Sunday, January 29, 2012

Machine Quilting with Leah Day - Week 4

This week Leah Day has us following a line with our quilting. We were to follow straight lines, quilt in the ditch, quilt around a pieced element and ultimately mark a quilting pattern and follow that.

My first step was to design a quilt top that would give everything I needed to do the assignment. I began with the striped fabric in the center of the block. I selected a simple eight point star design, similar to Leah's choice of cheater cloth. I made sure to include a solid fabric where a marked pattern could be shown off. I also selected a border fabric that would provide lots of pattern to follow with contour lines.

The Full Design

When possible it is best to start machine quilting in the middle of a quilt, so that is what I did. I quilted in the ditch around the striped square and then around the pieced star. By starting in a corner I never had to go over a line of quilting, however, once I started going up and down the stripes with my quilting line I did travel stitch along the tops and bottoms of the bars in order to avoid ending and restarting my thread.

Close-up of Border, Man in the Moon and Stitch in the Ditch

The close-up image above shows my almost in the ditch but slightly off stitching as I free motioned my way around the star and up and down the bar of the stripes. It also allows you to see the contour stitching around the  flower elements in the border. I had selected a sage green thread for my quilting. In hindsight I might have opted to change threads for the border and use black in order to better blend in with the background fabric.

Close-up of Stars

The last step was to mark the open areas with a design and follow the marked lines. I chose a man in the moon pattern designed by Hari Walner. I tried tracing the image onto the fabric using a graphite tracing paper. The resulting line wasn't clear enough for me to see. I opted to draw the pattern free hand directly on the quilt with a #2 pencil. The 3 stars were also hand drawn, but I just looped them together free hand with the machine.

From a distance of two feet or so my quilting appears to the follow the lines. It is only nose to quilt where the wobbles become evident. Where my biggest struggle comes and has always come is marking the quilt. I need high contrast, strong marks to follow a line. I don't immerse my quilts, so drawing on a water soluble tear away product won't work. I've tried tracing paper, but picking out the bits of paper that invariably get left behind is a bear. Does anyone have a marking solution?

The lesson I learned from this assignment is that my stitches tend to be small as I follow a line. I worked hard at slowing my pedal speed in order to get some length to the stitches, but I just couldn't seem to go slow enough.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Machine Quilting With Leah Day - Week 3

 This week was STIPPLE, Stipple and stipple. Different quilts and different areas within a quilt call for different sizes of stippling. Week 3 was our opportunity to try our hands at practicing scale.

3 Sizes of Stippling

I marked my fabric sandwich into three vertical channels and started with the central large scale stippling. It seemed like I had finished before I even started. Thanks to practicing large scale basic stippling during the first week this was very easy.

Large Scale Stippling - Close Up

Out of all three sizes of stippling this was the easiest and most consistent when it came to stitch length. I also spent the least amount of time so fatigue and boredom didn't have a chance to set in.

Next I tried my hand on a medium scale stipple. This is the channel on the left shown in the 3 Sizes of Stippling image above.

Mid-Sized Stippling

I still had solid control of my stitch length when doing the mid-sized stippling. I do recall getting hung-up over the size, which is a bit larger than the half inch channels suggested by Leah. I found it difficult to look at my finger (a half inch guide) while I was also stippling. I decided what was most important was that I stayed consistent, which I did.

Small Scale Stippling

Boring! Although I tend to work small scale most of the time on my own work, I found stippling at closer to a 1/4 inch scale boring. It was easy to get distracted. This meant that my stitch length wasn't as consistent. I have a tendency to ramp up the speed with my foot to a point where my hands and brain don't keep up. The result is tiny stitches. I needed breaks to shift my hands and regroup my brain, so there are a few hesitation and stop/start points. It was also easy to move from small scale towards medium scale stippling, so the consistency of scale isn't quite as good with this sample as it is with its larger scale sisters. However, unless you look very carefully and know what you are looking for the inconsistencies aren't noticeable. 

What I am very appreciative of with this project is that it acts as a good warm up for my personal free motion quilting on my current project. I can sense a much stronger sense of control, ease and even stamina at the machine.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Machine Quilting with Leah Day - Week 2

This week's assignment was to practice stippling. Leah Day recommended several ways to approach stippling that were new to me. First was to stipple in quadrants. In other words think of the space to be stippled in as a square subdivided equally into four squares. Next she recommended that we practice stippling randomly and in rows.

I am not new to machine quilting and so stippling is part of my lexicon. However, I have never stippled in rows nor had I ever thought to divide a square into quadrants. Although Leah found rows allowed her to stipple more quickly because "she knew where she was going,"I found that rows were more constricting. I worried that the rows could be detected. However, although I could distinguish the rows in Leah's work, I honestly couldn't find them in my own.

I started stippling randomly at the center of the block at the giraffe's head on the right. I filled in the lower right quadrant working my way back to the same giraffe's head. Next I stippled in up and down rows, completing the lower left quadrant. I made sure my final row lead into the upper left quadrant where I practiced random stippling and the upper right was finished in rows again.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Machine Quilting Along with Leah Day - Week 1

Those of you who know me well know I can never resist a challenge. So, when Leah Day asked her readers to Quilt Along with her and share their progress on their blogs, I was in. What particularly appealed to me about this challenge is that Leah's goal to break away from tight intense quilting into larger, longer traveled areas was exactly the aspect of machine quilting  I struggled with most.

One of my personal obstacles to achieving a more open free form quilting motif was pins. I have always pin basted my quilts every three to four inches. It is hard to get a long line of stitching going if you have to stop and remove a pin. It was clear I needed another way to hold the quilt sandwich together that didn't involve pins. Nancy Zieman shared the perfect technique, I hoped, on her Nancy Zieman's Sewing A - Z series. She used squares of light weight Heat 'n Bond positioned as frequently as you would pin baste. I gave it a try and miracle of miracles it worked.

I created a quilt sandwich the width of my fabric by 18" as Leah recommended. Next I heavily marked lines with chalk every 3" across the 18" side. This gave me a channel to follow. The results - well you tell me.

Assignment 1 - U's, Double Humps, Waves both Left and Right and a Little Free Form

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Display at Menasha Library

Today seemed like the perfect day to take a leap of faith and start my own personal blog. This way I can publish my newsletter in a format that should make viewing images less problematic. I can also post items of interest to me and hopefully you, too. You can choose to subscribe or not.

Those of you, who live in or near my hometown of Appleton, may want to drop by the Menasha Public Library in January 2012. I have ten of my smaller works on display in the curio cabinet opposite the front desk. Many of the pieces are from my Tiny Treasures series.

Tiny Treasures was born out of desperation. We were busy trying to move from Sherborn, MA to Appleton, WI. This meant preparing one house for sale and finding the next home. I was short on time and didn’t want to have all that creative mess in my studio that comes from working on larger projects. I also needed regular fixes of creative energy. I started working on this series during the winter when I was desperate for blossoms. It was the perfect solution to chase away the winter blues, while maintaining a show ready house for sale.