Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The things I make my dog do....

Sometimes I feel a little guilty about the things I make Coco do for the sake of cute photos. However since the holding the leg up like this is bichon for 'pat my tummy' she didn't seem to mind too much in this instance.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tips for quilting on a domestic sewing machine.

 1. Make the work surface slippery!   This helps the quilt to glide and means you don't have to support it's weight yourself. There are a couple of ways to do this:

• Use a spray like Mr Sheen liberally. I apply a few heavy coats over my entire sewing desk and leader table. I even apply it around the base of my machine being careful to apply to a rag first so it doesn't get inside the machine.

• Tape a teflon sheet or a commercial self adhesive quilting mat to your work area. (Sew-slip is one that springs to mind). If you use teflon cut a small hole for needle clearance.

 2.  Take up the weight!  If your quilt is large make sure you have something to your left to take up the weight, ideally the same height as you sewing table. This stops it dragging. If your sewing table is too narrow to have the entire quilt over it then position another surface behind. An ironing board lowered makes a suitable leader or behind the desk surface - even better if you can make the top of it slippery.

 3. Bunch your quilt.  Some people roll the quilt up leaving the work area flat, however i find this is bulky, adds too much weight, and if it hits anything your work will be very jerky. I prefer to gather it up leaving only the area you are about to work on flat - so it looks like the ripples of a pond when you throw in a pebble. This allows enough slack on every angle for you to move the quilt around without it dragging or catching.

 4. Stitch in the ditch tips:   This style of quilting is handy if you're not sure what design to do or lack confidence with free-motion, however I find it more difficult due to the need for accuracy. You can make it easier by using a 1/4 inch foot with a guide in the centre that runs along the seam line and by using a finer weight thread that's less visible if you do make a mistake. Mono-filaments (clear plastic threads) are now made in polyester and are softer and easier to sew with then the older nylon versions. However I like superior threads 'bottom line' - a very fine thread created for bobbin use but strong enough for quilting and even piecing. The khaki and ochre colours blend well with almost any mid coloured fabric.

For larger quilts only position a smaller section under the needle and sew to that point before moving the quilt and sewing again. This stops the drag pulling you out of line.

 5. Test!  Always check you current machine and thread settings on a test quilt sandwich that has similar batting and fabrics to what you are going to sew. I do this every time I have re-threaded the machine just in case there's a problem. This solves so much unpicking and allows you to fine-tune the tension as needed.

 6. Play!  For free-motion sewing always do a test with a few twists and turns, corners etc before sewing on your quilt. If you are going to do a set style be it stippling or a motif like a repeated leaf pattern make sure you do some of this style on your test to get into the swing of it.

Other free-motion tips are:

• make sure the top tension is lowered and that your bobbin isn't too tight either. The thicker the thread generally the looser the tension to allow movement without pulling on the thread.

• some threads break more easily then others, if you're wanting to use a thread like rayon or metallic don't be put off. Instead try a top-stitch needle which has a larger eye allowing it to have freer movment. A thread stand can also really help - even try putting the thread in a cup behind the machine and then feeding it through if you don't have one on hand.

• some machines are more finicky then others. Take the time to get the tension as perfect as possible on your test sandwich. Everything is easier from how hard you need to push the quilt around to how often your thread will break (hopefully not at all!) with correct tension.

 7. Get a grip!  Quilting gloves with rubberised finger tip pads really help - you can then lay your hand flat on the quilt and not have to have it in a vice like grip. There are also C shaped hoops available with handles and non slip rubber on the bottom that allow you to just place them on top of the quilt - then you just gently steer these about. Handy for people with arthritis and back pain.

 8. Good posture    prevents fatigue and pain. When you get tired you're more likely to make mistakes or try to do a rush job. A cushion behind to push your forward, a chair with arm rests adjustable to the sewing surface or even sitting on a fit ball can all help. Make sure the chair is at the correct height and use a foot rest for the presser foot if your desk is too high and you can set the chair to suit that.

 9. Take a break!    Look out the window and focus on something far away for a few seconds, shrug your shoulders or take a quick walk. I have an iron that beeps every 10 minutes, it's a good reminder for me to get out of the chair and walk over to it. It can be annoying (actually it often is!) but since I have a bad back it's invaluable too.

 10. Practice!   Really does make for much better quilting. Get used to the feel of the fabric and before you know it you'll immediately be able to tell if the tension is off, if you're sewing through more layers then you intended (it just feels different!) and get really smooth stitches.

 11. Choose the batting wisely.     I like full puffy quilts. However I sew on a standard size domestic sewing machine, so if i use something bulky, puffy or dense it can get stuck in the machine throat. For larger quilts I tend to use something like Matilda's own 100% cotton wadding. It's thick enough to still give evident quilting lines and washes well. It's thin enough that I can fit even a 2m wide quilt easily on my machine and still do creative free-motion quilting.

Hope these help! Let me know how you go, and if you've got tips to add please leave comments.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Tutorial for machine needle felting and heat fusing synthetic fabrics.

This is a Journal quilt (A4 size) created with layered synthetic fabrics on felt, the whole lot is covered in organza, the figure stitched and then felted on my needle punch (embellisher) machine. I've felted predominantly from the back of the piece to make the black of the felt push through to the front.

You can see the back and a close up below.

There's a tutorial for the technique on my website here:!.html

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Book Cover

I hate to admit it but I actually like trashy romance novels :)  I know they probably lower my IQ and I know there are certainly better books out there just waiting to be read... but there's some sort of sinfully easy, guilty pleasure to be had by curling up in bed with an M&B. No matter how tired you are it takes milliseconds to immerse yourself in the plot and you never get that have to read 10 pages thing to be back into it that you do with others.

They're also really good as fluffy bunny sugar material and if I read too many thrillers in a row i start to check the locks several times before bed, so I have to space them out with a couple of fluffy bunny books.

The only bad thing is they are embarrassing to read in public! So I made this book cover to hide my shame when out and about.  Reverse applique, multi layers of synthetics, razzle dazzle thread used for freemotion bobbin work.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Torquay motor show 09

Went to Torquay on the weekend so my other half could drool over cars. This one I kinda liked - gorgeous beach and some pretty cool cars and i managed to entertain myself by taking photos. will have to try turning the beach pic into a painting sometime. I'm guessing a few of the car pics will end up as T-shirts and poster prints or quilts too. :)

'Scattered' Quilt

I began this quilt in Feb at the AQC in Brenda Gael Smith's improvisational piecing class. It's a basic block design that's been repeated but all cuts are freehand and size varies from block to block. The tricky bit for me was adding spacers and getting them all to fit into basic rows or sections so I could join them together as I still haven't managed to perfect an inset seam (and I don't think it's lack of trying!).

Mostly cotton fabrics with some small sections of silk and satin, cotton sateen for the borders and backing (thanks to a facebook friend for recommending who were so quick with delivery and great value). Quilted with madeira metallics and batted with matilda's own cotton wadding.

This one will probably go up for sale on etsy since that's what i finished up making it for, though as it's my first very large quilt it will be quite hard to part with. (it's about 230 x 220 I think - that's a queen sized bed it's pictured on).

Friday, October 30, 2009

Soul Fishing

This is another 30cm square art quilt for this years Unique Stitching challenge. The theme this time was self portrait which i decided to interpret through symbolism. The sunset is tsukineko inks applied with their foam applicators which is really easy to use and stays nice and bright (though think i did a couple of coats on this one). I used them on a white on white print and the print area shows through the ink so you can get some nice textures that way.

The rest of the quilt is a variety of fabrics, cotton, silk velvet and holographic printed stretch synthetic all fused together with vliesofix and then mounted on a piece of cotton covered timetex. The apples are metal foil.

The end of beauty

I'm just starting to load some of my previous work up. This small 30cm x 30cm art quilt was created for a cancer fundraising challenge run by unique stitching (who sell great textile art supplies). I was totally wrapped to find i won first prize in the beginner section, especially as it was the first time I had entered anything. The leaves are created from various synthetic fabrics (nylon organza, chiffon etc), angelina fibre, textiva and tyvek.

The tutorial section of my website has 3 tutes on leaf making here:

The tutorial section of my website has 3 tutes on leaf making (click here)

and to read more about this quilt and the thinking behind it click here

Finally :)

Finally i've gotten around to beginning a blogger blog. I already have one on my website that includes how to's and links to a tutorial section, but it just doesn't get the traffic of one that is in a dedicated blog spot. Plus i'd like to link it to my facebook page.

Over the coming weeks i'll be adding pics of the art i've been working on, which is mostly textile based of late. It will include pieces for sale on an upcoming etsy store, commission works, links to tutorials and anything that i've found interesting enough to think others might find it so too.