Ruler Work to Create Fancy Frame Designs

February 10th, 2016
I’ve done previous blog posts about creating fancy frame designs but this one is a bit different.  In this case, I created a curvy/wurvy frame using ruler work, and then I embellished it heavily with plumes.  My photos did not come out so great, but they are all that I have to illustrate the process, so we’re going to need to make do.  This is the final piece:
To make a fancy frame for the feathered wreath, I started with the Turrets 3 ruler.  I’ll be blogging more about turret rulers, but they are basically a family of rulers that were designed primarily to create really beautiful swag border types of designs, but they also work great for creating fancy frames.  Here is a shot of what the Turrets 3 ruler that I used for this design looks like:
(I’m hoping to have these available in the store in the next week or so, but we’ve gotten kind of distracted by some family emergencies, so we’ll see.)  The  left and right sides of the ruler are essentially “positive” and “negative” cutouts of the same shape.  The ruler has etched lines so you can create a series of channels and there are other series of lines that allow you to accurately “keep your place” when you move the ruler to stitch the opposite side of the swag or frame.  Anyway, this next photo shows the most basic “bones” of the frame stitched around the wreath:
Not really much to write home about yet, is there?  (Notice also that I have my famous soap lines dividing up the block.  I pretty much always have all of them there, even though I may not use all of them.  It just helps me keep my options option.)  Next up is the frame once I’ve stitched an echo line to create the first channel:
Now she’s starting to look a bit more interesting, and THAT is the power of channels!  Remember my mantra, more channels=more intricacy=more interesting!  Anyway, in this next shot, I’ve stitched another channel and begun to add some plumes around it.  This is where my challenge came.  This frame is symmetric from top to bottom as well as from 1 side to the other, but it is not 100% symmetric in all 4 quadrants.  I needed to find a way to add my plumes in a flowing design that would maintain my “half-symmetry” state!  As you look at the next shot, notice the new curved soap lines that flow in mirror image pairs from the frame.  Creating curves like this, that can be followed as the plumes are added, is the secret here:
…and here is a closeup shot of the base  frame once the plumes have been added to each side:
(You can see that I didn’t do a very good job of stitching those plumes as mirror images of one another from one side to the other, yet this will still come out looking pretty cool by the end!)  And here is the frame once all plumes have been added:
I felt like I needed to accentuate the edges of the frame so I added pebbles around the edge in a highly contrasting color:
 …and in the end, I added the fingertips design to fill the center zone by the wreath, and then added some doodly-quilting for the very outside:
I’m linking up to Amy Johnson’s “Ruler Work Rocks Link-Up,” so get over there and link up your own post as well!!

A Tip and a Product Review

February 5th, 2016
I have been very disappointed in the suction cup magnets that are sold to hold small scissors on the sewing machine because the suction cups seem to fail really often.  That kind of thing drives me nuts!  But, I came up with a cheap work-around a couple months ago and have been using it on multiple machines and it has never failed on any machine.  Here’s a shot on my Pfaff:
…and here’s a shot on my George:
You can set this up yourself really easily.  I use the super small command strips that come in a packet of  20 and I use 1 small rare earth magnet.  (These are super-strong magnets that are very small.)  You can find them pretty easily nowadays and I think I bought mine at Harbor Freight and Tool.  Here’s what the supplies look like:
(There are several magnets left in that packet, so know that they are pretty small.)  You only need a small piece of that Command adhesive, so feel free to trim it if you’d rather have less of it showing.  The nice thing about the command strip is that it comes off easily by pulling the tab, and it leaves no residue.  (Don’t be distracted by the small plastic clips in that photo above; you don’t use those clips in this system, only the adhesive strips.  Those clips are great, though, for holding power cords, etc from lights attached to the sewing machine.)  Here’s a shot of the setup without any scissors attached:
2/6/16 Addendum:  I have received 2 emails of concern about the risk of placing strong magnets near a computerized sewing machine.  Here is a copy of the email from Mary Ann:
I just read in another blog that those small magnets are disruptive to electronic equipment. Mary Corbet at needlenthread blog wrote: Another con: if you use electronic equipment around your embroidery – camera, smart phone, tablet – a neodymium magnet can cause damage to those things. Craft magnets that are a lot weaker aren’t too dangerous, but the very strong neodymium magnets can cause problems with electronics. I’m always very aware of the location of my magnets in relation to my camera and the like.  Just be careful around that very expensive quilting/sewing machine.
I’m not really sure what to think about all this.  I proceeded with my magnet system because this question had come up in a class at a Pfaff dealer some time ago, and the dealer said it was not something to worry about.  In truth, I have heard from other sources that it can be a problem, but I guess I figured that it was ok because this dealer said it was.  When I read about it on the internet, I am seeing some contradictory info, so I’m not sure what is right.  If you are thinking about doing this with your machine, please talk with your dealer first to get his/her advice about the safety of it with your machine.  My husband does woodworking and he has these very heavy lights that attach to his machines with very large, very heavy magnets and he has never been told not to place these onto computerized woodworking machines; they are sold and marketed for that very purpose!  For myself, I think I will leave these up on the machines that have them since nothing bad has happened in the many months they’ve been in place, but I will not place them on any other machines. 
Next, I wanted to let you know about a product I started using 4-5 months ago.  It’s called The Thread Director and here’s what  it looks like:
Thread Director 2
This is a small gizmo that fits onto your bobbin winder base in order to create a new spool holder that orients the spool in a completely different orientation.  The reason I got this was because on my Ellisimo, I have trouble sometimes with mini-cone shaped spools like this one:
It happens mainly when I’m embroidering, but the thread can get hung up between the spool’s tip and the spool cap and when it does, really bad stuff happens. I mean, REALLY bad suff happens!!  So, by adding a new spool holder in a different orientation that stems from the bobbin winder, that problem is solved:
…and here’s a closeup shot so you can see it better:
It’s easy to put on and take off (easy-to-follow directions come with it, as well as a few spool caps in various sizes), but I just leave it in place except when I need to wind a bobbin.  This is a generic alternative spool holder, made for all kinds of domestic sewing machines, not just Babylock.  We recently started carrying it in our store and you can find it by clicking here.  In the mean time, keep quilting and enjoy the weekend!  I am hoping for some quality time for quilting…

Ruler Work and Feathers

January 29th, 2016
I spent some time playing around today and never got to finish what I was making, but the photo above shows where I left off.  I learn a lot when I just get some play time with a quilt sandwich and have the goal of just playing, not really trying to make anything in particular.  I always begin by making soap lines from each corner to the opposite corner and from the center of each side to the center of the opposite side:
These soap lines will guide me in keeping my design “clean” and symmetric as I come up with new layers of design.  This afternoon, I started by creating 3 concentric circles and the outline of a large “daisy:”
In this case, the largest circle does not quite meet up with the bases of those petals.  I find I can get away with this in situations where I want  to enlarge a space I want to fill with a featherette.  I then added a small featherette inside the “petals.”  You can make these fairly symmetric by:
-always stitching the center plume first; and
-using the bumpback feather stitching method as you add on the plumes to each side.  In this shot you can see what I mean:
…and in this shot, all those original petal shapes have been filled with featherettes and the design is already beginning to look interesting.  This is the power of featherwork:
In the photo above, do you notice that the outermost circle is darker and more “definitive” appearing than the others?  This is because I used that circle as my “travel line” as I moved from the base of one featherette to the next.  This way, I could do all that work in one thread line.  Next, I swapped to a different thread color, (this isn’t necessary but is part of my “thread-lusting affliction”), and I stitched 4 featherettes inside the next zone:
In this case, I used a heart shape for the center position, and I oriented my outermost plumes so they leaned in for a kiss with the neighboring plume.  I did this so the overall design would be a bit more interesting than just having similar featherettes in all the zones.  I wanted to finish up the center section of this design, so I  used an arc ruler and my soap lines to make a small  indented “box,” and then threw a featherette inside that box:
At this point, the design is just shy of 9 inches in diameter, so it would work in blocks from about 9 1/2 in square up to blocks that were 12 inches square.  Not bad for a little playing around in the afternoon!  My next moves won’t look too good yet, because I ran out of time, but I’ll show you the next 2 steps I took.  I used an arc ruler to create indented triangles that sprang from this center design (note that there is a solitary line for the triangles in the first photo but in the 2nd photo, there are 2 lines with a channel between them for  these triangles.  I point this out because taking the time to add that second channel really makes the design so much more interesting):
and now with 2 lines and one channel:
In my final move, I used the basic freeform feather method to stitch a straight feather inside each indented triangle:
I have some ideas about how to finish this up, so hopefully I will get to it in the next few days!

Hello From the Sewing Room!

January 26th, 2016
I have not posted in ages because I got so tied up with the stuff of life that I have not had any time to sew or quilt.  Don’t you just hate it when that happens?!  I’m happy to say that I am now making up for lost time and plan to fully immerse myself in all things fabric and thread for the foreseeable future.  This picture below is of my main cutting/marking table in NC:
I posted this picture because it has literally been EONS since the last time it was clear enough to have this much exposed (aka “use-able”) space!  I look at that space and think “all systems are go, go, GO” in my sewing world now!  My first project is to finish piecing the top I’m making from several test stitch-outs of an embroidered wreath that has a few variations in edge stitching and in interior designs.  Here’s a shot of one so you know what I mean:
In this next shot, they have all been joined together and I used a reddish/purple mottled fabric for the corner and side-setting triangles:
I used a large square ruler to trim off the excess fabric (I always make my triangles too large and then cut them down after piecing):
I then added a mottled gold fabric border around the whole thing to set off the colors better.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of it at that stage.  I’ve been working on creating 4 MEA cornerstone blocks that will be the “join” for 4 wide outer borders.  Here is one as it is being appliqued/embroidered on my Babylock Ellisimo:
I decided to add an alternate tulip colorway in 2 of the 4 blocks.  Here are the first 2 finished:
…and now I have finished all 4:
I am deliberately making this outer border really wide.  I like to challenge myself with my free motion quilting and in my world right now, that means coming up with free motion work that couples ruler work with fun freehand free motion quilting.  For this design, I am creating a 9 1/2 inch wide border and because I really want the quilting to show, I need to use a fabric that is not busy at all or the quilting won’t show.  I’m using a mottled “blurple” fabric (that’s what I call a purple that has more blue than red):
and here is what the final quilt top looks like:
 (Sorry, my designs walls have quilts-in-progress so my only choice is to lay it out on the floor)  I’ll give you a sneak peak at some of my preliminary ideas about that outer border quilting:
Can’t wait, but that is likely months away…on to the next project!

Birds of Paradise Quilt-Part II

January 8th, 2016
This is my second post about quilting this quilt and the focus will be on the next 2 sections.  (These photos were taken in a different room with different lighting than my last post’s photos.  The center block is a purple, not the blue that it looks like here.)  The first section is this narrow medium blue border.  It holds an elongated featherette that springs from the center:
If you create this using the bump-back feather technique, you’ll end up with plumes that are fairly symmetric.  This type of border is easy to do as long as you begin in the center with either a teardrop or heart shape.  (The key is to start with a central shape that has a narrow top and wider bottom.  This is because it’s easy to reflect plume after plume off a center shape with those features.)  Another great feature of this border is that it has an easy way to “handle” the corners.  As you can see in this next photo, you just draw a temporary miter line along the diagonal of the corner and this is where your last plumes from each side “kiss:”
(You can see that in the tiny gold square in the corner.) 
This narrow blue border is only about 1 1/4 in wide, so that means the plumes are too small to hyperquilt. But, if you have a little wider border, you can hyperquilt those plumes just like you would on other types of feathers.  You can kind of see that in this next photo from the “My Thistle Garden” quilt.  The baseline design was a featherette exactly like the one in the blue border above, but it was wide enough for hyperquilting of the plumes, and I stitched heart inlining inside each plume:
The next section is formed by the 4 corner setting triangles.  After all the applique shapes had been outlined with invisible thread, I did the background quilting.  In this case, I used a  rayon thread with variegations of green in the igloos design:
At the base of the birds is a small flower.  I like how the embroidered details add some dimension to it:
The birds have a cool edge finishing design.  This is an example of a dual-edge finishing design.  If you look closely along the edge of the birds, the outermost edge is a one-sided scallop and the inner edge has outlines of small half circles in one thread and then a tiny “bead” of thread in another color:
In “real life,” those thread beads really look 3D and you want to reach out and touch them.
My favorite part of this section are the headdresses on the birds.  Normally, I free motion quilt the headdress, but by doing it as an embroidered feature when it’s just in the “block stage,” the headdress detail is really magnified and it also takes on a 3-D effect since the thread is not pulled down into the batting:
Can you see why I’ve had so much fun working on this quilt?  In Part III, I’ll tell you how to do the next 2 sections.  Until then, happy quilting!