Sunday, 31 December 2017

Snow, snow, snow

For days we have had flurries.  But flurries soon become lots of snow.  Combined with cold, it is a great opportunity to get some things done.  Of course all quilters with a few exceptions have UFO's.  And I also read today about a condition I can totally sympathize with.  It is where one starts something exciting and it gets part way there when the eye and/or mind is captured by something new.  I try to use restraint but that desire to move on to another project does breed UFO's.

Example was a guild challenge to make a block.  Ok, the block was finished.  Had fun but what to do with the block.  It languished on my design wall.  Not big enough to make a bigger quilt; too unique to be anything but a one off block.  So a little quilt was the solution.  But finding a suitable fabric for a border was a challenge.  Box after box of fat quarters were investigated.  That alone was a sad exercise to see all the lovely fabrics still to be used.  Finally I found a batik which reminded me of sea horses.  It did not bear any likeness to the block but it worked.  Here it is.   I will add it to my quilting room wall somewhere.  It was a good practice for my new BSR.   Do I see an ulterior motive to making a small quilt?

In looking around on another day I saw a big block of fat quarters in coordinating fabrics all tied up with a ribbon.  I wanted to make a Christmas gift which was going to be late to the post; of course.  I took the fabrics apart and they were really luxurious.  Perfect for a lovely table in an old stone house in Scotland.  I very, very quickly cast aside one of the fat quarters thinking it would make nice borders.  It was a quick decision and I got on with the blocks which were to be a table runner.  A ten degree ruler which had lain unused was tried out.  This is the result.  
Notice there are no borders and it is not a table runner.  That is because the blocks did not finish as I thought they would so I ignored them for a bit.  Out came the ignored fat quarter from the pile and I mean  a large pile of fabric on the cutting table.  It multiplies overnight I am certain.  The fat quarter was actually a picture which coordinated with the other fat quarters.  So change in plans; it became the table runner.  Good old longarm got to work on tracing components of the picture and it turned out nicely and one of the neglected fat quarters made the binding.  
So, more projects are finished but there are some tempting things from leftovers; a challenge that is partially finished.  And I came across some hexagons in an orphan state and so began a small quilt this p.m. to use them.  I wonder if there is therapy for those quilters who keep imagining projects before finishing the current one or ones.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Constant Learning

When I started this blog, I wanted to record and show about learning about long arm quilting; the good and the bad.  I have certainly encountered the bad but on balance it is pretty well all good now.  The techniques and stitches do not seem as formidable as at the start.  Practice certainly does make it easier.  There is so much to learn from how you treat and prepare the quilt to mounting, adjusting tension and picking patterns.  And that comes before you actually do the work.  Tension; the quilt itself can play havoc with your plans. 

Thanks to the many experts on line who share their knowledge so freely I enjoy doing quilts.  The videos are wonderful.  You repeat them if you miss something or do not quite get it.  And the repertory of stitches is so huge.  They are based on the simple geometry of lines and curves at the most basic level. But combined they sweep your eyes over a quilt in a pleasurable way.

Of course once you get to stage 1 in your skills and knowledge, there is the excitement of getting to stage 2 and onward.  Until a quilt is quilted, a true assessment of its success cannot be made.  A quilt top, bottom and batting comes in and a QUILT goes out back to its owner.

But not all quilts are big enough for a long arm.  That leaves the domestic machine.  There are art quilts, table covers and runners which can be done with a walking foot but once you have become used to swirls and pebbles and flowers and geometric designs on a larger scale you don't just want straight lines except when they are the right thing.  I am afraid I would not do a full size quilt on a domestic machine but starting with a long arm made me prejudiced.

However, translating from using the machine as an art pencil where the machine moves to moving the fabric is not easy.  Your mind needs to make the shift so your hands can do the work.  You are back again to tension, stitch length, and keeping the quilt itself with enough tension on the layers.  It is easier on a frame.  And of course there are aids on the long arm.  The stitch regulator.  That is a somewhat controversial subject as to whether that is a form of cheating.  I prefer to think that tools are made to be used and if they help then they are great to have. 

I have a wonderful domestic machine which I have had for several years.  I have enjoyed using it for embroidery; embroidery as applique and just plain piecing as well as decorative stitches on quilts and other objects.  But no stitch regulator or at least one that is easy to use.  My quilting without a regulator did get better but in comparison to the long arm it was not satisfactory.   So,...................

I gave myself a Christmas present.  A new machine with a stitch regulator by Bernina.  The regulator comes in its own box; packaged in protective foam.  It looks a lot like an ordinary quilting foot but it is laser activated.  Oh how wonderful is technology.  Is it worth the cost?  After some practicing I believe it is.  It will allow expression and control that the long arm provides with the convenience of being able to do small pieces readily.  The following are examples of just doing some practicing today.  There are mistakes but I love Angela Waters concept of mistakes.  So here is an example of a second piece.  The first one was defeated by the wrong choice of a patterned material and the ability to keep the 3 layers completed synchronized.  I admire those whose stitching on a domestic machine is perfect but am willing to admit it like the stitch regulator.