Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Threads for machine quilting

My lap quilt is now all ready to quilt.

  I am proud of the fact that I have managed to make the backing from leftover pieces from the front.

However, this does pose a question as to the best thread to use in the bobbin.  I plan to quilt 'in the ditch' and I certainly do not want to be stopping and changing bobbins all the time.  As it is some years since I machine quilted a quilt of this size (it is 62 inches square) I decided I would consult my fellow Contemporary Quilters by putting a message up on the Yahoo site.  I am aware that we have had a lot of new members recently and I thought that some of them would probably be interested in the answers too.

Well, a question like this leads to answers of the 'how long is a piece of string (thread)' variety.  It appears that there are quilters who would never dream of pressing their seams open although I seem to remember learning years ago that that is what you did when machine piecing and that pressing the seams to one side was for hand-stitching.  Not so, apparently.  The seams on this quilt are pressed open and I have never had any problems with them wearing out, not even on the quilt on my bed which has been washed frequently.

The second issue is what thread to use on the bottom.  Obviously I have a problem about colour as light thread will show up on the dark and dark on the light.  I am inclined to go with the person who suggested variegated thread as I know that will blend in a bit better.  I also asked about the weight of the thread in the bobbin.  Originally I think I used to use the same thread top and bottom but then people said you should use something a bit lighter weight in the bobbin so that it disappeared into the quilt and did not migrate through to the top.  (My Bernina can be a bit temperamental about all this.)  Several people have recommended Bottom Line thread by Superior Threads.  This is not one I have tried and I see that it is polyester which I have been a bit snobby about in the past.  I think that was because I was using pure cotton in the top and thought I should be using cotton in the bottom too.  I respect the people who recommended this, at least one of whom said she uses rayon embroidery thread in the top, so I will definitely buy some.

For the top thread I plan to use a variegated thread I already have.  I have quite a range of reels of variegated quilting threads in shades of brown, beige and grey but half the labels have fallen off so I am not sure what they are.  I generally use YLI but a couple of these reels are ones I bought while doing a workshop and I cannot identify the brand..  One person recommended King Tut thread so I looked it up on-line and I think at least one of my unidentified reels is definitely that.  At least I will now be able to work out its weight.  The general advice is to balance the weights.

Some people commented on needles.  One person said she always used a 60.  I would not be able to see that nor to thread it, given that I have never mastered the needle threader on the Bernina and my varifocal glasses have their limitations.  I have only ever gone as fine as a 70 and have to confess to a 90 quilting needle as my default.

This tiny piece of market research has proved yet again that everyone has a preferred way of doing things and that there are many different threads and techniques that people use.  I think the next step is for me to do a few trial pieces but not until I have bought some Bottom Line thread and a new pair of quilting gloves.  The ones in the photo have a hole at the tip of one of the fingers where I had to cut the glove after I had sewn it to the quilt.

Friday, 1 February 2013

What I made in January

I have somewhat reluctantly decided not to do the Journal Quilts project this year as I think I am no longer very good at working to deadlines.  There is nothing to stop me doing journal quilts without the deadlines and the rules of course but I have begun the year by making a quilt top.  I have a collection of batik fabrics in shades of brown and grey which I have built up over a couple of years and it was time to turn them into something.  A new lap quilt for the sitting room I decided so I went back to my cherished copy of Cut Loose Quilts by Jan Mullen and have made a top in the same design as one I did nearly ten years ago.

The top is now complete.

Here is the old one.

I was rather proud of the back of the old one which I made from all the leftovers.  It was a bit of a nightmare getting them to fit together but I have decided to do something similar with this quilt because I have a couple of large lengths of batik in colours and patterns related to the front.

I quilted that one myself.  After machining it all in the ditch I made a couple of stencils of the patterns in the fabric and then hand quilted the motifs in the plain blue blocks.

I am not sure I have the patience to do that again.  It was one of those winter evening jobs in the days when I could just about quilt and see the TV at the same time!  The new one may go to a longarm quilter but first I need to put the back together.  I also plan to make a replacement quilt for the one on my bed as it is beginning to fall to pieces.  I bought some fabrics as a start last year but I have had to put them somewhere out of the cats' reach and now I cannot find them anywhere.  Perhaps that is a signal that I need to do something more creative and challenging first.  I had something pinned up to start me thinking but when the first floods hit the village I took it down and brought it into the house for safety.  I seem to remember that I had decided a bit of printing was needed as the next step so now I have no excuse not to get back to it.

I have not given a link to Jan Mullen's book as it is out of print.  I have used it a number of times because everything is 'rough' cut and you do not have to get all the points to meet which just suits me fine.

Welcome to February

This is the photo for February on this year's calendar.  It is Whitesand Bay beyond Sennen Cove.  I can't remember what time of the year I took it but obviously the tide is out and I have used a wide angle lens.  We went to Sennen last Sunday.  There were only about two other cars there and the tide was right in.  It was too windy to walk so we sat and looked at the view like real oldies and then got out of the car to take a few photos. Mine have had to be straightened in Photoshop but look at the difference to the one above.  Different camera of course and more of a telephoto effect.

I also tried drawing this view on my iPad.  I realised I have drawn/photographed it many times before so I think I should now try some more drawings of it using some of my photos.

We are very glad to see the back of January since it was so wet.  When the rest of the country was suffering from snow a couple of weeks ago we had another little flood across the road.  I only noticed it when I went out next morning and found gravel and mud all over the road not to mention bits of branch just outside our gate so I think it must have been quite high on our side of the road.  Let's hope we don't get any more.  The spring bulbs are beginning to poke through the sodden ground and there are lots of camellias out on the far side of the village although we only have two blooms.  I think the gardens over there must face south.