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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Rotary Cutting continued

Along with a rotary cutter you are going to want to invest in a "self-healing" rotary mat and a ruler made to be used with Rotary Cutters.

@ Self-Healing Mats - were created to be used with rotary cutters. The problem was rotary cutters cut fabric fabulously, but it also cut what other surface was underneath the fabric. Say you didn't want to mar your counter top, or wood table so you placed a piece of say cardboard under the fabric. The cutter went right through that also and probably pushed the fabric down into the slices it was creating. SO, a cutting surface was created that would allow the fabric to be cut without destroying the cutting surface itself. The surface of the mat is called self healing, because it's made out of a special rubberized surface that can recover from the cutting and be used over and over.

@ Rotary Rulers - When rotary cutters first came on the market, quilters/sewers were using metal type architectural rulers with them. Imagine less than and 1/8" edge to guide the rotary blade down the ruler!!! It's amazing that so many quilters from that era still have their finger intact! Now we have so many awesome rulers to choose from. They are about a 1/4" thick and create a nice straight edge to guide the rotary blade. I love that they are see-through and marked in 1/4" increments. There are many different brands of rotary rulers. Check around, lay them on light and dark surfaces to see how easy/hard it is to see the measurements marked on them. We have the tendency to walk in and buy the first one we see, the one on sale etc. . . But then you begin using it and find out that it's hard to see the marks on dark fabric, or you really wish it marked the 1/8" increments and it doesn't. BASICALLY - test drive a few models to find out which will work best. Start with one ruler and use it a several times before you add to your collection of rulers.

@ Rotary Cutters - Like the Rotary Rulers, there are many different brands and styles. Check out how the blade guard works. How does it fit in your hand? Will you be doing multiple layers of fabrics? or will you cut curves and need a smaller more manueverable blade? Again buy one, and test it out before you buy other sizes etc . . . You will probably end up with more than one if you really get hooked on quilting.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Safety First!

A rotary cutter is basically a razor sharp round blade placed on a handle, much like a pizza cutter. However, it is immensely sharper than a pizza cutter!! I can't stress too much how careful you should be when handling and working with this instrument. Whenever it is not in use the blade guard should be closed. If you have small children in your home, please be sure to put your rotary cutters up and away. One quilter told me a story of how she turned her back for a second and her toddler had unscrewed the assembly of her rotary cutter and was holding the blade in their hand!!! Another quilter, piled all her quilting supplies on her mat and was carrying them to the other room, and the rotary cutter slipped off the mat and hit her on the top of her foot. The impact pushed the blade guard back and the blade sliced her foot. The result was a trip to the ER! Thankfully it barely missed major tendons. I myself have gotten distracted while cutting and sliced into my finger. OUCH!!

BASICALLY! Be very careful with this VERY sharp instrument. And always close your blade. Get in the habit of clicking the blade guard closed every time you lay the cutter down.

You can't really use a rotary cutter all by itself. You'll also need a self-healing mat and a ruler made to use with a rotary cutter. I'll discuss these tools in an upcoming post.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Rotary Cutting

So I had this great post all written about Rotary cutters and don't ya know it disappeared!! CRAZY! Well, here goes again!

The rotary cutter was a revolutionary invention by Yoshio Okada. Mr. Okada already had a sucessful business in cutting tools, but in 1979 he began producing the Rotary Cutter. Mr Okada was watching a television program where someone was trying to cut out a fine fabric with regular scissors and was having difficulty cutting a nice straight even line. Mr. Okada knew he could come up with something better. After 9 months of work, the rotary cutter was introduced as a fabric cutting implement. Not necessarily for the quilting market, but it was quickly recognized as something that could help in the cutting of many pieces of fabric quickly.

I don't think I would be a quilter with out this invention. I'm pretty sure I don't have the patience it takes to cut out all the pieces for a large quilt by hand with a pair of scissors!
From 2008-11

Now rotary cutters come in a variety of sizes, shapes, makes, and colors. I will have a post soon about how to use a rotary cutter safely.

BASICALLY! The rotary cutter revolutionized the way we make quilts, and how many we can make in a year!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Walking Foot

I guess I'll stay with the presser feet theme a little longer, if you can stand it!!

Another presser foot that I think is a MUST for quilters is . . . the Walking Foot! If you've never heard of that, you're thinking WHA?

From 2008-11

A Little Explanation: The feed dog on your machine pull the fabric through the machine. Right? That's what they're meant to do, but sometimes when you're sewing on something slippy and slick, things don't sew through your machine too well. The top fabric wants to slip and slide all over and the bottom fabric tends to follow the feed dog. A walking foot has grippers from the top, that help "walk" the top fabric through while the feed dogs "walk" the bottom fabric through.

From 2008-11

In the Quilting world we don't sew a lot with slippy fabric, but we do sew "layers" together. And herein lies the problem. When a quilter is piecing the quilt top and sewing 2 layers of cotton fabric together, we can use the Quarter Inch foot just fine. But when we decide we're going to quilt the layers (quilt top, batting, quilt back) together our good old "regular" presser foot just doesn't work too well. Here's what happens; the quilt back gets pulled through by the feed dogs, but the quilt top gets pushed forward because of the thickness trying to make it's way through the small space between the presser foot and the feed dogs. SO, everything gets off kilter and a mess is made. The Walking Foot is the answer to the problem.

From 2008-11

I also apply my binding with a Walking foot, which is a really good thing, because when you're binding by machine not only do you have the 3 layer quilt sandwich (quilt top, batting, quilt back) but you've add 2 more layers for the binding!!

Also, you can use the walking foot to quilt the top! It's great for stitching in the ditch, quarter inch outlining and even some curvey designs. Check out Mary Mashuta's "Foolproof Machine Quilting".

BASICALLY! A walking foot is a very good thing to have in your quilter's bag of tricks!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Quarters for Quilters

Sounds like I'm collecting money for quilters!! Nope, it's just that quilters think in quarters!

I wanted to show something unique about the Quarter Inch foot. At least on the Bernina Quarter Inch foot. Not only is the width of each side of the foot 1/4", but the foot also has notches on it. It has 2 notches on in front both sides that is 1/4" from the needle, and another set of notches on the back that marks a 1/4" from the needle to towards the back. These notches are helpful when you are sewing miters, binding, turning a corner, or especially "Y seams". Discussion of Y seams won't happen for awhile as they are for the more experienced quilter.
From 2008-10

So when shopping for your Quarter Inch foot, check it out to see if it has any Notches on it!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Quilting a Quarter Inch at a Time

One of the biggest hurdles for a begining quilter is sewing an exact Quarter inch. Many sewing machine companies make a Quarter Inch presser foot, which will help you get your best 1/4 inch seam. If your machine was advertised as a machine for quilters, it probably came with the Quarter inch foot. If your's didn't, try your local sewing machine store or repair shop. Also, the internet is a great place to search.
From 2008-10

BASICALLY! It is much easier to keep an accurate 1/4 inch seam when you sew watching your fabric move under the edge of the presser foot, and much more difficult to keep the edge of the fabric along the lines on your needle plate. Because the quarter inch mark on the throat plate/needle plate is usually just inside the edge of the right feed dog.

If you don't have a Quarter Inch foot and/or can't get one, you really should check and make sure that the lines on your machine are accurate.

Get your smallest rotary ruler because it will be easier to manuever, but you can use the larger one if needed.

@ Take your rotary ruler slide it between your presser foot and your feed dogs. Line up the right most quarter inch line on your ruler under your needle, turn the sewing machine hand wheel and drop your needle down exactly on the quarter inch line. Make sure that your ruler is square under your needle, and then lower your presser foot. Take a piece of painter's tape and put it on your machine where the right edge of the rotary ruler is. Now you have a line to sew along for your 1/4 inch seam.
From 11-4

From 11-4

@ I've seen/heard it suggested to use a pile of post-it notes to make an edge for your fabric to run along. If this works for you, great. But as noted above the quarter inch line is usually inside the edge of the feed dog. So, if you lowered your presser foot, it would land on the post-it notes and could impede the impact of the feed dogs on that side. So be sure and test out this suggestion before actually sewing your project using it.

Now test it out. Take 2 - 2 inch strips about 6 inches long and sew them together using your new quarter inch line. Press it and then measure it. The 2 strips pressed open should measure 3 1/2 inches wide. If your strips are narrower than that, then your tape needs to be moved in a smidgen. If they are wider, then it needs to be moved out a smidgen. Keep tweaking until you get it just right! BASICALLY! It will pay off in the end.

From 11-4

Monday, November 3, 2008

Does your machine eat your project?

So you're all ready to start stitching, and you take those first few stitches or a few more and you realize you're fabric isn't going anywhere? Instead it looks like your machine got hungry and started eating your beautiful quilting fabric? I HATE that!! The machine I learned to sew on would do that, if I forgot to hold on to the thread tails. Guess What? I used to forget all the time~!

So here are a few tips to keep your machine from eating your quilt project.

@ A SHARP new needle on your machine. If you have a dull or burred needle it might be having a hard time getting through your fabric, and thus be pushing it into your machine. At which your machine is saying, "Yum, Yum more fabric!"

@ Leader and Enders - These are pieces of scrap fabric that you fold in half or thirds and stitch over it before your project, stitch off it a few stitches and then start your project under the presser foot. When you come to the end of stitching your project, stitch off a few stitches and then put another piece of folded scrap fabric under the presser foot. Stitch across the scrap, then clip the threads between your project and the Ender. It now becomes the Leader for your next stitching run. Why do these help? Well, you don't need to worry about the thread tails any more!! Also, they have raised the presser foot up off the feed dogs and make enough room for your project to slide nicely under the presser foot and the feed dogs can grab your project nicely and pull it through your machine.

From To be Filed

From To be Filed

From To be Filed

@ Change your Needle Plate. The needle plate is what covers the bobbin area under your project, it is around the feed dogs and has a hole in it where the needle goes through. On most machines that do zig-zag, the hole that the needle goes through is a horizontal slot. This slot allows the needle to go from side to side and create the zig-zag stitch and now days a thousand other fancy stitches. This slot creates space for your fabric to get sucked down into the bobbin area. To help prevent the needle from pushing your fabric down into the needle plate you can change the zig-zag needle plate to a straight-stitch needle plate. This needle plate has just a small round hole for the needle to go through and so there is less room for your fabric to get stuffed down into your machine in the beginning stitches. BEWARE!! Be sure to change back to your zig-zag plate before you try to do anything but a straight stitch! That's what the little red sticker is supposed to remind you of!
From 2008-10

From 2008-10

Now check out what Bonnie does with her Leaders and Enders!!!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Tension, You got any?

Tension is one of the biggest problems for sewers and quilters. Well, if you've got them they're BIG. If you don't, consider yourself lucky!!

The point where the upper thread and lower thread meet is critical in the tension issue. That intersection should be right in the middle of your 2 (or more) layers. You should not be able to see the top thread on the bottom or the bottom thread on the top. If you can see the top thread on the bottom fabric, it will look like pokies coming through the holes made with your needle and your b0ttom thread will just be laying on the fabric held in place by those pokies. In the following pictures the pink thread is the top thread and the brown is the bobbin/bottom thread.

If you have problems, start with adjusting the top tension. The larger the number the tighter the tension (or check your manual). So if you can see the top thread on the bottom, tighten the upper tension a touch. Test stitch again. Tighten as needed. If you have the top as tight as it will go and it's not better, then you might have to adjust the bottom tension. On machines that the bobbin case comes out, there is usually a little screw on the bobbin case. Use a tiny screw driver (usually included with your machine) and tighten or loosen the tension on the bobbin thread. Remember: Right is Tight and Left is Loose. So in the situation above you want to loosen your bobbin tension just a touch. Run a seam of test stitching. It may take a few back and forth adjustments and it's best to just move the screw a hair each time.

For those of you that have the drop in bobbin assembly, I have no clue how to adjust your bobbin tension. I'm sure there has to be a way so read your manual and check it out.

If you can see the bobbin thread on the top, loosen the top tension and/or tighten the bobbin tension. If you can see the top thread on the bottom, tighten the top tension and/or loosen the bobbin thread. You can do it!! Don't be afraid, and get to know your machine.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Amazing Stitch

I was blogging about tension and wound up involved in how the stitch happens and decided with all the pictures I took that it deserved it's own blog. So here it is

The Stitch:
So, you have the top thread and then you have the bottom thread, and in the stitching process the 2 threads become looped around each other and make a stitch. The whole process is quite interesting. The needle goes into the fabric and down past the needle plate and when it gets down there the "hook" on the bobbin assembly catches the upper thead and takes it around the bobbin and it becomes looped around the bottom thread on it's way around and back up and a STITCH is born! That happens every time your needle goes down and for every stitch in your project. Now you know why it's so important to take care of your machine! It works hard for you.

So I've been sewing for over 30 years ( I learned to sew when I was 6 months old!) and didn't know how my machine worked until about 6 years ago. I think it's pretty cool!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Halloween!

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Machine Set up

Before you even begin stitching, it's very important to make sure your machine is set up properly. First, take a small brush and clean the lint out of the bobbin area. Since we, quilters, use cotton thread and cotton fabric, we are going to get some lint build-up in the bobbin area. If you can take your needle plate off, it would be a good idea to take it off and use the brush around the feed dogs. These are the grippers that pull the fabric through while you're stitching and I'm positive they'll work better if they don't have a bunch of lint being felted up underneath them. Most newer machines no longer need oiling. I'm not sure how they do that, but that's what the manufacturers claim. Older machines, like the Bernina 830 that I learned on as a kid, have certain spots that need oiling on a regular basis. Just like your car, they run better when they're oiled!

It would be great if you could take your machine in once a year for a check up by an experienced sewing machine technician. I know, we all think that we just took our machine for a tune-up just a few months ago, but usually it's been 5 years or so. Yep, it costs some $$, but if it keeps your machine running good and probably will make your sewing experience much nicer, then it's worth it!

Look what I found online about servicing your own machine! Check this out. Or become a technician and make some $$!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Basic Machine Needles For Piecing

This is really basic for those of you who have been quilting for a while, but for newbies and self-taught quilters this is important.

You want to use Sharps for all your machine piecing. A good basic size would be about an 80/12.

This one I didn't know for quite a while, but you should change your needle after every good size project you work on. A needle gets dull and worn out after puncturing fabric a million times. If you hit a pin, it can get a burr on it. This can cause the needle to snag on your fabric each time it enters the fabric. Sometimes you can even hear it when a needle has gotten dull.

If you are having problems with the needle pushing the fabric down into the throat plate and making a mess, this could mean you have a dulled or burred needle and need to change it.

Variety is the Spice of Life

When picking Fabric for your quilting project be sure and MIX IT UP! Don't use all the same scale prints. Throw in some straight lines with your florals. Have some small prints, fabrics that have a print, but "read" one color, fabrics that have several colors in them. Just don't use too much of a good thing. Have only one stripe, a couple fabrics with multiple colors, and just a "splash" of that zinger color.
I was just in my beginner phase as a quilter when my husband's Aunt bestowed upon me a pile of beautiful fabrics she had collected for a quilt she intended to make. She developed an eye problem and was no longer able to quilt. I went home with those fabrics and I played the Sesame Street Game, "Which of these Things is NOT like the Others" and picked out all the larger prints, stripes and whatever else I thought didn't "belong", and I made one SNOOZER of a quilt! Not the good kind of snoozer quilt that is comfy and you want to sleep under. It was BORING! I only used small prints and that quilt definitely has NO Zing!! See for yourself. I later used the leftover fabric and made the cutest rail fence quilt ever. It was way more interesting than this quilt because the different fabric types made it fun to look at. My MIL still has it, and if I ever get a picture of it, I will add it here.

100% Cotton

The basic fabric and thread for Quilting is 100% Cotton. Yes, if you become an art quilter, or one of those rule breakers you might eventually end up using everything under the rainbow.
However, for the beginner the basics are 100% Cotton Fabric because it is easy to work with, holds a nice crease when pressed, and is just what quilts have been made with for centuries. So if you want that down home, snuggly quilt look you'll want to be sure and use 100% Cotton.

Also, be sure that you buy quality fabric if you want your quilt to last longer than say 5 years. Yep, the saying "you get what you pay for" is true in fabric purchases also. The average price for a yard of good quality quilt fabric is around $9. If you are paying say $5 a yard and it's not on sale, then you're not getting the good stuff.

Here's how I learned. When I was a beginner I fell in love with Mary Engelbreit fabrics and I bought it where ever I could find it; My Local Quilt Store (LQS), JoAnn's, and the WalMart fabric section. I made a wonderful quilt and it's been on my bed for at least 4 years. Guess which black came from the LQS and which came from the Big Box store??
The Teapots came from the LQS and the cherries from WalMart. Yep the background on the cherries used to be black!

Because you are using 100% cotton in your fabric, the rule of thumb is to use 100% cotton in your thread. Yep, it's a bit more, but it's worth it. You also need to purchase quality in this area also. A quality cotton thread takes up less space when you press and your blocks will come out closer to the "true" finished size. Also, quality cotton thread will give off less fuzzies which will keep your sewing machine running smoother and you'll not have to clean out the lint as often. My favorite cotton thread is Master Piece from Superior Threads.

Choosing your Colors

Picking out Fabric for a project can be one of the biggest worries for new quilters and even some experienced quilters. You can learn all about the Color Wheel and complementary colors, split complementary, analogous and triadic color ways. Then add to that tints, shades, and values and you'll be totally confused. Some day you may want to know all this stuff, but if you're making a quilt for your next of kin and want to have a litte fun while you're at it, maybe it could be simpler.
Go to your quilt store. Pick out a fabulous Big Print with lots of colors (ones you love, or ones that you want to design your quilt around). Like this one I found.
Then you can pick out fabrics to coordinate with it that have those same colors, or you feel will coordinate well with the colors in that fabric. You don't even have to use the first fabric you pick out, you can just use it find fabrics that will go together.
Another cool thing that fabric companies do now is print color dots along the selvage of the fabric. It shows all the colors that were used in that particular print and you can use the dots to find coordinates.
Now wasn't that easy??

Thursday, October 23, 2008

To Begin With

I can't believe I'm starting another BLOG! Too Crazy. I was totally afraid of starting the first one, and now I've got several going. But that's not what I'm here to talk about on this blog.

This blog is for Quilting Tips, Tricks, and Basics.

The reason I decided to start this blog is so that I can post all the Quilty Information that is in my head and hopefully keep it organized. Then Quilters, experienced and newbies, can come here as a reference place. I'm going to be organized about my labeling and then it should be easy to go exactly to the topic that you might have questions about.

Also, leave comments behind on tips you won't mind my posting here, or comment about something that might be giving you fits and we'll try to come up with solutions and post them here.

Then you'll know where to come when you need the answer again! If you're like me, I can't keep track of all the info in my head so it will go in a blog where I can find it again when I need it.

Let the FUN begin!!