More Ruler Work Woes

I wrote in January that I was having problems with ruler quilting on the tumbling blocks mini.

Fabric bunched up in front of the ruler foot
Ruler foot problems 1

At that time the problem was pressor foot pressure — try as I might, I was unable to get the pressor foot to lift enough to allow the quilt sandwich to move. I was using MonoPoly in the needle and Invisafil in the bobbin and it’s possible that tension issues might have contributed (although I had used those same threads with the walking foot quilting and had no problem at all).

Today I was quilting En Bourgogne and decided to try some ruler work on the B blocks. This time I am using Gütermann polyester in both needle and bobbin. I made a test run at the edge of the batting and the foot moved easily — I didn’t take a photo, unfortunately, and I pulled out the thread before starting on the quilt itself. Confident that the previous problem had resolved, I made a start on one of the blocks in the middle of the quilt. The result was … not good.

Ruler work tension issue - June 2019
Ruler work tension issue – June 2019

(Please click through to see the large photo)

Apart from the issue of moving the quilt while keeping the ruler still (which caused uneven stitching) and the extreme difficulty in getting the foot over seam allowances, the tension was way off — the bobbin thread was being pulled right through to the top. And yes, I double-checked that the pressor foot was down while I was quilting (it’s not easy to tell with the ruler foot). I’m pretty sure that I’m using the correct option within the ruler work menu — it’s a thin cotton batting with not much puffiness, as you can see from the walking foot lines I quilted earlier.

Ruler work setting
Ruler work setting

Has anyone had similar issues with the Janome 9400 or 9450?

I’d take it back to the shop where I had the upgrade installed, but they’ve moved since January and, while the technicians are the same, all the front staff have changed and I’m not confident that there is anyone there who has actually used this machine.

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May Achievements and June goals

May goals:

1. AHQ: Four laundry bags for Townsville. Done. I just have to add the cords and print the letters and they’ll be ready to post on Monday. They are being posted directly to Townsville and won’t be on the AHQ blog, so here are the photos:

Laundry Bags for Townsville 1
Laundry Bags for Townsville 1

Laundry Bags for Townsville 2
Laundry Bags for Townsville 2

I’m especially pleased that I was able to sew the linings shut by hand without any thumb or wrist pain, so I should be able to resume hand-sewing in the evenings.

Memo to self: never sew by hand for more than three hours a day in future.

2. Personal: Assemble the Oriental Stained Glass top. Not done. When I started to lay out the top I found that I had managed to make some of the A blocks incorrectly, which was annoying and a little upsetting, so I set them aside to let me think about what to do. Having thought about it, I’d have to disassemble the blocks almost completely to fix the errors but I’m way too lazy for that, so I’ll have to work out a layout that minimises the errors. If anyone asks, it’s a design variation *wink*.

3. FAL: finish the quilting on EB. I’ve made progress but the quilting isn’t finished. I have another five weeks or so before the FAL due date so there’s plenty of time yet (and at least three more Stanley Cup Final games to go).

No additional work this month — partly because of my hands, partly because I was very disappointed that neither of my ice hockey teams made it further than the second round.

June goals:
1. AHQ: I’m not setting one this month — I need a break from deadlines.
2. Personal: Finish the last two Hawaiian blocks. The fabric is stiffened already, so as soon as I trace around the pattern I can cut it, glue it down and stitch it. They are both being done by machine so it’s two days’ work at most. [If I manage that early in the month, I’ll have another crack at the Oriental Stained Glass layout.]
3. FAL: finish the quilting on EB and bind it. No difficulties anticipated.

Oh dear

This morning I decided to finish off the two laundry bags I had started last Friday before I take the Janome Combi 10 in for servicing. That accomplished I thought I’d start on the remaining two bags — but when I went to fill a bobbin with the new colour I noticed that the thread platform was bent in, and it broke on one side when I straightened it. It was subtle enough that I didn’t notice when taking a photo of the machine the other night, only when I stood over it to put the bobbin on the winder.

Combi thread holder - bent in
Combi thread holder – bent in
Combi thread holder - broken
Combi thread holder – broken

Then I remembered that the tote had tipped over while I was wheeling it in from the car to my friend’s house last Friday — it had caught on the kerb, my hand slipped off the handle and it fell. I always place my machines with the motor as close to the centre of the tote as possible, and obviously the thread platform took the brunt of the impact against the handle. It’s quite possible that the actual overlocker mechanism was also jarred out of alignment.

I guess I’m lucky that the sewing side is unaffected — but the machine is definitely going to the shop to be checked.

I could get out the MyLock overlocker and use that on the long seams, but as I’ve stated before it’s an absolute bitch to thread and the last time I tried I couldn’t get it to make a decent stitch. For now the pinking blade is working and I’ll stick to that (and even though the blades are nearly twice the cost of the straight blades they are still a lot cheaper than a new machine).

Sewing Day (Three Lucky Saves And A Final Snag)

[Note: all photos were taken here at home, not at Sue’s]

Every month on the fourth Friday I go up to see my friend Sue and we work on projects for Aussie Hero Quilts. Occasionally other people turn up but usually it’s just Sue and me.

I was lucky I made it yesterday — for some reason I had it stuck in my head that 24th May was next week. On Thursday night I was lying in bed, reading (as I usually do before going to sleep) when I suddenly realised that in fact 24th was the next day — and I hadn’t got anything ready! Not only that, but my alarm was set for 0930, which is a great time to wake up if you are retired and the only thing you have to do in business hours is go to the farmers’ market, but not a good time if you have to be at the other end of the city by 1000.

Laundry Bag kits May 2019
Laundry Bag kits May 2019

I got up, reset the alarm to 0730 and made a short list of what I had to get ready in the morning. Second lucky chance — I had cut a dozen laundry bag kits a couple of weeks ago after I had finished the oriental stained glass blocks, so in the morning, after I’d dragged myself out of bed, fed the cats and fortified myself with some coffee, I picked out four kits and set them aside. I also fused some web to a length of white poplin to use as write-on labels. My travelling notions container was scrutinised — threads were swapped to match the bag colours, plastic bobbins were swapped out for steel, and then all I had to do was load the machine into the wheeled tote.

Janome Combi 10 overlocker
Janome Combi 10 overlocker

My choice of machine for laundry bags is the Janome Combi 10 which is very solid and very fast. I don’t have a quarter-inch foot for her but that doesn’t matter with laundry bags, and the bonus is the two-thread overlocker on the other side which I use to finish off all those long seams (I know some people don’t bother, but it worries me to have an unfinished seam that isn’t stitched down in some manner).

Anyway, having arrived at Sue’s place and set up my working space, I started on the bags. Zig-zag stitch on the white labels went very well, and so did preparing the casement (cord channel) and attaching the two parts of the first bag. When I came to overlock that seam, however, the machine made a horrible clattering noise. I checked the workings but couldn’t see anything amiss, and when I hand-cranked it all I could hear was the knife cutting through the fabric. As soon as the pedal was depressed the noise came back so the machine is going to have to go in for a service (it’s been about two and a half years since the last one, so I can’t really complain). Bummer.

Pinking Blade
Pinking Blade

Here’s the third bit of luck — the rotary cutter with the pinking blade was still in the notions container. I don’t usually carry it around but I had put it in the container earlier in the month for a sewing day in Sydney, and since everything else I needed fitted around it I hadn’t taken it out. That meant I was able to use it to pink the edges of the long seams on the bag and its lining, and everything went swimmingly until I attempted to put all three parts together.

Unfortunately, I then hit another snag. I’d prepared the casements as I usually do: cutting off the selvedges, turning the edge twice and stitching it down. What I hadn’t done was check the width of the casement fabric against the width of my feature fabric … yes, you guessed it, the casement fabric was 4 cm longer than the feature fabric, and the casement itself was actually a smidgeon wider than the stitched bag.

Casement width
Casement width

Some days you just know the universe is against you.

I decided to call it quits and come home — I’ll get around to fixing the casement and finishing the bags later on this weekend.

Retrospective: 1992 Double Irish Chain

Welcome to the third in my more-or-less monthly series of quilt retrospectives. I apologise for the quality of the photos — they are scans of old film prints. [And thereby hangs a tale — I had to find the laptop that has the software to run the scanner, then charge it (because I haven’t used that particular laptop in months), then I had to connect the power and USB cords to the scanner, which took much huffing and puffing and scrabbling under the desk, and then after I scanned the prints and edited the scans I found that all my huffing and puffing had managed to dislodge the power cord for the router … cue more huffing and puffing and trying to work out which cord is the router (they are all labelled, but the ink had faded on some of them — time for a re-do) and then waiting for the internet connection to re-establish. Phew!!]

1992 Irish Chain quilt
1992 Irish Chain quilt

Size: 30″ x 80″ (approximate)
Design: traditional Double Irish Chain
Fabric: all cotton
Batting: low-loft polyester (I think)
Pieced: by machine December 1991 (Janome MemoryCraft 8000)
Quilted: by hand, early 1992
Bound: July 1992

Just before Christmas 1991 I bought the brand new Janome MemoryCraft 8000 sewing machine — it was the first domestic sewing machine with embroidery function and I was completely in love with it. I made several Christmas-themed napkins for the family and decorated some T-shirts and pillow cases. I also started a machine embroidery/appliqué quilt that never got further than a few blocks, but that’s a story for another day.

I was in the RAN at the time, with another long overseas deployment coming up. I wanted a hand-sewing project to keep myself occupied as well as a bunk-size quilt to brighten up my cabin. I found black, pink and grey fabrics that coordinated, and I sewed the top together without any issues (quarter-inch seams are easy with an adjustable needle position!). I bought backing, batting and a tapestry frame that was wide enough for the quilt and took it all back to the ship with me.

It didn’t take me long to quilt it — a few weeks at most. I did basic diagonal lines through the grey squares and border, and a simple eight-petal flower in the pink squares. I used a blue pencil to mark the flowers which was hard to see at times and one of the petals ended up being a lot larger than its fellows (I can’t find it in the photo so it probably wasn’t as glaring an error as I thought it was).

1992 Irish Chain quilt (detail)
1992 Irish Chain quilt (detail)

I can’t remember if I bound it prior to or after the quilting, but I’m fairly certain I attached the binding by machine and stitched it down by hand, and I have a note that says it was completed in July 1992. Of course, shortly thereafter I was posted to a different ship where the bunks were wider and the quilt barely covered the mattress, but I still appreciated having something colourful in the cabin. On leaving that ship in December 1992 I decided that it wasn’t worth taking it home (it was much too narrow for a normal single bed) so I sold it for $25 to one of the stewards who had often admired it — my one and only quilt sale. I hope it had a long and useful life.

Now that I make quilts for other service people it amuses me to fake an old woman’s quavering voice and say “In my young day I had to make my own bunk quilt!”

Lessons learned:
1. Use a quilting marker that will remain visible until washed.
2. A tapestry frame makes a perfectly adequate quilting frame for a narrow quilt (or portion thereof).

Brrr!!

It’s definitely getting colder. I haven’t been able to bring myself to put the heaters on yet (much as I would like to) because the thermometer says it’s still 20° C in the living room — and yes, that’s probably making most of you laugh but I’m a thin-blooded Aussie and anything under 23° has me thinking wistfully about woolly pullies and fluffy slippers.

The cats are also feeling the cold, and while I can tell myself to tough it out (or put on a cardigan) I don’t want them to suffer, so I brought out the heating pads and set them up a couple of nights ago. They both love the heat and have spent most of the time since then sleeping in their new warm spots. They didn’t appreciate me waking them last night to take photos and expressed themselves in their own unique ways:

Vanima on heating pad
Vanima: “Oh, take a picture if you absolutely must, but you’ll have to be content with my right profile.”
Verya on heating pad
Verya: “What are you doing, you stupid human? I’m trying to sleep here!”

I’ve completed my latest Aussie Heroes quilt and used the new Accufeed HP2 foot on the Janome 9400 for the binding. I made the happy discovery that aligning the left tongue of the foot on the edge of the binding gives me a perfect 1 mm space between the edge and the stitching line. Previously I used the walking foot that came with the machine (AD) but it’s very wide and I was never able to keep it precisely in line.

Binding in progress using HP2 foot
Binding in progress using HP2 foot
Completed binding
Completed binding

I also reverted to pinning the binding rather than using Wonder Clips, which I have found to be too easily knocked out of alignment, dragging the binding with them — I did try using washable glue between or under the clips a few times but that didn’t help much and was even more time-consuming (as well as messy). Pinning may be old-fashioned but it’s much more secure.

Free-motion quilted gum leaves
Free-motion quilted gum leaves

I also continued to work on my FMQ eucalyptus leaves — I’ve done them on a few quilts now and they’re getting better but could still use some improvement. I’ve given up on the gumnuts for the time being as I couldn’t get them to look as neat as the leaves but I’ll get back to them when I have a bit more confidence.

2 kg plastic-covered hex weights
2 kg plastic-covered hex weights

Today I finally got around to visiting the sporting goods store and bought two 2 kg weights to use with my rulers. I had been using books (of which I have many) but they are awkward to keep picking up / putting down and the dust jackets were starting to suffer, so they can go back to the bookcase now and be safe.

April Achievements and May goals

I missed my usual retrospective post around the 21st of the month — the post itself has been drafted for a while, but the quilt I’m talking about was sold long ago and the only photos I have are prints from film, so I need to get the scanner working in order to have digitised images for the blog. I’m an Olympic-level procrastinator so it hasn’t happened yet … maybe next month.

Apart from that, though, I’ve been very productive.

AHQ goal: One quilt and one laundry bag. Almost done. I’ve finished the quilt and I’m working on the laundry bag — I don’t anticipate any problems in having them in the post by 06 May.

Personal goal: make the last two Hawaiian appliqué blocks. Not done. Now that I’ve found my bottle of fabric stiffener, however, they might just get done in the next few weeks.

En Bourgogne borders
En Bourgogne borders

FAL goal: Attach borders to En Bourgogne. Done. I’ve attached the two borders, basted it (with the help of my friend Sue) and started the quilting. I’m doing straight diagonals first, and then I’ll add some FMQ later on, just to ensure that every piece is quilted. It’s a large quilt, and the batting is a little denser than I had expected and not very easy to shift around so it’s slow going.

En Bourgogne being quilted
En Bourgogne being quilted

Additional work:

Shiny squirrel attack! The Sunday before Easter I had a rush of blood to the head and made up some stained glass blocks while I was watching the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs (North American ice hockey, for those who don’t follow it) — once I got into a production line it was so fast that I decided to complete the lot over the next few days. There are 15 A blocks and 15 B blocks:

Oriental Stained Glass Blocks B & A
Oriental Stained Glass Blocks B & A

I still need to assemble the blocks and attach the border to the top and right side, but I’ll leave that until next week or the week after.

I also went up to see Jan-Maree just before Easter (she’s doing very well) and helped her to sew two tops for recipients. I discovered that I have been spoiled by my Janome 9400 — I didn’t want to take it up to Sydney (it’s very heavy) so I took my little Pfaff Passport 2.0 instead. Unfortunately the Pfaff doesn’t remind me to check the pressor foot so I managed to break two needles by trying to stitch zigzag on a straight-stitch foot. Luckily the machine continued to work but I think I’ll take it in for a service before it’s used again.

I haven’t done much hand work at all — my wrists and thumbs are recovering (slowly) from the overuse I subjected them to in March, but it will be a few more weeks before I can do more than half an hour of piecing at a time. I’m hoping that hand-quilting will be a different enough movement that it won’t aggravate them, but we’ll see. The weather is definitely cooling down at night so quilting season will be here soon and I want to get started on Pentastic (the quilt in the header).

May goals:
1. AHQ: Four laundry bags for Townsville.
2. Personal: Assemble the Oriental Stained Glass top.
3. FAL: Finish the quilting on En Bourgogne.

2019 Finish-A-Long Q2 Nomination

finishalong logo 125px

For the second quarter of 2019, I’m nominating a larger project (but still only one). As usual, I’m linking through Sandra of Sew Of Course in Ireland.

En Bourgogne top
En Bourgogne top

This project is only eighteen months old so it barely qualifies as a UFO in my book, but I’m going to finish it off anyway.

In November 2016, Bonnie Hunter launched her annual mystery quilt, En Provence. The palette for this project was based on the lavendar farms in southern France — lavendar, purple, magenta, green and yellow. I love the palette and was very tempted to do the mystery but decided to wait until I saw the completed top. I’m glad I did, as I didn’t like the balance of colours in Bonnie’s quilt — too heavy on the dark purple and magenta for my taste.

As the year progressed, I saw other versions in different colourways and liked them better than the original. This top by Melinda Shackelford was in brown and green, and it was the one that convinced me I could make this quilt. I decided to do a version in caramel, brown, green and burgundy (hence the name change). Several times during the year I made notes and calculated fabric requirements.

En Bourgogne Block A
En Bourgogne Block A
En Bourgogne Block B
En Bourgogne Block B
En Bourgogne Block C
En Bourgogne Block C

I changed the quilt’s construction, too — Bonnie made it up as a 15″ block with 3″ pieced sashing, but I loathe pieced sashing and I saw that it could be made as three different 9″ blocks instead. I replaced the tall triangle unit with a quarter square triangle in Block B (which reduced the curve along the brown diagonals), and I used print squares instead of neutral four-patches.

I started cutting and sewing units in early October 2017. I used fabrics from my stash, ranging from greens and caramels that had been bought in 2017 all the way back to a crimson poplin which was so old it was 36″ wide (early 90s) and a dark brown print that had been used in Autum Mood (1988). I was in no hurry, and I gave myself permission to make mistakes because I wanted this quilt to be about enjoying the process rather than making a perfect project — I had spent too much time with deadlines during the year and was feeling the grind.

The method I used for the quarter-square triangles required pressing to one side rather than open, and consequently I decided to press to one side for the whole quilt. Unfortunately this made for some very bulky areas in the seams, and served to reinforce my preference for open seams.

As my AHQ commitments died down I spent more and more time on it, and towards the end I was working several hours a day. I finished setting the blocks together on 30 November. I knew that it needed a border or two, since the size (81″ square) was a little small for a queen bed, but I couldn’t decide on what fabrics to use, so it languished in a box for eighteen months.

For my FAL goal, I’m going to add two borders to the top, then quilt it. I’ve chosen the fabric for the first border (shown in the photo) but I’m still not sure about the second.

The perils of writing one’s own pattern

I had a little spare time this afternoon after finishing an Aussie Heroes quilt and I had black thread in the machine from the quilt’s binding, so I decided to make one of the Oriental Stained Glass blocks I had cut out. In the process, I discovered that I had somehow managed to add twice the seam allowance to the black sashing strips — they were supposed to be 1″ finished / 1.5″ cut, and that’s what it says on the spreadsheet and at the top of my notes page. However, further down, when I wrote the cutting instructions, I had somehow forgotten that and wrote that the strips were to be cut at 2″, finishing at 1.5″. Yikes.

83 two-inch strips of black fabric
83 @ 2-inch strips

See all those 83 strips? Every single one of them is half an inch too wide. I wasted more than a whole metre of fabric because I didn’t check my own work. So stupid. Still, the lengths are all correct and all of the oriental fabrics are cut the right size, so it’s not a complete disaster, just intensely frustrating.

There’s nothing for it but to trim all the sashes if I want to make this quilt — I decided to do it block by block as I sew them together rather than trying to do a lot at once.

Trimmings from Oriental Stained Glass Block A1
Trimmings

In spite of the mistake, I’m very pleased with how well the first block turned out:

Oriental Stained Glass Block A1
Oriental Stained Glass Block A1

My design inspiration was the Stained Glass Quilt designed by Bob (which luckily survived the Craftsy/Bluprint purge) but I changed the proportions and designed an alternate block to increase the variety:

Oriental Stained Glass Block A design
Oriental Stained Glass Block A design
Oriental Stained Glass Block B design
Oriental Stained Glass Block B design

Even with the additional trimming (and a couple of unsewing sessions when I sewed the sashing to the wrong edge) it didn’t take long to make a block so I’ll try and do one a week until the top’s done, and then it may feature in a future Finish-A-Long post.

2019 Finish-A-Long Q1 Finish

finishalong logo 125px

Welcome to my first completed project for the 2019 FAL. I’m linking up through Sew Of Course in Ireland.

I only nominated one project in January: this 25-year-old tumbling blocks miniature.

tumbling blocks top

Stream pattern by Sara Nephew
Stream pattern by Sara Nephew

Piecing was done in 1994 in a workshop with Sara Nephew at the Australasian Quilt Convention. This particular design is called “Stream”, and features three different heights for the blocks, making a sinuous curve rather than a straight line.

I did all the in-the-ditch stitching with MonoPoly clear thread in the needle and Invisafil 100 wt polyester in the bobbin, and had no issues once I’d adjusted the bobbin tension. I intended to practice my ruler quilting using the same threads, but unfortunately I had significant problems with the ruler foot not permitting any fabric movement. I’m not sure if it was connected to the timing issues I discovered last week but I don’t think so. When I have some free time I’ll make up another sandwich and see what I can do with normal thread.

Fabric bunched up in front of the ruler foot
Ruler foot problems 1

I eventually decided to do a little more quilting in the largest blocks with the walking foot, which went well but I don’t need any more walking foot practice. I also considered doing free motion quilting in the “top” diamonds, to hide the seam allowance, but I ran out of time due to issues with another quilt. There’s enough quilting to hold all the layers together and it’s destined to cover the cutting mat or to cushion cat bottoms, so I decided that enough was enough and put the binding on.

Tumbling Blocks binding front
Tumbling Blocks binding front

As you can see, matching points with binding is not a skill I have mastered yet (which is why I usually add a border, even it’s only a narrow one). To be fair, though, my piecing wasn’t exactly great either, and seams were pressed to one side rather than open, resulting in some bulky intersections and a rather less-than-square top. If I had pieced it this year I think I would have done a better job.

Tumbling Blocks mini back
Tumbling Blocks mini back

The backing is a very old Cranston VIP print, roughly the same age as the top. I didn’t set the top squarely on the backing, as you can see, but then the top isn’t quite square anyway so I’m not fussed. I didn’t have any of the original dark green solid left, but I had another that works well, and in fact is an almost exact match for the green in the backing fabric.

Tumbling Blocks binding back
Tumbling Blocks binding back

The binding was stitched down by hand using Superior Threads Kimono 100 wt silk thread. I love using this thread for appliqué and binding — it seems to melt into the fabric and is barely visible even in close-up.

Tumbling Blocks mini finished
Tumbling Blocks mini finished

Name: Tumbling Blocks
Size: 80 x 80 cm (31.5″ x 31.5″)
Design: Stream (tumbling blocks variation) by Sara Nephew
Fabric: Cotton
Batting: Matilda’s Own 100% cotton
Pieced: 1994 by machine (Janome MemoryCraft 8000)
Quilted: January-March 2019 by machine (Janome HMC 9400 QCP)
Bound: April 2019

Lessons Learned:
1. Seam allowances matter!
2. Pressing to one side causes too much variation in thickness and contributes to uneven edges.
3. It’s hard to attach a binding to a pieced edge.