More y-seam stars

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I don’t know about you but I get a huge thrill when everything lines up perfectly or closer than you’ve ever been before. I wanted to show you my stars before I trued them up. I don’t think I’ve ever had blocks turn out like this before, less than 1/4″ fabric to trim. And you know, when you can achieve results you’re pleased with, you want to repeat them because they’re so gratifying! (Click any image to enlarge then click again to magnify.)

Sharon Schamber has really lit a fire under me, to strive for accuracy as best I can and I have to thank her for her YouTube tutorials! Some techniques I feel have really helped me are:

1) Starch, starch, starch! Starch your fabrics before you cut, starch them twice! It prevents your fabric from¬†stretching¬†and becoming distorted and makes a HUGE difference! Spray your starch on your fabric then turn it over and iron, this prevents those pesky white flakes from littering your fabric. It also helps after you stitch your seams, fabric behaves better and you don’t need more (starch) after your initial pressing.

2) Take your time and cut accurately! I wish I could go back in time and recreate some of my quilts, to improve upon them. Alas some of that fabric is no longer readily available (sob).

3) Lock your seams by a stitch or two. The traditional quilter’s rule is to not backstitch but I found my seams would come undone, I started backstitching awhile ago to prevent this and it really helps.

4) Last but not least, especially when you’re cutting triangles & diamonds, cut your fabric parallel to the bias it gives your pieces more stability.

6) Once finished your block, take the time to give it an overall press with a wet pressing cloth and, of course, more starch. ūüėÄ

Here is the video tutorial of Sharon Schamber’s y-seam 8-point stars¬†if you’d like to give it a try. If you do try it, let me know what your results were!

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 √ľber 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.

Fabric, Thread & Quilting

I’ve started quilting my Parcheesie quilt by stitching in the ditch. The new generation thinks this is old fashioned and I thought so too until I took a course on free motion quilting. When you free motion quilt, wash and dry your work, your piecing ¬†becomes distorted, the FMQ is more prominent and the piecing can get lost. Stitching in the ditch prevents your hard work from becoming¬†skewed. In fact, it’s also recommend that you stitch around the¬†perimeter¬†of your quilt prior to FMQ so the edges of your quilt don’t become wavy. If you’ve never tried these methods, give them a whirl and witness for yourself, the difference these techniques make. This has really solved some common problems for me, especially the wavy edges.

In the case of my Parcheesie quilt, I want the piecing to be dominant, not the quilting, because it was a lot of work and I really love it! ¬†In summary, stitching in the ditch isn’t a style choice but rather a practical choice, IMO.

Superior Threads’ Kimono Silk

On another note, everyone has been raving about Aurifil for the past year or so and I have to admit that I love it too but it’s just not available at my local quilt shops. Aurifil has done an excellent job of using social media to boost their profile and increase sales. Superior Threads, however, are available at the quilt shops around me. I recently purchased three spools of Kimono Silk; beige, white and light grey, the basics. It’s very fine and extraordinarily strong — more so than cotton, and great for stitching in the ditch because you don’t notice the stitches, it’s like a filament thread but a natural fibre, a great alternative to nylon (ew).

Lastly, I FINALLY received the backing fabric for my “Les Fleurs Bleu” quilt, I can’t believe it! I can’t wait to start quilting it — very simply, outlining the flowers I think, still undecided. Sadly I had to pay an additional $25.00 for customs on top of the shipping charges. I hate customs, it’s so random and unfair! On the other hand, The Fat Quarter Shop reduced my shipping fees from $26.00 to $13.00, YAY and thank you FQS!!!

See you next time I come up for air or when I have something to show you! ;D

Spa White Rose Vines and Flowers by Deb Strain

Parcheesie sashed!

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On the fence.

The neighbor’s clothesline.

In the house.

I love this quilt even more after being sashed and the top is not yet finished! I struggled to find a place to hang the quilt for photos, I didn’t have anyone around to help and wasn’t able to find a place high enough to hang!

I have yet to add two borders. I wasn’t able to find the Flora print I wanted, ¬†as the pattern suggests so chose three prints from Birds and Berries — two for the sashing and one for the backing.

I now have two quilts to add borders to and sash, still waiting for the fabric for both! I can’t believe my Parcheesie quilt is pieced and I still don’t have my Spa backing yet! WTF Canada Post & USPS?! Ah well, I need a break anyway AND I’d like to use Superior Thread’s Kimono silk on both, can’t wait!

Today I’m linking up with The Needle and Thread Network and:

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

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