Are you a seasoned quilter, looking for a new machine? Read this before you go shopping!
A friend of mine has recently begun quilting. She has sewn for years, and has an old sewing machine that has been perfect to learn to quilt on. But she is ready to move on, and asked me for some tips on purchasing a new sewing machine. There are so many options available in all price ranges, and it can be so difficult to choose! Especially for a new quilter. But what about those of us who have been quilting for years, and are ready to upgrade to something fancy? We already know what to look for in a new machine… or do we?? I spoke with my good friend (and great designer) Susan Jensen of Quilted Escapes, who just so happens to sell sewing machines at A Great Notion in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Susan and I came up with the following questions to ask yourself before maxing out your credit card on a sewing machine you end up not being happy with.
What features do you REALLY need vs. what features WOULD BE NICE TO HAVE?
Make a list of everything you want in a machine, and any extra features you would like to have but are not absolutely necessary. You will have a budget set, and any extra features that are included and still allow you to stay within your budget are an added bonus!
Are ALL those extra features really all that great?
When I purchased my latest sewing machine, I was so impressed by the demonstration of all the stitches – I think there are close to 300 – that I became so awestruck and totally missed that the presser feet are a real pain to change. I’ve come to hate changing the presser feet on my machine because it’s such an awkward job. So make sure you play with all the attachments in the store to understand not just how they work, whether they ‘work for you’.
Have you TESTED, TESTED, and TESTED some more?
Of course you’re going to test out the machine before you take it home. But are you testing it on your fabric, and with your batting? Bring scraps of batting and fabric from home – don’t rely on what the shop is providing. You may be using different fabrics – like velvet and silk for your crazy quilts and t-shirt fabric for your son’s sport t-shirt quilt – and you won’t know how the machine likes that unless you try.
Is STITCH QUALITY important to you?
Believe it or not not all machines, and not all straight stitches, are created equal. If your straight stitch is is very important to you, make sure to check out the quality of the stitch on the machine. Some really are better than others…
Do you need a PHD to use this thing? (and no, that does not mean Project Half Done)
Is the sewing machine easy to use? Can you sit down at it and sew right away, or is there going to be a steep learning curve? There may be lots of buttons and widgets that make it look pretty, but do you know what do they do without looking at the manual? It really is important that you are able to sew with ease, and not have to have your instructional DVD playing while you quilt.
Is it really a QUILTING MACHINE, or are they just trying to upsell you?
Sometimes they call it a quilting machine, but really it’s just a sewing machine with a pretty name and you have to buy extra attachments just to get what you want – the 1/4″ foot, the extension table, a walking foot… Make sure the machine comes with everything you need.
Do you want Mr. RIGHT, or Mr. RIGHT NOW?
Don’t buy a machine that’s right for ‘right now’, buy a machine that you can grow into. It may come with features you think you may never use, but if you buy a sewing machine that is perfect for your ‘right now’ needs, you’ll quickly get bored with it, and then you’ll be at the store in a year buying the machine you really should have purchased in the first place.
Ready to go back to SCHOOL?
Today’s sewing machines are really sewing computers. And stores are catering to the need to learn these fancy new computers, so make sure to take the offered training sessions, and take as many as possible. Do they bring someone in to teach the classes, or does someone from the store itself teach? Can you go back any time and get more instruction? It’s always nice to know you can pop into the store and get them to help you with one of the features you want to learn to use, because they know the machine too.
There you have it, some advice beyond asking for the length of warranty and, “Does it come with an automatic thread cutter?” Now you’re armed and ready to buy the best machine for you!
There are a number of ways to baste a quilt, and no way is the right or wrong way. There’s just the way that works best for you. I’ve used three different ways to baste my quilts; here are some tips for getting the best results from each.
No matter which method of basting you use, you need to layer your quilt top, batting and backing first. Work on a flat surface – a large table, or a clean floor. Iron your backing fabric and place on the flat surface with right side facing down. Use masking tape to tape the fabric in place. You want it straight and flat, but not so taught that the fabric is stretched.
Lay your batting on top of the backing fabric. Batting often collects loose threads – make sure you don’t have any threads stuck on your batting before you baste your quilt together. You’d hate to have these show through your quilt after you’ve completed it and can’t remove them!
Press your quilt top, and then lay it flat over the batting. It’s best to pat down any creases, rather than pulling the quilt top, to straighten it out.
- Use curved quilt basting pins for pin basting. Make sure you have an adequate supply – you will need a pin for every 4˝ of your quilt top.
- Begin in the middle of your quilt and work out – don’t start in a corner as this may shift your quilt top.
- Wait until you’ve pinned the entire quilt before you close the pins, that way if you need to move any you don’t have to re-open them.
- To make sure you haven’t missed closing any pins, look at the quilt top at eye level – the pins that are still open will be obvious.
- Use a contrasting thread colour that is easy to see on your quilt.
- Don’t waste your good quilting thread on basting – purchase inexpensive serger cone thread for this job.
- Start in the middle and work your way out in a starburst shaped pattern.
- Take large stitches 2-3˝ long, that will be easy to remove, but remember to space the stitches no more than 4˝ apart.
- Don’t forget to knot your thread at the beginning and end.
- Always read the directions on the can before you start spray basting.
- Only use the product in a well-ventilated area.
- A little goes a long way!
- Fold your batting in quarters and work with one quarter at a time, especially if you’re basting a large quilt. For smaller quilts, fold in half.
- Spray a quarter of the backing fabric, and lay the batting down; spray the next quarter and unfold the batting to cover. Continue in this manner until all four quarters of the batting are spray basted to the backing.
- Do the same for your quilt top.
- The nice thing about spray basting is you can easily lift the quilt top to reposition when needed.
- Basting spray does wear off, so if you do not plan to do your quilting right away, it might be best to pin or hand baste.
There are certainly pros and cons to each form of basting, but that is an entirely different article! If you have only stuck to one type of basting, I urge you to try one of the other methods. Who knows, you may never go back!
Stumped for challenge ideas for your guild?
I just read the Thousand Island Quilters’ Guild (Ontario, Canada) November newsletter and they are having a guild challenge for 2011… I thought it was such a neat idea I wanted to share with you!
They are calling it “Me, Myself and I” – make a quilted item that relates to your birthdate. It can be any theme, any style, any technique, but should fit into one of the following categories -- Season - Birthstone - Birth Flower - Zodiac Symbol - Chinese Zodiac Sumbol - Holiday of the Month
Here are some other ideas for Guild Challenges:- Wearable Art - Miniature Blocks - “Fruit & fibre” … this one is very popular! You must use more than one type of fibre (cotton, wool, silk, etc) and the piece must represent some sort of fruit! - the UFO challenge … just get that thing done! Or as many as you can. You should ask members to register their UFO’s (with photos), not that you wouldn’t trust them…..? - Name That Tune … the quilt must depict a song, and the challenge for the rest of the group is to figure out what song it is! - Borders … create a quilt made entirely from border blocks - Photo quilt … inspired by a photo of something or someone, or using photos - Scrappy … who doesn’t have enough scraps to do an entire quilt for a challenge! - Techniques … choose a specific technique – machine applique, hand quilting, etc.
What has your guild done in the past for Challenges? I’d love to hear about them, and I’m sure other quilters would too!
… I’d have spent more time in the kitchen! With my sewing machine at the kitchen table of course.
Here’s a product that you might already have in your kitchen that will be a great help to you in the sewing room too. Thanks to Annemarie Ewart of Lady Bug Designs for this great idea.
What is the great idea, you ask? Glad Press ‘n Seal.
Yup. Glad Press ‘n Seal.
What do you do with it, you ask?
You stick it to your fabric. After you’ve traced your design on it. It stays firmly on your fabric, even when you fold up your project and put it away for a few days. Stitch over the Press ‘n Seal with hand or machine stitching, then simply tear the plastic away when you’re done. Simple as that. No pins to deal with, no shifting of the pattern. Very little wastage.
I am sorry for the awful photos, I’m not a photographer, that’s for sure!
Here it is! The Summer issue cover of Quilter’s Connection Magazine. Spend your summer sewing our wonderful quilts with patterns created by amazing Canadian quilt designers – including Janet Rice-Bredin, F. Dianne L. Stevenson, Marlene Biles and Anna Branch Wager. But wait, that’s not all! Sue Patten shares her secrets to create amazing Thread Art, learn great tips on how to take your quilting on the road this summer, visit summer quilt shows, enter our contest, and so much more!
If you don’t subscribe to the magazine, make sure to pick up your copy in early June at your nearest quilt shop, or Chapters/Indigo store. The magazine is also carried in some independent newsstands across the country!
Quilter’s Connection Magazine will offer a new feature in the magazine. Starting with our Summer 2010 issue, “Find a Teacher” will focus on classified advertising for quilt teachers and instructors. Now, quilters and guilds will be able to find a teacher based on their specialties, location and availability. And Teachers can advertise their unique talents to new audiences. What a great match!
To find out more about how to advertise in “Find a Teacher”, please contact us at email@example.com or call 604-290-3454.
A quilt by Margie Davidson, that’s what! Some time ago, I had an opportunity to attend a lecture and trunk show on the use of Black and White in quilts, by Margie Davidson. Margie is an artist and educator. She teaches in Edmonton AB, and for quilt guilds across Canada. She is also a CQA (Canadian Quilters Association) judge.
Margie took us on a visual journey exploring the use of black and white in quilting. The colours we use in quilting, and indeed for anything in life, are firmly based on our culture. When I think of white and black, I think of light and dark, good and evil, day and night. That is what my western culture has taught me.
But every culture views these two colors differently. For many, white represents good – it is the color of purity, as in a bride’s dress. Black represents evil – think of black cats and witches and funerals. In other cultures, these two colors (which Margie explains are not really colors at all, but the absence of color) represent something completely different. In Asia, white is actually the color of death. Have you ever wondered about the tradition of sending white roses to a family in mourning?
Black and white evoke strong emotions and feelings for many of us – from joy and delight, to fear and sadness. Margie displayed a quilt she designed called “911: A Call for Hope and Healing” after the tragedy in New York. This powerful quilt helped her express her feelings of sadness for this terrible disaster that affected millions of people around the globe in so many ways, and forever changed our lives.
Margie’s quilts took on a teaching role as she spoke of the design and creation of each of them. While holding up specific quilts, Margie explained there are many shades of black as well as shades of white, depending on what colors are used to create the fabric. Some blacks will have a brown tone, or a blue tone, or a red tone. Whites can range from pure snow white to a rich, creamy color. And each black or white fabric will show off another color – take red for example – as something completely different. As an illustration, Margie showed the group two squares, one black and one white. Each had a red circle appliqué. She used the same red fabric appliqué on both squares, but on each the red had a completely different look and feel to it. The red on white was somewhat washed out, while the red on black was quite vivid. Try this yourself at home!
Margie often mixes color with her black and white quilts, and showed many examples of her creations where color was used against a white or black background, or both. Each quilt provided a new way to look at color and how it can be used in quilts when using black and white. Quilts with dark colors seemed brighter when she used a white or beige background, and quilts with muted colors had a somber look against a black background. Bright solid, primary colors appeared to shine when used on a black background, and really popped off the canvas of the quilt. Pastel colors against a white quilt background were soft and gentle.
Margie’s presentation really opened my eyes as to how we use color in our quilts, how we are affected by color, and how we are drawn to certain colors depending on how they are seen in our own culture. I now have some great new ideas on ways that I can incorporate black and white and color into future quilt projects. Never again will I look at black and white fabrics the same way!
Happy Quilting! ~ Heather