Monday, August 31, 2009

Free Motion Quilting - BSR vs. Me

As many of you know, I'm looking for a new sewing machine. I'm also interested in free motion quilting my own quilts. My search for a sewing machine has slowed down due to time constraints but while on vacation, I did manage to stop by a Bernina store in Austin called Ready to Sew . The lady there quickly offered to hook up the BSR to let me try it out. She knew I was from out of town, knew I would not buy there, and was so gracious. I've heard so much about the BSR that I could not resist an opportunity to try it out! I have very little experience with free motion quilting. I found the BSR a bit awkward - but I was expecting that as I've heard there is a learning curve with it. And why wouldn't there be? There seems to be with everything else - at least for me. Here are the results:

I need some practice rounding out my curves. That will come with time! Last week, I also started free motion quilting with my Pfaff Grand Quilter (no frame) a lap quilt I've been working on. I decided to take some pictures of my free motion quilting for comparision. My stitch length varies but the stitches themselves aren't too bad. This is my second FMQ project and after I got started I felt less anxiety about it all. I did get better with rounding out my curves as the project progressed. Still need to improve but it was nice to see improvement during the project. I found it more difficult to determine where I'd already quilted once the quilt passed to the back side of the sewing machine.
I apologize for the poor photos. We've been having one thing after another break down -my sons car, the frig, some flooring. This time it's my computer so I had to take pics and upload really quickly before my battery died.

The Verdict: I need some more time with the BSR. It's not as obvious to me at this point as to whether or not I'd benefit from it. My free motion quilting isn't as bad as I thought it would be. What do you think?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fall Festival

Two weekends ago, my LQS (Olde Green Cupboard) had their annual Fall Festival. They featured several fiber arts besides quilting. I found the Needle Punch interesting. You work from the wrong side. It does not seem difficult but maybe I'm thinking it looks easier than it is.
Here is the front side:
Here are some finished samples. Cute!
But I wondered what I would do with these?
There was Locker Rug Hooking using fabric strips. Very easy.
A finished project....would be neat on a bathroom or kitchen floor.
They also had Wool Rug Hooking. My favorite. Here is my friend Melody (well only Melody's hands) giving a demonstration. Check out her bracelet. It's stunning! She wanted me to try out a bit of wool hooking. I figured out she was in full enabler mode and to try it would be dangerous waters for me. So I resisted. One day though, I'm going to take her up on it and it will all be over.
There was stitching as well but I didn't get pictures.

There are certainly many very talented fiber artists in my area and I'm lucky enough to call several of them friends. A year and a half ago, I had no interests outside of my family and work. My life has really been enriched these past 18 months in ways I didn't think possible. I'm very grateful for that!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Free Motion Quilting and a Newbie Stitching Mistake

I've been working on free motion quilting the lap quilt that I'm not really thrilled with. I was concerned about the quilting being too dense and I think that I might not have been dense enough. This is my second project that I'm free motion quilting (the first was a table runner for mom). It is what it is though so I'm moving on. I know I'll improve with each attempt, I just need to keep practicing. It many ways it was easier than I thought (it went faster) and other ways it was harder (I felt the strain in my arms and it was hard to see where I'd already quilted). I really enjoyed it though and there is satisfaction in doing this part myself.
The binding is ready to go. I made it out of scraps. Isn't binding all pretty when it's rolled up ready to go? I really enjoy binding. I'm not sure why. Maybe because I've read that a lot of people don't like it so I was expecting it to be horrible. It isn't. It's soothing.
I had my first stitching lesson with my friend Teresa on Monday. I need another lesson. I made a newbie mistake. I should not have started stitching the right side of the border (is that the right term?). Somehow I got off track. Hope to figure it out this weekend and unpick and start moving forward again. Stitching on linen is a lot harder than stitching on Aida. But I'm going to get it. It just takes practice, like everything else, and a friend to walk you through it. I have to say, I'm really enjoying it. I continue to drool over stitching blogs.
And guess what? I totally missed my two quilting classes. I had a mental note that they were in September. It was actually August.

Lesson Learned: Check my calendar!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Fiber Habits Old and New and a Heckler

This past weekend I took a lace class at my LYS KnitWitz. It's for a very large shawl called the Per Terras Shawl. It's so big that the yarn was ordered for us on half pound cones. Needless to say, this is my largest and most challenging knitting project to date just based on the sheer size of it. Of course, I had to make it easier and pick the black yarn. I figured that I might as well have it in a color I'd wear a lot in case I decide this will be my first and last big lace project! I always struggle getting started but once I get a feel for the pattern flow it gets easier. I'm hoping that I really enjoy this type of project. My blog friend Maria is a FANTASTIC lace knitter (and a great photographer, blogger & quilter as well as so many other things). I want to be like her when I grow up! She inspires me! Look for progress pics in a couple of weeks.
I'm also trying a new fiber habit - stitching!!! My real life friend Teresa is meeting me tomorrow night to get started on my first stitching project. I've cross stitched in the past but it's been years and years. And I was self taught so there are bad habits to unlearn. For my first project, I selected Petites Lettres Rouges by Blackbird Designs. If you're not familiar with Blackbird Designs, they do stitching, quilting and rug hooking patterns! Good stuff!
I just had to show you my picture of my boss. She is one of 3 people in the country that has her position for our side of the business. In other words, she is a big shot. On Friday we had our annual outdoor picnic. There were activities, we had music, we had a clown. We also had a dunking booth. Not only was she the first one to sign up, she signed up for 3 time slots. She really is a good sport. Here she is, heckling someone in the crowd. Even though my job is stressful, time consuming and energy consuming, I really enjoy working for her!
Happy Stitches!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Skipping the Gym....

I've skipped the gym for the past 2 days. Instead I've been coming home and working on this:
This is the 2nd project that I've quilted. The first was a small table runner for my mother. She loved it by the way! I typically don't sew during the week but once I got started, I wanted to get the free motion quilting on this finished! I found myself enjoying it. I have a lot to learn but the only way I'm going to learn it is to just do it!

I don't feel guilty at all for missing a couple of workouts!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The lap sized quilt that I'm not thrilled about now has it's top and bottom muslin border. It's been sandwiched and is ready for free motion quilting. I used 505 spray. I had to do it on the garage floor. In the heat. Note to self: buy an old large table to store in the garage so I don't have to do all that bending over! Hopefully, this quilt won't sit here for 6 weeks like it did waiting for the last 2 sides of the border. I don't think it will because I want to have something to compare to when I try out the BSR on the Bernina's. There won't be any sewing machine research for 2 weeks though as I'm simply too busy next Saturday.
On the knitting front, my Dragon Melody Shawl is coming along. I'm up to 569 stitches so each row takes a while. I'm now to the point where I have to cast on 32 stitches and start working perpendicular to the rest of the shawl. This is a first for me so let's hope I can get it figured out!
I completely wasted Thursday and Friday. Instead of knitting or quilting, I vegged. I needed it. Then today, I spent several hours looking HERE. I've been sucked in. This time without help from my evil demon enabler. Darn! No one to blame but myself!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Back From Austin

G and I just got back from a trip to Austin to see these 2 cuties:
We had a great time! There was a trip to Ikea where someone made herself at home.
There was biscuit making.
There was swimming. It was over 100 degrees every day we were there (and many days before). One day it was 104!
There was smoothie drinking.
And loads of shopping!
Now we're home and so tired we feel like we're in a coma. These 2 and their parents are off to Tahoe tomorrow. Yes, a 3 and 6 year old kicked our rears! I think we're both off to bed early tonight. While we're glad to be home, I miss them already!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Zippers!

My zipper class was this past week. We learned 4 ways to put in a zipper. Zippers are scary!
Here is a couple of pictures of the first method we learned. I think it's called a lap zipper.
My zipper foot was a bit weird to get used to. You can see that in my stitches. I'm sure I need remediation. But I won't be scared when I try sewing in a zipper!
i joined the Fat Quarter Shop Mystery Block of the Month Club. These are probably a bit beyond me right now. I wonder if I can buy more fabric if I mess one (or 12) up?!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Another Fiber Interest

This weekend my LQS had a rug hooking retreat. I don't hook rugs but my friend Melody does. She is a very talented knitter, stitcher and rug hooker. She comes from a long line of fiber artists. A couple of knitting friends and I dropped by to say hello and to see what she was working on. Here she is with one of her projects, Merrie Halloween. Visit Melody at her blog Wooley Thoughts and you can see where she was by the end of the retreat. This was Saturday night:
One of the LQS ladies was working on Merrie's boyfriend.
This is another project someone else was working on.
This type of rug hooking is something that I could be interested in. At this point though, I just don't have the time. I hope one day!

Where is that winning lottery ticket?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Transforming and More Research

The Blob is transforming. I've just started the first lace section. I always have difficulty getting started. Once the fabric starts to build up, it gets easier for me to see what I'm supposed to be doing and it gets easier to read my knitting. I'm up to 489 stitches so each row takes a long time. And a long time if you have to tink back to a mistake. I'm getting better at checking my work to make sure I didn't forget a yarn over. Saves me a lot of heartache that way!
Saturday I continued my sewing machine research by visiting the local Janome dealer. I really enjoyed this Memory Craft 6600P and it has a lot of the features I'd like to have. Lock stitch, auto thread cutter, lots of stitches and a big harp. You don't need to use a foot pedal (which I don't mind) to start/stop the machine. It comes with a lot of feet and purchasing additional feet is not a big investment. Easy to figure out and the dealer would have a one on one with meet on the weekend to teach me how to use it. They'd also meet me again if needed and they offer garment sewing classes (which I'd be interested in). It's also far less expensive than the Bernina at $1600.

The stitching was wonderful with the Coats and Clark thread they had in it. It was changed to Gutterman and the straight stitching wasn't as good. The store was busy and I didn't think about messing with the tension. I'll be sure to do so next time I visit. This is a concern. This machine has 2 lights but they're not the cool to the touch lights. It's a heavy machine. It's also been well reviewed on patternreview.com which is great. I'd love to hear of anyone's experiences with this machine (including experiences with free motion quilting).
They also sell Brother machines and the sales person suggested this machine. The Brother Innovis QC-1000. It's specifically marketed to quilters. It totally operates off the screen and has a feature where you can program the pressure foot to come up each time you stop the machine with the needle down. You can then easily and quickly pivot what you're working on. I didn't get a chance to play around with this much but someone picked up one of these while I was there. It also has good but few reviews on patternreview.com. It's $1900. For some reason, this machine just didn't speak to me.
No research next weekend. It's probably a good thing. My head is still whorling and I need to develop a set of questions that I ask everyone. I also need to develop a list of things to try out on the machines.

Please keep any sewing machine feedback coming! I'd also love to hear how you figured out which machine was best for you!