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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!!