Studio Revamp: Throw Away, Give Away, Keep…Repeat

Now that I have ordered my Bernina Q20, I have to prepare a place for it by mid June.  This is a pretty big project, because it involves reorganizing my whole upper level, starting with my bedroom and master bath (there are drawers in there).  I have to eliminate one of my two dressers from my bedroom, move the Koala cabinet where I use my alternative machines into my bedroom where the dresser is now, and finish up with some reduction of fabrics and other assorted junk and a good vacuuming and dusting.

So I have begun by cleaning out the dresser I intend to keep, and I found a whole big black bag of old work things to toss and a bag of things give away in that dresser.  I no longer wear panty hose, business tops, and skirted suits except on very rare occasions.  Back when I worked, wore these everyday.  Now my “uniform” is a long sleeved shirt or top, a pair of jeans, and socks and shoes. So I will keep a few business dress outfits and get rid of the rest.

I have fashion fabrics in under bed storage boxes.  These are currently out in the room and need to be sorted and put back.  There you will find some lovely woolens, silks, and other dressy/business fabrics.  I will probably keep a few and give away the rest.  Every now and then I want to sew some clothing, but I don’t need that much and the clothes I want to make are different for me now.

I should have done this right after I retired in January 2012, and, in fact, I did a little, but I was still attached to things, thinking I would wear them, but I haven’t at all.  I now think they look dowdy, no longer match my coloring, (I have let my hair go natural, with lots of gray and it looks a little blond), and I have a different life style altogether.  So I will be able to do this without a problem…just a lot of work.  And in the end, I will be much happier with my bedroom as well as my studio.

Then if I have time before the machine gets here, I am going to prune my stash down so it all fits in the generous storage units I have for them and give the studio a good cleaning.  My taste in quilting fabrics has changed over the past few years as well.

Sew happy everyone!  Is it time to spring clean your bedroom and studio?  When done well, it helps the work flow for a long time, I think.

Betty Jo’s Fabric Arts: The Adventure Continues!

I am excited about the future of Betty Jo’s Fabric Arts.  Now that Drawing Nigh is completed, I am working to finish my Hoffman Challenge quilt.  I have the top nearly finished, and only have to applique on the animals.  The focus is oversized butterflies, which are flying playfully through a happy, whimsical forest.  I am going to have to figure how I want to quilt this quilt, but I expect to get to the sandwiching and quilting in a day or two.

Some of you may already know the really good news…my Bernina 830 LE, named “Gibbs” was repaired yesterday by Lew, the magician tech who works at G Street Fabrics Bernina section.  It had somehow gotten everything way out of timing among other things and there was a big knot of thread he pulled out of it, but I THINK that was a result not a cause of the problem.  Nevertheless, he says it is in good shape and should keep going for a good long time.

More than ever now I believe I need to get a dedicated quilting machine to help move my quilting a higher level and reduce the stress on my domestic machines, especially Gibbs.  I have been doing a lot of research on sit down longarms.  I had a lot of you all give me some great feedback to my question about what you think I should look into.  While I was at the Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival, I tried a bunch of them there.  That left just a few to look into.

After all the research and a family conference with my sons and Beth (my daughter in law), I have decided on a Bernina Q20.  The dealer is closer (a big point), the machine stitch is beautiful and smooth, and it has a really great stitch regulator (which I particularly wanted).  I had some good feedback from people who have one, and the G Street Bernina dealership has provided me a very good price on one and the table, and starting tomorrow there is a 60 month interest free finance special and sale.

I am now trying to figure out how I can fit it into my studio, and I think I can.  Like a computer adventure game, it starts at a different place from where it will end up and things need to be solved along the way.  I first have to go through my dressers and closets and empty enough from them to remove one of my two dressers.  It is high time anyway, since I still have a bunch of things I no longer wear now that I don’t have a government job that required a totally different wardrobe.  Doable, but somewhat overwhelming.

After I remove the dresser, I will move the Koala cabinet that I use with my backup/alternate Berninas (the B350, and the old 1230), from my office space to my bedroom where the dresser is now. The new cabinet will fit where the Koala cabinet is now in the office side of my two-small-bedroom studio.  I have my ironing board set up in there, and it will not fit after the new machine is there, since it is in a somewhat wider cabinet.  So I will have to figure out what to do with that.   A big job, but there you are…a way forward.

Sew happy everyone.  May your machine(s) play happily with your projects.

 

Thoughts about Machines

One thing for certain, my kind of fabric work requires a good quality sewing machine, and I need to be able to both embroider and free motion quilt on it a great deal (to a professional level).  Working as I do, I put a lot of stress on my main machine.

On Thursday my wonderful Bernina 830 LE, whose name is Gibbs (after the Gibbs in Wilcox and Gibbs who were historically important in the development of sewing machinery) went berserk in the middle of a simple embroidery stitch-out.  First it started sewing really really fast, which I managed to stop.  Then it started back sewing ok for about 10 stitches, and suddenly there was a “clunk” and the needle stopped going up and down, but the bobbin was spinning at a steady pace.  I tried to stop the embroidery, but the bobbin still spun.  I turned the machine off and on again, and, after a few seconds, the bobbin spun.  I had noticed one time before that it had stitched very fast for no apparent reason, but that was months ago and it stopped after one incident, and I cleaned and oiled it and it went back to sewing ok. I was in shock and actually cried a bit.

Machine appliqueing with very narrow zig zag

Gibbs at work machine appliqueing with very narrow zig zag. Note the Sashiko that I stitched out on Gibbs using the embroidery module.

Sew I don’t know whether it is prohibitively expensive to repair it (in other words, it is “dead”), or whether it is repairable.  I have put about 9 million stitches on it over the course of the past four and a half years, and have used it on average probably more than 25 to 35 hours a week, with some weeks being about 50 or 60 hours. I’m taking it in to the shop on Monday.  I am blessed with a very good Bernina dealership and a first rate tech (Lew) at G Street Fabrics.  It is about an hour from here over heavy traffic, so I only go when I have to.

This comes at a really bad time…not that these things ever are good times…but I had just begun working on building my son Ken’s special quilt design project.  This is something that requires some bits of machine embroidery.  I wanted to complete this very challenging project by mid August so I could enter it into the Pennsylvania National Quilt Festival.

I took Gibbs in for his spa treatment and to fix a minor problem in March, and Lew told me then that I really used that machine hard and should buy a longarm to “share the burden” of all that stitching.  I knew then that I could not even get a longarm in the house even if I could afford one.  But I also started thinking about a sit down longarm.

Yesterday, my oldest son came along with my daughter in law to pick up Kevin, my grandson.  While he was here we all talked about the possibilities.  They know that I have been putting extra effort this year into moving my quilting up a level competitively, and am also working on a couple of books…one on applique for fabric art and one on surface design.  And I have really been making a lot of good progress on all of this. Also, I have limited funds and can’t really afford to buy a new 8 series Bernina or similar machine every four years.  Besides, it interrupts the flow of work when it is out of service.

Sew something needs to be done if I am to continue on this path, which I hope will eventually start making me a bit more money..in fact, it already has, but not enough to pay for a new machine.  It’s a wonderful career for me as I move into my senior years.  I am not the type to not have a career even if I were very wealthy.  It’s the joy of creativity, and I must continue in some fashion.

Yesterday I packed up Gibbs with everything he came with to take it out on Monday, and realized my studio really needs a good cleaning.  So I started that.  I am setting up my Bernina B350 (Edith Claire Head…ECLAIR) and my Bernina 1230 (Betsy Ross…BETSY) and getting them all cleaned and oiled to help me through this crisis.

I know there are a lot of fabric artists out there who do not have a big advanced machine, and they make beautiful fabric art and quilts.  My problem is that I am something of a techie and I have developed paths that take advantage of what these advanced machines can do.  I know I could go back to not having an embroidery machine or a big harp space, but I don’t think that is the right path for me.  So it is a crisis.

I am considering what to do.  I can’t decide, of course, until I know whether or not Gibbs can be repaired, or if I have to replace it.  But even if it can, I need to figure out what to do about the possibility of a sit down longarm to add to my store of machines.  It would be a wonderful addition, and would allow me to use the main machine mostly for quilt top construction.  I do like to use decorative stitching sometimes in my quilting, but it is a small percentage of my quilting and I could still use it for that.  Mostly I do free motion with my Bernina Stitch Regulator. Besides, I think I could do ever better fmq on such a machine.

Sew happy everyone!  I’ll let you know how this goes.  Have a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend!

A New Birdfeeder

This week I replaced my birdfeeder.  The old one had gotten really beaten up with that huge snow storm and the subsequent wind storms we have had here this year.  It never worked well anyway.  It had mostly plastic and it blew sideways, dumping the birdseed in a windstorm.  It got the seed stuck at the bottom with every rainstorm because the drain holes were ill placed and inadequate, and finally the place the birds stood broke off altogether.  So I replaced it with a nice heavier and sturdier feeder made with brass, stainless steel, and glass (I hope the glass doesn’t break in future storms since we sometimes get a lot of wind here).  It seems really nicely shaped for the birds to use too.

The birds like it.  I put it up a few days ago and already I have had a constant crew of various finches, mourning doves, black birds, cardinals, and the ever plentiful sparrows.  But the real treat was two bird varieties I have never had at my feeder (or seen there at least).

The first day an American gold finch paid a call.  Here is a picture of one from Cornell’s All About Birds site:

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

I’ve seen them fly by occasionally but they never paid a visit when I watched until yesterday.

Today, I had a bird visit that I have never had the pleasure of seeing.  He not only visited, but he stayed long enough for me to get a real good look at him with my binoculars.  This picture is also from Cornell’s All About Birds.

Rose Breasted Grosbeak

Rose Breasted Grosbeak

I walked out onto my back deck today and listened for a few minutes while the birds were singing and chattering, and the air felt wonderful, and went out front where my azalea is blooming its head off, and then I went upstairs into my delightful studio and worked on a quilt while I thought about my great family and how I have had many wonderful opportunities and experiences, and I came back down to my kitchen and used my floor scrubber to clean the kitchen floor without having to get down on my aging knees with a scrub brush like my grandmother did, and then I made myself a wonderful low-carb chicken dinner and watched The Martian and it made me think about all the good ways I have been taught to take one problem in life at a time and figure out how to solve it.  Yes!! That WAS a very long run on sentence.  😀   😀  😀

I am very blessed.

Sew happy everyone.  May you all be so blessed and may birds and flowers bling up your space in this world.

 

Laser lights and robots in my studio

This week I got a new toy.  It’s a Perfect Alignment Laser 2 cross-hair lamp, which I am hoping will help me a lot in my studio especially with aligning embroideries and  multi-hoop embroideries as I hoop them for my Bernina 830 LE and squaring up small quilt projects.  I already had a laser square, which helps me square up my quilts and which I used just this week to make sure my quilt now named “Drawing Nigh” (the Waiting…2 quilt) was perfectly squared up.  I found that the laser square didn’t quite do the job, however, because I have a lot of trapunto on that quilt that interfered with the lights, so I had to go back to rulers.  I eventually got that done though it did take me quite an effort.  Here is the first full picture of this quilt…Ta da!!!

Drawing Nigh, completed 4/17/2016, 39.5 x 44.5 inches.  Original design by BJ

Drawing Nigh, completed 4/17/2016, 39.5 x 44.5 inches. Original design by BJ

Sew today I’ve been doing some stitch-outs in my embroidery module of little animals for my Hoffman Challenge quilt.  That quilt is a happy whimsical forest path with big funny flowers, butterflies all over the place, and big trees.  I thought it needs some animals peaking out here and there and running or walking along the path. The embroidery module, of course, is a robot.

All of this got me to thinking how much fun it is to use these high tech toys to achieve the looks I want and to wish for a robot that would straighten and clean my house so I could live in a cleaner home.  At least, I could live in a cleaner home without having to stop playing in my studio with all my toys in order to clean it up.  I was looking at an IROBOT vacuum cleaner ad the other day.  The problem is, it doesn’t do the straightening first, which is my biggest problem.  Once it’s straight I can vacuum it without too much effort.  LOL

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio this week.  Learn to use your high tech assistants you have…computer drawing and design programs, laser tools, and especially the wonderful things your machine can help you do if only you just knew how to use it.  🙂

 

 

Neglect Not the Gift…

I was just reading the fascinating story of how Andy Weir ended up having his book “The Martian” that started as a self-published blog series end up being produced as the coming movie.  Mr. Weir recently quit his day job to become a full-time writer.  One of my quilting friends recently posted this video about Master Penman Jake Wiedmann on facebook.  I also have been observing my son David, who is a sci-fi/fantasy writer, working hard to complete his third novel by early October so he will hit the peak time that people purchase novels (we have discovered timing for a book launch is very important in its overall performance).

A vision and a passion comes to the creative spirit, which I think we all must have in some direction, that must be either supported or trampled down.  Personally, I believe it is a gift from God and comes in many forms.  My mother used to tell me that I had many talents and that it would not be a pleasing thing to the Lord if I were to ignore them.  It always seemed like permission to go do what I wanted to do in the first place.  I think about her the most in the fall.  Her birthday was Nov 26th and she particularly loved the fall.  She pointed me to several Biblical passages for me to contemplate about this.  And yes, I do not think one has to always have a religious theme in one’s work to be doing what He wants us to do.  His spirit pours through regardless.  Here are just a couple of the verses my Mom gave me.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  (Eph 2:10)

Neglect not the gift that is within you. (1st Timothy 4:14)

Sew it is with real joy that I finally got over my creative funk I had earlier this year and also to have been able recently to return to near full-time “work” in my studio now that summer is over. September always seems to me the beginning of a new work year.  My studio is on the third floor of my medium-sized town home here in Ashburn, Virginia, and it looks out over the back yard and the small woods that backs up to the property.  Today is sunny and sparkly and I will spend some time outside today.  I have often thought it would be fun to take my small Bernina 350 out back and do some outdoor sewing, but truly, that is not very practical.  Things would blow around.  I would get distracted. So I am happy that I have such a nice view from my studio window.

Sew happy everyone!  This week if you are fortunate enough to be attending Pennsylvania International Quilt Festival in Philadelphia, you can see “Sky Horse” and “Kanazawa Memories” there; and if you are attending AQS Chattanooga, you can see “Canterbury Silk” there.  Cheers.

Quilting and Sewing: A Magical Playground

Quilting is so much fun for me.  Some days I get excited by something as simple as watching a show on The Quilt Show (TQS) even if it presents a type of quilting I know I’ll probably never use.  I also love thinking about advances in machines even if I am unlikely to obtain these machines.  I want to help people–men, women, children–who may find that they are interested in making quilts and run into problems.

Sew here is what I am thinking about today.  I saw Louisa Smith’s show on TQS a few minutes ago and she talked about her “color studies” and some interesting methods she has worked out to produce really colorful interesting quilts that she uses decorative stitches and threads when she appliques down her appliques.  They are gorgeous, and it gives me some ideas for a little quilt I am trying to design right now for next year’s Hoffman Challenge.  This design is floating around in my mind, but it is a little fuzzy still as to just how I’m going to approach it.  Just take a look at those fun fabrics.  I recently rewatched Bead It Like You Mean It by Lyric Kinard  currently available for members on TQS and have decided beads have to play a big part in this little Hoffman Challenge quilt.

In addition, I enjoy learning about advances in machines today and about interesting machines even if I don’t plan to buy them.  I have a quilting friend whose power has been off for days.  She lives across the country from me so I can’t help her out with this, but it made me think about this machine I have kind of wanted for some time now and a special custom cabinet that the Amish make for it:

712t-main

What a wonderful advance this can be for people who don’t use electric power…a treadle machine with ten utility stitches and a buttonholer.  How neat it would be to have one of these to use if the power goes down for days because of a storm.  I won’t get it because I can’t figure where to put it in my home, and it probably would not be used very much since our power is, at this time, very reliable.  But wouldn’t that be fun?

I also would love to have an embroidery machine with multiple needles and a longarm machine…none of these will fit in my small townhome.  But it’s still fun to think about these machines and see what people do with them.  Sew what brand of machine do I think is best?  I think there are many brands today that are wonderful.  Bernina, of course is my favorite, but there is Baby Lock, which would be my second choice (or first choice if I were buying a new serger…I currently have a Baby Lock serger).  I also think Janome and Juki are great machines.  I truly don’t have any opinion on other brands such as Brother or Pfaff.  My mother, who has passed on now, loved her Pfaff, but it has changed owners since she had her machines and I don’t know how they do now.  The point is, you can have a wonderful old machine, a less expensive but workable machine, or a top end advanced machine and regardless still make lots of wonderful things with them.  It’s important to learn all the things your machine can and cannot do so you can plan your projects around them.

Just this week I ordered a #96 Bernina ruler foot they developed for their longarm.  They don’t recommend using it on their domestic machines because you have to remember to lower your presser foot to bring up your thread before you start sewing.  I have several friends who are successfully using it now, however.  I have the Westalee ruler foot that I use with the #77 adapter foot, and it works ok if the rulers are not too thick.  But the screw where you join the two pieces together sometimes gets in the way.  There will be no screw to run into with the #96.  So I am planning on developing some ruler work.  It’s a new technique for me and, indeed, a new technique for the industry…ruler work on domestic machines.

Today I made a little progress on foundation piecing the storm-at-sea blocks for a current project and had a lot of fun.  These blocks have 65 pieces for each one and I will need 24 blocks as close to perfection as I can get them for the big wave that will merge into the pictorial part of the quilt.  Here is the design for the rectangle I’m making from which to cut the sweeping big wave.  The blocks are 7 inch blocks, making the small parts very small indeed.  This will take me quite a while to complete because I am slow at this and have kind of gotten to be a perfectionist on having all those points come out just right.

Big wave traditionals

Sew what is my point about this?  Quilting and sewing has become a wonderful almost magical play ground full of fabulous fabrics, beautiful and reliable threads, and wonderful advanced machines.  Furthermore, some wonderful quilters and sewists have developed methods and skills that they so willingly share with others that make this one of the most exciting activities available to us today.  Videos and books are out there from many of these quilters and sewists for those who can’t make it to a show or workshop.

Sew happy everyone.  Go experiment with your machines, fabrics, and threads that you already have and let go and enjoy it like the magical playground it can be!  Samples are necessary, and they are where you can simply have fun.  These are great for making mug rugs and other small items for your friends.

 

Adjusting My Fabric Arts Business Plan

For some time now I have thought I would monetize my little business by selling downloadable embroidery designs and printable appliques and just toss out a book or a quilt or two for sale every now and then.

I have been working very hard in recent weeks on rebuilding my website, setting up an online shop, and trying to figure out how to place an Amazon associates button on the sidebar in this blog…all designed to bring me a little money so I can keep on making show quilts and  writing blogs.

I have a new plan, which I have just put into action.  I have discovered if I do the downloadable items they will absorb all my time and I don’t enjoy making them like I enjoy making show quilts or writing how-to books and this blog.  Besides, I don’t think ultimately they will bring in enough to pay me for those hours of work I don’t much enjoy.

So if you click to my main website link at the top of this post, you will find several things there:  my gallery of all my main quilts (it runs a little slowly at the moment…I’m working on that), my bio, my current projects list, a list of national/international shows, and a link to my shop.  Take the tour.  I have four quilts currently for sale on my new little shop.  There will be more in the future, along with my books and I may have some other things from time to time.

My new plan is this..1) Make show quilts designed to sell, 2) Show quilts in a couple of shows and get them appraised in their third show 3) By the third show I can generally tell whether it is going to win ribbons or not, so at this point I will start offering it for sale at another couple of shows and on my new little store.   If I somehow miraculously make a big winning quilt, I will probably not sell that one…just keep entering it as long as possible in other shows and use it for trunk shows.

In addition to the quilts, I will continue to write and test the projects in my books and the first of those will be out by the end of October…in time for Christmas…if I possibly can do this.  My son David is going to publish them through his small press “Fennec Fox Press” (the other link at the top of the blog).  In other words…I’m more or less self publishing them, and they will be available on Amazon.

I’m getting help on putting the Amazon associates button on this blog, since I haven’t been able to get that to work yet.  That is where I will recommend the products I have found work best for my techniques and if you click through the button to buy the products I will get a small percentage of the profit.  It may not be much, but every little bit helps and it is a way I can help you to find the products too.

Hopefully, this plan will enable me to bring in a little supplemental income so I can go to shows, buy machines when needed, keep my supplies well stocked, and pay for unexpected items like dentists or home repairs.

It’s a plan.  We’ll see how it works.  Wish me well in this endeavor.

Sew happy everyone!  Cheers.

 

A Fun Quilty Week

This has been a quilt-filled week, starting last Sunday when Beth, my daughter-in-law, and I went to see the Sacred Threads quilt show together. We had a lot of fun. The quilts were interesting and, in many cases, moving. I took a lot of pictures, but I am only including the picture I took of Vikki Pignatelli, the founder of the show, standing in front of one of her quilts, because one of the white-gloved women told me I could only take photos for my personal use. Her story about why and how she started the show was fascinating. You can hear it on The Quilt Show Number 102 even if you are not yet a member. You can sign up for a free membership.

Vikki Pignatelli at Sacred Threads 2015.

Vikki Pignatelli at Sacred Threads 2015.

I have been waking up a little earlier than normal during the week just to squeeze in a little work in my studio before my grandson arrives for the afternoons. This has enabled me to get my Ikebana on a Sashiko background quilt top completed, except for the borders, which I plan on putting on later today. I got my order from Superior Threads just in time for the weekend. Here it is, on the quilt ready to stitch. I went through my stash and discovered one more piece of Peppered Cotton in a nice green, just right for the border and binding. I want to quilt some sort of leafy vine around the quilt in the border.

Blue thread

I hope to get the border marked, the stabilizer pealed off the back, the quilt sandwiched and start the quilting this coming week if things work out well. I have all the quilting worked out in my head, so we’ll see how it goes.

Then I’m looking forward to starting my next quilting adventure…a new version of my quilt “Waiting…”, as the second in that series. I have many changes I want to make to that quilt, which I am planning as a show quilt for next year’s shows. Speaking of shows, I have to send off my two Canterbury quilts this coming week…one to Houston and one to AQS Chattanooga.

Sew happy everyone! Have fun this week!

In My Studio on This Good Friday

On this quiet Holy day, I have been spending time in my studio working on digitizing an embroidery design and also doing some practice on ruler work at my domestic Bernina 830 LE.

The result of today's little digitizing practice in Bernina v7 embroidery software.

My little digitizing practice in Bernina v7 embroidery software.

I bought a ruler foot by an an Australian company Westalee and a #77 Bernina adapter foot so I actually have a ruler foot.

Ruler foot assembly

Ruler foot assembly

I borrowed some longarm rulers from my daughter-in-law, Beth, to see how this works.

Just a few of the handful of rulers Beth loaned me.

Just a few of the handful of rulers Beth loaned me.

 

I will be making a second video sometime this week using these rulers and this foot.

I learned a few things about this.

  • I really needed something on the ruler to make it grab and hold the foot.  I put some small squares of that spongy shelf paper backed with double sided basting tape in a couple of places on each ruler, careful not to cover up an important line or intersection.
  • I tried both with and without my supreme slider, and found the slider was a must to make it work well.
queen sized supreme slider taped down at my machine with blue painters tape.

queen sized supreme slider taped down at my machine with blue painters tape.

  • Beth loaned me one ruler that was thicker than than 1/4 inch and I found this would run into the screw on the adapter part of the foot assembly and make the ruler scoot out of alignment, but the normal quarter inch long arm ruler works just fine.
  • I found the smaller, shorter rulers are much easier to use than longer bigger ones, and I only have one of her small-medium ones.  She can use a much bigger ruler on her longarm.
  • I need practice, but I like the way this is heading.  The loan of her rulers has really helped me determine what I need to buy in the future (I have to give them back…LOL).

I have a vast collection of classical music, and some of it I’ve loaded onto my little Nano, which I listen to while I work.  Today I chose some appropriate and beautiful music for Good Friday.  It has so far been a blessed day, except my water heater has stopped heating water and we are waiting for the plumber rather than going to church.  They said he may come as late as midnight!  So be it.  It is still Good Friday and a blessed day.

Sew happy everyone.  Try some new technique for your creativity this week to celebrate Easter and spring.  Cheers!