A couple weeks ago I shared a review of Quick & Easy Quilting with Eleanor Burns, the Craftsy class with famed quilter Eleanor sharing her cute projects and techniques using the 'AccuQuilt Go!'. I've had a chance to watch it in more detail and one thing Ms. Burns really loves is her Brass Stiletto. Here is the answer she gave to a student's question about why she uses this tool:
"The stiletto is my best friend! I use it to pick up pieces that are layered together. If two pieces don't quite match, I use the stiletto to pull the shorter one. I pick out stitches with my stiletto. I pull out corners of a pillow after it is turned. I guide my pieces with it as I stitch. I hold down seam allowances so they don't flip down. Yep, I'm passionate about my stiletto, and can't even seem to sew if it isn't in my hand. I personally like the beautiful antique reproduction ones that are manufactured near QIAD from a friend's husband. Hope you meet my best friend."
That stiletto is in her hand every time she is at the sewing machine. After such a glowing testimonial I really figured I could use one too! I do have a plastic, rubber-tipped one but I just loved seeing Eleanor use that beautiful antique-reproduction brass one. In one of the more indulgent on-line purchases I've made, I ordered my own gorgeous brass stiletto from a great little Canadian shop I found, The Stitcher's Muse. The Stitcher's Muse Needleart is an embroidery, cross stitch, and lace making supply shop located in beautiful downtown Nanaimo, British Columbia. Unfortunately, that is approximately 4,400 km away from me - otherwise I would love to visit and see all the wonderful notions, fabrics, and supplies owner Dione van Beynum stocks. As luck would have it she immediately replied to my email (asking if she could ship me a brass stiletto) and had it packed up an in the mail that very day! What awesome service!
I was excited to see my new little notion and it is so lovely! I know it is something special that I hope to make as crucial to my stitching as Eleanor does. As Dione writes in her 'About Us' tab, "why use a utilitarian tool when you can use a beautiful one?" I totally agree with that statement and enjoy owning, using, and appreciating the fine tools I purchase - that are also wonderful to look at. I can't wait to try the stiletto out while I'm piecing and if I use it for half the things Eleanor Burns does, it will certainly be worth the investment!
A couple years ago I discovered a stitch on my Horizon that mimics hand quilting stitches and I showed a sample in my post, HERE. It looked really cool but since I was under the impression you had to snip the jump stitches, it wasn't actually a practical stitch for an entire quilt. Also, when I did get around to even trying it, I realized if you do cut the jump stitches you cause ALL the stitching to come undone! Too bad...since I am not having much luck with real hand-quilting stitches and the machine method would be fast and look great.
When I recently attended a trunk show for Janome I was reminded of the Janome Life blog. I was on there checking out some info on the new machines (!!!!) and happened upon a post on Hand Look Quilting by Machine. This was a much more detailed explanation of how to achieve the look (versus instructions I had previously got from a group forum post) and it made much more sense. Of course you don't have to cut the jump stitches! Basically, you simply use clear monofilament thread in the top and a coloured thread in the bobbin which will show up as your 'hand quilting'. The trick is to use a hand-look quilt stitch - a triple stitch followed by a single straight stitch (stitch 31 in my photo). The monofilament 'jump' stitch doesn't show and it really does look very hand done!
I tried it out with 40 weight Aurifil thread in the bobbin (I believe you could even use thicker thread than that but it's not necessary since the machine will be doing a triple stitch anyway) on a white quilt sandwich sample. I love the way it looks! The directions suggest using a special low-tension bobbin case but I don't have one of those. I just turned up the top tension as high as it would go and it seemed to work just fine. I tried this all out on my 3160 but I think it would work even better on my Horizon using the Accufeed foot and an even longer stitch length.
If your machine has this stitch and you like the look, definitely give it a try and play around with it. I think I truly will try to use this on a quilt some time - I think it would be a fun look without all that hand stitching (or snipping of jump threads!!!). There are lots of projects, techniques, and ideas on the Janome Life website whether you have one of their machines or not so check out the blog too.
I needed a break from quilting feathers and thought I'd play around with the 3160 a bit since I don't want to mess around with my Horizon, set up for my free-motion quilting. I have finished almost half of the melon quilting but it is slow going. It feels so endless! I'm also practicing the arc curlicue designs at bedtime on my magnetic doodler so I'll have the muscle memory for it when the time comes. I'm going to take a couple of days off from quilting to rest my shoulder, back, and wrists. It is very physically demanding working on a king sized quilt.
You know how much I love FREE Craftsy classes!!! They just released a new one, Machine Savvy: Tips for Creative Sewing with Linda McGehee). Sponsored by Janome, this class goes over the various specialty feet and accessories available with, or for, most modern machines. Linda also demonstrates how to actually use the feet, which is really helpful to see, especially with some of the lesser-used ones. Of course, they are showing Janome machines and all the features and benefits to their particular models.
Lessons cover tips on how to sew more accurately and how the lines on the plate can help. You learn how to do the blind hem, ideas on how to use the decorative stitches on your machine - something I think all of us with beautiful options other than a straight or zigzag stitch could get inspiration from! I got a lot of ideas!
A useful segment on making buttonholes and sewing on buttons using the machine demonstrates both features. I've already used them on my own machine and I love not sewing buttons on by hand any more! While this class is more like a trunk show for the Janome machines (and I did actually recently attend such a show so I know what they are like), it still offers a great overview of options out there on many machines and perhaps will enlighten you to what your own model has to offer. I got a few tips to try out and since the class is free to watch, and I happen to own Janome machines, it was fun for me to take.
One feature of Craftsy classes you may not be aware of is that you can watch in a speed that suits you. If you need to slow things down to absorb a particular part, you can. I personally usually watch at 1.5 speed the first time around so I can get a quick overview of the lessons and then later I slow things down when I need to pay more attention. Sometimes, if you have an instructor who speaks very slowly, you can adjust the speed of the video up a notch or two and move things along. I'm impatient and need to find out what's next as fast as possible! There is little distortion at 1.5x so it works well for me. Try it out on your next class! You can use the safe link above to directly to the free class if you'd like to add it to your My Craftsy list.
I am so pleased with the feather quilting I'm doing in the melon shapes of my Downton Abbey Double Wedding Ring quilt. They are much easier to quilt than the main feathers in the blocks were and I have had no problems with my thread breaking (so far, anyway).
It is much easier to balance and match the left and right plumes because I can see the ones I've already quilted and simply mimic the shape. Even when I have a hiccough and go off track they don't look too bad when they're done! I have only done a couple rows so far and only one half of the melon. This part is going much more quickly and I'm encouraged by my progress. I can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel!
My Frozen backing has shipped but not the quilt kit. I am anxious to have it all here and ready for me so I hope they send the rest of the order soon. I don't think it will take too long to piece the quilt(s) so I might even be able to get them done for Christmas if the fabric arrives in time.
I first made (and shared) this recipe for Penne and Italian Sausage about 4 years ago and only now got around to making it again. The first time I found that the noodles needed a bit more water to cook through but this time I had no problems and the dish turned out wonderfully!
Being able to make the pasta dinner in one pan in about 25 minutes is a great time saver. It is hearty and satisfying - there is Italian sausage, cheese, milk, and the pasta to fill you up. You can get the recipe from the milk calendar website, HERE.
It seemed like they just went on and on forever but I am FINALLY done quilting the feathers on the Double Wedding Ring quilt...blocks. Next up, I need to quilt the plumes in the melon shapes but I think that will be slightly easier and faster than the mirror-image feathers in the blocks. I figured I would get all the feather work done since I have done so many I am dreaming feathers. No problem committing that shape to muscle memory after 50,000 repetitions. The hardest ones were in the second-to-end rows because I had to fight to keep the remainder of the quilt in the machine. Overall, it was less of a problem than I imagined because the quilt is so big I could actually stick most of it in front or behind the machine and just work on a small section, allowing myself some slack for movement. However, I am certainly feeling it in my wrists and shoulders and could really use a hot tub right about now!
After the melons are quilted I unfortunately have to go back to each block once again and add some micro-stippling between the tops of the feathers. This will make the plumes pop a bit and add depth to the design. I'm not worried about that so much because I'm very comfortable with stippling on a large scale so it shouldn't be that difficult. Finally, I'm going to add some wavy curlicues in the arcs themselves and I will...be...done! I cannot wait!
In between all the quilting (and still battling shredded thread - grrrrr), I have been managing to feed the family (one daughter is back for six weeks, did I tell you that?), and another is back for this coming week, and even baking some treats like my amazing apple strudel. So that's what I've been up to - what about you?
Craftsy has a new class out, Quick & Easy Quilting with Eleanor Burns. Of course, I had heard of Eleanor Burns because she is one of the pioneers of modern day quilting, but I had never read her books or watched her teach. When I saw that Craftsy had released the new class instructed by Eleanor, and she demonstrates a project with a scalloped border, and she uses an Accuquilt GO, I thought it was my duty to take it!
Eleanor shares all her tips and tricks for quick and easy piecing and she's pretty animated doing so! While I don't own an Accuquilt die cutting machine, it is interesting to see her use it to cut multiple shapes for blocks and applique with the turn of a handle. I have a Big Shot and used that for my very first Purple Flower Quilt but haven't used it for quilting since. The dies are expensive so I never invested in any more. Use of the machine is optional and the fabric can be cut in a standard way. Projects made in the class include two wall hangings (including the one with the scalloped edge) and a quilt. There's lots of applique, flying geese, and other blocks demonstrated along with extra lessons on making bias strips, the scalloped binding, chain piecing, and pressing. You can use the link above to see the lesson contents and the materials you need to complete the projects. The Craftsy class overview is a great way to see more in-depth info about the course before you decide if you want to sign up.
As I was watching the lessons as soon when I signed up for the class, it struck me that perhaps I HAD more of a connection to Eleanor Burns than I had remembered. Sure enough, when I went to my quilt book shelf I pulled this copy of Quilt in a Day from the stack. It was published in 1986 and my mother-in-law gave it to me last year. She had actually taken a demo class at her senior resort in Arizona in '89 (the year her son and I became an official couple!!), bought the book, but then never caught the quilting bug. I thought it was sweet that she gave it to me and I love having anything 'quilty' in my stash, but I didn't think then that I would ever use the patterns given all the updated and advanced ones I have. Now I think it's great to have mother-in-law's hand-written notes from the day and it's cool to have something original from early Eleanor Burns! I might even use the instructions for pillow shams!
I took this photo as I began my quilting yesterday. I expected to share it with you and my brilliant plan to quilt identical feathers in all my DWR blocks using water soluble stabilizer. My design transfer testing was done and I finally had the gumption (and time) to actually start sewing.
Well...it didn't go well! The design was drawn well and the 505 spray was holding the stabilizer perfectly positioned on my block. My stitches flowed beautifully and I was so thrilled with the quality of the feathers. One half done...and then, my thread kept breaking! I tried over and over and could not get the second half stitched. I ended up spending the entire morning frustratingly picking out my stitches (which fortunately, we not microscopic) from the three different blocks I tried quilting. I did all the usual steps - re-threading, cleaning, and I swapped out my needles for all the different ones I thought might help: quilting, microtex sharps, metallic, larger, topstitch, etc. but still kept having problems.
After a break to visit my dealer (the JANOME dealer!), I gave one more kind of needle a try (the purple tip ones I have had success with on my 1600P and frame) but even that didn't work. Rather than beat my head against a wall repeatedly trying again, I figured the stabilizer had to be the problem - even though I know people use it for this purpose and it shouldn't present any issues - and decided I would have to sew the feathers free-hand.
I really didn't want to take my chances with my free-hand free motion quilting but felt I had no choice. I was so nervous to do the first one. I drew a mid-line through the block and a dot to aim for to indicate the top of the first, shorter feather. I haven't really done a lot of feather quilting but it actually went pretty well and I am accepting of the results. I completed the lower portion of the six centre blocks. It is going to be a challenge to do the other half of each block because I will have to stitch them upside down because I can't get the whole quilt under the needle given the throat space I have to work with. (As an aside, when I walked into my dealer I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw a Handi Quilter Sweet 16 sitting there. They are going to start carrying the brand and of course, I totally want one! I felt like casually asking if I could bring down a WIP to give it a try and then finish my whole king quilt under that 16" throat space!).
So that is the progress I have to report. I have a busy day but am feeling so excited that I finally started that I want to just stay at home and sew some more feathers. I'll worry about the upside down part when I have to and just work on the easy parts first. I think in the end it will look pretty good and even though the feathers are not exactly the same as Gail's, (I have fewer and they are differently shaped), the quilt should feel nice and soft and not look too odd. I guess I can feel proud that I really made it start to finish and the quilting is all my free-hand work, warts and all.
I had ordered some books for the family and added one more quilting book to take advantage of free shipping. Fundamentals of Freehand Longarm Quilting is by Terri L. Watson and was published just over a year ago (July 2013). Although the content sounded similar to the ABCs of Longarm Quilting book I already own, it is much newer and offers a guide for all short-,mid- and longarm machines so I thought it would offer some new information specifically for my setup.
I was a little disappointed when I opened the order because even though the book was $16 it doesn't have a lot of writing and is a paperback with only 53 pages. There are many nice photos of various machine set-ups and systems but no detailed information regarding using a smaller machine in particular. There are two pages about supplies, some basic explanations of setting up a machine and quilting, and then some examples of simple, standard free-motion designs.
I think the book is a good beginner reference and there are tips for someone thinking about longarm quilting for a business. I guess I was imagining there would be more insider information and secrets of the trade and I'm probably guilty of making things more complicated than they need be. My set-up (Grace Frame and short-arm machine) is actually right on track and the designs I've quilted are in line with those Ms. Watson shares. If anything, "reading" Fundamentals of Freehand Longarm Quilting made me want to load up my quilt and do what I already know I can - quilt!
I had brought the book to Thanksgiving but of course, it only took about 9 minutes to read through it! I produced two more Kool-Aid bags (resulting in a tired back from trying to sew on a night stand in the bedroom so as not to disturb the family), and only a few hand-quilting stitches on my project since the blue pen I traced the design with had faded so much I couldn't make out where to stitch!. The easing of the tension in the hoop did seem to help make stitching easier although I still can't get that rocking stitch working. I read a bit more of the Lena Dunham book but I really wasn't very productive at all!