Thursday, February 26, 2015

Free Motion Ruler Work: Midnight Snowflakes

I am having a great time with my new Janome 8200 and quilting with rulers. This machine is so quiet, plus the visibility and ability to work behind the foot with standard 1/4 inch thick rulers is so much improved over my 6600.

Free Motion Quilting with Ruler Work

Not that the Janome 6600 isn't a great machine, it's only when it came to ruler work behind the foot that I had any issues. In fact, the 6600 is no longer mine. It sold yesterday at the shop. I showed it the day before to a young mother and I hope it was her husband who returned the next day and bought it for his wife. I didn't get her name, but I gave her my card so I'd love to hear from her. (I want to let her know that there are some customized settings on the machine that I should have returned to the defaults before it sold.)
 
Isn't this a cool batik to free motion quilt?
I'm working feverishly on a sample quilt for the Top Anchor Quiting Tools both at the Lancaster AQS show in less than two weeks. All of these snow days have slowed my quilting down. The kids have been having plenty of fun; sledding and drinking hot chocolate. I've been doing more laundry than ever since giving up cloth diapers a few years ago.

The batik motifs are based on 8 points and most of the rulers I'm using are based on 6 points, so it doesn't line up well, but I think it's still pretty! You can see the anchor post in the middle of this design.
For the ruler work motifs on this quilt, I'm using Yenmet Metallic thread. It's a blend of turquoise blue thread and silver metallic. It's working beautifully! I'm using a 90/14 universal needle in the machine and Glide thread in the bobbin. I did take the tension off of auto so I could use a very low tension on the top.

I'll work on getting a few in process shots soon, maybe even a video if I can get the kids to be quiet long enough.

What have you been quilting on? Are you doing any ruler work? Anybody else longing for spring like I am?

Monday, February 23, 2015

DIY Cone Thread Holder

If you do a lot of quilting your own projects, you can really start burning through a lot of thread. And because you can never have enough thread, it doesn't take long to realize that buying the larger cones is more economical.

But you've got to have the right holder for cones of thread. They feed thread off the top of the spool. A vertical spool pin won't work, and the newer horizontal spool pins/holder aren't really made for cones and won't fit the really large cones.

Horizontal spool pin on the left, vertical spool pin on the right.

The Janome Skyline S5 has a nifty spool cap for the horizontal spool pin for use with 1000M cones, which is just absolutely brilliant! They work on other Janomes with horizontal spool pins, which is all but the lowest end machines, though I don't know if these little things are available individually yet.

My previous machine, the Janome 6600 already had cone thread holders built into the machine and so I have a ton of cone threads. My new 8200 doesn't have cone thread holders! There is a 2 cone thread holder accessory for this machine that screws into the back of the machine. I have one ordered, but in the meantime, I'm making do.





You can buy a separate cone thread holder and they are handy--IF the base is nice and heavy. There are some really cheap plastic bottomed ones that just don't work well.

I rigged up a temporary solution, and while it's noting new in concept, I thought I'd share it with you in case you find yourself needing one.

  • I used a wide-mouthed pint Mason jar, but you can also use a coffee cup. Then came the ugly part- a wire coat hangar and since I couldn't find any wire snips in the house, I couldn't make it pretty. 
  • First I straightened out the hanger (sort of).
  • Then I determined the height I needed to bring the thread above my machine. It needed to be high enough that the thread wouldn't get tangled up in the foot storage area on top of my machine or cut by the bobbin thread cutter (a handy feature when winding bobbins!) 
  • I bent a curlicue into the end for the thread, not a closed loop as I just want to hook the thread into it, not actually thread it through.


  • Then I wound up the excess around the jar to create a base for the wire. It doesn't stay tightly around the jar, but is somewhat self-supporting.


  • Finally, I used my handy-dandy painter's tape to secure the upright portion to the jar.
It sure isn't pretty, but it works perfectly!

Now I can use my large cones of thread with no problems. Off to quilt!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday Ramblings

This week has been one of my least productive in a while. It snowed here in Virginia on Monday. We got all of 6 inches here, and since Virginia is considered part of "The South" everybody lost their minds. They closed school for the entire county for the entire week! The roads have been good since Wednesday morning, but they must find it more cost effective to not be prepared for our sporadic winter weather.

I did manage to finish a small customer project and move on to a new project. I thought I was all set to start quilting today, but I just can't decide on threads. It's another one of my word art wall pieces, but this will be much, much bigger.

My thread audition.

It involves rulers too and you can see it at Lancaster in a few weeks, so I've got to get cracking on it!

A few thoughts to share:

You can never have enough thread. Really. Never.

If you want to ask me a question in the comments, make sure you check the comments for my reply or sign up for notifications of a reply if you are a no-reply blogger. You can also email me directly with a question.

I got my new camera mount in the mail today! I am so excited to be able to use my new camera for videos to share with you and this thing is going to really help.

I hope to share this project with you soon.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Stitch Sampler

My new Janome 8200 and I are getting to be good friends. It's been great to free motion quilt on, smooth and quiet. The newly enlarged spot for it in my home made sewing table is working so very well. I've got to give thanks to the hubby for that!

Decorative stitches on the Janome 8200

But the first sewing I did on this machine is what I suggest to every new sewing machine owner. A stitch sampler. Nothing fancy, but I go all the way through every stitch pattern, even some of the different setting for straight stitches. As you can see from the letters below, I just stitched back and forth across my fabric, switching stitches as I stitched enough of each one for a good sample and turning when I got close to the edge.


Since I want to try out all the decorative stitches and this machine can stitch up to 9mm wide, I used a layer of embroidery stabilizer behind the fabric to keep the stitches from puckering or drawing up. I used a medium weight tear away for this.


Once you stitch them all out, you'll see that the image given on the stitch chart can look very different from what is actually stitched out.


This helps you learn your new machine too. I do the first sampler with default settings and eventually will go back through and do more stitches at my preferred settings and also experiment with combining or elongating stitches. I make sure to label the stitches, both for the default settings and especially for my preferred settings.


This is exceptionally handy when it comes to the blanket stitches! Most of the mid-grade computerized machines and up have several blanket stitches to choose from and they can look very different from each other and from what's printed on the machine. It was also a great test of the automatic thread tension on this machine.

I hear many people say they never use their fancy decorative stitches, and while I don't use all of mine a whole lot, when you can actually see what they look like, you're more likely to use them.

Are you snowed in? We are on the third snow day for this week. The kids are enjoying sledding and playing in the snow and I'm doing a ton of picking up of wet things and cooking up hot chocolate.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Sunday Ramble

Just a little hodge-podge of news this Sunday.

I've been free motion quilting on my Janome 8200 this weekend. It's quilting fabulously and quietly. I've left the thread tension on automatic for most of my quilting, but then I switched to using Sulky cotton Blendable in 30 weight paired with a regular sewing thread. That seemed to be a smidge off on the auto tension, so I switched to manual tension.

free motion quilting with text

 I'm not using old photos, a quilting customer of mine saw my word of the year, "Finish" and emailed to see if I'd sell it or recreate it. So I made another one. I'm using my ruler foot from Janome while I free motion, not because this piece has any ruler work, but because I had been playing with some new rulers from Top Anchor Quilting Tools earlier.


I wanted to shoot a video of the quilting in process, but it turns out that my new camera is just too heavy for my flexible camera mount. I found a different one and hope to be back in video making mode within a week or two.


I am really liking my Janome 8200 and will do a full review soon. It lacks one feature that my 6600 had: a resume feature. The resume function allows the machine to power on at the same stitch settings as it had when it was turned off. You might not know the 6600 had this feature unless you read your manual carefully.

Wouldn't you know it? Less than 2 weeks after buying my 8200 Janome has come out with an 'improved' version which has this feature! Darn it. My dealer would allow me to return this one and get the new version except that the new version won't be available until at least May. I don't want to be without the 8200 until then. The new version is also supposed to have a faster motor (though I think the current one is fine.) and a few more stitches. The new version also has a pretty light blue face plate. I'm really content with what I have, other than that resume feature.

If you are thinking about the 8200 or 8900, you might be able to get a better deal now on the original versions, or you might want to wait to get the new versions.

I did some serging this weekend too. One of the drawbacks to sergers is making sure you have enough cones of thread in the right colors, especially if using all 4 threads. Do you guys know this handy trick?


You glue a bobbin to an empty spool and then you can divide one spool into two or more smaller spools depending on the size of the project. It worked like a charm.

Monday is the last day to take advantage on great deals with Craftsy! All classes are 50% off.

I hope you are having a lovely weekend and are staying warm if you are in the northern hemisphere. We got a dusting of snow last night which was mostly gone by morning but it was very cold for February in Virginia this morning. It was 12 degrees F when I woke up. My parents came back from their RV trip to Florida after 6 weeks to get the coldest weather we've had all winter.




Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Free Motion Sliding

Whew! I was about to go into free motion quilting withdrawal. Since I packed up my 6600 on Friday, I've been so antsy to get going with my new Janome 8200. Hubby did such a great job with getting it set into my table ( DIY Sewing Table: Updated and Improved) over the weekend.

Then I did what I always do with a new machine. I stitched a sampler of all the stitches, including most of the straight stitches (a bit redundant) and the buttonholes. I used Aurifil thread in two contrasting colors and the automatic thread tension was spot-on.

Today I set it up for free motion quilting! The machine came with its own version of the Convertible Free Motion Foot Set which has a slight difference in the toes, having 2 locations for the needle. The wonderful ruler toe fits on it, of course.

Then it was time to place the Supreme Slider. I bought a brand new one since my previous one had a hang up incident with a basting pin.

How could I possibly get a basting pin hung up in the needle hole?

Well, I cut out around the little cover for my drop-in bobbin. And I neglected to clean the clingy pink side often enough. So the pin was able to slip under the edge. It didn't tear, but it stretched a little and created a ridge. That incident was almost enough to make me regret the easy access I had created for my bobbins.

I also was able to feel the cut edge when quilting. Just a tiny bit, but it was there. I found that sometimes my hand position would land on a basting pin (Yes, I should pull them out before getting them that close to my quilting area. Real world quilting here, folks.) and then I could really feel that tiny thin edge.

I wasn't sure if I was going to cut the same area out of this new Slider or not, given those two issues. But I put the slider on....and a new slider is so nice and clingy....did some quilting and I soon needed to replace a bobbin. Lifting up the corner and reaching under the Supreme Slider for the bobbin cover just that once and I was soon reaching for my Exact-O knife!

A word here about the Supreme Slider: I absolutely love this product when I am free motion quilting! It keeps everything so slick and smooth and it covers over any bumps and grooves between my machine bed so very well. It stays in place with its clingy back. Anytime it doesn't feel like it's staying in place, a run of warm water over the back takes all the lint and dust right off and restores the cling.

Some sewing machine companies carry custom-cut Supreme Sliders for various machines, and Janome has one cut for the 8200 and 8900, but the queen size Slider is bigger and covers more area where I need it for my table. So I DIY'd. (Would that be DIM'd? Do It Myself. Sounds like my kids when they were toddlers!)

First, I took the cover off of the bobbin area. Then I set the Supreme Slider into the desired spot. I actually placed my slider backwards on my machine, if by having the majority of it under the machine is backwards, anyway. My table is nice and smooth, but the bed of the machine has some really handy guidelines etched into the plastic. They are probably really handy if you are putting 6 inch hems on drapes, but not so great for the smooth sliding of a quilt.

Once in position, I carefully made some initial cuts with the Exact-O knife to function as markings of where I needed to cut. I wasn't about to try to mark the slick surface with a pen or marker.


Then I moved the Slider to my cutting mat. You should use the backside of your cutting mat when using the knife to cut. It's a little harder on the mat than a rotary blade and may leave rough cuts in the mat.

I used the bobbin cover plate and a small rotary cutting ruler to guide my knife as I cut outside the initial cuts. The cover was helpful for making curved corners.

Back to the machine to check the fit. Then back to the mat again to lengthen one side to expose the latch for the cover. Whoops!


Finally, the Slider was in place, my bobbin was full and off I went to just do some quilty doodling and other quilting designs on a practice piece.

I am really looking forward to working on some great projects and actually finishing them. I hope my new machine becomes as comfortable and 'known' (All machines have their little quirks.) as my previous machine before I uproot it from its new home and take it on a road trip.

Next month the 8200 and I will be setting up on the vendor floor of the AQS Lancaster show. Three days of nothing but free motion quilting to demo Top Anchor's rotating templates and talk with quilters. Squee! Four nights without kids, dishes, or laundry. Come see me!

Monday, February 9, 2015

DIY Sewing Table: Updated & Improved

My handy husband worked this weekend to get my sewing table adapted for my new, bigger machine. It's turned out well, and I've been dying to tell you about the new method we used.

Make your own sewing table update

Back in October of 2014, he created a sewing table for my 6600 out of an old dining room table someone was getting rid of. If you haven't read it before, check it out now, I'll wait. How to Make a Sewing Machine Table: Great for Machine Quilting. There's some great tips and variations given in the comments too.

That post is my second all-time most popular post! Second only to my "How to Free Motion Quilt: The Basic Motion and Tension" post. I think it may also be my most popular pin on Pinterest. So I want to make sure to share this update.

When my hubby created my sewing table, he had a huge advantage in that the Janome 6600 was a flat-bed machine. That is, there's no free arm and it can be set into a table by cutting out a rectangle with rounded corners and building the support underneath. Nothing has changed regarding the support; make sure the machine is secure and the table is solidly built.

DIY sewing table -mark the insert location
Marking the table for the insert.

But the new machine has a much more elaborate foot print with its free arm. We could have set it in the table without exposing the free arm and the hole would be more rectangular, but the sides of the removable machine base curved so it wouldn't be level.

Here, the router bit has been lowered to cut the initial opening. Then it was raised to 1/4 inch to inset the insert.

Since working at Sew Simple, I realized I could use the same acrylic inserts in my table as the fancy sewing machine cabinets they sell. Even better, once the outer dimension of the insert was cut, I could replace the insert with an insert for another machine, should I get a different machine in the future.
Using a board to guide the router for a smooth, straight line.

You can get these inserts through various cabinet dealers and they will be cut to fit your machine. We happened to have an extra insert for the 8200 at the shop, but the brand we carry is Horn of America. Very nice cabinets, should you want to buy your sewing table! An insert should run, depending on size, somewhere between $65 to $90 dollars. I'd say it's worth it to avoid cutting out a complicated machine hole.

Almost there! Just gotta even out the right side and do some serious dusting.

The insert is 1/4 inch thick. So working with a router is necessary to get the surface down 1/4 inch. There are probably other ways to do this, depending on skill level and tool availability. A hole just the size of the outer dimension of the insert could be made and additional supports added underneath to hold the insert up.

A nearly perfect fit! Nothing that a Supreme Slider can't take care of.

My husband chose to cut a smaller hole and router out the remaining material as he didn't want to weaken the "engineered wood product" surface of the table we used. It worked like a charm!

All set to sew!

The last thing was to drill a new hole for the knee lift. He says this was the hardest part! Once the machine is in place, it is hard to line the hole location with the right place on the machine. Now my table is all set up and I am ready to free motion quilt my heart out!

He was not thrilled to find I had taken this picture, but I thought he deserved to be in this post. Check out that dimple, ladies! He looks pretty robust for a guy who had about all the chemo a body can stand, praise God!
If you're a Pinterest user, would you please pin the top photo? There were so many pins and repins of my original article and I want folks to know there is an updated and improved version.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Anticipation!

I am absolutely dying to start sewing on my new Janome 8200! But my handy hubby is working on my table so it can be sunk level with the table's surface.

I didn't get an extension table with this machine, knowing that most of the time it will be in my table so I don't want to try any FMQ on it until I've got the smooth, stable, large flat space that I recommend for great free motion quilting.

I figure this is a good time to share the progress I've made on my silk whole cloth quilt.

silk whole cloth machine quilting

Above is the back. It looks so much better without seeing all the blue markings!

free motion quilting whole cloth

Then the front. Still so much to do. There's a lot of poof to manage as I quilt this. It's fairly common for a show quilt to have a double batting for a faux trapunto look, but I may have over done it.

McTavishing detail

I really love these McTavish-y swirls right here, above.


My whimsical fan-tailed dove (above). I wanted to balance the right side's leaf and curl without duplicating it on the left side.


My husband has finished my table as I wrote this post, so now I can put my new machine (Janome 8200) through its paces. I will definitely do some practice pieces or other projects before I put this silk underneath it.

I'm going to share an update to my DIY sewing table soon as we found a great way to fit around all the nooks and crannies of a sewing machine without having to be a whiz with a jig saw.

There's no doubt that I'm excited about my machine and projects. I hope that you have sewing projects that you're working on that excite you as well.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Hello and Goodbye

I have two wonderful machines on my sewing table right now.

I am a lucky (and hard working) gal to have a new Janome 8200. I haven't even plugged in in yet.

I am also a lucky gal for all the wonderful projects I have made on my Janome 6600. It's a great machine and has helped me through some tough times by stitching my heart out.

Had to take my verse off. Thankfully, it came off cleanly.
Why can't we upgrade machines like computers? Granted, some computers you just want to pick up and toss out the window. But others just need a new sound card, or more memory, or a flat screen monitor added. Just something little to be changed isn't a problem for computers. I kept waiting for Janome to come out with the perfect machine for me.

My 6600? It has only one problem for me. Those blasted prongs from the first generation built-in dual feed system. Janome only used this system on 2 models and then made changes that did away with the prongs. My husband offered to "remove" them for me but I love the Accufeed system when I use it for bindings, piecing (sometimes), and garment sewing.

Little did I know when I bought the machine that I would embark on this free motion quilting adventure, and especially that long arm rulers and templates would be such a big thing for me. Those prongs would tap on my rulers. I could avoid them for the most part, but still they bugged me.

So my eyes began to wander. Pretty easy to do when you work in a sewing machine shop. Those eleven inch machines beckoned with their extra 2 inches of space. The Artistic-18 quilter tried to catch my eye, but I knew it wasn't the time for me to have a dedicated sit-down quilting machine.

For a time, I even considered down-grading to the 6500 or the 6300, which were essentially the same as the 6600, but no Accufeed system. I'd have to use a regular walking foot. It shouldn't have been a big deal, but I liked the built in walking foot. All three machines also lack a free arm. Not that I do much garment sewing, but I sometimes make dresses for my daughter. I have used my smaller Janome 3160 when a free arm is needed.

Then the Janome Skyline S5 came out. Nice machine, great features, good price. (My Skyline review here) Tempting. But no even feed system and 3/4 of an inch shorter throat space. While I have always said you can do great FMQ on even a regular machine with just 6 inches of throat space, I didn't want to go smaller.

So back to eyeing the 11 inch machines. Not the 7700, which has the same prongs. Really all the 11 inch machines except the 8200 were out of my budget. Don't read that as these machines are over-priced, they just don't fit my tight budget.

Would blog readers new to FMQ be discouraged if I went to an 11-inch machine, thinking that they had to have a bigger machine to do good free motion work? I couldn't decide. I have sat on this decision for over 18 months! I am not a patient person either.

But I got a great deal on my machine and was able to use my earnings from the shop to pay for the new machine. So Tuesday, I brought home the Janome 8200.


I kept it in the box for nearly 2 days. Did I really want to replace my 6600? It's out of the box now. We will have to adapt my home-made sewing table so it will fit. I am excited about the new method we will use to fit it in my table. My post on making a sewing table out of a regular table is one of my most popular posts, and this will be even better information for those who want to do this.


Really, it sounds like I don't like the machine, doesn't it? But I do. I've used this same model at the shop for several projects and it's great. In many respects, it's a lot like my 6600. It has just what I need and nothing extra. (Extra increases the price.) If I could have afforded it, I might have gone with the Janome 8900 as it's very similar, but has additional stitches (fun!), a few other little handy features, and comes with an extension table.

And there are features that I didn't have with the 6600. The ones that mean the most to me are: The needle plate can be switched to a single hole plate without having to use a screwdriver, plus the machine won't zigzag with the single hole plate on. A free arm so I can hem the pants of my short kiddos easier....woo. (OK so I'm not excited about hemming, just that it will be easier, which will of course mean I should hem the pants before they outgrow them!) The lighting is better. Finally, of course, the Accu-flex foot has no prongs to get in my way. Eleven inches of space will be wonderful for my quilting.

I really am looking forward to doing more ruler work on this machine, both with the Janome Ruler Foot and the Westalee Ruler Foot. I also want to do some free motion work on my smaller Janome 3160 to show on the blog that these smaller machines are capable of great FMQ. The folks at Westalee also sent me a ruler foot to fit this low shank machine.

I will be taking my 6600 to Sew Simple tomorrow for a cleaning and oiling before offering it for sale. I threw away the box it came in, so I'm not sure I will try to sell it online, where I would have to ship it, but if you are interested, drop me an email, or come by the shop if you are local. I'm offering it at $850 which is about half the price of a new 6600.

This is a good time for me to mention that you should save the box and packing that your sewing machine came in. Especially if you don't have a local dealer or you've bought a machine from a big box store. It makes shipping the machine so much easier!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Review of the Westalee Ruler Foot for Domestic Sewing Machines

Today, let's learn more about Westalee Designs' Ruler Foot! I am so excited to share it with you. I think this is going to be a great option for those who want to do free motion ruler work for the smoothest lines and curves and still need a proper ruler foot. (Disclosure: Westalee sent me the feet upon my request along with few rulers so I could play with them. They did not pay for this review and my opinions are my own. 12-8-15 Edited to add: Additional disclosure- I now sell the Westalee products at my online shop, Amy's Quilting Adventures)

I was so excited to get my package and since I didn't have any quilters at home to squeal over it, I did the next best thing and shot an un-boxing video!


Then I got the foot onto my machine and it was a breeze to install. The visibility is absolutely excellent around the foot area. Better than my beloved Janome foot. Do I like it better than the Janome foot? Will I betray my little quilting bud? Read on.....


As I said in my unboxing video, this foot is a nice cast metal. Nothing that's going to bend and break, no bar to go over the needle screw to go tap-tap and to need bending to adjust. There's a slotted area for the attachment so that you can raise and lower the foot by sliding it up or down the presser foot bar and then retightening the screw. There's even a little plastic plate that comes with the foot to support the foot in the 'hover' position.


The slot did not give me as much adjustment as I expected for the height on my Janome 6600. I couldn't raise it up as far as possible as there's a raised spot on my presser foot bar that stops it. My Janome ruler foot can go higher and lower. It might not be an issue unless you use very lofty or double battings. Do not think that the length of slot means you should be able to adjust it that entire length. It's so it fits a wider range of machines.

So far they have 3 versions: high shank, low shank, and a high shank to fit the Mega Quilter/Janome 1600 type specialty quilting machines. See here for a list of those machines. With the use of a Bernina shank adapter, you can use the westalee foot! I think it's the low shank version for most Berninas, but the Westalee site says Berninas may need high or low shank depending on the model. Order through my site and I'll help you get the right foot.

The other thing I noticed is that it's not as smooth as I expected. The casting left some ridges. When I discussed this with Bill West, he assured me that it didn't affect performance and while they could have had the foot smoothed and polished, it would have raised the price considerably.


I have to say, I had the perfect project to test out those grooves to see if it slid easily along rulers (It does!) and if the ridges might snag delicate fabrics (It didn't!) I used it on my latest quilt project which is a whole cloth quilt using Robert Kauffman's Radiance, a silk and cotton blend. This fabric has had me using tons of hand lotion to keep me from snagging the fabric with my hands. I quilted using the Westalee foot with no snags at all.


Westalee has also recreated many of their rulers and templates for domestic machine quilters. They wanted quilters to be able to use rulers around all sides of the ruler foot and because of clearance issues (especially for low-shank machines), they've made thinner rulers. This also helps those who have machines with a built-in walking foot system like on some Janomes and Pfaffs.


You can certainly use regular long arm rulers and templates with this foot, but you may not be able to use it well behind the foot. (Especially on low shank machines as there is little room under the presser foot bar of these machines.) That may not matter to you, if like me, you've gotten used to not using that area, especially if you've got the prongs hanging off the back of your machine for a dual feed system. (Granted, buying thinner rulers is a cheaper way to go than replacing a perfectly good machine that has those prongs....But I did it anyway! Look for a post on my new machine soon!)

Because this isn't a hopping foot, it is safer to use these thinner rulers, but make sure the foot isn't too high above the quilt when using the thinnest rulers. I can't say I'm totally comfortable with the idea of using the 1/8 inch rulers. I did enjoy the ruler that comes included with these feet, a curve on one side and a straight edge on the other. Handy!

You've figured out by now that I think this is a great ruler foot option. But will I leave my first love of the Janome ruler foot combo? That's something I haven't decided yet. I think they both have their strengths. The Janome foot is bulkier which reduces visibilty. But I like the rounded underside of the Janome ruler toe compared to the flat underside of the Westalee foot. The roundedness may help prevent pushing of fabric in a quilt with plenty of poof or fullness. The Janome foot is much easier to adjust the height. Since I have both now, I can say there are times that I'd prefer one over the other.


I'll be posting more about this foot as I work with it on my smaller Janome 3160 (a low-shank machine) and also on my new machine, which is a high shank Janome 8200.

Once again, my thanks to Bill and Leonie West of Westalee Designs for making this review possible and being in tune to the needs of domestic machine quilters who want to use rulers and templates.

Edited to add: Since I first reviewed this product, I have begun carrying my favorite ruler feet, rulers, templates and other supplies for ruler work and free motion quilting at Amy's Quilting Adventures, where I sell the Westalee ruler foot.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Westalee: A Ruler Foot for Most Sewing Machines

I have been sitting on this post for a while, waiting to try the new ruler foot from Westalee Design. It finally arrived this past weekend and I'm trying it out. While I play, you can read this Q & A session I did with Leonie West from Westalee Design. I'll post a proper review of the foot in a few days, but I will say that I'm liking it!




Please tell us about your company and how long you have been in business?
In 2008 we formed Westalee Design, a family owned business, located in Victoria Australia following my invention of the Adjustable Ruler and templates. I won the New Inventors Grand Final Viewers Choice award in 2008
I have been quilting for over 37 years and had one of my Quilts, “Every Quilter Dreams” at the Houston Quilt Festival in 2006, judged as finalist. That was so memorable.
We design and manufacture over 300 innovative rulers and templates for patchwork and quilting, including an extensive range of Long Arm Templates
We made the first incrementally adjustable rulers with locking fabric guide in 2007, the first Crosshatch Guide for Long-arm machines in 2008 and the first pin located rotating templates in 2010 and many other tools for patchwork and quilting..
Our Company mission is to Innovate - Create -Design - Educate – Inspire - to make it easier for quilter’s of all levels to achieve beautifully pieced and Quilted quilts.

What made you decide to make a ruler foot for domestic sewing machines?
I can’t really say that it was a necessity, as I am a long-arm quilter, designing and using rulers all the time.
The real reason was the looks of disappointment we have seen for the last 6 years, when we tell quilters with domestic machines, “Sorry, no you can’t use these rulers and templates”. Bill and I decided to do something about it. We tried a number of the feet available for domestic machines for using rulers and were never happy with how they functioned.
About 18 months ago we decide to get serious about making a ruler foot for most machines, a foot that was ½” round. My preference is to float the Foot rather than hop, as it is unnecessary and all the mechanisms to make a foot hop just get in the way of your templates and your hands and your vision.  With prototypes and testing done we are now happy that we can say, “Yes, go for it, you can use our rulers and templates on your domestic machine.
The important difference between our Ruler Foot and others is that it was designed by a quilter who uses both domestic and long-arm machines. The long-arm machine work told me how I would want a ruler foot to work on a domestic machine. As a template designer I learned a long time ago that it is often easier to work on the inside of an arc than the outside, but mechanisms impede vision and movement. I wanted our Ruler Foot to be as useful as possible.

All you need to know to properly fit a machine with the ruler foot is high shank, low shank or Bernina?
We designed our Ruler Foot to fit most makes and models both High Shank and Low Shank also for the special quilting machines on frames.  With introduction of the Westalee Ruler Foot  for both High and Low Shank Machines we put some important information on our web site on how to identify the shank size of your machine.
(They now have a third version of the foot available for the following machines: Pfaff  1200 Grand Quilter, Husqvarna   Mega Quilter,Brother  PQ1300   PQ1300  PQ1500S, Janome   1600P 1600P-DB 1600-QC, Singer 2OU 31-15, Babylock   BLQP BL500A and JUKI    DDL-227 DDL-555 DDL-8700 TL-98E TL-98P
    TL-98QE TL2000Qi TL2010Q)

Which Bernina shank adapter does the Ruler Foot need and must that be purchased separately?
The Bernina Shank Adapter is a Bernina accessory which enables Bernina machines to use feet other than Bernina. The adapter replaces the standard Bernina foot making the machine low shank, so you would use our Low Shank Ruler Foot.
You can purchase a shank adapter from your local Bernina dealer all you need to know is the model of your machine.  The most common being the #77 and #75.



Will your foot work on Babylock machines?
We have arranged for some testing on Babylock in the USA and will notify you immediately. We do not have Babylock sewing machines in Australia. All indications are that the majority are Low Shank machines and would take our Low Shank ruler Foot

I love the simplicity of the foot. How does the adjustment for the foot height work?
To fit the Ruler Foot, lower the presser foot, then remove the screw that holds the shank and replace with the Westalee Ruler Foot.
To adjust the Ruler Foot height, place the quilt sandwich underfoot, simply lower the presser bar (shank), loosen the shank screw and raise or lower the foot, independent of the shank, depending on the quilt thickness, tighten the screw.  The required height of our foot can only be determined by stitching a sample; I always have a test sandwich at hand. Every machine is different as is every quilter. I prefer to free motion with my feed dogs up and my stitch length set at 0 – this is personal preference.

You are selling thinner rulers for use with domestic sewing machines. First can you explain why long arm users need such a thick ruler with their machines and why a thinner ruler can be used with your foot?
Long-arm quilter’s use a 6mm (1/4”) thick ruler with their machines to ensure the hopping foot does not step over or under the template during operation. This height enables the machine to sew across a variable surface that may include appliqué’ features.

As we began to design the Ruler Foot it quickly became obvious that lowest point of the presser foot bar (Shank) was too low for 6mm templates and on machines with duel feed (Pfaff, Janome) the duel feed behind the foot was too low for 6mm templates.
Our intention designing the Ruler Foot was that it would be available to as many quilters as possible regardless of the machine that they were using. We wanted anyone wanting to do ruler work to be able to do so. Our Ruler Foot clearance is high enough to clear the template, it is the Machines shank the dictates the thickness of the template. We have tested extensively with thinner templates without any issues. There are several videos showing the Ruler Foot in action.

Can 6mm rulers still be used with your foot?
You could of course use the thicker template, but not from all directions and I strongly suggest that if are tempted to try, you do not to allow 6mm templates to go under the presser foot bar. You cannot stitch around the inside of an enclosed 6mm template.
It is not worth risking damage by experimenting with template thickness.

Can you please share with my readers why you love using rulers for your own work?
I have been called a precision piecer, because I like accuracy in my piecing  and quilting I also like my quilting to reflect the same level of accuracy.  I can easily achieve the results I want with rulers.

One of the things that quilting teachers tell their students is to relax and take the tension out of your shoulders to get nice free motion quilting, I have had arthritis in my right shoulder since I was 16 years of age and that shoulder is very tight, so free motion can be a bit harder for me, but with rulers I find that I can achieve beautiful quilting.
My feather wreath template enables me to stitch a perfect feathered wreath, this is something that only the most experienced long arm quilter can achieve. I know that without our template I could not stitch out this wreath.
When I design a template I want the template to give me more than just one design if possible.

For too long, rulers and templates have been the domain of long-arm quilters and the quilts that they produce can be exquisite. Much of the ruler work that they do is either for the backbone of a design or for filling in space with lines and crosshatching straight or curved.  We make one of the largest selections of rulers and templates available, we hope that with the Ruler Foot and the templates quilters of all levels using domestic machines will now be able to achieve results that only the truly experienced domestic machine quilter and long arm quilters could.

 I am sure some readers will notice the angle of your sewing machine in your videos. I had initially assumed it was for visibility when filming, but you had another reason. Can you please explain it to my readers?

I have been quilting since 1972 and in Australia at that time there were no patchwork shops and no teachers, so I am primarily self taught.  Sometimes being self taught is a bonus because no one has told you that you can’t.
The first quilt I made was king size  and I quilted it on a domestic machine.  Big quilt-small throat space - no where to move.  In the 80’s I read about rolling the quilt and tried that, I did not like that. I had been using what is now known as the fluff and stuff method and still use that method today. With a big quilt the body of the machine was in the way of my right hand so I simply pushed the right side of my machine back putting the machine on an angle and instantly had more freedom of movement to quilt. The extension table set at this angle is my design.
When talking with beginners at free motion quilting many of them have difficulty in stitching curves, one of the reasons for this is that when we sit at a machine that we face straight on, our brain wants to sew straight lines. Hands on each side of the needle moving straight forward. When you push the machine back at an angle not only do you have more space, you also stop you brain from thinking of moving straight in a forward direction.

You are an Australian based business, what does that mean for customers in the US and other countries as far as shipping and prices?
We have been supplying US quilters for over 6 years now and right now your dollar is worth more than ours. [ Edited to add: Westalee does now have a distributer in the US and I am happy to report that I am now a retailer for the Westalee products! You can purchase their products as well as others from my online store at Amy's Quilting Adventures. ]We will have a supplier in the United States very soon, but right now, the exchange rate is in the US's favor and all feet and templates can be ordered from our site with reasonable shipping.

Thank You

Leonie West
Westalee Design
Australia

Many thanks to Leonie and her husband Bill for answering my questions. Please address any questions regarding the fit of these feet to your specific machine to them. I'll give you a good look at the feet and my work I've done with them Wednesday.