education Archives - Handi Quilter

Creating Texture

Every time you quilt you are creating texture. The very nature of what makes up a quilt, three layers, with the center being a compressible fiber, means that when you stitch the three layers together you will compress that inner layer with your stitches and create texture. The location of the stitches will be lower than what surrounds them. The contrast, low to high, creates a variation on the surface of the quilt. That variation is the definition of texture. (See last week’s blog post to refresh your memory of that definition.)

Seeing texture

Sometimes you look at a quilt and swoon over the gorgeous texture of the quilting. With other quilts, you might hardly notice the quilting. Why? If you look at a variety of quilts, (Pinterest is a good place to do that), notice where you can really see the quilting and you’ll come to realize that quilting shows up best on solid, lighter color fabrics. This quilted bag has a ton of quilting on the black background surrounding the mandala. But you can hardly see it.

Mandala tote by Mary Beth Krapil

This quilt has a lot of texture too. It is hardly noticeable on the colorful, busy and darker fabrics. You can see a bit of the texture in the light blue areas. This quilt is 12″ x 12″.

Miniature by Mary Beth Krapil

But look at the texture you can see on the back of the quilt!

Back of Miniature by Mary Beth Krapil

Emphasizing texture

What can we do to emphasize the texture? Here’s some tips you can use:

Pick the right place

Choose the lighter, solid fabric areas of the quilt to create the most interesting textures. [Don’t neglect the other areas with busier, darker fabrics though! If you want your quilts to lie flat, you want an even distribution of texture.]

And always remember, in the right lighting, even texture on darker fabrics can be seen.

back of Mandala bag by Mary Beth Krapil

Emphasize the contrast

Remember the contrast, low to high, creates a variation on the surface of the quilt, creating texture. So if you stitch some tighter quilting next to an area you want to emphasize, the tighter quilting will flatten out and allow the area next to it to pouf forward.

Mary Beth Krapil

The daffodils pop forward because there is tighter (or smaller) quilting next to them.

We usually refer to the tight quilting as background quilting.

Rule of thumb: The background quilting motif must be at least 1/3 or less the size of the motif you are trying to emphasize.

Choose the right batting

When you are trying to achieve texture choose a batting with a higher loft. There has to be something to fill up the unquilted areas to make them pop forward.  Avoid very flat batts.

100% cotton is an example of a flat batting. Wool is an example of a batting with loft. You can also use a polyester batting, just choose one with a higher loft or thickness.

When I want to emphasize texture I usually use two batts. A layer of 100% cotton or 80/20 on the bottom and a layer of wool on top.

But this was a faux leather pouch that I quilted with upholstery foam instead of traditional batting. It had super-defined texture!

creating texture

Faux leather bag
by Mary Beth Krapil

Choose the right thread

Both weight and color are important here. Matching the thread color exactly to the fabric results in seeing pure texture. The thread disappears.

micro-fill sampler
by Mary Beth Krapil

A fine thread also tends to disappear and leave the viewer seeing only texture.

Mary Beth Krapil

There are no hard and fast rules about thread though. Just like anything else in quilting, experiment and see what happens when you change things up. A contrasting thread can add to the texture!

Grid Sampler
Mary Beth Krapil

You’ve heard the saying, “Quilting makes the quilt”?  Well I think that’s true because quilting makes the texture.

What do you think?

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

 

 

 

Preparing a Vintage Quilt Top

I’d like to share with you my process of preparing a vintage quilt top for finishing. Each top is different and will require different things of course, but this one is my latest finish and it has an interesting story and was extra challenging.

Choosing the vintage quilt top

I loved the colors in this top the minute I saw it. And one of my favorite flowers is the tulip. Those things drew me to choose it. I did notice some fullness in the blocks, but since I have experience with quilting hand pieced vintage tops, I had confidence I could tame it. Oh boy,  was I wrong!

The Truth about vintage quilt tops

There is usually a reason these tops never get quilted. Any quilter will tell you that they have quilt tops waiting to be quilted. In modern times, it’s usually a matter of not enough hours in the day to get all our projects completed. The vintage tops that end up in estate sales or on auction sites usually have some issues that would have made quilting them difficult. Remember, most were hand quilted back in the day. This tulip quilt had some major issues. But I’m so glad I chose this one. I loved working with it and learned a few things along the way.

Preserve as much of the original as you can

I try to preserve these vintage tops as best I can. They are a piece of history. I think about the hours of work that went into the hand piecing. Just look at those pretty, even, hand stitches!

A few tucks or a stain here or there is OK, just part of the uniqueness of the piece. This quilt top was uber unique! It presented a challenge that was insurmountable without some major alterations.

After spending some time trimming frayed threads from the back, I took it to my ironing board to see how I could possibly get the top to lie a little flatter. Several hours later I came to the realization that it just was not going to happen. I had to make the difficult decision to take the quilt apart and separate the blocks.

A special group collaboration

Most of the blocks had a name written on the back in pencil (3 blocks had no name). These were not signatures, since they were all in the same handwriting. But I imagine they are a record of the maker of the block. This quilt was a collaborative group effort! Making it even more special and deserving of preservation.

Abbie

 

Kuhma

 

Laura Barton

 

Leona

 

Lizzie

 

Maude

 

Mrs. Gibson

 

Mrs. Spoor

 

Nellie Gray

 

Ora Tyler

 

Pearl

 

Stella

 

Velma

Who were these ladies?

The whole time I worked on this quilt I thought about what sort of group this might have been. Was it a quilting bee? A group who gathered around a quilting frame whenever a quilt needed quilting? Were they neighbors, friends, a church group, members of a guild? It led me to think about the groups I have had the privilege of being a part of. And the wonderful friendships I have made through quilting. I hoped these women enjoyed the same blessing I have had.

I also thought about why they might have decided to make a quilt together. Was it to comfort a sick friend? Celebrate a milestone? Donate to a worthy cause to raise money? I wondered if, back then, did they hold block exchanges? Was there many more of these quilts, one for each of the contributors? Did any of them get quilted?
I wish I knew more about these ladies.

I thought maybe they were a group with varying ages since some were just first names (younger), and some were full names, and some were surnames, Mrs. so-and-so, (older and more respected?) It was actually quite fun thinking about the possibilities. And now that I have finished the quilt, I think I am a member of the group too.

Back to work

But back to the job of preparing this top. I had to un-sew the blocks on this vintage quilt top to see if I could somehow stitch them together in a way that would let them lie flat.

My original idea was to add sashing to compensate for blocks that were not all the same size. That’s quite often a common problem with group quilts. But when I got them apart, it became apparent what the problem actually was.
The blocks were not square, or rectangular. They were an unusual shape with sort of pointy wings in each corner.

not square vintage quilt

Someone, (I wonder who?), painstakingly sewed these blocks together by hand. That was certainly a labor of love.

You can see the middles of each side are straight but then they bow outward to the pulled-out corners. I thought about adding melon shapes between the blocks but after measuring and discovering no two blocks measured the same, I gave up on that idea.

The fix

I trimmed the blocks to as square as possible without losing any of the tulip.


Because they were all different sizes I decided to add sashing to each block, to make them all the same size. I hunted for a muslin that matched the vintage muslin background.This process required a lot of accurate measuring and math.

I was hoping that the quilting would eventually hide the seams required to add the sashings, and that the tulips would simply be floating on the background.

Once the blocks were all brought to a uniform size, I sewed them back together into a quilt top. Here they are laid out ready to be sewn. I feel I preserved the look of the vintage quilt top and didn’t really alter it too much.

Sadly, I did have to eliminate four of the blocks. The piecing on those would not allow me to press them anywhere close to flat. Let me publicly apologize to those ladies whose blocks didn’t make it back into the quilt. I’m so sorry, I know you did your best.
One of those blocks did get used on the back for the label. I might just hand stitch the other three to the back of the quilt as well. Just so the group can stay together.

Now that I had a nice flat quilt top, I could start thinking about the quilting. Come back next week and I’ll share about creating the designs and quilting with my HQ Infinity.

This quilt will be featured in the May/June issue of Love of Quilting magazine.

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

Power Protection

Are you taking care of power protection for your beloved longarm machine? Do you even know what that means? We all want to take the best care of our machines so that we can have fun finishing quilts for years to come.

Power protection

puts a layer of protection between your treasured electronics and the outside world. We use surge suppressors (or protectors) and uninterruptible power systems to do it.

Handi Quilter strongly advises the use of surge suppressors. However, we do not endorse specific manufacturers or models of surge suppressors.

Power strips and surge suppressors are different.

Power strips are inexpensive and function to expand the number of outlets. Some claim to offer protection via a circuit breaker. But they don’t offer any real protection from electrical issues. You want a surge protector or surge suppressor to give you some level of protection. They are not all created equal.

It’s about the joules

Surge suppressors offer protection in amounts called Joules. Most manufacturers rate their products by the number of Joules it can absorb. This is not the best measure of the ability of a suppressor to truly protect your machine. Instead, look for the let-through voltage of the suppressor you are considering purchasing. This should preferably be at least 330 volts (V) but less than 500 volts. A product marked “UL1449 compliant” will have a 400V or less let-through voltage. Not all manufacturers put this rating in their specifications.

They don’t last forever

Absorbing damaging surges takes a toll on components inside the protector so another purchasing consideration is what happens when the protection circuit no longer functions. Ideally, the suppressor would no longer allow power to pass to your machine; otherwise you wouldn’t know that your machine is no longer protected. Some suppressors have an LED indicator that shows if the product has been damaged, which is the minimal indication you need.

If power surges are common and your suppressor does not have such warning features, it is wise to replace the suppressor every two to three years. Remember that surges don’t just come from the outside world. They can also come from within your home to your power outlet from a refrigerator or other large motor operating in your home.

Warranty

Some products offer a replacement warranty (up to a certain amount) on the equipment attached to it. This may offer an additional layer of confidence. Just be sure to read the fine print.

What about Pro-Stitcher?

If you use a Pro-Stitcher system and have occasional power outages, you may wish to consider an uninterruptible power system (UPS) product. A UPS provides both surge suppression and back-up energy that gives you time to power off your machine during a power outage. This can prevent damage to your quilt and make re-starting later easier.

A power rating of 1000 VA or better should be sufficient to give you time to perform a graceful shut-down of the quilting that is in progress. Again, look for the let-through voltage protection rating mentioned above.

Unplug

The Handi Quilter warranty states that machines must be unplugged from the wall outlet (not merely turned off) when not in use. This is still the best protective measure you can employ.

Let’s keep our babies safe and use power protection.

power protection - dream big

Re: the photos in this post. This is such a serious matter, and surge suppressors are not particularly pretty, so I added some pictures of nice quilting to lighten the mood. 🙂

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

Doodling tips

We have been following Diane’s adventures in learning to quilt and a few weeks back I gave some doodling tips to help her (and you). You can read that post here.

More Doodling Tips

I have a few more tips that will shorten your learning curve. Things you can do to make your doodling help develop the skills you use when actually quilting.

Define a space

Diane talks about this in her blog post. She found it very helpful to define a space to practice a design in. While quilting you are likely to be quilting within blocks or other defined spaces on the quilt, so practicing within a space helps you to know what works and what doesn’t. And to know how to navigate the space.

Doodling over a wide open space can be helpful in learning to draw a motif and that’s important.

When you doodle inside a defined space, not only do you learn how to draw the motif, you learn how it behaves when you approach an edge. You experience how it can be adjusted. You figure out how to change directions.

You also learn how to avoid getting stuck in a dead end. And how to travel to get yourself back on track to filling the space, without cutting your thread.

Doodle real size

Diane took a photo of her block and then printed it out for some practice doodling.

A happy accident occurred, the print-out was almost the actual size of the block itself.

Diane Harris Doodle tips

She stumbled upon another trick we use and that is doodling in real size. But printing a photo of a block will not always result in an image that is real size. Diane just got lucky with that block!

There are a couple of ways we can create a template of our blocks or areas on the quilt that will allow us to doodle for practice. Or for R & D (research and development), discovering a new design that works to enhance the block. It will allow us to audition designs as well.

Quilter’s Preview Paper

preview paper

Simply lay the clear film over the quilt and use a marker to trace your block or area to be quilted. Use a permanent Sharpie marker for the outline of your block. Then you can doodle in the space with a dry erase marker. Use a scrap of batting to wipe away the dry erase marks and the Sharpie outline will remain so you can try again. (Sharpie marks are easily removed with alcohol and a scrap of batting when you’re ready to move on.)

The other tool you can use is

Golden Threads Quilting Paper

While Quilter’s Preview Paper is a clear plastic film, Golden Threads Quilting Paper is actually paper. It is a high quality tracing paper that is easy to see thru to trace your shapes.

For this you’ll want to use a pencil to trace your block.

One advantage to Golden Threads paper is that if you come up with a fabulous design, you can make a stencil from the paper to mark your quilt for easy, follow-the-line, free-motion quilting. I’ll write about how to do that next week.

Density

Another advantage to doodling real size is it helps to see the density of the quilting. Remember, the denser the quilting the stiffer the quilt will be. For a soft and cuddly quilt you’ll want to keep the quilting designs larger.

It also changes the look of the quilting. Look at these two 4″ squares with swirls in them.

density

Same design but quite a difference in appearance, just by changing up the density of the design.

You can learn so much, just by doodling. Then you’ll come up with your own doodling tips! Please share them in the comments.

Happy doodling!

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

 

 

Learn

In reflecting back on 2020, one thing is certain, it’s been a year full of change. We had to learn new ways of living. From the way we work, to the way we shop and even the way we learn. And learn we did!

Learning

We learned how to cook at home, everyday, we learned how to share with our neighbors (toilet paper), we learned how to be together, without actually being together. And we learned how to make sour dough bread.

We learned to Zoom.

And we rallied together (but apart) to take on the unique realities and challenges of this year.

Change?

Many things changed in 2020, forcing us to adapt. Change is stressful. So we used quilting to find calm amid the stress. That’s one thing that didn’t change.

HQ is renowned for supporting and educating our machine owners. That’s another thing that didn’t change.

As a company, we at Handi Quilter devoted ourselves to finding new ways to bring you the quality education you have come to expect from us.

Our celebrated hands-on learning opportunities had to be put on hold, for a bit, while we devised a way to safely hold these events at Handi Quilter headquarters and at shops near you.

Handi Quilter University

We consulted with heath and government experts to devise a way to safely hold classes in the Handi Quilter studio. Now we have a safe event, complete with masks and social distancing and hand sanitizer and handlebar covers, to go along with all the excellent information and fun.

Handi Quilter Academy

The premier annual event, that brings together quilters and world-class instructors from all over the world, was impossible to hold as an in-person event. 300 quilters, (as delightful as that sounds), learning and laughing and eating all in one place just could not happen this year. So we found a way to bring those classes to you in a virtual format. HQ Academy 2020 Virtual Sneak Peek presented classes to ticket holders that they can go back and watch as many times as they would like. It was a hit!

Watch and Learn

Wanting to give everyone the opportunity to grow and learn inspired us to start our weekly video program on Facebook called Watch and Learn. It’s a little mini-class that covers all sorts of topics from ruler quilting, to Pro-Stitcher, to free-motion, to how to use various gadgets for quilting. It’s fun and it’s free. You can find it on our Facebook page every Tuesday at noon Mountain time. Post a question in the comments and you’ll get an answer from one of the HQ experts! You can watch recordings of previous shows on our YouTube channel. And be sure to LIKE and Subscribe so you don’t miss a thing. As a bonus, each week a HQ product is featured at a special discount.

What’s next?

It is your drive to keep learning that motivates us – and in 2021 we will continue to think big and create innovations to keep you learning and finishing quilts.

For now, thanks for learning with us.

There are many things we’d like to forget about this year. But hopefully we will never forget all we learned.

We wish you and your families all the best of health, happiness and quilty-ness in the new year.

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

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