Sunday, March 11, 2018

Free Motion Quilting Videos and More

Happy weekend everyone! Or likely, I hope you had a happy weekend, by the time you read this. A big box of the thread is on it's way to my thread giveaway winner, Dyan.

I've been working on my websites lately. Yes, sites. Ridiculous really. I have three of them, three email accounts (inbox zero will never happen) and all of the typical social media accounts for all of them. It's enough to make me feel like I have a split personality!

As I work to bring these pieces together, one thing I have stuck to is a single YouTube channel. You can find me there under my own name, Amy Johnson, but for some reason, until recently, I didn't have a link here on the blog to that channel.

Now I do.  See the upper left hand corner of the blog. Ta da!

On my YouTube channel, you will mostly find free motion quilting videos with and without rulers. You will also find videos on machine techniques and other quilting techniques as well. No family stuff, no matter how much my middle school boy begs to use my followers to jump start a YouTubing career. OK, there was that unfortunate time when I didn't realize that I needed to change some settings so that every follower didn't get a notification to every train video I put into a playlist for my little boy. (Which would be that same middle schooler I referenced. Where does the time go?!) Anybody remember that?

I am working on getting some new videos posted there soon and my channel introduction is certainly in need of updating, as well as some of the older videos. But if you never have checked it out beyong the videos I post here on the blog, you might want to check it out.

Be kind. You won't find super polished videos there and some of them are apparently more 'real' than people want to see. I even get some trolls from time to time, including the recent, "What a mess!" comment I received on a video of a workspace I had in my house back in the thick of baby raising. The whole point of the video was to share that you can make space for creativity even in the mess of life, that not all of us have polished studios worthy of an IKEA or Where Women Create spread. OK, it was a bit sarcastic and self deprecating, but it was real.

Some videos show rulers I no longer use, but back when no one else was talking about quilting with rulers, that was what I had. Not sure whether to keep those up as tribute to how things have changed over time or what. But I'm just learning and sharing as I go. That's what life is all about anyway.

Love y'all! Thanks for coming along on my quilting adventures.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Thread Winner

Hello from windy Virginia. I'm keeping this short as the internet has been spotty all day due to the crazy amount of wind we've been having, leaving trees down in a lot of places, and power out for a lot of folks. It was bad enough that the kids were even out of school. Several times I heard the bell that signified we had a customer, only to find that the wind had blown the door open. It even blew over our A-frame style chalkboard that is very heavy!

There were 720 responses to my thread give away and the random number generator chose response #427, which was Dyan. I'll be emailing in the morning from the shop.

I may do another one of these giveaways as I have a bit more thread to re-home, next will be smaller spools.

That's it for now. Wherever you are I hope you are safe, at a comfortable temperature (Gotta hedge there for my followers is other geographical climes.) and getting to do something creative.

BTW, have you joined my new Facebook group? Not just the blog's page, but Amy's Sew Simple Adventures, where I'm pulling together creative quilters from both my blog and my brick and mortar shop to share, encourage, teach and more. I've been doing quite a bit of live video there, including live quilting. It's been fun to connect in real time. Make sure to answer the 3 questions when you ask to join.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Thread Giveaway and a Mystery

Happy weekend everybody!

Things have been hopping here at the shop and we now have some part time help to allow me to get more creative quilting and sewing stuff done in the studio and work done at the computer.  At the computer, it's mind-numbingly tedious except for when I can pop into social media land and write a blog post or something and can connect with people online. I did start free motion quilting a shop sample the other day, which made me very happy!

One of the things I had my main employee do lately is to fold fabric and make some order from some of my personal stash in the studio. We decided to pare down a bunch of stuff and since we are a retail shop, for the most part, if I don't sell it, I don't use it. Typically, that means I sell what I use because I find it's what works best.

But sometimes there's another reason why I don't use a perfectly good product. Maybe another nearby shop carries it, maybe there's competition from the maker of the product itself, or maybe I just don't have room for a product similar to what I already have.

All this to say, I have some ginormous cones of the thread that I will likely never use. Some I never actually used at all, but were given by other quilters or ordered on a whim a few years ago.

These are all polyester threads in a variety of sizes, great for quilting your quilts. The colors are a bit of a mishmash too. But they are free for the taking to one lucky reader.

Just fill out the simple form below and I will draw a random winner next Friday, March 2nd. I'll even ship it free.

 Also, we are participating in a special mystery quilt project with some other great shops across the US and Canada. If you're interested in the Brown Bag Mystery Quilt, and don't have a participating shop near you, you can purchase one of our bags and we'll mail you the clues! Check out our Brown Bag Mystery Quilt kits at Amy's Quilting Adventures.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Quilting with Rulers: Orange Peel and Continuous Curves

One of the neat things about being a Craftsy Instructor is it's a great source of questions regarding quilting with rulers on sewing machines or sit-down long arm machines. Good questions, even those that someone might think is a stupid question (and I don't think there's such a thing), let me know when there's an area that needs a deeper look and better explanation than I can do in seven 20 minute somewhat one-sided lessons.

I've had a few questions over the years as to what size ruler to use for orange peel or continuous curve designs in squares of piecing, usually with someone asking for a ruler recommendation for a particular sized block.

It's quite a difficult question to answer with words, or at least explain the 'why' of the answer. But today, I just felt like giving this question a fuller explanation and since it's longer than really can fit in the Q&A portion of the Craftsy platform, I figured I'd tackle it here. (Of course leaving a link in the class platform.) So here goes....

Q: What size ruler do I need for an orange peel design on a field of 4 inch blocks?

A: It depends.....

See? That's why it's hard for me to answer in words! If I were a ruler making company, I'd probably tell you exactly what size, or sizes for each block size, and a handy link to buy said rulers. That's why my second Craftsy class (instructor affiliate link) is all about making the most out of rulers you may already have.

I do have a shop that I sell rulers from, but I'm first and foremost a quilter, and the frugality that's been a huge part of my life as a stay at home mom and now, as a small business owner makes me leery of adding stuff if I don't need it. But IF I think I'll use it, I do love having the right tool for the job! (Anyone needing proof of that can look at my car and then look at my wonderful Janome 15000 and see where my priorities are....ahem.)

I managed to work up the following graphics to illustrate my point. For a series of 4 inch blocks, it might seem like the answer is a circle or arc that reaches across the corners of that block, or whatever sized block.

The problem happens when you realize that the desired circle would have the same diameter at the diagonal of that square. In the case of the 4 inch square, having brought out my long neglected Pythagorean theorem, is that would be a circle measuring 5.66 inches. Which you aren't going to find a ruler in that size, not even an arc (arc rulers have the same sized curve as the circle they are named after).

The more likely measurement is to use an arc or circle (I prefer arcs when you go to larger sizes, BTW.) for twice the size of the block. This gives you the orange peel in a diagonal orientation which is the traditional orientation of the orange peel block.
  So for this 4 inch block, an 8 inch arc is used. Which is an easy sized ruler to source. My favorite on my high shank machines is the QPC #8. Westalee makes an 8 inch arc as well, for those with low shank machines.

But what if you don't necessarily want that diagonal orientation? Maybe you are going for more of a "continuous curves" design? The diagram below* shows some different options. In my second class with Craftsy, I show how you can play around with the rulers you may already have to test sizes and blocks on your quilts to see if they will work for the design you have in mind.
*Partial patterns shown for clarity's sake.
In the red, that is a curve close to what is drawn up in red in the first illustration, but it's not quite. It represents what a 5 inch arc might look like, but it won't quite make a perfect circular shape and you aren't likely to find a 5 inch arc. There's the Westalee Circles on Quilts template which gives a large range of circles with their rotating template, but I personally would find it tedious to do this design if I had to set the pin every time.

In blue you'll see how a larger arc or circular ruler might look going from corner to corner. You lose that rounded shape to that of a more squared off shape, but the effect is still pretty fabulous.

In the green are 4 inch circles. You can see that they dip in too far to work corner to corner, but would work in a diagonal overlap for 2 inch squares or for completing the entire orange peel within the 4 inch shape.

Whew! There's my exhaustive (exhausting?) explanation of what seems like a simple question. I hope this helped.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Never Stop Learning!

Whew! I just got back from a 5 day stay in Charlotte, North Carolina. I am invigorated, inspired, and my brain is pretty much overloaded. I went to a gathering of quilt shop owners for the purpose of learning more about the industry I am in and how to be a better shop owner, both online and in my 'bricks and mortar' shop.

Barn quilt at the rest area between North Carolina and Virginia.

I can't share a bunch, but I can tell you that if you are lucky enough to have your favorite local quilt shop owner attend, you can be assured that they are working hard to give you the best experience possible. There were 70 shops represented and I was the store owning newbie. To say I was a bit overwhelmed is an understatement. Quite a few had been in the business a good long time, including one who had been open for 36 years! Yet, they came to learn even more to help their shops and to help them better serve their customers.

Do you like the Row by Row Experience? I certainly do and I got to meet Janet Lutz from Calico Gals in Syracuse NY who is the creator of this national event.

I met a ton of shop owners, but one of my favorites from afar is the lovely Jan from The Pickle Dish in Ontario, Canada. Her shop is in the most charming, possibly haunted, Victorian building.

We got to see some of the newest products and notions, and received quite a few goodies. I took a huge embroidery trolley to carry my machine and all the fabric I never got around to sewing with (because I was busy listening and learning) as well as all the typical stuff you might take to a quilt retreat.
Yes, that is a Janome 15000 buried under a ton of stuff!

I did sew a quick baby quilt using Shannon Cuddle from one of their super easy kits. I loved how well my machine powered right through putting the shaggy binding on it.

Love that Janome Acufeed Flex foot!

My two big take-aways? First, make sure to provide plenty of inspiration along with excellent customer service and fun. Second, all work and no play makes for a burnt out shop owner.

Something else I am trying to do is pull together the two halves of my business, one online, the other our shop in Lynchburg. Our family business is what's known as a "bricks & clicks" operation. Sometimes it leaves me feeling pulled in several directions but I love all the various pieces. Each side of the business has its own Facebook page, blog, and now Instagram account! To create a space that hopefully bridges the gap between both worlds, I set up a Facebook group called Amy's Sew Simple Adventures. My ego wouldn't let me name it (or the shop) Amy's Sew Simple, since it has a totally different meaning if you read the possessive Amy's as a contraction of "Amy is" hee hee!

I'd love to have you join me and several of my quilting friends and customers there. I see it as a place to foster creativity, quilting, and general stitching goodness. You have to ask to join and posts are only visible to members, but it's not meant to be a secret society. Just want to keep the creepers, spammers, and hucksters at bay. It's a safe space where we can all share what creative projects we are working on and ask questions about sewing, quilting, and the like. (It's not a place for others to sell stuff.)

Now, back to the unpacking and going over my notes so I don't forget all the great info I heard this week. Never stop learning!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Free Motion Quilting Tips: Moving the Quilt

I was asked a question in an older post the other day, but had no way to really answer the question so that the person could see it, as it was posted as a comment on someone else's comment. Since no email was given and it was a good question (And seriously, I need to post something! New employee begins soon, so let's hope I can get some time to write.) so I figured I'd answer it on the blog as a post.

Question: I am having a terrible time trying to move the quilt for fmq. I have used a quilt top with thin cotton batting (mistake)and minky on the back. I am using machingers gloves. I have tried with feed dogs both up and down, but it won't budge. I would be so grateful for any suggestions.

Move that quilt!

So first, let's flesh out this scenario a little bit.


She posted on a post I did about using Minky for the back, so let's address this first. I don't have a ton of experience with this fickle material, but some brands work great and others are flimsy and the fuzz almost clings to the sewing machine's bed and table surface. Some almost demand a ball point needle because they are stretchy. Most of the time a universal needle will do the trick.

The minky side of a baby quilt I did.

She is smart to mention that the thin batting might be a mistake. A thin batting can lead to the machine eating the quilt. This can be mitigated by using a single hole (or straight stitch) needle plate, a new needle, and sometimes the above mentioned ball point needle (which might not work well with a woven cotton top, especially batiks).


A thin batting might also lead to a top that wrinkles or bunches as you move it. A thicker batting (I love an 80/20 blend of cotton/poly) tends to be easier to move across the surface of your work space.


Speaking of the surface of your workspace, if you haven't read it before or are new to free motion quilting, you might want to check out one of my popular articles on how to set yourself up for success with free motion quilting.

She didn't mention using a Sew Slip or other Teflon-like material to help smooth out the surface, but I highly recommend one.

I wish I had more clarification on this person's project! But until I do, the part about feed dogs up/down and it won't budge has me wondering. Since she mentioned Machinger's gloves I can assume that she knows that she'll be moving the quilt herself. It leads me to wondering about the foot she is using.

The free motion foot...

So, first one would need a free motion foot. I figure she knows this, but it never hurts to mention it. A free motion foot or darning foot is made to allow free movement of the top under the foot, instead of holding it down against the feed dogs so they will feed the fabric through.

A free motion foot made for a high shank machine would certainly press the quilt against the feed dogs or bed of the machine if used on a low shank machine. So one would want to make sure this isn't the issue.

The most common type of free motion foot is the spring loaded hopping foot. This foot hold the fabric down while the needle is in the fabric. This type of foot takes a certain level of speed before it's hopping fast enough to allow free motion of the top. Go too slow and it's a very jerky motion and you can hear the needle 'ting' as it comes out of the fabric.

With a non-hopping foot, there's an adjustment for height. If it's set too low, it's going to hold the quilt in place.

When using a hopping or non-hopping foot and you feel like you've adjusted it to the best of your ability, and it's the right one, and yet it's too low (or even too high) take a look on your machine for a presser foot pressure adjustment. This isn't a feature on some of your modern, lower end models, but many vintage machines and mid- to high end machines usually have this feature. reducing the pressure can have a tiny effect like raising the foot, while increasing the pressure is much like lowering the foot.

Also, raising or lowering the feed dogs actually has an effect on the space between the machine bed (or feed dogs if up) and the foot. This in effect is like lowering or raising the foot height. Since there is absolutely no relation between the tension systems and the feed dogs (other than feed dog timing in regular sewing (like when the fabric puckers) which looks like a tension issue, but isn't), I suspect that those who like to keep the feed dogs up are actually decreasing the space between machine bed and foot. Having too much space between machine bed and foot can cause stitch formation issues, which can be mistaken for tension issues. This is because the fabric is 'flagging' up the needle and messing with the top thread as it forms a loop for the machine hook to grab and form the stitch.

I do drop my feed dogs when I quilt, but I know plenty of quilters don't. Do what works for you. But if you leave the feed dogs up, make sure that they are covered if you can't set the stitch length all the way to 0. Otherwise, those feed dogs will fight you. Not all machines will let you set the stitch length all the way to 0.

You've got to move it, move it....

Finally, how you place the quilt can impact how well you can move it. Unless you are working on a small table topper or placemats, do not lay your quilt out flat. Do not roll it into a log either. Logs are heavy and flat quilts are too. In either method, you end up moving the whole quilt. That's pretty hard on the hands, especially as you move, drawing designs essentially with your finger tips.

Instead, use the 'puddling' technique, also known as smoosh and stuff, or 'hills and valleys'. You only need the area around the needle, between your hands, flat. The hills and valleys act as hinges for the quilt to move, leaving the bulk of the quilt beyond a valley or two to stay still.

I only move the area right around the needle!

You may have seen these free motion quilting suspension systems that are on the market, as well as the DIY versions that some quilters have rigged up. They can be useful for creating essentially the 'hills' allowing support for the weight of the rest of the quilt.

So that's about all I can come up with on moving the quilt given the information I was given. I hope the person asking finds some answers (feel free to comment again so we can get more clarification) and that the rest of you find some value in it as well.

As always, leave me a comment, like, share and all that other jazz if you've enjoyed this post. Hearing what you think helps me to provide you with better information.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Quilting with Rulers: Ruler Thickness Revisited

I was poking through some of my websites and videos recently and came across one of the videos I did just before ruler work really hit the mainstream of the quilting world.

I think this was shot with prototypes of the Westalee ruler foot and rulers, just as they were bringing them into the American market.

It's a bit rough and loooong....but does a good job at showing why I don't toe the line when it comes to what rulers work with a low shank sewing machine. This was done on a Janome 3160, a smaller Janome machine with a low shank. Thicker rulers are easier to hold while quilting, so I like to use them as much as possible.