Mar 30, 2014

D269: Other Other Brownies

My eldest nephew turned 15 today!  He's a pretty awesome kid so I made sure I hunted down a gift that was just right for him - something that connected to his interests and is something he actually needs.  Pretty sure I nailed with the $30 in an envelope! 

I had just enough time to make something for the birthday arvo tea so went for what was one of the quicker recipes from this great cake book I found in the library.  It's a chuck-it-all-in-a-bowl-and-mix recipe.  It took 45mins to prepare, with interruptions ;)  
Same same yeah?

Hub likes them better than the Moosehead brownies but not as much as the Two-tone brownies...

Mar 29, 2014

D267&8: Happy and Sad

I was happy and now I'm not.  

I was chugging along so well, with another three rows done, and then I refilled the bobbin and something changed.  I'm not sure what but the tension was so sloppy I had to unpick two rows of zigzags and spent a good portion of my baby-free afternoon rethreading, looking, checking, sewing at various speeds, and redoing things with all sorts of language about that.  

I called the dealer to see if they had any advice and they talked about upper tension... Which it shouldn't be as I hadn't changed it.  The thunking sound it makes, while the tension is off, makes me a bit uncomfortable.  So, I've got a machine lesson with the Bernina dealer scheduled for next week but until then I'm hoping a post I've created on will turn up something.

Mostly I hope it's something mysterious I'm doing, or have done, and not something that requires a service.  I really don't want to have anything bad to say about my new machine.  
Sad face.

D266: Pink through grey

Today I quilted the white bands between the pink, purple and grey zigzags.  I love my machine.

I've also found it's easier to manoeuvre the quilt if the bulk in my lap is instead flung over my shoulder.  I swap shoulders at each pivot.  Around the time it's too short for flinging, and rests against my chest, is when the beginning needs folding on the tabletop.  Pictures later.

And can I just stress how important it is to dust around your work space? Maybe use a radius that's as long as your quilt...

Mar 25, 2014

D265: What a marvellous entrance, folks...

Sort of...

The practise run.  This is really easy! Why am I doing this? Yeah, don't get ahead of yourself, A...
Practise run, back & front, with different stitch lengths.

I'll do 4mm stitches, I thought, which will mean I'll go quicker! But the longer the stitch the harder it is to match it to the vertical seam, which is a pivot point.  It's a 7cm sewing line, so 2.5mm is a much more sensible stitch length, if you're going to be all mathy about it.

Things we're going so swimmingly with the practise that I decided to get on with the actual real deal.  Then, on the first zig, the machine took in the bobbin tail and chewed on the thread.  Hmph.  I trust that's what happened anyway - it looks suspiciously like the symptom of a not-properly-loaded bobbin case, or one that's popped out but since I've been sewing on this bobbin for quite some days that should be unlikely.  Hmmm. 
Anyway, after that inauspicious beginning, I was off and things looked pretty swish.

One thing the practise run doesn't help with is managing a larger quilt on the machine.  The rolled portions need pinning to be held in place, which I only did at the ends.  Here's my quilt at the end of a quilting line, folded for the easiest management.

It also took a while to realise that a zigzag pattern means you feed rolls of quilt through the machine throat, only to pull it back through after a pivot.  The last few zigzags are quite awkward.

I intended to work in the same direction for every zigzag so that any pulling of the fabric (which shouldn't happen much with a walking foot, but it's not magic) would be less apparent.  Going back and forth, while maybe helping to square the quilt, might created a sort of pulling of the fabric between the quilting lines.  However, it might be something I'm willing to risk when it comes to the edges so I don't have to manoeuvre a whole quilt through the throat of the machine.

Actual quilting!

The back looks nice.  It's a friendly  and soft fabric but I wish I'd had more conviction and chosen either a plain grey or persisted with a finer geometric pattern.  The zigzag lines are going to be really striking and unfortunately lost in this woodland print.  I'm quite annoyed about it but it's likely something the recipients won't even think of, thankfully.

One quilting line takes me 10minutes... That's 6 hours and 40 mins to go! Wheeee! 

Mar 24, 2014

D263&4: Getting theeeere

I'm sure I'm dragging my feet over breaking ground on the actual machine quilting.  But... I just wanna be sure, 'kay?

I bought a bunch of threads that compliment the colour ways.  The backing thread will be all white cotton, and I'll only use the coloured thread on their matching strips.

I also need to practise using the walking foot. 

My quilting plan
If I 'stitch in the ditch' - which is sewing on the seam line and a common way to start or stabilise a quilt, and apparently terribly popular - I'm only going to be stitching on white fabric.  All the coloured seam allowances have been pressed toward the coloured fabric to keep from having a coloured shadow under the white fabric.  Stitching in the ditch, I think, will not really stabilise the coloured sections of the quilt.

Another slight problem I have is the division of the space.  Initiwlly I imagined stitching in the ditch and doing one or two echoing lines in each coloured and white band.  But the widths don't easily divide. 
Each band is 3.5cm - or 2 3/4" - wide. The inches are useless (coz how do you divide 11/4? (Hint: making it 22/8 doesn't help)). 35mm isn't a prime but it's still only got two factors.  I'm not interested in stitching every quarter inch nor am I willing to stitch every 7mm.

My solution: I'm stitching a quarter inch line either side of the zigzag seam.  This will stabilise both strips and protect the joining seams but only give me two lines to sew per band.  I'll only be going horizontally, with no vertical lines planned at this stage. For a cot sized quilt I think this should be strong enough.

Here is how I prepared a strip of quilting cotton for practise zigzags.  The green line represents the joining seam and its junctions because, in practise, those are the only guides I'll have for the quilt line.  I'll be using a walking foot attachment and if I need more practise I'll use already stitched lines as a guide.  
Now, I need to actually put foot to fabric and give it a bash! (Have I said that before...?)

The plan and tracing, then ruling and marking a 'vertical seam' guide.

Mar 18, 2014

D261&2: Baaaaaa...

...aaaaasting.  So much basting.  Today I took up a piece of advice I saw somewhere, which was to baste the backing over the edges of the front to prevent fraying.  And, with a few pins remaining in key places, it's done and basted!

Next is the actual quilting... Eep!  

Actually there's one or two things first. No, three!
1. Decide decide decide on a quilting pattern.  I've been thinking about it for ages - from the start! - but I'm still not final about what lines I'll actually create;

2. Buy necessary thread; and 

3. Maybe do a Craftsy lesson or two before I put foot to fabric.  Even though I've batting and fabric set aside to practise I'd like a bit more education first.

Mar 15, 2014

D258-60: Happy Quilting Day!

Today is Worldwide Quilting Day!  I am very glad there is such a thing :D  I celebrated by buying a few quilting tools to see if they make life easier.
(The metal thimble is my usual, and the new plastic one is for quilters, but it's too big!  I'll have to make a fabric cap for my finger!  It's meant to be worn the other way around, I suspect, but I'm using it in place of my fingernail.)

I spoke with my sister-in-law a few nights ago, who has an extensive career as a seamstress and wedding dress maker.  She has made quite a few quilts but still doesn't count herself as much of a quilter...which means she knows waaaay more than me.

I've watched and read about the process of basting as a stitch, but how to approach a whole quilt is different.  I wanted to ask her about how to start, especially since my quilting will go from side to side.  A lot of the basting advice I've seen look like this:
  1. Tape down backing squarely
  2. Lay down batting
  3. Lay down top quarterly
  4. Begin in the middle and baste towards an edge, then the opposite edge.
  5. Then baste from the middle to the other two edges.
  6. Baste in even intervals parallel to both your first two basting lines (which will be in a cross form).
Then they talk about the quilting beginning from the middle and working it's way out.  

I've gotten a walking foot specially because I knew I'd be doing straight stitching on quilts - I love the repetition of straight lines in some modern designs - and I've had frustrating experiences with layers shuffling in the past.  I wondered if that might still be a problem with a walking foot and if basting would make a difference, and it does. So...

Tip of the day: If you're quilting path has a direction, baste perpendicular to that.  I'm basting in a north-south direction because my quilting will be east-west.

My basting is quite frequent, but I'm being finicky as I've not machine quilted before.  I ruined a fingernail (heavens!) with my straight-needle basting so I splurged $3 and bought a curved one.  

I'm not sure I love it yet - it's thick, it's hard to get a small stitch length and it's a bit flippy while wearing a thimble - but I suspect it's still better than a straight needle, especially if the holes can be worked out later.  The plastic thimble was in case the curved needles didn't workout, but I forgot how small my digits are - it almost slides to my second knuckle.  Still, trying out new toys is hardly a hard ask.  

Hope you were able to enjoy World Quilting Day somewhere too, even if it was simply to be under one! (A quilt, I mean, not a quilter.  Although...)

Mar 11, 2014

D257: Blackberry Muffins

Well they look fine but I'm not sold on the taste...

I used the CTAW muffin recipe, which I love coz it's got butter and not veggie oil, and substituted the blueberry variation with blackberries.  I was concerned about their juices making it too moist, or the purple-ish colour making them grey.  The juice was fine, the colouring is a little bleh.  

I think what it needs though is a squeeze of lemon, or something sharp to raise the berry flavour.  They're just a bit meh.  I'm not sure what compliments blackberry... Maybe it needs to be blackberry jam and not the berries alone. Maybe more sugar would do it...? 

Speaking of lemons, did it tell you I made up some lemon madeleines the other day? Just the juice and jest of half a juicy lemon in the mix, in place of honey. I made a light syrup of juice and sugar (to taste, zapped for batches of 10sec to dissolve) and gave their wavy backs one generous brush each, so as not to drown them and keep them light.  Was very pleased... Might do a recipe post for that one...

D256: Jumping in

So before we went away for our long weekend I decided to get started on basting this thing together.

Pre-apologies for the rubbish pics.  My work tends to be in the evening so good natural light isn't available for photography.  I'd promise to get some better shot before I'm done, but I'm not really the place you should be coming for a tutorial on quilt basting!  I do however have a great tip for you...

I have a big fold-out cardboard cutting board.  It's grid is in 2cm increments and I love it.   It fits on the floor snugly between our couch, the toy tub and our coffee table, or on our Ottoman by length with the width overhanging.  I love that I can fold up a portion if the work or the space is short.  One of its best features, besides being cheap, and folding and storing very nicely, is that you can use it for blocking.  Just a towel under a knitted item, plus some well placed pins and some misty water squirts, and you've got a sturdy flat blocking base.

Tip of the day: get a large cardboard cutting board (sometimes called a "pattern sewing cutting board").  It's cheap, easy to move and store, has a variable length and you can stick pins in it.  Be mindful of any precious tabletop you place it on, but otherwise it'll be the best $12 you ever spent. 

I pinned the backing down, ensuring it was even, fairly well aligned and flat, and lay down the batting.  I was able to use my cutting ruler and the lines on the board to square up the quilt top and use pins to hold it in place around the outside.  Once I'd basted around the outside I set to evening the rippled, warped or puckered patches. The clip in my last post was so good at showing me where, why and how to pin.

The left, below, shows the alignment of the fabrics against the grid. The edges had been aligned, basted and the pins removed.
The first pin in the right photo is correcting the width of the border by pinching it a bit at the seam.

This is where I got to before I had to get to bed... Look at that cutting board go!

Not especially even pinning but it seems to be a fairly even top.  I haven't finished basting it yet anyway. That will be more evenly spaced and organised and I can give it a final check then.

Mar 3, 2014

D255: Research

I actually got a nap out of Bub today.  With this precious time I didn't really touch any fabric at all, but did some research on quilting.

I've actually made a quilt before but it was a long time ago and I wanted to check I wasn't blindly making mistake I didn't know I'd made before. (Or making new ones. I'm so innovative.)  I also have a few errors in this quilt top, in spite of all my careful cutting and sewing - puckering in the triangles, a bit of a waist in some rows and slightly wobbly edges - and wanted to know if there were any techniques for correcting these.  It was surprisingly hard to dig up some solid support.  Nearly everything I found was to do with tension issues while quilting, troubleshooting machines and such.

I discovered this forum, reassuringly full of people who have also had similar problems (hurrah!).  These guys mostly recommended steaming, which I've already tried and I'm concerned that I'm overcooking parts of the white patterned fabric and it's colouring yellow.  Maybe some fabric between iron and quilt would do, but I've already tried setting it a bit.  These errors aren't that huge and may not even really show up once the batting is there...

Some recommended "quilting it out" which is to quilt heavily in the area to reduce any visible puckering.

What that discussion did share, however, was this awesome tutorial on realigning blocks and borders:  Sharon Schamber's Beginning Quilter : Magical Basting p1.

This, alone, was worth the time spent looking online.

Mar 2, 2014

D254: The top is finished!

These are the sashes I attached. 

Obviously there's a bit of trimming left to do.  I couldn't decide whether the sides sashes or top/bottom sashes should be the longer set, so did... umm, I don't know what to call it...  it's that thing where, like, the right side is capped by the top sash, but it caps the bottom sash, which caps the left ash, which caps the top sash... Know what I mean?

Anyway, I'm chuffed.

Mar 1, 2014

D252&3: Snatches

We've had a wakeful, napless week so all my sewing has either felt stolen or 'completely beyond me tonight'.  But in the moments I've snatched I've sewn on a few things to this old project (Bub will grow out of it any day now), pressed and attempted to block the chevron part of the quilt top and started on the quilt sashes too.

I tried out a few different stitches too.  The blanket stitch is in photos 1 & 2, and a star stitch and umm... A cloud-edge stitch (?) are in photo 2 too! I bought some invisible thread too and you cannot really see that in photo 3.