Monday, August 29, 2011

Welcome Nina!

What was the teaser about yesterday? Well, my Kenmore 16221 can't do alphabets- but my Bernina Aurora 430 can! I got a new sewing machine!!!!! (Or "sewing computer" as the manual says)

On Saturday Kevin and I drove up to Cedar Rapids and spent some time at the Janome and Bernina dealers, asking lots of questions and looking at a few different models. On Sunday I drove up and spent about an hour at each sewing on different fabrics, and then another hour at Bernina talking with the salespeople, waffling about an upgrade, and talking about prices/ packages. (Friday I also went to Brother, but I ruled them out before I test sewed.)

So after looking at the three dealers near here, I narrowed it down the the Janome Horizon 7700 and the Bernina 430. Honestly, I think I'd be pretty happy with either machine. I feel like on the internet you get lots of "my machine is best!" but very few people who have used lots of different brands and can really say best.

So why did I go with Nina here?
Although people say Bernina's are really expensive, I felt like it was a great value for the money. (Also- I don't want to sound "rude" talking about money, but it is really hard to find pricing information about sewing machines, so I will say that I paid $2099 pre-tax, with trade in for the Bernina. I think it was $2600 without trade in. The Janome was listed at $2999 and I was offered $200 for my trade in.)

Here are the major differences I noticed:
The Janome Horizon has a HUGE throat space. The quilt shown above barely even touched the inside of the machine when I was sewing on it (though not in the absolute center)- on my Kenmore, I was having to bunch it up already! This was something that really drew me to the machine. It also has an automatic thread cutter, which was really nice to use (but not a deal breaker), and MUCH better memory than the Bernina (something like 20 "spots" of memory where you can put in quilt labels and such. The Bernina has 60 spots of memory- each holds 1 letter, or stitch. It's just not comprable, Janome wins here.) It also came with many more feet (but who ever uses half of those?). The dealer was going to "throw in" a sewing table ($500 value, but you can get good ones like Gidget 2 for $250ish) a rolling travel bag, a cone stand, and for me the free motion bobbin case ($60 value).

The Bernina felt better sewing- it could really fly and the stitches were beautiful. It didn't even notice the seam as it jumped it for jeans. You can wind the bobbin while still sewing. The dealer offered stronger support. It had more throat space then I had, and the dealer (and the internet) said that king size quilts were definitely doable on it (and I don't make those...) It had all the features I wanted (the Janome had them too) - locking stitch, basic alphabets, needle down, good lighting, knee lift, lots of decorative stitches and buttonholes, good free motion quilting. The thing that sold me was the price- the Janome might have more features, but not $1000 more (for me)

And then this: Bernina's special offer: the embroidery unit. It's $800 if you add it when you buy the machine, almost twice that if you add on later. That was HUGE value for me, as embroidery was something I kind of wanted to look at (and while Janome offered a good amount of stuff, it wasn't quite the same level of stuff). Getting it free: big deal. The Janome doesn't have embroidery capability, you can't add onto it later. (Kevin did point out: something you can never add: space. But I actually think he prefered the Bernina, they really sold the mechanical features, the motor, the Swiss quality, that is what a guy looks for)

And last, at least in that dealership the Janome 7700 was as good as you get, absolute top of the line (not sure if that is true of the brand). For Bernina, the 430 seems to be mid range. There is room to move up, and they offer good trade up, even years down the road. I've always been told Bernina has "expensive feet" but I found most to be reasonable, and to be about the same as Janome anyway (though maybe you can use generics there?) I've seen mixed reviews on the Horizon but pretty much no negative on the 430 (well, except that while they really hype "Swiss Made" the label say "Made in Thailand" I had a heads up on that thanks to, but their website says assembled there with swiss parts. I'm thinking it is a non-issue, but salespeople should be more careful with their talking points. )

So after test sewing, I decided Bernina: all I had left to think about was: do I upgrade to the 440? It comes with the BSR (stitch regulator for free motion quilting, it senses how fast you move the fabric, and stitches exactly the same size each time), walking foot, 1/4" foot, an extra alphabet, a good number more decorative stitches, but was essentially the same machine. Once I heard the price, the answer was NO (can't recall what it was, maybe $3,400?).

But they offered me a deal to add the BSR to the 430: $2999- that put it in line with the Horizon (they say buying it on it's own later is like $1400). After playing with it for awhile, I decided my money would be better spent on a few feet for the Bernina (I got satin stitch, open toe darning, and whatever the #10 was recommended) and fabric to practice on. The sales people were very helpful, and didn't pressure me, just pointed out the reason that this line is great is these things can always be added later (for a higher cost). Already, I am very happy with my decision. I came home and immediately started free motion quilting (as seen in picture) and I LOVE IT as is! My stitches already look pretty even, I'm not getting eyelash pulls on the back. With the BSR it was always beeping at me that I was moving the fabric too fast, with the machine- I can set the needle speed, then play with the pressure on the foot pedal, and go as fast as I want. I finished a portion of the quilt that would have taken me 3 hours on my Kenmore in about an hour. This baby flies!

The embroidery unit wasn't in stock, so I get to pick that up later. I'm nervous about it- I really don't know anything about embroidery. It does not come with digitization software, and apparently that is expensive- but I can use pre-made designs.

I'll post a more thorough review later when I've had it for more than a day, but I think I'm going to be very happy with Nina! (And that's pronounced in the spanish way. Kevin said to me "Bernina is a swiss company, not spanish- stop saying it like it is one of Columbus's ships." That made me decide my actual machine was likely Spanish.)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Another FMQ post

I actually did these designs before I did that Halloween wall hanging, I just never posted.

This one is based on Monster Teeth, but I chose to do curves instead of squares. I think they remind me of amoeba.

And this is the one I designed myself. I am happy with it, but I wish I hadn't chosen to make the heart in the center. Although I love the heart in the center, I don't like the line to get it there. I also need to work on keeping my lines parallel!!!!!!!

Here is a close up on the front.

Finally, something exciting happened this weekend. I'll post about it soon, but here is a hint. (This also shows off Kevin's amazing Macro tubes- this yellow fabric is the same as above, what an amazing close up...the weave of the fabric looks like it is loose, and it is NOT.)

Lastly, I start class tomorrow. I am taking two classes again, which pretty much takes up all my time when combined with work and skating. I won't be sewing much :( Though I definitely will be making time for it on weekends when I don't have big projects due!

Friday, August 26, 2011

First Applique

Last night I attended a class at my local quilt shoppe (Common Threads -I will note I almost refuse to shop there because of the extra "pe" on the end of shop, but they are really great, so I forgave them)
We did raw edge applique with this adorable Patrick Lose design.  (I was kind of disappointed because I wanted to learn to satin stitch, but it's such a cute project, and the raw edge is really good for it, that I'm okay with it.)  I learned how to use steam-a-seam (just like fusible interfacing, really) and then, it's covered with a thin layer of tulle and quilted down.
I also learned how to add a hanger holder in the back, so I will hang this in my office in October.  I love it so much!  I hope I can go back next month for another project.  And I'll probably get into applique at home too!
I'm looking to buy a new machine, and Kevin says to go ahead and just go fancy to avoid paying the "beginners tax".  But fancy machines are SO expensive.  I'm really conflicted on what to do...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tonight's progress...

So I think I will have the whole math quilt done by the weekend, but I'm going to need more thread: spool number 1 (and a big one) is empty, and the only other one I had was a small one. I've done half, and have less than the amount of thread I used left. The math quilt tells me this means I don't have enough. (Though maybe if I rip out less? Of course, I already had to rip out tonight.)

I haven't tried the hearts yet, but do plan to do the converging heart pattern tomorrow. Tonight I tried two more designs based on Leah Day's designs (I promise I'm not a stalker! Seriously best FMQ resource ever).

The first design is based on Spiral Illusion. I love this design (one of my very favorites I think), but I've tried it before and keeping the second spiral straight is HARD. So I cheated a little and changed it. I call my design "Double Spiral". It has the base of a square spiral, and then from the middle I come back out with a round spiral. I'm getting better at straight lines- I found out that if I space them the size of my foot I can use the spring as a guide. Very nice short cut.

(Funny- I left a comment on her blog, after skimming the comments there. Then I read them again and realized the comment right before mine actually says they did the same thing as I did here. Guess my idea wasn't too original.)

I also tried my first stem centered design: Leaf Vein.
I kind of forgot to tilt them upward. I like how it looks, but it doesn't look like its inspiration.

If you can draw it, you can quilt it...

I have a feeling this will prove not to be true, but I have been doodling hearts since I was a little girl. My hands know.the motion, so quilting them should come easily, right?
Here are two heart based designs I doodle at lunch. Which should I try to quilt?  I think maybe the stacks will be really hard...but I worry I'll loose the echo on the other design too fast, so it won't show up well...

Monday, August 22, 2011

More free motion quilting

So just a few days ago, Leah Day blogged this design Channel Weave and I love it! The problem is: I am really really bad at straight lines (the design is rated "intermediate" and yesterday I failed massively at one that was "beginner"). So I decided to come up with my own design based on it. I named this design Stalagmite/Stalactite, because, well that's what I think it looks like! It reminds me of the caves we used to go into when I was a kid. (Before I was scared of everything...not sure I could do that anymore, even the big ones like Carlsbad.)

Well, the drawing looks really good.

I think the back is a little wonky, but Kevin thinks it looks okay. (He's looking at the design, I'm looking at the stitches.)

The problem is the front. The design just doesn't go well on the block I put it on. The block is in thirds, the design in sixths, so you'd think it would work, but it just gets lost on the pink parts. The blue stalagmite (swoops) looks nice, and you can even see the stalatictes (the wavy lines) on the sides, but then in the pink you just can't see what is happening at all.

Still, this quilt is all about practice, and I think this design is better than the one I had there that I ripped out.

Also, I am incapable of taking a good picture on my phone. I need to stop being lazy and start using the camera.

In other news, my first nephew just had his first day of school today. I talked to him about it for about 30 seconds before he lost attention on the phone. From what I know, it was "good", he sits at a table, not a desk, and he liked eating in the cafeteria (but his Mom packed his lunch, however my sister told me that part, he ran off before he answered the question. Phone skills still need a bit of work!)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Free motion

No class this week! So the goal for the week: quilt as much as possible! And to enhance this goal, the LQS called and told me the small Machinger's gloves they ordered for me are in! (They do help grip a little motion is still insanely difficult- hurts the wrist, and this is with a small quilt. I can't imagine the force needed to move a large quilt. Need to get my table made so that I can use the supreme slider.)

So anyhow, yesterday I tried to do some simple straightline quilting: absolute disaster. The basting must have been off, huge puckers and TERRIBLE drag. Today I changed direction and started quilting the pieces of my math quilt. When I quilt the four pieces I'll sash them together. I am doing a combination of filler designs and an all over design. There are 4 white squares in the center that get a design, plus a colored square in them. The all over design is a loop-meander.

I've mentioned Free Motion Quilting Project before. This woman is amazing- so helpful to the begining quilter. I really didn't even know I could do things other than meander. She's really inspired me.

One of the designs I tried is "Super Daisy"- I didn't want to outline the square on the side, so once the Daisy filled the space I just stippled the remaining background. She also stacks her threads, something I'm not too good at, so I didn't trace back more than just a little bit.

And this is the BACK (the back never looks as good as the front)- the front was white on white, so I had to show you the back. I did this design four times, and this was the best one, but the others aren't horrible. I am hoping that the designs even out a bit in the wash...

Also- I'm using cotton thread for the first time (Gutterman's) and I don't know if I like it a lot. I've gotten a lot of skipped stitches and thread puke. I've never had that problem before. I also changed to quilting needles- and I don't know if that is the problem. It seems too big for this, but it's the smaller one. The woman from that blog recommends a non-cotton thread- I might need to try it, or try the knitpicks thread. I really liked that for piecing.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Pets on Quilts

Looking for my Dogs on Quilts Entry: Find it HERE.

So I've had a bit of insomnia tonight, and I can't sew when I'm tired.

So I surfed the web and found an online quilt show: Pets on Quilts. The show closed in just an hour from when I found it, so I didn't have time to search for the absolute perfect picture of Elsa "helping" but I entered her on R.'s quilt. (She's helped with almost all my quilts. I don't let her lay on baby quilts for non-family babies though, even if I do wash them.)

Go over and check out all the adorable pets! Elsa probably got entered too late for her picture to be seen by many- but I love the idea of an online quilt show!

I'm off to look at pictures!

The school session ended today- one class goes until Sunday, so I have a paper to write tomorrow than a week off! In that week, I hope to get at least ONE of the tops I've made quilted.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Another Quilt top!

So this weekend was JUST for homework. No sewing allowed. I couldn't do it. All I had to do was put the yellow sash onto this quilt. So I sewed for just a few minutes and finished this top up.

This top is from Quilt June/July 2011 magazine called "Skinny Dip". I hate the name but love the pattern. It is twin sized and I have no idea how I'll manage to get it quilted on my machine, but I love the top.

Other activities this weekend: lots and lots and lots of homework. Also a midnight canoe paddle on Saturday night. It was a lovely night and a nice paddle. We should do that more often!

And now, back to homework. This is the last week of the session and I have SO much work to do.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What does 3 pounds of quilting fabric look like?

Well, I don't know because shorted me the weight. LOL!
But the 2 pounds 13 ounces I got sure is pretty!

In my last order of backing fabric, I also threw in an assortment.

Joking about the weight shortage aside- I think the majority of the fabric I got is fantastic. There is actually only one I am displeased with- and it is extreme displeasure. But overall, a great assortment.

I estimated the amounts of each fabric and then looked them up on to see if I could get an idea of the prices. Most are not available anymore (a few were) but other things from their line were still available.

First, my favorite: The Girl Scout Fabric!!! I got 1.5 yards of this. It is Robert Kaufman fabric, and originally cost $8.98/yd, right now other fabrics from this line are $4.49.
Next up, I love the giant flowers. This is "Large Modern Floral" by Michael Miller. It is still available for $8.98/yd. I got 1/2 a yard of it.
Then, I love the Beige/Blue Fabric. This is from the More Antique Treasures line and other fabrics in the line are $5.98/yd. I got 1 yd.
I also love the aprons. They are part of the What's Cooking by Dan Morris line, other fabrics in the line are $7.98/yd. I got 1 yd.
The Tiger is by Timeless Treasures. I couldn't find a price for it.
The first set of Animals is from the Alphabet Soup by Stella Blue line. Other fabrics in this line are $8.98/yd and I got 1 yd.
I also got another animal fabric and called playful pups by Benartex. Other fabrics in the line are $5.98/yd and I got 1 3/4 yds.
The fabrics that did not have anything on the selvage were the maroon plaid (1 yd) and blue plaid (1 yd) - these both feel more like napkins than quilting cotton, the star fabric (1 yd), and the Peach fabric ( 2 yds). The Peach fabric is the only one I don't like. It feels like Chiffon and is completely see through. This is NOT quilting cotton. I realize the fabric just said cotton remnants, but it is in the quilting section, so I feel like it is a reasonable assumption that it is quilting cotton!

Based on these estimates, I think I got 12 3/4 yds. That's $1.57/yd. If I take out the crap 2 yards I got, then it is still only $1.86/yd.
Just on what I found prices for, I got $50 worth of fabric, and then there are the ones I couldn't find prices for!

DEFINITELY a good way to build up a stash! I'll throw another one in an order in the future if I need to bump up to free shipping. I just wish they had a $10 bundle...
If you order a bundle- make sure to post what you get!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

More quilt tops

So SOMEONE needs to build me a sewing cabinet, until then I'm too nervous to do much free motion quilting, because of the weight of the blanket off the edge of my machine. (Someone knows who he is- but if you, the reader, want to build me one, that's good too.)

Anyhow, in the meantime, I made another quilt top.

This design is called New Wave (also, this blog is brilliant- a must read!) and was much harder than I thought it would be. I don't know if it is my cutting or my sewing off (I'm inclined to blame the cutting) but I had a hard time lining everything up. When I squared up the blocks I realized that that meant the top/bottom of the block was now wider/narrower than it should be (because it is shorter) so now it won't line up with the matching strip. But, in the end, as long as you don't look too closely I think it actually looks pretty good. It is lap quilt sized. I can't wait to get it finished and cuddle up with it on the couch. The patterned fabric was all from my stash, the white I had to purchase (I need to stash more solids- and quilt backs! I need to order backs for 4 tops now!)
This was my first time using a template. I found plastic material at for a really cheap price, so making the template was no problem, but lining it up with my ruler was tough. I ruined my cutting blade (which needs to be replaced anyway) because I kept slicing off edges of the template. There is apparently a ruler that has a very similar shape that can be used for this- it changes the proportions of the quilt a little, but I think it would be worth it.

To quilt this, I thought I would just run straight lines parallel to the seams inside the color patches, and then do some sort of loopy free motion design along the white strips- what do you think?

I also finished up my "Skinny Dip" quilt that I showed fabric for a while back. But when I put it on the bed I thought it was too small, so I visited my LQS and bought fabrics for borders. No pictures until I do the sashing.

The woman who runs this store is so nice- they didn't have the Machingers gloves in my size, so she is ordering them. She also helped me with some free motion advice last time I was in there so I brought in my sampler to show her, both the owner and another woman in the shop didn't believe that was really my first one. They said that tension on the back doesn't count when you are learning :) and that my stitch size on the front was really uniform, and they could tell the tension on the back got better as I went along and did more squares. Once I do some free motion at home I do think I'll sign up for the long arm class. Unfortunately, almost all the fabric is $10 a yard, so I won't be able to shop there too much. I am going to try to take a class about applique though. Sadly, I have to take off work to do it, so I won't be able to go much (they do a project a month- cute wall hangings)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Math Quilt

One of my assignments this week was to do an art project representing modular arithmetic and transformational geometry. I immediately jumped at the chance to do a quilt.

If you imagine a coordinate grid, the 4th quadrant contains the mod 6 multiplication table (mod math is like going around a clock- so if it is 11:00 and you add 3 hours, it is 2:00 now, not 14:00, unless you do 24 hour time, but that even wraps around after a bit.) So you can read the bottom corner by seeing that anything times 0 is 0 (all white rows), anything times 1 is itself (the first non-white row and column both go 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). So what's 5 x 5 (mod 6) check the bottom corner- it's 1 (mod 6).

Then, I rotated it about the axis 3 times to fill out the other quadrants.

I did this all on Friday night and Saturday- but it's not actually the final product, just the picture I turned in. I ripped out the two center seams and am going to quilt the four squares seperately, then piece them back together using quilt as you go. So there will be blue sashing down the middle to break up the white a bit. Then, i'll bind it in blue.

I need quilting ideas. Should I just use my walking foot and make a grid? Or should I try free motion and stipple all over? Or should I be even more brave and try to quilt each square? I seem to like filler designs more than just stippling- but that would be very time consuming. Not to mention I would DEFINETLY need Kevin to build me my sewing table (he's cutting a hole into an old desk and then building a support to hold the machine. Seems like a fine solution. Just don't tell my Dad! It's his childhood desk. But hey- new life! It was destined for the trash heap.)

Elsa says this quilt is for her!