While doing this quarantine thing, I have been spending a great deal of time with Vivian.
Not to worry, though. Vivian is a Vision 2.0 Gammill quilting machine named after my grandmother. She and I have been working together for a couple of years now and I have learned a lot and picked up a few ideas along the way.
Most of what I am doing now would be classified as utilitarian in nature and mostly pantographs (quilting patterns), I also will do some basting–no more bending over the dining room table or crawling around on the floor; and a few art quilts.
- Stencil Brush and regular paint brush. I use the stencil brush to clean the lint from the bobbin carrier; the regular paint brush to clean the rollers and the track (although the air compressor my sweet husband bought me works better and faster except for the bobbin carrier–too hard to hold onto it in that blast of air)
- a white index card or a sheet of typing paper folded in fourths held behind the needle is helpful in threading dark thread against a dark quilt
- I pin to the top roller, roll slowly and carefully while standing in the middle of the bar and straightening the wrinkles as I go. I then roll slowly back onto the bottom bar. I was taught to pin to bottom, roll up on bottom, then pin to top but I ended up rolling it back and forth several times to be sure it was wrinkle free. This method works much better.
- I leave the backing under tension; drape the batting over the backing along with the top all over night. This takes a bit more time but I have not had any wrinkles in the backing using this method. And I am not ironing a backing that might have a few wrinkles in it from being folded.
- I make a small clip in the backing’s mid points to assist in pinning to the leaders. In the past I used a pin but then had to figure out what to do with that small sewing pin–the ones used to pin to the leaders would fall out.
- I measure each top and pin the measurements to the top; I can measure my pieces of backing and know which piece I can use and how to orient the top on the frame.
- I leave a four to five inch length of top thread when I invariably run out of bobbin thread in the middle or worse–only three inches away from the end of a row. That thread is easier to find when restarting.
- I mark the end of the pantograph with a piece of white plastic–it could be a piece of paper; I use a long straight edge to mark the top of the pantograph when filling in a partial row at the end of the quilt—that long straight edge is the top covering for window blinds but a regular yardstick would also work.
- Vivian does not mind jogging in place or even just standing still while I figure out where I am in the pantograph; she is incredibly patient.
- It is okay to write notes on the pantograph–some do not have top of the pattern marked, some start in odd places. That pattern is a piece of paper—write on it!
- Practice good posture while working; stand up straight; take breaks–Vivian will wait for you—and still smile at you when you come back.
- Don’t step on the electrical cord; it’s like putting your foot on the brake while revving the engine (if that can be done). you are just not going any where.
That’s all I can think of right now. Like a lot of things, there are things you do automatically and don’t even consider but make your tasks much easier.
I have been steadily whittling down the backload of quilt tops while under quarantine. I work on quilting nearly every day; while I am mostly doing pantographs, I think any time spent with a tool to be totally comfortable with its use makes future projects easier. While I have completed some art pieces with Vivian, the majority have been bed covers—but that is okay. I am having fun—my only limitation was backing and batting—but thanks to my wonderful long arm shop, I got in two cases of batting—….it’s easier for me to manage pieces of batting instead of cutting off hunks from a huge roll…yes, I know it is more expensive but I save on frustration and not crawling on the floor to cut off a piece.
If those of you who have long arms and more experience than me—are there things you do that improve your work or make things easier? I’d enjoy hearing!
And here is yesterday’s completed quilt—ready to join the binding queue.
yes, nearly all music themed fabrics; about 74 by 86 with a black backing covered with white musical notes.
Like one of two of you, I have been checking social media on a too frequent basis. What is real and what is rumor? Angry comments are mis-directed fear–fear of the unknown and panic has spread from official to official to regular persons who are spending far too much time on social media.
I have been taking advantage of this time to work on some projects. I will admit to no social distancing from Vivian—but Vivian has never been to Walmart, the dog park, Krogers, or church—she just waits patiently for me in the back room of what my husband calls my play-house.
The play-house is a 100 year plus old rice farmer cottage with the dog-run center wide hallway and two rooms on either side plus and upstairs of three rooms. Vivian lives in the back room where I can see a few of my beehives, a good view of the water tanks filled now with lettuce and English peas. The grounds are covered with blooming white clover and the bees are busily working that clover.
We monitor those hives as this is swarming season; Toby and Dora were thrilled to visit and wander around and inspect the sugar cane we planted about two weeks ago—yes there are a few sprouts so we will be able to harvest our own sugar cane in about two years and then I will have to figure out how to make sugar from that cane (maybe I’m kidding here)
Back to Vivian. Vivian was my grandmother’s name and I gave it to my Gammill quilting machine. We have become good friends and like my grandmother, she works hard.
This quilt was made from some stars my mother hand-pieced–eye-balling the 1/4 inch seams which means no two were identical and some green and white triangles my dad cut out for her when her hands could no longer function due to neuropathy from chemo. They weren’t perfectly cut either—and I could have recut everything but just wanted it to be what it was—a joint project between my dad, my mom, my grandmother’s name-sake and me.
it’s all done except for the binding and the words for the label.
My mother worked diligently to piece a quilt for each of her grandchildren. They were meant to be given on the occasion of their wedding. I have been working away at this project for some time and have decided that perhaps one or two of them are not planning of being married—so instead of holding them in perpetuity, I am finishing them.
This one is for my oldest son. It isn’t as large as some she made but it is large enough to make a great TV watching quilt—a tradition in our house as it tends to be a bit on the cool side.
The binding is lacking—but it is otherwise done—and I have just two more left to do.
and just so you can see my wonderful quilting—a pantograph but one of my favorites.
This quilt top has been in the line-up for completion for several months if not over a year. My oldest son is a proud graduate of University of Texas, receiving a Phd in Analytical Chemistry and is a member of the Texas Exes in Fort Worth. The group raises money for scholarships for students to attend U.T.
I used a pattern written by a group that makes Quilts of Valor–the only caveat to using the pattern is that it is not for individual profit but for a charitable purpose.
It is now bound and ready to travel to Fort Worth for their next fund-raiser—-maybe to join the Teddy Bear I made from UT themed fabric earlier this year.
Thread comes in many lovely colors and sizes of spools but I don’t always need a full cone (at $35 each) of a color. And I have a lot of smaller spools but they do not work well on the Gammill. The thread catches on the small slot intended to corral the thread from unwinding itself all over the floor.
One of my sons solved this problem. We designed a spool cap that would fit over the top of the spool and prevent catching in the slot. It worked absolutely perfectly.
Now I can use a lot of different threads and not necessarily invest in a lot of cones of thread.
My mother was a quilter and like many left behind some starts and stops, experiments and partially completed projects. I have been finishing up some of them and gifting them to her great-grandchildren.
the first one is for Ella and the teddy bears is for Eli—-a set of twins, children of one of my nephews and his lovely wife.
I have one more to quilt—the boxes are slowly being emptied and put to good use.
It isn’t much of a secret that my favorite color is blue—in nearly form but particularly a lovely indigo color—and a purply blue heather color—the color I painted in my sewing room. Several years ago I bought two cotton bedspreads made in Indigo with the intention of making them into a lightweight summer quilt.
The fabric is somewhat gauzy making it a bit stretchy and more than a bit difficult to quilt—and then I chose a lovely warm cranberry red thread for the quilting. That thread disappeared into the fabric and it seemed to take forever to get it quilted.
But now it is done and is in the queue to be bound—the hardest part of that is the trimming.
One of the fun news articles this past week—-and don’t we all appreciate something nice….has been about a woman who bought an unfinished embroidery project at an estate sale and enlisted others to complete it. I have a similar project but haven’t enlisted anyone to to work on it besides myself.
It is a set of beautifully embroidered state birds. Someone decided to paint the outlines of the states in an off color white–at first I thought they had mended the blocks but after looking at a few more, I discovered some state outlines. Ohio is not that remarkable a shape–but Texas is.
First I had to trim up the edges to make them all reasonably uniform sized.
Then I had to calculate the pieces to make these into square-ish blocks AND figure out how to cut those pieces using the rulers I had.
Adding all those corners took some time but now all the blocks have been cornered and are awaiting joining to their neighbors. I am not putting them any particular order although I thought about putting all the cardinals together somewhere.
Final challenge will be the quilting; how to not overwhelm that beautiful embroidery will be something I will have to think about a bit. That will occupy my mind while I am doing the rather mundane part of trimming (again) and stitching together.
Several years ago I bought two lovely large cotton batik indigo pieces in Colorado. It was my plan to quilt them together so as to have a double sided light weight quilt for summer nights.
I decided I wanted to use flannel as the batting; and as I have been diligently working on the quilt tops that have accumulated over the years—I’m not fond of basting===clean off the dining room table, put down popsicle sticks to mark the centers, tape and pin and roll—but with a long arm–basting is now a breeze—or actually not needed except at the edges.
I loaded up the bottom, smoothed out the flannel lining and put on the top layer.
I had planned to use a deep warmish cranberry red as the thread—thought about doing fancy custom work—and then realized it would not be very visible so why go to all that work.
Pantograph it was.
Each row takes about 15 minutes to complete. I finished up three rows; my back is not happy doing all this standing–and came back to it the next day—–but——the laser light did not work.
Turned everything off and then back on again–still no luck. Called the dealer—I needed a new laser light–and it would be easy to install.
Laser light arrived yesterday.
Installed without a hitch—I did need to use the flashlight to see where the hex fit on the side.
I am now back up and running. Did three more rows and quit for the day—maybe tomorrow will be another two or three rows—I think there are about 6 rows left.
and here is a detail of the stitching
Starting a new project is always fun and exciting—and maybe like others, I suffer from the ‘my ambitions and ideas are bigger than my hands can finish’ syndrome.
I have always had more than one project going, trying to pair an older one with a newer one to keep up the excitement and interest. But two years ago, I stumbled upon the American patchwork UFO Quilt challenge.
First you pull out the old projects—I had already done that and put them in boxes and labeled and made a list. Then you choose twelve and fill in a sheet from one to twelve. If you are really brave, you post it on their facebook site.
Then each month, a number is pulled and that is the project you work on for the month. Sometimes you think–oh, no, why did I put that on the list—but once started, it gets easier. I haven’t finished all the projects I listed–as some took a lot more time than I thought they would—and work was especially busy—and I like to have them completed–stitched, quilted, bound, and photo’ed.
And of course, one of the guilds I belong to decided on the same challenge—but they had to be different—so that meant EIGHTEEN projects.
I can say the stack of quilt tops is diminishing; the project boxes are emptying—but I seem to e adding new projects along the way—but trying very hard to show restraint.
Here are two from this year—one was quilted and the other finished into a top and put into the to be quilted pile.
this was a round robin; it started with the center camel batik from Africa
left over strip pieces from a workshop with Nancy Crow
and here is a closeup of the quilting