Wind-in-your-hair good

September 21, 2011 § 11 Comments

More Scraps

Using scraps is like feeling the wind in your hair while riding your bicycle down a really big hill.  Above is a bag of scraps I recently bought from Pink Chalk Fabrics.  (Like I need more scraps. Ahem)

There were a few questions about my Scrappy Zig Zag quilt, so I will attempt to answer them here for everyone.


I used Quilter’s Dream wool batting.  I love Quilter’s Dream batting. All of the fibers they offer are really good quality and they hold up nicely with wear and washing.  Some wool brands need to be quilted closer than others, so keep that in mind when purchasing.  I’ve used Hobb’s wool batting before as well, and it seemed to shrink a wee bit more than the Quilter’s Dream.

This is how I wash all of my quilts regardless of fiber.  I use coolish water – not completely cold, but not a hot “warm” either. Gentle cycle. And soap without any added phosphates or ingredients that make the colors fade.  I use one that is environmentally friendly. When the washing is done I spin out as much of the water as possible. Then throw it in the dryer just until it is about half dry and not so damp. Then I toss it over the spare bed and let it dry the rest of the way. It usually takes about a day or so until it is completely dry.  Keep in mind we live in a damp climate.

Machine Quilting


I quilted it with straight line quilting on my Janome Horizon. I think this machine has to be the best that I’ve ever used for straight line quilting. It has a built-in even feed system that was so incredibly easy to use. I didn’t have to work nearly as hard to keep the fabrics from pulling and distorting. Plus, it has a really wide throat as far as home sewing machines go.  It has 11″ of work space!

I started by quilting the horizontal lines from the middle towards the outside edge.  Then I went back and quilted the zig zags.  I did have a little trouble keeping everything flat right along the edge because the wool batting is a little more poofy than cotton.

I use garden gloves on my hands for grippy-ness and to gently keep the area that I’m quilting nice and smooth. I put my hands on each side of the needle and spread out my fingers.

My sewing room is such a mess right now that I set this up on the dining room table. Lots of space is necessary for quilting a big quilt. And sometimes I set up a small table to the left of my chair to hold some of the weight of the quilt so it doesn’t pull off the dining table and weight down my stitching.  The rest sits in my lap so there is no pulling on the quilt.

Big quilts are definitely a challenge to quilt and I debated about renting the mid-arm machine at my local quilt shop. But I was envisioning more utilitarian style quilting on this quilt.  I wanted the fabric and the zig zag to be the focus and not the quilting.  I was also waffling about which direction I should quilt it. In the end, I decided on horizontal straight lines and then followed the zig zag pattern.  I love how it looks on the back!  And it’s really unobtrusive on the front.


March 14, 2011 § 13 Comments

Porcupine Quill

A while ago at work someone asked me what I thought of the Clover Seam Ripper.  My answer was that I have heard it is good and that everyone I knew that owned it, loved it.  A little bit later the same person asked me again. And this time I said that I thought it was a good seam ripper but that I had never used it because I don’t use a seam ripper.  After I saw the look on her face, I knew that I had given the wrong answer.  The expression on her face was saying, “Well, aren’t you special. You never use a seam ripper. You must be perfect.” Which is NOT what I meant at all.  I literally meant that I never use a seam ripper to rip out my sewing.  Sometimes the words just come out all wrong.  Lest you also think I might be perfect, these are my ripping tools of choice.

I recently had to rip out a few of my tile blocks because it took me awhile to figure out how to cut the partial filler blocks with my ruler rather than using the book’s template.

What I used almost exclusively for years was my small Gingher embroidery scissors.  Then my mom became a longarm quilter and she introduced me to the Porcupine Quill. That is now my favorite ripping tool of choice.  And more recently I picked up a Hera Marker/Quilter’s Awl and the pointy end of it works well too.  What I really dislike about seam rippers are the tiny little bits of thread that are left everywhere. So I pick out the stitches by sticking the pointy end under every 2 or 3 stitches and pulling the thread out in one long piece. I  know other people who rip with their rotary cutter. That just scares me!  What do you use to rip?

Rippit Tools of Choice

On another note, I put together a series of photos in movie format to show how I laid out all of the blocks of the Hexagon Tile Quilt.  I can’t seem to post it here, but it’s over on my Flickr stream if you care to take a look.  It is also a perfect example why a larger design wall is better. I had to start pinning blocks to the drywall.

And if you are wondering what this horrid thing below is… My niece was in town last night with her college choir doing a Spring Break Tour. We just had to drive her by the Fremont Troll after dinner. Seattle sure has a few must-see weird places of interest. Her and her travel buddy were hoping to have a few minutes to see the gum wall this morning before their bus left for Oregon.

The Fremont Troll

Crazy Sewing Machine Lady

August 10, 2010 § 16 Comments

sewing machines

While I’m working away on my Doll Quilt and Wild Geese Quilt, I thought we might spend some time talking about some of our favorite quilting tools.  There is a discussion going on over in the Doll Quilt Swap Flickr group that sparked this idea.

So…  let’s start with sewing machines.  I currently own five sewing machines.  It kind of freaks me out to say that. It probably freaks out my husband more to hear that…  but three of them are vintage, of which two still need to be cleaned up and tuned up before I can actually sew on them.

left to right & top to bottom

  • Janome Horizon – I just bought this machine a couple of months ago and haven’t had much sewing time on it yet, so I can’t say what kind of relationship we will have.  It is meant to replace the Viking that I wasn’t in love with.  It’s nice to have a machine that does zig-zag and buttonholes when I get the occasional urge to sew clothing.  Even though it is controlled by a computer, what attracted me to this machine is that not EveryThing is controlled by the computer.  And it makes really nice buttonholes. For some reason, to me, that is the ultimate indicator for a potentially good machine, nice buttonholes.
  • Brother PQ1500s – classified as a “light industrial” sewing machine. Still a home sewing machine but sews 3 times faster and only does straight stitch. I love, love, Love this machine! We have a very good relationship.
  • Singer 15-91 – it was my grandmother’s sewing machine. It needs to be cleaned and tuned up, supposedly a real work horse on denim.  I haven’t sewn on it yet.
  • Singer Featherweight – purchased from Dave McCallum who travels around locally teaching people how to care for their Featherweights.  It’s lightweight and perfect for carrying to classes. Sometimes I set up this machine to piece while I am quilting on my brother.
  • Singer 319W – given to me and needs to be cleaned and tuned up.  One of the very first zig zag machines that Singer made. It’s only caveat is that it takes a special needle size not found in stores (but can be ordered on the Internet).  I haven’t sewn on it yet.

Zig Zag levers on the 319W

I was talking to a customer at work some time ago about sewing machines and our relationships with our sewing machines.  She had named her machine Doris. (I think, if I remember correctly) I haven’t named any of mine, but I’m thinking that maybe I should.  Would that make me the equivalent of the “Crazy Cat Lady” in the sewing machine world?

So what is it that makes this relationship with our sewing machines “click?”  I can’t say for certain, but for me… I think the bottom line is that the machine really does what I want it to do.  And it takes a little bit of time and effort.  I previously owned a Husqvarna/Viking that I never did get on very well with.  And prior to that another Viking that I loved dearly.  All of my sewing machines have different features that they do really well or that I love about them.

So, let’s start with the sewing machine I use the most.  My Brother PQ1500s.  When I was first in the market for a sewing machine to replace the one I had been using since high school, I looked everywhere and at just about every brand.  I thought I knew what I wanted, purchased a machine and brought it home.  It turns out that it wasn’t really what I wanted and it was Frustrating! Fortunately, I was able to return the machine and I took up knitting for awhile.  I’m sure you are laughing right now and think that I am joking.  But I’m not.  Truly. I quit sewing because I was so frustrated and started knitting.

Then I heard someone talking about a Juki light industrial machine that was new on the market. It sounded fantastic.  I knew that Juki made good industrial machines and thought that I might have better luck with that route.  Turns out that this machine was so popular that there were never any in stock  and so I could never test drive one at a dealer.  Along the way I discovered that Brother had started producing a similar machine and test drove it at a local quilt show.  I bought it, brought it home and have been in love ever since.  I’m sure the Juki is just as fabulous. I’ve just never had a chance to sew on one.  BTW, they are much easier to find now.

Little... BIG

This is what I like about my Brother:

~It only sews straight stitch and does it very well.

~It’s not controlled by a computer so I get to tell it what I want it to do. It does have one very small computer chip which, I think, controls the bobbin winder and needle-down position. I can choose the tension, pressure on the presser foot, stitch length and feed dog height with dials, not digital numbers or tick marks on a computer screen, which never seem to have small enough increments of change.

~It doesn’t have a needle-up position. It’s either needle-down or off.  I love the needle-down position for machine quilting. But for piecing and regular sewing I like the needle to stop sewing when I take my foot off of the foot feed. It doesn’t take another second, or two, or three to complete a stitch.  This is really important to me when I am trying to position a stitch at just the right spot in a corner, or slowly sewing over zipper and trying to avoid the metal end.

~The feed dogs are closer together.  The distance between the feed dogs is only 5mm, similar to the Featherweight and the Singer 15-91.  The distance between the feed dogs needs to be wider when zig-zag and satin stitches are part of the machine’s capabilities.  But can be a hindrance when sewing small pieces of fabric together with small seam allowances.

~The throat plate has a small, single-stitch hole so that the fabric never gets pulled down into the feed dogs. Most machines have single-stitch/hole plates that can be purchased

~It has a sturdy, large, extension table that has actual legs rather than hanging off of the throat part of the sewing machine.  And the underside of the extension table secretly stores the knee lift.  I love secret compartments!

~It sews really, really fast!  Up to 1500 stitches per minute. I can’t sew quite that fast because my banquet tables starts to shake.  But a regular home sewing machine typically sews about 500 stitches per minute.

I hope I haven’t bored you…  I’d love to hear about your sewing machines and your relationship with them.  If you feel inclined to post about it on your blog, please come back here and provide a link in the comments so we can all read about them.  And what do you think about giving your sewing machine a name?  Crazy? Normal?  Tell me more.

Crazy Sewing Lady

Sometimes I’m a Little Slow

June 5, 2008 § 3 Comments

See those little black dots on the ruler? After all these years, I finally discovered that they are there to help me line up the seam line to trim away the extra from a half-square triangle. Who knew?

Even after making those half-square triangles for the Medallion Quilt-Along and I still didn’t see this until I sat down for a few minutes today to sew… sigh…

Making the Most of It

April 25, 2008 § 3 Comments

It’s worth it to make the most out of your rotary cutting tools. This pile of block parts came from 24 fat quarters and took less than 2 hours of cutting, start to finish! And that included a phone call and the taking of the photos.

In my humble opinion, the best part in the process of making a quilt is choosing the fabric. The cutting is my least favorite and needs to be as smooth, efficient and painless as possible. So… here are a few tips to make the cutting go a little bit faster.

1. Cut through more than 1 layer of fabric at a time if at all possible. I think 3 layers is perfect, 2 is not enough and 4 is the most I will go. After 4 layers of fabric, the ruler becomes a little wobbly and cutting errors are more likely to happen.

2. Use your ruler and your mat optimally for quicker cutting and less mistakes. These fat quarters were cut into 4-inch strips. To make it easier to find the 4” mark, I lined up the edge of the fat quarter at 20-inches on my mat and then cut at 16, 12, 8, and 4. Or you could cut them in reverse… 4, 8, 12, and 16. But I seem to cut straighter going the opposite direction. Weird, huh?

3. Find out if there are other tools or rulers that will make the process easier. I am making a whole quilt of flying geese blocks and there are a number of ways to cut and sew them. These rulers – the Easy Angle & the Companion Angle – use the least amount of fabric and make cutting the triangles less painful.

For a quick overview, you can cut the triangles for a flying geese block using these methods:

A) Traditional Method using templates or cutting squares and then cutting in half again.
B) Stitch & Flip Method.
C) Foundation Paper Piecing Method.
D) Patti R. Anderson’s No Waste Method.
E) Strip Cutting Method – utilizing the Easy Angle & Companion Angle rulers (and I’m sure there are at least a couple of other brands that use this method as well)

My finished block size is 7-inches square and consists of 2 Flying Geese blocks measuring 3 1/2″ x 7″.

Cut 4″ Strips of fabric.

Using the Companion Angle, cut as many Geese Triangles as needed. You can see the small 4 at the bottom confirms that I have a 4″ strip of fabric and the large 7 indicates a finished block size of 7.

Flip the ruler over and continue cutting more Geese Triangles.

Cut 4″ strips of fabric for the “sky” or corners of the Flying Geese blocks.

You can see that the ruler lines up at the 4″ mark, ready to cut those half-square triangles.

Flip the ruler over and it has markings on the back side as well. Again, the 4″ marking lines up with my fabric strip.

With these rulers, I can make 8 Flying Geese blocks from every pair of light/dark fat quarters. With some of those other construction methods listed above, it would have been considerably less.

One half of a finished block. A hundred and something (closer to 200) more to go. Now I can take a few moments every day and chain piece a few blocks until they are all finished.

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