Gracie Arrived

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My new Gracie Queen quilt frame arrived Friday afternoon, it took hubby and I four hours to assemble, the instructions were clear and concise and all components were accounted for. Unfortunately when we put the carriage on the rails, it fell off where the crib and queen sizes met. We loosened the frame, adjusted and re-tightened to no avail despite using a square and level because the aluminum rails were off by meer millimeters. Our resolution was to remove a washer from two of the rear wheels on the carriage so when the frame expanded, the carriage, with the weight of the sewing machine, had enough play to stay on the tracks. The original 8 foot plastic tracks which you insert into the aluminum however, were damaged in shipping, they are made of a hard plastic and were crushed under the weight of the frame so that they kept popping out of the aluminium rails. Hubs replaced the portion of damaged track with the 3 foot crib pieces but it causes a problem when you move the crib over the joint. I’ve requested new tracks  be sent.

Once we got the carriage problem worked out, I used old poly/cotton sheets from the cottage for practice as well as a flannelette sheet for mock batting. When I first put the backing sheet on the rails, there was no tension, when I tightened the takeup rail, the backing rail would simply follow so I’d have too much fabric hanging between the rails. It wasn’t until I added the batting and top that everything tightened up — almost too much now. When I want to advance the quilt, I have to first loosen the top then the backing and make sure to lift the batting up for slack.

I hated pinning the quilt to the leaders. A little while ago I found a video on YouTube by Sharon Schamber about velcro leaders, makes life so much easier. I posted this on Kathy Quilts’ forum but the moderator argued against it repeatedly. I’m going to make velcro leaders as soon as I possibly can because if I have to waste time doing that again, I’ll scream. Also, I had mentioned the side leaders which makes a heck of a lot of sense. Not only does it eliminate the problem of running into the side clamps, it also gives the sides even tension. Again, the moderator argued against it saying that the new Grace Company side clams were better. I beg to differ, strongly.

Finally, at long last, I got to sew! The Juki TL-2000 Qi is awesome, I really love it, you have to treat her right though. Check your bobbin tension often, she HATES Gutermann thread, shreds it and creates ugly nests. I had to switch to a finer thread. I loaded the bobbin with Superior Threads’ Kimono Silk because I know one bobbin will last and last and last and swapped out the Gutermann with some left over Aurifil in dark grey. She was happy as a lark, humming and sewing beautifully.

In addition to the Gracie Frame, I also purchased the SureStitch Stitch Regulator which, IMHO, is grossly over priced — $559.95 from The Grace Company. The plastic feels über cheap but regardless, it works – so far. You attach sensors to one of the wheels on each of your upper and lower carriages so it speeds up and slows down depending on your movements. The stitch regulator on my Bernina is much more sophisticated but I don’t know how other stitch regulators work on longarm machines so I really have nothing to compare it to.

Free Motion Quilting using a Juki TL-2000 Qi on a Gracie Queen quilt frame IS better than wrestling a quilt over your shoulder/lap/sewing machine throat.! MUCH easier!! This set-up isn’t perfect but it is better than nothing. The carriage moves relatively smoothly but when I attempt to create swirls and circles, the carriage wants to make squares or something between a circle and square. However, the more I practiced, the better I got. You really do need to learn free motion quilting all over again. The machine moves so easily and is more challenging to control and if you go too fast, the frame starts to rattle, vibrate and shake. With this particular set-up, I find it easier to quilt straight lines, boxes, stone walls, etc… Although I’m going to continue practicing curves and swirls, I will change and hone my style to work with this carriage. I may look into other carriages further down the road.

One thing you never read about with longarm or shortarm set-ups is the mess behind the machine. Each component you add to your kit requires electricity; 1. sewing machine; 2. lamp; 3. stitch regulator. And the cords must be long enough to reach from one end of the machine to the other. Something to think about if you choose to go this route.

For my preliminary summary, I would say that the Gracie Queen quilt frame set-up is no walk in the park and certainly not a picnic to get up and running. It’s not a simple matter of putting it together and sewing straight away, you have to make adjustments, tweaks and realize the possibility that something might get damaged in shipping. After all, aluminium is pretty flimsy and easy to bend, unlike steel. The wood on this frame is not finished, there is no wax or lacquer. My first choice was the Grace Start-Right frame which is all steel but The Grace Company would not ship it to Canada “because of costs” but they would ship from Utah to Main. Go figure, this makes no sense to me, especially when I’m paying the shipping/duties/taxes!! I was told that the wood would not be affected by conditions in a basement but I have my doubts. Only time will tell.

Kathy Quilts included a goose neck lamp, 30 bobbins and 50 universal needles to my purchase for which I am grateful though I don’t think I’ll be using the universal needles opting for Superior Threads’ Topstitch needles which have a larger eye.

This review is an account of my personal experiences, thoughts and opinions.

Preliminary Review: Superior Threads

Disclaimer: I have not received any monies or free product from Superior Threads. This is my honest and unbiased opinion, no one from Superior Threads has contacted me for my opinion.

Thread comparison

From left to right: 

Superior So Fine is a polyester 5owt, 3 ply thread, a 3,280 yard spool is US$16.90

Aurifil 50wt, 2 ply thread, 1,420 yards is US$11.99

Superior Kimono Silk #100 thread 1,090 yards was US$12.60 on sale at Superior Threads, regularily US$17.00

Mettler 50wt thread, 547 yard spool – can’t remember how much I paid.

I love Superior thread, especially their Kimono Silk Thread, it’s thin, stronger than cotton and a natural fibre. I love it more than Aurifil 50wt cotton and the biggest differences are a) NO lint and b) extremely flat seams. I plan to use it on my next project from start to finish. The Superior So Fine is a 50wt 3 ply thread which appears to be marginally thinner than the Aurifil 50wt 2 ply cotton. The Mettler appears to be the thickest 50wt thread and approximately the same as Gutermann, in my personal opinion. After using Kimono Silk, Gutermann and Mettler feels like sewing with rope.

The So Fine I purchased in 3,280 yard spools from Green Fairy Quilts. I’m also interested in trying out Superior Threads’ King Tut 40wt which is a 100% cotton.

I’d love to hear about your experience with different threads.

Parcheesie: Blocks Complete!!

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Parcheesie quilt blocks – Aqua

Parcheesie quilt blocks – Yellow

Parcheesie quilt blocks – Red(ish)

Parcheesie quilt bocks – Green

Although it seemed like forever, I really enjoyed putting these blocks together, the seams nested beautifully and I couldn’t be happier with the results. The next step is to create the scrappy sashing which will be 2″ x 2″ blocks sewn together using 2 1/2″ strips, there are also two borders on this quilt. I’ve ordered the fabric to finish this quilt so there won’t be any delays. I still haven’t received the backing fabric for my Fleurs Bleu quilt which I ordered awhile ago.

You can see April’s original Parcheesie quilt here.

As mentioned at the beginning of this project, I was going to use Mettler 50wt thread but I instantly found it too thick, like Gutermann so I switched back to Aurifil. I have some Superior Thread’s Kimono Silk and So Fine threads on their way to me, hopefully I won’t have to wait too long.

Which thread do you use??

Linking up to:

Sew Happy Geek

Cutting the (Par)cheesie

Flora by Lauren & Jessie Jung

Cutting Parcheesie

I spent the entire day cutting my stash of Flora by Lauren & Jessi Jung for Moda to make a Parcheesie quilt, pattern by April of Prairie Grass Patterns. This pattern involves a lot of cutting and finishes at 86″ x 86″, the largest quilt I’ve made to date!

Sixteen fat quarters cut into 21 pieces plus three yards of background fabric (Kona white) cut into 384 pieces = 720! That doesn’t include the back, boarders or binding!! It will all be worth it, it’s a beautiful pattern and believe it or not, I have fabric left over for pillowS!

This will be the first pattern where I’ve cut out all the pieces before sewing, I usually cut as I go.

Mettler Silk-Finish cotton thread

Mettler Silk-Finish Thread

Because Aurifil thread isn’t available to me locally, I haven’t won any and and Alex hasn’t sent me some, I’ve decided to use Mettler Silk-Finish cotton thread. It’s a fine, thin, long staple 50wt cotton with a very smooth finish. It will be interesting to see how much lint it produces compared to Aurifil and Gutermann.

DH received a package from Amazon.ca today and he was sweet enough to include a little something for me in his order, Aneela Hoey’s Little Stitches! Yes, I DO have the best hubby in the world! What I didn’t realize about this book is that it has ready-to-use iron-on transfers, AWESOME!!

 

Quickly editing to add that I’m linking this post up to WIP Wednesday

Free motion quilting marathon

I finally packed it in at 6:30 p.m. after an all day marathon. The basting paid off, I’m super happy with the back of the quilt as well as the front.

Free Motion Quilting

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So far this project has eaten an entire spool of Aurifil 50wt thread (piecing & free motion quilting), I don’t know how many times I changed the bobbin, I lost count. I also broke one needle when the thread got stuck.

No doubt I’ll sleep like a rock tonight, I’m bushed! How was your day??

Fabulous Fabric and AURIFIL, Finally!

Domestic Bliss, Kona Solids & Aurifil Thread!

This week is turning out to be fabulous already! Yesterday I found Kona white yardage, 4 charm packs and Aurifil thread  in my post box. I have been begging for some Aurifil thread in every giveaway known to man kind to no avail, so since the Fat Quarter Shop has it on sale till the end of January 2012 (I should place another order!!) I thought I’d try some out. It looks wonderful with a gorgeous sheen but I’ll have to wait till the weekend to try it out.

Today I received my order from Pink Chalk Fabrics, a juicy fat stack of Liz Scott’s Domestic Bliss, 12 half yards of fantastic prints and colours, what a terrific  line! And since I was running out of Kona Ash, I decided to invest in some Kona Medium Grey, I’m quickly learning that you can never have enough solids in your stash!

Please note that I have no sponsors and have not received any freebees from either of the online fabric shops mentioned in this post. Modern designer quilting cottons are difficult to find in my area and if you do find some, the entire line is not available. Further, when you do find designer fabrics, they’re over priced, it’s often less expensive to purchase fabrics from the U.S., even with shipping charges. So sad.