Saturday, November 28, 2020

SANTA SQUIRREL! I Need to Make a Christmas Throw Quilt, and I Need to Do It TODAY!


Today is the Drop-Everything-And-Make-It linky party at MMM Quilts, which is the perfect excuse (as if I needed one) to give in to the "squirrel" of an idea that's been chasing me around for the past few days!  I've seen so many cute Christmas quilts over the years, but have never had a strong urge to make a holiday-themed quilt before this year.  Maybe it's the pandemic, maybe it's the adorable snowflake E2E quilting designs that I'm dying to try out with R2D2, who knows -- but the squirrel won't leave me alone until I swap out the year-round throws that grace my sofa for something red, green, and scrappy, full of nostalgic and happy Christmas prints.

I didn't have as many Christmas novelty fabrics in my stash as I thought I did, so I had to trek out to two different quilt shops to come up with this assortment:

Assorted Squirrel Project Fabrics, With Neglected Sampler Blocks as a Backdrop

My mom just finished piecing another scrappy tumbler charity top for me to quilt, using my 4" AccuQuilt GO! Tumbler die.  It looks very similar to this one that I quilted a few weeks ago:

Charity Quilt Made With AccuQuilt 4" Tumbler Die

Isn't it cute?  I'm always surprised how quickly these come together.  It only took me an hour or two to cut out all of the tumblers for this, and my mom had the top sewn together in two days.  I need to make more projects like that, y'all, instead of only making quilts that take 6 months to 7 years to finish.  I went to the quilt shop planning to make a throw quilt just like this one, but with solid red fabric in place of the purple and Christmas prints instead of the juvenile novelty prints.

But when I got to the quilt shop, I was delighted to discover that they had a 6" AccuQuilt Tumbler die.  Bigger tumbler patches means fewer tumblers need to be cut out and fewer seams needed to sew them all together!  

57 x 72 Quilt Design Using 6 inch AccuQuilt Tumbler Die

Using the 6" tumbler die instead of the 4", I can get a 57" x 72" quilt top out of just 78 red tumblers and 78 prints.  Not sure if I'll match my seams as shown above or if I'll go with my mom's staggered layout, which gives a nifty chevron/ricrac effect.  This layout was fastest to draw up in my EQ8 quilt design software, and my primary objective was to quickly calculate how many tumblers I'd need to cut out.  (I won't be doing those partial tumbler slivers along the sides, either -- instead, I'll trim the edges to the narrow point on the final full tumbler).  

I haven't decided on the backing fabric yet, although I do have a couple of appropriately Christmasy fabrics in sufficient quantity in my stash.  I'd almost like to back it with a minky cuddle fleece to make it extra warm and snuggly, but that would mean another trip to the store...

Oh, and here's another DREAMI project that I stopped everything to make earlier this month, the one I MEANT to be sharing for today's linky:

My Notorious R.B.G. version of Preeti's International Sisters Block

Once I got the idea in my head to make a "Notorious R.B.G." version of Preeti's International Sisters block, I was helpless to resist!  First, I drafted a foundation paper piecing pattern in EQ8 to change the head wrap of the International Sisters block into Justice Ginsburg's no-nonsense, swept-back hairstyle and the crown that she wears in all of the memes.  The solid black, skin tone, brown hair, metallic gold crown, and floral background fabrics were all pulled from the stash, but I had to hunt down the perfect fabrics to appliqué for her glasses and her dissent collar on the Internet and then wait ever so (im)patiently for them to arrive.  It was a fun little diversion, for sure!  The glasses, collar and "jade" earrings are all hand stitched needle turn appliqué.  If you want to read more about that one, check out this post.  

And that's all you get from me today!  We started putting up Christmas decorations yesterday so there are boxes and debris from that strewn all over the house, and a few gifts that I've ordered have already started to arrived and are wrapped and ready to stick under the tree as soon as I locate the tree skirt.  This year more than ever, the song that's stuck on repeat in my brain is "We Need a Little Christmas" from Auntie Mame!

Rosalind Russell as Auntie Mame

In addition to Sandra's DREAMI linky, I'm also linking up with the following weekly linky parties:


UFO Busting at Tish in Wonderland


Frédérique at Quilting Patchwork Appliqué

Oh Scrap! at Quilting Is More Fun Than Housework


Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts  

Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt

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!

PSST!!  I'd Love to Quilt for YOU!

By the way, if you or any of your quilty friends has a quilt top or two that needs quilting, I'd be delighted to quilt for you!  My turnaround for edge-to-edge quilting is currently running about 2 weeks, and you can click here to find out how to book your quilt with me.

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:


Frédérique at Quilting Patchwork Appliqué

Oh Scrap! at Quilting Is More Fun Than Housework


Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts  

Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt


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 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!

PSST!!  I'd Love to Quilt for YOU!

By the way, if you or any of your quilty friends has a quilt top or two that needs quilting, I'd be delighted to quilt for you!  My turnaround for edge-to-edge quilting is currently running about 2 weeks, and you can click here to find out how to book your quilt with me.

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


Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation  


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


UFO Busting at Tish in Wonderland


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:


UFO Busting at Tish in Wonderland


Frédérique at Quilting Patchwork Appliqué

Oh Scrap! at Quilting Is More Fun Than Housework

Slow Stitching Sunday at Kathy's Quilts


Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts  

Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Monogram Baby Quilt Finish + IntelliQuilter Computer Robotics Installation

C is for Charlie, 42 x 42 prior to washing

First Big News: A Quilt Finish!

My AQS Letter Home QAL (resized, recolored, and with EPP monogram block added) is finished!  I wrapped it up last night, carefully packed it in a box along with big sister Margot's butterfly/clam shell quilt, and Bernie just entrusted the package to the safekeeping of UPS for its journey to New Mexico.  Godspeed, little quilts!  May you arrive safely and be literally loved to pieces!

Letter Home Monogram Baby, Quilting Completed

I ended up really liking how the the custom quilting came out with the Superior Fantastico variegated thread in shades of pale green.  All of the quilting is hand guided free motion or ruler work and SID.  For that center monogram block that was English paper pieced, my seam allowances are pressed open rather than to one side, so instead of quilting in the actual ditch where I would have risked piercing the piecing thread and breaking the seam, I shifted my quilting slightly inside the seam line onto the green fabric instead.

Letter Home Monogram Baby Quilt Trimmed

The larger-scale meandering against that white background fabric reminded me of jumbo marshmallows and Caspar the Friendly Ghost as I was quilting it.  👻

Applying Binding with my Bernina 475QE

My 750QE started throwing tantrums in the middle of embroidering Charlie's quilt label, and I skipped her annual Spa Visit last year, so I dropped her off at the Bernina dealer for a good cleaning and servicing.  I love having my 475QE as a backup machine that can do everything the 750 does except for embroidery, using all the same feet and bobbins, with all of the features I'm used to on the big machine.  

Should Have Done Machine Binding...

My IntelliQuilter had already arrived by the time I got to the binding stage of Charlie's quilt, making me REALLY wish I'd gone with a machine binding so I'd be done with it already!  I wanted these two baby quilts to be finished and out the door so I could focus on the new computerized quilting system!  It took me two days, probably somewhere between 4-6 hours total, to hand stitch the binding on this 42" x 42" baby quilt, and that does not include the time it took to cut the strips, join them, press the strip in half, machine stitch it to the front of the quilt, and join the ends of the binding.

Hand Stitching is 3/4 of the Way Completed after 4 Hours

C is for Charlie After Washing, 39 x 39

Here's what "C is for Charlie" looked like after washing and drying (above).  The quilt was SO much softer after washing out all of the starch!  This quilt started out at 42" x 42" just like Margot's quilt, has roughly the same quilting density, and the same 80/20 batting.  However, Margot's quilt was made with unwashed fabrics and all of Charlie's fabrics were prewashed in "Very Warm" water to shrink them ahead of time.  Margot's quilt finished at 38" x 38" after washing, for a shrinkage rate of roughly 10%, whereas Charlie's quilt finished at 39" x 39" for a shrinkage rate of approximately 7%.  

My Binding Looks Ruched After Washing!

The biggest post-laundering surprise with Charlie's quilt is how my binding appears to be ruched after washing it!  Apparently I did an excellent job of getting all the shrinkage out of the binding fabric prior to cutting the strips, so the binding stayed the same size even though the quilt it was attached to still had some shrinking to do.  I need to remember this, because it would be interesting to recreate this effect deliberately with some projects -- but I think that next time I make a quilt with a cotton or a cotton blend batting, I'll use UNwashed fabric for the binding regardless of whether or not the fabrics in the quilt top were prewashed.  The ripply-textured binding is fun on a baby quilt for little fingers to explore, but on most quilts I'd prefer a flat, smooth binding and allowing the binding to shrink in the wash along with the batting would minimize the rippled effect.  

THIS Arrived on Wednesday!!!  FINALLY!

Second Big News: The IntelliQuilter System Arrived!

Oh my gosh, you guys -- I ordered my IntelliQuilter computer robotics for my APQS Millennium long arm machine at the end of August, and it finally arrived last week.  My husband installed motors and tablet for me on Thursday.

My In-House Tech Guy, Working on My IntelliQuilter Installation

Thursday is the day I was having trouble embroidering my quilt label and taking my 750QE in for service, and when I got back from the Bernina dealer I wanted to get my label stitched to my quilt and get the binding sewn to the front of the quilt, so I didn't get a chance to run the software tests on the IntelliQuilter system until Friday.  Bernie did a fantastic job with his installation so the X and Y motor engagement strengths, calibration, and drift tests went perfectly the first time without requiring any additional adjustment to the motor positioning.  Whew!

My Robot!  THIS is the Droid I Have Been Looking For!

Doesn't Millie look like a robot now?  The 12" tablet is her face and the machine handles look like arms.  The IntelliQuilter makes cute little beeping noises that remind me of R2D2 from Star Wars, but my teenaged sons tell me she sounds "like an evil alien space ship that decides the human crew is expendable."  😒

IQ's X and Y Motors Mounted to Machine Carriage

Besides the tablet that mounts to the front of my machine head, the only other hardware to the IQ system are the two motors that drive the machine on the X and Y axis.  One motor rides along the machine's carriage to control vertical movement of the machine, and the other motor rides along the edge of my frame to control horizontal movement.  No belts or pulleys and no giant computer hanging off the end of my frame.  It's very streamlined, and the motors engage and disengage with the touch of a single button on the tablet so it's easy to switch back and forth between manual, hand guided quilting and computerized work.  Very cool.

Friday was the last day of the big semi-annual 25% off sale at Urban Elementz, a site that sells thousands of fabulous digital quilting designs that I can use now that my long arm is computerized, so I spent a good deal of time (and money!) stocking up on a variety of edge-to-edge, block, sashing, and border designs that I am SUPER EXCITED to start playing with.  On Saturday, I figured out how to upload my installation logs to IQ's Support page, the final step in the self-installation instructions, and then I spent some time downloading all the digital designs I'd purchased, transferring them to my IQ tablet, and organizing them all in Evernotes on my iPad/Mac computer so I can pull up all of my E2E feather designs, or all the designs with florals, or all of the geometrics, etc and find what I want quickly.  I still need to do that for the designs that came preloaded with my IQ system.  I stepped away from the IQ for all of Sunday, since it was Bernie's birthday and we had Important Birthday Things to do with our Important Birthday Boy.  I got a lot of hand stitching done on that binding while "watching" football with Bernie on Sunday.  Yesterday I finished the binding, washed the quilt, took the photos, and wrapped everything up for shipping...  And here we are again on Tuesday!

Tuesday's Weekly Goals

My two goals last week were to finish Charlie's quilt and to install my IQ system, both of which are completed.  Here's what I'm hoping to accomplish this week:

  • Back to Anders' Nanu Nanu quilt!  This is the next block to be foundation paper pieced (on my 475QE, since Big 'Nina 750QE is away at the Bernina spa):

Next 15 inch Block for Nanu Nanu!

My Queen Nanu Nanu! Sampler (Adapted from Moda Modern Quilt Blocks)

  • A little bit of Secret Sewing that also involves paper piecing, to be revealed at a later date
  • Continue learning my new IntelliQuilter system.  I need to rethread the machine, incorporating the new IQ thread break sensor wheel, and play around in manual mode to readjust my tensions to accommodate for the additional "pull" on the top thread from the altered thread path of IQ.  I also want to experiment with different speed settings for IQ and the APQS machine, since they work together to determine stitch length rather than using the stitch regulator built into my APQS machine.  
  • Once I've got nice, pretty stitches on both sides of my quilt sandwich, I want to go back through the hands-on IQ lessons provided by my dealer, Angela Huffman of Quilted Joy.  I went through all 6 hours of training videos while I was waiting for my IQ system to ship and found them extremely helpful for learning the interface and the various tools available within the software, but now I want to cement that knowledge by following along with my machine for each of the exercises.  Angela's excellent video classes cover all the basics for setting up and stitching out E2E/pantograph (edge-to-edge) designs as well as custom quilting blocks, borders and sashings, and I love how she filmed the classes in 10-minute segments so it's easy to find the bit you want to review quickly without having to rewatch or fast-forward through an hour-long class when you need a refresher.

That should be plenty to keep me busy this week, don't you think?  Considering that I also need to start planning and shopping (and baking and freezing) for Thanksgiving...

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


·       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  

·       Put Your Foot Down at For the Love of Geese

·       Free Motion Mavericks with Muv and Andree


·       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: