Sunday, October 26, 2008

I Thought I Had The Answer


On Oct. 13 I drove to Portland and dropped my computer off at the new Apple store for a repair. I went ten days without the internet before getting my iMac back. What a change in my routine that turned out to be! My usual habit is to read my emails and check out various blogs first thing in the morning with my cup of coffee.

For the past ten days instead, I enjoyed my cup of coffee and read Mason Dixon knitting, the first book, not their newest. What a pleasure that was and it turns out there is life without the internet, afterall! It seems life doesn't stop if I can not read my favorite blogs and keep up with the latest on CNN. It was somewhat surprising, though, how many times I thought, well, I'll just look that up on the internet (and couldn't).

I know a woman who gives the World Almanac to her family every Christmas. They like to have it to refer to when family arguments arise. Well, the internet is my World Almanac, and I use it for everything from downloading free hat patterns at 10pm to finding out what that bug in my garden is. And, of course, you know how much fun it is to shop for fabric online. Have you been to

But there is nothing on the internet that I have found to remedy my machine quilting woes. Everytime I have tried to machine quilt for the last few months has been disaster. I tried to machine quilt Holiday Chorus and it is a mess. It will stitch fine for awhile, then the thread frays and breaks. There will also be skipped stitches, something that has never happened before.

I've taken my machine to two different repair people, and I am now convinced it is not the machine. Last Saturday I attended a quilt workshop that Back Road Quilters put on with Sarah Ann Smith teaching Hawaiian machine applique, more about that in a bit. In the course of the day Sarah mentioned using topstitching needles for quilting and I thought, yes! that is the solution.

Sarah laid out her topstitching needle next to my needles and showed me that the larger eye of the topstitching needle is what I need, and that the smaller eye is causing the fraying of my thread. Well, I eagerly brought home some new needles today and, sadly, it made not a bit of difference. If anyone knows how to help, I am open for suggestions. I think it may be either straight line quilting for me or credit card quilting. (I don't think it is my technique, either)

On to happier topics!

This is the pineapple block I worked on at the Hawaiian applique workshop. I used a tone on tone blue reproduction fabric and white muslin for the background. The piece was fused to the white fabric, then satin stitched around. We had a choice of a small six inch block or a choice of several designs for the larger block. I have done enough fusible applique that I wanted to try the larger block.

What a difference putting this block on point makes, don't you think? Straight on, the leaves almost look like a spider, don't they? On point, the pineapples have more emphasis. Interesting.
I don't know which I like better. This will probably be a UFO, as I don't really know what to do with it. I really enjoyed the class and learned more about fusible webs. I used Wonder Under for this and it gunked up some. Sarah had some samples done with Misty Fuse and I really want to try that. It has a very light hand when applied. You can get it on, have not seen it locally.

It is always inspiring to see what everyone else is doing in class. A couple of people used batiks, which were gorgeous. I may not do any more Hawaiian applique, but the tips I learned about fusibles and auditioning different color threads for the satin stitch will come in handy.

I've been happily making these little 5 inch blocks after seeing Ricky Tims demonstrate them on The Quilt Show. What fun they are to make and a good stash buster. If you haven't tried them before, just cut a five inch foundation and lots of strips of fabric. I cut my strips about an inch and one half wide, but some were wider, some narrower. Lay one strip diagonally from one corner to another, face up. Lay another strip on top and sew the seam. Continue laying strips down, sew and flip until you get to the corner, then sew from the center to the opposite corner. I just finger pressed until the block was done.

As Ricky pointed out, the diagonal line allows you to make some interesting arrangements. I used the same center fabric for each set of four blocks. I think the black works particularly well.
The foundation piece is 5 inches square, but you cut the final block 5 and one half inches so you don't have the bulk of the foundation in the seam. I have not sewn any blocks togther yet. This may be a Christmas present for my brother. Flannel backing would be nice and I will use quilt batt, too. And straight machine quilting, for sure!


Margo said...

Enjoyed reading through your the R timms way of doing a small block...On point for Pineapple is much better I agree..and I know what you mean about being without a computer...I was without it for about 5 hours...amazing how much we use can find any information...I would probably read more too....just not enough time...good to hear what you are doing...miss seeing you...

Will said...

You are always doing something interesting Beth. I love how you seek new horizons for projects..... Always beautiful work too.

Sue R said...

Groan... I don't know which is worse, being without my computer or being without my sewing machine. Either one is torture! Re the machine quilting--have you had success before and it's just recently you've had problems? Is the needle in backwards? Right type and size? Tried a different thread? Try the same thread on a different machine, or try a different spool of the same thread in your machine. Rethreaded the machine correctly? Got a burr anywhere in the thread seqence? Trying to stitch along too fast or too jerky? Tension problem? Loosen your top tension to very loose. If the thread is still breaking, is it feeding off the spool correctly? If the thread is not breaking but it's looping on the back, gradually tighten the top tension until no more loops on the back. Hope something here might help.

Sue R said...

I forgot to say, I like your pineapple block. It's okay to leave it as a ufo! Or make a pillow! Love the colors in your string blocks. Haven't tried one of these yet, but I'm saving my strings for one....

Karen said...

Love Tonks-in-a-Basket. :)

The first thing that came to mind about your thread breaking was the tension.

Love the Pineapple block. Now, that is the first time I have heard of fusing down a Hawaiian applique. What kind of stitching would you do around it?

Just love the 5 inch blocks.

Sarah Ann Smith said...

BUMMERS... I had hoped the topstitch needles would do it.... I'd love to help you diagnose the problem if you would like.... But I'll need more info.
To start:

--What machine
--What tension settings
--What thread
--What batting
Needles--obviously you've already tried new and other types of needles...
--Is the fabric painted or have metallic or white-on-white?
--Are you having the same breakage issues on OTHER quilt sandwiches?
Let me know and we'll go from there....