Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hurray for my Janome Horizon! So here's the scoop. . . . .

Five years ago, I started wanting to update my sewing machine.  I asked a lot of my experienced quilter friends and I found that Janome was offering a lot of the features I wanted in my next machine. . . . but not enough of them to make me make the leap!  Sooooo I kept quilting with my Elna's Quilter's Dream.  You see, I bought that machine with the $$ from my first commissioned quilt, so its pretty dear to my heart.  Plus its never broke down on me and I even managed to get all the black sharpie marker off when my then naughty creative 3-year old thought it should be ALL colored black. (ahhhhhh goood timessssssss LOL!)

Finally last year Janome came out with the Horizon 7700.  It had almost all the features I've been wanting without an outrageous price tag (I guess that's a matter of opinion LOL!).  After a weekend of sewing here are my impressions:

  • Large 11" work bed (harp) - you can fit a lot of quilt in that baby!
  • 5 LCD lights for aging eyes
  • quiet and smooth sewing
  • 15 feet  - including 3 Free Motion Feet 
  • Front Panel that clicks open so you can check your threading
  • Knee lift
  • Automatic Scissors (a gift from God!)
  • 250 stitches including 3 alphabets and a ton of applique stitches 
  • extension table included
  • Built in even feed foot that you can change feet on
  • No bobbin alarm
  • Its a bit finicky  - so was my Elna
  • Heavy  and big - 40 lbs and hard to reach around
  • Some of the features are hard to get at if its in the sewing table (mine isn't)
  • Should come with an Accufeed 1/4" foot - bought one though for under $30
  • Not such a big fan of touch screens - would like buttons instead

But gosh - I do LOVE my new machine and can see where it has true potential.  After a weekend of a lot of sewing, I'm totally getting used to having a knee lift and love having a fairy that cuts my threads for me.  Love the lighting!  Love how smooth it runs.  I haven't had any problems going over thick seams which has been the complaint of some.   I can tell that this is just the beginning.   So all in all - VERY happy with the buy.

One thing though. . .wasn't too happy with the whole process of buying a machine.  I had three dealers that are within an hour drive of here.  I went to the first shop because they have such a good rep.  Once I was there, they were very knowledgable, friendly, and treated their customers right.  But when it came to giving me a price they quoted me one that was higher than retail - then with a little discount - trading in the Elna - it came to just below the actual MSRP.  You can imagine my surprise!    Didn't want to buy the machine for that much so I started saving and waiting and praying (note quite in that order LOL!)

Two weeks ago, my great husband took me for a ride to one of the other dealers.  They gave a really good impression too.  When it came to the bottom line, they quoted me a price $600 less than the first one without the trade-in.  Plus they included the carry case (which doesn't come with it), a big thread collection and the thread caddy.  They also have a 5 yr extended warrenty and service for 2 yr which is really nice.  Both shops had unlimited lessons.  So without much thought (and now that I had half of it saved!), I took the deal.

Anyways - I learned a big lesson.  DO YOUR PRICE RESEARCH!  Once I started looking, I found that I could easily find that I got a nice fair price - not rock bottom, but a fair one.  The price on these machines were all over the place and it was not unheard of dealers quoting prices higher than MSRP!  I'm not quite sure what I would have done if none of the dealers would deal - but I'm glad my new one did!

 Any comments - good or bad on the horizon are welcomed.  Any questions too !

Monday, May 30, 2011

Humble Beginnings - Design Board Monday

Despite how my design board looks, I've been quite busy this week in my sewing hole. Not to mention its the end of the school year - which is always a little nutsy!  Anyways, I did manage to start on my memorial quilt.  All the clothes were washed (without fabric softner), cut up into manageable pieces, and interfacing ironed on.  OMG!  putting the interfacing on the knits took forever!  Still most were cotton so that made it nice.  Once I had a big pile of cut up clothing, I started with making my flying geese.  I've learned long ago that I can't - I mean really I can't - make a decent flying goose to save my life.  So this time I just drafted out the patterns quickie quick on the computer - printed them off - and am now in the process  of paper piecing them.  Come out perfect every time and once you get the hang of paper piecing again goes pretty quick.  Its weird that they are so big though 6" by 8", but I like how the colors are coming together.  All the "geese" parts are clothing with most of the sky parts being from my stash. (I had no idea I still had so much "country" fabric in my stash LOL!)

But wait - that's not the exciting news of the week.  A week ago, I finally - did I mention  finally??? - took the plunge and upgraded my machine.  YAY!  My new Janome Horizon is now in its new home.   I couldn't set it up in my chaotic sewing room though - so did some spring cleaning and chased all those dust bunnies out.  Anyways - I'll blog about the Janome this week but am getting used to her and she to me.  Gotta teach her whose boss!!

Okay so next week - I promise, pinky swear, that I'll have more to show on my board!

See more great design board at Judy's Patchworks!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Birth of a Memorial Quilt - Design Wall Monday

How many types of graph paper do you own?  This weekend, I was struck by the depth of my graph paper collection.  I mean, how did I manage to collect so many different kinds?  Anyways, I was rifling through them because I  needed to start designing a commissioned memorial quilt for a family friend.  This is the third commissioned memorial piece I've taken on and I'm never quite sure where the quilt journey is going to take me.  I sit down with the client and talk about their love ones.  They hand me photos, bags of clothing and memories.  I try to look all confident but it all seems a bit overwhelming.

So the first step is to start sorting the fabric, so that I can get a feel of the direction the quilt is going to be.   While I was making piles, I found a ton of plaids and stripes - a lot of neutral, earthy colors - hints of red here and there.  It just all felt very male.  I never worry about the fabric type - that is another day's problem.

Then I sat down at my work table with my favorite pencil set  and a big piece of graph paper and just stare at the blocks until ideas come to me.  I want something with direction for this quilt - very traditional - large enough to cover a bed.  I want there to be spaces enough to highlight treasured t-shirts, photos, maybe quotes and dates. I want the design to reflect the person. . . simple. . .hard working. . . .male.   After a couple of hours, this is what I came up with.  It doesn't mean that the quilt will end up exactly like this - but at least its a start!

More great design walls at Judy's Patchworks!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lilies Done! Yay!

I love completing a project.  Its been a trial lately to do that, so that only makes it just that much better.  Still the lilies are completed and with a whole month before the jury needs them!  Some important facts:
  • 28" by 34"
  • original design
  • made with hand dyed cotton - mostly by me last summer
  • approximately 45 hours to complete (OMG!)
  • machine quilted, raw edge appliqued
  • Good points: decorative, stitchwork adds texture, good use of color and value, jagged edge adds interest
  • Bad points: The focal point could be stronger and its predictable
I used facing instead of a traditional binding.  Basically all that really means is that I took the binding, put it on backwards, and pulled it to the back - then blind stitched it down.  I used a facing that matched the back so that you can barely see it.  Putting it on was a bear, since I had no clue of how to do the inside corners.  Truth be told, I still don't have a clue - don't tell anybody though - hate when people know that I don't know what I'm doing LOL!  Anyways, with some hand stitching the facing looks neat enough and the false back hides all the thread work.  All, in all, I'm happy with it - love making pretty things!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Thread Work Done! Design Wall Monday

Whewwww!!  My sewing machine has been going full speed this week, trying to get all the thread work done on the lilies.  It went nice and smooth though, so really it was a pleasure.  You see, my machine and I have a love/hate relationship at times anddddddd sometimes I just can't seem to get my vision translated to the fabric under the needle.  Not this week though!  With all the details put in, all I have to do is add the back and put in a few anchoring quilt lines.  You  can see in the detail photo, that most of the raw edges are safely under thread - not all of them - but most of them.  I like that messy shabby, chic kind of look. 

Click to enlarge it
I still get people who say to me - "Wow!  wish I could do that."  Listen - it ain't that hard.  Really, all I do is put my darning foot on and I use mostly - but not always - a poly  or rayon thread (yes I like it shiny!).  I usually use neutral bobbin thread in the bobbin, but with this project I just used my big cone of Aurifil gray thread.  Still, looking back, maybe I should have used the cheaper bobbin thread since I went through 7 - count them - 7 bobbins!  I used the batting as a stabilizer with the back not on and it worked up nicely.  Then I just start drawing with my darning foot.  I guess the hardest part of it all is getting up the courage to just let the needle go and draw what you have in your mind.  Still that comes with practice.  That's what's nice about doing an annual lily project.  You get to know how you want your lilies to look!

For the background "stones", I did some research through my art quilt books and looked at  some designs that other quilters had used.  I then postie noted them and pulled them out when I needed it.  I took my sketch book and just started to draw out the background, practicing how the line would go.  That way, when it was time for me to do it, I had a pretty good idea how to guide the needle.

I do draw up my beginning threads, but I don't bury my ending threads - I just clip them close to fabric.  I have these amazing Heritage Embroidery snips which work nicely. If I misplace them, I'm totally lost!  Sometimes I use gripper garden gloves, but this time I just found them a hindrance.   I wanted to feel the fabric under my fingertips.

Anddddddddd who doesn't like the feel of fabric under her fingers when a project is going well??  Hopefully, I'll finish this baby up this week and have something new on my design board next week!

See more great design walls at Judy's Patchworks!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Strawberry Kisses - Blogger's Quilt Festival Entry

Strawberry Kisses
70” x  85”
Hand quilted, Hand appliquéd
Commercial Cotton Fabric

Early summer always reminds me of strawberries.  When you see them in the local fields, you know that the quiet warm days of summer are finally here to stay.  All that sunshine seems to be stored in their delicious redness.  That’s probably why I’ve always been fascinated with this quilt pattern.

With Amy’s Creative Side’s, spring Blogger Quilt Festival upon us, I thought I would pull this quilt out of storage.  I made it after receiving the book Patchwork Pantry by Suzette Halferty and Carol C. Porter.  It was a gift from my good online friend, Julia.  You see, Julia and I “met” when trading books for fabric and we’ve been emailing ever since.  I loved the book – I loved the postie notes she put in with her comments – I loved this quilt.

I remember I chose it to make because it looked like it was going to be a quick and easy quilt.  LOL – NOT!  After 60+ hours of hand appliqué – most of which were the 3-d strawberry blossoms, I think I had to rethink my original assessment.  Still, I did quite enjoy making them!

Anywayssss, I dedicated the quilt to my then, 2 year daughter, who at the time, kept me hopping.  She was and is everything the quilt is, bright and beautiful, soft and girlie, sweet and interesting.  Its still one of my favorites!

You can see more festival quilts here!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Decisions, Decisions - Design Board Monday

TOO        RAW
So I spent the week sewing down and thread painting my lily quilt entry (You can see the pinned design here).  Who would have thought there would be so many decisions to make.  It started with the sandwich.  I decided to layer it without a backing and just use the batt as a stabilizer.  I figure the back can be added near the end with some anchoring quilting lines and it will hide all the back threads.  Then I had to decide should I use a free motion foot to sew around all the little pieces or a regular one.  I started with the free motion but - gosh - its ridiculous trying to control that accurately.    Not only that, but the edges were getting all messy and really frayed.  I mean this is suppose to be raw applique but it was looking a bit too raw!!  So off it came and on went my fav clear foot.  I also switched to a nice tiny but medium wide zig-zag stitch.  The edges were looking better but it was  a pain changing out the color threads.  So out came the thread and in went invisible thread which actually sewed up quite nicely. 

Still A Little Too Raw

So after a lot of false starts, I was ready to go.  Seven hours later, all the little pieces were sewn down, and now I'm in the middle of adding the thread painting.  I'm starting with the flowers and leaves since they are easily done.  I'm kinda freakin' about the stone background though - I might have to audition some patterns using clear plastic. . . .Oh great. . . . . more decisions!

See more great design boards on Judy's page.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Back to the Designing Board. . . . .

OMG!  Where do the months go?  I'm never my most productive during the first quarter of the year but I really did hit a slump this year.  After doing a lot - did I mention a lot of - sewing on my Christmas project, I finally had to call "Uncle" and put it away for a while.  I seem to be piling up UFO's projects  this year.  Hate that!!

Sooooo decided to turn over a new leaf and start designing a new one that I would actually finish.  I know that a lot of quilters like to work on a bunch of projects at once, but I like to start and finish a project - seems to keep me on track better.  So with that in mind, I started my entry for the annual  Lily Art Festival which is held at a local gift shop Campbell Pottery Store.  Its a juried show, so my entry might not be accepted but its worth a try.  I've been in a couple of times and my husband was accepted last year so this year we thought we would try together.

Anyways, here is the start of my project.  The background is made up of all my own personal hand dyeds.  It took me about 3 weeks to get this far but I believe this is the finished design.  Its now backed with Warm and Natural batting ready to be sewn down.  I don't fuse anything since I like the natural feel of the cotton.  Still I'm thinking with this one, I'm going to use some invisible thread for the initial sewing and then add thread work over that after.  I want to make sure the edges are nice and clean.  I'll keep ya posted on how its going!