Click Quilt Quilting

After sending back the Vintage Holiday quilt to Cheryl (with tears and tantrums all the way to the post office :P), I started working on a quilt sent to me by Dawn. The pattern is Click, by Tracey at Traceyjay Quilts. I’ll grab some better pictures when it’s done (and it almost is!), but for now, this should give you an idea:

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I’m doing swirl hooks and big feathers. I love the texture it’s giving this quilt! Obviously, I am in the midst of a feather kick and I just can’t stop myself. I think these swirl hooks will be something I use a lot in the future. It’s such a fun design. Stay tuned!

Some thread thoughts

The past couple of weeks have been crazy busy around here with all of the usual beginning school year activities, so I’m still plugging away on Cheryl’s Vintage Holiday quilt. Actually, it’s just about done! I have one small section to quilt, and then I’ll get some pictures of the whole thing. For now, here’s some progress shots:

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I really love how this quilt has turned out, and can’t wait to finish it (hopefully tonight!).

On the Fractions quilt I made, I grabbed a cone of Mettler thread at my local quilt shop and used that. I have to say, I honestly am not a fan. At all. I battled with that thread through the whole quilt and I just didn’t even like the look of it in stitches. So when I did Jenn’s quilt, I decided to go back to my trusty Isacord thread. I love to quilt with Isacord on my domestic, but hadn’t yet tried it on the longarm. It just so happened that I had a spool in a color I thought would blend perfectly with her top, so I gave it a try, and wow. WOW. I love the way Isacord quilts, I had absolutely not a single issue with tension, and such beautiful stitches (front and back!). So, I stuck with Isacord on Cheryl’s quilt and am so glad that I did. I do want to get around to trying So Fine by Superior Threads, but I am even more of an Isacord girl than I was before. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

The Last Few Weeks in Pictures

Whew! There has been a lot of quilting happening at Chez Champ lately. The Fractions/Big Girl Bed quilt is at its new home, hurray! Since that big finish, I’ve been fortunate enough to receive a couple of quilt tops in the mail that needed quilting. Getting to load up a quilt onto the frame that I didn’t have to piece and cut in line to my favorite part of the whole process makes me more happy than I can say. Without further ado, here’s Jenn’s quilt:

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She told me to do whatever I wanted, so I had fun giving the top a lot of texture. I love the fabrics she used, and the bright colors. I wanted the quilting to enhance the fun of the top, without distracting from the prints or colors, and in the end I think I achieved that.

Next, Cheryl sent me a Vintage Holiday quilt which she pieced with Vintage Modern by Bonnie & Camille. I swooned when I pulled it out of the box! That’s the project I’m working on right now, but this is what we have so far:

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She also told me to do whatever I wanted (don’t mind if I do!). This quilt is putting me such in the mood for Christmas, which is my favorite holiday. It will be hard to see it go. For now, I’m just quilting away blissfully and listening to Christmas carols while I do.

Stitch Regulator Thoughts

When I first posted about buying my Gammill, I mentioned that there was no stitch regulator on the machine. I knew that it was not a necessity on a longarm, but it really seemed like it would have been a great feature to have, especially for a newbie just starting out. I had a lovely comment from Kristi on that post, and she said:

Congratulations! I bought my Gammill in 1999 because we were buying a new home, too. You’ll never regret it. I learned without a stitch regulator and never missed it. You’ll do fine without it.

I’m only working on the second quilt I’ve ever done on that machine (not counting practice sandwiches of course), so I am not pretending to be a longarm expert, but just wanted to talk a little bit about my experience (such as it is) without a stitch regulator so far. I mention Kristi’s comment because I come back to it a lot in my mind. Without a stitch regulator, I’ve really had to focus on moving my machine consistently and smoothly. This hasn’t been nearly as hard as I thought it was going to be, though. And since longarms don’t have a pedal for you to control your speed with, they have a speed control dial. Before I started the quilt I’m currently working on, I loaded a practice sandwich onto the frame and figured out how fast I wanted to move the machine around to execute the quilting design I had chosen. Then, I fiddled with the speed control until I found a needle speed that matched the speed of my movement to produce stitches the size I wanted them to be. And then I got to quilting and didn’t really think about it again.

I realized yesterday though that in the back of my head a thought was living that went something like this: You really need a stitch regulator. You won’t be able to upgrade your machine for some time, so maybe you should start saving for a stitch regulator to retrofit the one you have now. You’ll just have to make do, but you really need a stitch regulator. I didn’t even realize I was thinking this for awhile, but when I realized that thought was there, I had to give myself a reality check.

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I do not need a stitch regulator. You don’t need a stitch regulator. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure they are wonderful to have and I’m not saying I will never have one. Maybe I will someday. But looking at those close-ups of the quilting shows me that the consistency of my stitch length is just fine. But even though I was looking at my stitches with my own eyes as I was quilting, still this anxiety of not having a stitch regulator was building in my mind to the point that it was starting to rob my joy in owning my Gammill. Here I have this beautiful machine, and I was finding a reason to not be content with it- and a silly reason, to boot. After all, having a stitch regulator will not make anyone a master quilter overnight.

In fact, if I could have any features magically appear on my machine right now, I’d wish for channel lock and a needle up/down button. Those also aren’t necessities, but they would be very handy! Much handier than a stitch regulator.

I wanted to post this for a couple of reasons. One, because I like to chronicle where I’m at with my quilting and be as real as possible about it. When I look back on my old posts, it’s nice to see the evolution happening. Two, to (hopefully) be encouraging. You don’t need a stitch regulator to make good stitches. You don’t need one on your longarm, and you don’t need one on your domestic if that’s where you free motion quilt. Don’t let silly things steal your joy. Quilting should be fun before it’s anything else.

Ripping Stitches and Mistakes

I feel like there is a tendency in social media to show the most perfect, polished version of ourselves. Only the best moments, and only in the most flattering light. This is certainly true in the quilting world as well, and I’m just as guilty of it as anyone else. I think it can be discouraging sometimes. When you are surrounded by pictures of everyone’s best, it’s easy to forget that not every moment of every day is anyone’s best. No one is perfect 24/7.

In the spirit of realness, let me show you what I’m up to with the Fractions quilt. Let me give you a hint: it involves my least favorite thing of all. If you guessed “seam ripper”, you’d be right.

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Ugh. Unacceptable. What happened was this: remember when I said my bobbin winder was acting up? Well, before the bobbins were obviously, egregiously bad, they were sneakily bad. So when I first started quilting, I checked my tension and everything looked good, so on I went! And after about the first row, these eyelashes started to appear underneath. On the top side, where I was watching, everything looked great:

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But it was a lie. A dirty, no good lie. Thankfully, I caught it after about half a row. It’s still about 3 million stitches to unpick, but it could have been 12 million if I hadn’t checked when I did.

It’s inevitable that in any given project, I use my seam ripper. Unpicking large areas of quilting is some kind of torture, but sometimes it has to be done. I’ve had to do it for a variety of reasons, but the top two seem to be:

  1. Tension issues (either because I was rushing and didn’t test it first, or my machine was giving me issues).
  2. Design issues (either because I was rushing and anxious to get to the quilting so I didn’t practice the design beforehand adequately, or I just ended up not liking the design in that space after I saw it there).

Rushing is a culprit that gets me, you may have noticed. I think I’ve finally started to learn that it never actually saves me any time in the long run. This time at least I can’t blame rushing, since I truly did check my tension before I started on my merry way.

So there you go. I’ll be ripping, ripping, ripping away for a little while so I can go back in and fix. It’s never fun, but always worth it to finish with a quilt you can be totally happy with. It’s not worth doing if it isn’t your best, and there was no way I was going to let such ugly stitches fly.

I hope your quilting is full of perfect stitches and free of seam rippers! ;)

Quilting, Bobbins and Tension

Quilting is underway on the Fractions quilt!

IMG_5715 In case you were wondering, that’s a magnetic tool bar I picked up at Home Depot. I got that handy tip from Linda Thielfoldt, to help stabilize floating tops. It works great! It is also a very effective foot smasher if you drop it onto your foot. Anyway, in my last post I showed a rough sketch of what I was planning on quilting in this quilt, and that’s what I went with.

IMG_5706 Insofar as constructing the actual design is concerned, quilting has been going quite well. However, I have been battling tension issues, which is always frustrating. My bobbin winder is not giving me good bobbins. It’s winding loosely and loopily, and it’s completely unusable.

IMG_5723 Not the greatest picture, but you get the idea. I’m tinkering with it, and hoping I can get this fixed, or else I will have to order a part for it, and that will delay me. Frustrating! And on the actual machine itself, today I will be replacing a check spring, because I think that’s contributing to some of my tension woes.

If there’s one thing my experience last fall with skipped stitches on my domestic machine taught me, it’s that patience and perseverance wins the day. Going through all the irritation and frustration that is involved in tweaking this and that, trying this and that, to get perfect stitches is totally worth it once you figure it out. So, while I can’t say that I’ve been necessarily stoic about this whole thing, I am much, much less bothered by it than I was last year. Last year I remember looking at my practice sandwiches and the horrible stitches and thinking, “I will never figure this out! I will never be able to free motion quilt!” This time, that’s not the case at all. It also helps that I went into this knowing that there is a huge learning curve involved with longarm machines and tension, and there isn’t really a way to avoid dealing with that, that I can tell.

So, that’s the update. It’s really interesting to me how quilting is a balance of a thousand small things working in harmony. Something so small can throw you off big time if it’s not right!

 

Fun with Fractions

Things are moving right along with the big girl bed quilt! If you follow along on Instagram, you can see the progress shots over there.

IMG_7913 I’m doing my own take on Fractions, and I think it’s going to be really fun! I’ve started laying out blocks to get the top situated.

IMG_5651 As I’ve been working on the top, I’ve been thinking ahead to how I’m going to quilt it. I think I’ve settled on what I’m going to do:

IMG_7145 It’s just a rough sketch I did quickly, but you get the idea!

As long as children and life cooperate, I’m hoping to be starting the quilting portion of the whole process this weekend. Stay tuned!

 

 

Projects, projects…

I started working on a quilt for a friend’s daughter. She’ll be transitioning into a big girl (twin sized) bed soon, so she obviously needs a quilt! This has been the most collaborative quilt I’ve ever done, which has been such a fun experience. Her mom picked out the fabric, and this is what she chose:

Isn’t it so cute? Once the fabric was decided, we started talking about patterns. She showed me a lot of patterns that she liked, which we narrowed down to a few, and she told me to pick from the final contenders and surprise her. It’s been a lot of fun to work with someone who has had so much input into the whole process.

If you follow along on Instagram, you may have seen these progress shots:

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IMG_5499 I’ll share more as it comes together!

In other news, after I got the Gammill all set up and in its proper spot, I was able to get the rest of my sewing studio assembled around it. IMG_5431 IMG_5428 The walls are bare, so I’m really looking forward to getting some mini quilts made up to give some color!

Hello, world!

That is what my Gammill would be saying if it could talk right now. In fact, I stitched it out:

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Finally, after buying this thing two-and-a-half months ago, it is assembled! The past couple of months have been very busy, with the move and then home improvement inside the new house. Not having the long arm assembled was driving me insane, so this last weekend, we finally got to it!

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I’ve only just begun to play around with it, and it is much, much different than the FMQ I am used to. The momentum of the machine is something that will definitely take practice to master handling, but that’s okay… all I want to do is practice anyway!

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Fun fact: we had to move this baby in through that little basement window in that picture. Good times.

Project Kitchen: Complete!

Ever since we got the keys to the new house, we’ve been working away like busy little bees on the downstairs. Mostly painting, just trying to get the house to be more “us”… our style. We painted all the trim white, and painted all the walls Perfect Taupe by Behr. Then, we turned our eyes to the kitchen. To give you an idea, this is what the kitchen looked like before:

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This photo is from the listing for our house. You can see the border at the top that we removed (it was a cute border! Coffee themed, which of course warmed my coffee-loving heart, but alas! Borders aren’t really my thing. If they were my thing though, I would totally buy that border!). The cabinets were builder grade oak, and the counters were a hunter green laminate.

Here’s another angle, after we painted trim and walls:

IMG_4700 The oak cabinets made everything feel really dark to me. And the light in the kitchen… oh boy. It’s a fluorescent box. It matches the cabinets but I felt like it was drawing your eye to it, and it really wasn’t anything worth looking at. So! We got to work.

I did the cabinets with Rustoleum’s Cabinet Transformations in Quilter’s White (haha, right?), and the counters with ArmorGarage’s epoxy kitchen kit in Absolute Black (a review on this product to come in the near future- I have many thoughts, and a lot to say). I had originally planned on glazing the cabinets to give them an old world, antique look. However, once I got the Quilter’s White on them I loved the color so much as it was, I decided to skip the glaze entirely. I also added some hardware to the cabinets. I got a satin nickel spoon foot pull that I used on both the doors and the drawers. It’s clean and simple, without being contemporary and modern (which wouldn’t have gone with my overall theme and decor). Without further ado, here’s the after:

 

IMG_1296  I even painted that fluorescent box the same Quilter’s White that I used on the cabinets. That light is not long for that kitchen, but while I’m searching for one that I love, I figured I’d cover the oak (especially since it doesn’t match the cabinets anymore). Now it really seems to disappear into the ceiling, and I don’t even notice it.

After weeks of painting and polyurethaning and sanding and on and on and on, I am happy to take a break on home improvement projects for now. In a couple of weeks I have plans to refinish the dining room table, but first I’d like to finally, finally, play with my longarm.

All in all, I completely changed the look of my kitchen for about $550 (and it could have been less- I got the large kit for the cabinets and could have done a small. I will find a use for the extra though!).

Thanks for checking out my kitchen!

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