Latest Playing Around

April 20th, 2015
I am really becoming a terrible blogger and it is not intentional!  I’m going to just start posting some shots of quilting I’ve done without any text just to get something up on this blog!  Here’s some fun I had last week:
 
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Playing with rulers has breathed new life into my quilting.  I am having more fun than I’ve had in years!
 
 

Free Motion Quilting and Machine Embroidery Applique

April 14th, 2015

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MEA and free motion quilting are 2 parts of quilting that I love.  What I love even more is putting them together because then it’s possible to create very rich textures and dimension on my quilts.  I tend to have many projects going at any given time and it’s easy for me to intend to do something but have it get lost in the shuffle because I have so many projects already going on.  I am happy to say that I have finally tried a new technique for me that I’ve meant to play with for a few years but never got around to it.  This involves creating MEA blocks on the embroidery machine and then free motion quilting them, but what’s different this time is that I used wool and various blended natural fiber felts for my applique shapes.  This creates an over-the-top texture once it’s quilted.   My photos don’t do this justice but here’s a shot of an 18 1/2 in square block that will become the front of a pillow:

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You might get a little better sense of the texture in this tangential shot:

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…or maybe not!  This is one of those times where I really wish you could reach through the computer screen to see/touch this because the photos really just don’t show the texture well.  In truth, the texture was kind of blowing me away throughout the entire process of making this block.  Here’s a shot of part of the block as I’d just positioned some of the felt pieces on it.  There is no embroidery at this point:

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Now check out how much dimension there is after embroidery but before quilting:

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(My heart was beating  a lot faster once I got to that point!)  I couldn’t help but go for a little more texture so I added a trapunto layer to the quilted motif in the center.  Here’s what the backside looked like once I’d cut away extra stabilizer and excess batting (aka right before it went into the final quilt sandwich):

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All of the various pieces of applique were first outlined with invisible thread, as was the center motif that was trapuntoed.  Then I added those 4 curved arc structures using the Westalee Ruler foot on my Pfaff sewing machine.  I haven’t had much time to play with this foot yet, but from my limited time with it, I have to say that I fell in love with it!  I hyperquilted the feathers inside those arcs:

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…and then quilted the feathers in the outer zones.  I am now hooked on the texture that comes with using wool and felts.  I have a bunch of the bamboo/rayon felt that National Nonwovens put out many years ago and I guess I need to get my act in gear and finally dye that stuff up!

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I Had to Try It!

April 5th, 2015
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If you have followed my blog for awhile, then you’ve probably been waiting for  a post about modifying the Janome ruler foot into an open toe foot for ruler work.  It’s been on my “to-do” list for months but we just now got around to trying it!  I am happy to say that it was very easy to do and works like a charm as an open toe foot.  We could have removed more material than we did, but I wanted my first attempt to be conservative.  (We’ll be more bold on the NEXT foot we modify, and there will be a NEXT foot!!)  With the modification we did, I can actually use all 4 sides of my foot, even running the ruler directly across the opening without causing any distortion of the foot or of the stitched line.  This is because I left my opening fairly small, but the next foot we cut into will have a larger opening so we can test the limits of this modification.
 
To do this, mount the foot on your machine and then using  a Sharpie marker, mark where the center of the foot is and how wide you want the opening to be.  In my case, I deliberately cut my slit just a tad to the right of center, because I am less likely to have my ruler on that side.  Here’s a shot of my pre-marked foot:
 
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Load your Dremel tool with the “Cut-Off Wheel” as shown below:
 
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Mount the ruler toe into a vice to hold it steady during cutting:
 
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And next you start cutting.  This cut very, very quickly and did not distort the symmetry of the foot at all (this was one of my worries pre-procedure.)  And here it is mounted on my Pfaff:
 
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 I can now SEE my needle and pull my thread tails out of the way.  I am one happy girl, thanks again to a very nice and talented husband!

Thrilling!

April 2nd, 2015
 
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I can’t begin to describe how thrilling it is to watch as a new block design is being stitched out for the very first time!  Seeing the layout and all the special stitching literally come to life in front of your eyes is mind-blowing for me.  Here’s a little slice of what I got to watch unfold in front of me over the last couple days.  First up is after the first hooping:
 
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…and I got even more excited when I saw how it looked after the 2nd hooping:
 
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And here was the scene after the 3rd hooping:
 
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And this next one is after the fourth and fifth  hoopings:
 
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Pretty colorful, huh?  The last 2 hoopings were adding the 3 tail feathers onto each bird.  Here’s hooping 6:
 
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Arghh!!  My photo of the finished block came out really weird!  Dang!  I’ll get some new photos once I have daylight again and I’ll post them later.  I think I only need to make a couple changes and then this block will be done!  Love, love, love how it’s coming out!
 

Using up What’s at Hand and 2 New Rulers in the Store

March 26th, 2015

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One thing that happens when you are developing new machine embroidery applique designs is that you end up with tons of quilt blocks, and I mean TONS!  That shot above was from about 2 1/2 years ago when I was creating the blocks for the Harmonic Song Birds Quilt, and I would guess that I now have about 6-7 times this amount of blocks and borders.  This happens because you end up testing the embroidery file and often times end up making small adjustments to them and you have to stitch out a new block each time you make a change.  When I do this, sometimes I have a specific use for the block and make it in fabrics/colors that will coordinate for a specific project.  Other times, I have no idea what I’ll use it for in the short term and end up with lots of blocks that will be used for something down the road.  In the last 6 weeks, I’ve been working on some quilts that use up some of my “test blocks.”  I’m quilting a small wall hanging now that began with this old MEA block in the center and then I threw some setting triangles around it:

 

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I recently tested out a series of files using the Appli-K-Kutz Large Feather die for a border design so I have lots of these feather borders lying around as well:

 

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(Those cross-hairs in the center come out before the block gets used; they are how I align the block on the stabilizer.)  I added these borders and some cornerstone blocks and pieced this wall hanging:

 

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I started out by outlining all the applique shapes with invisible thread:

 

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And then moved on to some ruler work.  I’m still quilting this, but I’ve really had fun playing with the Line Tamer Ruler on this quilt.  This is a variation of the straight edge long arm ruler in that it has a channel routed out through the center of the ruler:

 

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By placing your ruler foot inside the channel, you have tremendous control over your lines.  Here’s a shot of what I’m trying to describe:

 

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Can you see the fine white lines on the blue/green fabric?  All I had to do was place the Line Tamer so the white line ran down the center of that channel, and I had beautiful lines that created a quilting design that ran across the center block and into the setting triangles.  I also used the Line Tamer when I was creating the framing design around this star:

 

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I know it doesn’t look like much in this early photo, but once I finished all the framework and then added some “filler” designs inside some of the channels, the quilting around the center star came out looking really neat:

 

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You can also use the Line Tamer just like you would a “regular” straight line ruler by holding the edge up against your ruler foot (notice that this ruler has etched lines both near the channel as well as on both sides of the ruler).  All I can say is that I LOVE MY LINE TAMER!!  I love it so much that we just picked it up in our online store and you can find it by clicking here.  I am also smitten by another ruler called the 4 Way Radical Ruler by Dusty Farrell.  Here’s what it looks like:

 

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It has 4 different circular arcs and 1 double arc.  It’s very easy to hold this ruler and it’s very hard to hold small circles in place as you quilt around them, so this is a big plus!  I have just barely started uncovering all that one can do with this ruler, but I’ve made some really pretty border designs with it.  Here are just a few.  The “plain” mini swag:

 

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…and this is after I went back in and added filler inside those miniswags:

 

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Those colors don’t photograph very well, so here’s a clearer shot from my scrap piece when I was making up this design:

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I have 2 more variations of this one border and I haven’t even sat down and really “tried” to come up with ideas yet!  Here’s one more example from this ruler…I made this one by combining 2 of the circle sizes and then going in to add filler once the baseline 2-tiered swag border had been stitched.  This border is much deeper than the earlier ones:

 

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Ooh-la-la!  I could play with these rulers all day!  You can find the 4-Way radical ruler in our online store by clicking here.  And one more thing…if you’re anywhere near the Philadelphia area Fri and Sat of this week, I’m teaching at Steve’s Sew and vac in King of Prussia, PA, so give them a call!  You can find their site by clicking here.