Blue Bobbins and Short Feet

 I am passionate about free motion quilting and as such, I am also very focused on a well-running machine, quality thread, good needles, and all that makes for a great quilting project. This extends to my bobbins.

Generic on left, Janome in center and right.

 I am particular about my bobbins. In my post, May Your Bobbins be Smooth, I showed you these pics which show a difference in bobbins. I have found that Janome bobbins don't have any noticible improvement when used with a bobbin washer (Little Magic Bobbin Genies ), but the generics definitely improve with it.

I prefer Janome Bobbins . Look for the J.
Bobbins are like the bras of the sewing machine. (I know, just run with me on this....) Without a good bra, nothing else looks as good as it could. Buy a quality thread and stick it on a generic bobbin with a snag and you'll have all kinds of problems. Wind it all snarly and things will bunch up. Put a metal bobbin in a machine designed for plastic bobbins and it may run ok, but it will dig in and hurt your bobbin case. Not to mention if it is the wrong size!

blue bobbins

You'd be surprised how many machines come into the shop with the wrong bobbin in them and how putting the right bobbin improves things dramatically!

I also have a thing for threads and keeping my threads orderly, so when Janome came out with their Cherry Blossom Bobbins a few years ago, I jumped up and bought 3 sets. You can imagine my joy when Janome Blue Bobbins became available! I got a box this week and they make me happy.

Basic sewing thread stays on my regular bobbins but I use the pink ones for my quilting threads. I have several types of quilting threads, so I can now divide them up further.

I also got this Applique Foot F for stitching applique. It is a much shorter foot than most, to make it easier to turn around applique. Only the front portion rests on the project. I love machine applique, so I'm glad to have another helpful tool in my toolbox!

 Janome F foot

 It snaps on the regular snap on foot "ankle", but that back pin goes over the back of the ankle and the foot sits more solid that other snap on feet.

I had all my quilting derailed by horrible back spasms this week and I'm finally getting back (ha!) to normal. I can't wait to get back to quilting and getting ready for our first McTavishing Linky party, dubbed the McTavish-along!

The links above are Amazon affiliate links, great if you order online, but I urge you to buy from your local sewing machine dealer when possible.

Planning a Quilt Border and More....

I am having free motion quilting withdrawals.

I am having muscle spasms in my back and sitting down to quilt is impossible. I have no earthly idea why my back is doing this to me but it's pretty intense. I will have to go to the doctor if this keeps up.

But I can stand, so I can work at my computer since it's at counter top height and I can also work at my cutting table. (I also have a good supply of little people who can pick up my pencil and such off the floor, etc.) So I did some design drawing for border ideas on my current quilt. I bought a very large tablet of newsprint so I can work on drawing out some of my ruler work designs and also border designs.

planning free motion quilting designs

That little round thingie was given to me when I bought my first longarm rulers from Quilter's Rule. That was almost exactly 2 years ago at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival, which is this week. (Wish I could go...a mere 3.5 hrs away....maybe I can run off on Saturday!) It is one-half inch wide in diameter and it is so you can draw with the rulers just like you would quilt; a quarter of an inch away from the ruler. This helps when planning designs and placement markings.

I've been afraid to peel the protective paper off, thinking it would be very easy to lose. But I did need to be able to see through it. So I put some nail polish on it! My daughter approves.

The ruler is one of Accents in Design's Fine Line Rulers.

Then I commenced to drawing. I played with several designs, most included feathers and crosshatching. The border I am working on is 12 inches wide so there's plenty of room to fill and I want it to look like an ornate frame for the appliqued scene. But it can't be too dense as this quilt still needs to have some cuddleliness (Is that a word? Cuddliness?)

planning free motion quilting designs, crosshatching and feathers

The above design was dismissed, though it's got some neat elements to it.

crosshatching and feathers

Spent a bunch of time on the above design only to decide there was too much crosshatching. And then in a flash, the below idea came to me. I sketched it out as quick as I could, before it fell right out of my brain. Now I will need to give it a full page in my big notebook and figure out the spacing, marking, and feather placement.

Not sure what to put in that inner curved area above the feathered swag. Maybe McTavishing?

Which leads me to Amy's Free Motion Quilting Adventures very first quilt-along, dubbed the McTavish-along. The first post and link up will be this Monday and will continue every Monday of March. Come join us! There will be plenty of information and videos for this great design. We will share our progress with McTavishing, visit the blogs of other participants, and there will be at least one give away!!!!!

Free Motion Quilting: McTavishing

Don't miss this fun series and the giveaway! Follow the blog with your method of choice. There are several easy ways to do so by clicking one of the follow methods on the sidebars. I am so excited to host my first link party and a giveaway with product from a sponsor!

I'm linking this post with Connie's Linky Tuesday at Free Motion by the River. Go join in the party and visit some great blogs!

Free Motion Quilting Video: Easy Designs

Another free motion quilting video for you. This one has some of the designs I teach in my classes for beginners, loops, leaves, hearts, insects with loops, and flowers.

Loops are so versatile! Make them big, small, or inbetween. Ot's a good design for checking tension and making sure your hands aren't going too fast in the curves, which can throw off your tension and also make your stitches bigger.

Free Motion quilting loops

Then we add leaves to the loops! This makes a nice random viney thing that you can do in any size. You can also work it in a less random fashion to make a border or sashing design.

free motion quilting loops and lines

Quilts are an expression of love, so hearts are a natural shape to add to the loops! Just like the many forms of love, there are many ways to make hearts. I guess I would call the hearts below three seperate types, made from the top, from the bottom, and through the middle.

free motion quilting hearts and loops

Then there are flowers and insects looping around in my stitches! As with the hearts, there are many ways to make flowers and bugs when making free motion quilting designs and they work so well with loops to move around a quilt. A great design for kids' quilts.

free motion quilting design flowers, bugs, and loops

All of theses designs have been stitched up pretty small, but you can stitch them in whatever size you desire. I wouldn't make the loops any bigger than what could fit between my hands around the needle though. You don't want to have to reposition your hands mid-loop!

It's been a dreary day here in Virginia, but I'm getting a bunch of stuff done here in the house. Alas, not as much quilting as I'd like. But there's still another hour of quiet time left so I will be stitching away soon!

PS- Craftsy is having a sale on supplies and project kits right now!

FMQ Adventures News

I am so stinking excited about our upcoming quilt-along! I had been waiting for an email from a particular person..... I'll give you a hint:

Free motion quilting McTavishing

Yes, Karen McTavish has given her blessing and we will begin the McTavish-along on the first Monday of March. We will learn more about McTavishing (Link to one of her other books featuring McTavishing, but not her main book on the design as it has gotten spendy/out of print?) and share our individual progress with it with a blog linky party!

In other bloggy news, I've been mentioned by Christa today at Christa Quilts as part of her series of how to make quilting your business. Looks like I'm getting more visits than usual, so I say thanks to Christa and "Welcome!" to those who came from her blog. Don't forget to follow or add me to your reader service, so you can visit easily again.

Keepsake Quilting is running a huge giveaway: Free Fabric for life!  Hmmm....who decides how much fabric one needs for life? :-)

And I've been busy quilting on this commissioned quilt: she wanted a farm-y but not cutesy quilt. I think I've got it. Still a lot to do and it's been late for a long time.....

free motion quilting

I think the chicken's legs are too fat, but we'll just pretend it's a breed characteristic....

free motion quilting

So, dear readers, I think you for visiting. I hope you are having some free motion adventures of your own this week!

Video: Quilt Positioning

Here's a short video of how I fit a bigger quilt under my machine.

No rolling, just "puddling". Look at that sunshine! So nice to enjoy it at my machine. Below is the quilt I'm quilting. You might remember this pic from during the design process.

Here's a bit of the quilting and I want you to look closely at the difference in the stitch quality here on the back:

Free motion quilting tension issue

I broke one of my own rules on quilt positioning here! This is an excellent example of what happens when you quilt straight lines by pulling the quilt directly towards yourself. Because of the difference in flexibility of the needle, it can throw tension off by just a tiny bit. I usually try to angle my stitching so I never pull directly towards myself. This seems to correct the problem better than trying to adjust the tensions just the tiniest bit for stitching in this direction.

Have you run into this issue? I don't think it'd just an issue for my machine, or for Janomes for that matter, but just a tension issue due to needle deflection (flex). A larger needle can reduce the flex of the needle somewhat, but I'm already using a 90/14 here and don't want to move up to a 100/16.

Strange Quilting Tools

Just a few strange quilting tools to share while I'm thinking of them:

June Tailor Shape Cut- Great for cutting strips of fabric, this 12x12 ruler has slots 1/2 inch apart for cutting straight lines without having to keep shifting the ruler. It is also great for when you want to cut a certain measurement away from a cut edge, like along a selvedge. This wide ruler allows you to measure from the edge with the majority of the ruler on the fabric, as opposed to placing a regular rotary cutting ruler off the edge of the fabric, making it a bit unstable as you cut.

Related to my post about being a bit obsessive with straight grain, is my laser level. It helps me get a good straight line for long cuts, for blocking a quilt, and to make sure a design on my design wall is straight and square. My old house is very cozy and unique, but level and square it is not in places, so I've learned not to eye-ball anything in relation to the floor or ceiling! I really want to get a pair of tile laying laser squares for better squaring up of quilts; they project 90 degree angles!

Finally, everyone should be so blessed as to have a great helper and cheering section for their quilting! This is my daughter watching as I put some decorative stitches onto on of her projects we made together. Beautiful, isn't she?

Video: Feather Filler

Here's another fun free motion quilting design: Feather Filler.

Once you've mastered the basic feather plume shape, it's a pretty easy design as it is pretty random and flexible. Below is a still photo from the video sample. A longer feather plume serves as the spine for other plumes to create this design, branching, turning and back tracking as needed.

And here's two shots from a sample in matching thread. Any little jiggles no longer jump out at you like they do when using high-contrast thread.

The movement and texture of this design is just wonderful! Love it! Please give it a try. If you are having trouble with your feather plume shape think of long half-hearts and curved tear drops and draw the shapes a bunch!

Take a look at my other videos on my youtube video channel.

Belatedly linking up with Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday.

Obsessively Square Quilt Back

It started innocently enough. First was the raging curiousity and then the first tug on a thread. Then another and another. First on one side and then another. Next thing I knew, there was a thread-ball the size of a tea cup poodle and I was ripping out a seam too.

Amy's free motion quilting adventures
The first little threads that sparked my curiousity. Nobody can cut so perfectly that you won't have an occasional thread poking out from a cut edge. But I had several, all facing the same direction, good sign of a diagonal-ish cut.

Maybe I was bored, waiting for the snow to fall. Maybe it was a desire to control something completely down to the tiniest detail, when there is a potential life changing event in my future that is pretty much dependent on a third party. But I now have a completely square quilt backing.
And the pulling began.

Having a square quilt back is important, having those grain lines running parallel with the sides or top, depending on whether it's the legthwise or crosswise grain, and with the grain of the top too. But it doesn't have to be obsessively square.

A backing needs to be square to hang the best, say in a show. Long arm quilters need the back to be square to attach it to their frames without rippling. Certainly, squarish backs have less puckering and rippling issues when quilting.

But this quilt? Really, the pieced back was already pretty close to square and it was to be a bed quilt. But curiousity took hold and I wanted to see just how close it was. So I pulled some threads.

There are several ways to square up fabric for use in a quilt, a quilt back, and also garment sewing. I don't feel like any of them are the definitive method and we're talking fabric that can wiggle and stretch. I'm not horribly confident in how I square up fabric, so I resorted to thread pulling. It's the best way I know, though probably the most time consuming method, to make sure the grain is straight.

I ended up taking the seam out and restitching it up the center of the back, though it was maybe off by an eighth of an inch at the most from the lengthwise grain, but the two pieces were maybe stitched out of crosswise grain by a half an inch. Probably not an issue, but once I had it all straightened up, I figured I might as well get it as close as possible.

Arrow points to the seam where it was off by about half an inch and the other corner is off by about a quarter.

I probably ought to channel all that obsessive attention to detail and energy towards house cleaning, but the hubby is home, the snow is falling (3+ inches is my guess), and I'm gonna get this thing basted and get to quilting!

Thread Storage

This is what's left of my thread racks in my former sewing and quilting space, since I took over the front room of our house. I didn't move them into my new quilting space.

Instead, my threads are stowed away in translucent bins and drawers.

Yes, I have a lot of thread! I'm a bit of a thread addict. And as a quilter who likes to make my free motion stitching the star of my quilts, that's not a bad thing.

Admittedly, it's not as visually stimulating to have all my thread tucked away. I do miss seeing all the beautiful colors and types of thread. But I don't miss this:

Dust! Yucky, fibrous grubbiness to cover up all the pretty color and shine. Not to mention choke up my wonderful sewing machine. I tend to choose polyester thread for its lack of lint, so why should I let it get covered in dusty lint?

Ew! So into bins I lovingly chucked my beautiful strands of stitchy fun. One day I'd love to have a very shallow, glass fronted cabinet to store my threads so I can see them but still keep them protected from the dust and UV rays which can also weaken thread.

Serging: Napkins

Don't worry, serging is not likely to become a regular feature on this free motion quilting blog, but I have been doing my best to learn how to use one. The first thing I learned is that these things make a mess! Trimmed threads and fabric bits everywhere, which is a bit irritating.

 I've been watching my Craftsy class on beginning serging and learning a ton. I decided to use the narrow rolled hem to make some napkins. One of the tips given in the class was to use water-soluble stabilizer for a neater edge. It worked like a charm!

And I sold a serger the very next day at the shop and was so relieved to feel comfortable demo'ing the machine. I referred the new serger owner to Craftsy too.

Video: Machine Stitching Applique

I did a lot of applique stitching lately and I managed to get a little, poorly done, but funny video of some of it. Just watch. Hubby says he can't believe I didn't reshoot it, but I had a cold and didn't feel like it. Besides, I'm "just keepin' it real"!

There are days that I do wish that I did more piecing. Like when I'm squaring up a top that is nearly a whole cloth. Especially if it's big. Make me feel a bit like a dog, chasing its own tail. What would I do without a gridded (vinyl tile) kitchen floor?

My cold is nearly gone and I'm feeling much better! I'm linking this post with Connie's Free Motion by the River Linky Tuesday. Go see what everybody is sharing.

Video: Free Motion Quilting Fun

I sat down with some extra practice quilt sandwiches from my class last weekend and stitched up a little fun. I had no plan, other than to stitch around the applique and enjoy stitching after a rather rough week.

I hope you get a chance to do some free motion quilting practice this weekend, or whatever creative activity that makes you happy!

free motion quilting fun

I've got a lovely head cold and so I think I will enjoy my hubby's return from his out of town project by staying in bed a bunch. Thanks so much for reading the blog, watching the videos, sharing this site with friends and following my adventures via Facebook, Pinterest, and Google+.