Thursday, January 29, 2015

Light Table Alternatives for Quilters

In a my previous post on working with text, I mentioned a few light table alternatives. Today, I'm telling you about them.

A light table is actually pretty simple to build. It's just a platform to hold a light with a transparent surface. A web search will turn up several DIY options. Here's a very simple light box tutorial. If you build your own, make sure it's not a fire hazard, yet bright enough for tracing. There are many tutes for making light boxes for preschooler activities right now, so make sure the tute you use is suitable for tracing.

 I will say that taking photos of lights is a pretty hard task. The camera gets all confused. (Maybe it's the lack of an experienced operator.)


I have an old light box that was given to me. The plastic surface is getting a bit yellowed and dim, and it's bulky. I like it though and it works fine. Now there are digital and LED versions available, but they can be spendy. They are nice and slim though.

If you have a tablet computer device (iPad, android tablet), You can use a drawing app with a bright white "page" or even a flashlight app to provide light and after you first protect the surface with a piece of glass or Plexiglas, you can use it as your light table.

Can you see the Plexiglass over my tablet?
My preferred method (until I got my light table) is to take my sewing machine out of it's recessed hole in my sewing table, put a light in the hole and cover it with a sheet of Plexiglas. In fact, I like this method better than the light table when tracing large designs as more of it can lay flat.


You can also use a clear acrylic extension table with a light under it for the same purpose.


You can pick up some good battery powered lights for this purpose or even a string of LED lights.


Then there's the super easy to store version: Using a window! Tape your design to the window with painter's tape and then tape the fabric over and trace away. Granted, it's a bit awkward if the neighbors can see you. But you can't beat the price.


You might also gather from this post that a sheet of Plexiglas is a handy tool for a quilter. I'll save that for another post. Yes, I'm getting to be a tease with my posts. But it keeps me posting more regularly and keeps the posts a little more concise.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Video: Free Motion Quilting Random Fill

In December, I made a gift for a friend. I shared the finished project with you on A Friend Loves at All Times, but I never shared the video with you. I think you'll notice an improvement in video quality as I shot it with my new camera (a Canon Powershot G16).


You'll also be pleased to know that my hubby has fixed my sewing chair and there will soon be less creaking of my chair as I wiggle around while shooting my videos.

Here's the finished project:

Heart free motion quilted

Below is a shot of the whole design, but since the lighting was straight-on, it looks very flat.


I can't wait to do some more videos with my new camera. I hope you like them. I get so much more done when I know you fabulous folk are watching. Hmmm...does that sound creepy? Exhibitionist-y? I dunno. But I know it's fun to share my free motion quilting adventures!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Silk Wholecloth Craziness

Here's what I'm working on this weekend. I actually had hoped to make it and finish it in time to submit it to the Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival. But with all the sickness we've had here, I didn't finish drawing the design until yesterday.

silk on silk free motion quilted wholecloth quilt


Since the entry deadline is Tuesday, I don't see any way that it will be ready. In honor of my word of the year, Finish, I am working hard on it anyway. I marked the silk/cotton blend (Kauffman's Radiance) last night. I spray-basted it this morning after church and started quilting with YLI silk on top and Glide in the bobbin.

Pretty good progress, don't you think?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Free Motion Ruler Work on Pfaff, Babylock Ellisimo, and Brother Quattro

Back in late October, reader Becki sent me an email letting me know she had taken a free motion quilting class from Patsy Thompson and Patsy had recommended my blog and videos to the class. After letting out a squeal of glee, I emailed Patsy to thank her and it has sparked an email correspondence that has been so encouraging to me.


She and I both are looking for ways for more quilters to do free motion ruler work. She has access to more machines than I do and after some back and forth discussion about the 3rd party ruler feet that have lately come onto the market claiming to fit nearly all sewing machines, she decided to try the Janome Ruler Foot on some of the machines we hadn't tried yet.

Patsy has just done a very clear and fabulous video on her blog showing how she's made this Janome foot work on several Pfaffs, Babylock Ellisimo, and the Brother Quattro. So go check it out! If you don't have any of these machines, it will still give you some ideas to see if you want to experiment with your machine.

Here's an excerpt from one of our emails (used with Patsy's permission):

Just wanted to report in about the convertible foot w/ruler toe on Pfaffs.  I have tried this combo on 5 models of Pfaffs so far:
2034; 2040; 2042; 2044; and 2046
 The combo worked great on all of them.  One thing that really surprised me was that the space from the base of the ruler toe to the machine bed seemed really high (this was after I'd adjusted the toe to its lowest possible position) but it worked like a charm on all 5 machines.  in fact, I find it easier to do ruler work on those Pfaffs than my Babylock Ellisimo/Brother Quattro even though the latter 2 have much larger harp spaces.  It is interesting to me that virtually every machine I have done ruler work on has its own unique area that is more difficult/impossible to position the template.  (emphasis added is mine)
I have a Q & A post coming up for you on a new 3rd party ruler foot maker  next week. But in the meantime, we're getting closer and closer to getting everybody into free motion quilting with rulers and templates.

I am sick--again. So I am so glad to share Patsy's post with you and go back to bed! I think I'm going to start spraying the kids down with Lysol before they come in from school. At least this time no one's stomach was involved.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Two Tips to Better Photograph Your Quilt's Texture

Saturday I shared my latest quilting finish: My word of the year, "Finish".

I played around with my new camera to try to get better pics.  Below, the light is fairly straight on (on my design wall opposite the window).


It's hard to even tell that this is quilted in these pictures! It could just be a drawing.


The number one tip for showing off the dimension and texture of your quilting is Side Lighting! Lighting is so very important for good pictures, but with quilting, it takes side-lighting to capture the texture of the quilting.


In this picture, I've turned the design wall perpendicular to the window. (My design wall is batting covered 1 inch thick foam insulation board, and it's not attached to the wall.) What a difference it makes!

Perpendicular is a bit overkill as evidenced by the bright glow along the right side, but a slight rotation of the design wall will fix that.

Second, use a tripod. The tiniest movement of the camera when you press the shutter button will keep the focus from being as sharp as possible. That blur will flatten the appearance of the texture.

Bonus tip: If you've ever entered a quilt into a show, you already know to keep the camera exactly centered  and square on the center of the quilt. The tripod certainly helps with this. Without it being centered, the quilt's shape is distorted into more of a parallelogram. You can see my tripod was slightly off when taking the above pictures.

Happy quilting!