Saturday, June 27, 2020

I'm Thinking About Launching a NEW Long Arm Linky Party! Would YOU Participate?

Good morning, my lovelies!  Before I share my custom quilting progress on my Spirit Song project, I'd love it if you'd take a second to give me feedback on an idea I've been kicking around for a new linky party.

When I tried to link up my last quilting post with Karin's Ruler Work linky at The Quilt Yarn, I was disappointed to read that she has decided to discontinue hosting her link-up due to low participation levels.  Like many of you, I already participate in quite a few linky parties (One Monthly Goal, Design Wall Monday, To Do Tuesday, to name a few).  I love that these parties attract a wide variety of participants, from hand quilters to longarm quilters, modern to traditional, appliqué, paper piecing, and everything in between.  I have discovered lots of creative quilt bloggers and inspiration through these link-ups.  

However, right now I'm making a concerted effort to develop my long arm quilting skills, and it would be really helpful to connect with a community of other machine quilters who are working through similar challenges.  I'm always so excited when I stumble across another long arm quilter's blog, whether it's a seasoned professional quilter, a teacher, or a hobby quilter like me.        I want to see and read about the different rulers, notions, and gadgets other quilters are experimenting with and finding useful for machine quilting, which threads and battings they are using and how they like them, and the challenges they are encountering and overcoming as they become more proficient with their machines, where they are finding the best online or in-person classes and workshops, etc.  Also, although I'm quilting with a long arm machine mounted to a frame, I realize that there is a lot of crossover between machine quilting on a frame, sit down long arm machines like the Sweet 16 or the Q20, and quilting with a domestic sewing machine.  This would be an all-inclusive linky party, open to anyone who wants to share their machine quilting, regardless of what kind of machine they're using.

I understand that hosting a linky party is a big ongoing commitment, with even more time required in the beginning to get the word out to other quilters.  I am willing to take this on, as long as there is interest out there from other quilters -- so please answer my poll (above) to let me know how YOU feel about it.  Feel free to share any other suggestions about the linky party in the comments section, like if there's a particular day of the week you prefer, how long you think the link party should be open, etc.  Thank you!

...And Now, Back to the Quilt On My Frame:

Meanwhile, custom quilting on Spirit Song is progressing, slowly but surely.  I've been pretty consistent about getting in an hour or two of quilting time most days.  I finished the first long border a few days ago (my quilt is loaded on my frame sideways, so the "top" is really one of the long sides of the quilt).  

I know it's hard to see my quilting design against the large-scale floral print, so youmight think of all this time I'm spending quilting the borders with rulers as a wasted effort.  But it's really good practice, and it's nice to know that if I DO get a minor bobble or "whoopsie!" here or there, it's not going to jump out at anyone because it's camouflaged by the fabric print.

Chalk Stencil Marking for String of Pearls Border

Since I opted to use blue quilting thread in my wide outer border, I moved right into the skinny blue inner border after that.  And I'm being BRAVE -- I'm trying to quilt a "String of Pearls" in this border -- half inch circles!  In order to bolster my courage, I am marking the circles with a Full Line stencil and Quilt Pounce Stencil Chalk as a guide to help me quilt pearls that are somewhat round, consistent in size, evenly spaced, and to ensure that I end with a full circle when I come to the corner.  Interestingly (and thankfully!), the pounce chalk powder markings are lasting longer with this border design than the exact same chalk powder did for the swirly free motion designs that I was marking in the interior of the quilt.  Several possiblilities for why that might be:

  • I'm using a commercially made Full Line stencil for my String of Pearls border rather than a DIY vellum paper stencil perforated with a sewing machine needle.  This stencil has a very fine mesh with very tiny holes that allow the chalk through the stencil in more controlled amounts.
  • The pieced blocks in the interior of my quilt got a shot of starch after each and every seam was pieced and pressed open, and again as the blocks were joined together into a quilt top, whereas the blue border was only starched once after the border was attached to the quilt.  The interior of the quilt, where the starch was applied in many layers, may have filled in the nooks and crannies of the fabric weave and created a Teflon-like nonstick finish that the chalk can't settle into as well as it does with the only slightly starched border fabric.
  • I am quilting my pearl circles pretty slowly in an attempt to keep them round, and I feel like my quilting machine creates less vibration and bounce to the quilt top at this slower speed, and that may be contributing to the longevity of the chalked markings as well.
For whatever reason, I'm very much relieved that I was able to mark the entire length of this pearl border first and then quilt it in one pass, from corner to corner, and still have clear, distinct circle marks to follow when I reached the end.  

Experimenting With a Smaller Needle

One more thing I changed last night: I put in a new needle -- again! -- and this time, I went with a size 3.5 Groz Beckert industrial needle rather than the 4.0 needle I had been using previously with my So Fine #50 in the needle and Bottom Line #60 in the bobbin combination.  Superior Threads has a handy reference chart on their web site that suggests optimal needle sizes for each of their threads, and size 4.0 is what they recommend for So Fine #50, but size 3.0 is recommended for the 60 weight Bottom Line thread that I'm using in the bottom, so I wanted to see what would happen if I split the difference and went down to a 3.5 needle.  It's a subtle difference, but especially when I'm checking stitch quality on the back of my quilt, the stitches do look better to me when that tiny little Bottom Line bobbin thread isn't swimming in a gigantic hole from a size 4.0 needle.  And I'm not seeing any shredding or thread breaks to my So Fine top thread, so the 3.5 needle eye seems to be plenty big enough for the So Fine thread diameter.

Here's what my inner border of pearls looked like once I'd finished the quilting and wiped away the white chalk markings.  Disappointing, right?!  I was really nervous about trying to quilt half inch circles on a real quilt for the first time, and I thought a blending blue thread color would be my safest option.  But now that I've quilted it and it didn't come out nearly as terrible as I thought it would, I'm bummed that I can't SEE the pearls I quilted!  I wish I'd quilted them in silver metallic instead!  Ah, well -- Live and learn!  Perhaps the quilting texture will be more apparent after I wash the finished quilt.  Next time, I'll make bolder thread choices where I want my quilting to be noticed!

I've also started quilting the two different motifs that I selected for my blue half square triangles throughout the interior of my quilt, since I'm already threaded up with blue.  One of the design is a free motion "lollipop flower" with swirly leaves (at least that's what I'm envisioning as I'm quilting it), and the other one is a simple straight line motif that has me reaching for a ruler once again.

When I tried to quilt this little motif totally freehand, the results were not pretty.  If I was a seasoned pro, any straight line ruler would have worked fine.  I quickly realized that, as a newbie, I needed help gauging where my needle would end up in relation to the angle of my ruler edge, especially since I'm quilting lines that angle away from my seam lines.  My HandiQuilter Versa Tool came to the rescue!  This ruler has little quarter inch extension notches at either end of the straight edge, etched with a faint marking to indicate where the needle will end up if your hopping foot stitches along the straight edge of the ruler.  I've added little pieces of pink OmniGrid Glow Line Tape to the back side of those ruler extensions for even greater visibility.

The long strip of wide, clear tape that you see along the straight edge of my ruler is super cheap, but super effective, NexCare Clear First Aid Tape that reduces unwanted slipping and sliding when I'm quilting with rulers.  You can find that at your local pharmacy, or order it on Amazon here.  

Well, that's all I have for you today.  My To-Do for Tuesday goal is to keep plugging away at the borders and blue HSTs on my Spirit Song quilt, and hopefully progress to the final quilting stage of the off-white background fills.  I'll wrap this up with a photo of a lovely gardenia in my front yard.  I love how, when I take a picture of an all-white blossom and then blow it up BIG on my computer screen, I see so many different colors in the petals, from shades of white, cream, and gray, to ivories and butter yellows.  It reminds me of Georgia O'Keefe's flower paintings!  

Please remember to vote in my linky party poll if you haven't already done so, and share any other thoughts you have about that in the blog comments.  Have a great day, and I hope you get to do some quilting!  I'm linking today's post up with my favorite linky parties:


·       Whoop Whoop Fridays at Confessions of a Fabric Addict

·       Finished Or Not Friday at Alycia Quilts

·       Off the Wall Friday at Nina Marie Sayre


·       Tips and Tutorials on the 22nd at: Kathleen McMusing


·       UFO Busting at Tish in Wonderland


·       Oh Scrap! at Quilting Is More Fun Than Housework


·       Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts  

·       Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt

·       BOMs Away Katie Mae Quilts  


·       Colour and Inspiration Tuesday at Clever Chameleon

·       To-Do Tuesday at Home Sewn By Us


·       Midweek Makers at Quilt Fabrication

·       Wednesday Wait Loss at The Inquiring Quilter


·       Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation  

·       Free Motion Mavericks at Quilting & Learning Combo OR at Lizzie Lenard Vintage Sewing


chrisknits said...

I'm not a long armer.....yet, but it's coming. Just not sure how many years until it's here! LOL But I would gain a lot of knowledge that I could transfer to my domestic.

The Joyful Quilter said...

You are doing such an incredible job with the custom quilting on this quilt, Rebecca! I am in awe of your progress (and process ), as well as your determination to figure this out.

Cynthia Brunz Designs said...

Lovely quilting Rebecca. Thanks for sharing with Oh Scrap!

Nancy @ Grace and Peace Quilting said...

You are such a patient longarmer!!! This is absolutely beautiful. Thanks for sharing so much detail. I would love to participate in a longarm link up!!! Brilliant!

Alycia~Quiltygirl said...

This is coming along so great!! I would participate when I have something to show - but I quilt for clients, and sometimes I can't show their quilts until they are ready.... so it might be hit or miss... I do love seeing what others do tho!

Home Sewn By Us said...

Hi Rebecca! You are really doing fabulous on quilting this piece. I love seeing your progress. Hmm. Interesting about the pounce chalk staying around longer on the string of pearls. I wonder if the starch has any impact. I did vote in your poll although I don't have a long arm. Some of the concepts transfer over although I don't often post too much about my actual quilting - too much of a novice. Thanks for linking up today. ~smile~ Roseanne

Ramona said...

Your quilting is Spirit Song is really coming along! Your quilting designs are really highlighting the quilt, too.

Kate said...

Beautiful quilting! Only you will know where all the mistakes are.

Caryl @ cinnamon holiday workshop said...

Lots of great quilting...I like all the variety. I am always wanting to learn more about
FMQ as I stopped for awhile and now am learning about using rulers and that is totally different than my BSR quilting.

Dione Gardner-Stephen said...

Well, I think wishing that you'd used bolder thread is a great problem to have. Your quilting skills are already streets ahead. I hope you find a sweet spot for your party, quilting tips are always in high demand. Thanks for linking to the Chameleon's Colour & Inspiration party. :)

Jennifer Fulton Inquiring Quilter said...

I wish you nothing but great things with your new linky. I'm not a longarmer though but I sure like to look! Your quilting is wonderful. Thanks so much for linking up to Wednesday Wait Loss.

Muv said...

Hello Rebecca Grace,

That is a gorgeous quilt, and beautiful quilting! It looks huge, or is that because it is on the frame sideways.

Thank you for linking up with Free Motion Mavericks!

Love, Muv