Posts Tagged ‘machine stitching’

Tools Change Everything: Zigzag Bobbin Work

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

20u singerI believe in tools! 

Years ago I bought this 20U Singer industrial. It was under protest. I had burned the brushes off a very nice 930 Bernina. If you don’t know any of these numbers, take my word. 930 Berninas were war horses in armor.

So they told me that a 20 U was  a tough enough machine. I had mine calabrated to work with embroidery thread, and did a number of zigzag embroidery images on it. 

For a fast machine, it was still a tedious experience. This machine doesn’t really use a foot. So all the fabric needed to be hooped. And unhooped. And re-hooped. Again and again and again.

I simply stopped working with it at one point. I was considering selling it. 

 

179 The problem with princesBut people have always loved the quilts made through this technique. It allows for so much detail and coloration. 40 weight embroidery thread is ephemerally beautiful, and it shines when it’s laid in color layers.815 butterfly garden detail

Yesterday, I tried it with a felt stabilizer sandwich and a Halo hoop

 

halo hoopl

 

The Halo Hoop has been around for a while. I use them for any larger bit of embroidery I’m working on. It’s a weighted metal hoop with a plastic coating that grips the fabric. Instead of clamping it, you simply slide the hoop along.

My favorite stabilizer sandwich is ( from the back tp the front) a drawing in Totally Stable,  a layer of Decor Bond,a layer of polyester felt, and a layer of hand dyed fabric as my top. Anything that doesn’t iron down, I spray glue with 505 spray.

 

 

frog in process

I took this frog drawing and stated to color. I worked from the back for two reasons. My drawing was there, and I could tie off the ends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

frog in process  f2I didn’t get done, but I got far enough to know that between the stabilizer sandwich and the Halo hoop, the whole technique had been revolutionized for me.

Things I learned

  • My father’s old saying: if it’s too hard, too horrible or too long, you have the wrong tool.
  • You can use a hammer for a saw, but it’ s hard on the hammer and what you’re sawing.

Rethinking how to use your tools makes all the difference.  

You can work without a foot, but you need to use your fingers and a hoop. And hopefully your brain!finger positiona

And most of all, good tools change everything!

264 As Good as it Gets

 

Gilding in the Lily- Embellishing Novelty Prints

Sunday, July 21st, 2013

Gilding the Lily Class Sample detailMost of the time, I don’t use prints for quilting. I love them. But I don’t want to necessarily do what they want me to do. And I don’t want to fight them. This batik makes a fabulous start for embellishment. It’s a large, lovely simple print perfect for embellisment.

 

 

 

print for embellishingBut a great print can be a great springboard for embroidery, and a great way to build free motion skills. Pick an exciting oversized print with clear lines and great design and you can dress it up with your stitching like a dolly.

I took this print and some metallic threads and got stitching.

 

Embellishing

  1. stabilizer sandwich  Make a sandwich: Stabilize your fabric with a layer of felt, and pellon  sandwich underneath. This amount of stitching needs stabilization to keep your piece reasonably flat.

 

 

  1. threads   
  2. Pick some great threads. These are metallic Supertwists from Madiera. They’re 30 weight, and somewhat transparent, so they won’t completely obliterate the print when you stitch over it.

 

  1. stitching feathers2Set your machine for a straight stitch. Use a top stitching 90 needle and a polyester embroidery thread in the bobbin. Use a small darning foot, preferably for straight stitching.

 

stippling

Trace the print with your stitching. Cover as much or as little as feels good.

 

 

 

Pick a contrasting thread to stipple around the print elements. This is a metallic thread called FS 2/20 by Madeira.

thread for stipping

 

 

 

 

 

A little stitching glitter can make a delightful print simply magical. Add some stitching to wearables, to your quilting or to make a small wonderful hanging. It’s worth gilding a lily.

You’ll find great prints everywhere, but I have some for you in my Inspiration Kits at my Etsy Store, Raid My Fabric Stash. You’ll find metallic Madeira threads at  Madeirausa.com. Gilding the Lily is also a class that I offer to students for guilds, stores and groups. It’s a great way to build your stitching skills!
gilted piece

Now for Something Completely Different: Ellen Goes Crazy

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013
Me and my altar ego

Me and my altar ego

I know. I know. I’m just noticing this now. Well that would be unobservant, wouldn’t it?

Pat Winter and I are opposites in a lot of ways. She works strictly by hand. I work by machine. She has a busy family. I live with cats and dogs. She stays at home. I wander all over the place. But she’s a dear friend and an amazing artist. We delight in each other’s work and world.

patwinterphotoPat is a majorly inventive crazy quilter with a gift for teaching and sheltering beginners. That’s lately been expressed in her Crazy Quilt Magazine. I’m writing a column for her on machine techniques that crazy quilters will find fast, fun and cool.

634 Wind over Water 2The world of crazy quilting is largely a hand stitched world. But there are a lot of reasons for adding in the amazing things your machine can do for you. I’m strictly a machine quilter for one simple reason: my hands don’t work for hand stitching. Don’t feel sorry for me. This is who I physically am.  This is who I’ve been all my life. It’s not a limit. It’s a feature. Instead, it formed me as a machinist. I can do things with my machine you may not be able to replicate by hand, no matter how long you have to work on it. And visa versa. Machine and hand quilting are both incredible tools, neither of them better or worse. But they do have their advantages. Pick and choose your techniques to make your life and art work for you. And never let anyone tell you one technique or another is right or wrong.

We’ve been working to make all quilting an art form for around 40 years. That’s demanded a lot of redefinition.  One of those definitions is about whether things are good or bad technique. Instead of that bold and, in my humble opinion, limited judgment we need to look at the work it self and say, “Is this cool? Does it open new doors? Does it make us all stronger? More able? More capable? How does it expand who we are and what we can do?

There are differing advantages between hand and machine work. I’ll state some of them, but remember that  they’re not global. A hand technique may give you exactly the stitch you want for a piece, but not for another. Look at each work and decide for yourself.  Use what works for you. Ignore anyone who has to make comments from the peanut gallery  

Hand stitching: Pluses

  • It’s quiet
  • Can be done anywhere you can bring it (Car, in front of TV, sewing group,etc.)
  • Relaxing:
  • Inexpensive for set up: all you need is needle and thread

Minuses

  • Slow: most techniques take a fair amount of time
  • Can hurt your hands (Carpal tunnel, tightened shoulder muscles)
  • Needs high skill level: much of hand stitching improves greatly with practice.

Machine Stitching: Pluses

  • Fast: what you can accomplish is amazingly faster
  • Most techniques are easily learned and take less skill
  • Put’s you and your work in the protected environment of your sewing room: do you want someone in the room asking where the orange juice is?
  • Protects hands and shoulders from repeated action stress
  • Allows people with hand disabilities to do amazing work

Minuses

  • Takes a machine and the cost of a machine. But not necessarily an expensive machine
  • Has to be in your sewing space. It’s not easy to move it into another room
  • Most people don’t consider it relaxing, although I do

I’ll be providing some machine techniques for Pat’s Crazy Quilting Magazine. The world is wide and we want to you all kinds of ways to accomplish the things you want to do most. Pick freely, try everything, and choose wisely for yourself.

12 couching thin yarnThe current issue has  an article on differing methods for couching yarn.

Next issue , we’ll talk about machine beading.

 

 

Check out these earlier posts about Pat Winter

Technology and the Dye Cup Fairy

Pat Winter: It’s Always the Quiet Ones

You’ll find Crazy Quilting Magazine on Pat’s blog site at http://gatherings100.blogspot.com/

crazy quiltingor at magcloud.com

Thread Magic Summer School: Buying and Choosing Threads

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

I‘d like to say that if you know about threads, you know how to buy them. That’s not strictly true. It’s sort of like knowing how to cook an eggplant. There’s a separate skill in picking out a good one. On that’, I’m clueless.

True for thread too. I have three concerns when I buy thread. It’s true if I’m buying for myself of for students at class. 

  • Is it Beautiful? If the color, texture and hand of it aren’t beautiful what are we doing. Don’t buy anything that isn’t really lovely.
  • Is it Strong? If it isn’t a strong thread that works well in your machine, again, what are we doing? Don’t buy thread you know is problematic. We can use weaker thread through the bobbin. Make sure it’s a type that works for your machine. There’s only one way to know that. Test it out.  Are there threads that I know are always good? No not really. I know some that are universally troublesome, but the only real authority about your thread is your machine. It will tell you, pretty directly, if this is a thread for you.
  • Can we afford it? Well, it all comes down to priorities. I find my thread bill is much worse than my fabric bill. I accept that I can afford anything. I just can’t afford everything. But I will say that NO ONE CAN AFFORD CHEAP THREAD. I’m not speaking of inexpensive thread. I mean cheap. Your time and energy (and potential heartbreak) are very expensive. Don’t buy a thread that costs you all of those.

That being said here’s some dos and don’ts

  • Do buy colors you love. If you love it you’ll use it.
  • Buy several colors that sing together. No one child plays alone well. Get colors that will work together and again, if you love it, you’ll use it.
  • When you can, buy thread that’s wrapped in plastic. It does keep thread from getting old. Do consider storing thread in plastic.
  • Don’t buy huge quantities of something you won’t use up for years. Thread DOES GET OLD.
  • Pay attention to what your machine likes. It’s the final authority for what thread is best for you.
  • If you have a local source, for heaven’s sake support it. There’s no pleasure like being able to walk into a store and match your colors. Color charts are always, at best, a translation. And 25 cents less on a spool will not pay for the shipping.
  • Don’t buy thread you think is old. It probably is. Old thread will do nothing but break.
  • Remember that more fragile threads can be used in your bobbin case.
  • For store owners, a rack of thread is a huge expense. Try out threads in your store with a nice selection of the very best colors, and a pretty basket. Your customers will love new options and you won’t have a huge object to fill and dust.
  • Finally, if you have an older, useless cotton or rayon thread, unspool it and leave it for the birds. You’ll have fabulous bird nests. PLEASE DON’T USE METALLIC, POLY OR NYLON. It can cut their feet.

I always bring thread for students to class because I know their choices are limited. Of course, the threads I bring in depend on their class choices. But here are some of my favorite thread companies

 

 

 

Madiera Thread

  • Supertwist, 
  • FS 2/20 metallic
  • Poly Neon
  •  Glamor

YLI

  • Candlelight
  • Pearl crown rayon
  • Decor 6
  • Wonder Thread

Superior

  • Metallic
  • Rainbow
  • monopoly
  • Razzle Dazzle

Valdoni

  • Pearl cotton

For Dyeing

DMC 

  • Pearl Cotton
  • Dyed Pearl Cotton

Tomorrow is the quiz. Win a free book!

 

Thread Magic Summer School: Machine Needles

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

We’ve got two more class days for summer school ad I want to oput in just a bit about needles, because they really affect how our thread works for us.

 

The hardest working part of  your sewing machine is your needle. Think about it. It’s the contact point, the point to the exercise, the.heart of the issue. So it’s worth knowing  what needle you’re using and why. Because I want to do machine free motion work with my machine, I want a needle that’s going to help me do that best.

Are needles all the same?

Yes and no.

Yes, they have a shaft and a hole for the thread to go in.

No, there are huge differences in what that shaft and hole look like, that make them act very very differently.

We are, to be clear, talking strictly about home sewing machine needles. These always have a flat side in back, and that’s one way to identify them.

Within that group there are several possibilities.

There are a bunch of specialty needles for certain things. I’m not going to touch on those, because they’re labeled for those purposes.

Needle Brands

You can get needles that have every kind of sewing machine branded on the front. Basically Schmetz makes all of those needles. They are identical. Schmetz needles are an industry standard and well worth looking for. The only difference is Singer needles. Singer has it’s own style and I recommend you use Singer needles only with Singer Machines. You can use a Schmetz needle on a Singer. But don’t use a Singer needle on any other kind of machine. It may scar the hook.

Organ needles come in huge boxes and are suggested for free motion. They work quite well and are inexpensive. I don’t think they come in topstitch, so you lose the possibility of the bigger eye.

Point Styles 

Sharp Point Needle

These needles have a sharp point.  That means they have a clean punching power and create a smooth stitch line.They’re set up for woven fabric. I always use a sharp needle for all free motion embroidery. 

Ball Point Needles

These needles have a ball point at the edge. They wiggle through the fabric. They’re set up to sew knitted goods without snagging. Because of how they’re built, they don’t really create a smooth  stitch line. Although I don’t use them with my Bernina’s and Pfaffs, they are recommended for Janome/ New Home Machines for freemotion.

The Universal Needle

If you go into a shop and ask for needles and don’t tell them what you want, this is what they’ll give you. It’ s a general multi purpose needle that does nothing really well.This is a combination of sharp and ball point needles. It’s a horse designed by a committee. It kind-of sort-of works all the time, sort-of. It has a sharp needle shape with a gently balled end. Again, it doesn’t leave a clean stitch line. I would avoid it for free motion. Better to use the right tool, than the almost right tool.

Needle Sizes

Needles are labeled with  European and American Sizes. European sizes are 60.70.80.90,100,110. The American sizes are 10.12.14.16.18. Larger numbers mean larger needles.

For most embroidery I like a #90/14. If it’s leaving too large a hole try a size smaller. If it’s breaking constantly, try a size larger.

Topstitching vs. Regular Eye

A topstitching needle has a special big eye. This is so helpful. You can see it to thread it. But it reduces thread breakage massively as well. 

There’s a brilliant little book called A Point Well Taken that goes through all the needles and what they do. It’s available at www.amazon.com

Wrapping it up

My favorite needle is a 90 Topstitching needle. I find it reduces breakage and gives me a fabulous straight line to draw with. Try it yourself. I find it makes such a difference.

For more information about needles Schmetz has a great flier you can download at their web site www.schmetz.com

Also check out this earlier post called Busted Needles and Other Disasters for more needle info.

Thread Magic Summer School: Novelty Yarn

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

 

So far we’ve talked about threads that go through  the machine and form a stitch. But there are ones that just don’t. Any thread that is too thick or goes from thick to thin can, of course, be used. You just have to couch it on instead.

Novelty yarn goes in and out of vogue with the quilt community, but your yarn shop always has it. And little quantities work beautifully, so you can get years of joy out of a single ball.

 

 

I prefer to use it to create an “air line” that continues the visual path of the piece. It’s a squiggle that helps your eye travel through the surface.

Couching with your regular sewing foot

How do you put it on? It’s simple. Instead of running it through the top or bottom, you couch it on.There are lot’s of different couching feet. But your regular pressure foot works just fine for thinner yarns.  Just run it through the grove.  Thread your machine on top with a cool thread to see or monofilament nylon if you don’t want to see it. Zigzag it down, feed dogs up. 

Novelty yarn creates great texture, interest, visual direction and a lot of old fashioned fiber-joy. It’s a pet you may need to dust but you won’t have to feed. And it’ a great addition to your thread stash.

Summer School is coming to an end. Your pop quiz is on the 20th! Make sure you know all the answers by reviewing now!

Remember the first three people who post their test results on facebook get their choice of a Thread Magic Studio Publication! And who says you don’t like school?

 

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Bird Speaks from the Dog House: Studio Miracles

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

As always, it’s my job to care for the social well being of all people who come to the studio. I think they lack proper dogs who kiss them enough. I always help with that.

But I also get to see the miracles that happen when you have a creative space. A creative space doesn’t just make objects. It makes people creative. And bless them, we know they need help.

Liams machine

Several years ago, a lady left a sewing machine for my mom. It was an  awfully old Pfaff, before the walking foot mechanism. She said at the time, she’d find it a home. It’s home seemed to be under the counter.

 

 

 

Then her neighbor Liam, who is 11 told her he wanted a sewing machine. Liam is a great neighbor. He comes over, tells great stories, rubs dog tummies, watches Mom sew and has helped make a great new garden bed for Mom. He even helps her find camera and glasses.

There’s a readiness to learning to sew, just like there is for reading. When a kid wants to, that’s the time. Thank God we had that machine ready and waiting. It’s perfect. It’s all metal, tough, strong and solid. And Liam loves to oil and maintain it. To make him feel better I stuck my nose right up his back while he was stitching. You know, I think he needs that kind of support. But it was good his foot was off the pedal.

But that’s what a good studio does. There’s a lady who needed a place to give her machine to. There’s a little boy sewing his heart out. There’s Mom with great and lovely people around her. A studio is a place to create things. But it also creates happy people.

Can you come to our studio? Well, of course. Call Mom first so she knows or you may find her upside down in a dye sink. If you wish to see a clean studio you can make an appointment for 3 years from now. If you to come play, well just come over.

Schamburg Expo

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

Introducing people to bobbin work on the H Q Sweet Sixteen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was at the Schamburg Show at Quilters’ Haven’s booth on Friday Showing off the Sweet Sixteen. I sat most of the day doing bobbin work. There is nothing like watching people try something new. It occurred to me afterwards that that is exactly what expos are for.

Where else can you talk to dozens of different shopkeepers in one place? Or try out new paint sticks? Or buy all kinds of new notions. Wade through the thread booth. Or see all the new fabric. Or drool quite so over all the quilts ( albeit at a distance). It’s easy at this point in my career to be a bit jaded. I felt that way until  I stumbled into Laura Murray’s booth and walked out with an indecent amount of paint sticks which she’d graceously showed me how to use correctly. (Don’t ask. Trust me. I was doing it wrong.)

There’s a miracle that happens when you see new things. Your mind grows to take them in. Just a little. There’s also a miracle that happens when you show people new things. You remember just how cool at that is.

Now who wants to pass up a miracle?

You’ll find Quilters’ Haven at

Quilters Haven
4616 E. STATE ST.
ROCKFORD, IL 61108
(815) 227-1659
qulthaven@aol.com

They’re an awsome store committed to helping you find the best new cool way to make you able to make  what you want to happen with your quilting, happen.

You’ll find Sweet Sixteens

there too, and you may well fall in love. I have.

You’ll find Laura Murray’s very cool stuff at her site, www.lauramurraydesigns.com.

And you’ll need to wait for another expo to luck out and find them all neatly in one room.

 

The Quilt and Sewing Expo

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

I’ll be at the Quilters Haven/ Handi Quilters booth (Booth 722) in Schamburg, IL on Friday. at the Schamburg Quilting and Sewing Expo. I’ll be playing with the HQ Sweet Sixteen and signing copies of my new book, Thread Magic Garden.

I’ll be working with some special thick threads and showing how you can do bobbin work on long/mid arm machines.  This zentangle inspired flower is part of a sampler series I’ve been working on.

I’ll also have copies of Thread Magic Garden, Thread Magic, and other smaller Thread Magic press books available for sale. Come and play with us. I promise to let you touch the quilts.

The Expo is open from 10:00am – 6:00pm, same hours tomorrow and Saturday: 10:00am – 5:30pm. Schaumburg Convention Center1551 North Thoreau Dr., Schaumburg, IL 60173.

Iridescent who?

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

I don’t do white sales.  I don’t do white.  I bring in white fabric, but I promptly dye it. Usually in as bright a pallet as I can. Things don’t stay white around me very long. Even with large bottles of Clorox in the laundry room.

But  I do do moonlight. So many of my quilts are set at night. No. I’m not a vampire.The garlic, thank you, is always my friend. But I do take St. John’s Wort, and I should not be out in bright sunshine. 

So when I might want white I reach for the things that are iridescent. 

What make fabric and thread iridescent? It’s not exactly hide of the nagua, but it really is a relative to Naugahyde.It’ s a fiber called Lurex. Wikepedia defines Lurex as “the registered brand name for a type of yarn with a metallic appearance. The yarn is made from synthetic film, onto which a metallic aluminiumsilver, or gold layer has been vaporised. “Lurex” may also refer to cloth created with the yarn.”

It first showed up in the early seventies as a kind of slicker fabric. Now it’s in all kinds of threads and fibers, perfect for fiber art.

Where can you find it? All over my quilts! I love it.

Iridescent threads:

There are all kinds of lurex threads from many different companies, in many different thicknesses.

Madeira puts out several lines of iridescent threads under their #30 weight Supertwist Line. These are Astros. They have a base color mixed with rainbow blue, yellow, pink and green underneath.

 

These are a Supertwist Opalescent.They have a less obvious but still 

brilliant softer Lurex shine.

 

 

YLI does a # 8 weight metallic thread called Candelight that is a neon bulb on a quilt.

 

 

 

Razzle Dazzle, by Superior is another #8 weight metallic in a whole different line of iridescent colors. They’ve done some magnificent flecked shades.

Sulky Sliver is still the most shiny thread ever. It’s a simple Lurex flat strand.

 

 

 

Angelia and Crystalina Fibers are clouds of Lurex that you can fuse into a sheer surface.

 

 

 

And Smooch Paints are a pigment you spray on.

 

Can you use iridescent in your quilt? It washes, in case you were worrying, but it does tend to be a bit scratchy. My work is made to warm people from the wall rather than in their laps, so I never worry. And I couldn’t be without it.

You’ll find Angelina and Smooch Paints at Embellishment Village.

You’ll find Supertwist at Madiera USA.

You’ll find Candelight at YLI.

You’ll find Sliver at Sulky

You’ll find Razzle Dazzle at Superior Threads.

And you’ll find glowing lovely iridescent light all over your work when you use any of these.

 

 

Interview on Thread with Frieda Anderson!

Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

Moonstruck

Frieda Anderson, another fabulous fiber artist haling from Illinois, has posted her interview on thread and  thread work with me on her blog at  http://www.friestyle.com/my-blog.html. Check it out!

How Long is your Arm?

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

My studio has a new toy in it!

I’ve worked for years with home machines but this is a brand new day. Why am I working with a mid arm?

Well, it’s not like it’s easier to stuff a big quilt through a little hole, but I’m wildly excited about working with long arms and bobbin work.

Bobbin work? YES,  BOBBIN WORK!

Why? There’s a number of reasons for using a long arm/mid arm machine for bobbin work. The extra big bobbin, the speed and the straight stitch only capabilities are all in your favor.

I’m very excited about the Sweet 16 because of it’s size and its sit down capabilities. I played all yesterday, snow and all at Threadbenders in Michigan City with one and took it home.

Wow said backwards.

The home sewing industry has always made multi-purpose machines. But the sewing industry itself has always considered them silly. For good reason. Most of the time you want the machine that does something excellently. If it does one thing excellently, then that’s better than doing thirty things fairly well.

The mid arm is basically a long arm machine without the large frame. But the thing both of them offer is excellent blazingly fast straight stitching. And room to move. And much bigger needles.  Which is the beginning of all kinds of stitched line art. Can you say, Zen Tangling? Bobbin Work? Lily Guilding? I can’t wait.

No More Color Police:Creating Flower Colors

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

 “Roses are red. violets are blue. Angels in heaven know I love you.” Down in the valley

 What color is a flower, actually?










In spite of everything your kindergarten teacher told you, it’s not a simple answer. If she made you color all your roses red, give me her name and I’ll go have a little chat with her. Or better still, you might want to tell her that she can’t live in your head anymore without paying rent.



That’s not a white tulip. Nor is it really red or yellow. It’s a wonderful swirl of a number of great colors. Leaving any of that out is a loss. But how do you do it in fiber?

We have two great tools. Well, we probably have hundreds but these help with this.Hand dyed fabric has all those great streaks. It’s a great way to start a flower.

Machine embroidery also speeds us on our way.The wonderful thing about stitching flowers is that thread really is minutia. We can slip in that dash of green, that edge of orange or purple that flowers either do have or should.
When Mark Lipinski asked me how important color was on his show this week and why I put so much emphasis on it, I almost fell of my chair. Color IS the media. We see everything through the color and the texture. You can here that conversation on Mark’s Creative Mojo  show, December 14th.

Thread Magic Garden has a full chapter on creating colors for flowers. It’s a magical thing. And you can do it too.

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