Friday, October 19, 2018

Desperately Seeking Squares: The Pursuit of Pineapple Piecing Perfection Continues

I got my first two rows of pineapple log cabin blocks sewn together yesterday!  Woo-hoo!

I still have the mailing label stickers on all of the block centers because I'm paranoid about messing up the layout.  Pinning these blocks together is going SO slowly and, now that I'm trying to pin two complete rows together, the pins I've already put in are getting caught up on each other and getting pulled out...  Grrr...  

I've got my #97D Patchwork foot with seam guide on my Bernina, which I love -- because it lets me focus 100% of my attention AHEAD of the needle and presser foot, so I can make sure the raw fabric edges are perfectly aligned and the lower seam allowances aren't flipped BEFORE they get to the needle.  But using that seam guide means my pins are in "backwards," with the pin heads to the left and the tips of the pins pointing to the right, and no part of the pin is protruding beyond the edge of the fabric.  

See How I'm Using Just the Tip of My Pins?
That's why it's so easy for my pins to get caught on things and pulled out accidentally while I'm working with these large sections in my lap.  I wish I had some extra fine but SHORT pins for this, like 1/2" sequin or applique pins.  Do those even come extra fine?  If anyone knows of a good source for them, or has any other ideas for me to try, please share in the comments!

First Two Rows Together!
So I now understand why this Fons & Porter foundation paper piecing pattern was rated "Challenging!"  Paper piecing the blocks was time-consuming but super easy, even beginner friendly, but joining these blocks together once they are pieced, with a bazillion non-nesting seam allowances fighting you every step of the way, is like wrestling a grizzly bear or trying to catch a greased pig...  Or like trying to prevent your teenager from eating potato chips and Pop Tarts in his bed...  You get the idea.

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy!
My favorite thing about this design is the secondary pattern of green and blue four-pointed stars when the blocks are joined together, with "twinkling" red center squares, and I was worried about accuracy at the block intersections.  The (free!) Fons & Porter pattern is a reproduction of a 19th century quilt owned by the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, and as you can see from the close up below, the original quiltmaker had some trouble where the blocks come together.  I felt like, with all the advantages of 21st century technology at my disposal, I ought to be able to piece squares at the block corners rather than rhombuses, rectangles or kites.

Original 19th Century Pineapple Log Cabin Quilt
So it really felt good to press this seam open and see my completed four point stars with cute little red SQUARES in the center for the first time yesterday!

As Square As I Can Manage

With 36 blocks rather than 16, my quilt is twice as large as the original even before factoring in the borders mine will have.  Here's that original 19th century quilt again:
Full View of Original Quilt, 74 x 76

I absolutely love how vibrant and MODERN this antique quilt feels, don't you?  Although, gotta confess -- with as long as I've been working on this quilt, I've got misgivings about actually putting it on my bed and sleeping under it once it's finished.  Maybe I should make a clear vinyl "duvet cover" to protect it like the Italian grandmothers used to put on their sofas?

Clear Vinyl Cover For My Pineapple Quilt?  Yea or Nay?
-- Can you believe that I sewed ONE seam and I have THIS MUCH to say about it?

Okay, break's over -- back to work, everyone!  Today I'm linking up with:
Whoop Whoop Fridays at 

Finished Or Not Friday at 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Tuesday To-Do: Machine Embroidered Sawtooth Star Name Tag

Happy Tuesday morning, y'all!  I just have a couple of quick things I wanted to share with you:

Name Tag Embroidered and Sandwiched, Ready for Quilting!
This is an "orphan" 4" sawtooth star block leftover from my Paint Me A Story WIP (that quilt top is finished and waiting for me to quilt it).  When I joined the Charlotte Quilter's Guild last month I discovered that I need to make myself a nifty little name tag to wear at guild meetings.  Since I have plenty of projects in progress already, I decided to repurpose something that I had already made rather than starting from scratch.  Keepin' it simple!

Creating the Embroidery File in Bernina v8 DesignerPlus Embroidery Software
I used my Bernina DesignerPlus Embroidery Software v8 to digitize my name for machine embroidery.   This is a computer program that is separate from my sewing machine.  Although the software is capable of really advanced digitizing, I most often use it for quick and easy, down and dirty digitizing tasks like this one.  All I had to do was type my name, select one of the TrueType fonts already installed on my computer (the font I chose is Bradley Hand ITC) and resize it to fit the 2" square center of my sawtooth star.  Then I saved the embroidery design to a flash drive, plugged the flash drive into my sewing machine, and I was ready to go.

Bernina embroidery software will default to the smallest embroidery hoop that will accommodate your design, which would have been the Small hoop in this cases, but I overrode that in favor of the Medium hoop because I didn't want to actually hoop my star block and risk "hoop burn" indentations or distortion.  Instead, I hooped two layers of lightweight tearaway stabilizer.  I marked the center of my star block with a chalk pencil dot, sprayed the back of the block with 505 Spray and Fix Temporary Spray Adhesive, and carefully positioned my block on top of the hooped stabilizer.  

Then I lightly sprayed a scrap of Sulky Solvy water soluble embroidery stabilizer with 505 Spray and Fix, and stuck that down on top of my block. (In my test stitchout of this design on a scrap of the same hand marbled fabric, the embroidery stitches were sinking into the fabric too much.  Using a topping stabilizer really helps with that). 


My Bernina 750QEE (predecessor to the current B 770QEE model) has an automatic basting feature that I absolutely love.  It's kind of tricky to find that option when I haven't done machine embroidery in awhile, but when you engage the automatic basting function the machine will baste a little box right around the area of the embroidery design, which is perfect for a situation like this where I'm floating my block and my topping rather than securing all layers in the hoop.  Those basting stitches hold everything in place so there's no shifting while the lettering is stitching out.  I believe the auto basting feature is on all of the current model Bernina embroidery machines, but if you have an older model Bernina you have a similar option.  There are basting files for each of the Bernina hoop sizes available for free on the Bernina web site that you can download and transfer to your sewing machine.  They are like embroidery design files that just stitch out a basting stitch around the perimeter of your embroidery hoop, so you would stitch the basting file first to secure your project in the hoop, and then stitch out the real embroidery design.

Embroidery Completed, Basting Stitches and Stabilizers Removed
So anyway, here's what my block looked like after I'd carefully removed the basting stitches, topping, and tearaway stabilizers.  I think it looks great.    I chopped off the corners of the block because I decided that an octagon-shaped name tag is more interesting than a square-shaped name tag, and I found a length of leftover black and white striped binding that I can use for this as well.  However, I cut into a precious floral fabric FQ from my stash for the backing, even though no one will see it.  I couldn't help myself!  So now my little embroidered block is layered with floral backing and a scrap of quilt batting, and it just needs to be quilted, bound, and possibly further embellished in some way...  And of course, I need to decide how I'm going to wear it.  I don't want long strings around my neck; I'm leaning towards magnets instead.

All Ready for Quilting!
And, since I'd already chopped a big hunk out of that fat quarter for my name tag backing, I took a moment to trace as many 9 1/2" clam shells as I could fit onto the rest of that fabric.  

Freshly Cut Giant Clam Shells On My Design Wall!
Won't those be fabulous?  (Pay no attention to the abandoned Jingle BOM project on the left side of the photo -- that's just a scale reference.  I'll get back to that one eventually, I promise!)

My Jumbo Clam Shell Acrylic Template, available on Etsy here
In case anyone's interested, I'm using an acrylic 9 1/2" finished clam shell template that I purchased from an Etsy seller here.  What I like most about this particular template is that there are lots of little holes along the concave and convex curves that will make it so much easier to align the edges correctly whenever I get around to piecing these together.  

Anyway, that's all I have for you guys today.  My Tuesday To-Dos for this week are:

  1. Finish my name tag
  2. Load and quilt the Outreach Cuddle Quilt that I showed in my last post
  3. Continue pinning and piecing pineapple rows together

Of course, those are just my WANNA-Dos.  I've got some HAFTA-Dos on my plate as well, like preparing for a meeting with an interior design client, making sure my son gets his college applications in on time, and figuring out what I'm going to sing at a friend's wedding in a few weeks.  So don't judge me too harshly if next Tuesday rolls around and I still have the same three items on my Tuesday To-Do list!  

Oh, and I'm going to see Hamilton tonight!!!!  Can you tell I'm excited?!  YAY!!!!!

Okay, so today I'm linking up with:

Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts  
Main Crush Monday at Cooking Up Quilts 
Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt 
Moving it Forward at Em’s Scrap Bag: 
To-Do Tuesday at Stitch ALL the Things: 
Let’s Bee Social at 
Midweek Makers at
WOW WIP on Wednesday at 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

October OMG Charity Quilts Finished, Pineapples Progressing, and New Outreach Quilt Headed to My Frame

First, I have to show my friend Colleen that YES, I am still working on my pineapple log cabin quilt:

S.L.O.W.L.Y., Joining These Blocks Into Rows
I timed myself, and it takes me a solid ten minutes just to get two blocks pinned together and ready to sew, due to all of the seam allowances stacking rather than nesting.  Once they're pinned, I'm sewing them together at a fairly slow machine speed, watching out so my needle doesn't hit any of the pins, using my stiletto to swipe beneath the work to ensure seam allowances aren't flipping underneath, and correcting for the tendency of the diagonally place pins to create wobbles in the seam.  But it's worth it when I open the seam and see that all of my seams are matching up just the way I want them to.  Today's big accomplishment is that all 36 blocks have been joined into rows.  Woo hoo!  There is LIGHT at the end of this tunnel!!

Of course, at this pace, it's going to take me a full HOUR just to pin two complete rows together before I can stitch them.  That means I have five hours of pinning to look forward to...  That is Downstairs On the Sofa Watching Evening Television work for sure.  But it feels good to walk into the studio in the morning and have things all pinned together and ready to sew.

Diagonal Pins Fight With Feed Dogs
But my pineapple quilt isn't the big news for today.  Oh my gosh, you guys -- I finished a goal!  And I finished it ON TIME for being last week's Tuesday To-Do goal (even though I neglected to post about it on Tuesday), and EARLY for being my October One Monthly Goal!!!  Pinch me!

I have been sitting on these two charity quilt tops that I offered to quilt for my church for months now.  Well, to be more precise, I've been alternating between procrastinating, panicking, and fighting with them.  These quilt tops were challenging for me because:

  • The piecing and pressing weren't as accurate as what I'm used to with tops I've pieced myself.
  • Both quilt tops and one of the backings were made of bed sheets and other tightly wove, non-traditional quilting fabrics that contributed to excessive needle flex/directional tension issues.
  • I'm still such a beginner with my longarm machine, fumbling along and learning as I go.
  • I opted to load both of these 60" 80" bed quilts sideways so I could quilt the edge-to-edge pantographs in fewer passes, with fewer stops to advance the quilt, baste the sides, and reposition the laser -- but that meant I had LONG rows to quilt in a single pass.  As a newbie, those long passes of quilting were tiring, so I might have been better off loading the quilts along the short sides instead.

Church Charity Quilt No. 1 of 2, With Bed Sheet Backing
Anyway, I finished quilting the first of the two tops a couple of weeks ago and I finished quilting the second top a few days ago.  On Wednesday morning, I returned them to the church quilting group so they can bind them and deliver them to the YWCA Women In Transition program.  

Church Charity Quilt No. 2 of 2 Completed!
I definitely had an easier time with the stitch quality on this one, using Glide trilobal polyester thread top and bobbin and a 100% cotton quilt fabric backing rather than a bed sheet.  I used the Scribble pantograph pattern from Anne Bright Designs.  It's a less dense design than the Floral Meander panto I used on the first quilt, and more forgiving for a newbie -- however, without any points in the design, there wasn't really a good stopping point where I could sink the needle, stretch my neck and shoulders, and adjust my feet as I was working.  

60 x 80.  My Quilting Looks So Much Better From a Distance...
The other nice thing about choosing my own backing fabric (in addition to knowing it wasn't going to fight my needle with every stitch) is that I was able to pick a nice, busy print and a color that could match the quilting thread.  Even though my stitches on this one look a lot better front and back than they did on the first quilt, it's still nice that those occasional wobbles here and there are camouflaged by the paisley backing print:

Much Better Stitch Quality on the Backing Side on Quilt No. 2
Wobbly Quilting Camouflaged By Busy Print
Well, I've certainly learned a lot from these two charity quilts!  Like, no more bed sheets.  Never, Ever, Ever!  I am still not enjoying following these pantograph designs from the back of the frame, where I can't see the fabric as I'm quilting it.  Also, I am totally spoiled by the ginormous bobbin on my domestic Bernina 750QE sewing machine, and it's really annoying me how quickly the APQS size L "Smart Bobbins" are running out on the longarm machine, especially with these edge-to-edge pantographs.  With the custom quilting I did on my last personal quilt, I was changing thread colors so much that the smaller bobbins didn't make a difference anyway.  I mounted this 60 x 80" quilt top sideways to minimize how many times I'd have to stop, advance the quilt, baste the edges, reposition the needle to align the pattern, etc.  

Following Pantograph Pattern From Back of My Machine
So I quilted the first pass of this very open, 14" pantograph pattern, advanced the quilt, quilted the second row...  Only to walk around to the other side of the machine and realize that my bobbin had run out in the middle of that second row, and I'd just been wasting my time and poking needle holes all over the place without actually making any stitches for 15 minutes!  Boo, hiss!

Supposedly the smaller APQS size L "Smart Bobbin" (the size for which my machine is currently configured -- it's the same size as the bobbins for my Singer Featherweight machines) enables me to use a greater variety of specialty threads without any issues.  Because Physics and Inertia, Blah Blah Blah.  However, reviews from APQS owners who have the larger M style bobbin configuration are not reporting any regrets or remorse, and their bobbins hold twice as much thread as mine do.  I believe I can order a kit from APQS for my 2013 Millenium that would allow me (and by "me," I mean my husband) to switch out the hook system to the larger M bobbins, fairly inexpensively -- and if I didn't like the larger bobbin/hook system, we could just change it back again.  Seriously considering that.  

But MEANWHILE, my quilting frame is not remaining empty for long, because another (much more manageable!) quilt is getting loaded today!  

This Week's Goal: Charlotte Quilter's Guild Outreach Quilt
Yes, another charity quilt is going on the frame this week!  This one is a baby/crib size for the Charlotte Quilters' Guild's Outreach program.  It's much smaller and more manageable than the last two charity quilts -- a 33" x 41" baby quilt destined for the children's cancer unit at either of the two main Charlotte hospitals.  Someone else has already pieced the top, cut the backing fabric and batting to size, and even provided binding strips all ready to go for me, all labeled and packaged neatly into a nice little kit.  Since this one is all made from quilter's cotton fabrics, with 1/4" seam allowances, and the batting is more like what I'm used to, this one should quilt up more smoothly -- and I'm jazzed about the bright colors and cute little novelty prints, too.  

33 x 41 CQG Outreach Quilt is Next On the Frame 
Meanwhile, our schools are closed AGAIN due to Hurricane Michael, even though we're just seeing steady rain and occasional strong winds here.  There have been power outages reported in Charlotte already but thankfully we've still got power at our house -- Son the Elder, also known as He Who Is Responsible for My Gray Hairs and Wrinkles, is working on his college application essay, and he does NOT need any more excuses from the power company...

I'm linking up with:

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

My One Monthly Goal for October: Church Charity Tops Quilted and Delivered

This is the third time I'm linking up with One Monthly Goal over at Elm Street Quilts.  I did not manage to ACCOMPLISH my goals for either of those previous months, but what the heck -- I'm giving it another go.

Just. ONE. Goal...  Hmmm...

OMG for October: Load and Quilt Second Church Charity Quilt Top
Okay, you guys, here's my goal: I have already quilted the first of two charity tops that I volunteered to quilt for my church, and struggled with it dreadfully due to the mix of fabrics in the top itself and the tightly woven bed sheet backing that was provided to me.  After having such a difficult time with the first of these charity projects that were supposed to be quick and easy practice, I've been DREADING the second one...  But at the same time, I really want these off my conscience and out of my house so I can move on to other projects.  

So that's my One Monthly Goal for October -- I'm going to finish loading this charity quilt top, quilt it, and deliver both of the quilts back to the ladies at my church by the end of this month.

Now honestly, I should be able to get this top quilted in one or two days if I don't run into any major problems, so this is also my To Do On Tuesday goal for the week.  It would feel SO GOOD to have this finished by Friday!  But life has a habit of intervening and throwing my lofty plans into disarray.  Also these are not my favorite colors, and that makes it even harder for me to get motivated to begin...  So my "super goal" is to get it done this week, and my "reality check, backup goal" is to get it done by the end of the month.

Thread Selected: Smoother, Slippery Fil-Tec Glide Trilobal Polyester
I strongly suspect that this second quilt top is also made primarily of bed sheets, and some of the squares feel like that same poly/cotton almost twill of the backing bed sheet that I was fighting with on the last quilt, so I've been thinking about what I can do differently to get better results with less frustration this time.  I'm switching to Fil-Tec Glide Trilobal Polyester thread (which reminds me of Isacord machine embroidery thread except that it comes on much bigger cones), in hopes that the slicker surface of this thread will help it to slide through the tight sheeting weave easier and form better stitches.  

I chose a thread color that would blend okay across the quilt top fabrics, but more importantly, it's a close color match to the backing fabric this time.  For this second charity quilt, I'm not using the bed sheet I was given for backing.  Instead, I bought an extra-wide quilting cotton with my JoAnn's coupon in a busy paisley print, and as of this morning that backing is already partially loaded on the quilt frame.  The hope is that if the tight sheeting weave of the quilt top fabrics continues to cause directional tension issues even with a quilting cotton backing and slippery thread, at least the intermittent flatlining won't be as apparent on the back of the quilt when the thread matches the backing AND the backing is a print.  A print backing hides a multitude of sins!

Do You See That Strand of Thread Across the Backing Fabric?  Neither Do I!
I did a partial float for the first of these charity quilts, thinking that having the top rolled up nice and straight on the quilt top roller would help coax it into the straightest, squarest quilt it could possibly be, but I'm thinking I might just do a full float with this one.  My vertical and horizontal channel locks make it easy to check and adjust seams for straightness every time I advance the quilt, for one thing.  But the other factor I'm considering is that pulling the quilt sandwich too taut on the frame can contribute to the needle flex/directional tension problems I've been dealing with.  I know I have difficult fabrics in this quilt top that are already going to be fighting my needle with every stitch.  I wonder whether fully floating the quilt top might give me extra "insurance" by reducing the likelihood that I accidentally have the quilt top too tight in the frame.  I can't pull it too tight if it's just basted in place on top of the batting and backing and not attached to any rollers, right?

The next decision is how am I going to quilt this one once I've gotten it loaded?  My APQS dealer, who was patiently helping me troubleshoot the problems I was having on the previous quilt, suggested that I quilt an allover freehand design from the front of the machine rather than following a pantograph in a situation like this where there are questionable fabrics involved and possible bulk challenges at some of the seam intersections, and that makes perfect sense.  However -- I always have a HOWEVER, don't I? -- my personal learning objective with these two quilt tops was a chance to practice hand guided pantograph quilting.  I don't trust myself to maintain the same quilting density from one end of the quilt to the other with a freehand design, and I can't imagine it would look very good when it was finished, either.  So I hunted through my trove of paper pantograph patterns, looking for something that I could execute quickly AND successfully.  

14 Inch Scribble Pantograph by Anne Bright
I'm leaning towards the 14" Scribbles pattern by Anne Bright Designs.  It's a nice, openly spaced pantograph that will give me good practice on smoothing out my curves, with no tricky backtracking points to slow me down.  It doesn't look very exciting on paper, but some of the simplest pantograph designs surprise me by how much better they look once you see them actually quilted on a quilt.

Okay, so now that I have committed to the entire Internet that I am going to get this quilting done, I need to sign off the computer and get into my studio to do some quilting!  That quilt guild I joined is meeting tonight, too, and I'll feel better about going if I actually accomplish some quilting today!

Today I'm linking up with:

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Remember the Alamo: Why Your Longarm Quilter Won't Let You Use a Bed Sheet for Quilt Backing

Oh my gosh, you guys -- this "easy pantograph" charity quilt is finally done and off my frame.  I'm battered, bloodied and traumatized, but I learned a lot and I survived.  Let's call that a win.  ;-)

"Remember the Alamo," 60 x 80 Charity Quilt Finish

Why Bed Sheets, Drapery Panels and Shower Curtains Make Bad Quilt Backings

I used to think that longarm quilters who refused to accept bed sheets as quilt backings were just being picky quilt snobs, but now I totally understand why a longarmer would have that rule.  The backing for this particular quilt was a cotton/polyester blend, either a sheet or an unlined readymade drapery panel.  It was a tighter weave and a heavier weight than quilting cotton, and no amount of changing tension settings, different size threads, different size needles, begging, pleading, or cursing could coax this fabric into cooperating for consistently balanced stitches.  What's more, the quilt top itself is comprised of lots of different types of fabric, with many of them a heavier weight and tighter weave as well.  If I managed to get the tension looking good on one patch of fabric, it would be off again as soon as the quilting stitches traveled onto a patch of a different kind of fabric.  

Directional Tension Trouble on Bed Sheet Backing: This Is the Best Stitch Quality I Could Achieve
I spent days fiddling with settings, trying to get decent stitch quality with the combination of fabric challenges in this quilt, and I was never able to get something I was truly happy with.  I ended up just doing the best I could, and hopefully that will be good enough.  

Here's The Skinny On Directional Tension Trouble:

Here's what I learned this week!  When your tension looks great in some directions but you have unbalanced tension only when stitching in certain directions, that indicates that your needle is flexing -- bending as the stitch is formed, so the top thread is not meeting up with the bobbin thread in exactly the right place to form a good lock stitch.  What causes needle flex, you may ask?

  • The needle is too small.  Thicker needles bend less than skinny needles do -- which is why longarm machines quilt with larger needles than you might use to quilt on your domestic sewing machine.
  • The quilt sandwich is stretched too tight on the quilting frame.  This is a common newbie mistake -- the quilt shouldn't be flat and taut like a drum; it needs to drape down around the machine bed and, as you move the machine around on the quilt, it should look like a critter is tunneling around under there.
  • The quilter is trying to quilt way too fast and needs to slow down.
  • Stitch length is too long.  Longer stitches allow the needle to bend more than shorter stitches.
  • Thread Composition: The APQS article I found on directional tension says that cotton thread pulls harder on the needle than a smooth polyester thread does, especially if it's also having to pull through cotton batting.  My So Fine thread is a lint free 100% polyester thread with a matte finish that looks like cotton.  My batting was polyester, but my atypical fabrics were giving resistance to the needle already -- perhaps switching to the slippery-smooth Glide polyester thread would have helped the needle "glide" through this challenging quilt more easily, with less flexing? 
  • Batting: Again, according to the APQS article, very dense, like a 100% cotton, is more difficult for the needle to penetrate, and if the batting doesn't have enough loft, there isn't much room for the longarm machine to form that locking stitch.  I don't think my Fairfield low loft polyester batting was a contributing factor this time around, but that's definitely something I'll keep in mind when I'm selecting battings for future quilts.  
  • Fabric type and thread count -- this is what was killing me on my charity quilt!  The needle just had to work too hard to punch through that thick, tight fabric weave.  Bed sheets have a much higher thread count and tighter weave than quilting cottons, but beautiful batik quilting cottons have a tighter weave than regular cotton prints and they can be challenging, too.  APQS suggests trying a smaller needle and/or a slippery polyester thread in this situation -- again, maybe the smooth and shiny Glide thread would have been a better choice.  Then again, I was dealing with a very tight weave/high thread count, AND a heavier fabric weight overall with my backing, as well as a quilt top that had some dress weight, bed sheets, and even drapery fabrics.  So a smaller needle would have a high risk of BREAKING, especially since I was quilting "blind" from the back of my machine and couldn't see whether I was approaching bulky seam intersections...    

I chose to use So Fine thread for this project because I thought the matte finish would make my beginner quilting stitches more inconspicuous than the shiny, showy Glide thread, and because I don't happen to have a nice neutral shade of Glide on hand that would have complemented this particular quilt top.  I am realizing that there is more that goes into selecting the best thread for each quilt than just the aesthetics of color and sheen preferences!  Even monopoly invisible thread would have slipped through these tight weaves better than the thread I used.  I'm learning, so it's all good -- and when you look at it from a distance instead of sticking your nose up to the bobbin stitches like you're the Chief Inspector for the Quilt Police, this quilt looks fine:

Floral Meander Pantograph, Front of Quilt
I feel like I did a good job of spacing the pantograph rows so they blend together into one overall pattern instead of quilted "stripes" with obvious demarcations between each pass of stitching.  The back looks okay from a distance, too:

Backing (Bed Sheet) Side of Floral Meander Charity Quilt

It Had To Be A Solid Color to Show Every Imperfection, Too...
This pantograph design is called Floral Meander.

Smoother Curves Than My Last Hand Guided Pantograph Attempt
I do like the way the neutral colored Superior So Fine #50 thread I used blends with most of the fabrics in the quilt top, and I'm getting much better at quilting round shapes from the back of the machine than I did on my first pantograph attempt back in January.  

This charity quilt is only my second try at a hand guided pantograph, and I can see that I'm getting better at staying on the design lines -- the round parts of the design are starting to look rounder and smoother and the "ogre toes" are going away, and as Martha Stewart would say, that's a good thing!

First Pantograph Attempt.  Compare Oval Inside Hook to More Rounded Shape In Prior Photo
Incidentally, the above photo is of a Popcorn LG pantograph that I stitched on a quilt made of all quilt shop cotton fabrics with Quilter's Dream Poly batting.  It's a very similar pantograph pattern to the one I used on the charity quilt, yet you can see in this backing-side photo that I was able to stitch the design with beautiful, balanced stitches in ALL directions with my APQS Millenium without any of the directional problems I experienced on the charity quilt.  (The tiny dots of black between stitches are the black batting showing at the needle holes, by the way -- the holes closed up when I washed the quilt).

And so, in my own mind, I have named this charity quilt "Remember the Alamo" because it was a bloody battle (figuratively!) but I fought a good fight and even though I wasn't successful, I never gave up.  Also I will REMEMBER my Alamo and never, ever load another bed sheet/drapery panel/shower curtain on my longarm frame EVER AGAIN!

So I have one more of these charity tops waiting to be quilted that was pieced by the same church group.  It has the same 1/2" seam allowances and the same variety of fabrics in the top, and I'll be using the same low loft poly batting.  However, for this top, I purchased a length of cotton quilt backing from JoAnn's with a nice, busy paisley print to camouflage any oopsies from the back side.  My wonderful APQS dealer suggested that, instead of following a paper pantograph from the back side of my machine, I quilt this one with a freehand allover meander from the front of the machine instead, so I can at least avoid stitching through bulky seam intersections and see what's happening while I'm quilting.  I think that's a great idea.  What I have NOT yet decided is whether I'll tackle the second charity top right away.  I might decide to load up a sample quilt with just plain muslin top and backing, "normal" batting that I would typically use for one of my own quilt projects, and use that practice piece to get my tensions tweaked again just so, practice that allover meander a little bit, and rebuild my confidence after my Battle of the Alamo...

Meanwhile, I'm linking up with:
Let’s Bee Social at 
Midweek Makers at
WOW WIP on Wednesday at 
Needle and Thread Thursday at  
Finish It Up Friday at 
Whoop Whoop Fridays at 

Finished Or Not Friday at 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Taking a Break From Longarm Tension Tantrums -- Because I Needed a Win

I needed a break from playing Sherlock Holmes with the longarm machine over the weekend, and APQS Tech Support was closed anyway, so I dug around my studio looking for a small victory, something I could cross off my list easily without pulling out any of my hair or screaming profanity.

Remember This Quilted Machine Cover for My Bernina?
I started this quilted machine cover for my Bernina 750QEE back in 2014, and you can read about how I made it in this post.  The fabric was heavily free motion quilted on the Bernina (this was before I was even considering purchasing a longarm machine), then the monogram was machine embroidered on the Bernina.  I added some bead bling by hand.  Unlike the (boring gray) cover that came with the machine, my cover was designed to fit the machine when it's recessed into my cabinet, and I incorporated a cutout at the back to slip around my multiple spool holder.  

No, This Is Just Not Cute Enough For Me
But I didn't like the way it gaped at the back opening, so I ordered a vintage 1950s frog closure from an Etsy seller...  and, when it arrived, I realized I had NO IDEA how to attach it to my sewing machine cover!

Well, after four years of not using this machine cover at all because it wasn't finished, I decided to go ahead and just DO IT on Saturday afternoon.  First, I hand basted the edges of the opening together with huge slipstitches, plain old all-purpose polyester thread, and then I basted the two halves of the frog closure in place with the same thread, using big, ugly stitches and trying to keep them away from where the "real" stitches would go.

Tacking the Frog In Place With Embroidery Floss
I found the right shade of turquoise DMC cotton embroidery floss in my stash, and just tacked the frog in place at the inside and outside points.  Two strands of floss at a time, three stitches at each point.  It's not going anywhere.  It sure felt good to FINISH SOMETHING!  

YAY!  I Finished Something!!!
You know, there are so many people who love to sew but shy away from trying any kind of hand stitching because they think it's too hard, it takes too long...  Well, when your machines are throwing tantrums and you're contemplating chucking them out the window just to watch them smash when they hit the lawn, there's nothing like the total control of hand stitching to clear your head and fill your confidence bucket again.  The needle goes exactly where I want it to go, every single stitch.  The tension is perfect, every single stitch.  No thread nests.  The worst thing that can happen in hand stitching is a knot, and the solution to that is simple -- cut a shorter length of thread next time!  

Yes, It Matches My Chair...
I also cut, joined, and pressed binding strips for my Paint Me A Story bear paw quilt over the weekend. 

Binding Ready to Go For My Bear Paw Quilt
After pressing the binding in half lengthwise, I wrapped it around one of my acrylic rulers before sliding it into a zippered plastic storage bag that came with a set of pillowcases.  I also included the binding thread spool and bobbin, because why hunt around for it later?  Now I've got the top pieced and pressed, the backing pieced and pressed, and the binding all ready to go for that project, all hanging neatly together in the guest room closet until I'm ready to quilt it.  That feels pretty good, too.

See How I Label Things Now That I'm Organized?
And remember how I told you all that I've joined the Charlotte Quilters' Guild?  Well, I noticed at the September meeting that everyone was wearing a handmade fabric name tag, so I've been thinking about making one for myself before the October meeting.  I have a few orphaned sawtooth star blocks made from beautiful hand marbled fabric that I was unable to use in my bear paw quilt because the red fabric was bleeding horribly, but I couldn't bear to toss them because I love the fabric so much...  Well, armed with the knowledge I gained from the Victorious Bloodbath of my Jingle Blocks, I decided to try soaking out the excess dye with hot water and Dawn dish washing liquid.  It worked!  

Bloody Orphan Blocks, Rescued and Redeemed
Aren't they cute?  The two larger blocks are 4 1/2" with seam allowances, and the smaller block is 3 1/2" including seam allowances.  Of course I like the baby-sized block the best, but if I'm going to hand embroider my name in the star I'm better off with one of the larger blocks.  Too bad my name is REBECCA instead of ANN or PAM!  

My plan is to baste additional fabric strips around the star block so I can hoop it properly and embroider my name, probably in white perle cotton.  Then, depending on my mood, I may or may not add some bobbinwork, additional hand embroidery, beading or whatever.  There needs to be some kind of batting and stiffener.  And I want to poke around Michael's and see if I can't find those super strong magnets for pinless badges, because I don't want my name tag to hang around my neck on strings like a feed bag.  But at least the blocks are ready to play with now.  Another itty-bitty win!

Pinned and Ready to Sew
Oh, and the other thing I got done over the storm weekend was pinning two more sets of pineapple blocks together, ready for machine stitching.  OH MY GOSH, pinning all those seams is a pain in the arse!  None of the seams nest and it takes me three or four tries to get each pin right through the seam line of both blocks.  I am starting to wonder whether it wouldn't be faster and more accurate to tack those seam intersections together with hand stitches.  What do y'all think?  I only have three out of six rows stitched together, and then there will be just as many seams needing to match when I join rows together.  This top would be done by now if the pinning wasn't so tedious!

Well, it's Monday now, the skies are Carolina blue again and the sun is shining.  APQS Tech Support is open and my APQS dealer has reached out to offer her help as well.  It's time to confront my enemy!  Wish me luck.

Today I'm linking up with:

Oh Scrap! at Quilting Is More Fun Than Housework
Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts  
Main Crush Monday at Cooking Up Quilts 
Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt 

Moving it Forward at Em’s Scrap Bag: 

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