Friday, 29 July 2011

Thread Wise

This post is about thread choices. I could have called it thread 'whys' as I'll be explaining which threads I used in this last quilt and why I used them.

I pieced the top with MasterPiece thread on top and in the bobbin. Why? Masterpiece is 100% extra-long staple , really grown in Egypt cotton. I like to match the fibre content of the thread and the fabric here in the piecing process. The pieced seams in a quilt are the weight bearing seams. Think about hanging up a completed quilt or shaking the wrinkles out of a quilt. What seams are bearing the most weight? In a house not all walls are load bearing walls. In a quilt not all stitches bear the same stress. Lots of people get their knickers in a twist about various types of quilting thread. But it is the pieced seams that are the stress bearing seams. And if we want to match the thread fibres to the fabric fibres, it is most important to do this for the pieced seams. MasterPiece will bear up well against the various stresses in the life of a quilt. With 75 gorgeous colours it's easy to get a good colour match. MasterPiece is a fine weight thread, not too heavy or bulky so it gives nice flat seams and sharp points. I find MasterPiece an ideal piecing thread.

MasterPiece comes in pre-wounds! I love pre-wounds because I hate winding bobbins. Pre-wounds can hold 3 times as much thread as the bobbins that you wind yourself and they work great in most sewing machines, my Janome Memory Craft 6600 work great with pre-wounds.

Because the cotton fibres are matched in the piecing thread I am free to use whatever threads suit my fancy for the machine quilting. For this project I've used Rainbows, a variegated trilobal polyester from Superior Threads. All the fibres that make up this thread are light reflecting which gives Rainbows a lovely shine to it. This particular thread is #803 Northern Lights.

I've used a pre-wound Bottom Line in the bobbin, a soft blue which disappears into the pieced backing fabric. Rainbows and Bottom Line are a machine quilting marriage made in heaven. They work beautifully together!

Finally, for sewing the binding by machine, I've used Sew Fine on top and a pre-wound Bottom Line in the bobbin. Then to hand sew the final stage of the binding I used a red Bottom Line to match the binding colour. The Bottom Line is just wonderful for hand sewing - it disappears into the fabric and it never knots up. I find it a real pleasure to hand sew with.

In summary, I've used a mixture of cotton and polyester threads in the quilt. The choices have to do with the piecing and quilting process as well as the look and durability of the end product. I'm confident that it will wash and wear well and I'm delighted with how it looks.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Retreat Feedback

Meet Jan! She’s emailed me some feedback from our July retreat and is happy for me to share it with you. Jan has been machine quilting with a JUKI TL98-P sewing machine on a New English Quilter frame for a couple of years now. She’s recently started a City & Guilds course and came to the retreat hoping to improve her machine quilting skills.

"I have enjoyed my weekend with you, Trudi, Anne and Jan immensely. I am finding it rather difficult to put into words how I feel about the weekend, so my thoughts are a bit random....I came along not really knowing what to expect. Knowing that Trudi was going to be there, and being an avid reader of her blog, I had in the back of my mind, the hope that I could improve my quilting skills. I needed to move on from loop-the-loop, loops and daisies, stippling etc, into something a little more complex. Maybe not the 'famous feathers' that Trudi produces, but moving that way.

Finding Anne there with her artistic background was an unexpected bonus. Anne's art-quilt opened up new directions for me. It gave me ideas to progress for my City & Guilds course, and made me think about how I could use my frame in other ways. I enjoyed the amount of time I was able to play on the frame. And the paper roll is essential (imo), in order to make a start, and see where you are aiming. And equally essential is having a little piece of something to bring home. My husband was fascinated to see what we had been up to, so it was great being able to show him our slice of sampler.

I came along with very few expectations - as we all agreed, part of the treat was simply being away and being looked after. I hoped I would improve my quilting skills - I have. I now feel confident that I can get on and produce some quilting of a higher quality. I can also quilt right-to-left. I learnt how to roll the fabric whilst leaving the needle in position. I learnt how not to over-tighten the top. I learnt how to look after my Juki. And I learnt about the qualities of thread.
I think that the amount of time on the frame was just right for me. If it had been less, I think that I may have got bored. As you know, I am very easy-going, but I do like to 'get on'. Maybe not in the same realm as Trudi and MadBird Anne, but my nick-name of Miss WhizzyKnickers is not for nothing! So, do I think I got VFM (value for money). Yes I do.
Where to go from here? I think that if you are going to offer more Retreats, then maybe you should offer a similar retreat to the one's run so far as 'Stage One'. And then maybe you could develop a 'Stage Two' retreat, maybe tackling a small, simply pieced project that could be used as a sampler for a variety of quilting techniques. Anyway, I do think there is room to go forward. Hope all this rambling helps!"

Jan from East Yorkshire

We are planning to continue our retreats next fall. We're keen on offering a stage 2 retreat on feathering. Let us know if you have any other suggestions for retreat topics and we'll post some upcoming retreat dates when we get back from Birmingham.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Art Quilter in residence

We were very fortunate to have an art quilter(textile artist) attending each of our first two Machine Quilter Retreats. Art Quilters are so much fun, quirky and creative, they think outside the box and kept us in stitches! We decided that having an 'art quilter' on retreat was going to have to be mandatory. So when a space opened up for the July retreat, I invited Anne Smithies back as our 'art quilter' in residence.

Anne, having attended the May retreat, decided she would use the weekend to get on with her own projects. She brought some paints and a white piece of fabric. Just after breakfast in the morning sunshine , Anne created a simple colour wash with acrylic paints as the backdrop for a beach scene. Then she used simple objects, bits of card and wood, the tip of a paint brush, the cap of a marker to stencil flower shapes on the fabric with blue paint. Anne let it dry in the sunshine, then ironed it to set the colours.

Next, Anne loaded the top with some backing and wadding on a 4 foot Art Quilter frame. Anne used the frame just like as easel, to support her 'canvas'. Now the sewing machine needle became a brush which Anne used to paint with thread.

It was amazing watching the beach scene evolve as Anne added texture shape and colour with the various threads. Then Anne moved on to the 'still life' flowers, adding detail with line and colour and texture to the background. The incredible thing was just how quickly and simply it came together. As the rest of us more traditional quilters watched Anne work throughout the day we felt liberated. We felt confident that we would be able to put into practice what Anne had demonstrated for us. Anne's creativity is infectious! I'll be posting more about her in the future and we hope to have some of her textile projects on show at the Festival of Quilts!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Festival of Quilts - F49

School is finally finished! And the Festival of Quilts is just around the corner! We're busy gearing up for our favourite quilt show. The Festival of Quilts runs from Thursday August 11th until Sunday August 14th. You can find us at Stall F 49 near the European Quilter's Cafe.

As usual we will be featuring the JUKI TL 98 P on our New English Quilter frames. There will be an exciting selection of the large cones of Superior Threads ideal for machine quilting.

If you're looking for something small and portable, try our new Art Quilter 4 and 6 foot frames. We've used quintessentially English deck chair fabric for the leaders on the 4 foot Art Quilter.

If larger quilts are your passion we have our new updated NEQ2 built longer and stronger to accommodate the bigger king sized quilts. Martha and Emily and Trudi Wood will be on hand to demonstrate and answer any questions. We're hoping that NEQ owners will pop round with 'show and tell' projects to inspire us all. We look forward to seeing new and old friends at the Festival stand F 49!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

July Retreat

We just finished our 3rd machine quilter's retreat today. Trudi, Martha, Anne, Jan and Jan! One of our activities was to make a practice piece to audition various threads and line designs. We wanted to have lots of time on the frame and this gave everyone the chance to practice new designs and audition threads at the same time.

At the end of the weekend, we cut up the practice piece and everyone got a slice. It was good to have something to take home to remind us about the different threads. It was a good sample of our different styles of quilting too! Here we are pointing to our favourite bit of the slice.

Here's Trudi - "Speak to me only with thine eyes." These were her favourite bits.

Jan took a swirly design and elongated it until it looked like a water lily! We liked her version better than the original.

This is Jan too, it was her very first time ever machine quilting on a frame and she produced this lovely flower. What a great start! I'm going to post about Anne tomorrow.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011


I love art quilters! They tend to think outside the box and come up with quirky ideas. Personally, I'm fond of quirky! My art quilter friend Anne was visiting a couple of weeks ago. We were talking about recycling demo practice pieces. I mentioned that I cut them up and pass them out at shows so quilters have something tactile to walk away with. Anne suggested making cards. So I gave her some scraps from my basket, and Anne made me some cards and told me to go make some of my own.

So I did. I had a practice piece left over from a demo so Emily and I spent twenty minutes filling in the un-quilted spaces. We scaled down the design so small pieces would look interesting. I've put a pin on this one to give you a sense of the scale.

This was fun. I can't wait to cut it to bits and make some cards of my own. I just love leftover recipes!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Happy 4th of July

We took these photos while Emily and I were window shopping on the last day of our trip to Parma, Italy. I loved the flag on the back of the polo shirt. I'm going to try to create something similar on the frame.

The shop windows were gorgeous! And I couldn't resist this clever American flag made from Converse shoes. Happy 4th everyone!

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Waiting for the serve

We're not huge sports fans in our family. But we do enjoy the tennis, especially Wimbledon. We were enjoying the men's finals today. Watching the games I notice this moment of tension waiting for the serve. The crowds get quiet and the player gets in position rocking slightly back and forth, poised to go in any direction to return the serve. Now I realize that quilting is not a sport! But sometimes we forget that it is a physical activity. We can certainly learn from the pros to get the most out of our own performance.

I like to use this 'waiting for the serve' to illustrate a good technique for machine quilting on a frame. When we are standing at the frame concentrating on our quilting it is easy to get tense. Our bodies stiffen up and our feet seem to get rooted to the floor. All the tension can make us stiff and our movements jerky. Then instead of moving with the pattern we lean until we just can't reach any more. We can correct this fault by adopting a 'waiting for the serve' position. Gently rocking back and forth on the balls of your feet loosens you up. The tension just disappears. When that happens your line of stitching becomes noticeably smoother. This rocking movement also makes it easier to move with the pattern up and down the length of your quilt. Next time you're at the quilt frame give the 'waiting for the serve' position a try. It's a winner.

Friday, 1 July 2011

I didn't want to love you

I made a sample thread demo piece for the thread talk in our April Retreat. I wanted to show just how different thread looks actually quilted on fabric as opposed to on the cone. It was a fun exercise. I used the same mussel shell line design so everyone could see how different threads played out with the same design against the same fabric.

Although I had some Kimono silk thread in stock I'd never actually quilted with it before. So this practice piece was my first try. To be honest, I didn't want to like it! Using silk thread seemed extravagant. Although it came highly recommended by famous names like Diane Gaudynski, I just wasn't convinced that it was an option for the ordinary quilter.

I was certainly taken by surprise! This thread went though my machine like butter on bread. It just glided - no breakage issues even though I was in a hurry to finish the project in time for the start of the retreat. I didn't want to love it but I do! So now I'm building up the Kimono Silk stock. Let me know if you want to try it too. Superior Threads new line of Kimono Silk is available here in the UK for £15.95 for a 1,090 yd. cross-wound mini-cone... a little extravagance goes a long way!

It's not yet up on the website but we can order whatever you fancy. You can view the colours on the American Superior Threads site and give us a ring on 01526 378057