Friday, November 30, 2012

Quilting Fresh Salsa! part 1

Let the quilting begin.....................................................

Here is my sample flaming spiral.  I don't make pretty samples this is really how I work. Did you want glamour?
Let me tell you this quilt has been a challenge from beginning to end. Beginning in the center, I have planned on quilting a flaming spiral with red thread in the center.  Just to make sure, I practice on a sample first.

The actual flaming spiral in the center of the quilt. I like how the thread subtly blends with all the fabrics
The plan is to work from the center out.  I have taped my paper plan to my sewing table so I can refer to it as I move out to the next row.  This feels very much like following a cross stitch diagram or knitting pattern. So I continue to make small samples, change thread color where needed and keep moving outward.
Here is one of the first yellow arrow segments just outside of red center.
Quilting the yellow arrow segments began with a challenge. I wanted to try quilting it with the red thread, and after sewing one leaf, I realized the error of my plan.  The yellow variegated thread really worked the best.  Notice how it subtly emphasizes the leaves in the quilting pattern. I did the same thing in all four arrow segments.
Detail of dark variegated thread on the green triangles.
I worked around the next ring around the quilt, using yellow and red threads.  Then I got a chance to use the dark variegated thread on the green segment. I was very pleased with how it looked. It took quite some time to quilt my way out to the outer edges of the quilt.  I took my time, stopping for the day when I got tired.

I have found that when I quilt for extended periods of time I start to make mistakes and bad choices.  Since there is no deadline on this quilt, I can just take my time. This is a very relaxing way to quilt.

Along the way, I found that the darning foot was catching on the spots were all the seams come together. Since I have reached my limit of blog space, please see part 2.  Continue to scroll down.
Ann Fahl

Quilting Fresh Salsa part 2

Darning feet for Janome, the center metal foot is adjustable.
One of the monumental challenges I faced is what happens when the machine gets to an area where many seams cross. The foot would get caught on the "lump" and not move.  Then when I tried to force it I'd get a few huge stitches, which didn't look very good.

My goal is to create as even a stitch as possible. It stumped me for a little bit, and I realized why many quilters send their tops out to be quilted! Then I remembered that I could adjust my darning foot. (See image above, the center metal foot.)  All I had to do was spin the little wheel above the needle bar until the foot was high enough to just skim over the lumps.  It took awhile, but I found the correct level. For a complete blog on darning feet check out my earlier blog. For Bernina owners, Diane Gaudynski has a method to alter their darning feet check out her blog to read about this.

Altering the darning foot. If you have the above, clear style darning foot, many people find that it drags above the throat plate, even if the pressure on the foot has been reduced to zero.  This isn't a manufactured recommended procedure but it works:
  • Remove the foot from the machine and slightly bend the little bar down (area shown below the arrow).
  • To do this, turn the foot upside down, and firmly press the bar onto the edge of a table or something substantial to do the bending. Bend it just a little.  You will feel it "give."
  • Do be careful, as you can damage the surface of the table when doing this. Your are responsible, not me.
  • Re-attach the foot on the machine, if it is still dragging, remove and bend it a little bit more.
So much for darning feet, let's get back to the quilting.  I completed the center quilting by continually consulting my plan as shown in blog "Machine Quilting Fresh Salsa." This wasn't the fastest quilting job I've ever done, but I followed the map and finally reached  my destination.

Now it's time to quilt the border. How in the world am I going to quilt it?

Ann Fahl

Friday, November 23, 2012

Variegated Thread with Fresh Salsa?

My three choices for thread in the red areas of the quilt Fresh Salsa.

You may think that selecting thread for a quilting project is a small thing, but it's more important than you think.  It pays off when you make the right selection. So now I've got this top that is a cacophony of red, green and yellow, what thread should I choose?

One of my issues with sending your top out to someone else to quilt is that you usually get one color of thread for the quilting. This would make my quilts so boring! Mattress pads are quilted with white thread, how exciting is that? I choose to use multiple threads, usually depending on the color of the fabric where it will be used. No mattress pads for me.

Learn to machine quilt so you can finish your quilt in the manner you choose!  You can do it!

Auditioning the thread. This is shown using white paper just for illustration. It should actually be done on the fabric of your choice.
 Back to Choosing Thread:

  • Pull out all the colors you think might work.
  • Audition them by unreeling about 36 inches of thread and letting it puddle on the project.
  • Give each thread a rating:  yes, no, maybe.
  • Give a second look to the yes and maybe threads, I throw the ones I like best into a basket or bowl, so they are accessible when the quilting begins.
  • If unsure whether to use thread A or B, sew up a little sample of both; hold each sample up to the quilt top, and this should help you make your decision.
  • There is nothing worse than having to rip out lots of machine quilting, after you figure out, you should have used another thread! I have lots of personal experience in this area.
Solid color or Variegated? This is a personal question. Most of the time I prefer to use variegated threads when I quilt. It makes the stitching more exciting on solid color or mottled fabrics. But if you are using prints a solid color thread may be a better choice.  Audition both types of threads to see which you like best.

Contrasting or Matching thread?  Here are some tips I have learned over the years.
  • Matching thread will be less visible, and will hide irregularities in the quilting.
  • Contrasting thread will really accent the quilting, look great from a distance, but will show everything little booboo.
  • A slightly richer color will subtly enhance the quilting without being too distracting.
  • Lighter threads on deep fabric will usually look good.
  • Dark threads on light fabric are very challenging, all the mistakes will show.
  • The choices are up to you.
Rainbow variegated threads, # 851, 814, 844 from Superior Threads
I have chosen three threads to use on my quilt, most are subtle contrasts with the rich colors in the quilt top. The yellow will look great on the small yellow areas of the quilt, because it mixes several yellow tones there will be subtle contrasts and matching colors here. The red thread includes red, purple, and gold, this makes the red areas more exciting. The darker rainbow thread looks great on all dark fabrics and will make the green areas richer on this quilt top.

The quilting will begin next.

Ann Fahl

Friday, November 16, 2012

Machine Quilting Fresh Salsa!

It has been awhile since I've done any machine quilting. When this happens a person becomes a little rusty, so I've decided to quilt an old top that has been lying around my studio for about 10 years. This project should get me back in the swing of things.
Fresh Salsa, top only, © by Ann Fahl 51.5 x 51.5 inches

A long time ago this quilt was to be an entry for the special Viking showcase gallery at the IQA show in Houston. To qualify, it needed to be 51 x 51 inches. My sons suggested that I make a quilt about salsa.  I love good fresh chopped tomatoes and pepper as salsa, I could eat gallons of it. Selecting half square triangles in red, green and yellow, I arranged a centrally oriented design, then overlaid a drawing of a tomato cut in half, lined up red iridescent bugle beads on the pencil lines, sewed them all on using NYMO thread, folded the top up and tucked it away in my closet!  I'm sorry, but I never took a photo of the beaded top. You'll just have to believe me that the beads really didn't enhance the over all look of the top.

The red bugle beads that I removed from the quilt top.

Years later, I pulled it out, hung up the beaded top in my studio and decided that the superimposed beaded design didn't enhance the central idea of the quilt, and removed the thousands of beads. Several weeks ago, I got the top out of the closet again; pressed it, blocked it, and pin basted it together. Now I'm machine quilting it.

This is the first time, I have ever quilted a pieced top. Just a pieced top, no beads, embroidery or applique over the surface. For me, this presented a big new challenge. I've thought and thought about how I would quilt it. So I flipped through my recent book on machine quilting, and came up with a plan.

I took a photo of the quilt, and printed 3 copies on 8.5 x 11 paper. I spent an evening doodling on the photo with a black gel pen, and came up with some very specific ideas on how to quilt each defined little area.

Doodling on a paper photo of a quilt, helps me decide what would look best as a quilting design.
Most of the ideas I used, just as is, others have been changed to some extent. Now I'm getting excited, it was time to begin the real quilting.  It has been a long time since I've quilted anything!  But before I can begin I have to select the thread.

We'll talk about thread and quilting next time.  It feels good to be working.

Ann Fahl

Friday, November 9, 2012

Quilt Judge on a Soap Box

Not too long ago, I was one of a panel of judges for a lovely quilt show, in a modest sized midwestern town.  Some of the work was outstanding; there was quite a bit of hand applique, a few hand quilted pieces, some amazing pieced work, a few were absolutely masterfully made, yet there were only 5 entries that were original designs!

Pardon me while I pull out my soap box one more time after a quilt exhibit.......... What has happened to us as quilters? Quilting has enjoyed a great resurgence of interest since about 1976--the bicentennial year. Have we still not learned enough about our art/craft to create more original work? Perhaps quilting has become more of a money making business rather than an art.  There are businesses creating books and patterns, tv shows, tool manufacturers, big exhibitions and contests, there are websites and workshops to teach new ideas,  and the list goes on and on........
We can cut out all the pieces for a quilt by cranking a machine, we don't need scissors and rotary cutters. We can sit at a sewing machine, and let it do the stitching for us.  If we create a top, we send it out to be quilted. Somewhere we have lost the joy and satisfaction of creating our own work.  I think you get the idea.
Everyone is trying to sell something!
Each time I finish a quilt, whether large or small, I feel a great sense of satisfaction in creating something that is truly my own. The process of making a quilt is similar to a treasure hunt. I begin with a small idea, and I keep working on a design wall, until pleased with its composition and appearance.  Yes, it takes time to create something that is your own. Most of the time I never know what the final project will look like until it's done.  Why use a pattern, you already know what the finished product will look like?  Where is the surprise?

Ann almost feels like a queen when she finishes a new project, she feels so proud.

Yes, we all have different talents and skills.  Let me challenge all of my readers to try to add something original to each project you begin.  You may be surprised to find you have the skills to create more than you think. You will become more confident in yourself.  Sometimes this path will put some obstacles in your way, it isn't always easy. Remember that the quilting community is one of the most helpful and supportive group of people in the world.  Ask for assistance and you will find many suggestions and possible solutions. After a few projects your skill and idea bank will grow.

Please give this a try. As a community we need to rediscover our creativity.  It's in there, we just need to let it grow.

Ann Fahl

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Have Problems with Applique?

Detail of Spring Gift by Ann Fahl
Most of you know that my work centers around applique and embroidery.  Currently I am writing a booklet about the way I applique on the machine. It will be similar to my current booklets on Bias Binding and Mastering Metallics.  Included are instructions on how I use 6 different methods; some traditional, some with feed dogs down. It is important that I include some problem solving techniques.  I know what my problems are, but what are yours?

Detail of Spring Gift by Ann Fahl
So I am asking you for your help.  Please let me know what problems you have when appliqueing a quilted project. Thread challenges can be included.  I will try to include as many answers as possible in the completed booklet, due early 2013. Thank you very much.

Ann Fahl

Friday, November 2, 2012

House Cleaning and Cat Hair

Most of you have heard about the book I published almost 2 years ago:  A Black and White Tale.  I am still proud of this book and all the effort it took to produce it. The book about Oreo has had a nice run, I find I only have a few cartons left in my closet.

The holidays will soon be upon us, so I have reduced the price from 17.95 to 14.95. Publication costs were higher than I had hoped so it has been priced higher than my $15 target.  Now that the quantities remaining are getting low, I'd like to clear out the closet and make room for new work.

This is a great book for anyone interested in my work. If you know someone that loves quilts or cats, this is a lovely gift for them.  Buy one for yourself. Order two, and I'll pay the postage.

My heart and soul went in to writing this book. Help me find good homes for the remaining copies!  You can read more on my website.