Friday, February 26, 2010

Orange blossom

Yesterday, I showed how I use painter’s tape and freezer paper to make simple circle quilt motif template. Today, the shape is a little more complex. I needed a center motif for my orange potholder and thought an orange blossom would be appropriate.

I used a light table to sketch around a blossom motif on the paper side of freezer paper. You can hold it up to a window if you don’t have a light table. You can, of course, draw any shape you want on the paper side.

Next, put overlapping strips of painter’s tape on the waxy side of the freezer paper.

Cut out your motif shape.

It is a bit tricky to peel the shape off as one piece. I used a straight pin to loosen the tape in a few spots. Place your blue motif shape on your quilt sandwich and smooth it down firmly. It was easy to hand-quilt around the small motif. Machine quilting might be harder.

Here is the orange blossom motif. Click on the small graphic below so you can print out your own copy.

Labels: ,

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Painter's tape template

You can use painter’s tape and freezer paper to make simple quilting motif templates. Place overlapping strips of painter’s tape on the waxy side of some freezer paper.

Draw a circle (or other simple shape) on the paper side of the freezer paper. Cut the circle out.

Peel away the painter’s tape shape from the freezer paper. You may have to use a pin under the edge to persuade the tape to start peeling away.

Stick the circle motif on your quilt sandwich.

Quilt around the circle shape by hand or machine. Peel off the blue circle. I am going to echo quilt around my circle.
You can make whatever shapes you want – stars, moons, diamonds, etc. using painter’s tape and freezer paper. You can use masking tape if you don’t have any painter’s tape. I’ve used wax paper instead of freezer paper.

Labels: ,

Saturday, February 20, 2010

My Kindle Karrier

I made a carrier for my Kindle.

Kindle Karrier Copyright © Christine Thresh 2010

There are a lot of Kindle clutches, Kindle cases, Kindle sleeves, and Kindle covers on the market.

I thought about buying one or making one from ideas I saw on the web. But none of them appeared to have a place to carry the power cord for recharging. It seemed that it would be a big bother to carry the Kindle in a case and then carry the cord and adapter in a separate case.

My Kindle Karrier holds both the Kindle and the cord and adapter. Slip the cord in the pocket at the bottom, then slip in the Kindle and fold the top triangle down.

I made some sketches.

And I drew a pattern.

The Karrier starts with two base triangles. You can print one out by clicking on the small graphic below.
Add strips around both center triangles (just like making log cabin blocks). Keep measuring by placing your Kindle and the cords on them to make sure they will fit inside. After you are sure the triangles are large enough, sandwich them both with batting and backing fabric and quilt them as little mini quilts. Cut the top off one triangle at about 10 inches up from the bottom. This will be the pocket. Put a narrow single-fold binding across the top of the pocket piece.

Place the pocket piece on the tall triangle with their wrong sides facing. Round off the bottom corners of both pieces. Round off the long triangle point. Make some double fold bias binding and sew it around the edge.

Pack up your Kindle and go on your way.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Slip Slidin' Away

I’ve been having fun using a new gadget called SewSlip. It is a smooth white surface that covers the bed of my sewing machine. Fabric slides easily around on the slick surface while free-motion quilting. I can no longer blame any little glitches in my stitches on my machine bed’s irregularities. The 12 by 18 inch sheet has a permanent tacky back that holds it in place on the machine. It is easily removed when your work is finished. My dear cyber friend Del Thomas sent me the SewSlip as a present. Thank you, Del.

Now that I am not struggling with the quilt sample sandwich I can relax and have fun. However, I did learn something profound. I’m never going to be Diane Gaudynski or Sally Bramald or Harriet Hargrave. (Click on their names to learn more about them.) Those marvelous women can feather and stipple and trapunto with grace and beauty.

I’ve hand-quilted for years because I can go slowly and get the effects I want.
However, my free-motion quilting looks just like my pencil and pen sketches, which are kind of sloppy. The experts advise “draw your motif on paper and practice it, then go to your machine and follow the same motions with your stitches.” When I could not achieve smooth feathers and stipples with the sewing machine I looked at my sketches. Sure enough, my machine quilting looks exactly like my sketches.

Well, what did I expect? I expected to change my entire lifetime of drawing and suddenly become precise and meticulous on a sewing machine. That is not going to happen. Stippling and feathers are not in my future. But perhaps I can achieve the look of my finished drawings with ripples and sweeps across my quilts. We will see.

Here are two finished drawings from the 1970s. That’s how I draw. Just because it is 2010 I’m not going to try to become Vermeer, Rembrandt, or da Vinci. I think I can aspire to move like Frank Stella or Jackson Pollock or Judy Chicago.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


I’m still practicing free-motion quilting and I am getting a bit better. I read somewhere that you need 100 hours of practice before you are competent. I have a long way to go.

I’ve watched many free-motion videos online. Leah Day has over 100 short videos on her blog. Her goal is to present 365 designs in a year. It is really fun to watch her videos. I like the beginner ones.

Now I am thinking that I might need some gadgets to improve my free-motion work. I’ve seen two Teflon “slip-slide” things to put on the bed of the sewing machine. They are supposed to make the fabric glide easily. I think the bed of my old machine may have some minor rough spots which cause little jerks while I slide the quilt sandwich around. One of the gadgets is called Supreme Slider (click on the picture below for more information).

The other one is named Sewslip (click on the picture below for more information).

The Supreme Slider is 8½ by 11 inches and the Sewslip is 12 by 18 inches.

There is another gizmo called Quilt Halo by Sharon Schamber. It is a weighted ring coated with some sort of sticky substance. The ring is used as a sort of steering wheel to move the fabric around under the needle (click on the picture below for more information).

I think it is typical that beginners want all sorts of fancy tools to improve their “game.” I am tempted to get some gadgets but I don’t expect a miracle.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Practice, practice, practice

I still need a lot of practice. Free-motion quilting is hard to learn. I’ll keep trying.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

First crayon

Do any of you remember the first time you were handed a crayon and given a piece of paper to draw on?
I recaptured that momentous occasion yesterday. Marks appeared. “I made them! I can make more marks.” What a revelation. Children do this around 16 months old (before that, they just put the crayon in their mouth).

My epiphany was turning on the sewing machine and pulling a fabric sandwich around on the bed as the needle went up and down. I could make wavy lines. I could even make circles with stitches. Quite a thrill.

Diane Gaudynski advises beginning free-motion quilters to “Quilt your signature” in her book Guide to Machine Quilting. So I tried that next.

Whoops! The signature looked pretty terrible AND I spelled my name wrong. But, I did it.

The next several hours were spent getting the tension adjusted and practicing lines and curves and shapes all over my little sample practice piece. I ran out of room and had to make another practice sandwich. My stuff looks pretty bad. Free-motion quilting is hard work. I have to do a lot more practicing before I try quilting on a “real” quilt. Now, for the first time, I really admire machine quilting.

I’ll have to hand-quilt the little project I have waiting in the wings because I won’t have the skill needed to machine quilt it until I have months of practice with my free-motion foot.

Labels: ,

Monday, February 01, 2010

On your mark, get set ...

This Singer 101 is the same kind of machine I learned to sew on long ago. My parents were off to New York to attend a meeting and my grandmother stayed home with me in California. I must have been around eight years old. I had watched my mother sew for hours and hours. I knew all of her motions and the sounds the machine made. She made dresses for me, drapes, curtains, and even did some upholstery. She also did smocking and hand appliqué. My mother was very good and her work was beautiful. She did not own a seam ripper – she hardly ever made mistakes.

I opened the machine, flipped it up and switched on the light. The machine was already threaded. I told Nana that I was going to make doll clothes. There was plenty of material in my mother’s stash. Nana asked, “Do you know how to sew on the machine?” I assured her that I did. I sewed happily for hours until I ran out of bobbin thread. I didn’t have a clue about filling a bobbin so I had to stop. My grandmother did not know how to operate a sewing machine so she was no help.

My mother was very surprised to see my work when she returned from New York. She asked if Nana had taught me and I avoided a direct answer. I did ask my mother how to replace the bobbin.

I inherited my mother’s 101 and used it for several years, but I gave it away to a friend. I thought “a sewing machine is a sewing machine.” I bought a brand new Singer with lots of bells and whistles. It was a complete disaster. It turned me away from sewing for a long time. In 1993 I took up quilting. My machine was so hard to use. I could not make a decent quarter-inch seam. It was discouraging. One day I found a little Featherweight in a junk store and learned again what a pleasure sewing was.

We bought many old sewing machines, including five treadles and two hand-cranks. I grew fond of old slant needle Singer 301s (from the 1950s) machines and still use them as my main ones. The 301s are sometimes called the Featherweight’s big sister. Fifteen years ago I bought an old Singer 101, just like my mother’s. It has a good size harp so a lot of bulk can go under the arm. The big sewing room and studio project two years ago forced me to get rid of most of the old machine collection.

But I couldn’t give up the 101 for sentimental reasons. I had this great idea. I want to set up the old Singer 101 for free motion quilting. I plan to leave it permanently set up with the free motion foot. I have not done any free motion quilting even though I took a class a few years ago. I’ve done some straight line machine quilting, but I usually hand quilt. I have a project that needs some curvy lines right now. Today was the day to set up the machine.

I plugged it in and pulled up the head. I switched on the light. I sat down to do some straight stitching to get acquainted with the old gal again. I leaned into the knee lever and nothing happened. Not a sound. I turned the wheel toward me and the needle went up and down. Still no power. Oh darn.

Robert is my resident sewing machine mechanic. He brought his screwdriver and pliers upstairs. He looked things over and lifted the head so he could check the motor connections. He blew some dust out and the machine immediately started sewing. He is a genius.

Sounds bring back memories. Now I’ll see how the feed dog cover and the free motion foot goes on and report back tomorrow.

Labels: , , , ,