Sunday, 30 September 2007
Tuesday, 25 September 2007
Thursday, 20 September 2007
I do seem to be on something of a knitting jag at the moment. I finished the first of my cable socks, and I am really pleased with how it looks. The fit is a bit tight, especially to get it on over the foot, so having consulted my 'Sensational Socks' book, I am going to make the heel flap a few rows higher (and thus the gusset a few stitches wider) which hopefully will give me a bit of slack. I am also going to try the no-cable-needle cable method on the second sock, which looks like it may also make a looser cross-over which should loosen the second sock slightly.
I continue to tweak my Freestyle quilting frame arrangement. I gave up on trying to get my own table level because no matter how much propping up I did, the sewing machine was still trying to coast downhill and backwards on its own. So I sent dh to Ikea to pick up two of the height-adjustable trestles like the ones in the instructional video (and he even put them together for me, what a sweetie!) and the frame is now resting on those. This had the added advantage that I could raise it up about 8 inches higher, so I could see the needle more clearly and no longer had to adopt the weird backward stooping posture. However, we quickly discovered that the weight of my machine was making the frame support rails sag by almost a half inch in the middle. It is impossible to see in the tiny pictures in the instructions whether or not the makers have boards between their trestles to support the rails. I have now propped up the centre of my rails with a stack of craft books (the first time many of them have been taken off the bookshelf in a long time). And at last I am level! If I let go of the machine carriage handles, the machine stays where it is! what a difference!
So now I feel like I can concentrate on learning to steer. On my current practice top, I am experimenting with edge-to-edge quilting. I traced off my chosen fairly simple pattern onto Golden Threads paper, and used a big needle to needle-punch six more copies of the pattern. I started out pinning these to the quilt and quickly discovered that I absolutely hated the technique. The paper isn't quite flat no matter how much you pin it, so the fullness gets pushed around by the presser foot and develops wrinkles, and it is sort of crunchy to stitch through. By the time you have stitched through one repeat, the paper sort of wrinkles up to adapt to the quilt contours, which means that when you pin down the next un-stitched sheet, it is now longer than the stitched sheet so that it is hard to line up the interlocking pattern correctly. and if the wrinkle gets high enough, the presser foot hooks into it and tears the paper. Aaarrghghgh!!!
After a few lengths of the GT paper, I felt there had to be a better way. Googling on the internet quickly revealed the pantograph system used on the Hinterburg system and others, where a stylus is attached to the back edge of the carriage to trace along a panto roll laid on the table. I have now temporarily improvised this system by taping a draughtsman's compass to my carriage and laying my panto roll along a board between the two trestles. Even this improvised system is working great, so I will have to adapt it into something more permanent.
I have received my first commission! A friend at work saw my knitting bag, and has asked me to make her one for her mother for Christmas.
On Saturday at my club meeting, we concluded both our brown bag swap and the applique split-picture swap (I was doing both). The mystery recipient of my autumn leaves table runner turned out to be someone unexpected, and I'm not sure she liked it. She said something pretty feeble like 'oh, that's nice', but when another tablerunner in similar colours was unveiled by someone else, she was raving enthusiastically 'OH, that's beautiful!' etc. so I guess she would have rather had that one. oh well. I glimpsed my own table runner which isn't finished yet so I don't have it back yet. I liked it because I like the fabrics I put in the bag. The applique split-picture swap has been really interesting - these are the pics where I made a slice of a black man's head, a slice of a Monet farmscape, and a slice of a Belgian street scene (as blogged previously). My picture is of a Venetian canal, and I haven't got all the three pieces back, but I've seen the third piece and it is quite amazing how much my three pieces look like they go together. I will make the fourth piece when I get the other three pieces and post a pic. The black man's portrait didn't fare so well - one contributor had used a fabric tremendously lighter than the others for the skin, and also made an over-large staring white eye. The Monet farmscape fabrics were all very good, but unfortunately the person who made the slice next to mine was wildly inaccurate and their piece doesn't line up at all with mine (we are talking more than a half inch out). At first when I saw it I had a sick feeling wondering if I had made the mistake, but we compared pattern pieces and it is definitely the next person's. The Belgian street scene is going to look good, apart from the boring low-contrast fabrics for the building and foreground provided by the owner of the picture. Hopefully I will get photographs of the finished scenes and be able to post them.
Sunday, 16 September 2007
- I need to smooth the top from the centre out to the edges each time I roll on, to try to fight the tendency of the quilt top to become hourglass-shaped (the quilting draws it in, yet the ends are pinned to full width on the rollers). The sideways tension is on the backing so it doesn't alleviate the tendency of the top to draw inwards.
- where the top has no excess to trim off, I should put the batting onto the backing first, then pin the quilt top through all three layers. The cd that came with the system shows the top being pinned to the backing, then folded back, and the batting being inserted between the two layers. Despite best endeavours, this left me a gap of up to 1/4" with no batting in it along the top edge.
- You can continuous-curve quilt around the seams of a block, by rolling on as needed (which is tedious but do-able). However (and my dh helpfully pointed out that this should be obvious), it is no good rolling forward to go around the whole block if the total distance quilted forward from original starting point exceeds a certain distance (about 10" on my frame) because once the three layers are quilted together, you can't roll back any further than about 10" because the top and bottom can no longer separate to go onto their respective rollers. I found this out by quilting all around one block, moving over to do the next block in the row and discovering I couldn't roll back far enough. Having driven helpful husband out of the room, I had to do part of the block and leave the rest to do later off the frame. I guess I should have done about half the first block, then gone along and done half the next block etc. etc., before rolling forward. But that is going to require some advance planning on how to quilt the seams, I hate advance planning.
On my next practice top, I am going to try some edge-to-edge quilting patterns. As there is no pantograph facility on this frame (and I would think that when someone writes that book I want to read, they will have a chapter on improvising pantograph systems), I will have to draw out the pattern onto Golden Threads paper.
What else have I been doing? I am still knitting on my Widdershins cable sock, I have turned the heel (which is just the most wonderful heel, you increase for the gusset, then knit a proper heel flap and decrease on either side to tie it back into the gusset - so no picking up stitches!) but when I tried to do the cable rib up the leg I found it was too tight. I ripped back and tried with bigger needles and less cross-overs, then it was too loose. So I have ripped back again, and am trying with original needles and less cross-overs. And I finally got my invitation to Ravelry, I was so excited, and spent about a half day setting up an account there. They only take pictures from Flickr, there is no direct upload option, so I had to create a knitting album on Flickr to get my pics into Ravelry. Oh, and it is getting a bit colder here now so I sat down one evening and knit a hat, the 'May' pattern from Rowan Big and Easy leaflet.
I've also finished two Miss Lydia Pickett kits from my monthly club that Judith of 'In Some Small Way' is running. This was the Day Bed and the Ladies' Writing Desk, which I think were the August & September kits. We have now moved onto the living room furniture so I have shifted my base colour from pale yellow to a sort of oatmeal colour (one of my dh's Citadel paints in a shade called 'Bleached Bone') which matches the provided artwork quite well. These kits went together well. The Day Bed was fairly easy. The front legs of the desk are built up of three layers and you need to sand the fronts off to round the leg so it looks more like a cabriole leg and less like a laser-cut structure. I found the artwork slightly puzzling as the interior pieces above and below the shelf do not completely fill up their allotted space, even though in the kit picture they appear to. The little extras with the ladies' desk are two little books and a folded vintage leaflet. I am quite pleased, as usual, with how both kits turned out.
Wednesday, 12 September 2007
These are the pieces as delivered. The frame is strongly constructed from quality materials. In fact the metal runners are so strong that in the accompanying instruction video you can see the frame in use and only supported at either end by trestles. The wooden pieces are of high quality wood, all well finished and completely smooth, and a large amount of pre-assembly has been done prior to delivery.
Now that the frame is together, I can say that it is not complex and I should not have any trouble putting it together a second time in the future. However, I had extreme difficulty putting it together the first time, largely because of inadequate instructions. Assembly instructions are supplied in two forms: a work-in-progress video (your choice of cd or dvd) which has chapter captions but no sound, and shows the frame being assembled and then loaded with a quilt top; and a one-sheet printed set of assembly instructions with small photographs. I had three main problems: firstly, the frame as supplied to me is obviously a later evolution and is not the same as the prototype pictured on either the printed instructions or in the video. Secondly, there appears to be no way to pause or stop the video on cd, forcing me to let it run full length repeatedly as I tried to figure out the finer details of assembly. I don't know what format it is in, but there are no controls provided for pausing or navigation, no key on the keyboard would pause it or make controls pop up, and Windows Media Player would not recognise the video format. Thirdly, the assembly instructions suffer greatly from 'must get it all onto one page' syndrome - the photographs are tiny and cropped so severely as to be almost useless. There is no sheet identifying the various components, which makes some of the references on the assembly sheet cryptic. Consequently the assembly, which on the video takes about 10 minutes, actually took me about five hours to get right. (At least, I think I've got it right)
It is a lot of little things, all of which could be solved with some close-up photographs. For example, when adding on the pivoting end pieces, it was not clear on which side of the wood the large washer should be placed. I put it on the inside - and it became clear later that this put the end piece slightly out of parallel with the base frame (because the spiral arm does have the large washer on the outside). So when I tried to adjust the height, my end piece was binding on the spiral arm's large washer, and actually chipped a bit of the wood off the bottom of the end piece. Another example would be that the rods have a specific right way up, which is to have the black handle down and the white plastic nub upwards in the support grooves. But you can't tell this from any of the instructions - it was my dh who pointed out that one end of the rods was lower than the other end. I'm still not sure where the side tensioning clips should be fastened on the frame - in the tiny photo in the instructions it looks like they may be hooked over a piece of wood which I don't have on my frame. I have hooked them instead over the white plastic rod, but that puts them off centre which seems strange. There are two more single sheets of instructions: one on loading the quilt onto the frame, which strangely is in a different order from how it is done on the video; and one showing how to adjust the height of the frame for your machine bed. I puzzled over the last one for some time and I am still not sure that I have it right, but the machine seems to be quilting alright.
When loading my machine onto the carriage (a Janome 6500) it became clear that I had another problem. The platform is not big enough to take my machine square on - the motor hits up against the handle and one foot is half off the platform. If I put the machine right over to one side, I can get it on at a slight angle but then the spool rest is preventing the machine from coming fully to the front of its platform (thus reducing the possible throat area on the machine since the platform steering handle support is in front of the actual machine throat).
The biggest problem has been the most unexpected - there is no allowance made, or mention of, where to put your foot pedal. When I tried out the frame at the Malvern quilt show, they were using the frame on two trestles, so of course the foot pedal cord could fall down behind the frame and the pedal come to the front. This obviously doesn't work on a table, unless you were on a very narrow table or have a very long foot cord. I have had to resort to improvising by tying my pedal onto the handle, which quickly tired out my left hand. Thinking of some of the other home frames I have seen at shows, some of which have a wooden trigger on the handle to push down on the pedal, I have now come up with this wooden stick arrangement to put leverage on the pedal, but it is still pretty unsatisfactory and prone to slipping off. I might try to suspend the cord on the stick to see if the pedal will reach down to the floor at the front. I have also had trouble a couple of times with the power cord at the back of the machine flipping up on the back runner and obstructing the machine carriage.
So what is it like to actually use? I found the action to be slightly heavy at first but I am getting used to it now. The system allows free movement of the machine in all directions, as it should. The handles are quite comfortable - or they would be if I didn't have the problem with the foot pedal level to squeeze. On my machine, I feel like I do not have good visibility of the needle unless I stand well back from the frame, because of the bulk of the machine head, so I find I am adopting a strange posture of standing well back and hunching my neck down to be able to see the needle, which grows uncomfortable over time. I guess if I had the frame on adjustable trestles like in the video, I could raise it to a more comfortable height.
I am having a bit of trouble because my table is not entirely level, and if I let go of the machine it wants to roll to the back and to the left. I am trying to prop the frame up with magazines and things but haven't got it right so far. That is just a problem with my table, and not the fault of the frame.
I ordered the six-foot rollers, and for some reason the leaders (the fabric 'tails' on the rollers) are different widths - the one on the back roller is 64 and 3/8th and the other two are near to 66 inches. So I guess 64 and 3/8th will be my maximum working width. It doesn't say this in the instructions, but it seems clear that the quilt back needs to be longer and wider than the top. Longer so that the top can be pinned onto the back below where the back pins onto the leader (so that you don't have two rows of pins on top of each other) and wider because otherwise the machine bed bumps into the side tensioning clip and disrupts the quilting. I have had several accidents with the needle hitting the back roller which is another reason for there to be a good gap between where the backing pins onto the leader and where the top starts. Once you have hit the back roller a few times, the needle clamp gets loosened and then the needle waggles and breaks (ask me how I know...).
Now that I have got going and am starting to learn all the quirks as above, the meandering is going well. I can see that it would save a lot of time, if you know what you are doing, compared to conventionally safety-pinning the quilt and free-motioning the normal way. I am pleased with the quality of the machine, and with the fact that I will be able to disassemble and store it easily (unlike some of the other dedicated home frame systems). I just need to do lots and lots more practice.
Sunday, 9 September 2007
Just a postscript to say that I got my September issue of Quilter's Newsletter Magazine which has had an amazing makeover. I had gotten quite bored with it for the last few years, it had turned into just another pattern magazine apart from they still printed news from the quilting world which was the main reason I bought it (that, and nostalgia for when it used to be good). Magazines revamp themselves every few years, and it usually just seems to be cosmetic, but QNM (now QN) have really pulled out all the stops and it is a great read now. In fact, I still haven't finished reading it because there is just so much in it - whereas it used to take me about 20 minutes. Perhaps they have taken a leaf out of the Quilter's Home Magazine, and are trying to present a publication that you don't just read and toss in 20 or 30 minutes. There are several new columns, for example one by a long-arm quilter, one by John Flynn, the first of a three-part quilter's fiction by Jennifer Chiaverini (sp?), several workshops and technical tips, fabric previews, as well as the usual news and patterns. I am impressed.
Friday, 7 September 2007
Anyway, I am a bit of a magazine slut, and the past year the exchange rate with America (where all my favourite mags come from) has been so good for us that I have been tempted into more subscriptions because they are actually the same price or cheaper than here in the UK. And in my humble opinion, the American quilting magazines are far better than the UK ones, but perhaps it is just that they are more to my taste. But I think the magazine subscription thing has gotten slightly out of hand, judging by the stack of about 12 magazines waiting to be read properly from the last six weeks - not to mention the knitting books I have been buying secondhand on Amazon, and the three books on painted ladies in San Francisco (bought as a souvenir of my holiday) and a book on why being messy is actually better than being tidy (as recommended by Mark Lipinski in Quilter's Home magazine). I don't actually have time to read all these things. I think my New Year's resolution this year has to be no more magazine subscriptions. My problem is that I am interested in too many hobbies (hence the title of this blog) so I am getting magazines on quilting, dollshouse miniatures, knitting, and a few assorted others to do with memberships of English Heritage, using the internet, that sort of thing. I even get a woman's magazine because I like it and it is really cheap. I'm just sad obviously.
And it is not just the reading - what do you do with them after you have read them? I have tried many things over the years: clipping and filing, hand-written indexes, computer spreadsheet indexes, post-it notes to highlight patterns I like. But then there are whole series that I just want to keep because I love the pictures so much (Miniature Quilt magazine, sigh, oh how you are missed..., Nutshell News ditto) In our current house, the only place to keep the quilting and dollshouse magazines is in the attic (the knitting mags are out in my knitting shed) and the builder who floored the attic space for us did warn against putting too much weight up there. I have visions of my entire magazine collection dropping down into the bedroom one fine day... Lately I've been trying to be more ruthless, and just rip out the articles I might use in future and put the rest of the mag in the recycling - but of course there are always two articles back to back that you want to file in two different files so your filing gets screwed up. Perhaps I should just open a magazine museum and be done with it. Or buy a photocopier...
Ok, enough ranting about my unfortunate magazine habit. What else have I done since we got back from camping on Sunday? Three days of work up in London, ds went back to school on Wednesday (hurray!), about 8 loads of washing, major housework, some more knitting on my cabled sock, catching up on the taped television shows (could Meredith Grey have taken any longer to come back to life from her almost-drowning, yawn). Today I quilted my autumn table runner. I was going to free-motion veins on each leaf, so I tried it out on a couple of leaves in one corner. It looked awful - like a drunken spider had been running around on them. So I had to unpick (isn't unpicking invisible thread fun...NOT!!) and now I have just done walking foot straight lines diagonally through each leaf which seems to suit the pattern much better - it emphasises the diagonal quality of the leaves. I will post a pic once I get the binding on. I've got to have it done for next Saturday when I will hand it back to the owner.
Monday, 3 September 2007
What other crafty things did I do on holiday? I took my handquilting along, the vintage crossed canoes top that I am 'rescuing' by quilting down all the fullness added by the inexpert creator. I am on the last row of blocks now so I should keep at it and not let it rest for several months like I have been. I visited Axminster Tools in Axminster and bought some locking clamps for when I pin up my quilt sandwich, and some more sponge paintbrushes (very useful for dollshousing). I went to a needlework shop in Exeter in the Central Station on Queen Street which was a standard cross-stitch sort of shop but with a surprisingly good selection of yarn - and I bought some more sock wool. This time it is Regia Jacquard which knits up into self-patterning designs which should be fun. We went antiquing and I picked up a few craft books in secondhand book stores. I had a lovely visit to the museum in Honiton, which has two whole rooms devoted to the craft of Honiton lace, and two lovely volunteers from the local Lace society were doing demonstrations and were happy to chat to me about lace and crafts. And on the way home we stopped at Fibre Fest in Ulfculme which was a large marquee within a country fair. The marquee was full of lots of small wool producers (sheep, angora, and more exotic fibres), spinners, weavers, artisans etc. Quite fun to go around, and I emerged with a cone of multicoloured wool to machine knit with. Then we had a big hog roast sandwich with apple sauce and stuffing, from a pig which had grown up just 20 miles away. And in case you are wondering, I gained three pounds while on holiday - but it was worth it!
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