Thursday, June 30, 2016

THREAD--It Matters

While making the Southern Star quilt I wrote about here and here, I used black Mettler 100% cotton 50/3 thread.   For the last several years I have pieced exclusively with Superior's Masterpiece 100% cotton 50/3 or Aurifil's MAKO NE 50/2 thread.   I also have a supply of inexpensive cotton thread sold on large spools:

Here is what I learned from the experiment I didn't know I was doing:

1. Thread size matters--the Mettler thread is thicker than the Masterpiece or Aurifil

2. With thicker thread I needed to make my seam allowances smaller, just a bit

3. Masterpiece and Aurifil create less lint in the bobbin area

4. Masterpiece and Aurifil put much more thread on the bobbin, less refilling of bobbins

5. The accuracy of your piecing is determined by the size of your units--not the size of the seam allowance--no one sees your seam allowance.  When using different thread, check each seam as you create the units--you will find out quickly if the seam allowances need to be adjusted.

6.  It is possible to use different machines on the same project.  I sewed at the Retreat on my Ruby Red Singer Featherweight and at home on my Bernina 630.  Just check your seam allowances between machines to be sure they are the same.

7. While this top was not paper pieced, I know from prior experience that I want to use ONLY the finer thread, Masterpiece or Aurifil, when paper piecing.  The added thickness of heavier thread really distorts the finished product when sewing on paper as well as two layers of fabric. And use a small stitch, 1.5 or so, when paper piecing.

8.  And a big tip I did not follow this time but will in the future:  when sewing primarily Black fabrics, use Navy Blue Thread.  When sewing Navy Blue fabrics, use Black thread.  When you have to "unsew" and we all do some time on each project, right?, it is oh, so much easier to see the navy thread on black.

9.  When sewing very light to very dark fabrics, use the darker thread color, or close, like navy on black, not the lighter fabric color.  If you must sew using a light thread on a dark fabric, make your stitch length shorter than normal--you don't want to see the stitches in the seam allowance from the front of the quilt.  This was a Judge's tip I learned when assisting a judge.

10.  I'll use the inexpensive thread for basting, maybe machine quilting charity quilts, or other uses where precision is not important, like string piecing.  And I will have to clean out the bobbin area at least with EVERY bobbin change, it is very linty!

All in all, like with most things, you get what you pay for.  As good thread is now about $13 a spool you don't want to waste it.  Use a "thread kitty", a "starty/stoppy" or a "leader/ender" project to save thread.  I wrote a bit about that here.  More on that another day.

NOTE:  because I use Masterpiece primarily, I buy it on large 2,500 yard cones:  that's more than 4 times the 600 yard spools.  Most quilt shops would be delighted to order cones for you, just ask.  If you don't support your local shop, don't be surprised when it's gone--just ask any quilter who doesn't have a shop within a two hour drive, but who used to.  They are sad.

Let's Quilt!


Monday, June 27, 2016

Two Tops Done!

I've been hard at it these past few days, working on quilt tops.  Now they are done.  Not the pieced backs, I'll get to those tomorrow, but the tops are finished.

This weekend I worked on a shop sample for a Fall class:

I love making these, they are my go-to quilt for a gift since I can usually make a top in a long weekend.  This one took much longer with that diagonal pieced border but since I think I'm keeping this one, I didn't mind putting in the hours.  The pattern is Southern Star from Calico Carriage Quilting Designs.

At the retreat last week (more on that hereI finished sewing all the rows onto my year-long Tumbler project:

There are 45 rows of 61 tumblers, for a total of 2,745 two-inch finished tumblers and it's about 90" x 100".  This was Bonnie Hunter's 2015 Leader/Ender challenge.  Her 2016 one should be revealed July 1 or thereabouts.  Unless I can't help myself, I don't plan to start that one--I've got several quilts I am determined to finish this year and need NO NEW PROJECTS!  

Saturday I taught two classes.  Here is Smitten. There were only 3 students and they did great:

Their first block--each student did very well and was happy with her block

Donna's second block cut and ready to be pieced

Catherine created a sewn strip before cutting her units 
In the afternoon I had 2 students for Strippy Stars:

Rebecca trimming her units

Hollie and Rebecca's blocks made in class

Summer is a tough time for classes since people are busy.  But I love to teach and having just a few students in a new class is a good way to find out if they can accomplish what I think they can in the time allotted.  Smitten continues in a couple weeks and I'll be eager to see the wonderful blocks the students come back with.

I'm keeping up with The Splendid Sampler:

and Circa 2016:
3" blocks
My husband and I went to see the movie "The Free State of Jones" on Sunday.  We enjoyed the history though it was intense in parts.  It takes place between 1862 and 1876, with a few scenes set in current times.  Our history is ugly at times and some people still have some of those ugly beliefs.  But I try to focus on how far we've come and hope for the future.  Saturday night we saw "Spotlight" on TV and I felt similarly sad and conflicted about that movie too.  

We're indoors because it's been so hot.  Great time for quilting.

Let's quilt!


Friday, June 24, 2016

Retreat 2016

Each summer my two best quilting buddies and I get together for a private retreat to sew and catch up.  Ellen lives 2 hours south of here so we don't get to see each other as much as we'd like.  We have a great room to work in at a local church.  We brought healthy lunches to share each day, went out to dinner one night, and Sharon's husband always cooks grilled chicken for dinner one night.  My husband gets to enjoy that meal as well and he looks forward to that.

Here is what I worked on:

Ruby, my painted Featherweight, to commemorate the Red and White Quilt and the year 2014
This is the June segment of Rajah Revisited, the 2016 Block of the Month from . I enjoyed making the 72 units of 2" square in a square by paper piecing--it is precise and allows me to use a wide variety of fabrics efficiently.  There are different ways to make them--that's why there is chocolate AND vanilla--pick the method you prefer.

I started a new class sample, a folded log cabin--I'll save that for another post--when it's farther along.

Then I got to work on a class sample for Fall:  Southern Star by Calico Carriage Quilt Designs.  This is my go-to quilt for gifts--all of our nieces and nephews have received one upon college graduation.  As I've given all of them away, I needed to make another sample.  I got things a bit off-kilter, as Sharon discovered when we were packing up.  My successful full day of work needed some fixing:

It is easy to get these pieces mixed up and I sure did.  So last night I spent some quality time with my stitch ripper and removed the pieces that were turned the wrong way--of course, they were interior pieces, not on the outside edge  AND only 1 star point was correct--UGH!  Boulder, Boulder, Boulder... (That's a big dam...)

 Today I fixed it:

Now it's on to the center. That will be Monday's job.  Tomorrow I teach two quilt classes and Sunday we plan to see a movie--summer heat means movies.

Ellen worked on these and more:

Her Splendid Sampler blocks around a center we all worked on a few years back

Sharon was in heaven making Antique Rose Star blocks, each one more delicious than the last:

And here we are in our send-off selfie:

It's great to spend time with friends.  We're already planning for next year.

Let's quilt!


Monday, June 20, 2016

Summer is Quilting Time

When it's too hot to be outside for very long, it's a great time to quilt.

I got caught up on The Splendid Sampler. except for a hand embroidery block--that's taking way too long:

I kept up with Circa 2016:

The red Churn Dash block was my leader/ender for these two little Circa blocks---I also finished all my tumblers today and now just have to sew the last few rows to the "mother ship" and that large quilt will be done.

Today I gathered several days of projects to work on at a private retreat I'll be enjoying this week with my two best quilty friends.  Each summer we get together, just the 3 of us, for a few days to enjoy sewing and catching up with each other.  One lives 2 hours away and we don't get to see her near as often as we'd like.  I'm really looking forward to it.

And this past weekend we were thrilled to have Stella and her folks here for a wedding.  She is so pleasant almost all of the time, very funny, loves music and dances to any beat she hears.  It was so good to get to love on her for a bit.  And she was very popular at the wedding--everyone wanted to hold her and she let them.  It was wonderful to have her here.

Let's Quilt!


Monday, June 13, 2016

Back at the Machine--Playing Catch-Up

Happy to say I am back at my machine to celebrate National Sewing Machine Day.

I've caught up with Circa 2016 from Temecula Quilt Company:

I'm still working on The Splendid Sampler:  Four more blocks to go and I'll be caught up--with 2 blocks a week it's easy to get behind.

Tomorrow night I teach:

Hexie Star

This is a great class for those thinking about the Millefiori/La Passacaglia quilt--whether you hand piece or use the English Paper Piecing method, you will learn to create those sharp points.

Thursday night is my guild meeting--I've missed a couple meetings this  year, most unusual for me.  I  have to decide if I can have my Challenge quilt ready for the July meeting--my design is labor-intensive and I haven't pulled the fabrics for it yet.  This Challenge is pretty complicated and I hear there are not many entries.  Registration is due at this week's meeting so I'll have to get started to decide if I really can finish my entry.  

I've also spent time updating this blog with Workshop and Lecture pages at the top.  Guilds want to find this information quickly so I've tried to provide it here.  I don't have a website and don't foresee starting one.  

Let's Quilt!


Monday, June 6, 2016


May went by in a blur.  While all that travel was great, I am now glad to be home and able to do some sewing and teach local classes for a while.

Just so this is a bit about quilting, here is The Splendid Sampler block # 31 I took with me to work on while in St. Louis:

I didn't get much done but it will eventually be finished.  It's been many years since I've done hand embroidery--this takes me back to my childhood and samplers and kits from the 5 & 10 cent store.

We went to St. Louis for grand-girl Stella's first birthday.  It was so much fun to spend time with her and our son and daughter-in-law.  The party had 30 folks and it was the only day all week with rain so we were indoors most of the time.  There were 4 babies, 3 year old twins, and lots of adults.  Here are just a few snapshots of the excitement:

We were there 4 days and each day she was more familiar with  us. It was wonderful to hold her, read to her, feed her, and love on her a bit.  They will be here in two weeks for a family wedding, then we get a week with her in August at the beach.  

Today I got a photo of Stella in one of the dresses I made for her--so glad it fits:

Our garden will soon be producing, tomatoes and peppers, AND, in a few weeks, blackberries:

Friday I'll be teaching the Antique Rose Star at Patches & Stitches.  This is a fun class that can be sewn by hand or by machine, or some of both:

Now to search for the top of my studio table--it has to be under all this stuff somewhere.  Each time I came home I dumped stuff on it.  Only being home about 10 days in May the studio is quite a mess.  And since I want to sew, I first have to clean up. I'm behind on The Splendid Sampler, Circa 2016, Westering Women and a few other things I've been trying to get back to.  A personal retreat with my best quilting friends later this month should help me play catch-up.

Let's Quilt!