Tuesday, June 13, 2017

My Daily Thread Scribbles, a Few Snafus, Yet Steady Improvement

Good morning!  If you've come here looking for inspiring photos of lovely projects, I'm sorry to have to disappoint you.  I've just been plodding away at the enormous practice quilt I loaded on my new APQS Millenium longarm machine.  I bought a package of 80/20 cotton/poly 120" square King batting from JoAnn's and pieced three different colored fabrics together to create the top, with solid muslin for the backing, and I'm "scribble quilting" this practice piece a little bit each day until the entire thing is full of quilted doodling.  Hopefully when this comes off the frame I will see a big difference between my initial efforts at the top of the sample quilt and what my quilting looks like at the bottom of the quilt.  But a REAL quilt is going on the frame when this practice piece comes off, no matter what.  The only way to get better at anything is to KEEP DOING IT!


Longarm Scribble Quilting Gradually Improving
So the big excitement is that after advancing my quilt a couple of times, I finished up all of the yellow fabric at the top and I'm now quilting on the hot pink fabric that makes up the middle portion of my sample quilt.  Yay!  I chose three different fabrics on purpose, to keep it interesting.  After all of the pink is quilted, the last fabric at the bottom of the quilt is a turquoise blue batik.

I am seeing a little improvement, and learning a lot along the way.  I am most pleased that my curves are getting smoother, my circles are looking rounder, and I'm doing a better job of quilting closed shapes where a line of quilting stitches must meet up exactly with a previous line of stitching without crossing over, like in the paisley motif.  I'm satisfied with my stippling, those little hook things, and loopies (how do you like that for technical terminology?!).  The paisley fill needs work but it's much better than it was initially.  What have I learned?  Well, for one thing, I've learned to SLOW DOWN, especially on the larger curves.  When I try to zoom around a large curve too quickly, that's when it starts looking like a rounded box instead of a curve.  If I move the machine slower, I have better control.

I'm keeping a list of questions for my dealer, since I still haven't scheduled my day of training with her (totally my fault, not hers).  I know that I want her to take me through loading a quilt step-by-step.  I got this practice quilt loaded onto my frame by referencing my owner's manual and several YouTube videos, and it's fine for my immediate purpose of learning how to "draw" with my machine, but if this was a real quilt I'd be freaking out about a couple of things:

Yikes!  Quilt Pulling In at Edges!
So when I first loaded the quilt onto the frame, I basted about 1/4" from the raw edge of my top along the top as well as along the left and right sides, and attached my little clamp thingys (which may or may not be attached to my frame correctly, and may or may not be exerting the correct amount of tension) to my backing fabric only.  Then I quilted everything I could pretty densely, advanced the quilt to the next unquilted area, basted down the left and right sides, and quilted that area densely before advancing again, and so on.  See how much my quilt is pulling in from the edges at the bottom of the area I've finished quilting?  See how the unquilted quilt top on the roller is so much wider than the already quilted part, creating those diagonal wrinkle lines?  I know that quilts "draw up" as they are quilted, and the amount of that quilt shrinkage is proportional to the amount of quilt stitching.  But I'm also concerned that I may have stretched my quilt top horizontally as I loaded it onto the quilt top roller, trying to smooth it out from side to side.  And even if this shrinking quilt phenomenon is normal and to be expected, I still need to know how to deal with it properly in order to keep my quilts nice and square with STRAIGHT edges throughout the quilting process.  Because this is what is happening with my practice quilt as I advance it, and this would NOT be cool if it was a real quilt:

Icky!!!!
This is how nice and straight and smooth everything is when I advance to a new section of the quilt and baste down the sides:


Basted Quilt Edge is Nice and Straight as it Should Be
...and this is how that same side looks once the quilting is completed in that section and I've advanced to the next area of the quilt:

...But the Quilting Pulls It In Badly From the Sides, and then THIS!
A few thoughts.  First, I have started out by loading up the biggest sample quilt that fits on my frame, and I've been quilting densely from side to side.  The large size of this quilt plus the high density quilting are exacerbating an issue that I might not have with a smaller quilt.  If this was a real quilt, I would either be stitching an allover edge-to-edge pantograph design that was more open than my quilt doodle scribble stitching, so it would not draw up as much.  And finally, even if this was a real King sized quilt that I wanted to have dense custom quilting, I would probably do all of the stitch-in-the-ditch quilting first to stabilize everything before going back to do the detailed quilting in each section.  That would give me a lot more control than two little basting lines spaced 120" apart from one another.  Still, I'm looking forward to finding out exactly how my dealer loads her quilts at my training, because there are sure to be tricks and tips she has picked up over the years for getting the best results possible.

One more little yucky-poo -- I discovered a couple of pucker pleats on the backing side of the quilt with the last advance:

See Those Little Pleats?
They are minor, to be sure, and if it was a real quilt they might not even be noticeable once the finish quilt was washed and did that crinkly puckery thing that quilts do when laundered, but the goal is of course to have NO pleats.  So I need to be more careful about making sure all three layers are nice and smooth every time I advance the quilt, before I start quilting again.  However, when I look at that picture above, before I even notice the two little pleats, I notice how beautiful and even the stitches are on both sides of the quilt, top and bottom.  I just loaded my machine up with Glide thread top and bottom and out come gorgeous stitches without my having to adjust anything!  I'm very happy with the APQS stitch regulator, too.  

In Matching Thread, Those Wobbles and Oopses Would Be Near Invisible
Honestly, I'm surprised by how well this is going.  I had read all of these horror stories of quilters who invested in longarm machines that they were never able to use successfully, and I fully expected to be discouraged and regretting my purchase of by now!  I thought it was going to take me months of practicing every day before I could attempt to quilt a REAL quilt without fear of ruining it with ugly, wobbly stitching.  However, although I'm nowhere near ready for heirloom feathers, I definitely feel like I have a handful of simple freehand quilting motifs that I could execute reasonably well on an everyday quilt top.  I daresay my thread scribbles are starting to look halfway decent, and this is a high-contrast thread that I'm using, not a blending thread like I'm going to use on a real quilt.  I'm feeling a little impatient about finishing up the practice quilt so I can get one of my real quilts on the frame!

Seriously, this is SO FUN!!!
See how much better my little "olives" (double circle loops) are looking after just a few days?  I tell myself that I'm going to do practice quilting for 30 minutes and then do something else, but then I get into a groove and lose track of time. 

I Marked a Grid Outline in Chalk for This Pattern
In the picture above, you can really see that I still have a lot less control over the movement of the machine on the diagonal versus true horizontal or vertical motion.  So I'll keep working on that.  What else is left to practice?  Well, two things, and I'm not sure which order I'll tackle them.  I want to be sure to try out a few rows of pantograph quilting from the back side of the machine, and I want to get the acrylic ruler base on the machine, switch back to the ruler presser foot, and practice quilting some straight lines and arcs with my rulers.  I know I will want to stitch in the ditch around my bear paw blocks, and I need to get comfortable with that technique before I try it on a real quilt.

Hmmm...  I just remembered that I have a little pile of orphan blocks sitting in a corner of my studio, reject blocks from various projects that I didn't end up using because they were the wrong size or whatever.  If I piece those together into a little practice top, they would be perfect for practicing stitch-in-the-ditch with a ruler!

But first:

1. I'm going to sew the borders on that Bear Paw quilt TODAY and set it aside for quilting.  
2. Time to make another pineapple log cabin block!  31 blocks are finished, 11 more to go.

Of course, if I don't get away from this computer, I won't accomplish anything at all...
Happy Stitching, everyone!

I'm linking up with:
·       Let’s Bee Social at http://sewfreshquilts.blogspot.ca/
·       Midweek Makers at http://quiltfabrication.blogspot.com/
·       WOW WIP on Wednesday at www.estheraliu.blogspot.com 
·       Needle and Thread Thursday at http://www.myquiltinfatuation.blogspot.com/ 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Lars's Stained Glass Quillow Quilt, Revised, and a Game Plan!

So the overwhelming consensus from you guys is that I should go with the design I shared yesterday for Lars's Quillow Ceremony quilt.  I played around with recoloring it in EQ7 again today to make it look more like a stained glass window:

Final Design, Maybe.  68" x 102" XL Twin
The way I had it colored originally, there was too much green (and it was the wrong shade of green), too much black, and I wasn't getting the glowing effect that you see from a medieval stained glass window.  I pulled some photos of medieval stained glass windows off the Internet for color references and went about recoloring my quilt with mostly batik fabrics of varying shades.

Chartres Cathedral Window for Color References
Notre Dame Cathedral (?)
Chartres Again (I think)
To recreate the glowing effect of a stained glass window in a cathedral, I used different shades of each color fabric with the darker shades towards the outer edges of the quilt and lighter shades near the center.  

So, there are two different 24" blocks in this quilt:

Lars's 24" Bear Paw Variation
I'll need six identical Bear Paw Variation blocks like the one above.

Lars's 24" Star Block
I'll also need two full Star Blocks like the one above, each with slightly different coloration, as well as six half Star Blocks and four quarter Star Blocks with different coloration to go around the outside of the center blocks.  There are no sashing or borders in this quilt, but each one of those blocks will be an onerous beast!

I've used a total of 18 different batik fabrics in this design as well as solid black.  EQ7 is calculating that I need a total of about 17 1/2 yards of fabric for this project (that's just the quilt top, not including 6 1/4 yards of backing fabric or the binding fabric), but if I end up paper piecing it I'll need to allow even more fabric for the waste factor.  Although I pulled a lot of my batik fabric images from eQuilter's web site, I probably want to select my actual batik fabrics in person to be sure I'm getting the right shades for the effect I'm trying to create.

I was already poking around on Spoonflower, though, and found two terrific options for the quilt backing:

Trust the Lord Your God by Kristi Duggins, available here
or 

The Lord Is My Strength by Wren Leyland, available here
Does everyone know about Spoonflower?  It's an Internet business based in Durham, North Carolina that does custom digital printing on everything you ever wished you could design yourself: Quilting fabric, apparel fabric, home dec fabric, giftwrap, wallpaper...  Are you excited yet?  Best of all, there's no minimum order and swatches are only $5.  Not only can you design your own fabrics and have them custom printed by Spoonflower, but you can also sell your designs on their web site and earn a commission when someone else orders them.  So if I decide to use Wren Leyland's fabric design for Lars's quilt backing, Spoonflower will pay Wren a commission on my order.  Cool, right?  I've ordered swatches of each of these backing fabrics that I'm considering so I can test launder them before I make a final decision.  After all, I'm a LONG WAY from needing the backing fabric...

Diane suggested setting goals for this quilt to make it more manageable and to ensure getting it done on time, and I think that's a great idea.  I've just made some adjustments to the schedule she proposed: 
  • For sanity's sake, I need to finish a couple of my WIPs before I cut into a new project.  The Math Quilt, the Butterfly Bear Paw Quilt, the Jingle Quilt and the Pineapple Log Cabin quilt all need to get finished by the end of September 2017.
  • Figure Out Paper Piecing, Print Patterns, Purchase Fabrics by end of October 2017
  • Center Blocks Pieced by end of April 2018
  • Partial Outer Blocks Pieced by end of August 2018
  • Entire Top Pieced by end of October 2018
  • Embroidered quilt label, personalization designed & stitched by end of January 2018
  • Quilting Completed by March 2019
  • Bound and Labeled by end of May 2019
  • Ready to Gift at Quillow Ceremony in early June 2019
I know that I don't have as much sewing time from October through the end of January because that's when my interior design business tends to heat up, plus I have holiday preparations and Christmas caroling throughout November and December.  Anyway, it's only a plan, and it can always be revised, right?  Wish me luck.

Meanwhile, I've spent way more time in front of my computer over the past couple of days than I've spent in my studio behind my sewing machines, so that's where I'm headed after a nice, hot shower.  I've been stricken with the most obnoxious, unseasonable stuffy nose and sore throat right at the kickoff to summer vacation!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone, and happy stitching!

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