 of which are depicted in the GO! Qube 72 Blocks PDF download.  There is also a significant savings involved when you purchase the dies bundled together in a Qube set versus buying each of those dies individually.  There are also two companion sets available for each Qube size, Angles and Corners, that allow you to create even more blocks with your Qube dies.

I plan all of my quilt projects in Electric Quilt software (currently EQ8).  In order to make it easier to plan quilts that will work with my Accuquilt die collection, I wanted to put all of those 72 Qube blocks into one folder or "block library" within my EQ software.  That way when I'm designing a quilt that needs to come together quickly and I want to use my GO! cutter, I can go straight to that one library in EQ8 and know that any quilts I design with these blocks can be cut out lickety-split with my GO! cutter using dies that I already own.

Copying Existing EQ8 Blocks Into a Custom Library in My Favorites

Want to create your own custom block library in EQ8?  Here's how to do it:

  1. First, you need to create that custom block library so you have somewhere to put your blocks.  Navigate to the Block Library within EQ, and click on My Favorites.
  2. Click Create Library.
  3. Type a name for your new library.  Mine is called Accuquilt Blocks.  Then you put how many "styles" or subfolders you want within that custom library folder.  You can always add more later if you need them.  I named my first Style subfolder Qube Blocks.
  4. Now it's time to hunt down those blocks!  I always try the Search feature first, because sometimes I get lucky and I already have the block I'm looking for, either in the standard Block Library that came with EQ8 or with one of my add-on libraries, such as the Blockbase libraries.  So I'll type in the block name, or part of the block name, and see if the Accuquilt Qube block I'm looking for comes up in my search results.  If it does, just click on that block in the block library so it's highlighted with a box around it, and then click on Copy at the lower left hand side of the Block Libraries window.  
  5. Now that you've copied your block, it's time to go back to the new library you created and paste it in.  Click on My Favorite Blocks in the upper left corner of the Block Library window, and you should see the Accuquilt library and the Qube Blocks subfolder (or whatever you named yours) highlighted.  Click Paste (lower left corner of the window), and you should see your block appear in the preview window for your new library.  Ta da!  Now -- very important -- click on Save Library at the lower left.
But what about those Qube blocks that are NOT already found in the EQ block library, or they might be there but you can't find them because they're listed under a different name, or maybe there's a very similar block in the EQ library but it's not identical to the ones you can cut out with your Qube dies?  For these blocks, it's best to create an EQ8 Project file where you can work on editing existing blocks and drawing new blocks from scratch, and then import them from the project file into your custom library.  

This Block Wasn't Already In My EQ8 Library, So I Drafted It Myself

Here are the steps for modifying existing EQ8 blocks, saving them to a Project Sketchbook, and then importing the new blocks into your custom block library:

  1. Create a new EQ project.  Mine is named Accuquilt Qube Designs.
  2. Open up the Block Library and locate a similar block to the one you're trying to recreate from the Accuquilt Qube 72 Blocks brochure.  Click on the block to highlight it like we did with the other block in step 4 above, but this time click on Edit to Block Worktable (near the top of the window).
  3. Now you see a vector line drawing of that block in EasyDraw mode, where you can select lines you don't need and delete them as well as draw new lines in order to create a block that looks just like the one in the Accuquilt pamphlet.   When you think you've finished, click on the Color tab at the top left side of your screen.
  4. For the purposes of what I'm doing today, I'm coloring my blocks just like they are colored in the Accuquilt pamphlet.  For one thing, it makes it easier for me to tell if I've recreated the block correctly -- sometimes I think I've got it but then I notice an error when I start coloring the block to match the pamphlet illustration.  Using the same colors as Accuquilt will also help me to locate the correct block quickly if I want to make one of the quilts in their brochure.  (Another reason to always color your blocks in Block Worktable before adding them to your project is that sometimes your lines don't meet exactly where they should and the software doesn't recognize that your line is supposed to be a seam between two patches.  This error is immediately obvious (and quickly corrected) when you click on the Color tab, because an incomplete seamline will result in adjacent patches that can't be colored with different fabrics).  Once the block is edited properly and colored to look like the block in the brochure, click on Add to Sketchbook (the red book with a blue plus sign, on the upper left side of the screen).
  5. At this point, your new block is in your Project Sketchbook and the block is available for you to use on any quilts that you are designing within that project file.  But we want to put the block in the custom block library we created so that we can access the block at any time, for any project we may be working on.  So go back to the Block Library and this time, click on My Favorites to bring up your custom Accuquilt library.  You should see any of the blocks you copied in previously (unless you forgot to click on Save Library)!  At the bottom of the window, click on Import because we want to import the block we created in step 4 FROM the project sketchbook TO the custom block library.  A window comes up showing your most recent EQ project files.  Double click on the project file that has your new block in it.
  6. Now you should be looking at a preview of all of the blocks in that project file.  Click on the new block you created to select it.
  7. Next, click on Notes (at the bottom of the window) and give your block a name.  If you skip this step and you don't name your block, it isn't going to come up in search results when you're looking for it some other day!  I'm naming these blocks with the same names that Accuquilt has given them.
  8. Click the X at the upper right corner of the Notes window to exit -- it saves automatically.  Now click your block again to select it, and click on Copy at the lower left corner of the window, just like we did in step 5 with the block that we copied from the EQ library.
  9. Just like before, it's time to go back to the new library you created and paste in the block that you copied.  Click on My Favorite Blocks in the upper left corner of the Block Library window, and you should see the Accuquilt library and the Qube Blocks subfolder (or whatever you named yours) highlighted.  Click Paste (lower left corner of the window), and you should see your block appear in the preview window for your new library.  Ta da!  Now -- very important -- click on Save Library at the lower left.
Creating the custom library for my Accuquilt Qube blocks is giving me good practice creating and saving to a custom library.  I tried making a custom fabric library once before but I wasn't looking at the manual, just clicking things and hoping I'd figure it out on my own.  The steps for creating a custom library are exactly the same whether it's a Block library or a Fabric library.  I can see myself wanting to create a custom fabric library containing all of my favorite Kona Solids, or all of my Kaffe Fassett prints, for instance.

Editing a Quilt Block With EasyDraw on the EQ8 Block Worktable
Also, editing these blocks in EasyDraw is giving me a great refresher and plenty of practice on the Block Worktable features.  Remember math class, how the teacher would demonstrate something in class and then assign homework so you could practice and reinforce at home?  Electric Quilt is easy like math is easy, but if someone shows you how to do something and you don't practice it right away, it's easy to forget if months or years go by before you sit down at your computer and try to remember "How the heck did we do that in class?"  

Coloring My Block With Fabric on the EQ Block Worktable
As of right now, I've got 39 of the 72 Accuquilt Qube blocks in my custom block library.  Like math homework, it gets easier and more automatic with each block.  I should point out that, although I'm creating this custom block library with my 8" Qube dies in mind, EQ software automatically resizes blocks to whatever size you want when you use them to design a quilt.  So this same block library that I've created for my 8" Qube can be used to design quilts using any of the other Qube block sizes that I might purchase in the future.  Sidenote -- I really wish that Accuquilt had allowed quilters to choose their own Qube block size for the Ready, Set, GO! bundle.  I would never have chosen 8" blocks.  I'd have either gone with 6" blocks, because those make better use of my small scraps, or else 12" blocks, because those would make up into faster quilt tops for longarm quilting practice and would showcase some of my larger scale prints really nicely.  Of course, different sized blocks can be combined in the same quilt, too, like the Moda Modern Building Blocks Sampler WIP that is calling my name...

I'm headed to Appalachian State this weekend to visit Lars-of-Ours, but first I'm linking up with:


·       Midweek Makers at Quilt Fabrication


·       Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation  


·       Whoop Whoop Fridays at Confessions of a Fabric Addict
·       Beauty Pageant at From Bolt to Beauty

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


·       UFO Busting at Tish in Wonderland

Monday, September 23, 2019

In Which the United States Postal Service is Out to Get Me, So I Design a Scrappy Quilt in EQ8 for My Accuquilt Qube Dies

Greetings, y'all!  I can't even begin to tell you how grateful I am that my Internet is working again -- it's been down since Sunday afternoon.  I am so happy to be back in the 21st century!

New Scrappy Quilt Design Brought to You by Accuquilt, EQ8, and a Day Without Internet
What I am NOT happy about is that the first part we ordered for my APQS Millennium longarm machine -- the $200 head encoder -- did NOT solve the problem with my machine, so we had to order the $700 Bliss carriage encoder as well.  Did I ever tell you guys what was wrong with my longarm?  The motor randomly surges and speeds up in stitch regulated mode, especially noticeable and especially annoying when I'm moving the machine head at a slow and steady pace, like for ruler work.  When stitching in Manual Mode (without stitch regulation) she runs smooth and steady -- but I want my stitch regulator to work the way it's supposed to and if that means replacing a couple of expensive parts, so be it.  But the cost of the parts is not even the most annoying bit, though.  

The United States Post Office is conspiring against me, rerouting my APQS parts all over the country to prevent me from getting my machine up and running smoothly again.  I kid you not!  That first part was ordered a week ago Thursday and was shipped Priority 2-Day Mail from Carroll, Iowa to Charlotte, North Carolina, but it didn't get here until the following Wednesday evening because the USPS distribution center in Iowa decided to send my package to Akron, Ohio instead of to Charlotte, North Carolina.  After installing the part and testing the machine again on Wednesday night, we ordered the second part (the one I'm still waiting on) first thing Thursday morning.  Again, the package was shipped out Priority Mail with a 2-Day estimated delivery time from the post office, with the tracking number originally telling me my package would be here on Saturday...  This time, the package was sent straight from the Iowa distribution center to the Charlotte, NC distribution center and it was HERE IN CHARLOTTE on Saturday morning.  But alas!  Instead of forwarding my precious package from the distribution center in Charlotte to my local Charlotte post office, so it could be loaded onto a little mail truck and delivered to my house, the Charlotte distribution center put my package back on a truck or a plane or a camel or a whatever and sent it off to another distribution center in LAS VEGAS, NEVADA.  So here I was with no Internet and no longarm machine, since the post office is taking my replacement parts on a tour of the country like my package is Flat Stanley or something...

Flat Stanley and My APQS Parts are Both In Las Vegas 
When you can't quilt in real life, it's EQ8 to the rescue with a Virtual Quilting Fix!  Designing in EQ8 was one of the few things I could do with my computer that did not require an Internet connection.

When I was up in Boone, NC visiting my son at Appalachian State University a few weeks ago, I found a lovely Bernina dealer and quilt shop where I purchased a larger AccuQuilt GO! die cutter (I had the GO! Baby version previously).  The larger die cutting machine that I purchased was packaged as a Ready, Set, GO! so it came bundled with an 8" Qube, which is a set of several dies that can be combined to create 72 different 8" quilt blocks.  

8 Inch Accuquilt Qube Die Set Can Cut Out All 72 Blocks Shown on the Side of the Box
Now, in order to use my AccuQuilt dies, I need to design quilts with blocks that use the shapes and sizes that correspond to my cutting dies.  I would LOVE IT if Accuquilt and Electric Quilt could get together and come up with an Accuquilt block library for EQ8 that I could download and link to my software, but so far this has not happened.  So I pulled out my manual (yes, I purchased the spiral bound manual for EQ8 -- I like to read, highlight, and annotate my manuals!) and looked up how to create a custom block library under My Favorites.  My new library is called AccuQuilt 8 Inch Blocks, and I'm going to put all of the blocks that I can make with my 8" Qube dies in that folder.  That way, when I want to design something that I can cut out in a jiffy with my die cutter, I can go straight to that folder for my blocks.

So the first block in the AccuQuilt Qube booklet is called Airplane:

Airplane Block from AccuQuilt Qube Booklet
There was a very similar block already in the EQ8 Block Library called Airplane, so I started with that, edited it to look just like the block in the AccuQuilt brochure, and then I saved it into my custom block library in EQ8.  Then I suppose I should have gone on to add the next block into my custom library...  But I decided to play with the Airplane block instead.

50 x 66 Airplane Quilt, 3 Colors
This is how the AccuQuilt 72 Blocks brochure suggests laying out the Airplane block.  It's cute, right?  But for me personally, it bugs me to have unnecessary seams in my quilt blocks.  In the quilt above, I don't like that I have two small light blue triangles instead of one larger triangle, or four large triangles that could be one larger square.  However, it would NOT bug me if the fabrics for those triangles were similar colors but different fabrics...  So I played around with a bunch of mostly Kaffe Fassett fabrics from Free Spirit to see what a scrappy version of this Airplane quilt might look like:

Same 50 x 66 Airplane Quilt, Scrappy Version
Now, doesn't THAT look like fun?  I replaced the deep reddish orange with various pink, orange, yellow, or coral prints.  I replaced the deep blue with various blue, green, or teal prints.  And I replaced most of the light blue patches with an off white, but mixed in a few other neutrals so I wouldn't have four of the same white triangles coming together to form a square.

Ah, I see you rolling your eyes out there.  You've seen me post so many EQ8 quilt designs here that have not yet been realized in actual fabric.  Will this quilt ever make it beyond this blog post, you might ask?

WELL...  This could actually be a good "leaders and enders" type project, once I got it all cut out and organized.  It would also make a great portable project, too, for my when my bee gets together, and for our guild's monthly Sit-and-Sew-Saturday.  I'd just need three Ziplock bags containing the following:
  1. 4" HSTs (Half Square Triangles), 192 of them, in shades of Orange/Pink/Coral/Yellow
  2. 2" HSTs, 576 of them, cut from scraps of whites and off-whites
  3. 2" HSTs, 192 of them, from scraps of blues and greens

Accuquilt says their die cutters can handle 4-6 layers of fabric at a time, and I love how precisely the dies cut out each triangle with the little dog ears pretrimmed.  I'm curious how long it would take me to get all of this cut out?  I probably don't have enough scraps in large enough sizes, but I definitely have enough fat quarters in my stash.  Stay tuned...

But meanwhile, here's my weekly Tuesday To Do list:

  1. Label and Machine Bind the Christmas Outreach Quilt
  2. Seam the Backing for the Tumbler Outreach Quilt (that one's next on the frame, as soon as that blasted part comes for my longarm machine)
  3. Clean Up Studio; Set Up One Machine for Curved Piecing (Double Wedding Ring and Giant Clam Shells) and Set Up the Other Machine for Foundation Paper Piecing (Anders' Modern Building Blocks Sampler)

I'm linking up today's post with:


·       Oh Scrap! at Quilting Is More Fun Than Housework


·       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
·       BOMs Away Katie Mae Quilts  


·       Colour and Inspiration Tuesday at Clever Chameleon

·       To-Do Tuesday at Home Sewn By Us

Sunday, September 15, 2019

In Fits and Snatches: Modern Baby Clam Shells + Christmas Outreach Quilt

Good morning, my lovelies!  Remember that baby quilt I designed last DECEMBER for a new mom in our family?  Well, her baby just turned nine months old yesterday, and I finally finished...  cutting out the fabric for the quilt top!

I Finished Cutting Out All the Pieces!
You thought I was going to say the whole quilt was finished, didn't you?  Bless your heart.

As you can see in this photo of the entire design wall, these clam shells are gigantic.  They will finish at 9 1/2", making this a 40" x 40" top once I add narrow turquoise borders:

Design Wall With Clams On the Left, Modern Building Blocks On the Right
Why has it taken me ten months to cut out this silly "quick and easy" baby quilt, you may ask?  Okay, so first, for the print clam shells, I was using an acrylic template that I found on Amazon here, but I was tracing around the template with a pencil and then cutting out each clam shell with scissors.  That got old.  Then, I put some of the grippy tape that I use on my longarm quilting rulers on the back of my clamshell template so it wouldn't slide, and discovered that I could cut out the turquoise background fabric with my 28 mm rotary cutter. Yay!  But then there were those pesky giant circles in the center row of the quilt to cut out.  Ugh.  I ended up using a circle cutter contraption that I found on Amazon here (thank goodness for Amazon Prime, right?!) and it worked okay.  You fold a slightly oversized square of fabric into quarters, press lightly, and line your folds up on the right angle lines on the circe cutting template, and then slice through the curved groove corresponding to your desired circle size with a 28 mm rotary cutter.  My acrylic clam shell template has tiny holes for alignment along the seamline, so I used the clam shell template to put markings on my circles that will line up with the clam shells for stitching.  Then I had to cut the partial clamshells, the sideways halves and the top/bottom halves and the quarter clams for the corners.  It was just annoying cutting and I had to think about the best way to do it, and I wasted a good deal of that turquoise fabric from the template sliding around or whatever.  Anyway, I'm glad it's finally all cut out and ready to sew!  The clams have to come of the wall to make room for laying out Double Wedding Rings for a Queen bed runner, anyway, so don't hold your breath thinking I'm going to have the clams pieced together by my next post, either.  See, I'm managing your expectations so you won't be disappointed.   You're welcome.


I quilted the outreach top that I pieced during our guild's Christmas in July Sit-and-Sew.  It's not amazing, but it's acceptable and it's done, and I still have time to bind it and turn it in so it can be given out during the holidays.

One Inch Grid With Amoeba Meandering
I had originally wanted to do something more interesting with the quilting, but ended up settling on a 1" grid in the red squares and "amoeba meandering" in the white squares.  Top thread is Superior King Tut cotton in a green and red variegated colorway with a dark green So Fine wound on the bobbin.  

Miss Millie Has Been Misbehaving!
My longarm machine is still not running smoothly, though, and after LOTS of trouble shooting with APQS Tech Support, we think that one of my encoders is bad.  Instead of the machine running at a smooth, steady speed according to how quickly I'm moving it over the surface of the quilt, mine does a racing lurching thing just randomly.  Apparently it's an electrical problem.  Anyway, the new head encoder will be here Monday and if that doesn't solve the problem, we'll have to replace the more expensive Bliss encoder as well.  These are parts that would have been covered under the APQS Lifetime Warranty if I was the original owner of the machine, but it's out of pocket for me since I purchased the machine secondhand, even though I bought it from a dealer.  It is what it is.

So, what's on my agenda for the upcoming week?  We'll be swapping out the head encoder on my longarm machine on Monday or Tuesday, as soon as that part shows up.  Meanwhile, I have a bit of a mess to clean up in my studio and then I will want to get my machines set up for different tasks.  I'll be doing the curved piecing of the clam shells and double wedding rings on either my 5.5 mm Bernina 475QE (my Goldilocks) or else on my 1935 Featherweight (Bette).  My big machine, the 750QE ('Nina) needs to seam backing together for another outreach top and bind that Christmas quilt.  So much to do, and so little done.  Story of my life.  So here's my Tuesday To Do List, a few days early:

  1. Double Wedding Ring
  2. Modern Baby Clam Shell
  3. Christmas Outreach Quilt
  4. Next MMBB Block for Anders' Ishmaelites Quilt

That ought to keep me plenty busy until next week.  I'm linking up today's post with:


·      Oh Scrap! at Quilting Is More Fun Than Housework


·      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
·      BOMs Away Katie Mae Quilts 


·      Colour and Inspiration Tuesday at Clever Chameleon
·       To-Do Tuesday at Home Sewn By Us