It is possible to accomplish some amazing quilted textures and designs using a variety of stitches with your feed dogs up. This is particularly the case if you are blessed with a machine with 9mm wide stitches and even more-so if your machine will do sideways stitching for extra large motifs. I was recently reminded of this in my recent presentation at Suzzie’s Quilt Shop in Manassas Virginia where I showed and talked about my quilts. For that I pulled out my two architectural quilts where I used decorative stitches and straight line walking foot quilting a lot.
Some machines provide precise information as to the width and length of a decorative stitch, and are somewhat adjustable. Here is a screen shot from my B880 plus simulator with a flower motif that uses sideways motion to achieve a bigger design. I learned that it is important to keep a flexible clear plastic ruler with both inches and metric for figuring how to use such motifs. Here you see 41.6 mm wide (about 1.45 inches) by 72.2mm (about 2.85 inches). Many of these extra large stitch designs are not adjustable, so in this case, I would probably try to accommodate the design by slightly adjusting the size of the fabric I was going to use if at all possible. Therefore, it helps to plan out the use of such designs before you plunge in. I am thinking of making a small whole cloth quilt project of some sort just to show off what can be done.
This is big enough to be a nice quilting motif in multiple repeats down the middle of a sashing, for instance.
This would make a lovely quilting stitch down a narrow sashing, for instance, or the center of a larger design.
But I have also used more ordinary stitches in rows, even curved rows (such stitches will curve well, and you can even adjust the width while stitching on my Berninas, and probably other brands) to build up the texture of an area to look like stucco or rock face or some such:
For textured areas, choose geometric patterns that would fit together well in rows sewn closely together.
This method was what I used for some of the walls in this architectural quilt. Note that I had to curve and narrow the decorative stitch design and place them close together. Also it wasn’t perfect, but still looked nice.
From Perspective in Threads, (the colors are off in this picture, but you can see the stitching) entirely done with threads…some decorative stitching, some straight line sewing using a walking foot, and some free motion — stitched in four different thread weights (12, 40, 50, and 100).
This is more detail from the same quilt, and is closer to the correct color than the first detail shot. Look at the wall surrounding the back arch that looks kind of like stucco. That is rows of decorative stitching. The shadows under the steps are simply well-placed rows of straight stitches.
If you do landscapes or small pictorial renderings and want a nice field with flowers and grass, for instance a stitch design with small flowers stitched with variegated threads might just be what you need. This is just a 9.0 mm width and a 15.7 mm (.62 inches) length design. Rows of this spaced closely together would work.
This shows stitch 128 choice.
I did something like this (I don’t remember the exact stitch, but it might have been this one) in the yard on the rendering of the house on “Dad’s House Plan”.
Sew it is possible to get some wonderfully appropriate and detailed quilting on your domestic sewing machine if you are not comfortable with free motion stitching, and even if you are. Sometimes, it is just the right texture that you need and can obtain with those decorative stitches.
Sew happy everyone! Try something new with decorative stitches and have fun in your studios. I plan on going back to a blog every couple of weeks again. Please comment, pay a visit to my YouTube. Cheers.
I don’t know about you, but I love fancy stitching with my machine. I enjoy having so many beautiful decorative stitches available on my machine. I used to just pick a stitch and went with wherever the machine started it and stopped when I got to the end of where I wanted it without worrying too much about whether it was at a good stopping place in the stitch pattern, thinking I couldn’t do anything much about it. I just hoped the decorative stitch would finish at a nice spot when I got to the end. It usually looks pretty that way, but it can be better.
Recently it dawned on me that my machine, a Bernina 880 plus, provided me with some interesting tools to get the pattern precisely placed and spaced perfectly. With a little research I found that most Berninas have many (not all) of the same tools I have to work with on this and provide “total stitch control”. Even my machine doesn’t have all the tools for all the stitches probably because they don’t work well for a particular design. But they are still adjustable.
Amazingly, I have had Berninas for many years and only just started paying attention to using the metric measurements as a feature because of a little YouTube on Bernina International by Silvain Bergeron about making napkin rings from Cork fabric that highlights this feature. So I thought I would tell you what I learned after playing with this because maybe you haven’t thought much about it either. Even if you don’t have a Bernina, maybe your machine has something similar, I don’t know what’s available on other brands, so check it out. Now don’t misunderstand, I am not a Bernina rep or ambassador or have any connection to Bernina other than I am simply a lover of the machines and want to share when I find something fun and this is fun. I have had Bernina machines for more than 35 years.
So to illustrate this, I made a few screen captures of the steps using the simulator for my machine.
Step One: Measure the length you want your decorative stitches to be on your fabric piece using mms rather than inches. I know…I’m an inch person too, but the metrics are easier for this process. I use this really inexpensive ruler that is clear and flexible (can be bent around a curve on its edge, for instance). It’s helpful to know that in general, one inch is 25 mm. I am pretending that I need the length to be 60 mm long. Here’s a link to the ruler:
Or if you are figuring for stitching around a circle, here’s a link to a PiDay circumference app you can just fill in the mm of the radius or diameter and it will tell you the circumference. Circumference of a Circle Calculator If you are doing decorative stitching around a circle that you know the circumference, you may wish to do the adjusting of the size of the stitch set on the sewing side and then save it (only one repeat). Then move to the embroidery side and pick the shape function. Maybe I will do that on another blog. It took me a while to figure that one out.
Step Two: Pick your decorative stitch. I’m going to use #406 on my 880 plus, and I think it is a common stitch that most machines will have. Then check the information on the screen as to the length of the stitch. It is 13 mm long. I need it to be 15 mm long so I can do 4 repeats and come out with my 60 mm length.
Step One: If I just stitched it as is, my decorative design would stop somewhere in the middle of one of the triangles. Click on that mm length.
You will now see this dialogue box that allow you to adjust the length. Note that the plus and minus will move it longer or shorter and you need to look at the number on the left of the stitch picture because to get the size, not the number on the button which is in inches. Here it says “15.2” mm.
Now touch the “i” button to bring up this dialogue box. And pick the button with the triangle and the two arrowheads at the top and bottom.
Now you have this dialogue box where you can adjust the size by percentage and also balance the stitch density. This is particularly useful for working with specialty threadweights. First adjust the percentage until you get 15.0 in the design length (or whatever you want for your project). Then adjust the density. If you are using a 12 weight thread, for instance, you want to lower the thread density…and if you are using an 80 weight you want to raise the density. For most threads at 50 weight, leave it at the default until you do a trial stitchout.
Now you have the right length for four designs for every 60 mm length.
You should do a test stitchout on scrap fabric with a good stabilizer to see how this works before stitching on your project.
Sew this all takes more time and effort to describe than it is to do it, but understanding what is available can help you get that decorative stitch just wonderful on your blouse front, placemat, around a wall hanging, a teenager’s snuggle quilt, on a new bag, and on and on. It makes things much nicer than just stitching out the default size of the decorative stitch and stopping wherever it stops. People may not figure out why it looks so beautiful, but they will know it does.
Sew happy everyone! Try a little adjustments using the metrics and the calculator on your phone and have fun in your studio.
Sky Horse from 2014. This quilt won several ribbons and was shown at Houston IQF in 2014. It is inspired by NASA photos of the Horsehead Nebula.
I was just listening to Dee’s Saturday Sampler (TQS) talking about adding hot fix crystals to quilts. Now she did a nice presentation. But there were a few points that I would like to add. I have lots of experience doing this across the years, especially for my deep space quilt series and Christmas quilts. Also, I add a few crystals for many other types of quilts. Even though I wrote about this in a blog back in 2018, I thought it was time to revisit this technique and update what I said back then.
Stellar Nursery, my first deep space quilt using NASA’s “Mountains of Creation” pictures.
My love for embellishments started decades ago when I had my own fashion design and tailoring business when I designed and my shop made formals, wedding dresses, and costumes for operas, dancers, and skaters. Back at the beginning of that business, I hand sewed or glued most of my embellishments on. Now I mostly use hot fix embellishments, including Swarowski crystals, hot fix pearls, and different shapes.
Out of Mom’s Workbasket. This quilt won Third Place in the Traditional category in Pennsylvania National Quilt Festival 2021. I did not show it elsewhere because it is white and precious to me. I used hot fix pearls across the quilt.
I recently replaced my hot fix crystal wand. It works very well for me especially when I use hot fix transfer tape! What a great invention and what a wonderful improvement to my crystal placements!!! It works also with digital cutters that make hot fix crystal designs, such as the Brother Scan and Cut, but you need the Rhinestone Starter Kit to go with it for that. I do not have this kit, so I have not tried making them.
Sew here are my steps for adding hot fix crystals to a quilt.
Put on your music or audiobook.
With your craft or old scissors, cut a piece of the transfer tape (I use both a smaller cut of around a six inch square and a larger cut of about a 10 inch square. It’s reusable about four or more times.
Place the item you are embellishing flat on the table or ironing board.
Remove the backing from the transfer tape.
Working in sections, place your hot fix crystals (or other hot fix embellishments) on a section of the quilt in the pattern you want them .
Lower your transfer tape piece carefully down over the section of crystals trying not to disturb the pattern and press it down around the crystals and more or less attaching to your project.
Grab a large ceramic cup or dish to put your hot wand into. I think the cup works a little better than the dish shown here, but either one works better than those little stands that comes with some of them.
With the wand iron, heat each crystal with the tape still in place for as long as it needs. You can move the whole tape with the crystals on them a little bit as you need them. Hold it firmly in place and tap your toe, or count slowly.
tiny ones require about 12 toe taps or slow counts.
medium ones require about 20 counts
the larger ones require more…30 to 40 counts to be really secure.
the shaped ones do best with a small iron flat on the tape. I did have one iron get too hot on the tape once and it melted a piece of the tape! I only had it happen once and that iron died shortly thereafter, so it may have been operating badly on the way out.
The transfer tape does not melt and acts as a pressing cloth, protecting the fabric to which you are attaching the crystal from burns by the wand. It also holds the crystals in place so they don’t go flipping off into never never land. If it gets just a little out of alignment, you just move the tape…the crystal stays on the tape until it is fully glued down and then releases with no problem. This means you can pick up your tape slowly to check if you’ve missed one or if it needs more time and replace the tape if so.
Another way to approach it is to place multiple crystals on the tape upside down with the crystals to the sticky side and just move the tape around and place the crystals on one by one. This is a particularly good method for clothing and other shaped pieces when you are having a hard time getting them flat for crystal placement.
I like to shake the quilt when all the crystals are cool to see if anything falls off. Sometimes it does, but now is the time to find out. So just put the crystal back down and cover it with the tape and re-iron. Occasionally, a crystal does not seem to have adequate glue, so you can throw that one away and use another one, or use glue to affix it.
These crystals and pearls really add some loveliness to your projects. They are washable and durable, especially if you shake the item to make sure they are fully attached. Some say it is possible to get carried away with such crystals and pearls. Some quilt police types feel they should never be on your quilt. I say, it’s your quilt. Add the sparkle you want and ignore them and enjoy your blinged out piece.
Hi everyone! Sew I saw it again this week. Someone who is so frustrated with the behavior of their metallic thread in their machine they vowed never to use it again. But I think it should not have to be like that and I have some suggestions that have been successful for me with my machines. Admittedly the machine you have may have a different outcome, and I even have some minor frustrations with metallics from time to time, but these are some things to know and try before giving up on metallics. Afterall, they are sooo pretty when they come out right.
Make sure your machine’s thread paths, both top and bobbin, are fully cleaned and oil the machine.
The needle can make a big difference. Since metallics are usually 40 weight threads, but are flat metal strips wrapped around a core of either polyester, rayon, or nylon, they need a needle with a larger eye than regular 40 weight thread. I use either Superior 90/14 top stitch titanium needles or Schmetz 90/14 metallic or topstitch needles, which all have a larger eye.
Feel around the machine foot you are using just to make sure there is not burr or other rough place.
I prefer either Superior Metallic Thread, which has a polyester core that doesn’t break as often, but sometimes shreds, or Wonderfil Metallic thread, which has a rayon core that sometimes breaks but doesn’t shred as much. I have found they both work pretty well, and much better than any of the others I have tried, including YLI, which has a strong reputation but all my machines, especially my 880 plus, tend to reject it. Nevertheless, with care, I have successfully gotten through many embroidery designs with metallic threads and no breakage or shredding.
Lower the top tension. Do some testing to see if it is right.
Use a lightweight polyester thread in the bobbin that is close in color to the metallic you are using in the top. This reduces thread buildup and will help clear up a lot of headaches for you. I even heard of someone having their plastic bobbin break when filling it with metallic thread (which actually is what prompted me to write this blog). That is probably because it was filling at too rapid a speed, or it was overfilled, or it was a poor quality metallic, but it works better to use a 60 weight Superior Bottom Line or 80 weight Wonderfil DecoBob threads. Both are excellent for most of your embroidery and even regular sewing for all types of thread in the top. You’ll be glad you got this if you do. I like prefilled bobbins because they are so evenly wound and that is particularly helpful when sewing with a difficult thread. Most machines will take a prewound of the right size…look in your manual. But alas, my Bernina 880 plus is such a diva that she requires her own fancy bobbin with silver stripes that has no prewounds available. I love her anyway. Her name is Odette (after the daughter of the founder of Bernina. She ran Bernina for many years and added many wonderful advances to the machines).
prewounds of multiple sizes
Sew slowly! If your machine has a speed control, slow it way down for stitching and in-the-hoop embroidering with metallic threads. It takes longer, but is so rewarding.
Lubricate the threads. My Bernina 880 plus and Q20 longarm both have a thread lubricant path and a pink liquid that came with them specifically for this reason, but my little Bernina 350 does not.
I digitized and embroidered this star as an applique. It is on one of my Christmas quilts now owned by my church. It’s made with metallic threads.
So I will use the lubricant path and pink liquid as described in my manuals for the two larger machines and use something like Dritz Sewers Aid for the smaller one.
When using the thread lubricant path, loosen the tension slightly, because I have found it adds a little tension on its own.
When using the lubricant for a machine that doesn’t have a prescribed path, run a line of the lubricant down the side of the thread spool on three or four sides and hand rub the spool until it is fairly well distributed. Then thread the machine.
Metallic thread is very “lively” and has a strong “memory” that makes it keep a curl when it comes off the spool. So if you use a thread stand with a tall thread guide you can set it behind your machine and bring the thread up and over into your thread path. This allows the thread to relax a little before it enters the thread path. You can also take advantage of cones of thread using these too. I do this when using it with my little B350 that I take with me to places like a class at a quilt show, but my two big machines both have tall thread guides built in. So consider what your machine does and adjust accordingly. Wonderfil has a gadget called a “Thread Tamer” that will do a lot of this for you. I haven’t got that yet, though I think I probably will. It looks very helpful and interesting.
Lengthen the stitch length a little. If you are using an in-the-hoop design, your machine may have an adjustment you can make to do this for such designs or lower the density. It not only will make the thread behave better, but will show up more metallic as it stretches further between stitches. A lower density is very helpful in dealing with metallic threads too and, if carefully set, can look better than full density. But not all machines will do this. Make some simple in-the-hoop test and see what it looks like.
OK, this last idea is something I haven’t tried yet but intend to. Wonderfil just came out with a thread managing invention called The Ultimate Thread Dispenser that fits on most machines. I think it looks very much like it will make a difference for metallics and the other painful, but totally beautiful thread worth the struggle, and that’s rayon embroidery threads. It’s not very expensive, so you may want to order one. Here’s a link to their video talking about it, if you are interested.
Sew most of us love the look of beautiful metallic embroidery, but many of us have been totally frustrated with thread breaks, thread tangles, and so forth. It’s worth trying things to see if you can make your machine decide to cooperate with you and use the metallic. Perhaps if you talk to your machine nicely it will also help. LOL
Sew happy everyone! Keep trying new or even difficult things and have fun in your studio.
Hi everyone. As those of you who have followed me over time know, I love threads and have written several blogposts on the subject. This week I have been free motion stitching with 12 weight threads for quite a few hours. What great looks you can get from them and each type looks remarkably different from the others!
Sew am I happy with the work I did this past week? Some of it looks fabulous, but there is one area I was not happy with. I have found in the past, however, that if I just keep going it often improves. I can also add some ink or paint to improve things. The interesting thing is that this is all part of my next video project. I think I will use this to discuss what to do when things are not just what you envisioned initially or some such. I think I can show that the fiber content and the value contrasts make a great deal of difference in the resulting looks for these fabulous threads. By the way, I got that one area much improved and think it will do just fine.
When purchasing such specialty threads, getting excellent quality thread and the right colors are what is paramount for getting a good outcome. Especially when using heavy threads, the stitching can gnarl up and knot or split if the threads are poor quality. It is really important to use them with the right needles, bobbin threads, and tensions. Some of them, especially rayons, require silicone thread treatments to make them behave, such as the pink liquid that comes with some Bernina machines or Sewer’s Aid. Thread nets also help improve their function if you are using a cone. Also lower the top tension and lengthen the stitches to make things go well.
For domestic machines, slow down. I also frequently use these on my Bernina Q20 longarm sitdown. And for those of you who have a Q, here are the settings I use:
BSR 1 with 200 idling speed
1.75 top tension
180 bobbin tension with the 60 weight Bottom line
Kick start function to keep from skipping stitches
For all of these threads I use a light weight thread in the bobbin such as Superior Bottom Line (a 60 weight polyester), Wonderfil DecoBob (an 80 weight polyester) or, if you only like cotton…a 50 weight cotton.
I am also planning on using even heavier weight specialties on my current project and my next project. These have to be either couched on or stitched on upside down with the thread in the bobbin and a lighter thread on top. I have some beautiful 8 weights to try.
Sew happy everyone! Have fun in your studio and try some heavy weight thread sewing. It adds so much to your projects.
Hi everybody. The subject recently came up about how to sew stitched raw-edge applique so it can be washed and used without a fraying edge. I have used these appliques for years now and have found that there are ways to minimize or even eliminate fraying regardless of the stitch I use for the edge.
Canterbury silk. All the appliques in the central block are silk and stitched with narrow matching lightweight thread using a blanket stitch.
First of all, one needs to consider the fabric. If you are using a relatively loosely woven cotton, it probably would be best to turn the edge even if you are machine stitching it or use a satin stitch with a fray edge treatment, such as fray check if you machine stitch it down. Most current day high quality quilting cottons, however, are tightly woven enough to withstand a raw-edge applique treatment if the stitching is properly set up and the washing is done on a gentle cycle or by hand.
Night on the Bayou. The big cyprus trees are turned edge, machine stitched and the remaining appliques are fused raw edge. All the applique stitching was machine blanket stitched.
I use a light fusible web to tack down my appliques that usually washes away. I have also used a simple wash away glue stick and it works too with the right stitch settings. So for blanket stitch:
Set the stitch narrow with a short length. I use about 1.7 width by 1.5 length on my Bernina 880 plus for most quilting cotton.
I move the needle as far to the right as possible.
I use an open toed embroidery foot 20D
I engage the dual feed to make it really even, but if you don’t have such, stitch at a slow even speed
Run the edge of the applique up close to the inside right toe of the foot so that the straight stitch runs close to the edge of the applique in the background and the swing left to right stitch goes into the applique
Turn the applique as it curves so the swing left-right stitch points to the center of the circle or roundish shape
When turning at a sharp angle, stop as close to the end as possible, preferably with the needle to the right in the background. Then turn, and begin the stitch pattern by hitting the restart pattern button if your machine has one. This makes a pretty point and seals the sharp shape of the applique down with thread. Don’t fret if you miss it a bit, just get it as close to this ideal as you can.
When quilting this type of applique you may wish to use a matching light weight thread or monopoly to blend into the background, or a heavier thread in a dark gray stitched close to the edge to make a shadow-like appearance. It all depends on how you want the end result, so do a test first.
If you do all of this, the result is usually a straight stitch running close to the cut edge of the applique on the background and the left-right stitches close enough together that they help to prevent fraying. Use this stitch with matching thread when you want your edges to blend into the applique more. If you want the blanket stitch to stand out, see if your machine has a double blanket stitch. The double blanket stitch is beautiful and pretty completely seals the edges but stands out.
If you are using wool felt appliques, you can use wider and longer blanket stitches and possibly a 12 weight wool thread for a very hand-appliqued look. You are likely not to wash these items, but felt does not fray in any event.
If you decide you would rather use a satin stitched edge it requires careful even stitching and points and corners require care because this stitch can look fairly amateurish with wiggles and bumpy corners and poorly stitched points. I really prefer to do this by first digitizing it in my Bernina software and then stitch in-the-hoop appliques because it gives a much more professional finish than is easy to achieve otherwise. However, I have been successful at stitching this with first a narrower satin stitch around the applique and follow that with a slightly wider stitch over the original stitch. This gives a nicer smoother look. Use this stitch when you want your edges to stand out.
Detail from Summer Melody, in which all the butterflies are appliqued with narrow satin stitch.
Then there is the time you actually want a little fraying to add to the character of the applique. For this, I just use a straight stitch close to the edge of the applique in a matching thread.
Regardless of the applique you use, when you wash these quilts use gentle cycle or wash by hand and dry flat and they will last for many years.
Sew happy everyone! Have fun in your studio and don’t fear the applique.
Textured appliques can be derived from using a combination of techniques. Such appliques can add major interest, even take center stage, on an art quilt and I find them really fun to do and a little challenging to figure out what needs to be done. The detail shown in the picture above started off as white basic quilting cotton that I washed and steam pressed. Then I traced the applique outlines on the fabric using my light table, painted with artists water soluble crayons, backed the applique itself with wool batting, quilted (I think of this as “prequilting”), backed with fusible web, cut out closely to the applique, fused it down. Then I and edge stitched it to the top. After the quilt top was completely ready, I sandwiched the quilt with a double bat of wool on top and 80/20 cotton/poly on the bottom and did some more stitching to improve the look of the appliques. I was particularly trying to help show muscles and shapes on the dragon and so I added more paint highlights, this time with iridescent Shiva sticks.
Here’s a little closer picture of the dragon so you can see it better.
That’s just an example, but I have used a lot of other techniques to get textured appliques for my work. I’ll probably do a video on this…maybe within my upcoming tree series. They need a lot of texture.
First of all, I am celebrating today, because my youngest son David just released his latest novel (click on the book to find it)! Congratulations to him.
Setting up for free motion quilting or thread play
While my communiques (blogs, vlogs, and YouTube videos) are intended for everyone who wants to play, regardless of their machines, sometimes I also address some quick specifics for working on Berninas. Please don’t stop reading when you come across those if you are not a Bernina owner, because you might find some of what I say interesting anyway.
I have three Berninas: a Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm, a Bernina 880 Plus, and a Bernina 350. I also have a simple older BabyLock serger. I am truly grateful to have this collection of machines I obtained over the years through trade ups, gifts, and so forth. This is a wonderful set of machines for me to play with here in my studio. It’s like playing inside my own wonderland with favorite toys. But it does require practice, sometimes research, testing tools and techniques, and (gasp!) reading my manuals to get the most from this stable of machines. So I want to share what I have learned from this.
Setting Up For Free Motion
The setup for free motion on these machines is relatively simple.
If you don’t have a Bernina Stitch Regulator (BSR attachment) or want to work without it, simply put on a darning or quilting foot like foot #73, #24, #29 or #9. Drop your feed dogs.
If you have a Bernina stitch regulator attachment that works on your machine, attach it and set it for your chosen BSR mode. BSR1 runs smoothly and constantly, idling with a little stitching, which is great for smooth free motion quilting and free motion embroidery. The idling allows you to stitch several stitches at the corner of a sharp turn in addition, which makes a nice turn. BSR2 stops when you stop and starts when you start, so you may prefer this setting. I find with this attachment I have to use a slightly shorter stitch length and not sew too fast for best results.
One of the interesting things you can do with this BSR attachment, is free motion zig zag with stitch regulation, which can’t be done on a sitdown longarm with a stitch regulator. This can provide some unique thread play opportunities and looks.
For most domestic machines you probably won’t need to make any adjustment in tension from the default for normal threads. For specialty threads, however, you may need to lower or raise the top tension to accommodate specialty thread weights and types. It’s a good idea to do a test using similar fabrics and write down your changes before working on your project piece.
When doing free motion it helps a lot to have a slick supporting surface, so I use a silicone mat, such as a Supreme Slider. I tape mine down with that indispensable studio tool blue painters tape because I have ruined more than one mat by stitching it to the back of my project. I have repaired them a bit with clear packing tape if they aren’t too badly torn. Yes, I know the stickiness returns if you rinse the back, but you have to remember to do that periodically and also the heavier and larger your quilt the more likely it is to dis-attach from the table and get caught in the stitching.
A queen sized Supreme Slider taped down with blue painters tape at my old Bernina 830 LE (I traded it for my 880 Plus last year). This works well and is easy to remove when you need to.
Setting Up the Q20 and the Q16 sitdown longarms
These machines are built for free motion quilting and free motion thread work and truly you can dive right in just as they are. But there are a few things that are helpful to know to make your free motion stitching work better. Note that I have had my Q20 now for nearly five years and I love it.
Free motion is always better when the supporting base is slick and the fabric can slide easily. There are some very large silicone mats available for these machines, where you cut the square carefully around the BSR/Bobbin square area (whatever do you call that?!!!).
Some people like using these extra large silicone mats with their sitdowns, I don’t have one. I spray the table before each project with Sullivan’s silicone spray, and wipe it fully dry with a soft cloth or paper towel. But before I spray it, I cover the BSR/Bobbin area under the needle and the vent area at the back of the machine with blue painter’s tape to prevent the spray from going down into the machine works. Alternatively, you can spray into the cloth and wipe the table but I think you get a little less silicone on the table that way (not scientific, just an opinion). From personal experience I know the spray works very well.
These machines have two BSRs built in which provide excellent stitch regulation.
BSR1 constantly runs and has a speed setting to make it cruise along easily at the pace you like. I use it for most of my free motion quilting and all of my free motion embroidery. I like to start off with a relatively slow “idle” speed of 250 to 300 and will raise that if I need to. The machine will run very fast if you want it to.
BSR2 stops when you stop and starts when you start. I use this mostly for ruler work.
BSR3 is a basting stitch with multiple stitch lengths to choose from. I use it a lot for larger quilts. I will spray baste the sandwich and then do some large segments of thread basting. This is especially good for your masterpiece or show quilting that will take a long time just to keep everything in good placement.
Then there is manual setting that does not engage the BSR, of course, but it does have a speed control on it so you can set it at a comfortable pace for you. I like this for micro-quilting, but I don’t use it for much else. It is smooth running and quieter and makes it easy to do those tiny bubbles for instance, but I still prefer the BSRs for most of my quilting. It’s a personal preference. Some people prefer this mode for everything, but if you are new to the machine, I urge you to try the BSRs first. They are wonderful.
I often get the question about what thread will the Berninas use. All my Berninas will work well with almost any good quality thread. I just have to be sure I have the right needle, tensions, stitch length, and the speeds set up right for that.
Keeping notes on how you set things up is always helpful, but these machines have four savable programs for various thread settings, which is really nice. Once you set it all up like you like it, you can save it and even tell it what thread and needle it is for in the naming of the programs.
I like to use the kickstart feature, which allows me to free motion stitch/quilt with a very steady power feed. This helps me relax while stitching and eliminates most stitch skips and the like, without my foot on the pedal. This is because the pedal is basically on/off and if you don’t keep your foot fully down it might skip a stitch, though not usually.
For using the kickstart, get your BSR mode chosen and make sure you are all set up, then kick the pedal at the heel and the machine will sew until you press the pedal at the front to stop it. I love it. You don’t have to concentrate on anything other then where you place your stitching once you get used to it. Here’s a youtube with cute fluffy slippers on using it:
And last, but not least be sure to set your bobbin tension to match your thread in the bobbin. I use mostly Superior Bottom Line in my bobbin…even mostly their prewound M sized bobbins, which are Bottom Line…and set my tension to 180 using the Towa Guage that comes with the machine. The Bernina default setting is 220, but I find you really need to adjust per thread size. If you somehow didn’t get one, be sure your dealer gives you one. It’s not like a domestic…it’s a real longarm.
Sew happy everyone! Have fun in your studio. I hope you found this helpful. I will be posting my next video probably this weekend. Cheers.
Wool sampler prototype piece part one. Embellishment will be presented in part two and quilting and finishing in part three.
Wool applique and embellishment is a great tool in a fabric artist’s quiver. There’s nothing else that provides the rich, warm, depth that real wool fiber does. It can make all the difference in achieving the artistic look you want. In my artist’s eye it compares to working with thick oil paints while cotton or silk is like watercolors. Both are beautiful but achieve totally different looks. Both require different techniques to get the best results.
So using a small project in wool applique I am finally launching my first video set in my YouTube channel. Here is the link to the new video. I have plans for multiple videos on my channel this year, and have just revamped my studio to include the things I need for producing them. So I would love you to subscribe to my channel and enjoy my videos just as a matter of interest or especially to join me in working through the projects you like. See the handout and pattern pdfs on my Aids and Links page here on this site for you to download and print out. Then go to my YouTube video here.
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Here is a list of the supplies with links that I will be using in this first project to which I have added links to help you in your shopping for the supplies:
1 yard of background fabric. I am using all wool Melton, which I had in my stash. Since the price of wool has skyrocketed since I filled my stash with it, I suggest using a melton wool blend for this, which is less expensive and still has a lot of the same characteristics and depth of beauty. Here’s another link at B. Black tailoring supplies, which is a fabulous store that has things that are difficult to find elsewhere. A solid color quilting fabric would also work but will not provide the same deep sense of richness.
There is another option. Use wool clothing that is no longer worn, or that you find in a thrift store, or use pure wool fabrics you have stashed under your bed in those storage boxes you put your clothing fabrics in. You may have had it for a decade and still haven’t made that garment you bought it for, like me. Cut the clothing so you get the largest pieces from them and wash your wool in hot water with some detergent in your washing machine and dry it in your dryer. This provides some amount of felting and cleans the fabric. It is also possible to dye this. It requires all three elements…hot water, agitation, and detergent, to make it do a bit of felting the fibers together. It does need to be pure wool for this to work well. The resulting fabric is also easy to dye in your washer.
One package of lightweight woven fusible interfacing sufficient to cover the yard of background fabric, such as Pellon SF101 Shapeflex
One pack of precut melton wool felt pieces in a variety of colors for flower heads and a pack of a variety of green pieces for stems and leaves. You will probably have enough felt pieces for a couple of small wall hangings or other wool applique projects. Be sure to save all the leftovers for small applique uses elsewhere. Please don’t use craft felt not made with any wool. The comparison is like using paper to fabric. You can use wool blend felt, but pure wool really makes a big difference in how this looks.
Aurifil 12 weight wool blend thread (small spool collection) or (large spool collection..the best value by the yard) or three or four colors of the large spools. If you prefer to use a 12 weight cotton as a slightly cheaper alternative I recommend Sulky 12 weight cotton, for this project, it will still look beautiful, just different and not quite as close to hand done that the wool thread will provide. I have even successfully used 40 weight all poly embroidery threads, and I sometimes have mixed them across a project in order to get particular looks or colors. The wool adds a depth of beauty and is probably what most hand stitchers would use. You should do some testing to see how they look.
universal 80/12 needles if you choose to use monopoly thread for your appliques. I found the Schmetz super non stick needles really helps with dealing with the fluff from wool combined with the fusible web.
1 piece of backing fabric about 25 x 25 inches (for the back of this small quilt) This is a good thing to pull from your existing stash.
Small piece of lower loft batting about 25 x 25 inches. I am using 80/20. This is a good place to use leftover batting from a larger quilt project.
And whenever I use fusibles, I like to have on hand this effective iron cleaning kit good for multiple cleanings that I have successfully used for years: Rowenta Iron cleaning kit
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While you can print the pattern out and use it to cut out your appliques, I did cut all my appliques using my Accuquilt Go! machine, which I really like for such projects. I have had mine for some years, collecting dies a bit at a time, and use it a lot for circles, rectangles, strips, bindings and borders and projects such as this. In my opinion, it is well worth the investment required. I can cut out a simple snuggle lap or crib quilt of squares and a border (prestarched) with a few fun appliques to snazz it up (backed with steam-a-seam 2) in ten minutes (after the fabric is pressed with starch) and make the quilt top all in the same day. Everything is nice and accurate too, very unlike it looks if I do my own cutting. Hahaha.
I used the following three dies for this project and it only took a few minutes for all the shapes I needed with some leftovers:
Go Circle (1 1/2″ to 2 1/2″) it’s so hard to hand cut good circles. These are beautiful. If you can only get one dye set for this project, this might be it.
I have been having fun in my studio this past few days while I worked on my wool applique sampler. I got all the pieces appliqued and have started the fun part of adding decorative stitches to turn them from simple shapes into interesting flowers.
Here is the same applique after I added some decorative stitching using wool blend 12 weight Aurifil thread.
I may decide to add more stitching to this particular flower. It was helpful to me to see it in the photograph. Somehow pictures of my work gives me a different perspective. I may decide, instead, however, to use some free motion quilting to add more details to this flower.
Here is a little closer view of the flower heads and flower stem that I also embroidered with some decorative stitching.
Sew it is a layered process, and while I have a general idea of what it will look like when finished in my mind’s eye, I make adjustments and changes from my original concept as I go.
In any case, I find this phase of the project really fun as each addition changes the appliques and I see my original concept emerge into reality. The last thing I will do before sandwiching and quilting it is to add some patches of grass and maybe a bug or animal around in the grass. The quilting should also make its own addition to the overall interest of this little wall hanging. I am considering how to finish the edge. Should I bind it in cotton or edge stitch it with some heavy weight specialty thread, or even try out that yarn couched edging that Nina McVeigh demonstrated in one of the Bernina videos on The Quilt Show?
One of the useful little bits I learned in the process was how well the Schmetz Super non stick needles helped solve the problem I was having with the wool felt that I had fused on with Steam-a-Seam 2 sticking to the needle. It was getting balls of felt fuzz climbing up the needle until I switched needles. Then I had no more problem with that so far. I was rather astonished.
I’m not sure you can really see the various stitches in this picture, but you can see how I added the numbers of the stitches just above each stitchout.
I made a little test piece to help me decide which decorative stitches I want to use. I also tested the way I stitched them out. For this I used the machine automatic knot it will stitch out if you ask it to both at the beginning and the end. I also stitched them with a specific number of repeats and then just stitched using a slow set of the speed and the start button, rather than the foot pedal. This allows for the machine to stitch out a very even pace, which makes decorative stitches more beautiful.
So when I set it up to go around those circles, I set it to stitch one repeat without turning (basically hands off), and then turn the fabric before doing the next repeat. It makes for a very nice embroidered stitch, almost like good hand embroidery, especially when using a nice thick thread like Aurifil Lana wool blend 12 weight thread.
One thing I learned about working with all this wool and wool thread is that I need to clean my machine a lot more often because both the fabric and the thread produce lint down in the bobbin area of the machine. It is well worth it though, because it is lovely.
I have a long ways to go before I finish this sampler, but I am really having fun with it. I am also video taping here and there as I go.
Sew happy everyone. I encourage you to try your hand at wool applique by machine. In just a few weeks I will come out with my three part video class on YouTube that will use this very sampler and the techniques I am talking about here. I will have a free downloadable handout here to go with it. That effort is progressing nicely finally. I decided to produce all three videos before I posted the first one. Cheers everyone. Happy Advent!