Friday, May 27, 2011

Memorial Day goodies

Red, white and blue.  Does that combination do it to you like it does it to me?  This is the second of Sue B's friends' quilts, and it's very nicely made.  Corners match.  The quilt is squared up. Seams are ironed flat.  It's exactly the kind of quilt that makes me happy to load and work on.  I finished quilting it yesterday, trimmed and photographed it today and got it into the mail in time to go out this afternoon.  Mission accomplished.

Now here's a little treat for you longarmers.  You know how the unused portion of your leader flaps in the wind as you are turning your take up bar to move on to the next section?  And if you don't smooth out those leader ends, they end up getting all folded over and sort of snarled up between the backing bar and the belly bar?  Well, here are some useful little items.  They are cuffs that fit over your bars to hold those loose ends tightly against the bar.

Essentially, they are thin conduit tubing that has been cut open and has had the edges smoothed.  I looked for PVC tubing or other plastic conduit so I could have DH make some of these for me, but I couldn't find the appropriate thickness.  It has to be thin enough and springy enough to slip over the bars and leaders.  So I ended up buying these at a quilt show.

Here's what I like about them:  they hold the excess leader nicely against the bars.  Here's what I don't like: at the end of the quilt, when you often want to move that last row up from the belly bar so that it's more in the middle of your machine's throat space, the leaders unroll to accommodate you.  With these plastic cuffs in place, the leader can't do that, and you have to push them off the leaders and onto the bar. 

One last thing to share with you.  This video is AMAZING!  Enjoy Toby Keith and the aircraft at one of our Air Force bases:  USA

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What happened?

This is Barbara M's first quilt.  My friend, Sue, for whom I have quilted many QOV's, browbeat her friend, Barbara, into sending me her quilt to "bring to life."  So I used special care.  I thoroughly cleaned my studio, which I affectionately call my lurkim, wiped down the long arm table with alcohol, cleaned the Edgerider wheels, and the driving wheels on the IntelliQuilter, scrupulously cleaned out the brackets into which the wheels roll, oiled my wonderful Nolting 24 Pro after cleaning out any lint, etc., and I was ready to go.

The center of the quilt was four large blocks in which I used one of my favorite feathered square wreaths.

Here you can see a variety of treatments:  continuous curve for the four patches that alternate with smaller yellow blocks in which I put the same square feathered wreath as I had in the larger center blocks;  egg and dart line dancing in the small inner border, and a formal feathered rectangle in the pansy rectangle.  But check out the dark blue rectangle.  I used two of the formal feathered rectangles, mirror image, in that.  Little did I know that that was my downfall.

Here's the back of the quilt.  Looks pretty good, right? Well, to the naked and adoring eye, yes.  But up close and personal it was another matter.

If you look closelly, you will see an occasional navy blue dot.  Was I using navy blue thread on the top that had poked through?  No.  Was my batting some crazy dark or black color?  No.  Were there loose thread bits that had been shed from the quilt top getting sewn into the backing as I quilted?  No.

What you see here is the result of one of two things, but they both boil down to the same dynamic:  the needle was entering the navy blue fabric and pulling the threads from that fabric down to the backing.  This could happen if 1) your needle was dull, or 2) if you were unfortunate enough to have purchased the titanium longarm quilting needles, which are NOT sharp but have a rounded point.  I had purchased some of these, thinking that these were the up and coming thing, but they're not, and I urge you to abandon them in favor of the standard sharp pointed long arm needles if you're using them. 

If you have any of these, here are some caveats:  titanium is strong, but it is flexible, so your needle may flex away from the scarf if you are quilting on the fly like a banshee, causing skipped stitches.  And titanium needles have a rounded point, which might be wonderful for knit fabrics, but does not pierce cotton well and therefore can pull the threads into the batting and even out the back of the quilt, as happened with this quilt.

Unfortunately, I did not see this until I had finished two borders and the third row of the quilt, but I salvaged the situation by changing to a standard SHARP long arm needle for the rest of the quilt.

This quilt was also a challenge because the pale yellow Masterpiece thread I was using broke up to five times per pattern sewn!  There are several reasons for thread to break: 
1) the quilt sandwich is too tight
2)  the machine is moving too fast for the thread to recover between stitches
3) the thread tension is too tight
4) there is a burr on the needle or the plate, catching the thread and tearing it
5) the combination of batting and thread is contributing.  For instance, polyester batting combined with long staple cotton thread may break the thread if there is alot of slub in the thread, which then catches on the polyester and pulls and breaks
6)  the weight/strength of the thread is inadequate for the high speed revolutions of the long arm quilting machine.  In my case, the Masterpiece thread weight was 50/2, and obviously not a good match for this quilt, even though all the fabrics had been prewashed.  I did not have another pale yellow thread that I could use, so I had to tough it out with the Masterpiece, which is now relegated to my sewing studio upstairs, to be used only on my home sewing machine henceforth.  I was also using poly batting.  Masterpiece IS professional grade quilting thread, unlike some standard personal-use threads;  however, I will never use it on a quilt done with my size (24") longarm again.  I have heard that smaller quilting machines, like the midarms (16 - 18" arms) or the home quilting machines (9" arms), or those with fewer rpms, do well with it.

So that's your lesson for the day -- and mine, as well, I might add.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I am a longarm quilter with an edge: I have the world's best computerized robotics system on my long arm.  It's called the IntelliQuilter, and it was invented by Zoltan Kasa.  He's the brain AND the heart behind the success of this invention, because he has given tirelessly of himself at every opportunity, from developing the initial system to refining it, adding to it, updating it, modifying it, and taking all the ideas of us owners and putting them into practice.  It's just wonderful.

About every three months, the Virginia/North Carolina group of owners in the Raleigh to Petersburg area get together and work on design projects.  For instance, some of the teachers in the IQ community have posted "boosters" in our Yahoo group, and we will go over those until we are all comfortable with the new techniques learned.  Sometimes we bring quilts that we want input on as to how to quilt them -- what sort of designs would enhance the quilt the best.  Other times, we talk over quilting woes:  uneven borders, cattywompus quilts that just won't square up, poor piecing and how to "quilt it out", and how to market our businesses.

This past month we had our meeting at Cathy's studio. That's Cathy, above.  She has two long arms and two IQ's.  Whew!  She's alot busier than I am! 

This is Heather with her IQ tablet.  Oh!  I forgot to mention -- unlike some other computerized systems out there, it is a snap to take the tablet off the long arm and go out the door for a class or to show customers all your designs, etc.  I like this particular picture of Heather because it shows a brand new window behind her in Cathy's studio.  The last time we met at Cathy's, a customer accidentally drove her car into the studio through this window.  No one was hurt, but it sure put a damper on our gathering that day!

This is Mary.  Mary has been fighting the good fight and WINNING against breast cancer.  So, unknown to her, our little group of 9 decided to make her a celebration quilt in her favorite colors.  Some of us contributed fabric;  some contributed a block or two.  Cathy assembled all that we sent to her and did the quilting.

This is Mary and Cathy with the quilt.  (The mock cathedral window block in the middle is mine.)  We are all smiling because Mary was delighted and touched by our surprise for her.  It sure was hard to keep it a secret!

I'll get back to quilting hints and helpers with the next post.  Meanwhile, enjoy the quilt picture.