Monday, December 22, 2014

Who'd a thunk? to get an accurate seam allowance

Spent a lazy afternoon on Sunday.  After a dynamic and rocking service at church in the morning, hubby and I treated ourselves to a lovely pedicure!  He still won't choose any colour and the girls at the nail salon tease him more and more!  We then went home and just vegged in front of the TV.  I had the first season of Hawaii Five-0 on the TV and since I have watched most of the episodes, was not quite paying attention.  My lap top in my lap kept the other part of my brain working.

Here's what I learned yesterday afternoon from Pinterest.

How to sew with an accurate 1/4" seam allowance.  

OK, I've been sewing with a 1/4" seam allowance forever!  I know how to do it right!  I know how to trick my machine and use my favourite, regular sewing machine foot instead of a patchwork foot to sew 1/4" seams.....don't I?

I started looking into this because I am writing the draft for my January WonderFil Newsletter and our focus thread this month is DecoBob.  DecoBob is an 80wt thread that is "perfect for piecing". And apparently you will get a much more accurate 1/4" seam allowance.  Well, before I started spouting, I thought I'd do a little research to add to what I already know about machines and 1/4" seam allowances.

Sewing machines use little metal teeth (feed dogs) to feed the fabric from the front of the machine to the back. As the fabric is fed through, the needle will go up and down through the fabric and make a stitch with thread.  If the feed dogs don't move the fabric, the needle will stitch in one place.

Instead of just one feed dog, there are often 3-7 sets of little metal teeth that work to feed the fabric. Some of these teeth are placed close together and on some machines, further apart.


Many 1/4" or patchwork feet are narrower than a normal or standard sewing foot to allow you to feed the fabric against the edge of the foot and get your 1/4" seam allowance.  


If the foot you use is narrow as you go over the feed dogs, the fabric won't be fed evenly and some sewers complain of the fabric pulling to one side as they sew.  Can you see that the foot and fabric are not covering the feed dogs completely?  I find that when I sew with a 1/4" foot, my fabric tends to drift to the left and I am always pulling my fabric to the right against the edge of the foot.  I solved this problem by using my open toe or satin stitch sewing foot and moving my needle to a position on the right, closer to the edge of the foot.


Many computerized machines will have a needle centre position.  When the machine is turned on, the needle will set itself to be in a centre position.  Use the features on your machine to move the needle closer  to the right edge of the foot.  My centre needle position is at 3.5mm.  The full width of the stitches are 7mm.

I did some testing.  I cut a number of strips of fabric 2" wide.  I sewed 3 strips together with a needle postion of 6mm (what I have always used for my 1/4" seam allowance).  I lined my fabric against the edge of my foot. I pressed these seams very gently to make sure I didn't stretch anything. You will have to look closely, but you can definitely see that the sample sewn with a 6mm needle position does not quite measure 5" (I moved the ruler over 1/2" for more visibility).  The centre strip is just shy of the 1" mark.     

The sample sewn with the 6.5mm needle position, measures much closer to that desired 5" amount. The centre strip is a much more accurate 1".  

So, its only a few threads you say.  But imagine a few threads at every seam and suddenly a 6" block with 6 pieces of fabric doesn't measure the desired 6"!  So, going forward, I'm going to sew with a 6.5mm needle position on my machine.

Now the next challenge is sewing a straight line.  One of the Pinterest posts suggested masking tape and another one suggested Post-It Notes.  I think I may prefer the masking tape as a physical guide because it will stay in place longer than the Post-It Notes.  Below are some of the great ideas I found this weekend that set me on the right track.

I challenge everyone to CHECK YOUR 1/4" SEAM ALLOWANCE!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

KISS Quilting

Many, many years ago I participated in a block swap at a quilting retreat at Sylvan Lake. We each made 12 identical blocks and swapped.  What we ended up with were 12 blocks in different colours.  I dutifully sewed them together and put the top away for later quilting.  I am not sure how old the top is, but I would guess at least 5 years old, probably much more!

The blocks were to be 9 1/2" finished.  Some weren' I simply added a black border around each block and trimmed to make them all 12 1/2" finished.  Not sure why the extra 1/2" on the block size, but there you have it.

I found some black batik with little dots of colour that was a perfect match to use for the backing and binding.   I machine stitched the binding to the back side of the quilt and folded the binding to the front and machine stitched it in place.

I loaded that puppy on the Handi Quilter Avante (Aster) and stitched away.  I remembered to start the timer and look at that!   It only took me 22 minutes and 26 seconds of actual stitching time to get that puppy done.   It was a total of almost 1 hour to load, thread and advance the quilt on the frame and stitch.

I did stitch with a slightly larger design than I usually do, but I wanted to show a group of ladies how quickly they could get their own quilts quilted.  I used WonderFil's Silco cotton thread in the needle and DecoBob in the bobbin.

We had a group of Friday sew day ladies in 2 weeks ago.  It was their first time at the centre and wanted a tour.  We showed them around the studio and explained the training and rental program for the Handi Quilter Avantes and Sweet Sixteens. I was getting ready to load and quilt this and told the ladies that I would do this quilt and then in the afternoon load some fabric for them to play.

I used a very large all over double loop and leaf design.  At first I thought this would not be enough coverage and I still think I may do the next one with the designs a bit closer....but, 22 minutes of stitching.  I've really got to get going and finish some of the tops I have left lying around!  Maybe I'll have some Christmas gifts finished in time this year.

black block swap 7
We do have some charity quilts that need to be quilted if anyone wants to come to the studio and practice.

Monday, November 3, 2014

today's quilting.

Here is a quilt I quilted for my great  nephew.   My mum pieced it and I offered to quilt it for her.  Didn't have a super lot of time and after quilting D'dot's so quickly I decided to give this one  a simple loop.  After the first row I realized that the single loop wouldn't be enough, so looped again.  Not bad NODDY.

I used WonderFil Silco in the needle and DecoBob in the bobbin.

That's a very good start to a Monday morning.  Can I hope it's the start of a productive week?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

D'dot's Jelly Roll quilt.

I just started to write a new blog post and realized I hadn't posted this from last week......

I'm one proud momma. My daughter decided last week to make her boyfriend a quilt for his birthday in two weeks.  We decided on a jelly roll quilt. She selected a number of 'masculine ' prints, cut them into 2 1/2 inch strips and sewed.  She had the top done in a couple  of hours.  

We ran out of  time to quilt it before she returned to Vancouver.  She did get it loaded on the frame before she left.  I quilted it on Tuesday.  Just for interest I timed myself. 

Look at that.  Less than an hour of stitching.  total time was about  1 hour and twenty  minutes - winding bobbins, changing bobbins and advancing.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

a good morning

It's  been a good morning.  I set my timer for 2 hours of sewing and went downstairs to sew.  I  completed this lovely table runner  as a sample  for a beginner quilting class.  Just finished and was curious to see how much time I had left....guess I didn't press start!   So now  I have no idea how long this project took me. ...sheesh!  

But at least I got something accomplished and it's not yet noon.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Free Motion Quilting - Basics

Yep, I'm teaching a class next Thursday evening at the WonderFil thread offices...actually in the Threaducation classroom next door.  6:30-9:30pm.    We'll be doing the first-basics-beginner FREE MOTION QUILTING class.

In this class we'll cover the to set up your sewing machine for Free Motion Quilting, the necessary and optional accessories, thread and tension issues and also (most importantly), the 5 basic shapes that make up ALL free motion quilting designs.  There will be lots of time to practice in class and I'll keep an close eye on everyone as they sew.  AND WonderFil thread is included!

I like to keep my classes small (8 maximum), so that everyone has enough room to work, but also so that I can get around to everyone in the class and give you some personal attention and tips and tricks.

If you are interested in this class, give me a call (space is limited) at 403-819-8126 to register.  $42 including GST.  You can register with your credit card.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

This week's sewing

I am spending the week with my very crafty (talented) parents in Winnipeg.  We are up early to have breakie and a short visit then head downstairs to their designated work spaces.

My Dad loves to putter...he is currently modifying his new shop vac.  Putting it on a wheeled base so that it moves easier and won't tip over!  This morning's task is a new batch of wine!!!!  Won't be ready by the time I head home, but I am enjoying the fruits of his previous labour.  Dad has also spent some time with a young mum from their church.  He is teaching her to do stained glass.  He is in his element!

My Mum is a knitter and quilter.  She spends most of her time downstairs sewing and if not at her machine, she'll be found in the kitchen (cooking great food) or sitting in her chair knitting.  The knitting is usually an evening-in-front-of-the-TV activity.  This morning we're heading down to design a table runner.  She found this runner pinned to the wall in a store and now we get to work out the design for her to sew!

I'm spending the week working remotely and sewing samples for the new Handi Quilter Studio.  I have decided to name each of our 4 machines with flower names that start with the letters A, B, C and D.  I had girl's names chosen, but after thought and discussion ended up with Aster, Bluebell, Calla and Daisy.

I have been working on some little quilts that we can hang on the machines....Not happy with Aster and Daisy. Will have to play some more and may end up re-doing them  They're not finished yet, but you'll get the idea.

I have found these projects to be quite relaxing.  I just stitch an all over design until I get bored, then move onto another design.   Stitched with WondeFil Accent, Spaghetti and Fruitti.  Will post better photos when they are complete.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Summer Quilt

I am visiting my parents.  Mum has a different bed quilt for each of the seasons.  This is her summer quilt.  I quilted it for her using my handi quilter sweet sixteen sit down machine.

I did some lovely work 7 years ago! 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

We're Waiting......

In July I was invited to join the WonderFil Specialty Threads team and set up and manage a Handi Quilter Rental Studio and write and publish a variety of newsletters for WonderFil Specialty Threads. There will be two of us looking after the Threaducation Centre and the Rental Studio. Come by for a visit!

We'll have 2 HQ Avantes; these are 18" machines on 12 foot tables. 

We'll have a ProStitcher on one of the Avantes; a computer system for quilting.

We'll have 2 Sweet Sixteen sit down models.

To rent, you will be required to take a 2-3 hour certification course to learn how to use these fabulous machines. Once certified, you can rent machines.....Aren't you excited?

The studio is very empty....but soon, we'll have the walls covered in quilts and the floors full of machines!

Our Classroom Space doesn't look like much yet, but we'll get lots of inspiration up on the walls soon!

Look at all these threads you can us