Back in Business

The Juki arrived back the Friday before Thanksgiving week. My gardener (and general helper/builder/handyman) was able to come over and help me lift it back onto the table on Monday. He had helped me with the original set-up and so I was very grateful that he was able to come and help me get it back in place.

I was unreasonably nervous about working with it, and so  I planned to practice on a couple of small quilts before attempting the quilting on Hallelujah!

First, I finished the quilting on this little piece. This was made of some very small courthouse steps blocks I had made. I enjoyed making them, but after getting this far, I realized that I was never going to finish enough of these blocks (with 1/2″ finished logs) to make a whole quilt. I always loved this verse, and thought it was the perfect one to go with “courthouse steps” blocks.

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Next, I dug out a really old little quilt. A long-gone dog had chewed on the edges, and I didn’t know what to do with it. Then when I looked at it again, I realized I could just cut the borders smaller, and no one would ever know a dog gnawed on it 🙂 I had fun quilting it.

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So I was almost ready to start Hallelujah! But I decided I wanted some different thread for quilting. I decided to treat myself to a trip to the quilt shop after the last shot in my knee, the day before Thanksgiving. Because I was determined to start this quilting the day AFTER Thanksgiving.

Look at this wonderful fabric I found at the shop! I could not resist getting a piece of it.

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And right on time, Friday morning, I made myself go out into the studio, I practiced a feather or two on a practice sandwich, and then I just went to town. I alternated outlining the lettering with making feathers.

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Next I am going to fill in between the feathers with some crosshatching and some pebbles. I’m not sure what I am going to do around the lettering–thinking about some straight line quilting just to make them stand out.

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This ‘n’ That

First of all, a big THANK YOU to the people who suggested using Vicky Welsh‘s method of dye stain removal. It worked!!! That will be my go-to method in the future. Hopefully I won’t have to use it too often.

I finished another almost-completed quilt. I had stopped because I wanted to somehow be able to do “cobblestone street” quilting in the white sections and I didn’t know what to do. Then, I started making these brick patterns on some of the “what they said” quilts, and I knew that was what I wanted to do. This is actually a verse in the Bible–in Jeremiah 6–but in The Message paraphrase. I really like it.

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A question about the Juki came up. It is a long arm sit down Juki. I got it in February. And there was a learning curve, which I hated. But now that I’ve gotten more comfortable with it, I love it. It seems to work right every time I start it up. I still keep a little sandwich nearby to try out the stitches, especially after I change the bobbin. I wrote about the learning curve on the Juki here and here.

And speaking of learning curves…This Hallelujah Chorus quilt just about did me in this week! I knew it was going to be difficult to work with. Each panel was made into a sandwich for the embroidery. When I was all done, I cut out the excess batting and backing, so now each piece was partly floppy silky fabric and partly heavy quilt sandwich. I had planned to cut each down to a specific size. I had kept fairly good notes on my plan. Then I changed my plan. Why not make them all 36 inches instead of 32? Oh, except one of them I had cut to less than ‘width of fabric.’ And then, something went haywire with my math brain. 34 + 12 = 46, NOT 44. Egad. Anyway, it took several days, and a couple of breaks to calm me down, but I got it put together into a quilt top. And now I have to figure out what else I am going to add to it. Either more embroidered circles or some very nice quilting.

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Adding to my angst (maybe that’s what happened to my math brain) was thinking about how I was going to make the quilt sandwich. I usually use all cotton fabric and batting and rely on steam to do a great deal of the work. And I knew that would not work with this silky fabric and the wool batting that I was planning to use. So I googled “making a quilt sandwich with wool and silk” and of course, there was an answer. The author used misty fuse and fused the entire top, and then strips of fusible to adhere the backing. So I tried this. And I found, once again, that I DO NOT LIKE FUSIBLE. That’s just my own preference.

Here’s the sample I made with the fused top.

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Then I made a sandwich with no fusible at all. I pinned fairly closely, and then took it to the machine to machine baste it. BTW, I LOVE the basting stitch on the Juki. It is very stable and does not distort your sandwich. So then I did as I usually do, and just removed the basting stitches from the small area I was quilting on. I don’t know if anyone else can tell the difference, but I think the quilting is prettier and softer without the fusible.

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And then, to reward myself for my hard work, I allowed myself to make a quilt sandwich with some fun “homespun” cotton fabric to embroider this saying, which I love. Because I really hate dusting 🙂 Thanks to Kris for sharing this. I’ve had it on my computer desktop for a long time.

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Busy Busy

I have been busy busy busy. Finishing and quilting and embroidering and starting. Here’s what part of the studio really looks like.

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I actually finished all eighteen of the “what they said” series. I will do a slide show for you soon. But I have a question. Five of them had some of the hand-dyed threads on them, and the thread colors ran. I put Shout on them, and then I ran them through the washer with a “color catcher.” Some of the offending color came out, but not all of it. Do any of you have any other ideas? Have you tried applying color-safe bleach with a Q-tip to the dye stains?

Anyway, I am very happy to have completed them. My plan is to mount them on cradled wood panels. So that part is not done. I will order some this week, to make sure my idea will work, and then I will order the rest of them.

That left the Juki free. And so I got out two almost-finished quilts. I placed the lettering on one, and then, because I had used a “brick” design on some of the ‘what they said’ quilts, that was exactly what I had been wanting to do for the quilt nearest the Juki. The verse on there refers to a crossroads. I finished quilting that today. Only needs to have a binding on it. and a sleeve 😦

By the way, I love the Juki more than ever. I love how very accurate  each stitch is. It is easy for me to exactly stitch over a line of stitching to get to the next area I need to work on.

You can see some of the panels for the Hallelujah Chorus quilt perched over there on the chair. I have almost finished the panels and the four large embroidered circles, and so this week I should be able to put the panels together into a quilt top. And then I will have to decide what the next step is. More embroidery, or machine quilting. Any which way, I am very excited to get to this next stage of the project.

I entered four quilts in Quilting in the Garden, and they were accepted. This is such a nice event, and of course, I LOVE the nursery where it is held. I am planning to take my mom to it this year, and thought it would be fun for her to see some of my quilts hanging.

And then, about that “thinkie” project. I spent a little time on it. I traced the photo on my 1/4 inch graph paper, and then went to the copy store and enlarged it 400%, which made it a 10 inch finished block. Then I spent some time drawing a pattern for it.

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And made one block.

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I don’t like it. I can see that the embroidery makes a tremendous difference in the appearance of the block, and choice of fabrics also is important. Anyway, I might try again, using some of my reproduction fabrics. I also drew a different design, and I am interested in trying that also…

I made the pattern because Kris had suggested that it might be a fun group project. I don’t think that’s gonna happen, but if any of you are interested in the pattern, you can email me (schnabel@volcano.net), and I will be glad to email you a copy of it.

So that’s about it for now. I started working on the rug of Noah again, and I occasionally knit or work on my Kantha blanket, just to get a little color in my life. I have more ideas for some fun color-work blocks, but they are still in the thinkie stage today 🙂

Quilting, Piecing, Embroidery, and Rug Hooking

I mentioned to a friend recently that I had been quilting, piecing, embroidering, and rug hooking, and loving all of it. I kept thinking about this, and I realized that part of the reason was because I had “stations” set up for each activity, so that it was very easy to go from one activity to another. I never understood before why people felt the need to keep more than one sewing machine set up, but now I do. I am much more likely to work on a quilt when the machine is all set up and ready to go. (And I do know that having a big new “toy” is a good motivator.) When I started working on that big rug in January, I rearranged my living room so that I could keep the rug frame up all the time. If the rug frame is not up, rug hooking just doesn’t get done–sometimes for months. And of course, my Janome sewing machine is always up, and I am more likely to go and sew together a few pieces when I don’t have to move a big quilt out of the way. My “embroidery station” is the same as always–my big comfy chair where I sit every evening with a dog on my lap, watching TV shows on my computer, and working on whatever embroidery project is at hand.

It has been so fun to look through my UFO’s and find quilt tops I had completely forgotten about, and others that were within a few stitches of being completed!

I really like this quilt. I was influenced by a little postcard of a magnificent Japanese quilt. Mine is not magnificent, but it was very fun to piece, and I enjoyed practicing “straight enough” line quilting on the new machine.

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This was part of a series of quilts I did for a “Pay it Forward” challenge SIX YEARS ago! I had so much fun making those little quilts for three of my good blog friends. This fourth one was for me, but I used a beautiful upholstery weight fabric on the back, and it was not fun to hand quilt through, so 7/8th’s of the way through, I just stopped. Except for the border it was almost completely quilted. I decided to try hand quilting again. Took two stitches (literally) and knew I wouldn’t finish. So to the machine it went. I am as pleased as can be with the result. I’m thinking about keeping it, just because so many good memories are attached to that challenge project.

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This quilt was completely finished except for the central chicken block. I got a little obsessed about that, even wrote a blog about changing it out, and then it got put away and forgotten about. I finished quilting around the motifs in the central block, and it was finished. Several of these quilts have had enough backing fabric that I was able to do the binding by just bringing the backing around to the front. VERY convenient!

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Piecing. I think I showed you this one  before. I just about used all of the strips in that box, and so it is done. Since the strips were cut with a ruler, I’m not sure why it has ended up a bit wonky, except that I didn’t use my 1/4″ foot all the time. Anyway, I think I will put a wide border around it to finish it off and to square it up a bit.

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These stars are mostly my project for Sewing Day with my ladies. So fun to do, but a bit time consuming. All done with 2″ cut squares from my box of little two inch squares.

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I had the idea to make these simple blocks to offset the star blocks, which are so busy, but I didn’t like the way that looked. So they might become their own little project…

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Rug hooking! I LOVE love love working on this rug. There is even more of it done now, but this is the most recent picture. Like I said, I have a place all set up in the living room, so it is very easy to just sit and do a little bit of hooking, if that’s all I have time for.

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Close-up:

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And embroidery. I have almost finished the embroidered words on all 17 of the quilts in the “what they said” series. I loved working on these, and trying to convey the thoughts and feelings behind the words through the way I embroidered the words. Now to quilt and finish them. I will show them all to you at one time, as that is the way I think they will have the most impact. Here is the one I chose to use as the “header.” Just the straight line kantha stitching over the whole piece.

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And that is how life is going in the studio right now. I wake up every morning excited about what I am going to work on that day.

Learning Curve Continued

My learning on the new Juki continues! This week I noticed that the machine was skipping a few  stitches every once in a while. It was really noticeable when I was using the machine to baste a little quilt. BTW, this is a great feature on the machine–you just choose “BASTE” on the LED screen, and then you have the option of slow-medium-fast. It does a really great job of machine basting. After discussing with my BF and long arm consultant, we decided the most likely culprit was that I had the presser foot too high. I had changed out the presser foot to the open toed foot (love!) and I left it a bit higher on purpose, because I wanted to be able to slip this hoop under the foot.

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This is the hoop I bought from Martelli.  I really like it. I tend to relax my shoulders a bit more when I use it. I think its most useful when you are doing smaller, closer quilting. When you are doing utility quilting and want to move quickly across the quilt, there is no need for it.

 

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Open toe vs the regular foot. Why would you use the closed foot? I think it might provide more stability if you were doing some pedal to the metal quilting.

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So, I set out one morning to SOLVE THE PROBLEM of the skipped stitches.  I should have just changed the presser foot height. But no, I wanted to do a thorough job. So I checked the needle position. The book says the groove in the needle should face to the left. I re-inserted the needle, making sure the groove was EXACTLY facing the left.

Then I wanted to oil the “hook.” That’s the thing on the bobbin case. I don’t think I told you before, but this machine is built so that you never have to oil anything except that hook! Now when I did that, I double checked to see that I had the bobbin placed correctly in the case. Looking at the manual instructions. I got so confused! I thought I was supposed to put the bobbin in COUNTER CLOCKWISE, but the instructions said clockwise. Had I put it in wrong previously, and it was actually working that way?

Anyway, three improvements made, and now I was ready to check out my NEW. IMPROVED. quilting. Only now the machine would not take a single stitch. Not one. I was sure it was my confusion over the bobbin. So I took that baby in and out at least three times, checking and re-checking the placement against the manual instructions. Still no stitches.

So then I went back to the needle position. I looked carefully at the tiny but accurate picture in the manual. Oh. The groove in the needle goes to the left IF YOU ARE STANDING AT THE SIDE OF THE MACHINE, not from the front. So I rotated the groove in the needle to the correct position, and voila! Magic stitches came out of the machine. No skipped stitches at all. My BF assures me that this is all part of learning to use a long arm machine, and is common to all long arms.

So you can see that, although I complained about the Juki manual, it does come in handy for some things 🙂

My friend who is starting the ministry for elderly people in our church needed a quilt to show her committee, so I put the binding on the first quilt I’ve done on the Juki and sent it out into the world. Funny thing about this quilt, Up close, in person, I did not think I had done the color placement right, because I could not see the secondary circular pattern. But it shows up nice and clear in the photograph!

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I am off to hopefully finish the second quilt on this Juki. In looking for some other things, I have found more and more unfinished quilt tops! I’m very enthused about getting some of them done and sharing them with others.

Learning Curve

Its hard to learn something new, n’est ce pas? This machine has given me a run for my money, but I think I’m on the downhill slope, so I’ll write about it now, when I can write a bit more positively.

First of all, let’s just get this out of the way: the Juki instruction manual STINKS. Everybody knows it. I read about it on the web before I bought it. So when I bought it, I quizzed the dealer and the company reps about who I should call with questions. The dealer (who will remain unnamed,) looked at me like I had sprouted a third head, and then said reluctantly, “oh, call me.” Yeah, I don’t think so. Fortunately the Juki sales rep, who I had talked to at Houston and also at QuiltCon, was more than inviting. Joe gave me his card, and said I could call or email anytime and he would respond within a day. And he has. But I feel like I need to make this clear. I am pretty good at mechanical stuff, and if there are good instructions, I am also good at reading, and figuring out the problem myself. The Juki manual, both online and the brief paper one they included, does not address some of the basic problems I have encountered. INCLUDING an alarming alarm with flashing lights that went off!! Don’t you think that might be worth a mention in their manual? Come on, Juki. You have a great product. You are marketing it to the home quilter. Don’t you think a good manual might save you a little money on reps that are bothered on a daily basis by new customers?

Okay. Now that I’ve got that out of the way… As far as taking it out of the five cartons, and putting it together, Karen Pharr, one of the other reps at Juki, has put two you-tube videos out taking you step by step through the construction of the table and the machine. THANK YOU!! That worked just great.

Oh, and the alarm? I’m still not 100% sure, but I think its just a generic “DANGER, WILL ROBINSON, DANGER.” In other words, “STOP AND CHECK IT OUT. SOMETHING IS NOT WORKING.” The first time it happened was when a thread was tangled in the bobbin holder. And the second time (which closely following the first) was when the needle broke after I put it back together from untangling the thread.

After practicing on my small piece for a few days, and then quilting one very small piece, I really wanted to try quilting on a larger quilt. BTW, for me a larger quilt is 50X60. How (and why) do you people make those giant king sized quilts? Its so unruly to just put together a backing for a quilt THIS size. But I digress. I did put together a larger quilt sandwich, and I just started in quilting. Just a simple repetitive pattern, to get the idea of moving around a larger quilt. Oh, and you can see that I found a small table (my old dog grooming table!) that was just the right size to put next to this machine to support larger quilts.

It went very well, and although its not quite finished, I got enthused and decided to make a second quilt sandwich, since I still had the big ironing topper on my cutting desk, and it was still cleared off. Plus, once you get in the groove of making BIG quilt sandwiches, its not quite so bad, and there’s not nearly as much whining and stamping going on 🙂

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Did I tell you that a good friend of mine has started a new ministry at our church, reaching out to the older folks who might not be able to make it to church? I thought it might be nice to have some lap quilts on hand. My friend enthusiastically agreed, so that gives me the motivation to start finishing some of these old tops I have on hand.

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Overall, I am loving the way this machine works. I love the sturdiness of the needle, the consistency of the stitches. And I do love the open toed foot that I got. I’m not sure if I would go back to the original foot. I can just see what I’m dong so much better. The machine is easy to thread (there are instructions for that.) And I have almost conquered the “blind placement” of the bobbin (BTW, do you know how wonderful the flashlight on your iPhone is?)

Other features I like: the thread cutter, the needle up/down button, and the baste button. The bobbin winder is on a separate motor, and works very well. Of course, I love the big bobbins. My BF explained to me that the machine gets a little noisier as you near the end of the bobbin. Changing it, and oiling the “hook” at the same time makes everything all better. Thank goodness for my own personal long arm consultant!

My Decadent New Sewing Machine

Okay, I just got back from QuiltCon, and that was a VERY interesting experience. But that topic will have to wait. Something more pressing must be discussed!

I did it! I got the Juki Sit Down Long Arm machine! I went to Quilt Con with the idea of looking at it again (remember, I tried it at Houston and loved it.) But in the intervening months, I wasn’t quite as sure that I “needed” it. In addition, I have had quite a few expenses this year, and that made me even more unsure about it. So I spent three days at QuiltCon waffling about whether or not I needed to get it right now. In the end, after many phone discussions with my BF, a discussion with my brother (he’s the one who named it my decadent sewing machine, and he gave me an “out” for spending that kind of money by pointing out that he has collected 30 pairs of exotic cowboy boots!,) checking and re-checking my finances, spending a long time trying out the machine, and an unexpected and delightful call from a blog buddy, Jeannie, I decided to get it. Well, I decided to get it if they would accept my offer.

They did accept my offer (I didn’t want to pay the expensive So. Ca. taxes) and they threw in the open toed foot. They had the machine (in five boxes!) at the show, and so I didn’t have to pay shipping either, which I didn’t want to do.

After spending the better part of a day and a half putting it together, with an assist from MLG (master landscaping guy,) it was ready to go! Yahoo. Oh, part of the putting it together was moving furniture out of the studio to make space for it. In the end, I moved the bookcase, and I banished the big cozy chair (which it turns out I never sat in–it was just a quilt-holder) and one other piece of furniture, there was plenty of room to put its table under the second window in the studio. I actually have a little more room than before in there.

Here it is. I am going to get a second table to put next to it, just to support larger quilts. They had attachment tables available, but they were ridiculously priced IMO, and so I will get a small commercial table at Costco or Amazon.

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Another view! Look how big it is!!

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The computer screen. Its fairly simple for the sit down model. More choices if you are using the stand-up machine. Oh, and this machine can easily be converted to the conventional stand-up long arm machine, if I should ever choose to do that. That will only happen if I get both knees and hips replaced, and there is a miraculous back recovery 🙂

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My practice quilting. I made this sandwich, and asked them if I could come when it wasn’t too busy and spend a longer amount of time on the machine at the show.

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My practice at home. I’m planning to fill this sandwich up with practice quilting, and then get busy finishing some tops!!

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As time goes on, I’ll talk a little more about my experience with the machine. And I’ll come back later in the week (if I can stop quilting long enough!) to tell you all about my QuiltCon experience.