BulgingButtons

Not bad for a fat girl


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Six Quilts Done, Forty-four to Go

To break even on my long-arm quilt machine, that is. Except that five of the six are baby quilts, so they probably shouldn’t really count, but I’m counting them anyway. Of course there will never be a real break even point, because there are always things you have to keep getting, like threads and machine feet and batting and rulers. Breaking even isn’t the point anyway. The point is I can finish my quilts on my own. I find that idea satisfying, even if I’m not entirely satisfied with my skill level yet.

Learning new skills takes time, and this one is no different. I liken it to riding a bike. At first you worry about balance. But then there’s steering and pedaling and if you ignore any of those you won’t have much success. There’s a fair amount to pay attention to with the long-arm also. Correct loading, tension on the frame, thread tension, speed, and smoothness all come to mind. I need practice with it all.

I just finished quilting number six. It’s another baby quilt, but they’re good for practice, and to use up some of the fabric that’s been hanging around my sewing room for years. I bought the fabrics for this one when my son was in preschool, with this pattern in mind. It would have been a fun one for him when he was little, but at 24 he’s definitely outgrown it. I don’t mind though, some little *kid somewhere will enjoy it ( *I almost said boy, but girls can like vintage race cars too).

Now I need to bind the quilt, and another project will be officially finished. I love the sense of accomplishment I get from completing quilts on the long-arm. I may not be great at it yet, but I keep getting better, so I’m satisfied. Practice may not make perfect, but it definitely makes progress.

Isn’t this great fabric? I used a checkerboard flag fabric with it for a simple but striking quilt.


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Such a Bright Quilt!

And done!

I’m so pleased this braid quilt is done. I was going to say finally done, but that’s not really the case. I have a quilt tops that have been around for 20+ years, but not this one.

This one was started this past spring while school was still in session. I was teaching full-time, working on finishing my National Board materials (not a small task, let me tell you), and trying to finish out the spring months with my sanity intact. Although I already started this quilt, I put it aside knowing that I just did not have enough time to do everything. In fact, it sort of motivated me because each time I looked at it thinking I wanted to work on it, I told myself to go work on my National Board submission.

Fast forward just a tiny bit, and school was out for the summer, and my National Board materials were submitted. I stopped and took a couple of deep breaths. Now I could quilt.

Since I recently bought myself a massive long arm quilting machine, I figured I better put it to good use. What better way to practice, then on a quilt that will end up in the hands of someone whose eyesight is not so great. That would be my mom. Unfortunately, she has developed quite a few problems with her vision, but she can still see bright colors. That’s what she asked for. A quilt with bright colors.

I got to work in my scrap bins, and cut up all these little pieces. Fortunately many of them were already in 2 1/2 inch wide strips. I put the pieces into a paper bag, and pulled them out at random to make the braids. Once in a while I re-pulled if the color was too similar to the one before it.

Putting the braids together was a lot of fun, and really a great stress reliever. It was getting the whole thing stitched together that was a little bit more of a challenge. I’m glad I saved that part of the project for after school let out. First, I had to decide what I wanted to put around the braids, if anything. I tried out a few different colors, and decided the turquoise was the way to go. I also was debating between either white or black in between. As you can see, I chose the black. My mom wants to use this on a bed in what used to be in my bedroom. Grandkids stay over regularly, so I figured the darker color would be a little easier to maintain. I love the way the black sets off all the bright colors.

The thing about this type of a quilt, is that when you do the braids you end up with a lot of bias edges. If you don’t sew, you may not realize that the bias edge is extremely stretchy. That makes it a little bit tricky to sew with, because those edges like to change size. Getting those turquoise frames around each strip ended up being kind of a hassle. Still, I got it done and loaded onto my quilt machine.

That’s where the fun really began. You see, I am a novice at this. I only have loaded the quilt machine three times. Well, actually four. The thing is when I put it on the quilting machine I forgot to check my tension before I started quilting. No big deal, right? Wrong. I got pretty far across the quilt before I realized that stitches were being skipped. That’s not good. However, I decided to ignore it and finish quilting the row. Big mistake.

When I got to the end of the row I looked under the quilt, and to my horror, there were tangles of thread all the way across the quilt. It was time to tear out stitches. Thousands of stitches. What took me five minutes to create took three days to undo. I even had time to order a new seam ripper and have it delivered before I had the job done. Once all of the stitches were out, I took everything off the frame and reloaded it.

This time I made sure to check my stitches on the side of the quilt before I got going. They looked pretty good to me, so off I went. Unfortunately, after a short while my thread broke. Maybe I threaded it incorrectly? I unthreaded the machine, re-threaded it, and tested the tension again. Then, it broke again. What was I doing wrong? I had to take a break, and watch a few videos to see if I could figure out the problem. I changed my needle, rethreaded the machine, changed the bobbin, and still it broke. Then I started to mess with the top tension, and all of a sudden the stitches looked a lot better. Yes, I thought they were fine before, but I was wrong. New tension setting in place, off I went to finish the quilting. Lesson learned.

The good news is that my quilting was better the second time around, so there’s that silver lining. I also ended up with an almost perfectly squared off quilt, which seems sort of miraculous considering how much fiddling I had to do with the turquoise and black strips. I had plenty of the black fabric left for binding, and much to my surprise the binding went on smoothly, and looked really good, if I do say so myself. Usually I hand stitch it down on the back of the quilt, but I decided to be brave and try a machine binding again. This was the first one I did that I’m actually happy with.

Mom’s quilt is done, and I learned a lot along the way. I also had the opportunity to use up some scraps, and to practice my longarm quilting skills. I love the bright colors, and I know she will too.


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I Did It; Now I’m a Longarmer

If you have any idea what that means you’re probably either a quilter, or you read my last post. If not, let me explain. A longarmer is a person who uses a longarm quilting machine (think giant sewing machine on a frame – there’s a picture in my last post). Well, I bit the bullet and purchased the Moxie longarm from Handiquilter. I got an 8 foot loft frame, which means that an entire room of my house holds that, the dog’s kennel (she’s too old for change now), and a bookcase. Yeah, it’s big.

There’s definitely a learning curve, but after just a few tries I’m way better at longarming than I have ever been at quilting on my domestic (i.e. regular) sewing machine. Moving the machine is so much easier than moving the quilt, and the longarm regulates the stitches so they’re nice and even. That’s something I’ve always struggled with on the domestic machine. It’s a great sewing machine, but I’m not a great machine quilter.

Now that the Moxie is up, I think it needs a name. It hasn’t come to me yet, but it will.

So far I’ve quilted up the sample gridded fabric that came with the machine (for practice), and a quilt top that had been just waiting to be finished. Since the learning curve means that my first several projects won’t be stellar (and I’m okay with that) I want them to be things that are useful, but not too near and dear to my heart. I’m also improving my machine binding skills, since hand-stitching binding is tedious, and my wrists will only tolerate a small amount of hand sewing at a time. This pink, white, and chocolate baby quilt was a perfect place to start.

I bought the printed fabrics as a jelly roll (precut 2.5 inch strips), then added in the white and solid pink. I wasn’t super happy with the result, and the workmanship is pretty awful if you care to look closely. I’m not sure why matching seams all of a sudden seemed impossible on that quilt, but it is what it is. The back is pieced from scraps and a very cute nursery rhyme fabric (which my sweetheart has proclaimed terrifying, go figure). I’m actually pleased with how it turned out. Now that it’s been washed and dried it looks like a timeworn and well loved quilt. It’s time to send if off to become just that for some little kid who needs it.

I have quite a lot on my plate for now (my submissions for National Board certification are due in a couple of weeks, and we have several weeks of school left), so I’m not playing with the new machine too much. There’s a colorful braid quilt in the works, and so many tops that need quilting just waiting for me. I ordered a bolt of batting and I hit the discount fabric store for large pieces to use as backings. It’s beautiful fabric, and at about $6 a yard instead of $12, it’s worth the trip and the hunt to find what I want. Just a few more weeks, and I will have the time to practice, practice, practice. I can’t wait!