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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.