10/29/14

Day on the Run

This morning I was determined to finish the "Never Underestimate" stitchery. I made it, but from there on, I was running to get out the door on time. It was worth it to come home to a completed project, however.


Of course, it isn't finished yet. It needs two borders, and then it needs quilting and binding. Still, it's a good part of the way there.

Just before sitting down here, I was perusing my stash for something to use for the borders. It has a narrow stop border, pictured black on the pattern. Then it has about a 2-inch outer border. I had a fabric in mind, but then realized I'd used almost all of it in a different project. With so much going on in this piece, I think the outer border should be one that isn't too busy...a tone-on-tone. At least, that was what I told myself until I checked the Fabric Depot website (because I still have money on my gift card) and saw this:


Okay...well that was too cute to pass up. I can use whatever color I want for the stop border. So, there you have it. I'll use that in the outer border and on the back, and I'll pick one of those other colors for the stop border and the binding. I'm so glad we've worked this out together. You guys are alway so helpful.

Today I got my monthly pedicure and then dropped off our ballots in one of the designated ballot boxes. Oregon has vote by mail, which is great. And there are ballot boxes all around the state so you don't even need to use a stamp. Anyway...Mike and I have done our official duty as registered voters in the great state of Oregon. After that, I made a quick stop at the grocery store. I needed to pick up a couple of things for dinner and then I headed off to the dentist to get my new permanent crown cemented on. For what it cost, it really should have a diamond stud, but no dice. All I get is porcelain.

And now I need to get started on dinner. We're actually having leftovers tonight, but tomorrow's dinner has to marinate overnight, and so I need to get that going.

Not much to tell you today since I just ran around, but I wanted to show off my completed stitchery. Tomorrow I'll continue on with the Wind in the Whiskers block I'm working on. I'm still hoping to get the applique finished before the end of the month. Also tomorrow, I'll probably make up a small stitchery I'm doing for a friend. I signed up for a pay-it-forward deal on Facebook, and I'm paying it forward to five friends. Three down, two left to go, and I'll start on one of them tomorrow.

How did your day go today? By the way, did you know it's National Cat Day? 



Have you hugged your cat today? Mine get extra kitty treats tonight.

10/28/14

Eliza's First Project

Before I tell you about my day spent with Eliza, I want to be sure to link up to:

Val's Quilting Studio

This week's theme is "Halloween". Oh my goodness. I really had to dig into the archives for this one. In the same way my kids make me feel old sometimes, my blog is starting to make me feel old too. I considered linking to my Grim Ripper quilt, 


but that one was just from this past month. I decided to try to go back further...into the real archives...where the spider webs are. And I came up with this little doll quilt that I called (very creatively) "Cat on a Pumpkin".


I made this quilt for my partner in a doll quilt swap...only this was so long ago, it wasn't even my own doll quilt swap. It was the doll quilt swap from the Quilting Board. Heck, I was just a pup back then...barely blogging at all...way back in October, 2011, which for some reason seems like eons ago. Anyway...you can read my original post right here.

Okay (dusting the spiders webs off), now I can tell you about my day with Eliza. She quilted her first real quilt this morning. Things went pretty well. For one thing, I had the same thread in the needle and the bobbin, and I did notice an improvement in my tension. I still needed to make some adjustments. Also, my lesson is scheduled for Monday, and I'm thinking I'll learn something about the tension then.

Frankly, I think I need to use different thread. I've always loved the Essentials thread. It works great for piecing, and I love all the available colors. I'm starting to think, however, that for quilting, it might be a little bit fuzzy, and that I might get better results with a more, ahem, expensive thread. I've had good luck with YLI threads, but I'm guessing there might be others I would like as well or better. A few of you have made suggestions about threads, and I've written them all down. I'm going to attend the Quilt, Craft & Sewing Festival coming to Portland next month, and I'm guessing I'll get a chance to see plenty of thread there. As I've said before, I love thread almost as much as I love fabric. Here is a shot of some thread I took at the Machine Quilters Expo a few years back. I love these colors.


Besides...big bobbins require cones of thread, don't you think? 

So here's what Eliza and I talked about today. For one thing, I wound my first bobbin. That went perfectly. Yay!


Today my plan was to mess around doing a little practice, and then to stitch the Embroiderer's Blessing project sandwiched from yesterday.


My plan was to stitch close to the hand-stitched embroidery motif and to stipple in the open areas. From my experience playing with the machine the other day, I thought it would work best if I tried doing it with the stitch regulator engaged. When I was doing this the other day, I recall telling Mike that it didn't seem as if the stitch regulator was working at all. Then, I discovered that one must first actually turn ON the receiver,



and the controller. Doh.


The controller sits on the table under your quilt, and attaches on top of the quilt with a button-sized magnet. You can tell it's operational by its blinking light, shown "on" here. The light also helps one to find the controller under the quilt, although I think the magnet works nicely for that.


There's also this here little doohicky that allows you to attach the controller to the edge of your quilt so that you can stitch right up to the edge without the controller getting in the way.


I can adjust the stitches per inch (SPI) at the top there to whatever I want, and the stitch regulator will stitch accordingly.


I can also decide to use the foot pedal to activate the needle, or I can turn it on where that red button is. If I use that, it starts stitching and doesn't stop until I turn it off. 


The Bernina stitch regulator has a similar set-up, and in both cases, I prefer to operate it using the foot pedal.


There's also the ability to set it on the "Precision" setting, which means that the needle only operates when I'm actually moving the fabric. To do that, I set the "Cruise" percentage to zero as you see in the lower right of that image above. I tried that, but I didn't like that at all. I found it much easier if I set the cruise at about 30%. As I'm writing this, I think I might have made it even higher as I got used to stitching on the Baby Lock.


Another feature that came with the machine are these two Martelli Gripper Rings. They're basically a fancier and more expensive version of the Gypsy Quilter Fabric Guides. The one in the image below is the smaller 8-inch ring, and there is also a 10-inch ring. This being a small project, I tried the 8-inch ring, but found I didn't like it any better than the Gypsy Quilter Fabric Guides that currently live rent-free in the drawer of my sewing table. The only time I've ever used them was when I quilted the "We are the World" quilt using the plastic freezer paper over the top of my quilt. It was hard to grip the quilt then, even using gloves, and that was the one use I found for the fabric guides.

The Martelli Gripper Ring is a little more sophisticated, but I found that I did better with my hands closer to the needle and in direct contact with the fabric. It's a personal preference, not necessarily a commentary on the quality or usefulness of the product.


And then it was quick work to stipple around the open areas of the quilt and to stitch up close to some of the embroidery designs. 


As I said earlier, having the same thread both top and bottom made a big difference with the tension problems I was having the other day.


And then, what could I do but take the quilted project downstairs for binding. I haven't fired up Big Bertha for quite a few days because I've been playing on the Baby Lock or else doing fusible applique. I think her nose was out of joint a little about the interloper upstairs...kind of how Gracie feels about Smitty.


I used this scrap of red binding left over from another quilt, and I had that baby bound in no time.


There isn't really any red on the front of the piece, but there is on the back. I kind of like how it brightened it up a little bit from all those pastel floss colors.


So there you go. A project quilted and bound in an afternoon.

After I finished quilting the piece, I tried again stitching without the stitch regulator. I actually think I'm going to like it better without. The stitch regulator might have a place in my sewing, and I always use it with the Bernina. Still, it seemed to get in the way on the Baby Lock, and I wasn't sure it helped keep my stitches any more even than I could do on my own without it. I'm still learning, and possibly I will decide to use it for some things and not for others. It doesn't have to be a black and white decision.

So that's all the sewing I'm going to do today. There are other things on today's to-do list, and the hours in which to do them are growing short if they're going to get done today.

More Wind

Yesterday I spent some more time on the Wind in the Whiskers block I've been plugging away at.


I'm at a place now where I can begin to fuse the pieces to the background, being careful of the layers of leaves and branches. I don't want to fuse anything down if something else is supposed to go underneath first.

Here's the template I pieced together for myself (since this portion of the template was on the back of the other half...which still frosts my nostrils). 


Anyway...I'm ready to start making the dark green and light green leaves and the branches. The flowers, birds, and cat are already made. So I'm ready to start with the large dark green leaf in the upper right of the block. And that's all fine and dandy, but it also requires that I place three flowers over the top. 


Here they are, all cut out. The backing has been left in place and they are marked. The centers have been fused to the other side.


So how are you going to get the placement right? Enter wax paper. Simply trace in a few lines from your template. You don't have to trace the whole thing...just enough lines that you can tell where the pieces go.


Then, you can place the flowers in the proper place.


Remove your wax paper template, and fuse away.


And to keep things simple, I just added the lines I needed as I went along. Here, I'm adding another branch, a light green leaf, another flower, and a little bird.


Place the pieces as indicated on the template, and fuse.


Then just keep going. After that, I added the small branch and light green leaf on the bottom.


Now, this next one is a little trickier. I'm adding the branch on the upper left that hangs down, another flower, and another bird. Only, the cat has to fit under the part of that branch that is hanging down. I left that part of the backing in place, and fused only the parts that were on top.


Look closely in that image above, and you can see the part of the branch that is hanging down has a slight shadow where it is left loose. I stopped there for the day, but before I did, I placed the cat sleeping on the next branch under the other branch so you could see what I'm talking about.


I was kind of tired of working on it at that point. I'm anxious to finish fusing the cat and the branch, but there are other flowers, leaves, and branches that go over the top of the long branch he's sleeping on. It's better to wait to work on these complicated placements when I'm fresh and have more patience.

After that, I decided to sandwich this little embroidery piece I finished up a while ago. I'll bet you forgot all about this one, didn't you?


This will make a good piece for me to quilt on the new machine. I have an old embroidery piece I've never liked and I'm going to practice first with it. My plan is to stitch very close to some of the embroidery for texture, then stipple the open areas. It'll give Eliza's stitch regulator a good work out. 

What I've figured out about the stitch regulator is that it is very good for projects like this where I want to stitch very slowly. When I'm stitching fast, on long sweeping motifs, I think it's easier to work without the stitch regulator. This is only a theory at this point. I'll know more when I give it a try. Anyway...I'm using a leftover scrap from another quilt for the backing and I have a pale yellow thread for quilting.


That'll be my project for the day. If I get that finished, I'll go back to that cat sleeping on the branch.

As for the rest of the day, I'm going swimming and doing a tiny smidge of housework. Other than that, sewing all the way.

10/27/14

Stormy Weather

We've had a lot of rain and wind here in the Northwest over the past week. Erik called yesterday to say they'd been without power for more than 24 hours, which is unusual except in the worst of weather. The local newspaper carried a big article with lots of pictures this morning.

It didn't seem as if the wind was anything unusual here at the Three Cats Ranch. We nearly always get big wind storms in October. Just at the peak of the pretty leaves, a big wind comes along and blows everything down. Including big trees, it seems. We didn't realize it until yesterday because this tree is on the "lower forty". And look at that!


We've had big trees come down before, and they usually pull up from the ground, roots and all. This one broke off at ground level.


I posted these pictures to Facebook, and my entomologist friend says this looks like longhorn beetle larvae damage. (Did you catch that I have an "entomologist" for a friend?)


I was out filling the birdfeeders and emptying the compost pail during a brief moment of sunshine this morning, and I wandered around the yard taking pictures of a few things. We lost a few branches off one of our flowering plums, which is a shame. These trees just weren't meant to be growing in our yard. We've had the hardest time getting them established.


Every time they get some size to them, something happens to break off branches, or even the entire tree. We hired an arborist a while back to help us with our trees, and the difference in the flowering plums has been remarkable. They are much larger after just one year in his care. Nevertheless, these branches broke off. Fortunately, the tree will survive the damage.

Mr. Smitty was beside himself that someone came outside in the wet with him. Of course, I wouldn't have been out in the rain, as he often is. He doesn't seem to mind. He just comes in wet as a wet dog and stands still while I dry off his fur and clean his muddy paws. He does, however, come inside to use the litter box. How's a cat supposed to dig in all that mud? Ew.


The mighty hunter stalks his tiny prey.


He's figured out that, with patience and watchfulness, he can sometimes score a gopher from one of these mounds.


Go home, patio furniture. You're drunk.


We always know when spring arrives in the Northwest from the abundance of gopher mounds that start popping up in the field. Conversely, when the herds of huge slugs start showing up, we know the rain is here to stay. Ick.


Although it's been rainy for the past week, the temperatures have been relatively warm. We've been sleeping with the window open. Our trees haven't started changing colors much, but I noticed this one is starting to turn. It will be bright orange before it loses its leaves. I'll keep you posted on its progress.


These Japanese Maples are starting to turn as well, but they'll be bright red...I mean really bright red before they are finished.


And in my wanderings, I noticed this on our fifth wheel. Oy. The tire gods must be off in their timing, however. Usually, they would do this while we're on an actual trip.


Don't know when that happened, but there you go. One more thing for the man of the house to fix.

So I've been off to a slow start this morning. Today I'm going to do some laundry and run the vacuum around a little bit. I might play on Eliza a little more, but I want to keep moving on my Wind in the Whiskers block as well. Mike and Matthew are meeting up at Mike's workplace this evening to work on a side project Matthew has been putting together. They need the equipment in Mike's lab. Which just means I'm not making dinner tonight. Mike will be home late, and that means I'm moving slow.

How's your Monday going so far? Any trees fall down? Any tires go flat? Any slugs slime your path? Let's hope not.

10/26/14

A Day of Play

If you haven't read my post from yesterday, then you missed the part where I got a new quilting machine. And if you're reading this via email, then the post you want to read will be down below this one. Just scroll down and read that one first to learn how this all came about. I'll just wait here while you catch up...or don't. It's up to you.

Anyway...today I spent some time playing with my new Baby Lock Tiara. As a few of you noted, she'll need a name. I actually gave this some thought yesterday. I was thinking of things to go along with Baby, but nothing came to mind. Then, for whatever reason, "My Fair Lady" popped into my head, and I had my name...just like that. Eliza. For Eliza Doolittle.


Anyone with a name like "Tiara" should be wearing a nice hat, don't you think? And in this image, she's actually wearing a tiara!


Please tell me you're old enough to remember Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle.

So anyway. That was the easiest part of what I've done with Miss Eliza today. She has three manuals for all of her parts.


For simplicity, I started with the guide for the machine and put the other two where I couldn't see them. I didn't need any distractions.


And where does anyone start with a new machine, but threading it for the first time.


This is where I ran into problems because the documentation is really terrible for this machine. And what I've learned in the process of looking at them as that all of the machines are made by the same manufacturer...just the names and how they are packaged for sale are different. So I got a little wigged when I read this part:


Here was my first attempt. Close...but not quite there yet. You can see that I've wrapped on one side for the top two holes and the other side for the bottom. They should have all three been wrapped on the left side.


So, I got that figured out, but then the rest of the threading instructions were pretty vague. Basically..."just wrap it around the thinga-ma-jig that we failed to illustrate in the picture of the machine...that's right...whoops...no, over there...oh you're really effing up now". Yeah. Quoted only slightly inaccurately. And because I knew this machine was identical to the HQ Sweet 16, I decided I'd check their manual online. Only, it too was exactly the same manual with only the cover changed to reflect the different name for the same machine. Oy.

But let me continue on because I really had to be able to stitch something before I could tell if I'd threaded it properly. It came with two pre-wound bobbins and several more empty ones. I figured I'd just start with one of the pre-wound ones, even though the thread weight was quite different from what I had on top. And to make it extra hard on myself, my top thread was purple, while the bobbin thread was white, and I was stitching on black fabric. Of course, it did make it easy to see the tension.

Anyway...the bobbin was simple. It was just like the one I had on my Bernina 440 back in the day.


It's a little inconveniently located, but I didn't have any problem with this.


So then I spent a little time poking buttons on the screen in front of my face. I can adjust the speed I want to stitch, and these are not preset. I can decide what I want the three speeds to be.


Then that "More" button was intriguing. Here's what happens if I press that. Ooooh, lookie there!


So it has a timer I can use to set an alarm to remind myself to stop sewing and go work out. (Ha! Oh, I crack myself up.) The bottom timer is sort of like the trip meter in your car. You can set it to see how much time you've spent on any given project.


With "Options" I can change the brightness of the screen or the volume of the sounds. Then there's the "System Information". This is sort of like when you get a new car and it only has 8 miles on the odometer. And when it turns over 100 miles, you feel as if the car is ready to be junked for a new one. And here I am with 663 stitches! Cool! 


Also, there's a calculator. I can see this coming in handy.


There's a low bobbin alarm, but it will have to be calibrated by setting it to zero when I put in a newly wound bobbin. I can have three presets at the bottom for different threads, but each will have to be calibrated.


So after I'd done all that, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and pressed "needle down". I first needed to bring the bobbin thread up to the top, and lookie there! It worked! (By the way, this is an old practice piece from the class I took up in Tacoma this past summer. It's still half unstitched, so I'm keeping it around for practice.)


Then I was ready to stitch. And away I went. Cool. Wow. I'm really doing it!


Only I flipped it to the back, and uh-oh. Something isn't right. 


I messed and fussed and cussed and fumed and turned dials, and pressed buttons, and read, and studied, and got online, and tried to find videos. Finally, Mike and I looked at it together, and Mike figured out that despite thinking I had it right, I didn't actually have the thread between the tension disks. Once we got that figured out, things started improving.

And after swirling and circling and stitching a lot of scribbles, I tried stitching a flower. The first quilt I'm going to do with this machine is the Gardener's Journal quilt, and so a flower seemed a good place to start. Here's the front...not too bad.


Here's the back...you can see I'm still having a few tension problems, but I'm feeling confident I can get this worked out.


If I use a consistent thread in both the needle and the bobbin, I have a feeling my tension problems will go away. Also, I still have an instructor coming out to the house to give me a lesson. I'm told she'll be able to help me get the tension adjusted properly...not to mention helping to assure I have it threaded right.

Despite the frustration of the day, I've had fun with it. I'm looking forward to my lesson and continuing to play until I'm comfortable tackling an honest-to-goodness quilt.

Oh yes, and I almost forgot. I'm down to just words on the "Never Underestimate" project. It seems appropriate just now. 



When it's finished, I'm going to hang it in the room where Eliza resides, and we'll just have a great time together.