8.24.2016

Confessions: Random Thoughts on Thread and How to Make Your Quilter Love You


I should also add to that it's not only how to make your quilter love you, but how to avoid making your quilter cuss you out under their breath. But back to that in a minute.

I'm enjoying this little series and it seems you are too. Thank you again for the kind comments and emails. That's actually kinda how I got today's topic.

I actually got my other threads in that I ordered and updated my cubby. It's all pretty much the same, but I think I have a bit more of a well-rounded rainbow now. The new threads are the three the arrows are pointing to.

One of the questions or comments was what brand everyone was using. That was not why I wrote that post but I should note that what works in my machine may not work in yours. And what works in your machine may not work in mine. Threads are goofy like that. Seriously if you are having all sorts of issues with a project and it's a new thread you're trying, it may just be the thread.

I honestly found this thread, found I can use it for just about everything I need thread for (about 90% of what I do) and I quit looking. I'm sure there's other brands that would work and other colors to try, but this is what works for me and I like it simple. Don't fix what ain't broken. Plus you could spend a small fortune trying each and every thread available out there. It may not be the best solution, but it's what works for me.

So onto today's random thoughts on thread. These aren't anything hard or complex, but they're so simple they get overlooked and can drive long arm quilters insane.

The main reason we got on this topic was another quilter commenting about piecing threads. Specifically contrasting threads (her version was white thread with navy fabric). Please don't use super contrasting threads when piecing if you can help it. Sometimes you have to use what you have, like say in a scrappy quilt. You've got every color from white to black and everything in between - use what you can. My choice is a light tan/off white for most of my piecing.

But if you're piecing all dark fabrics together, use a gray or a brown or a darker thread. Granted your stitches aren't supposed to show from the front of the quilt, but it happens and it stands out when the thread doesn't match. It doesn't take much pull for threads to show sometimes.

Now, I'm guilty of this when I'm piecing bindings together or border pieces, but I'm usually on a tight deadline and don't honestly have the time to switch my threads every time. That's why I stick with a light tan. It works both ways. It's not too dark and not too light. It's like the Goldilocks of thread.

The alternate fiasco what happens if your threads are too dark (say black thread with white fabrics), it'll look like there is a pencil line or a chalk line (if you used a colored thread like red) that won't go away. This one shows up in the quilts I finish a lot and sadly it's just a seam or two on a really pretty intricate quilt that must've taken forever to piece and the only thing I can stare at is that unruly thread in the one seam. It's usually in a border or some really big area that makes it stand out even more.

Your safest colors to piece with are in the white to tan to gray tones. Keep it neutral and keep a small variety so you have what you need for anything that you may be working on.

What else drives us quilters absolutely batty? Bias edges and unlocked stitches. Your quilts are going to be handled a bunch during the piecing process and prior to quilting. They will get beat up whether you try to prevent it or not. The best thing you can do is lock the stitches especially at the ends of seams at the edges of the quilt. I honestly lock almost every seam that I can. It's just a good habit to get into (you never know what seam may end up at the edge of a quilt if there's no borders). How do you lock a seam, when you start and right before you stop each seam, take a couple reverse stitches and then keep on stitching. That's it.

Sometimes just being handled enough to be measured and then put on the quilt frame is enough for some edge seams to start to unravel and it's not pretty. If you can't lock stitches because your quilt will be trimmed down, like in paper piecing for example, keep reading and treat the edges like they are bias edges.

Also, your quilter will LOVE you if you have bias edges around your quilt and you "stay stitch" the edges. This is where you stitch about 1/8" from the edge of the quilt all the way around. It doesn't sound like much but it keeps the quilt from fraying and stretching out of square. It takes just a few extra minutes and the results will be worth it. Just keep the stitching inside the outer 1/4" so they don't show when you put on the binding. Bias is a four letter word for a reason. No joke.

And last but not least for my random thoughts on threads - please Please PLEASE DO NOT give your quilter a top with a hole in the seam. Don't hand it to me and say, "there's a hole in the top, it's okay I put a safety pin where it is and I'll fix it when I get it back." NEVER do this. It will almost send you quilter into a psychotic rage and yes it has happened to me more times than I care to admit. Outside I think (or I hope) I was smiling, but on the inside I could not think of enough four letter words in my brain. Just keeping it real here.

Here's what you may not know. My quilting machine can be going along all nice and dandy and it will inevitably find a hole whether you mention it or not. And if you don't mention it, I will find it the hard way after my machine will have stitched itself to your quilt. This is by far my worst nightmare that I have encountered. When the machine is stitched to the quilt, I have to take out the stitches without doing more damage to the quilt and try not to damage the machine. No machine = no quilting. Plus I have less room to work in and the machine is always in the way but I can't move it because it is literally stitched to the quilt. It can happen in just a few stitches and it can take half an hour to get it all undone. Or more. And it's a nightmare. Did I mention it only takes a few seconds usually to prevent this from happening? Please take the time to fix a hole if you know it's there.

I honestly know I have a picture of this somewhere and I will find it and share it soon. Or it'll happen again and I will take a picture then and show you what a nightmare it is. It's nasty and I don't like it at all. Plus it always makes me nervous that it'll screw up my machine and again, broken machine = no quilting.

So those are my random thoughts for the day. It's a bunch of little things but they all add up to big issues if not handled correctly for your quilter. If you have any questions, comment below and I will get back to you or you can always email me at rubybluequilts (at) gmail (dot) com.

More quilt pictures are coming and come back next week for another confession. What will be next? Backings, loading quilts onto the machine, something you have a question about... We shall see!

8.22.2016

Machine Quilting: Feathered Star

Judi sent me this Feathered Star to quilt for her niece (I believe, it's been awhile) for a wedding present. The theme was all about snowflakes so I kept that in mind while designing the quilting.
 The blues used in this quilt were very icy and bright which made it all the better. The way the colors and fabrics were laid out made my job so much easier.
 I'm not sure if you can see in the pebbles there, but I quilted it like a snowglobe (or so I like to think). Every so often in a pebble I quilted some simple snowflakes and it just adds a bit more to an already fun texture. Then I quilted the spikes in the border like icicles. Both of these designs work well in these spaces to fit and fill these non-square shapes but they are very forgiving too - the spiky border for instance are all different sizes and widths in order to round a curve so some pieces have more down-and-backs than others.
 Here you can see more of the snowglobe quilting.
 The center is always fun for me. It's the heart of the personality of a quilt like this and it's naturally where your eye is drawn to so it has to look good. And this is where you can play and try new things.
 Basically I try to keep the quilting plan simple (if you can believe that). With a quilt like this with several shapes and areas to fill, I try to stick to a few basic quilting plans and use them throughout the quilt. Here you can see the "icicles" again in the white, some simple lines in the light blue and some swirls. The straight lines were used in several areas of the quilt and the swirls were used in the dark fabric around the outer edge of the quilt, so this brings it all back around.

 Keeping the pebbles going in a slightly new way, I stacked them to fill the other side of the spiky border.
 I really wish some of these quilts look as good in photos as they did while I was staring at them. I honestly try to take really good photos, but it's just not the same as the quilt in your face. And under your hand. So you can pet it. And squeeze it. And name it George. Hahahaha. Don't mind me.
 Here's some more photos once it was off the frame and the sun was hitting some of the fabrics.

I love this quilt! Any Judy Niemeyer design challenges me in ways some other quilts can't because I rarely encounter a square or a rectangle in her designs. It's all shapes and curves unlike any other. But in this case challenging equals fun.

Thank you, Judi!!! This quilt was fun and amazing and I hope it is being well loved at it's new home!

8.21.2016

Machine Quilting: Fun Runners

Carlynn brought me a whole little box of projects to finish for her including these runners.
 All of the runners were the same pattern or idea, but not the same. Some were wider, some were longer, and all of them used different fabrics. This first runner, the pictures do not do it justice. It was made with these adorable tea cups and saucers on one fabric with tea spoons on another.
 I was given free reign with the designs and they all could be quilted the same or differently. It didn't matter. I tried to use a variety of quilting designs to emphasize the difference fabrics. I didn't want the quilting designs and the fabrics to compete visually, but it all had to work together. Also I tend to quilt runners heavily so there's less slipping when things are set on them, like a wine glass...
 I had so much fun with this border. And the rest of it, but I love being able to use this border design.

 This is the same pattern, just different fabrics. I almost flip-flopped the designs here but it all works.
I played up the star a bit more on this one since Carlynn did some extra fancy stitches around the edge. I think it all worked together.

Runners and small projects are fun for me to quilt because I can try new and different designs and play with some creativity without being burdened to a large project if I don't like how it's turning out. Granted I rarely don't like how things are turning out and if I do, I usually start over (it rarely happens though. I plan so much before I begin we try to avoid reverse stitching as much as possible). But I can usually try out something new and see at what level I'm going to fall in love with it. Most times a new design I test out becomes a new favorite and I try to work it into every project that is coming up in some way shape or form!

Thank you Carlynn! I love working on your quilts!

8.19.2016

Machine Quilting: Polka Dots

Dots and dots and spots and more dots. This quilt is so stinking cute and so simple.
 Pat brought me this quilt and she was just "over it". She made it off of a tutorial that didn't have the greatest instructions so the construction of the quilt top gave her headaches galore. But, the quilt turned out amazing in the end. Every single fabric used in this quilt has polka dots. Some are large, some are small, but it all works.
Keeping with the style but not necessarily the theme, we chose to quilt these swirls all over the quilt. They're like a dot, but not. If we did bubbles it may have been too much of a good thing and been a bit overwhelming visually. This quilt design is a nice compromise.

Thank you, Pat! Your quilts are always fun to work on!

8.17.2016

Confessions: Thread



Thank you all so much for the kind comments and emails about the first Confessions post. It's so nice to know that you're not alone on this wonderful-yet-sometimes-intimidating journey. It's also great to know that the quilters you look up to feel the exact same way as you do. We are all human and quilting in general is one of those goofy careers where it's being invented as you go sometimes and there's no college course or manual to tell you how it should be. Granted there are books and patterns and classes and tutorials - but there's also a million other ways to get a similar result with quilting. It's not a science. It's not black and white. It's what works best for each and every single person and that's where it gets intimidating - we can't all measure ourselves against one another no matter how much we (or our subconscious) wants to. Once you realize the only person you're competing against is who you were yesterday - the better off (and more relaxed) you'll be.

So, onto the actual topic for today - threads. We all use them. We all have them. But why do so many of us use them the wrong way??? Or maybe not wrong, but not the best way...

Here's my threads. The cones in the shelving cubby are the threads I use for everything. When there's still some left but not enough to use for quilting, they go in the bin on the floor and I use them for bindings. The small threads in the printer's tray at the top are some of my Hubby's Grandma's threads on wooden spools and some small spools that I've gotten through the years, some hand quilting threads, thread samples, some for small applique projects and such. Basically at this moment they mostly live up there and look pretty.

This isn't a post about this brand or that brand and comparing the differences in sizes and materials. This is simply about color and where most of my clients go wrong from the beginning. And bad habits are hard to break.

First things first. Let's get something straight. There are thousands upon thousands of colors of fabrics. Just walk into any quilt shop and take a look at the shelves and displays. Now, with thread... there's maybe at best a couple hundred colors. I know that sounds like a lot, but once you break it down between your whites, greys, tans, blacks, and ROYGBIVs, then break it down between pastels, lights, dusty colors, darker hues and brights - there's not much room for much else. Again look at the thread options at any quilt shop versus the options of fabrics...

Take a look. This is the thread I use for everything (piecing, quilting, binding, the whole shebang). These are the colors they offer. Many of the colors are very close so it doesn't make sense to have them all and there are gaps sometimes in the colors you are looking for. Fabric colors and trends change faster than the threads are able to catch up. So what's a girl to do?

Well, this is what I have. You want to use the threads to "go" with the fabrics. NOT MATCH. You don't want to get too matchy matchy. You can drive yourself bonkers (and spend a small fortune while you're at it) trying to match threads. I have a range of white to cream to tan to brown and I use these the most. Seriously, I order them sometimes 4 cones at a time. Then I have a range of colors with some lights and some darks but it truly depends on what my clients are bringing me. I never know what will show up at my doorstep. The colors you work most in may be different in your area following the trends and the vibe of your clients interests.

I did just order a couple more oranges and a medium blue to round out some colors for a super rainbow quilt that I'm getting ready to work on. But honestly I've been quilting now for several years and this range of colors has gotten me quite far. You do not need to have every single color available. Plus some colors like purple for example, are hard to match well because they change color. They can easily be too grey or too blue or too bright for what you need. I try to have some "middle ground" colors and it seems to work for me.

The colors I personally use the most are the bottom 5 on the right, the light pink (top row 4th from the left) and the light blue (center row in the middle). In the actual order I use them the most would probably be Pearl (#402 the off-white), Cashew (#405 the darker tan), Brown Sugar (#425 medium brown in the center), Snow (#401 the white white), and then the others. I definitely use these colors the most. They just work so well so much of the time.

Now, that we have the fact-of-the-matter out there that there may not be threads available to match specifically to your fabric, but I may have something close that goes - let's talk about how the threads are used in the quilt.

I think the single biggest misconception with quilting is that the thread needs to stand out in order for the quilting to show up more. ROOKIE MISTAKE. For your quilting to stand out and show the best, the thread should actually BLEND IN with your fabrics.

Think about it this way. You want to look at a quilt, see the quilt first, the quilting second and the thread color last. Everything should work well in perfect harmony to enhance each other as a whole.

If you have a contrasting thread, you'll notice the thread first, the quilting next and the quilt last. You don't want your quilt to play second fiddle. If that was the goal then why make it in the first place? Plus, by using a contrasting thread each and every little mistake will stand out soooo much as contrasting thread emphasizes each imperfection in the quilting.

There are exceptions to every rule and some "famous" quilters are known for using contrasting threads. But they've had years and years of practise so they know how to hide their mistakes (if they make any at all). You can break the rules more when you've worked hard for years and proven that you have the skills to not necessarily break the rules, but create your own set of rules. I hope that makes sense.

Granted I have some clients that love color and want their thread to stand out. At the end of the day it is their quilt and I will do what they want, but I will voice my opinion if I don't think it's the best result we can achieve together. Why is that? Well, it's their quilt but it's my name on the quilting and I don't want to put out only "okay" quilting. If my heart isn't into the quilt, the quilting will reflect that and I only want to do the best I can do. I'm not good with just getting it done. Now the thread is only a small element in the grand scheme of quilting, but it can play a big role if it's not chosen wisely.

Also, there are times no matter what thread you choose, it IS going to stand out SOMEWHERE on the quilt. A perfect example of this are scrappy quilts or yellow and navy blue quilts. Really anything with a high contrast. If you're only choosing one thread, choose something in the middle if you can. This way it won't be too dark on the lights and it won't be too light on the darks.

But at the end of the day sometimes you just gotta lay that thread on the quilt and take a look. There are days where the best choice is the color I didn't think would work at all. Sometimes if it's a weird color like a salmon (pink makes the salmon look orange, orange makes it look pink) I will lay a couple threads on the fabric in question and take a look at it over a period of time. I try to look at it several times throughout the day as the light changes to see if that alters how the combination plays together.

Oh, and last little tidbit - do not, I repeat DO NOT, bully your quilter into ordering a new thread just for you and your little tiny quilt if they don't think they can use it again. If they haven't needed it this far, that neon magenta obviously hasn't been a high request. If you're giving them a super custom king size quilt where it seems to be the only option. That's one thing. But for a baby quilt... Come on now. Be respectful. And yes I'm speaking from experience on this one.

So, that's a lot of talk about thread and where does this leave you? Well if you're a quilter, don't waste your money on every single color of thread available. If you're giving your quilts to a quilter to finish, trust your quilter and their judgement. This is their job and if you don't trust their judgement, they shouldn't be touching your quilt in the first place.

Oh, and if you noticed I really don't have variegated threads, yeah, that's for another post. Let's just leave it with I have a love/hate relationship with variegated threads...

Keep the conversation going in the comments. Let me know what you think about this post, this series and what else you'd like to know more about. Also, you can always email me at rubybluequilts (at) gmail (dot) com. I love reading your emails and sharing stories with you! Come back next week for another post in the Confessions series.

Phew, it feels so good to get some of this out there!

8.16.2016

Machine Quilting - Fancy Foxes

Karen and Brenda couldn't get enough of these fun little foxes and I could see why!
 Now, I know in these pictures the quilts are upside down, but if I tried to adjust the photo it would look even weirder than it does now. For this first quilt Brenda just wanted something simple yet modern. I used the foxes as my guide and quilted in these fun chevron lines. It doesn't compete visually with the foxes and lets the fabrics shine through.
 Then Karen made this large version of the pattern but wanted an all over pattern. We chose woodgrain as it fits the fox/woodland theme well.
 You can see the quilting a little better here. The colors were so fun and cheery.
You can really see the quilting on the back. Woodgrain is one of those patterns that every time I do it, it'll look different. The knots may be thinner or rounder, there may be more grain, the scale may be different. It's a very forgiving quilting design that adjusts with the scale of the quilt and my physicality. Depending on how I'm feeling can also alter the look (if I'm sore from custom quilting and rulerwork for example).

I really like the look of this design but please don't ask me to make it look just like this! I'm not sure I could do it!

Thank you Brenda and Karen! It's always a pleasure to work on your quilts, you both have so much fun with color and it shows!!!

8.15.2016

Machine Quilting - 9 Patch

I believe this is a Kim Diehl pattern. I'm like 99.8% sure. This is another masterpiece by Bobette (she's a machine I tell ya!).
 I love this quilt. I love the colors. It's just cozy looking. It's very hard to see the quilting in this first picture, I know - but wait, there's more!
 Here it is! Lots of straight lines to accent the nine patch blocks, some lines to separate the ribbon candy quilting in the black "sashing" (I guess we can call it that).
 So so so cozy looking!
 I took this picture of the border for a couple reasons. One of them being for my reference so I could remember how to turn corners using this design... Another one because I'm so happy with how this border turned out.
You can see the quilting so much better on the back of this quilt, but the front is just so pretty too! Honestly this is one of those quilts that could be just as pretty from the front or the back,

I'm honestly having so much fun looking back through all of these quilts and reminiscing! I quilted all of the quilts I've shown you recently last year. I'm still playing catch up and have so many more to share so check back often for more photos!
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