More FMQ, More Fans

I’VE FINISHED THE CLOUDS!!!Japan_Fans_1003_2

I decided to experiment with the tension some more, dropping it from 4.6 to 4.2 and then to 3.8.  Based on how the last few blocks look at that tension, I’d say 3.8 is a winner.  There seemed to be no adverse effects on the back, either; I hate it when my thread grows tension legs!

You can see (just about) that I’ve started doing some quilting on the red bits of the window frame.  It’s essentially a squared off, slanted zig-zag between the two seam lines.  I’m doing these free-motion and finding that straight lines and FMQ is an uneasy combination!  They’re quite wibbly.Japan_Fans_1003_3

I started off completely free-hand, no marking at all, which worked but was slow because I had to juggle FMQ and figuring out if I was going in approximately the right direction.  Then I remembered (and found!) my new water-erase fabric pen and decided to do some guidelines because I’m better at following a line.  And then discovered that, even with a pen, I can’t draw a straight line!  Not sure if that makes me feel better or worse about the not-straight FMQ lines.  It has made the FMQ go a bit quicker, though, and I’ve found an angle to work at that I can manage fairly well in all necessary directions; initially I was rotating the quilt around the needle at every corner and it was doing horrible things to both quilt and needle.Japan_Fans_1003_1

Despite the wobbles, I’m not going to start using a ruler or a walking foot for this – better if it’s ALL kind of wobbly and organic-looking rather than a mix of wobbly and machine-precise.  I’m pretending it’s wood grain!

Mum can’t see why I would want to do this free-motion rather than with a walking foot.  I tried and failed to explain the need for practice to achieve better control over the movement of the fabric and needle and thus better results in future.  I admit, this doesn’t look as amazing as I’d like it to look, but I’m not going to get any better if I don’t do more of it.

At this point, almost all the red on one curtain is done, my plan is to finish that off and then do the same on the black frames.  Then put the back and the hanging loops on, do some minimal in-the-ditch quilting around the frames to hold the whole lot together and it’ll be DONE!  In time for Mother’s Day on Sunday!  I can’t wait!

Linking up with Free Motion Mavericks, Let’s Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts and WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced!

Japan Fan Club: The Pfaff QE 4.2, Metallic Thread and FMQ

It sounds like the beginning of a dodgy pub joke, doesn’t it?

The Pfaff QE 4.2, metallic thread and FMQ walk into a pub.  The landlord looks up and says, “Sorry, I don’t serve mangled anecdotes.”

Ahem.  Anyway.  I am pleased to report that not only am I finally getting to grips with my FMQ demons, I’m doing so with metallic thread!  And it is WORKING!Japan_Fans_0503_1

(Well, kind of.)

I’m trying to do a sort of stipple effect that replicates that swirly, stylised cloud look often seen on oriental drawings and prints, with mixed success.  Sometimes it comes out quite well, other times I get lost, trapped in a corner or my hands decide to move in a direction other than the one I had in mind.  And I definitely have quilting density issues.Cloud swirl close up

However, at least I’m managing to do FMQ without lots of skipped stitches and broken thread, which is a MASSIVE win for me.  I have had the odd skipped stitch, true, but on the rare occasion it’s happened I’ve felt it was my fault for moving the quilt at the wrong moment rather than weird Pfaff-diva strop behaviour over a wrong thread/needle combo.

Japan_Fans_0503_4Initially, I started off by using white cotton piecing thread in the bobbin and my metallic thread on top in a vague effort to be a bit thrifty with my pricey speciality thread.  It worked, ish, but the white thread made its presence known, especially at any point where I made a sudden change in direction and it was pulled through to the front by the top thread.  You can easily see the build-up of white thread on the pointy bits.  :s  Not great.  Despite fidgeting with pivot height, tension and even balance, I couldn’t eliminate this effect, so after doing (and arguably making a mess of) six blocks I tucked the whole lot away until I was in a mood to tackle it afresh.

After I signed up this project as my goal for the March ALYoF challenge at Sew BitterSweet Designs and Fiber of All Sorts, I figured I’d better have another bash at it, so after polishing off some work this morning I pulled it all out, set up the Pfaff for FMQ, and got stuck in, this time with metallic thread in the bobbin as well as on top.  For any interested Pfaff owners looking for settings and pointers, here are the settings I used:Pfaff metallic FMQ settings

Feed dogs dropped, IDT system disengaged, and I’ve set up a personal stitch based on stitch 1 with the length set to 0 (because I found that if I used a pre-programmed stitch then the dratted thing kept resetting itself while I wasn’t looking) and no auto thread tie-off or cutting.  I’m using the new FMQ foot that Pfaff brought out recently, which feels like it’s doing a more competent job than the wider plastic one.  The needle I’m using is a Schmetz 80/12 metallic needle.The new Pfaff FMQ foot

You can see that I’m also using a straight-stitch plate (and have the corresponding setting enabled in the tools menu on the machine), and a Supreme Slider.  Oh, and I have a lil Teflon bobbin ring in there, too, that’s supposed to help stop thread nests.  And my wonderful (and wonderfully cheap at a whole £1.50!) FMQ gloves, without which I cannot grip and move the fabric effectively.Yes, theyre just light-weight gardening gloves!

Yes, they’re totally just light-weight work gloves, but they’re brilliant!  I’ve been reliably informed that thin cotton pimple-grip riding gloves work very well too.  Who needs to pay silly money for “special” quilting gloves?  😉

Basically, ALL of the FMQ gadget bases are covered!  I love the straight-stitch plate and can’t see it coming off the machine much – the Pfaff’s great at piecing anyway but this just makes it even better.  <3

Japan_Fans_0503_2With metallic thread also in the bobbin, the look is better.  I’m not convinced that the pull-through effect of the bobbin thread has been eliminated, though I think it is better with both threads the same.  And at least it’s much harder to detect now everything’s the same colour!

My muscle memory for the quilting pattern is improving the more I do it, though I’m finding that it’s quite an intensive process both mentally and physically, so I take little breaks often to loosen up.  I think my machine’s bed is a bit high relative to my seat height, but there isn’t a vast amount I can do about it at the moment.

Starting and ending with metallic thread

This stuff is seriously sproingy.  It honestly has a mind of its own, which makes it somewhat incompatible with the Pfaff’s built-in thread catching, tie-off and cutting features because of its irritating habit of coiling wilfully and never being in the right place at the right time.  Metallic thread has taught me about the importance of bringing both threads to the top and securing them before starting to sew in earnest, since I’d already had trouble with the metallic straight-line quilting.  It’s almost become second nature already.

Bringing the bobbin thread to the topTo bring the bobbin thread to the top, I position the needle where I want to start and use the handwheel to lower the needle to just above the fabric.  Making sure I have hold of the end of the needle thread, I give a couple of gentle taps on the pedal lower the needle and then raise it again, and a gentle pull brings up a loop of bobbin thread.  This can be easily caught and brought all the way through with the point of a seam ripper.  (Using my seam ripper for tasks other than seam ripping makes me very happy!)Japan_Fans_0503_5

Holding both threads, I sew slowly and do several very tiny stitches before setting off “properly”.  At the end of my quilting, I reverse the process to end the thread.  It’s a bit more wasteful of thread than the Pfaff’s own tie-off and cutting mechanisms, but more effective and neater.  I did have an oops moment fairly early on, though, when I managed to break a precious needle at the end of a quilting line:Japan_Fans_0503_9

I think I was pulling the needle thread too tightly and when I tapped the pedal to drop the needle, it hit the stitch plate and snapped.  I was furious with myself!  The second needle is faring better though, and I’ve completely done one curtain and am almost half-way through quilting the second. WOO!

Japan_Fans_0503_12After I’ve finished all the cloudy bits, I’ll need to decide what to do about the window frames (I think they will be quilted at least a bit, they look odd now next to the heavily quilted windows) and the back (attach next, or after more quilting?).  Decisions, decisions!  😀

Linking up to Free Motion Mavericks!

Quilting the Japan Fan Club

Japan_Fans_1002_4It’s all gone a bit Art Deco, and I LIKE it!  😀Japan Fans quilting

I did most of the outline quilting on the fans at Quilt Club last week, now I’m working on the straight lines on the “plain” halves of the fan blades.  One half of the curtain is now quilted like this, next I will do the same to the other half and then steel myself for the FMQ.Japan Fans quiltingI was worried that the metallic thread would be too much on the blades (especially the black ones), but I think it helps to differentiate fans from frames, which is important given they’re all the same fabrics!  This is particularly important for the red fans because they sit right next to the red frames.

Linking up to WIP Wednesday over at Freshly Pieced.

Editing to also link up to ALYOF at Sew BitterSweet Designs and Fiber of All Sorts. I’m aiming to have this completely quilted and ready to give to Mum for Mothering Sunday on the 15th.  🙂

Creative Oozings #24 – Frus. Tra. Tion.

I’ve managed to get very little done recently.  Partly because I’ve had nowhere to set up a sewing machine and partly because all my sewing machines seem to be in various stages of death.  Mum’s Huskystar, which has been my principle machine for at least a year, got caught in a plumbing leak we had and was found sitting in a puddle of water.  I took it to my trusty sewing machine repair man and he worked minor miracles to clean out the rust and get it working again (fortunately it’s a purely mechanical machine), but when I came to use it at Quilt Club I found that the tension seemed to be all over the place, it was not sounding completely right, and then a screw fell out while I was doing a bit of free-motion quilting on the border.  Ack.  And Toby’s quilt is now partially quilted but I think I’m going to have to rip it all out and start again because the back is a nightmare of loops.  I’m going to take it back to Mr Knight to see if anything can be done to salvage it (again!).  But that’s ok, I thought – I have my cheap-ass AEG machine that I bought in Germany!  It’s been serviced and sorted after I accidentally nadgered it, let’s see how that works out.  It won’t FMQ (can’t drop the feed dogs), but maybe I can make a start on piecing Jess’s quilt!

Continue reading Creative Oozings #24 – Frus. Tra. Tion.

Creative Oozings #21 – Joining the Japan Fan Club

When I entered the Pembrokeshire Country Show, at pretty much the last possible minute, I had more ideas than actual finished articles.  I knew I wanted to do the two baby quilts for the patchwork quilt class, and had high hopes of finishing off mum’s door curtain and making up a new bag to enter into the patchwork items class, so I paid for two entries for each class and set to.Japanese fans Continue reading Creative Oozings #21 – Joining the Japan Fan Club

Creative Oozings #17 – A Busy Couple of Months

Long time, no post.  Not because I haven’t been doing things, more because I’ve not stopped doing things.  August and September have seen several completed quilty bits, several shows of varying sizes, and a new member of the family, among other things.  It’s not been dull!

Below are some sneak peeks of things I’ve made over the last couple of months; I’ll add links to the specific posts as I write them.

Continue reading Creative Oozings #17 – A Busy Couple of Months

Creative Oozings #8 – Progress with Attic Windows

Yesterday was Quilt Club day, and the day that we were all due to start our Attic Windows projects.  I’d hoped to be able to have all my fans ready and fabric bought for the background squares, but January has been a busy month work-wise (yay) so I hadn’t had the time to spend playing with fabric (boo).  As it was, I didn’t even have time to cut all the strips I needed before the session, so while other members zoomed along doing gorgeous Attic Windows with glittery New York skylines or vibrant poppies, I plodded along with my rotary cutter and sewing machine and generated a pile of bi-coloured rectangles in sets of three, enough for 24 blocks.Bicoloured rectangles

Continue reading Creative Oozings #8 – Progress with Attic Windows

Creative Oozings #6 – Attic Windows, the Evolution of a Design

The thing I really like about Quilt Club (apart from the lovely people) is the relative informality of it.  Everyone works at their own pace and although there are group projects, no one is forced to do anything they don’t want to do.  This was great for me because when I joined I brought with me a host of already-started projects that I needed help continuing.  (And most of them *still* aren’t finished yet!)  Until now, the only group projects I’ve jumped in on were the pre-Christmas mini-projects, which were great fun but only took up one session.  The next group project, though, is one I’m going to grab with both hands because it’s Attic Windows.

Continue reading Creative Oozings #6 – Attic Windows, the Evolution of a Design