Wednesday, February 25, 2015

My Favorite Rulers and Some News!

Oh this is going to be a jam packed blog post - and I'm going to try and not get TOO long on you - but you all know I rarely have a shortage of things to say on any given subject!  :)

First I have two important things I want to share - probably the biggest thing next to baby happening in my life right that as of yesterday I am the owner of a "new to me" APQS Millennium that will be arriving in about a week!  Woohoo!  So that much desired stitch regulation along with quite a few other bells and whistles are soon to be in my reach!  :)  I will elaborate on the story in another post - but very much wanted to share the exciting news with my quilting pals!

Second, I wanted to share that author, teacher, and award winning quilter Karen Neary shared a very kind post on her blog about the quilting I did on Darlene's New York Beauty quilt!  Karen is the designer of the pattern called New York Roundabout Again - and a while back Darlene had tested the pattern for her.  I am honored to be the one who was able to work on this beauty...and so very flattered at the kind words Karen had to share about my work!  Definitely stop by her blog and check it out!

Sew Karen-ly Created

Ok!  Now with the fun news shared - many of you have been asking me about RULERS!


Long arm rulers (often referred to as templates) are as much like candy for quilters as thread!  For the past two years I have been having a blast using rulers on my Ultimate 1 - without stitch regulation and with the older APQS style spoon foot.  It has taken some practice but I am convinced no matter what machine you are quilting on you will want to take some time to experiment...but it is SO worth the effort!

I am going to share with you my MOST used descending order as to HOW frequently I use them.  There are just TONS of options nowadays for long arm rulers and new ones are popping up all the keep on the look out for new ones!

Ditch Ruler from Quilter's Rule
My absolutely MOST used ruler is - the ditch ruler.  This one is made by Quilter's Rule and is just your average ditch ruler.  This one just happened to be available to me - I believe I purchased it from a vendor at the Sewing and Quilt Expo in Cleveland the year I bought my long arm.

The groove along the edge of the ruler is for your machine foot.  The straight edges of the outer ends is lined up with your "ditch" seam, and then you guide your foot along the edge within the groove.

Now - that's how you're supposed to use the ruler, but I'll be honest, I never do.  Why?  Not because I'm lazy...but because even the best piecer's don't necessarily sew a perfectly straight seam.  So a ruler like this doesn't allow for womples!  LOL  I like this ruler because I don't like to use most rulers from edge to edge...and I feel like the center most portion of the ruler is what I use the most.  Like with all things it takes getting used to - but I probably use this ruler on just about every quilt that comes to me!

Here's a video I took recently of me using the ruler on my APQS Ultimate forewarned that you may have to open this video in another window or view directly through YouTube for it to be viewed properly.


Judy's Applique Gem from The Gadget Girls
My second most frequently used ruler is Judy's Applique Gem from The Gadget Girls.  This ruler literally changed the way I ditch around appliqué.  Now - this could have something to do with not having stitch regulation...most appliqué rulers were very difficult for me to use - this was the only ruler that really  helped me get up and close with unusual shaped appliqué.  I use this on ANY and EVERY quilt that has appliqué elements!


12/13" Arc Ruler from Quilts on the Corner
My next most frequently used ruler is my 12/13" arc ruler from Renae Haddadin's online store, Quilts on the Corner.  She has full sets of arcs that I have just yet to invest in - but this one in particular is sold on it's own and EXTREMELY useful.  The inner arc is 12" while the outer arc is 13".  I use this one for almost all of the curved cross hatch I do no matter the size, and lots of other curved stitching.  While every quilt doesn't require a ruler like this, it is definitely one I could not live without!  The design possibilities are really immense with this ruler!

Here are photos of some recent client work where I used this same arc ruler to create curved cross hatching:

Curved Cross Hatching on Client Cindy DeUnger's Quilt - Created with 12/13" Arc Ruler

Curved Cross Hatching on Client Darlene Gerber's Quilt - Created with 12/13" Arc Ruler


QP Curve Template #10 by Linda Hrcka from The Quilted Pineapple
This ruler is new to me but I am finding more and more uses for it.  I purchased it directly from Linda, but I see she has an online shop now - and if you are not familiar with Linda's work you SHOULD BE!  Visit her blog The Quilted Pineapple and I promise your won't regret it!  

Because this ruler has a half circle/moon shape unlike any of my other rulers I have found it to be extremely useful.  In the short time I have owned it I have already used it on several quilts.  I use this for circular appliqué, swags, and curved cross hatch.

This is a larger ruler than I normally work with.  Generally I prefer smaller rulers because of the awkwardness and difficulty to handle large rulers.  The way I have found I use this ruler is to mark first - then use the shape of the ruler to stitch along the pre-marked shape.  I anticipate this is going to become one of my "never let it go" rulers!

Here is an example of a recent client quilt where I used this ruler to create a swag design:

Swag Quilting Design Using QP #10 Template - Client Joyce Coburn's Quilt

Swag Quilting Design Using QP #10 Template - Client Joyce Coburn's Quilt

Creative Grids 1" Ruler - NOT a Long Arm Ruler

Now this last ruler is NOT a long arm ruler/template.  The difference is the thickness.  Long arm rulers are generally about 1/4" thick to accommodate our machine foot.  You would never want to use a traditional cutting ruler on your long arm except for marking.  That is exactly how I use this ruler.  I thought it was worth sharing because it is absolutely invaluable.  I use this for measuring out small sections to quilt or creating geometric shapes.  I also use this to create registration marks for creating feathered borders (something I do frequently) or just lining up shapes and designs so they are neat and straight.

This one was actually gifted to me from the owner of a local quilt shop in exchange for some work I did.  I'm so glad I have it because I use it ALL the time!


Some Things to Note and A Few Resources:

- Long arm rulers are THICKER than regular cutting rulers.  You never use a cutting ruler on your long arm as it could slide under your foot and cause damage to your machine or YOU.  That does not mean you won't LOVE traditional rulers for marking...and using them in combination with a good long arm template for carrying out your design.

- There are absolutely TONS of people who sell long arm rulers.  Do a quick google search and be sure to check at your local shows - particularly ones that will have long arm dealers with machines to test.  A great place to start is with the brand of whatever machine you are long arm quilting on.  Handi Quilter in particular has many rulers available that can be used on any long arm.  Also many of your favorite quilting artists and teachers have rulers available for purchase (Jamie Wallen, Lisa Calle, Deloah Jones, Linda Hrcka/The Quilted Pineapple, Renae Haddadin - just to name a few).

- Using rulers on a sit down machine is possible!  The way that free motion quilting has taken off with quilters on their sit down and domestic sewing machines - now is ruler work!  There are a number of great online resources to get you started with this technique, but a wonderful place to start is Patsy Thompson's YouTube channel.  She is an author and teacher who also has some wonderful free motion quilting tutorials and classes available.

- If you subscribe to or can get your hands on the latest issue (March/April 2015) of Machine Quilting Unlimited there is a fantastic article by Margaret Solomon Gunn on curved templates with some great examples of how to use them creatively.  Just another resource available to get you going with long arm rulers!

-  This is really just the tip of the ice berg in terms of what is available out there.  I do have many more rulers all of which I use some...but those shared above are my absolute use every day - cannot get by without them rulers!  :)

A Fine Example of My Lack of Organization - Ruler Storage


I think this is a good starter list of the rulers I use the most!  If you have an absolutely "I can't live without it" long arm ruler I'd love for you to share!  I am always looking to add to the collection!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Darlene's New York Beauty - Finished!

It is always SO gratifying to FINISH!  I love that moment when you pull a quilt off the frame after looking at it and being so close to it for days, sometimes weeks.  This one I dilly dallied a bit with just because I had appointments and things to do this week...but I knew it was going to be gorgeous on both sides when it was even more incentive to get to work!

I am still working at finding a place or a way in my home to get great photographs.  I have had some complaints of them being dark or taken at odd angles - truth of the matter is I live in a very small ranch home and space is extremely limited...I cannot even begin to explain the lengths I go to attempting to get good photographs!  I know they are not all ideal, but I'm working on it!  Now that baby is coming soon we plan to do some renovation and hopefully, I'll have my own private studio area and a place to lay out quilts.  I cannot wait!

The back you know is always my favorite.  I feel like it's my stamp on the quilt.  :)  This is the part I feel like I'm good at, and where I get to show off a bit!  Above I did use some filters on Instagram to allow you to better see the texture.  Below are natural light images with no filters.

This design was much easier to draw out on the computer than it was to carry out!  Not that it was too terribly difficult, but I had to really pay attention to measurements and keeping things the same size.

After a lot of time and practice I've decided I'm just sold on using the same color in the bobbin as in the top.  Not that I won't use a thinner thread in the bobbin - but I'd just much rather watch my back tracking and bury threads than try to tension out two contrasting colors.  I think it turned out so nicely too!

My children are getting antsy and I have to make dinner, but I PROMISE a post on rulers up next!  :)

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Progress on Darlene's New York Beauty

Happy Valentine's Day!  I had wanted to get farther than this today but life just got in the way.  Kids were feisty and I started cleaning up my sewing room (still didn't finish) and it seems the day just got away from me.  I am really happy with the progress though, and let's hope I can replicate those feathery rays and pearls on the opposite side as evenly spaced!  I think I will be able to manage it if I go slowly.

For minds that are curious I am using Bobbin Line thread by Fil-Tec in the creamy tan batik fabric, also in the blue, and Glide in the pink.  Bobbin Line is very comparable to Bottom Line by Superior Threads in that they are both somewhat shiny polyester and 60 wt.  I use Glide quite a bit but this is my first go with Bobbin Line.  I'm really liking it so far.  I'm sure I will use it again - my only gripe being I wish they had more colors!

Using my blue 12/13" arc I bought from Quilts on the Corner for curved cross hatching and below, the sort of feathered ray curved design with the pearls...I used Linda Hrcka's swag ruler again.  I'll try and post a photo of all the rulers I used for this when I'm done.

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend and hopefully you're not in the path of the blizzard!  We've got quite a bit of snow here and I'm longing for spring...  :)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Marking Tools

I have been emailed, face-booked, and messaged I don't know how many times over the last few weeks regarding marking tools.  The number one question being, "what do you use to mark dark fabrics?"  It seems finding a good marking pen or pencil is a tall order.  What matters to me personally, is that a marking tool is affordable, easy to find, marks well, and then REMOVES easily.  Here I am going to share with you the top marking tools I use for light AND dark fabrics - why I use them - and some of the pros and cons of each tool.  I hope some of you find this helpful when you are looking for just the right thing to mark your quilts, and maybe you have found a holy grail marking tool that you would like to share with me!

For Light Fabrics:

Water Soluble Blue Ink Marking Pens
These markers yield thicker lines, but can be found in fine point as well.

Where to buy:  I am pretty sure I bought these particular markers at Walmart, but I also buy them from my local Jo Ann Fabrics.  They sell around $2-$3 each.  I would love if I could find these in ten packs, but to date I have had to buy them in singles.  You can find them at most sewing or craft stores, or anywhere that sells sewing notions.  I usually buy the thicker markers, but they can also be found in fine point.

What you should know:  They can stain, turn brown, or be difficult to remove.  Be sure to test on fabrics first, especially if the quilt is not your own.  I do not recommend leaving them for long periods of time - a few days?  I would feel comfortable with that.  A few months?  I would be wary.  Heat can turn the ink brown so that means be careful with irons, SUNLIGHT, hot lamps/lights, or very warm climates.  Humidity can remove the markings as soon as you place them.  They can be difficult to remove completely, they are notorious for coming back.  To remove the ink I have found the best method to be completely soaking the quilt in cold water for 30 minutes.  Otherwise, you can simply redistribute the ink so that your lines are gone, but once the quilt dries you find water stain type "pools" of blue ink in odd areas of your quilt.  Here's an example:

Best removed by total submersion in COLD water for 30 minutes.  Air dry, avoid heat of any kind until you KNOW the ink has been completely removed.
This quilt has been spritzed with cold water probably more than a dozen times.  It keeps redistributing the ink, it comes back lighter, but it comes back.  The only way I will be able to remove this for sure is to totally submerge the quilt in cold water.  I would air dry flat and not toss your quilt in the dryer until you are SURE the ink is gone.

You will also want to note that they do NOT last as long as traditional markers.  They tend to run out of ink very quickly.  If you plan to mark an entire quilt with these pens, you'll want to buy several to complete the job.


Water Soluble Purple Disappearing Ink Pens
I use fine point almost exclusively, but they are also available in thick lines.

Where to buy:  I also find these at Wal-mart or Jo Ann Fabrics locally.  Again, most craft/sewing stores will carry these - even online.  They can be found in a thicker marker like tip but I generally use them in fine point.  There are even some that have disappearing ink on one end, an eraser on the other, or even blue ink on the other end.

What you should know:  They are very easy to remove, in my opinion.  If left alone they will eventually disappear on their own.  Heavy lines may last longer (days rather than hours) than thin fine lines.  Water also removes these, so if you want instant gratification, mark, sew, then spritz with water and wipe away.  This ink is also heat sensitive and can turn brown and become permanent - be careful with irons, sunlight, hot lamps, warm climates - and humidity can remove them as soon as you mark with them.  I have never had a disappearing ink pen return in the way that blue marking pen ink does.


For Medium/Dark Fabrics:

Left to Right:  White Chalk/Lead Mechanical Pencil, Lead/Chalk Refills, (above the refills) White Chalkboard Chalk, Water Soluble White Marking Pencil

From Top to Bottom:  White (school) Chalkboard Chalk, White Water Soluble Marking Pencil, Fons and Porter White Mechanical Pencil

#1.  White Chalk/Lead Mechanical Pencil:  I am able to find the Fons & Porter brand locally so that is what I tend to buy.  I do know that Sewline makes a version of this pencil, as well as Bohin.  I'm sure there are other brands out there if you do a search for them.

Where to buy:  I find mine at my local Jo Ann Fabrics.  They are around $14-$16, but then I use a coupon making them $7-$9.  These are a little harder to find in smaller craft and sewing stores.  We live in a small town with one fabric store and zero quilt shops, so I was very happy to find it here.  Check locally, but you may have to order online.  Another place to look might be an art supply store.

What you should know:  They are made of a white pigment/lead that is water soluble.  Lines are fine, smooth, and extremely easy to mark with.  The lines disappear easier than any other white marking tool I have used to date, though  not as easily as plain white chalkboard chalk.  They can leave behind a white residue/mark.  I remove them with water, a clean rag, or gently rubbing away with clean hands.  I am also very careful to use the lines where I plan to stitch, so if there is any remaining mark on my jet black fabric, it is covered by thread.  These are wonderful for precise exact stitching lines.  You may choose to again soak your quilt for 30 minutes after quilting to fully remove marks from fabric.


#2.  White Chalkboard Chalk:  Your standard run of the mill chalkboard chalk - in white only.  I do not use the colors as they do tend to stain.  They yield thick lines so are not ideal for precise stitching lines - but great for registration marks and general marking on dark fabrics.

Where to buy:  I find these at my local dollar tree in 6 packs for a dollar.  You can find them at just about any big box store like Wal-mart, K-mart, or any office supply/school supply store - or even the dollar store.

What you should know:  They are very easy to remove.  Spritz with water and wipe away with a clean rag.  Only the white is easy to remove - colors can stain.


#3.  Water Soluble White Marking Pencil:  These are the white removable marking pencils you most often see in craft and sewing stores.  White pigment, like the white mechanical pencils, but I find these do not give as dark of a line and can be harder to mark with (catches on fabric more, a pain to have to sharpen and get a fine point after use).

Where to buy:  Wal-mart, Jo Ann Fabrics, most sewing and craft supply stores.  They run about $1-$3 a piece.

What you should know:  These can just be a pain in my opinion.  They tend to catch on fabric and be difficult to mark with, I often have to retrace over lines to get a good mark.  Also, it seems that after the first initial use I struggle to get a fine point again even with sharpening.  They seem waxy and do tend to leave marks behind - submerging fully in water is again the only way I have found to remove them, and even then I need to do a little scrubbing to completely rid of them.  You'll want to use them lightly as heavy marks are hardest to remove - but then - used lightly they can be hard to see.  I use these most for marking seams and areas of a quilt that will not be seen or hidden in the piecing rather than for marking the quilting.

   Below is a photo I took immediately after spritzing with water and gently rubbing with a cloth the same black fabric you see above where I marked with each white tool.  You can see that a little residue is left behind with both the mechanical pencil and the wooden pencil.  I believe this is par for the course with white marking tools, but I will say the mechanical pencil rubs away clean with gentle rubbing with my bare hand.  I suppose you'd have to decide how much work you want to invest in removing the markings - and carefully choose HOW to use the pencils for best results.

Bottom to Top:  White Chalk, White Water Soluble Marking Pencil, White Mechanical Pencil


***There are many many tools out there for marking your fabrics and these are just the ones that I use the most.  I haven't tried them all, but I do frequently try new things as I hear about them.  I would recommend always testing out on fabric ahead of time, and try different brands.  One wonderful tool by a certain brand may not behave the same as a formula for the same style of tool by a different brand.

***Do you have a holy grail marking tool?  If so please do share!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sonnet Pantograph Set

Woohoo!  I am thrilled and honored to have been a part of the January Essential Elementz Club set from Urban Elementz!  Sonnet, a design I worked on with Patricia E. Ritter was released in January to club members (if you aren't aware of this awesome program you should be!  Click Here for more info) - and it is now available to the public!  The designs are beautiful and I am swooning over them!!!  There is a set or design for all of your needs from stencils for corner blocks to a whole cloth design!  Click on the image to be taken directly to the page for purchase form Urban Elementz...


Sonnet Block 1

Sonnet Block 2

Sonnet Block 3
Sonnet Block 4

Sonnet Corner

Sonnet Petite

Sonnet Petite Corner

Sonnet Petite Set

Sonnet Set

Sonnet Set With Corner

Sonnet Petite Set With Corner

Sonnet Triangle Block 1

Sonnet Triangle Block 2

Sonnet Whole Cloth Set

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Designing a Quilting Plan for Impermanence

I have a lot of work planned for this week - namely, sharing with you some new designs I worked on with Patricia Ritter at Urban Elementz - and working on two quilts from my wonderful award winning client Darlene...but that won't start until Tuesday.  :)

   Over what is "my" weekend - Sunday and Monday - I have been working on a design plan for Impermanence.  I agonized about thread for this quilt...I do love piecing and appliqué, but I love the quilting process more.  I decided not to add anymore appliqué to this quilt and instead create visual impact with thread and quilting texture.  I sure hope this turns out well!  


   Of course, I don't want to give it all away, but here is a quarter shot of what I think may be the quilting plan.  Ignore the colors - it is just so I can see what I drew.  I did however purchase several cones of metallic thread in royal blue and black from Superior Threads.  I also discovered YLI carries a fine metallic thread - though I had already ordered thread from Superior I went ahead and ordered 2 very small spools of this fine metallic to try out.  What I am excited about the YLI thread for is that because it is fine, I am hoping it will add subtle sparkle without the buildup that metallics can acquire.  

   I am still not sure what will be quilted in what color thread.  I know I want to use small amounts of blue - but it really just depends on how much it shows against the black fabric.  I want to break up all the open negative space with more than just black texture.  There really aren't a lot of examples of quilting with metallic or blue metallic online either in the colors I plan on using so it's very hard to gauge what it will look like ahead of time.  This will be quite an experiment!  

   I ordered two yards of black Hobbs 80/20  which should be enough to double the batting for this.  I wanted to put wool on top but I think I want to keep with the black so that any needle holes don't show white batting through the top.  

   The other idea I'm toying with is adding royal blue piping along the inside of the binding when this is complete.  We will have to see.  This entire project has been good for me - a lesson in holding back.  I think it can be hard to learn when to add more and when to hold back.  I LOVE to play - but sometimes I can just get carried away.  I hope that this turns out as beautiful in reality as it does in my head.  I'm so excited I can barely stand it! 

   Today is a family day - but I'm hoping to pick up new backing fabric and order crystals for this.  I had purchased 5 yards of an aqua blue fabric when I planned on doing black high contrast quilting...but since the quilting plan is now to be more subtle and elegant I think black is the only appropriate color for the backing.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Do It Right...Or Do It Again. :)

This quilt has literally kept me up at night.  Mostly because it has a lot of sentimental meaning for me.  It also might have a little bit to do with the fact that I've barely left the house in three weeks because of the weather!  I'm obsessing a bit.  Hopefully it was for good reason.

Those green borders just drove me crazy.  When I started this quilt I had a vision in my mind of a blue and green quilt - I thought the green would come from the borders.  When I attached them it just kept going WRONG.  The more I added, the more I became frustrated, the worse my work was.  So I decided to just let them go - and start over.

The dahlia centerpiece I completed almost a year ago - and added the appliqué blue leafy fronds later. I spent quite a bit of time trying to make them as perfect as possible.  I see now that I have this up on the wall there is a wavy fullness in that bottom border from incorrect measurement.  I will rip it off today and correct it before going any further.

If I have learned anything over the years I have been quilting it is to overlook carefully - and do it right the first time, or STOP  and do it again.  :)

I think I've been struck with a name as well.  I am not too shy about the fact that I think naming quilts is terribly cheesy.  I just can't help it.  It's not my thing.  But to identify works of art sometimes I realize a name is necessary, so I am going to embrace the cheese this time around!  I'm naming this quilt - Impermanence - which has a real meaning to me and really expresses where I am in my life and with my artwork.

I feel like a weight has been lifted and now I can get to the fun part - the quilting.  :)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Barbara's Ribbon Winner

Last fall I finished "the monster" - and I shared the progress with all of you here on the blog.  Quilting this quilt just about killed me.  It was the most detailed quilt and most difficult quilting plan I have carried out to date - not to mention it was also the largest at 120" x 120".  I did my very very best at the time - but I'll admit by the end I learned a LOT and there are some things I will never do again that I didn't know when starting this project.  I'm thrilled - OVER THE MOON - to learn that she won 3rd place in Group Quilts at the 2015 Tuscon Quilt Fiesta.  Woohoo!

Because I am "the quilter" working for hire, I often don't get acknowledgement when quilts win.  There are some shows that also present a ribbon to the quilter - but I'm really ok with it when they do not.  However - I do LOVE to have a photo!  Seeing a quilt that I put my blood sweat and tears into quilting win something, well like when a sports team wins a trophy - I feel like I was part of a winning team!  So I live for the photo so I can share and brag a little.  This girl has only been long arm quilting for two years, so to know that I can be a part of ribbon winning quilts - well I am awfully awfully proud of that.

Here are some photos of the finished true Valerie fashion after pulling it off the frame I found a few unquilted spots I missed.  I could start a page just for "oops".  :)  Rest assured if you spot one of those areas - I did quilt it before sending home.  These were my pictures fresh off the frame...

One thing I will say about quilting such a large piece like this - nothing has seemed to take very long or be very difficult afterwards!  LOL