Thursday, April 24, 2014

Cut the Thread!

A few weeks ago, I started a semi-regular conversation about things that I do when I quilt that might surprise you. This week, a word or two about the thread cutter--that little button on the sewing machine (not all sewing machines have it, but mine does) that cuts the top and bobbin thread when you press. Some quilters wear out the printing on the button, because they use it so much. My button is rarely touched!

It's nothing personal against the thread cutting mechanism. In a tight spot, when I've got all kinds of folds crumpled up and an extra hand to reach in and cut the thread just isn't available, it's a fantastic feature!

But for regular quilting and piecing, I'm too much of a control freak and tidy-butt. Notice the short thread ends on the bottom of the quilting? That drives me nuts! And I don't like that long thread end that got all tangled up in the quilting stitches on the left either.

So I have a little routine when I quilt to solve both problems.

To start quilting in the middle of a piece. I position the foot and the needle over the spot where I'm going to start a line of quilting. . .

. . . . then I drop the needle down . . . .

 . . . then pull the needle up, bringing up a tiny loop of the bobbin thread.

With a seam ripper or stiletto, I pull the bobbin loop so both the thread ends from the top thread and bobbin thread are visible.

Then with one hand, I hold the thread ends out of the way (in this case toward the back left) and quilt (my quilty objective is the white triangle in front).

Later, I bury the thread ends in the quilt sandwich by making a square knot with the thread ends, then popping the threads into the eye of a self-threading needle . . .

. . . and feeding the needle through the batting layer. The needle is inserted right at the beginning of the line of quilting.

The threads are flush with the quilt top. The result is no little bumpy knots or loose ends on the bottom of the quilt. I realize there are plenty of other ways around this, but this is how I prefer to handle the thread ends without engaging the thread cutter.

I prefer not to use the thread cutter when I piece, too! I'm not fond of the little thread nest that appears mysteriously on the bottom of some of my pieced blocks.

Instead, I release the thread tension and pull out about 3" of bobbin and top thread and hold them to the back of the presser foot for the first two or three stitches of the piecing.

Rather than cut the thread between pieces, I chain piece. Once I finish sewing across one seam, I take a couple of extra stitches to nowhere, then add a second set of fabrics to be sewn. . . .

I keep adding pieces, then cut the short thread in between. Typically I have a second piecing project handy so when I get to the end of a piecing run for the main project I'm working on, I just add a pieced element from the secondary project.

No messy backs to upset Tidy-Joan!
(However, it appears that the machine needs a bit of an adjustment from all the stitching I've been doing lately--that straight stitch looks a little wobbly! Time to make a maintenance appointment!)

How about you? Do you use your thread cutter ALL the time, some of the time, or hardly ever?

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Happy Easter!

H A P P Y   S P R I N G !

I'm enjoying a little holiday family time this week! Look for new scrappy-quilty content in about a week or so. In the meantime, 

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Steppin' Out

As you may recall, I've been nose-down into writing the manuscript for my third book from The Taunton Press. This one will be quite different from the first two. It's scheduled to appear in bookstores in early 2015. I promise to keep you posted right here as soon as I get more specifics.

Seems like everything else on the project list falls behind when there's such a big project in the works, so I'm weeding my way through the pile on my desk and in the sewing room. Here's what I'm uncovering.

For starters, Mini Mug Mat Samples. To prepare for a Take and Teach session at Fall Quilt Market, I've cut up some Timeless Treasures Mini Prints for my class samples. These mini prints will go perfectly with the Mini Mug Mats, don't you think? They are cut, staged, and ready to sew!

While I'm not going to be an exhibitor at  Spring Quilt Market--the quilt industry trade show--in Pittsburgh, PA in May, the Mini Mug Mats will be making a bit of a splash there. Along with my assistant, Tracy, I'm preparing a bunch of samples for the FabShop Pre-Market Dinner. The Mini Mug Mats will make their seriously big debut, along with some companion patterns that will feature the brand New Mini Scrap Grid at Fall Quilt Market in October.

My sewing basket is full of Mini Mug Mat samples to finish up.

Calico Gals, one of the local quilt shops here in Syracuse isn't waiting. They're going big with Mini Mug Mats for their demos associated with their current shop hop, April 5-14! I stopped in yesterday to replenish supplies, and snapped a couple of pictures of their fun, interactive display. Here's the smorgasbord of Mini Mug Mat Packs, fat quarters, and companion products to tempt s/hoppers.

And there's Janet, herself, the shop owner, manning the demo table to get things rolling on a perfectly sunny day for hopping.

Speaking of hopping, buried somewhere here on my desk are the beginnings of a fabulous shop hop pattern that is just going to be too much fun for a Shop Hop coming this Fall in Western Pennsylvania. I'm working on the pattern a little each day. Watch for more details on the hop and the pattern right in this newsletter!

And for this summer, have you heard about the Row by Row Experience? It's a shop hop unlike any other. It's a nationwide shop hop--34 states (including one province) are participating! Amazing prizes! All you have to do is travel and quilt - okay there's a bit more to it than that, but that's the bottom line! I'm putting forth my best effort to create a small handful of row patterns that you'll be able to collect as you travel hither and yon this summer.

And while I'm trying to play catch-up with the projects in my in-box, Pat Sloan is getting a handle on her fabric scraps. Check out her blog and her scrap-busting routine. Anything sound familiar? Thanks for the shout-out, Pat!

Phew! Enough talking, I'd better get back to this pile on my desk. This is going to be a really fun quilty season, are you ready for it?

I am  . . . or I will be! How about you? What's in your project in-box?

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Hi-Ho! Hi, Snow!

Shortly after my last note, I hit the road and headed to Findley Lake, New York and the Needle in a Haystack Retreat. On a nice day, the resident chickens are rather shy greeters.

The retreat is a beautifully refurbished dairy barn and the home of Judy and Jeff Fenton. Judy also owns Millcreek Sewing and Fabric in Erie, PA.

Inside, a sign offers a warm greeting for my workshop, the popular Stained Glass quilt from the ScrapTherapy, Scrap Plus One! book.

This is pretty sweet. How would you like to have your room inside the quilt shop? The Needle in a Haystack Retreat has it all! Sleeping accommodations for 18, plus shopping in the Outlet Barn on the second floor . . .

. . . and plenty of space to spread out and work on your project. Oh, and delicious meals, too!

You've heard of Quilt in a Day? But have you heard of Quilt-in-a-Stacking-Box? These neatly organized scraps and strips will be transformed into a beautiful quilt over the next few days!

Hyper-organization skills transfer to cutting, pressing and sewing! Do your work-in-progress projects look like this? (Mine definitely do not!)

Outside, it's cold, but sunny. Perfect weather to air a few quilts!

And here are the happy Retreaters! By the end of the weekend, we had many finished blocks, in all sorts of beautiful, colorful scrappy combinations.

Me, Judy, and a couple of toothy grins! Behind us: Barb's beautiful quilt center, ready for borders!

Back home for a day to catch my breath, then I was off to Maryland and a quick stop at Kelly Ann's Quilting in Warrenton, Virginia. Yes, it was snowing in Virginia. . . again!

Inside, let the quilt blocks painted playfully on the floor guide your footsteps toward fabric, fabric, and more fabric!

And here's the Kelly Ann's version of Chopped! Woot-woot!

After a quick dinner in Fredericksburg, I headed over to Material Girls Quilt Boutique in La Plata Maryland. The cold temperatures stayed outside, while inside, warm smiles and more Stained Glass quilts were on the one-day workshop agenda.

"Seams" like we all have "pressing" issues from time to time. Nyuk-nyuk!

Happy, happy!

Back in New York, a trunk show at Thread Bears Quilt Guild in Sherrill. And a photo opportunity for the local paper. The guild members made 85 Quilts of Valor! A quick break to snap a photo for the local paper. Nice job, ladies!

. . . . and the journey continues! Where to next? We'll see!

Happy Stitching!