Welcome to my blog

Please don't remind me that I'm poor; I'm having too much fun pretending I'm simply "living green" like everyone else these days.


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Budget madness

I'm sure nearly everyone has heard at least something about the budget battle going on here in the USA?  Well, at least I thought nearly everyone had..... until the last couple of days.  Can you believe that there are some who haven't heard a word about it?  I mentioned to a couple of my neighbors that I was a little worried that the government checks might not come out on time.  WHAT?!  WHAT?!  What are you talking about was the response from the neighbors.  Apparently they had been so busy watching movies on cable that they hadn't heard anything about the budget battle.  Good thing or bad thing? 

I guess it's all in how you look at it.  What's my opinion?  Well, I've always believed sometimes a child must fall before they know not to tip a chair backwards.  So what I say about the budget crisis is.......

because America needs a wake up call to reality.

Today's generation doesn't really think of consequences; they only think of ME and RIGHT NOW.  I think we all need a reminder of what debt really means to us and our daily living.

As a child that was born in a time when America was still suffering from food shortages and lingering ration stamps, I know how hard it can be to survive on very little.  Although I was too young to remember actually using ration stamps, my Grandma Mama and Grandpa Papa taught me the ways they lived during those hard times.  Just because the ration stamp programs ended, it didn't mean my grandparents would suddenly start spending like nothing else mattered.  They continued to live a frugal life until their death.    

Younger generations haven't a clue how very hard life "could" be.  When I was a child I was taught the value of hard work.  From an early age.... maybe 3 or 4.... I had chores to do everyday.  If the chores were not done I knew there would be consequences.  A stern look from my Grandma Mama was usually the thing that made me take notice of my actions.  As I grew older I never questioned that the chores became more frequent or more adult in nature.  If Grandma Mama said go beat the rugs.... I beat the rugs.  If Grandpa Papa said go milk the cows for him that day.... I went to milk the cows. 

I sat on my front porch a few days ago and happened to hear one of the neighbors tell her 8 year old to go pick up a piece of trash he had thrown on the ground.  His response was..... F*** you B***h, pick it up yourself.  So she did.  I know my Grandma Mama was holding her ears and nearly crying in heaven at such a sight.  I just felt very sad.  Sad that we have lost all control over the younger generations.  This was not the first time I've heard that woman's children curse and be disrespectful.  They are not the only family with children like that in my neighborhood.  Around here it's normal to act that way. 

Hard work was expected of me as a child because I was a part of the "family" and family meant business.  Hmm.... how to describe it?  The household was run like a business with every member being a part owner.  No business can be successful if only some of the workers do their work while the rest do nothing.  All money was put into the family business and each member had to ask for something they needed or wanted.  If I had to compare a tv show to the life I lived as a child it would be the Walton family. 

The tv show about the Walton family living in a rural area was very much like the life we lived.  The Waltons were never seen in a field with a mule and plow but I could imagine they did.  The Waltons were never shown with wash pots boiling in the yard or children gathering eggs from the hen house but the wash got done and the eggs got gathered.

Did you know that the same kind of budget battle talks happened to President Roosevelt?  He wanted to start the WPA work program and congress fought him about it.  He wanted to raise the debt limit and congress fought him on that too.    Yes, a whole lot of what is being seen in congress today is a repeat of things that happened back then.   Maybe President Obama should quote some of the history he claims to have studied?

So maybe it really is time to let the government default and get it over with.  No more childish arguments back and forth.  No more selling of votes in congress.  Let the younger generation learn it's lesson just like the generations before them learned their lessons.  Let people learn that debt really is slavery and begin to say we no longer want to be slaves to foreign countries. 

Ok, I'll get off my soap box now. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fair quilt done

I finished the quilting on this one last night.  What do you think, does everything float across the quilt?

If you would like to see some close up photos of the quilting please visit my other blog

Fair quilt 2011

I finished the quilting on one of my fair entries for this year.  Does it look like things are floating?

Here's a close up of the quilting.

Another close up of some of the quilting.

And one more close up of some of the quilting.

It's supposed to appear as if everything is floating across the quilt.  There are "implied" circles which I really like.  Those are supposed to appear as if they are clear but still solid enough to cast a shadow.   The smaller circles made of fabric have only stitch in the ditch around them so that the batting makes them pop out just a bit and give them dimension.  The rectangles have what is supposed to be shadows to make them appear to be floating too.

What do you think?  Did I make it look like lots of floating things? 

I wish I could take credit for the technique.  A few weeks ago, while going through some quilting stuff to organize, I came across a sketch I had made of a quilt.  I made the sketch while watching an episode of Simply Quilts in 2005.  The guest that day was Colleen Wise and she was demonstrating how to create shadows on fabric. 

I used the shadowing technique on my fair entry that year and won best of show.  This is my fair entry quilt from 2005. 

Here's a close up of the unicorn.  See the shadow?

I remember spending several days at the fair just sitting and watching the people passing by my quilt.  Every one of them would stop in their tracks the moment they saw the unicorn.  Especially the children.  Several kids said the horse's eye was following them.  I got a kick out of that because the eye was nothing more than a piece of fabric.  I did nothing special to it, yet, the 3d effect of the rest of the quilt did make the eye appear to follow a person. 

Ok, I really must get off the computer and get busy on the next quilt.  I'm quilting my SILs fair quilt and then I'll start working on my second fair entry.  I'll square them up and do the binding all at the same time.

Monday, July 25, 2011

High cost for lazy

I've done a few catch up projects during the heat of the day.  Took a couple of reusable grocery bags and.....

made my brother a couple of golf ball gathering bags.   He wanted something that could be hooked to his belt. 

Turned my 15 year old pocket purse into....

a newer pocket purse.  I guess it was "about time" I did something with it.  Ladybug noticed right away that it was new.

Oh yes.... I also finished a couple of customer quilts and started working on my fair entry.

The heat has me feeling like a big old slug.  Moving slowly but steady.  I look around and see lots of things I would like to do but those projects seem just too much for the heat.  I do things that won't cause me too much stress.  Which also means not much to write about in a blog post. 

One of the things I did that didn't require much movement was to take a really good look at my phone bill.  Could I make changes in it that would save me money?  Well right away I noticed the long distance.  I've been paying $8.50 a month for a .05 cents a minute plan.  It went up to .07 cents a minute.  Ok, I ask myself, is this a good plan for me?  I looked through all the bills for the last year.  I used a total of 5 minutes long distance calls over the past year.  This was a shock to me.  This comes out to about $20.40 a minute for each long distance call I made over the year.

When I was quilting full time I had to make many long distance calls to customers about their quilts.   At the time, the plan was a good deal for me.  It's not so anymore.  Time to do something about that.  I emailed my friend Kathi who told me she uses purchased phone cards for her long distance.  That sounded good to me so I told my daughter about what I planned to do.  Hmm.... what my daughter said made even more sense.

Four years ago my daughter had given me one of her old cell phones and set it up as a free part of her own cell phone plan.  I use the cell phone only when I'm out running errands as an emergency phone.  At most I use the cell phone once a month for maybe a minute or two.  The free minutes on it just don't get used.  Well.... DUH.... long distance calls are free on the cell phone.  So my daughter suggested I use the cell phone to call my customers when I need to call them.  Makes perfect sense... so why didn't I think of it?  Oh well, now I have free long distance. 

Next thing to look at was my regular phone plan.  It had things on it that I simply never used.  Call block, three way calling, call return and things like that in the plan.  I've never used any of those features.... not even once.  So why am I paying for them?  All I need is a simple basic phone line to make phone calls. 

I called the phone company and got everything switched over to a plain basic phone service with no long distance plan.  My phone bill is now about one fourth (or less) the cost of what it was before.  That's a lot of savings that can be used for something else.  I'm glad I finally took a good look at the phone bill instead of putting it off longer.  I also thought about all the wasted money I've spent over the past year because I simply didn't take the time to look over the bill.  Bummer!  That's a hugh cost for being lazy putting things off too long. 

Hot hot hot

I've been staying busy indoors to beat the heat.  Even with air conditioning the studio gets pretty hot in the afternoon.  I finished this quilt. 

I put a feather design on the outside and the inside border.  A leaf design on the setting triangles and line dancing on the pieced squares.

I did a cute line danced butterfly on the inside blocks.

Here's another look at the quilting.

Then I finished this small quilt too.  I couldn't do much to it because whatever I did would distract from the design.  I did simple stitch in the ditch around everything. 

A look from the back.

Now....... I have my own quilt on the machine and some of the quilting done.

Except for working on these quilts, and a couple of sewing repair projects, I've not done much the last few days.  My house gets way too hot in the afternoon to work.  I could crank up the air conditioner but that would also create a much higher utility bill. 

Fair time is coming up very fast.  Or at least it seems that way to me.  I want to finish this quilt and my SILs quilt this week if I can.  I'm not sure if I will get the third quilt done or not.  Gonna try finishing it.... only if it doesn't cause me to start to stress. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fair entry quilt

This is what has kept me away from the computer the last few days. 

One of two fair entries I need to have finished in two weeks.  I haven't started the other one yet.  I also have my SIL's quilt to get quilted as her fair entry. 
I'll post more photos when the quilting is finished.  I have a customer quilt on the machine to get done first and then I can work on my own.  I hope to start working on my other quilt entry by the weekend.


Sorry to have been AWOL for so long.  I've been really busy working on a ME project but first here is a customer quilt finished.
A nice Christmas quilt done.  

Simple stitch in the ditch around the characters and the words.

Simple lines on the sashing.

Holly leaves on the inside border.

Lines inside the holly leaf applique.

Stars on the inside border and holly leaves on the outside border.

More holly leaves on the inside border.

Ok, this is what has kept me away from the computer the last few days.  It's my fair entry for this year.  The piecing is finished but I have another customer quilt to get finished before I can quilt this one. 

Along with this quilt I have two more to have finished in two weeks.  One hasn't been started yet.  It's another one of mine.  The other is my SIL's quilt she started a year ago and just finished piecing last week.

I'll share photos when I finish the quilting.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Very intense

You want to see a tiny bit of what I saw last night?

I had my hand holding the camera just outside the door while all this was going on.  I stopped filming when it got much more intense and moved away from there.  We had already lost power so I sat in the dark watching the light show a distance away from the windows.  Normally thunder and lightening don't bother me but last night was a little too much.  Very intense and loud.

This morning the signs of the storm are everywhere.  Trees down and leaves all over the place.  Now that the power is back on I'm getting onto the quilting machine before it gets hot again.  I probably have a couple of hours or so before the temperature starts to rise again.  I was lucky, only one small branch came down.

A neighbor behind me lost a tree.

Leaves scattered across the roof.

Leaves scattered in the yard and street.

Another tree down at the end of the block.

What knocked out the power was a large tree down a couple of blocks away.  Not the one in the photo.  The tree brought the power lines down when it fell.  The tree fell right at the beginning of the storm which is why I sat in the dark through most of the storm.  We usually have a long wait before power is restored.  It wasn't too bad this time.  Just about 12 hours is all.

Last night

You want to see what I saw last night?  This started right about eleven last night.  We had just lost power from a tree coming down across a power line a couple of blocks away.

This was about an hour later.

It was about 2 am when the lightning and thunder moved far enough away that it wouldn't disturb my sleep.  The storm was very slow moving and very intense.  I took the videos by holding the camera just outside the door while I stayed inside.  Now that we have power again I'm going to get some work done on some fair entry quilts.  12 hours without power wasn't too bad for my area.  Usually it's much longer.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Don't step on the quilt

When you do a full float of a quilt top it will hang down on the floor.  This might not be a problem with a smaller quilt.  But what about a much larger quilt?  A larger quilt might get in the way of your feet while stabilizing.  Like this one is doing.  Even this quilt is not nearly as large as some that I get.  This is a twin size but often I get over sized king quilts which are lots of loose fabric and batting hanging in front of the machine. 

I often sit to quilt.  Lots of loose hanging fabric could be a big problem for me.  The wheels of my chair might run over the quilt.  I certainly don't want that to happen!  Here's my solution to getting the floating quilt out of my way while I stabilize the area I'm working on.  I have a rope permanently tied to one end of my machine.  It's far back under the quilting area.

I take the loose end of the rope and run it in front of the floating quilt to the other end of the table.  Loosely at first and kind of near the floor.  See the rope in front of the floating quilt?

Next, I tug on the rope so it pulls the floating part up and out of the way.  I tie this end of the rope to the table with a slip knot.   

I have the rope placed so that it pulls the floating quilt way back out of the way of my feet or my chair wheels.  I can stabilize the area without worry of getting a customer's quilt dirty from my shoes or the wheels of my chair.  I will pull the slip knot to let the quilt float again before I advance the quilt.

I hang the rope on the end of the machine while I'm advancing and measuring the top.  When I'm ready to do more stabilizing I use the rope again.

After the whole quilt is all stabilized, the rope is left there waiting until I start stabilizing the next one.  I'm not sure where the rope will be placed on the smaller machine table just yet.  I'll take photos and post those after I've gone back to the quilt shop.  

Whatever type table set up you have, the rope can be used.  I once experimented with using an elastic rope.  Sort of like a bungee cord.  It didn't work.  The heavier weight of larger quilts only stretched the rope and it wouldn't stay back out of the way. 

If anyone reading these hints for smaller machines has a particular question about techniques please just ask.  For example if you have seen or read something done with a larger machine and want to know if it's possible with a smaller machine please ask.  Either leave the question in the comments or email me.  (estes anita at bellsouth dot net)  I'm keeping a list of the questions for taking step by step photos while I'm at the shop.  Photos speak much better than I can. (smile)  The questions will eventually be answered in the form of a blog post.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Rippling edge

I was asked how to handle the edge when you are tack stitching it but the fabric is pushed along by the presser foot.  Ok, I'm using my Gammill for this but it works for all machines.  One thing you can do is use your hand to keep the fabric from being pushed along. 

Another thing you can do is take a stitch......

move the needle away from the edge.....

move over an inch......

move back to the edge and take a stitch.....

move away from the edge again.....

move over an inch again.....

move back to the edge and take another stitch...... repeat, repeat.....

Each time you move away from the edge and back again it moves the pressure foot away from the part that wants to bunch up.  The thread between stitches will flatten and hold the fabric.  I'm not sure the Voyager machine or any other smaller machine allows you to lessen the pressure foot.  I'm really against making unnecessary changes to the machines anyway.  If if ain't broke don't fix it.  Now if the pressure foot causes problems when quilting designs on the quilt then is when it's time to change it.  Check your owner's manual to see how that is done.

Sorry about the poor quality of photos.  My batteries were going dead and I didn't have time to wait for them to charge.  I had to keep working to stabilize this quilt.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Computer woes..... again (sigh)

If you have sent me an email but haven't received a reply this is the reason.  See the MAILER DAEMON messages?  That's outgoing emails bounced back to me.

Ok, the problem is usually stated in the M-D messages.  So I open a couple to find this.  Apparently my outgoing emails have some type of spam attached to them.  Or maybe ATT is having issues again. 

This computer stuff is really getting irritating!!@  I've been running spy ware and fix ware type programs which take about 3 hours each.  Hopefully, I'll get it working again but first I'm going to wait to see if the problem fixes itself.  Maybe ATT is aware of the problem already.   If you are waiting for an email I'll answer as soon as I'm able.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Mental Blackmail

I was reading, on a machine quilting list, a post by a beginning (newbie) machine quilter eager for new customers.  I have invited the newbie to visit this blog to see how quilts are kept squared but it bothers me what the customer is doing.  Ok you don't know what I'm type-talking about so let me explain.  First I should tell you that I don't know the newbie machine quilter and I don't know the customer.  I only read a post on the list.

Apparently the newbie quilter was contacted by a new customer about a quilt. The customer has said she would let this newbie machine quilter to do her quilt only if the quilter could "guarantee" it would be perfectly squared when it was finished.  In exchange for this perfectly squared quilt, the customer would send the newbie machine quilter more customers. 

In my personal opinion this is mental blackmail.  Even though I know for certain I can get close to perfectly squared quilts; I would never, ever knowingly let a customer blackmail me in that way.  My motto is "Your quilts will be quilted in the condition it is received.  I will do my best to give you back a great quilt but there are no guarantees."  

Now why would I believe this customer is wrong?  Shouldn't newbie machine quilters like the idea of recommendations to other potential customers?  Well yes, they should like recommendations; but, not at the stress level that customer is expecting.  That customer is expecting college professor work from a first grader.  That customer is saying to the first grader..... I'll tell others how great a writer you are but only if you write me a 10,000 word essay with perfect punctuation and spelling.  The first grader can't possibly do the work expected.

Another reaction I had to reading the post is that the customer is setting herself up to get free quilting.  The customer knows the machine quilter is new at doing the work.  If the newbie doesn't produce a perfect quilt the customer will have what she needs to complain, which almost always results in either no charges or deeply discounted charges from the newbie.  Why?  Because the newbie is afraid.  Afraid of getting a bad reputation among toppers in the area.  All from one person complaining.  I could be wrong because, as I said, I don't know either one of the people.

Whenever I am giving advice to a new machine quilter I tell them that their work will be the recommendation.  Do the best work you can and it will bring you more customers.  Quilters can't resist show and tell. Someone will see your work on a quilt and if they like it they will want to know who did the quilting.  Most toppers are happy to say who did the quilting.

I also tell newbie machine quilters to seek out a few newbie toppers as their first customers.  Anyone who is just learning to create quilt tops does not have the expectations of someone who has achieved greater skills.  Newbie toppers know the feeling of making mistakes and won't mind so much if the newbie machine quilter makes mistakes.  If the newbie machine quilter does make a mistake, and decides to give a discount on the quilting, it's her choice.  The choice would be from the newbie wanting to compensate the customer instead of being expected.  I hope I explained that right.

Newbie machine quilters and newbie toppers can learn and grow with each other.  The machine quilter can explain issues she encounters while doing the quilting.  The topper can learn from the explanations about those issues and correct the problem with the next top.  In essence the two will grow and learn together in much the same way first graders learn together.  First graders are always willing to help fellow first graders accomplish better skills.

Buying a quilting machine does not mean you will immediately produce top notch, show quality quilting, ready to win the top prize in a major show.  Buying a household machine to learn to create quilt tops does not mean you will immediately sit down to make a perfect top.  Only in very rare occasions do absolute beginners produce something nearly perfect right from the start.  Usually, there is some prior knowledge that allows this to happen.  Maybe an art background or an engineering background or something else.

If you bought a quilting machine in order to open a machine quilting business then it should be run as a business.  You won't see a new grocery or a new restaurant or a new department store owner allowing one customer to tell them they will recommend the place only if the business owner satisfies them.  No, the business owner is expecting the business itself to be the recommendation.  The owner is doing the best he or she can to open a great place with the best service or product they can give.  People who like the business will tell others about it. 

The new business owner will seek out the first customers by several means.  Advertising is only one way.  A new machine quilter can advertise several ways too.  I've found the easiest way and the cheapest way is to simply leave a few business cards at the local fabric stores.  Fabric stores have quilt topper classes all the time.  Toppers are eager to get the quilts finished and move on to the next top.  Some prolific toppers will use the services of several machine quilters and are often looking for newbies to add to their group of machine quilters.  The prolific toppers are always on the lookout for new business cards.

Ok, before I keep rambling on too much about this let me say this.  The next time a customer says they want a "guarantee" of a perfectly quilted top...... ask them if they can "guarantee" a perfectly pieced top with not one single issue to deal with.  I can guarantee you this.... there is not one single quilt top anywhere that is perfect, no matter how good the topper is.  There might be some really close to perfect quilts but not a single one that's absolutely perfect.  How can I say this?  Well, fabric does not behave.  It pulls, it stretches, it shrinks, it gets off grain, it simply will not behave.  And.... only GOD is perfect

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Stabilizing with a smaller machine

I've had several people tell me they can't do the stabilizing of quilt tops like I do because they don't have a Gammill with channel locks or the large expanse my machine has.  Well, it just so happened that some ladies at a fabric store wanted me to help them understand how to stabilize a quilt with their Voyager machine.  What a great opportunity for me to take photos of how this can be done with a smaller machine.  Yesterday I went to the fabric store and worked with 4 ladies.  I had so much fun! 

The ladies understand the steps now, plus, I can post photos of how its done for those who need a more visual tutorial of working with a smaller machine.  No matter what type machine you have.... you can do what I do.  You just have to do it in a way that fits your machine type.  The basics of stabilizing a quilt top are the same for any machine.  The one thing you need to remember is that the backing and batting should be a minimum of 6 inches longer and 6 inches wider than the quilt top.  This will give you 3 inches of wiggle room on all sides when you are stabilizing the top.

I haven't always had a Gammill.  My first quilting machine was an old Singer upholstery machine rigged up to tracks on a table very similar to the one at the shop.  The quilting area I had on that old singer was a maximum of 5 inches and even less if I was quilting a very large top.  The more bulk on the take up bar, the less room for quilting a design.  Yet, I was able to quilt designs sometimes as large as 20 inches.  I simply had to do the stitching differently because of the limitations of my machine. 

Yesterday, I took photos as often as I remembered to take them.  I was having so much fun answering questions from the ladies and demonstrating techniques that I simply forgot about using the camera.  I believe I took enough photos that you too can figure out how to use a smaller machine to do the same thing I do.

I have one of the ladies (Hi Brenda!) coming to my house next Friday so we can make zipper leaders for the shop machine.  The one question all of the ladies asked me was "What's the purpose of the zipper leaders?"  Ok ladies, suppose Brenda is scheduled to work on Monday but won't be back in the store for 4 days because she's scheduled off.  She puts a quilt on the machine but doesn't finish the quilting before her day is over.  Well, the way the machine is set up right now it will be tied up with Brenda's quilt until she returns to finish it.  No one can use the machine until Brenda finishes her quilt. 

With zipper leaders you could zip Brenda's quilt off and put one of your own on to work on it for the next 4 days.  When Brenda comes back to work again, she simply zips off whatever is on the machine, to zip hers back on, and continue where she left off.  Get the idea? 

Sometimes our machines want to start acting crazy.  It's often very difficult to fix the problem with a quilt in the way.  With zippers you are able to unzip to get the quilt out of the way while you work on the machine.

Ok, now that I've explained a little about zipper leaders let me show you the other things we did yesterday.  First thing was to put the backing onto the machine.  Here are two of the ladies pinning the backing to the take up bar and to the lower bar.  The middle bar is not used at all for this technique.   I call the unused bar the "belly bar" because..... emm.... see the position it is next to the lady pinning? 

Can you see in the next photo how the backing is attached to the take up bar and the bottom bar only?  The batting is not attached and the top is not attached.  Only the backing.  Next we need to add the batting.  We know the batting is plenty long enough top to bottom.  What we need to do is cut it to size side to side.  Lay the batting on the backing, fold over, and cut where it will just fit onto the backing.  Also, when tightening the backing do not make it so tight that you can pop a quarter on it.  You want it just taught.  Tighten too much and you risk creating a permanent bow curve in the center of your bars. 

Now it's time to attach the batting to the backing.  But we also want a very straight line to use when we attach our quilt top.  We will accomplish two tasks at once with this step.  We will attach the batting to the backing and make a straight line using the horizontal tracks of the table as a straight edge. 

Ok, my Gammill has channel locks but the shop machine does not.   The Voyager machine at the shop has a Hinterburg table.  The machine sits in a wood box with wheels on the bottom of the box.  You want to hold the forward and backward motion wheels in place somehow for sewing a horizontal straight line.  This is what I showed the ladies to do.  Two binder clips underneath the box by one wheel.  You only need the clips by one wheel to prevent the forward and backward movement.  You see how the wheel will be held there?  It can't go forward and it can't go backward because of the binder clips.  But the side to side wheels are still free to move.

 How do you know where you want to put the binder clips?    You position your machine needle about an inch away from where the backing is attached to the take up bar leader.  Ok, I know someone is going to ask, why only an inch when the backing is cut to allow 3 inches?  Hmm.... many times a top will have more stretch to it, top to bottom, than is apparent.  You don't want to get to the end of the top only to find your backing is too short.  (for more information about this go here)

Hold your machine in that position while you put on the binder clips.  If your machine is leveled correctly you should be able to put the machine there and it will stay put as you work with the clips.   If your table is not level, and the machine wants to move around, then use the needle down to put the needle into the fabric. 

The next thing to do is create your straight line.  First ask yourself, will you make a separate binding or wrap the backing to the front for binding?  If you will be cutting the backing and batting off at the edge of the top then you will sew a straight line with the machine.  If you plan to wrap the backing over the front then you will want to tack stitch the straight line.  I showed the ladies how to do a tack stitched straight line.  What is a tacked stitch line?  Another word for basting stitched line. 

Ok, let me explain, if your single stitch (needle up, needle down) button is on the right then you should work left to right.  You want your left hand to be holding things and manipulating things while your right hand operates the button and moves the machine.  (The opposite will be true if the single stitch button is on the left.)

Move your machine to the left side of the backing and batting.  Pull up your bobbin thread... now repeat this mantra out loud....... needle down, needle up, move over one inch, needle down, needle up, move over one inch, needle down, needle up, move over one inch.  Repeat this mantra until you get to the other side.  Why say it out loud?  It causes your brain to connect it together for better memory later.  Your brain learns the steps.  Sort of like how elementary kids learn things by repeating them out loud over and over again.

Ta Da, you have a straight line.   Ok, for those who chose to sew the straight line with the machine, you simply bring up the bobbin thread, turn the machine on and sew across the batting and backing, ending at the other side.  The binder clips have held the machine in one position to make a very straight line.

Now that you have a straight line holding your batting to the backing it's time to attach the quilt top.  You can remove the binder clips from the wheel now.  You won't need them anymore until you load your next quilt.  Lay your top along that sewn or tack stitched line.  Use your needle up, needle down mantra once again to attach your top to the batting and backing making sure the edge of the top stays at the straight line. 

If you prefer to stitch the top on with the machine, then ok, do it that way. Try to stay within the 1/4 inch area along the edge so the stitching will be covered by the binding.  I prefer to use a tack stitch line because often there are friendly borders to deal with.  Sewing will stitch the extra fullness into pleats.

I also showed the ladies how to pin the side edges as an alternate way of attaching the top to the batting and backing.  Now they have two ways of holding the top.  Tack stitched (basting stitched) and pinned.  Pins are placed horizontal to allow for better rolling back and forth. 

I had the ladies put invisible thread on the top and a pretty red thread in the bobbin.  With invisible (mono) thread used for stitching in the ditch; then, any stitching that is not perfectly in the ditch will not show.  I showed the ladies how to stitch along the two sides of the pieced inside border.  Starting on the left side with the machine in the closest position near them.  Stitch away from you in the ditch.  Next turn to stitch left side to right side in the ditch.  Next turn to stitch toward you in the ditch as far as the machine will let you go.  Bring up the bobbin thread and cut off, leaving a little thread tail.  Why leave a tail?  Well, when you advance, it would be hard to see where you stopped.  The thread tail is a flag showing where to start stitching again. 

Ok, I took a step back to take a picture so you can see how the batting and top simply hang in front of the machine while it's being stabilized.  This technique is what is called a full float.  The ladies had finished the stitch in the ditch along the pieced border so it was time to advance the quilt.   At this point I showed the ladies how to measure from the end of the bar to the edge of the top before advancing.   We did that for both sides and wrote down the measurement.   This measurement is what they used each time the top was advanced; to check for square.   See the measuring tape on the left in the photo?  We used two measuring tapes and used masking tape to hold them on.   I don't recommend doing that even though that's what we did yesterday.   The unused bar tends to roll which causes the measuring tape to wrap around the bar.  A loose measuring tape works better.

Because the top and batting are not attached, you can lift it to smooth everything out.   As usual, this top had slightly friendly (waves a lot) borders.  Sometimes this is no fault of the maker.   I was going to explain why friendly borders might not be the maker's fault but I think I'll save that for another post with pictures to go with it.  

I showed the ladies how to spread out the fullness of the border and pin it.  I don't mean "stretch out".  I mean "spread" the fullness evenly in the area.  There will be little humps of extra fabric in between the pins.  The more pins you use, the better the extra fullness is spread evenly. 

Here the fullness has been pinned along the edge of the outside border and more stitch in the ditch done along the inside border.  Yes, I know it's not perfectly in the ditch.  This is not the fault of the quilter.  The quilt top has seams that flip flop from side to side.... done during the pressing and sewing stages.  I forgot to take a picture of the seams on this quilt.  Flip flopping seams will cause a machine to get off the ditch.  Trust me, it shows up way more in a photo than it did in person.  See the thread tail left as a flag where to start stitching on the next advance? 

As the ladies advanced, measured, straightened, and did stitch in the ditch around the borders; I also had them stitch in the ditch around the blocks.  This stabilized the inside part of the quilt top.  Ok, not every quilt has areas in the center for stitching in the ditch.  When there is no obvious place for stitch in the ditch then you want to use safety pins to pin, pin, pin the center.  Why? 

Ok, let me use another word for stabilizing.  Call it basting the layers together.  Basting and stabilizing are the same thing.  Think of how much you would pin a quilt sandwich together to keep it from shifting if you were planning to quilt it with a domestic machine.  Think of how you would baste the layers together with thread for hand quilting.  Stabilizing the quilt sandwich with your quilting machine is another way of basting the layers together.  I happen to like the look of stitch in the ditch so I use it as my way of basting the sandwich.  I accomplish two tasks at once.

Suppose you were basting a quilt sandwich together for hand quilting and it wasn't basted well enough.  When you got to the end you found it wasn't square.  You would pick out the basting or unpin back to where you could make it square.... right?  You do the same thing with stitching in the ditch.  If you get to the end and it's not square, it is so much easier to pick out a simple straight line of stitching than it is to pick out a quilting design. 

Here the ladies have gotten to the end of the quilt top.  It's stabilized and square.  The excess batting can be cut off next to where the backing ends at the leader.  Some may wonder.... "why the excess batting around the top?"  This is to keep the bulk around the bars even.  Hmm... I should have photos of this but I don't.  If there is a gap area in the bulk, the bulk does not roll evenly.  Look at the photo.  In the area where there is the top, the batting, and the batting, it will have more bulk around the bar.  The area on either side that has only the batting and back there is less bulk.  If the batting were to be cut even with the top then that area would have only the bulk of the backing next to the greater bulk of the center.  The backing would be much looser.  I hope that's understandable.

Here, one of the ladies is changing from invisible thread to a color thread to start the quilting.  This is the last of the photos.  I was so busy showing the next steps and having fun watch the ladies get excited with new things that I completely forgot to take more photos.

The ladies now know the quilt is square, even, and will not shift.  They can concentrate on stitching the designs instead of thinking about keeping it square.  Because that part is already done.  The quilt sandwich can be moved back and forth without worry of it getting out of square.  If the ladies want to sit to quilt there is enough room under the lower bar for a chair and their legs. 

Next weekend Brenda is coming to my house so we can make the zipper leaders.  I have a much larger table to work on so it will be easier working here in my studio.  I have a couple of other improvements to make to their machine table to make their job easier too.  I'll show those ideas when I can take photos of what I do. 

For the ladies from the shop that promised to visit my blog..... HOWDY!  Glad you stopped by and hope you enjoy my blog.  Don't forget to look along the right side of this blog to find the links for my other blogs too.  See you in a few days.

Over the next few weeks I'll be going back to the fabric store regularly to show the ladies many more things. It's extremely hard to squeeze 50+ years worth of learning into only a few short hours of one day.  I hope to write many more posts about working with a smaller machine to achieve just as nice results as larger machine owners do. 

You want to know what was my favorite part of yesterday?  It was that after about 10 years of trying, I finally got the store owner to give machine quilting a try.  Yippie!!!  Oh yes, there was also the fun of seeing the excitement the ladies had when things "clicked" and machine quilting suddenly got a whole lot easier for them.  From now forward, machine quilting will have much more enjoyment for all the ladies of Happy Heart Quilt Shop.  See y'all soon.