Sunday, February 24, 2013

And I Thought a Ruler and a Darning Foot Would be Enough…

The Bernina has returned. It had a thorough cleaning, a check-up/tune-up and, fortunately, nothing was seriously wrong. Something had come loose on the inside on the hand wheel and it just needed to be tightened. It works great and I am delighted to have it back!

The more I read quilting books and blogs (and watch YouTube quilting videos), the more I realize the same tools keep showing up and I get to thinking that maybe I could use a few of them. Now, don’t you worry, I haven’t gone and bought a mid-arm sewing machine, but the following have made their way to me:

  • A Supreme Slider free motion machine quilting mat (has a Teflon top to allow the fabric to easily slide across the bed of the machine)
  • Machinger gloves (the fingertips have a polyurethane coating to get a better grip on the fabric sandwich as it is being quilted)
  • Teflon bobbin washers (placed in the bobbin case before adding the bobbin, they encourage better tension and stitching)
  • Pinmoors (easier to use than safety pins to keep the layers together)

I'll let you know how these work for me.

My current strategy has the blocks joined into three strips with each strip two blocks wide and seven blocks long. I am hoping it will be easy to quilt the strips leaving about two inches unquilted on the inner edges. Once the strips are connected, I’ll come back and quilt those blank areas. It works in my head…

While waiting for the Bernina, I put together a new top using a pattern I've been curious about. The fabric is from a bundle and the pattern is the Style Arc Cate’s Cousin top. Both pattern and fabric have been here awhile – and with winter about over, my timing is definitely off. However, I’d rather have a top waiting in the closet than folded fabric on the shelf.

Next? A free motion quilting experiment involving a block that did not measure up. Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Machine Swaps

Last week, the Bernina 930 Record quit sewing. At first, turning the hand wheel would get it going again. This would happen sporadically, then at the beginning of every seam. Then, every few stitches…

I did what I could by taking apart the bobbin case area, verifying that no loose threads were causing mischief. Next, the feed dogs were exposed and the compacted fuzz removed. No change. Finally, I took off the lid and looked inside. It was clean and nothing obviously broken or out of place and no ugly noises came when turning the hand wheel. Maybe it is the foot pedal. Perhaps unseen thread caught somewhere…who knows?

I finally gave up and took it to the Bernina shop. They tell me it will be at least two weeks before I hear from them. Once they figure out what is wrong, it may be several more days before it is ready. It will receive a cleaning and tune-up while it is there.

So, without the trusted 930, I turned to my thrift store find, the Bernina Activa 140, and was able to finish piecing the blocks. I’d purchased a ¼” patchwork foot, similar to the one for the 930. I’d also gotten a FMQ (free motion quilting) foot. The foot was fine, but I had no luck with the stitch tension on any of my samples. I spent hours trying to get it right. It even got to the point where I was building a spreadsheet to record the various combinations of upper and bobbin case adjustments. If the top tension looked right, the lower was off and vice versa. Perhaps it needs a visit to the Bernina shop too, though the machine sews just fine without the batting… 

With two machines down, my eyes spotted the Singer 301A case under the sewing table. I’d bought this machine back in 2011 and hadn’t taken the time to clean it up and make it mine. Today was the day. I changed out the smelly felt liner on the oil drip pan. Once removed, I repeatedly washed the pan with warm water and lots of Dawn dishwashing detergent. A new felt pad was applied and no more smell.

Inside, the machine was clean, except for a few globs of old grease around the gears. I wiped them out, applied fresh oil and grease, and then made a trip to Hancock’s for a generic FMQ foot (approximately $18.00). Once home, I attached the foot and started quilting yet another batting sandwich sample. This time, the stitching, top and bottom, is wonderful! In addition, the machine makes a lovely sound. I am happy.

Now I need to figure out my plan for quilting the blocks. My choices:

  • Quilting using a unique stitching design for each block
  • Consisent stitching for each block – because they are already busy enough
My samples haven’t had any seams. Maybe it is a good idea to quilt one with several seams before deciding…

Look at what my sister sent me: