Quilter's Academy - Volume 2 - Sophomore Year

Vol 3 - Junior Year

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Vol 2 - Project 1 - The Sampler

Project 1 - The Sampler (actually it should be Project 1/2 because it's already half done)

I've rearranged my sewing room (again) to set up for piecing.  Taking note of the suggestions from book 2, it now looks like this........

Ironing station to the right, cutting to the left, lots of lovely light.

The Bernina's been set up with an exact 1/4" seam, threaded with Presencia 60wt/3 ply thread and is sewing nicely.  I don't have a 1/4" foot for this machine, nor do I have the #13 which Harriet uses.  I'm instead using a #53 - which seems to look identical to the #13 but it's Teflon coated on the bottom.  I also don't have a fabric guide to attach, so am using a magnetic guide.  It works, but tends to shift a bit, so I'll look at other options soon.

I've added to my tool kit a new ruler, as recommended for setting triangles and corner units.

Recommended for the mathematically challenged! (me).

Okay, the first exercise from the book is actually a continuation of The Sampler started in Vol 1.  I need to put all these pieces together and make diagonal sets for the borders.

Problem #1 was not being able to use my flash new ruler!!  The border strips needed to be cut to the 1/4 inch and the ruler only works in 1/2 inch increments.  Luckily Harriet explains the math clearly and I eventually cut out my triangles to the right size (after getting the first lot wrong - shhhh).

The book shows how to lay out the pieces before sewing them together...... 

Way back in the dark ages, I tried to convince my 12 year old brain that there really was nothing difficult or confusing about fractions and angles.  It refused to believe me.  Now 40 odd years later, I still struggle with both concepts.  It took me a little while to figure things out, but I'm finding that using angles in a practical application rather than as an exercise in a maths book, really does make things clearer.  I know there is going to be a bit of a struggle with all this, but I'll try to muddle through.

Putting it together

Problem #2 - An Oops!  How do you think I managed to do this...............?

Uh-oh - an inch too short!

The short one was the second unit I made.  I finally figured out what went wrong - the error showed up in one of the progress photos I like to take along the way.........

Harriet is sure to pick the error in an instant.  The first one worked because I read the instructions carefully every step of the way - the 3rd & 4th ones, ditto.  The 2nd one, I thought I remembered what I did and got it wrong.  A lesson folks - Pay Attention!  Ahem.

After a bit of un-sewing and a bit of re-cutting, I have a completed quilt top.  It's rather pretty and the perfect size for a cat mat.

In Vol 1 all the tops are pieced before adding the borders and doing the quilting.  This is actually a great way to do it, as the repeat quilting over a couple of months really makes you work hard on learning to free motion.  In fact, I was so concerned about not quilting again for some months while I made all the tops, I deliberately held back one so I could get some practice in and not lose the skills I'd just learned.  As it happens, for these projects, it's a little different.

Diagonal set quilt tops are very prone to stretching, even when folded, and Harriet recommends layering and basting the tops immediately they are finished.  Now I have a lot of pins, but I don't have enough to pin baste a dozen or more quilts altogether.  Instead I plan to baste until I'm pin-less, then quilt, then piece and baste some more tops then quilt again.  This way I can keep up regular practice in quilting.  Also, I prefer to mark my tops before pinning if possible, and I'd worry about leaving the blue pen marks on the tops for months before they can be quilted and washed.

I'll pin up this one tomorrow, as I haven't decided on a quilting design yet.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Quilter's Academy - Vol 1 - Freshman Year

In December 2009 I started Harriet & Carrie's Quilter's Academy.  I learned to cut & piece strips ......

Project 1 - The Sampler

Project 2 -Harriet's  Woodland Winter

Project 3 - Carrie's Cowboy Corral

Project 4 - Harriet's Triple Rail Fence

Project 5 - Carrie's Patriotic Log Cabin

Project 6 - Carrie's Country Lanes Table Runner

Project 7 Harriet's Town Square which morphed into Project 8 Asian Nights

Project 9 - Carrie's Interlacing Circles

Project 10 - Harriet's Double Nine-Patch Chain

Project 11 - Carrie's Inlaid Tile Table Runner (unquilted)

Project 12 - Carrie's Double Irish Chain Baby Quilt

Project 13 - Harriet's Irish Chain Variation

Project 14 - The Final

By July 2010, I'd learned the basics of quiltmaking.  Thank you Harriet.  Thank you Carrie.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Project 14 - The Final - Borders

It's me, back again.  I spent most of the day on the borders, playing with designs.  I ditched the feathers idea and went back to the stencils I used for the top.  This stencil is pretty cool - you can use elements of it in lots of different ways. I drew out the design on paper first, then spent most of the afternoon marking it on.

Now the trouble with extra wide borders is.....................

Yep, I had an opps - a major opps.  I thought I was taking care, I thought I was careful about keeping the layers flat, but in the end, not careful enough.  Darn it, I only had one side and the bottom edge left to do too.

I was hoping to be sewing on the binding at the quilt group tomorrow, but it looks like I'll be unpicking instead.  At least I'll be unpicking in nice company :)


Monday, July 26, 2010

Project 14 - The Final - Quilting

Up for discussion is ditch stitching.  Yes, I had a problem.  You see, for the other quilts I've ditch stitched using either an edge foot or an open toe applique foot with the Pfaff IDT (Integrated Dual Transportation) engaged, in other words with a walking foot.  This time, on a different machine, I encounted problems with the layers shifting.  Despite using a gazillion pins, I ended up with 'bubbles' in the centre and the ends of the seams.

Can you see those?  In everything I've read, I've can't remember ever seeing a reference to using a walking foot for stitching in the ditch.  Is it common for Pfaff-less quilters to use a walking foot when stitching in the ditch?  Anyway, I spent an evening unpicking the 3 seams I'd done and re-sewed them on the Pfaff without a problem.  No bubbles, no layer shifting.

For the quilting part, everything went well.  I encounted the usual problems with drag and hang-ups (jeez you'd think I'd have learned a trick or two by now), the familiar wobbles and glitches, which are getting to be less and less with each quilt I do.  This time, my major problem was with thread breaks. 

I checked the usual suspects - re-threaded, changed needles, cleaned lint, adjusted tension, but was plagued with shredding and breaking thread throughout the quilting process.  In the end, I suspect it was the thread I was using.  I usually quilt with nylon or monopoly thread on top and cotton in the bobbin.  This time I wanted to use cotton on top, for a change.  I chose a Gutterman Sulky 100% cotton 30wt 2 ply thread.  This thread constantly broke, shredding at the needle.  The back of the quilt is rather messy with all the restarts - I've yet to learn how to do this neatly!

Inside the sandwich is Hobbs 20/80 poly wool batting.  This is rather thicker than the usual cotton batting's I use and the quilting has a nice relief to it.  I'm debating whether to echo quilt in the blank spaces so the design will 'pop' out more.  My efforts at echo quilting haven't been great so far, so I'm a tad reluctant.

Tomorrow, the borders.  I was going to use the same designs on the borders, but now I'm thinking feathers.  I can see a cable/feather border happening here.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Project 14 - The Final - Quilting

Finally - The Final! 

I've been playing with designs again.  I briefly considered grid quilting, but the blocks are so large, they need something a bit more 'quilty' (I think I just made up a word).

Remember, this was the quilt with no instructions, which meant there also was no grid size given.  My version ended up with 15 inch square blocks, the largest I've done yet.  I've selected a fleur-de-lis (or is that trefoil) design, from 2 different stencils - a block stencil combined with bits of a border stencil.  I made up a practice sample and am pleased with how it looks. I'll use the border stencil again on the border (how radical of me).

Why is it that cats know instinctively just when to turn their heads away when taking their picture.  Floyd is a master at it - I have more pictures of the back of his head than I have disc space for! 

After making the sample, I'm really aware of how quilt drag or hang-ups can quickly pull you off the lines - this design is really curvy and getting the quilt caught up or dragging pulls me off the design lines instantly.  I'll need to be especially careful quilting this one.


I've joined a new quilting group, which is a bit closer to my new home than the other one.  I'd go to both of them, but they are both held on Wednesdays, which makes it difficult.  Anyway, I asked the girls if I could post some pics on my blog and they agreed, so take a look.

The group, called the Tangled Web Quilters, is set up in a 'shed' on a farm.  To get to the shed we need to run the gauntlet of various animals which wander all around the place and show a lot of interest in anyone coming through the gate. 

The Shed - aka Cobweb Cottage

Dogs, chooks, alpacas and sheep all living happily together

Donkeys, ponies and pups looking for company

Very pretty!  Jenny has planted a garden for us

It was a very small group that day, probably it was so cold, the water pipes had frozen!  There are usually lots more of us

Meet Jenny, Alison, Suzanne, Kylie and Vicki

Inside 'the shed' it's very pretty and cosy - we tend to stay all day.

I hope you liked meeting some Tassie quilting ladies - I know I did!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Project 13 - Harriet's Irish Chain Variation - Finished

Sometimes I don't know where my head is at - this is Project 13, not 10!  I suppose I've jumped around a bit and got myself confused (easy to do).

Anyway, the Irish Chain is done & dusted and currently drying on my dining table.


I had some fun with this one - some problems too, but that's par for the course when learning.  The quilting went okay, with the usual struggling with the presser foot lifter on the Pfaff (and the appropriate words which go with those kind of frustrations).

I really liked the look of the quilt once it was all marked out and got stuck into it right away.

The top done, I was ready to mark and quilt the borders when I got the call on Friday - the Bernina is ready!!  I got it home late in the afternoon and set it up in the cabinet.  As a bonus, they also had the correct insert for the Horn cabinet - whoo hoo!  It seems it was ordered years ago, never picked up and has been sitting around in the store room collecting dust.  Lucky me :)

It's sitting up slightly in the cabinet - John will adjust this when he gets the time

Anyway, I did what I've been told never to do, and switched machines during a project.  After playing around with it for a bit, I decided to use it for quilting the borders.

The verdict?  Well I must admit I didn't bond immediately.  I had to learn it's quirks, which are of course different to the quirks my Pfaff has.  I also had to find the 'sweet spot' with my foot, so the machine speed and my hand speed matched.  This took a while... erm, I should say, is taking a while (we are not there yet).

As you can see, the stitch length on the top quilting, which was done on the Pfaff 2048  is more regular than the border stitching, which was done on the Bernina Record 830.  Though by the time I got to the 2nd border, it was less erratic.  Now I'm not saying the Bernina is better than the Pfaff, nor that the Pfaff is better than the Bernina, but they are different.  I've been using the Pfaff for a while now and am used to it's little ways - we understand each other.  The Bernina and I are still circling each other, trying to get comfortable in each other's company.  Oddly enough, I don't miss the needle/down as much as I thought I would, but do miss the low bobbin indicator.

So here are the results - top with the Pfaff, borders with the Bernina

All done and ready for binding

Oh, I had a little opps along the way.  I managed to get the excess batting and backing flipped under the border I was quilting (as you do) - anyway, while cutting away the batting so I could unpick the stitches, I nicked the top and - yes - a hole!  A little seam tape fixed the problem - and guess where I stitched the label?

I used the Pfaff to sew the binding, because for some reason, the tension on the Bernina has gone awry.  Before doing free motion, the tension was perfect, but when I re-set it for straight sewing, the tension is way tight and the stitching is no longer neat, but crooked.  I assume this to be operator error and when I get time I'll try to sort out the problem.  It's annoying though, I was under the impression it was difficult for an old Bernina to make anything but a perfect stitch.  Silly me!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Project 10 - Harriet's Irish Chain Variation Quilt - Onward to Quilting!


I've sorted out my quilting design for my scrappy quilt, but before I get to that, I want to mention the Hobart Quilt & Craft Fair which ran over the last 3 days.  Boy, oh boy - what a guild full of talent we have here in Tassie.  I had a blast working as a volunteer on Saturday and Sunday.  I had "white glove' duty as well as 'meet & greet".  It was loads of fun, the public loved the display and the volunteers really enjoyed themselves (well I did, and judging by all the smiling faces, the others did too).  What really impresses me, is the fact that a lot of members didn't enter a quilt - what treasures are out there which remain unseen?  I would guess that Tassie is full of quilts which are just as wonderful, diverse, imaginative and beautiful as those which were in the displays.

While I can't post pictures here, please take a look at the Tasmanian Quilting Guild website.  There is a picture of the (well deserved) winning quilt.  Check in again later to see the other winners, the photos haven't been posted to the site yet.  Congratulations Shirley Gillam on winning the Bernina Best of Show Award!!

I also want to say how impressed I was with the atmosphere in the committee room, as well as out on the floor.  The ladies were incredibly helpful no matter how busy they were (and they were running on all cylinders) and the smiles lasted throughout.  Whenever I entered the room, there was always the sound of laughter, food & drink on offer and a wonderful camaraderie all around.  I hope to be more involved next year.  I left the show with a head full of ideas - designs, colours, patterns etc - but alas no idea yet on how to convert such ideas into reality.  Which is the reason for this course - to learn the techniques so eventually I can create almost anything I can envision.  A long, long way to go yet, but every journey starts with a single step etc etc.........

Now, back to work.............  The sandwich was made, the basting done and I finished the ditch stitching this morning.  Then onto the quilting design.

Of course Quilt Shows are not just about quilts.....they are also about shopping, and although I got myself pretty well stocked up at the Melbourne show, there is always something wanting to come home with me.

This time I was happy to score some more stencils - I'm building quite a collection now.  One of these I'm using on this project - I had planned something different, but I really like how this welsh block stencil looks on this quilt.

I think the block stencil and the border stencils will work well together

What is exciting me about this design is, not only does it fit beautifully onto the block, those curved lines will all join up to make a lovely circular pattern all over the quilt. 

I've marked the centre blocks to see how it looks when they're all joined together.  Wow - I think it's fantastic!  It will give a lot of texture to the quilt, and as I've used a cotton batting, it should pucker up nicely when washed.  Now if only my quilting is up to scratch and I can pull it off!  I've had a few practice runs, and it's not a difficult design, but it's not entirely continuous either (not in a way I could figure out at least) which will make it slow going.   I don't mind slow, but I will admit to some impatience to get started on Vol 2!

 Finding the perfect marker is still an ongoing drama for me.  I added another to the collection which I found at the quilt show - Clover Trace & Mark - Extra Thick.

It also comes in Pink!

I chose this one because it's 'extra thick'.  I have trouble seeing faint, skimpy lines, so a big, fat blue marker is exactly what I'm looking for.  It worked a treat at first, but it doesn't seem to last long before it becomes faint and needs a recharge.  The first lines I marked are lots darker than the last ones *sigh*.  I also used ponce power on the dark fabrics as the blue didn't show (maybe I should have got a pink one too), then of course the marker doesn't work over the chalk. 

"My Distraction" is now back at work, the quilt show is over and tomorrow I plan to spend a blissful day in my sewing room doing the quilting.  Ahhhh - Life is Good!