Category Archives: Quilting

Clamshell quilting with template

Well — here they are.  My very first blog videos!  These are REALLY rough — totally unedited .  Just me talking and demonstrating.  Bear in mind, not only are these my first videos, they are basically unrehearsed.  And I am just learning how to use these templates, so there are some glitches along the way.   I could have waited to post these until I got better at this and had them carefully  edited, but decided not to.  Perhaps it will be helpful to you to see the glitches and know that I am just beginning to learn how to use these tools.   Maybe later I will make some better videos and replace these.

If you have come directly to this post and not read the previous one from a few days ago, please go back and read it.  Lots of information there that I am not repeating here.

I really must get my hands on some sticky tape to put on the back of these templates.  As you will see in the videos, I am having some trouble with the templates sliding around.  The sticky tape is supposed to help solve that problem.

In the videos, I called the special presser foot a “hopping foot”.  I think that is not a good name to use, because it doesn’t really “hop”.  I think “ruler foot” is a better term and I will try to use it in the future.

But here goes with the videos.  The first two are really just two parts of the same one;  I got a little stuck with positioning and had to stop and regroup until I figured out what to do next!

Video one – large clamshells, starting row

Video two – large clamshells, second and third rows

Video three – small clamshells

And I have discovered another blogger, Amy Johnson,  who has been using  these templates way longer than me so has lots of expertise to share:

http://www.freemotionquiltingadventures.com/p/blog-page_18.html

Domestic Machine Ruler Templates for Free Motion Quilting

Long-arm quilters have been using templates for many years and getting beautiful results. It is possible to use the long-arm templates on a domestic sewing machine if you are very careful, but you risk damaging your machine because of the thickness of the templates.

A clever quilter in Australia, Leonie West, has developed a series of templates for domestic sewing machines that are thinner and make it easy to quilt a wide variety of patterns. Her website is www.westalee.com.au . Sew Steady, the Eugene Oregon company that manufacturers acrylic sewing machine extension tables, is the exclusive US licensee and manufacturer for these templates. Their website is www.sewsteady.com .

These templates are a new hot trend for quilters. I have seen them advertised a few times and wanted to try them. This week I purchased the hopper foot and an assortment of templates from Quality Sewing and Vacuum in Silverdale. Brace yourself for the price of these things—even on sale, they were not cheap!

The hopper foot comes in high shank and low shank versions. The low shank can also be used on high shank machines with an adapter. I already had the adapter so purchased the low shank version.

Here is what the hopper foot looks like mounted on my Brother machine.

Low shank hopping foot installed on Brother Dreamweaver 3000

Low shank hopping foot installed on Brother Dreamweaver 3000

There are online videos showing how to install the foot on your machine, and how to use some of the templates. Be sure to watch them; the written instructions that come with the foot and templates are very brief. You can find links to the videos at both the websites I listed above.

In general, these things work by lining up the hopper foot on the edge of the template, and then moving the template and the quilt sandwich under the needle. The hopper foot is ½ inch across, so the needle is always stitching ¼ inch away from the template.

Here is a photo of one of the templates – just a plain circle- in place and with part of the design stitched out.

circle template in place for stitching

circle template in place for stitching

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I found the templates quite easy to use and was very pleased with the results. The quilting goes quickly and the marking needed is very minimal.   Of course I am an experienced free motion quilter, but I think the templates might make free motion quilting easier for less experienced FM quilters also.

Here are some examples:

Spinning Wheel Pattern—completed pattern, and the template placed on top of the pattern showing its position during the stitching.   As each petal of the flower is completed, the template is rotated to the position for the next petal. The stitching is continuous and the template is well marked. Be sure to watch the online video of this one before you start.   It is easy to do but the video shows you the overall process which won’t be obvious before you have done one of these rotating patterns.

 

spinning wheel pattern completed

spinning wheel pattern completed

spinning wheel template placed over stitched out design

spinning wheel template placed over stitched out design

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clamshell pattern- again, the completed pattern and the template placed on top of the pattern. The little rounded “hook” at the end of the template is great for positioning the hopper foot when you need to move the template after stitching a couple of clamshells. The lower edge of the template is used for tiny clamshells, which I haven’t stitched out yet.

Completed clamshell quilting

Completed clamshell quilting

 

clamshell template placed on completed stitching

clamshell template placed on completed stitching

 

 

Feathers – my sample here is pretty good but one of the feathers came out too short. It can be picked out and replaced with a better one, so it’s not a fatal mistake. Still not sure exactly how I made that mistake! There is a good online video that shows many variations on the feather pattern. Several sizes of feather templates are available and they can be used within the same design to make smaller and larger feathers.

 

feather pattern stitched out

feather pattern stitched out

feather template placed on stitched out design

feather template placed on stitched out design

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spiral – this is a very simple use of this 6 inch spiral template. This design could be enhanced by adding free motion work either inside or outside the design. Lots of other variations possible also but I couldn’t find an online video explaining how to use this tool effectively so I still need to learn more.

 

Simple pattern using spiral template

Simple pattern using spiral template

6inch spiral template on top of completed design

6inch spiral template on top of completed design

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another quilter who has done some interesting work with templates is Patsy Thompson. She has a couple of good videos on her website: www.patsythompsondesigns.com . I think she is working with the thicker long arm templates, but the methods should be the same.

I encourage you to ask your local quilt shop about these templates, or your local sewing machine store.  I purchased the Domestic Ruler Foot – which includes a couple of templates – and also the 6 piece sampler set.  This is enough to get your started and explore this new kind of quilting.

 

Cutting your fabric to achieve accurate ¼ inch seams

One of the common problems all quilters have is achieving an accurate ¼ inch seam allowance. Using the ¼ inch piecing foot or a ¼ inch mark on our sewing machines is not enough. Depending upon the thickness of our fabric and thread, folding the seam over “takes up” a little width. Most of us try to compensate by sewing a “scant” 1/4 inch seam.

Of course it also depends upon how many seams are going to exist in a block. For a simple block like a four patch, there is only one seam in each direction so it doesn’t matter so much if the seam takes up a little extra. But for blocks with many seams, it can be a major problem.

Here’s an alternate approach: cut the strips or pieces in your quilt slightly larger. And I do mean slightly. You can use the lines on your rulers to do this.

Here is an example. I am using an old ruler I own manufactured by Quilter’s Rule. It has rather wide lines. For newer rulers with narrow lines, you will have to develop your own method and run tests to figure out the amount of adjustment needed.

For the purposes of this test, I cut six 1 ½ inch wide strips, each about 6 inches long. First, I cut them aligning the fabric edge with the middle of the 1 ½ inch line, as shown in this photo.  Ignore the fact that the ruler line shown is the 1 inch line; I took the photos after completing the test and placed the wrong line on the fabric edge.  Just pretend it is the 1 1/2 inch line!

Cutting with half of the line thickness

Cutting with half of the line thickness

I then sewed these six strips together using my ¼ inch presser foot and being careful to sew accurate seams. Afterward I pressed the seams carefully, using “Best Press” to get the “block” nice and flat. The resulting block is shown below. The extra fabric taken up in the five seams results in a block that is too small – 6 ¼ inches instead of 6 ½.

Finished test block using half the line thickness is too small

Finished test block using half the line thickness is too small

The second test was done aligning the fabric with the left edge of the line, shown here.

Cutting using all of the line thickness

Cutting using all of the line thickness

Again the six strips were cut and sewn together. Now the block is 6 5/8 inches, slightly oversized. But it can easily be cut down to 6 ½ inches if needed.

Finished test block using all the line thickness produces a big enough block

Finished test block using all the line thickness produces a big enough block

I have also done this test with a newer “thin line” ruler and learned to judge where to line up the fabric edge to make the strips slightly wider.

I really like the idea of solving this size problem in the cutting of the strips, rather than trying to solve it later in the sewing. I am going to try to make it a habit in the future, especially when constructing pieced blocks with many seams. Maybe you will find this a useful tip also.

Contemporary Swiss and European Patchwork

A major part of my recent trip to Europe was participation in a family reunion in Neuchatel, Switzerland.  While there I had a discussion with Caroline Junier, a cousin (I think we have the same great-grandfather, if I have kept my family history straight), who until recently worked for the Neuchatel Museum of Art and History.

Naturally we discussed quilting and I showed Caroline some photos of my quilts.  She explained that there is a very active quilting (they call it Patchwork in Europe) community in and around Neuchatel.  In fact she believes it is the largest such community in Switzerland.  In her capacity at the Museum, she was very involved in putting together a number of quilt exhibitions.  She offered to provide me with the catalogs from three of the exhibitions, and delivered them to me at my hotel the next day.

I was very impressed with the quality of both the quilts and the catalogs, which are beautifully done.  Funding support for the exhibitions and the catalogs (if I am translating the French correctly) was provided by Bernina (our sewing machine friends), Loterie Romande (I don’t know who they are but it sounds like a Lottery), and Migros (big grocery store chain in Switzerland).

I have shown the catalogs to several members of my quilt guild and they enjoyed seeing them very much.  I wish I could show you photos here, but of course the images are copyrighted.  I include some web links and names below where you can see some of the work.

The following is a translation of the introduction to the catalog by some of the organizers.  I first used Google translate to get this from the original French to English, and did some fairly loose intrepretation so that it would make sense.  My apologies to anyone I may offend by my errors in translation!

“After having organized three exhibitions of contemporary patchwork of national importance in 1986, 1989 and 1993, Neuchatel Museum of Art and History once again wishes to show Patchwork to a wider audience, as well as how the assembly of textile elements has evolved and has become a means of art expression  in its own right in Switzerland and Europe.

Caroline Junier, curator of the department of applied art of the Museum of Art and History in Neuchatel, has organized this new exhibit, EXNA 4 in 2010. For her availability, expertise and usual dynamism, as in 1993, we are very grateful.

We are grateful to the jury who, thanks to their skills and knowledge in the contemporary art world, with impartiality selected fifty-two works from those presented in the contest.

We also thank the forty-one invited artists- among the best in Europe – who responded eagerly to our request and have enabled the exposition to present their works in the unique format selected: 35 by 35 cm.

by Maryline Collioud-Robert, Lucienne Hool, and Zibull Masson”

I have tried to find a good link to photos of the included quilts and failed to find more than a few photos.   You can find them yourself by searching for “EXNA 4 Patchwork Contemporain Suisse & Europeen”.  One of the organizers, Maryline Collioud-Robert, has a web site and blog.  She had three quilts in the show and shows these and others of her quilts at her blog: http://www.marylinecollioudrobert.com/en/Home.html .

Other quilters with multiple quilts in the show and current web presence were :     Beata Keller-Kerchner, Cecile Trentini, and Malou Zryd.  You can find some images of their work by typing their names in to the usual search engines.  Nearly all the work is very contemporary, usually abstract, and visually striking. There is a lot of use of texture in the exhibit, much more so than in the earlier 1986 and 1993 exhibits for which I also have catalogs.

Landscape Quilt Class prototypes

I will be teaching a beginning landscape quilt class at Quality Sewing in Silverdale in September and I am doing the preparation work for the class.  Recently I taught a practice class at Creative Union in Port Townsend and it was very useful to me, plus my students created some great quilts.

The class uses the book “Lovely Landscapes” by Cathy Geier as the basis. The objective of the quilt design for this class is to make it easy for beginners and simple enough that the students can accomplish most of the assembly process in class.  So I decided to use a sunset scene with a silhouetted tree.

My first prototype is shown below.

landscape quilt 1 Apr 2015

I decided this one was too dark and the tree needed more detail.  Also the water wasn’t right — the horizon was too high and the water wasn’t interesting.

So I altered the foreground design and lightened up the sky some.  Also added a silhouetted sailboat for a little more interest.

landscape quilt 2 Apr 2015

I still think the sky needs to be lighter yet, and the change in the water is more interesting but adds quite a bit of time to the assembly process.  I will need to simplify the design further by reducing the number of strips.  Also the area where the sand meets the horizon line is not good and needs some adjustment.

And here is the quilt made by one of my students and fellow guild members, Susan Sawatsky.  She decided to go with a daylight scene and did some wonderful collage work with embroidery thread to make the leaves in the tree.  Didn’t she do great?

Susan landscape

I will post more later as I evolve the design for the class.

Presser Foot Pressure Adjustment – second post

Recently I posted a short discussion and a link to a youtube video on the subject of presser foot pressure adjustment.  Following that post, I did some testing on my own machines, with walking feet installed.  As I did the tests, I wrote on the fabric to show the settings used.  You can see the settings in the photos.  After sandwiching batting between two pieces of fabric, you sew a crossways seam at the bottom of the piece.  Then the test stitching is done by stitching from the top down towards the crossways stitching.  If the top fabric is being pushed forward, it will show up as a pleat at the crossways stitching.

First, my old faithful Bernina Artista 180.  I was quite impressed with the results.  The range of adjustment is very good.  The lowest setting (no numbers on the machine, but I labelled it 0) was way too light — the stitching wasn’t very straight and the stitch length was inconsistent.  The best setting seemed to be about 8, or two thirds of the way.  Even the highest pressure setting was pretty good.  You can see these results in the photo below:

Bernina 180 walking foot pressure test

Bernina 180 walking foot pressure test

Second, I put the optional walking foot on my Brother Dreamweaver VQ 3000.   I purchased it because it gives  better visibility than the “Muvit™” foot that comes with the machine.  Frankly, up to this point I had never used the Muvit™ foot because it only came with a closed toe sole plate that I really didn’t like.  Also the Muvit™ foot is quite large (since it contains a motor) and I didn’t like that either.  I have recently changed my mind, but more about that later.

The photo below shows the results with the optional walking foot.  There are four possible pressure settings for this machine – 1 through 4 – and I tried them all.  The lowest setting was just barely tolerable.  The results with the higher settings were quite bad.  I tried various other adjustments — presser foot height, auto fabric sensor on or off — and nothing helped.  Here are the results:

Brother VQ 3000 pressure test with optional walking foot

Brother VQ 3000 pressure test with optional walking foot

After consulting with Quality Sewing about this problem, I went to the shop and tested a machine like mine, but using the Muvit™ foot.  The results were excellent, and the visibility problem that so bothered me initially has been solved with a new open toe sole plate for the Muvit™ foot.  Here is a photo of the Muvit™ foot installed on the machine, so you get the idea.

Brother Muvit foot installed

Brother Muvit foot installed

Here is a photo of the two sole plates for comparison.  The 1/8 and 1/4 inch markings on the open sole plate are very helpful.

Brother Muvit foot sole plate comparison

Brother Muvit foot sole plate comparison

 

And now the test results.  The Muvit™ foot has an adjustment range from -10 to +10.  At   -10, a little puckering is just beginning to show.  All the other settings produce excellent results, so I would be inclined to leave the machine set at the default, which is 0.0.

Brother Muvit foot pressure test results

Brother Muvit foot pressure test results

After conducting this test at Quality Sewing, I purchased the open toe sole plate and came home and quilted a quilt with the Muvit™ foot.  I also put the binding on using the Muvit™.  I am very impressed with the results.  I still wish the foot was a little smaller, but I can now understand why the engineers designed it the way it is.  And I retract all the nasty thoughts I had about it!  Always good to get motivated enough to try new things, especially when your initial emotional reaction was “what kind of idiot did this?”.  Turns out, some very clever (not idiot) engineers did this!

New task lights for sewing

While at Sew Expo I found some great new lights at the Quality Sewing booth and bought  two new LED light fixtures.  I am really appreciating the extra illumination at my sewing machine.  One of the lights is the little kind that you attach to the left side of your sewing machine and then use the flexible stem to aim the  light directly at the presser foot/needle area.  These have been around for some time but this one is by Naturalight, and I have not seen it before.  So far I like it very much.  I assume you can buy it at any Quality Sewing location in the Puget Sound area, or it is available from Amazon here:
Daylight Naturalight LED Sewing Lamp, White and Silver

The other light – which I am really excited about – is also by the same company.  It is a super bright light bar that puts out the equivalent of over 300 watts.    The light has two strips of LEDs and they can be turned on or off separately if you want more or less light.  The whole thing is also dimmable.  Being a “senior citizen” myself I can’t imagine using anything other than the brightest light, but I guess it’s nice to have flexibility.  The light bar can also be rotated to put the light just where you want it. Again it can be purchased at Quality Sewing, or you can buy it at Amazon: Brand New Naturalight Task Lamp LED XL-White Brand New  .

Here are some photos of this light fixture. The first photo shows the box it came in.   The second photo is with the light turned on. It is a little hard to judge the light from these photos due to the camera exposure, but the fixture provides a very nice even bright light.  I am really pleased with it, and the mini light aimed at my needle lights up the one spot I needed that I can’t get with the task bar.

Naturalight Task Lamp in the box

Naturalight Task Lamp in the box

Naturalight Task Lamp on

Naturalight Task Lamp on

Be sure to check these fixtures out at Quality Sewing if you are local.  They had  special prices on them for Sew Expo (about $30 for the little one and $150 for the big one), even better than the prices on Amazon.  Not sure what the prices will be in the store, but you can always wait for a sale.  Several other configurations of lamps were also available — floor mounted, with magnifying lenses, etc – if these two don’t meet your needs.