Saturday, 27 February 2016

Hearts and Loops

My twin sister is a grandmother! I'm not sure who is more cute the baby Ruby or my sister Peggy. I made my sister a baby quilt when her first child was born and when he had his first child, of course I had to make another.

Peggy likes bright fabrics so this little quilt comes from all my bright kiddie scraps and it's quilted with hearts and loops. As little Ruby gets bigger she'll be able to play "I spy with my little eye" with the quilt and look for doggies, and icecream cones, flowers and strawberries, lightning bugs, lady bugs and butterflies. I hope they'll have hours of fun together. 

There's a gorgeous red heart flannel on the back which makes the whole quilt soft and cosy. 
Here's the quilt loaded on our 6 foot New English Quilter frame.
I'm using a JUKI TL98P straight stitch sewing machine because it's got the space under the arm and the 1500 stitches-per-minute speed I need to get a lovely flowing line of stitching.
I'm using a pretty pink variegated thread from Superior Threads' Fantastico range called Giggles and I've used bright red Bottom Line pre-wounds in the bobbin so it will blend in to the backing flannel.

I just love how this lovely light reflecting tri-lobal polyester thread runs through my machine without any trouble, even at high speeds through multiple layers. This thread is cross-wound on a large cone perfect for long arm quilters and any machine quilting. 
Here's a detail of the hearts and loops quilting design.
And here's another. Even though this is a simple basic design I still use it as an all over pattern. 
It works so well on children's quilts. The hearts and loops design covers lots of ground quickly 
and lets people know that you love them too.
Here I am sewing on the binding on a visit home to America 
with my brother I'd not seen in 22 years!! 
I'm so happy to get to spend time with Pat and Peggy!

I'm using the bright red Bottom Line to hand stitch the binding. 
This fine thread blends in perfectly and it doesn't knot!

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Strategic Tensioning

When things go wrong, it helps to have a plan. So here's my 5 step strategy for tension issues.

First: Check your thread path. Sometimes tension issues have nothing to do with tension. Often the thread has gone off the path. So first take a quick look at your thread path and make sure that your machine is threaded properly. If you're not sure read the manual or look it up online.

Second: Change your needle. This is a quick and inexpensive fix. Sometimes the needle gets bent or dull and changing it can solve the problem. While you're at it be sure that the needle is right for what you're doing. For free-motion quilting use a Top-stitch needle because the eye is twice as big as just about any other needle.The bigger eye will give your thread room to move back and forth through the eye while you're stitching. This will keep your thread from shredding. I use a 100/16 Titanium coated Topstitch needle from Superior Threads for all my quilting. 

Third: Tidy your sewing machine. As you sew your machine get clogged with all sorts of fibres. Get a good brush, I use a paint brush. Take off your needle plate and give your machine a a thorough clean. Then open the bobbin area and clean that too. Clean machines run smoother. If your machine takes oil this would be a good time to add a drop or two where needed. Check the manual or find out how-to online.

Fourth: Adjust the Top Tension. Get a practice sandwich of fabric and do some stitching. Sometimes it helps if you have one colour on top and a different colour in the bobbin. If you see the bobbin thread on the top of your practice piece then your top tension is too tight. The top tension is pulling too hard. To balance the tension you will need to loosen the top tension. Righty-tighty Lefty-loosey. So turn your tension dial to the left. Stitch, check and stitch again. Keep doing this until the stitches meet in the middle. 

If you see the top thread on the back of your practice piece then your top tension is too loose. To balance your tension you'll need to tighten your top tension; Righty-tighty. So turn your tension dial to the right. Stitch, check and stitch again. Keep making adjustments until your top and bottom threads are evenly balanced and meet in the middle. Follow this link for more information on top tension issues.

Fifth: Adjust the Bobbin Tension. I save this step for last because many people are afraid of it. Fear not! Sometimes this is the most important intervention. If you haven't been able to fix the tension by adjusting the top tension you'll need to move on to the bobbin tension. Often the bobbin tension is set too tight at the factory and so usually the bobbin tension will need to be loosened. You can find good directions on how and why to adjust your bobbin tension here.

If you follow these 5 steps you should be able to sort any tension problems and get a perfect stitch. If you're still having problems put it in a comment and we'll reply.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Valentine Post Cards: part two

Valentine Postcard Project: part 2
You'll need some card and a printer. We've made a pdf file for you to download for the paper side of your post cards. A thicker card works better than regular paper. It's fun to play with colored paper too. Print your postcards and bring them to your cutting table.

Did you know that graphic designers used rotary cutters, mats and rulers before quilters did? For this part of the project we're going to do the same. Use your OLD rotary cutter or the one with the dull blade. We're going to be cutting through card and you'll ruin your blade if you use the new one. Use your ruler to cut round the postcard images. I like to leave an 8th of an inch all the way around.

Once your cards are cut out, place the card over your quilted sandwich and cut round it. You'll want the fabric part to be a little bit longer and wider than the card.

Take it to your sewing machine. Holding the card in place with the card side up, stitch around the postcard. I start out with a straight stitch following the edge of the image. Then I come around again with a zig-zag to secure the edges. Worried about stitching through card? Don't be. All you need is the right needle. I use a 90/14 Titanium coated Topstitch needle from Superior Threads. The titanium coating makes the needle extra strong so it stays sharp, even sewing through card.

                                     Finally cut around the card to get rid of the extra fabric.

                                         Once I've done one, I can't wait to do more!

In no time at all you'll have a lovely stack of fabric postcards. Treat them just like ordinary postcards. Write your message and address them. Once you've added the stamp...

                     these little quilts can go through the post to surprise your friends and family.

Click here to view and download the Valentines Postcards pdf.  
You can use this to make your very own postcards.
Happy Valentine's Day! 

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Valentine Post Cards: part one

This is a Valentine post card tutorial 
for making lots of post cards.                         

First go through your stash and pick out pretty fabrics. I go for reds and pinks and hearts and flowers. Then stitch them together.  It ends up looking a bit like a crazy quilt but there's method to my madness. I know that I'm going to be cutting the top into post card sized pieces at the end. So I'm putting together fabrics that look nice and leaving some open places for machine quilting.

Once my 'top' is pieced I load it onto my quilting frame. Then comes the fun part. I'm going to free-motion-quilt all over the top. Quilting frames make this easier but you can also just do free-motion-quilting sitting down at your machine. I don't need to worry about being perfect. I'm going to cut it up into post cards at the end so mistakes won't matter. I'll just use my favourite parts for the post cards. This lets me have fun and take risks that I probably wouldn't if I needed the whole top to look good.

I like to play with lots of different threads. Sometimes I'll scallop around a pattern in the fabric.

 This 'hearts and loops' pattern is fun too. It looks so pretty with the variegated threads.

We call this pattern 'mussel shell hearts'.

and this one 'baby bum hearts.

This pattern reminds me of the flower called 'Bleeding Hearts'

and this one is a fun feather pattern.

Once the top is all free-motion-quilted. 
I take it off the frame and 
choose the best parts for the post cards. 
Now I'm ready for Part Two.