Sunday, September 12, 2010

Back to basics - don't overlook the obvious

The Lone Star Maniac quilt is so large and will take time and lots'a lots'a thread. I have a good supply and have found that I like different threads for different quilts.  When I bought the Juki it came with a number of Superior threads that I am still playing with and looking for that purrrrrfect combination.

No too long ago, I had picked-up more King Tut thread by Superior at one of the quilt shows.  I like the look (variegated by design and a 40 weight so it is just a little heavier than my usual Aurifil) and it comes in large cones.  I had plenty of the Sahara Shadows - 2 1/2 cones - that is a variegated gold and tan color that works well with the Americana color base of this quilt.  In the original thread kit was a cone of John Flynn So Fine polyester in the perfect tan for the bobbin.  It is the right match for color and look with the King Tut.

I started by loading 3 bobbins for the Juki and got through the primary stabilization lines and part of the first star point before I had to reload my bobbins.  I am now about 30% of the way through the quilting  and I have already loaded the 7th bobbin in the machine.  I am amazed when I look at how big the spool or cone of thread is and then realize how much thread I actually use in a project - how many miles of thread we use go through in just one quilt.  As a guess, I will estimate 20-25 bobbins in this one quilt - that will add some weight to the quilt.

What I am saying, in an indirect way, is that we forget about the quantity and the cost of the thread we use in the construction of the quilt and then in the quilting.  By the time you have spent so much money on fabric for the top and the back, and invested your time in construction (and your time is worth a lot) this is not the point to go on the cheap and use inexpensive threads. 

I will keep trying different threads and combinations to get the look that I want.

On a slightly different note, during my quilting so far, I have been having trouble with a lot of skipped stitches.  It has been really frustrating and resulted in a lot of cussing at an inanimate sewing machine.  Of course it is a problem with the machine.  I did everything I could think of:
  • Took the machine apart, 
  • Cleaned and oiled everything I could reach, 
  • Re-loaded the bobbin and the top threads
  • Sewed slower
  • Sewed faster
  • Changed my needle
  • Spent time on the internet looking at forums for some ideas
  • And completely overlooked the obvious
I was using the Schmetz Quilting Needle which should be just right.  However, I was using a 75/11 with a 40 weight thread.  My needle size was too small for the weight of the thread.  I was my own worst enemy and created my own problem.  When I changed to a 90/14 Jeans needle my skipped stitches virtually disappeared.  I have to add 90/14 Quilter's needles to my supplies.

As with thread, changing needles frequently to keep a fresh sharp needle in your machine improves stitching no matter what you are working on.  How long should a needle last?  I read somewhere that it is recommended that you change your sewing machine needle after about 8 hours of continuous sewing.  Although that makes sense when you remember that the points will get dull with use, I can't be quite that obsessive. For some folks that could be in a couple of weeks or even months.  Often for me that is every couple of days.  I try to remember to change my needle at the start of every new project and then every so often during the project.

I do know that it is time to change my needle if I hear a popping sound, when the needle goes into the fabric or if I start to see skipped stitches.  These are two of the most common signs of a dull needle.

So when was the last time you changed your needle?  If you haven't replaced the needle since you started the current project, is it time to make a change?  Is it really too much to spend $0.75 or $1.00 for a good quality needle 2, 3, or even 4 times during a project that you just spent $175 buying the fabric for? 

I just gotta keep it in perspective, if I want smooth even stitches then I need a well oiled machine with a sharp needle, and good quality  thread appropriate to the project to pull it all together.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Lone Star Maniac continued

If I plan to have this quilt ready for the Glad Creations staff quilt show on January 1, I better get crack'n.

You should come to the store the first week of January and see our quilts - this year it is all about stars and predominantly Lone Star quilts.  I didn't pick the theme but since it is one of  my favorite quilt designs I was tickled when it became the theme.  I had already resurrected the Jan Krentz Lone Star for completion (See Jacobean Floral Meets Lone Star and Beyond posted in August 2010) and I had bought the fabric to make this giant Lone Star for my brother-in-law and his wife so I was already heading alone the path of Lone Star quilts in 2010.

Well, the top was finished the end of March and here it is the first week of September.  I knew that the back was going to be an event since the quilt is so big.  I have to admit that I just kept adding to it until it was big enough (half priced fabric helped).  I decided Labor Day weekend was a great time for a project like this.  Little did I know what a commitment that was.

Over the years I have amassed quite a number of pins but it just wasn't going to be enough.  I started with the quilt centered on my pinning table.  Even with extension legs to raise the table up to 38 inches the quilt hung down to the floor and folded up on either side. Oh well, time to pin.  I had gone through more than half of my available pins just pinning the center section which is less than 25% of the whole quilt.

I went looking for those 2 quilts that I have pinned but have not quilted yet (procrastination does consume resources).  I ended up putting in the stabilization line in both quilts and tacking the outer border so I could get all of the pins.  Knowing that I was still going to be short I decided to count how many pins went into a section so I would know how many pins I needed to buy.  It was 475 pins which meant that I was going to be about 600 pins short.  By the time all was said and done, I am guessing that there are roughly 2500 pins in this crazy thing - and it weighs a ton.

It is Labor Day Monday and I have started quilting this quilt.  Despite the fact that it is huge (120x120 plus when you add backing and batt) the quilting is a simple serpentine down either side of the seams.  Because of the size and the mini Lone Stars in the setting squares and triangles I expect this will take a while to get completed.  Fortunately the Juki can handle the large volume of fabric under the extended arm.We will see how long this takes.