Category Archives: Quilt Notion

My Hex-ceptional Quilt!

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I have a large stash of black and white fabrics and was trying to figure out a way to use them. Since hex quilts are so popular, I thought I’d give it a try. It’s actually pretty easy, as long as you’re not afraid of “Y” seams.

I began with Darlene Zimmerman’s Hexagon template.

Since this was just a test quilt, I traced each hexagon using a fine-tipped Sharpie so I could see the lines. I then used a ruler and, again using a Sharpie, marked the 1/4″ line around all six sides. (Warning: Not recommended for a show quilt!) The next step was to sew rows together. If you picture the hex’s as a stop sign, I sewed the bottom of Stop Sign #1 to the top of Stop Sign #2. On even rows, I pressed the seams towards the top; on odd rows, I pressed the seams toward the bottom.

Now the fun begins as you sew the rows together. I pinned the right sides of the stop sign in Row 1 to the left side of the stop sign in Row 2. I just sewed along the guidelines. When I got to the intersection of blocks, I kept the needle in the “down” position and moved the seam allowance out of the way.  I actually got into the rhythm and it fairly easy to do. These are 5.5″ blocks, so I imagine it’s a little more challenging as the blocks get smaller. Overall, it was an interesting project and certainly one that builds piecing skills.

Hex quilt 3

My New Cutting Mat

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Until recently, my largest cutting mat was 24″ x 36″.  It sits on a cutting table that my father made for me. It’s a great system for cutting pieces and strips — but not so good when it comes to trimming finished quilts. As you can imagine, the quilt falls over the sides and pulls away as I use the rotary cutter.

Unfortunately, our house doesn’t have a large enough surface for a big cutting mat. And, every time I looked at them, I wondered where the heck I’d store it.  (Lots of people store big mats under their beds, however our bedroom is on the 2nd floor and the mats are heavy to lug around.) My only alternative seemed to be leaving it permanently on our kitchen table and throwing on a couple placemats on it whenever we wanted to eat! I probably would have done that, except that we’re always spilling stuff and I would have wrecked my mat!

A few weeks ago, I had the brilliant idea that I could buy a large cutting mat and store it on the floor under my longarm. The mat I bought is 56″ x 33″. The narrow part fits fairly well under the large batting rolls that are suspended under my machine. When I need to cut, I just slide out the mat and cut on the floor. This eliminates any drag on my quilt. Cutting has been fast and easy.

Using the mat in this location also allows me to cut batting with a rotary cutter. Previously, I was using scissors.

As you can see, this mat has been a game-changer. The exact model that I purchased is no longer available at Joann Fabrics, but this one is similar and is currently on sale:

http://www.joann.com/36×59-cutting-mat/xprd74039/

Bobbing for Bobbins

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It’s the beginning of a new month, so it’s time for New Month Resolutions. In my case, one essential task was creating order in my bobbin drawer.

I use pre-wound bobbins (SuperBob’s) from Superior Threads. Some I buy in groups of 6 and some in groups of 12. I also buy their assortment packs. All of these bobbins mostly come on a cardboard blister pack that falls apart once you open it. My previous solution has been to transfer bobbins into small zip-log bags with identical colors. Except when I have an assortment of 12 bobbins, and the non-used bobbins fall into the bottom of the drawer. As you can see by the photo, my bobbin drawer is a mess.

I’ve been looking for a solution. Last weekend, Joann’s Fabrics had their bobbin boxes on sale for half price — about $1.70. I went to our two local Joann’s stores and bought up all of their boxes (total 13) and then ordered 10 more online. Even though each box holds 30, I hadn’t calculated in the fact that I only want one color per row. I’m still waiting for the online order to arrive, as well as a large order from Superior Threads, so we’ll see if I ordered enough. I used a Sharpie Marker to write the color on each row in the box.

So much of my life is chaotic. My organized bobbins make me feel peaceful and in control. It’s a little thing, but it helps!

Art Bin bobbin boxes are available at Joann Fabrics: http://www.joann.com/artbin-bobbin-box-holds-30-bobbins/prd34629/

SuperBob pre-wound bobbins are available at: http://www.superiorthreads.com/shop/category/superbobs/what-bobbin-style-for-my-machine/

(If you can’t see the photos, check out my blog at quiltnotes.wordpress.com)

My bobbin drawer (before)

Neatly organized bobbins

Review: Omni Thread by Superior Threads

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If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that I was the Queen of Tension Problems with my longarm. After frustrating attempts with several different kinds of thread, my representative suggested Signature. I’ve been using their 40 weight cotton thread (along with Superior Thread’s pre-wound bobbins) exclusively for the last year. Thankfully, my tension problems are a thing of the past.

I have been pretty happy with Signature Thread. It is reasonably priced and comes in a lot of colors. The downside is that it is EXTREMELY linty. Some of my longarm colleagues have told me that all 100% cotton threads generate a lot of lint; others have confirmed that Signature wins the prize for lint generation. Regardless, I seem to spend a lot of time picking lint balls out of my machine.

At the recent MQX East quilt show, I was in line at the Superior Threads’ booth stocking up on pre-wound bobbins. One of my longarm friends looked at my purchases and asked if I’d tried Superior’s Omni Thread. I hadn’t — and had no desire to. She’d switched to Omni and absolutely loved it.  Honestly — she was raving about how great it was — and I’m pretty sure she wasn’t an undercover Superior employee hired to generate business. She pretty much forced me to buy a couple of spools to try. After telling myself that it wouldn’t kill me to be open-minded, I bought 2 colors and put them directly into my drawer of unusable threads. So much for being open-minded.

This week I decided it was time to work on a charity quilt. Which was also the perfect opportunity to give the Omni thread a try.

I must admit that I’m a convert. Omni thread is indistinguishable from cotton, but it is polyester and much stronger. It worked beautifully, with no tension adjustments needed. Best of all, it leaves my longarm relatively lint-free. Furthermore, Omni thread turns out to be cheaper than my current thread brand and is available in more than 170 colors. I give it a 5-star rating and will be placing an order for more in the near future.

I guess the lesson is that we don’t always have to stick to our tried-and-true products. There may actually be something better out there.

You can learn more about Omni thread at http://www.superiorthreads.com/shop/category/omni/description/.

Signature’s cotton thread is available from http://www.redrockthreads.com/signature-thread/signature-thread-cottonquilting.asp.

The Truth About Titanium

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I first heard about titanium needles from Bob Purcell at Superior Threads. I totally trust Bob, who sells only the highest quality of products. Bob said that titanium needles had been used in the garment industry for years, so it was only logical that they would make the transition into the quilt world. They are 3 to 10 times stronger than regular needles, so need to be changed less, and they have a proven history of sewing through tough fabrics used in upholstery, making blue jeans, and the automobile industry. The strength and durability of titanium needles made using them on my longarm a no-brainer. Until …

I talked to an A1 rep and she discouraged me, saying that titanium needles may require me to re-time my machine. That was enough to discourage me from EVER trying titanium needles, despite their apparent advantages. At the recent MQX conference, I asked a national educator — who sells a different brand of longarm — to explain why they don’t recommend titanium needles. She explained that needles break at their weakest part, which in traditional needles is the eye. However the stronger titanium needles tend to break at the top of the shaft, which means you have 2″ of needle that can get stuck in your hook assembly. The result is costly damage to your machine. Yikes! Another strike against titanium needles!

But I started thinking about it. If titanium needles are used successfully in commercial sewing machines, surely the titanium needles are not breaking and causing sewing machines to be repaired. Why would they use them? Groz Beckert titanium needles have been used in the sewing industry since 1980. Common sense tells me that these titanium needles would not be have lasted 30+ years if there was any problem with them.

I talked to my friend Vicki. She’d used titanium needles on her domestic machine with great success. When it broke, it broke at the eye and she had no problems.

Vicki volunteered to do some research on titanium needles. It turns out that there is very little information on the Internet.( I’m guessing that sewing shops are fairly low-tech and, unlike quilters, don’t feel the need to discuss their machinery online.)  I’ve listed some of the resources below.

I’m going to go ahead and use titanium needles on my longarm. From my research, it seems like this is the smart choice and that the “will damage hook assembly” problem is a myth. However I’d like everyone to make up their own mind, so please have a look at these websites before you make a decision.

I’ll report back on my experiences at a later time. I’d love to hear what you think!

Groz-Beckert’s info on titanium needles: http://www.groz-beckert.com/website/media/en/media_master_367_low.pdf

Organ’s information on titanium needles: http://www.superiorthreads.com/media/uploads/2011/02/03/files/2_Organ_Needle_Co._Titanium_Nitride_PDF.pdf

Superior Threads’ info on titanium needles: http://www.superiorthreads.com/education/needles/why-use-titanium-coated-needles

True Confessions … Needle Breakage and More!

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This weekend, I was working on a quilt top I’d started more than a year ago. On Saturday, I was determined to get the inner and outer borders sewn on so I could load the quilt on my longarm, then get up on Sunday morning and start quilting. Yes it was an awesome plan.

I was almost finished piecing when my sewing machine needle fell out of the holder and got stuck in the assembly. Here’s what you’re supposed to do: Dig out the needle and throw it away. Then make sure the machine is running properly.

Here’s what I did, after deciding that I was too lazy to walk into the other room to get a new needle: I examined the old needle, didn’t see any bending, and put it back in my machine. Not surprisingly, the needle broke as soon as I started to use it, and the bottom part of the needle got jammed in the assembly.

So, rather than spending 20 seconds to walk into the other room and retrieve a new needle, I now had to dis-assemble my machine AND walk into the other room for a new needle AND then re-assemble my machine. By now most of you will have realized that I didn’t save any time!

I probably need extensive psychotherapy to figure out why I do this sort of thing. I’m very serious about maintaining my car and my longarm. But for some reason I seem to push the envelope with my trusty Janome 6600.

Magnify Your Work!

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Every time I go to a quilt show and look at that tiny stippling, I feel like my poor eyesight prohibits me from ever winning a ribbon. Seriously — how do these women manage microscopic stitches when I can’t even read the account number on my credit card?

The secret is that they use magnifying glasses.  Yup. It’s that simple. I can’t blame my aging corneas any longer.

I know that some quilters attach a magnifying glass to their longarm machine. I decided to try a different approach with these magnifying glasses. They are wonderful! The fit over my existing glasses and the quality of the lenses is excellent. It takes a bit of time to get used to quilting this way, but I can’t imagine every going back to the squinting method.

I do find that my eyes are more tired after using the magnifying glasses. I have to take more breaks and try to remember to blink.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000LXXSM8/ref=oh_details_o05_s00_i00

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Tshirt Quilt

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I doubt there’s a middle school student in the United States who doesn’t recognize the Wimpy Kid series of books. These books describe a sixth grader’s adventures as he grows up.

The challenge in this quilt was finding a background fabric that did not detract from the vibrant red and purple Tshirts. I was thrilled to find this black and white fabric. Somehow it manages to capture the stick figures, but also fades into the background. Best of all, the seams between the sashing and borders become invisible.

This was my first quilt using Aurifil invisible thread. I asked around amongst my machine quilting friends, and it seemed to be the favorite. It is the thinnest of the invisible threads I’ve worked with, stitched well on the quilt, and the result was excellent. However, I started another quilt (same thread, same types of fabric) and didn’t manage to find the correct tension. So I hesitate to recommend it whole-heartedly. I have worked with several other kinds of invisible (monofilament) thread and it’s always challenging with the longarm. Several of my longarmer friends refuse to use monofilament thread and I can’t blame them.

http://www.aurifil.com/Aurifil/Invisible_thread.html

To learn more about the Wimpy Kid series, check out http://www.wimpykid.com/

(If the photos do not come out clearly, please check out my blog directly at quiltnotes.wordpress.com)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid T-shirt quilt

Diary of a Wimpy Kid -- quilt block

Better Quilt Binding Clips

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I’ve always secured my quilt binding with straight pins. It may not be the ideal method, as your thread catches on the pins and it requires constant measuring (or eyeballing) to make sure that your binding is even. A few of my quilting friends use hair clips from the dollar store, but that never seemed to be a great solution either.

Last week I was at New Jersey Quilt Fest VIII and attended a lecture on new notions. The vendor said that these Clover Wonder Clips were currently Clover’s best selling item. I had to give them a try.

Well, quilting friends, I’m here to say that they are awesome. They are small, sturdy and quick to use. They stay in place. Best of all, they have markings so that you can make sure that the width of your binding stays even. The clips retail for about $30 for 50 clips (cheaper on amazon) and also sell in smaller packages.

http://www.amazon.com/Clover-Wonder-Clips-50-Pack/dp/B004ZKPX8A/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1331083876&sr=8-1

Clover Wonder Clips

Clover Wonder Clips

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ergonomic New Year (Part 2)

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Quilting is hard work. Fabric is heavy, and maneuvering the quilt around sewing machine is not easy. Even if you don’t have back or neck problems, you can easily feel the fatigue as you begin to work.

I read the book “Pain Free Quilting” by Carole LeRoy over the Christmas break. She is a nurse and quilter, and she has a lot of tips for pain-free quilting. Some of it boils down to keeping your body in a relaxed, natural position. She suggests having a friend take a picture of you quilting, then noticing the areas of strain.

For me, my shoulders immediately go up toward my ears as I start running fabric through my sewing machine. I’ve been making an effort to relax my shoulders and it has helped. Then I raised the height of my chair, which helped even more.  I know that some people have good luck by placing a towel under the far end of the sewing machine and tilting it toward you. (I haven’t tried this because I would be unable to use the attached table, plus all my pins would fall off as I’m used to laying them on the throat of the machine.)  However I think the secret to pain-free quilting is making a lot of little changes until your workspace fits you exactly.

Carold LeRoyealso covers the best way to use rotary cutters and scissors. Aside from using ergonomic rotary cutters, it’s important to keep the blades sharp. I know I’m a guilty member of the “dull blade” camp. Blades are expensive and I hate changing them. But there’s a lot less stress on my shoulder when I’m not pushing like heck to make a cut. Then, of course, there’s re-doing the cut because the edges are frayed!

When cutting, it’s important to have a table that is at the correct height. When I was a child, I remember my mom cutting out fabric on our chest freezer. She was tall too, and the extra few inches of height over a table or counter top made a big difference. Recently, my dad made me a sturdy cutting table that is the perfect height for me.  I have appreciated both the height and the sturdiness. My previous table, although tall enough, wiggled when I used the rotary cutter, creating additional stress on my shoulders.

Carole has some interesting tools to help take the strain off while sewing. I haven’t tried any of them, but I have to admire her innovation. You can see these products at http://www.painfreequilting.com/products.html.

Her book is available at http://www.amazon.com/Pain-Free-Quilting-Carole-LeRoy/dp/0972000801/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1325681802&sr=8-1, as well as her website. As you can see from the amazon.com images, it has a lot of cartoons and is an easy read. I don’t think any of her information is new or surprising, but there is value in having everything together in one book. Reading this book also gave me time to think about my work environment and changes that I could make.