Monday, April 30, 2012

Colour of the month











Well, it wasn't that easy to find interesting green stuff that wasn't budding leaves! But I think I had a nice selection nevertheless. Colour of the month for May: blue.

Friday, April 27, 2012

While waiting...

I’m still waiting for the new sewing machine, which is supposed to appear in my life sometime next week. Until then, I don’t want to sit idle, of course, and finished sewing another top, part 4 of the series “Shapes”.
By now I have realized that starting that file with a list of the finished quilts has been a vitally important idea in my preparations for Ste. Marie-aux-Mines. While I’m still not finished, at least I feel like I am beginning the see the silver lining on the horizon – counting 26, 27... However, I can’t just spend two weeks relaxing, and so after finishing the top yesterday I started quilting Play of Lines XXX today, with my little Bernina 930. This means that I had to choose another style of quilting than I had originally planned for, before the sewing machine drama took over. But assuming that getting aqcuainted with the new one might take a bit longer, I just didn’t want to take the risk of running into tights timewise and have opted to quilt Play of Lines XXX with the well known parallel lines. They work well, even if they are not as orginal as I would have wanted the quilting to be, and they can be done on this little machine with relative ease.
Except for the fact that the spools of my new threads don’t fit onto the machine. I did use some colors of my ‘old’ threads that had given me so many problems on the Janome, which fit fine onto the Bernina – and which didn’t break! – but in order to achieve a bit of variety I also wanted to include some of the newly bought threads as well. Then I remembered that Kathy Loomis had once written something about a ‘budget version’ for a spool stand on her blog. I couldn’t find the entry quickly to set a direct link, but I remembered enough to start fiddling with various materials in the house, included some hints once received by Barbara Lange about dealing with tension issues on older machines, and came up with this solution: the large cone is deposited in a plastic container, positioned right behind the motor of the machine,

and the thread is first led through the metal clip-parts of this large clip of which I don’t even remember the German name. 

Then threading continues normally, and voilá –

Play of Lines XXX - quilting in progress

slowly working along.

Monday, April 23, 2012


„To stay in one place or remain inactive in expectation (of something); hold oneself in readiness (for something).“ This is how my monolingual dictionary of English defines the word “wait”. The act of waiting is perhaps not too hard when you know that whatever you are waiting for is really bound to happen, and the approximate point of time is know, as with the flowering of the tulips.

April 12

April 19

April 21

Waiting is probably slightly more difficult if you don’t really know that whatever you are waiting for is actually going to happen, and the difficulties are bound to rise if you don’t know whether it is going to happen at all. Philosophy probably has a lot more to say about this. (Interestingly enough, the definition for “waiting” which I found in my German dictionary when preparing the German version of this post includes a passage about the fact that time until fulfilment tends to feel like dragging on forever, which is not at all mentioned in the English version. But I did not look in more than one dictionary each.)
So what about the kind of waiting when you don’t even really know that you are indeed waiting for something, not to mention what you are waiting for and when ...? That is a little bit how I feel these days, after receiving a message a little more than a week ago, from the organizers of the quilt festival Carrefour in Ste. Marie-aux-Mines.
For years I have debating with myself whether I should offer myself the luxury of buying one of those big machines by Bernina which have all that space for quilting. At first there had been rumours, but when it hit the market I was, I have to admit, overwhelmed by the costs involved. Also, I did not want to have all the embroidery stuff that came with the first model of the 830.
When the 820 followed a little later, I still held back due to the financial reasons. That is the one thing I regret about giving up my university career – I don’t get paid well anymore, and luxury buys have to be considered carefully... My savings from teaching patchwork workshops didn’t cover for a Bernina 820. So when the Janome Horizon appeared on the market two years ago I immediately thought that was my chance. By now I’ve learned that that didn’t really happen. But the money is gone, and everything else I had saved went into starting my fabric club and hand-dyed fabrics business.

With all that mounting frustration about machine quilting and Janome during the last weeks, I did indeed have the feeling that I was waiting for something cataclysmic – throwing the thing out of the window (with a lot of energy!), or that I would give it all up entirely and return to the spinning wheel or whatever. But as mentioned above – I did not really know what it was that I was waiting for.
My husband finally got entirely fed up with me and my mounting frustration and urged me to go ahead and order the 820. (He would have wanted me to get it even two years ago, when I made that other mistake.) He would not listen to my argument that we couldn’t afford it, pointed out that the tax advisor had told us we could expect a bit of a refund, and told me to inquire from friends who have it how satisfied they were.
This has happended, and those reports turned out mostly positive, at worst claiming a “needs getting used to”. 
In early April we then visited my mother-in-law for her birthday, and when she heard about the problem, she immediately offered that she would be happy to help us with the amount needed.
There followed a phone call with my local sewing machine dealer, who was currently negotiating with Bernina about being included in the list of official Bernina dealers anyway. He promised he would call me back with an offer, and more information whether he would be able to take the other machine, which was away for those repairs I’ve been lamenting about, as part payment. And while I was waiting for his call that message from Carrefour arrived, which I have mentioned above: the news that Bernina International had agreed to act as sponsor for my exhibit in Ste. Marie-aux-Mines in September! Which, of course, is fantastic news, and then in the context of buying the new machine...
Now I don’t know whether it was exactly this that I was waiting for, but will find out within the next few days when this emotionally charged weeks subsides.
In any case, I did not know that I was waiting for this, though when looking at all the connections it does seem plausible. Now I can easily wait until the machine arrives and I will get my introductory lesson, and to tie me over I will just take out my little ‘old’ Bernina 930 and sew with that one. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Machine quilting and I – the next instalment

I have already given a couple of descriptions of my attempts at becoming a more versatile machine quilter. However, the story is not over yet.
The last report ended on a slightly positive note, there was a silver lining on the horizon after I had set myself an organized and systematic manner of approaching the task. For example, when I was waiting somewhere or riding the train I started doodling to find out how the eye follows the line, and perhaps to develop own patterns as well – i.e. I was really getting into machine quilting mood and mode.

So far, so good. Very quickly, however, severe frustration set in. Constant breaking of the thread was driving me wild.

Attempts at changing the tension or even the foot-type were in vain. The thread kept breaking.
Consultations with friends and quilting experts such as Bonnie Bucknam and Leah Day pointed to a possible reason, namely that the thread was too old. After three years?

Too old after three years? Can't really believe it...

In any case, I ordered another type of threads (which also required buying a special spool stand for large cones). I also tried a different kind of foot, assuming that this one would give the fabric a firmer hold, thus causing less disturbance:

Still, the thread kept breaking, and again the left-out stitches occurred, which had been the reason for that first trip to the retailer in December.
So I sent the machine back to the store again, getting not only slightly annoyed by this time.
Several phone calls later, including one with an employee of the store who was trying out the machine and admitted she did not do machine quilting herself, and having sent them my thread as well, and after 10 days, I got the machine back last Monday. They told me that they could not find any problems, that the pressure of the foot had been adjusted slightly, and it was all my fault.
I waited for a day before unpacking, but yesterday I thought it was time to give it another try, using all the settings and foot pressure they had sent it with. This is the result of the very first attempt, after a length of less than 4 inches:

Mark: These are the new threads! That’s when “my thread of patience broke”, as the saying in German goes. I could have thrown it out the window, but instead I cried.
Right after the machine had gone on its new tour I had already talked with my local sewing machine dealer who had been taking care of my machines before I made this mistake of buying out of town, being blinded by the light, so to say. And yesterday I got his offer for a new Bernina 820, and he will give me a very decent trade-in for this other machine.
So perhaps the whole story will take a positive ending after all.
And then, I am certain, those other threads will get their next chance, and I am pretty certain they will live up to the challenge.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Half closed seams

While I have been waiting for my larger machine to return from the repair shop I returned to my old, reliable and trustworthy Bernina to start piecing the top of Play of Lines XXX. The design had been developed a couple of weeks ago, but I had assumed I would be quilting Play of Lines XXIX first, before I would start on this one.
All of the Play of Lines quilts – well, at least the ones created with paper templates –use a technique that I call “half closed seams”. And as No. XXX had lots of them, I thought I would give a short documentation of how one particular part of the design developed using this technique. In my teaching I have discovered that it is far less well-known than I had assumed.
I first encountered half closed seams when I first tried to sew a pattern derived from old wooden paneling:

I use half closed seams in situations like these:

This detail shows a part of the design where several lines cross over (and under) each other. In order to achieve this effect in piecing – and I am a true believer in piecing, no fusing here! no appliqué! – you can’t just slap one piece onto the other.
Here is the same detail with fabrics cut out already.

First step: sew three pieces together, so that the left side is a ‚full length’ to which another piece can be added. However, the seams between these three pieces are not closed entirely, but a piece of about two and a half inches remains open on the right side, i.e. the seam is closed only partially:

Then another piece can be added onto the length that is made up of the three pieces, and this piece can indeed be added in its full length.

Here you can see a back view of the next piece added, partially:

Which leads to another longer piece that can be added onto:

And so on and on:

There comes a point when each individual seam can or must be closed completely so that another full length is reached in order for other pieces....

During the entire process of piecing Play of Lines XXX I did encounter a new situation, though, which had not happened to me before: I had a basically finished top with just a hole in the middle that was closed last.

But it all fit together nicely in the end.

This is the finished top.