Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tension Headaches - A Common Complaint?

If there's one complaint I've heard the most from customers about machine quilting it's the thread tension. I know many other machine quilters read this blog so I'll offer a few insights and hopefully some help. Tension is a headache! There, I've said it. I've had times when no matter what I try the tension seems off. Most often it's the bobbin tension that is the struggle. If you have a different color of thread in the bobbin from the top and the tension isn't right, it can be a nightmare. I recently had a customer drop off a quilt that she didn't take to her usual machine quilter because she said the tension on the bobbin thread is always too tight and she wants this quilt quilted with the backing fabric on top (so the bobbin thread will be what shows on the top). That set the bar pretty high to get that quilt's tension right.
So here's a few hints:
--find a type and brand of thread (or a couple of types) that run well on your machine and stick with those. I only venture into other kinds of thread when I really have the time to work with something different. My favorites are Perma-core by A & E and Aurifil.
--test out tension if it's a new thread or if there are other factors (batiks, thin battings, applique work, fabric content other than cotton, etc.) I keep a test piece close by and sometimes also test right at the edge of the quilt (not on the actual top).
--keep a bobbin case set for different kinds of thread. I use some bottom line thread and have a bobbin case just set for that thread. It's so fine that my bobbin needs to be different than for most other threads.
--don't be afraid to experiment with tension settings. Start with either bobbin or top and set it really loose and then tighten it up by moving the tension dials ever so slightly. Same with the bobbin, tighten the screw just a fraction. Keep testing it out on a scrap of fabric. I always use high contrast threads in top and bobbin so I can see what is happening when I'm adjusting tension.
--check to be sure everything is functioning properly. If you have mis-threaded somewhere that will most likely affect the tension. If your bobbin case has a burr or is just really worn it will affect your tension. (I struggled for months with tension and finally bought a new bobbin case and instantly the tension issue was solved).

Hopefully that will be helpful to someone and those tension headaches can be avoided.

Reproduction Quilt

I have always liked reproduction fabric. Maybe it's because I always secretly wished to be born in an earlier generation. I like old things so my nostalgia about reproduction fabric fits right in. This is a customer's quilt for a wedding. It needs to be in the mail by Friday. I struggled over what to do for awhile last night and finally just decided to start and go with my gut level instinct. Usually what I first see to put on a quilt in terms of design ends up being the best. When this quilt first arrived, there was a photo with it from the pattern and most of the quilt was cross-hatched. I do not like cross-hatching. Actually I like how it looks on a quilt, but the work and time it takes to do it causes me to dislike it a lot. Also, just cross-hatching the whole quilt wouldn't add much interest in the quilting design. Some straight line work, though, would add to the geometric look with the nine patches and sashing. So as you can see by the photos my designs are laid down for the whole quilt. Now I just need about a full day of quilting to complete this masterpiece.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Week's Work

This quilt has been on my longarm for a week and it's finally done. It was a lot of work, but the main reason it ended up being on my longarm so long was because of the little circles in the pink and purple areas. I could only stand to do those for 15 to 20 minutes at a time before it drove me nuts! It's kind of mindless work, but hard on the hands and wrists. The quilt did turn out really nice but I'm mostly glad this week's work is done.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Needing some quiet

I'm home all alone right now -- it's actually pretty unusual for the that to happen, especially on a Saturday night. I went with the family to a game night, but after one game I felt just tired of people, games, conversation, etc. Since we were only a few blocks from home, I walked home.
You see, I spent the morning at the community garden with lots of community people, putting the final soil in the raised beds. Then the community garden team had lunch for all the renters. I met lots of people today, had lots of conversations -- I've just used up my words for the day. What I really feel like doing is curling up with a good book and a cup of tea -- and a whole house to myself for hopefully several hours. That sounds like a good evening.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Gardening, applique and noteworthy quilt

Spring seems to be in full bloom right now which means summer gardening is about to begin. I can't wait. Yesterday I went a bought a new compost bin. That was exciting! It's already partially filled with chicken manure and straw. Today I went to The Garden Corner, my favorite place for gardening ideas, plants, etc. and bought asparagus, blueberries, and seed potatoes. I hope to plant them all tomorrow.
I've also been working many long hours on the community garden. It has been so fun. The enthusiasm from the community and my team of 12 who are working on this with me is wonderful. The funding is in (all $4,000.) to develop the garden, the garden plots are all rented (with a waiting list of 15 people), and even the garden class tomorrow has a high enrollment. There's many out there who want to garden and this community garden will meet many needs. You can check out the community garden website at
My goal of appliqueing four leaves everyday worked until I ran out of leaves. I have new ones cut out and will do a post on my favorite way of appliqueing soon. So I'm behind the 4 a day by two days already -- probably won't catch up, but when the leaves are ready, I'll get back to my goal.
A customer's quilt won best of show in a shop hop contest. She emailed me the news and photo of the quilt. If you want to see it, scroll down to the pie quilt. It was really cute and I'm glad she won!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

New York Beauty Quilt

I've had this customer quilt in my studio for awhile. I didn't want to start it until I was pretty sure what I would do and really had the time with no pressure to devote to quilting it. It's a beautiful batik quilt. This is a photo of the top part (just the beginning of quilting). I'll post more when it's done. I think it's going to turn out beautiful.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Challenge to Finish A Quilt

I have a quilt that I made almost 2 years ago for our bed. I love the way it has turned out. There is one problem, though, the applique still needs to be finished. I really like to do applique work, but this one seems like it's taking me forever. So I made myself a challenge: do 4 leaves every day for 24 days and then finish the flowers and in one month the quilt should be done and ready to be quilted. I know I probably can't work on it everyday but I have to get this done!! Last night I did 4 leaves and today, I've already done one. Three more to go before I can go to bed!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Studio Anniversary

I just realized today that it's been one year since I moved to my new studio. The elation I feel when I walk through that door is still there. To have over double the space from my old little studio--what a blessing. I can sew in my studio instead of at the dining room table or a table set up somewhere else. My studio can double as a guest room when needed. In fact it was a guest room for two over Thanksgiving. But best of all to me is the windows. There are five windows that all look out at the backyard. I can see my garden. I can see the start of the hydrangea I propagated that is planted right below one window. I can watch my kids play basketball on the court that is just feet away (sometimes too close when the balls are really flying). Because the studio is an addition to our home I can even see into the living and dining area of the main part of the house. It faces east so early in the morning there's often the view of a beautiful sunrise. It is a wonderful room! It's also painted one of my favorite colors - candy apple green (a slightly lighter shade). I have a favorite quilt on the wall -- Leah's Spring. I found a kitchen wheeled cart that is the perfect height for a cutting table and because it has wheels it can be moved around. It's a perfect space. And now it's been a year since I've been in there -- I better go celebrate by sewing something!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

What's For Dinner?

Just about everyday the question arises -- what's for dinner? I do make a menu when I grocery shop and sometimes I stick to it. When I make the menu it's up to two weeks before we actually have the dinner and by then, so much has happened in the kitchen that what I had planned is totally changed. I made a sweet potato dish for Easter weekend dinner and had lots left over. I don't think it was because people didn't like it as much as I had way too much! So I've had this bowl of leftover sweet potatoes. Today I found a soup recipe online that uses sweet potatoes. It's a vegetable soup that has no meat. I probably will make bread too, at least I know that part of the dinner will be a hit. S0 the question is answered -- soup is for dinner.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pinwheel Quilt

Here's a customer quilt that I really like. I used this same line of fabric at Christmas for a quilt I made for a gift. It's a Moda line and the colors are just beautiful. The quilt turned out really nice even though it ended up being way more hours than I had anticipated when I gave the customer the quote. Oh well, better to have a quilt go out the door with extra work and even better than it came in then to do a less then expected job. I tend to use the design in the cream rectangles pretty frequently when I want to put a design in a sashing area. This quilt had a large pieced area in the center of the backing. There were a couple times that I could feel that the seams had come together on both top and back and made it almost too bulky for the needle to pass through. There was one time the needle refused to go, so that block pattern is slightly off. Fortunately it was in a very patterned area so would be hard even for me to find. This was number 1,010 quilt completed!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Waiting for thread to arrive

I have a lot of thread. I use many different kinds. There isn't just one kind of thread for my machine. But wouldn't you know it, my next two quilts require a color of thread that is not on my shelf. So I ordered thread. I had hoped to start one of these quilts tomorrow, but the thread has not arrived. So what to do? I really don't want to jump ahead to another quilt. The next after these two is quite complicated. It's paper pieced, very intricate in detail work and so will be on my machine for probably most of a week. Well, if the thread doesn't arrive in tomorrow's mail, I'll have to do something. I can't waste quilting time.