Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Yards (and yards) of Thread

Painting by Delilah Smith 
   (Second time posting this blog.  Blogger seems to have lost everyone's blogs this week.)

Today I counted how many spools of thread I have gone through since I started quilting Monet in Pasadena.  So far it's 3,600 yards. That's a lot and I just started.  I think it's starting to look good.  Whenever I start a new quilt the first few days are frustrating and pure torture and I hate everything I am doing. I just want to throw it away.  Joe will tell you I am not a happy camper. That must be the temperamental artist in me.  I hate being like that.   Then I turn a corner and, hopefully, start to see it coming to life.

Here are some tools I can’t live without when quilting: tweezers, stilettos, curved-tip snips, sticky tape roller (you might call a lint roller), and a curved-tip knife, which is really a scalpel, I think. These are all my fix-it tools.  That means YES I can take out and put back in my stitches as I go.  It’s like having a big  eraser.  If you spell a word wrong you can just erase it.  The eraser has always been a very useful and much needed tool in my life.  I used to get so mad at myself in school after erasing so many words on the page that the paper looked really messy.   But I guess that was preparing me for now. 
I call what I am doing sketching or coloring with my thread.  Some call this quilting. But I don’t think that is what I am really doing. Yes, I am quilting the 3 layers together, but it’s more like weaving the colors of fabric together with the thread.  I am visualizing as I quilt that I have a crayon in my hand and I am filling in and adding detail with the crayon/thread.  I focus on one small space at a time.  That way I don't get overwhelmed or distracted.  I roll, fold, smush and squeeze my quilt to get the area I want to work on under my needle. This is a home machine I am using, a Bernina 158.

I have also been using a thread conditioner called Sewer Add. This helps the rayon thread not to fray too much, which it will do because it is rayon and going through heavy fabrics. But don’t get it confused with the Fray Check bottle - they look alike in the bottom of a drawer.
Back of the quilt.

I am also using some 40 weight thread along with my normal 30 weight rayon thread.  The quilt is  predominantly blues and greens.  I felt I needed more shades of blue and green thread to add the depth and detail.  The 40 weight thread comes in more colors.  I still like the look of the 30 weight but sometimes having the right color is more important than the weight of the thread.  It reminded me of how wonderful it was to have the big box of 64 colors of crayons as opposed to the 8 pack.  Even back then it was all about the color. Remember the sharpener that came on the back of the box?  I thought that was so cool.

Today I will be buying more bobbins, too.   I thought I had enough but since I need a bobbin for every color I am using I am going to splurge on a few more. Having the right tools and supplies to work with makes all the difference.

P.S. I read a blogging forum lately that suggests removing music from your site, saying that most people find it irritating. What do you think?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Stitch, stitch, STITCH!

I just bought a new iron today and it's pink! Will it not fall on the floor and break?...I don't know but I have been having that problem with irons that like to jump off my ironing board, crash to the floor and then leak water all over my quilts. So I'm hoping that this beautiful pink one will not be so jumpy. Besides, it goes with my studio.
The picture I took at the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena, CA.
A big deadline is looming over my head as I finish my Monet in Pasadena quilt. The quilt has been done since last year but I have not had time to quilt it until now.  So I made a large order to my favorite thread guy, Mike at I will hide the thread bill from my husband, as all good wives do. Bought 2 packs of new needles and  cleaned out the dust bunnies hidng in my machine then revved up the old girl I call Bertha but better know as a Bernina 158.

I love to do big quilts but maneuvering the large and heavy quilt under the machine can move the layers if you don’t have it pinned or basted really well and I've been using safety pins in the past.

On small quilts I can just safety pin the layer and start stitching in the middle and work out but not on this big girl so I tried a new pin basting device that I got from the Cotton Patch store when teaching at Asilomar.  It's a rubber plug or stop that you put on the sharp tip of your quilting straight pins. Brilliant idea. 

The new pin basting device I tried.  I think it will work better without all the fusible web.
But it didn't work that great with the fusible web.  I kept bending the straight pins trying to push it in and take it out. Now I have 50 bent pins.  Then I had an idea.  How about trying a free motion basting using really large stitches that can easily be taken out?  It’s about time to dust off the old seam ripper, if I can find it. 

My free motion basting.
But to get those big 1/2 inch stitches, I had to move my hand and the quilt really fast and my foot on the peddle has to go  really slow.  It was a little tricky at first but it seems to be working so far.

I need at least 3 weeks of solid quilting to get it done.   But only have 2 weeks to work. I guess it going to be take-out, for a few weeks.