Friday, March 29, 2013

the story of my Juki

Once upon a time I made a list of sewing machine suitors, all with generous harp space for quilting at home.  Juki was on that list, but sadly my dealer didn't stock Juki and neither did anyone else within driving distance.  It seems to be a common scenario... interested in Juki and no where to shop locally, right?

Well after having so many problems with my Pfaff, which were mostly computer-related problems, Juki's non-computerized TL line sounded better and better.  Plus, when I talk to you guys, soooo many of you sew on a Juki TL98 or the newer TL2000 or TL2010.  You report that these machines are heavy-duty, reliable and awesome for freemotion quilting.  With a 8.5" x 6" harp space, there's room to maneuver large quilts.  When I fretted about not being able to buy one with a local shop to service it, you said I wouldn't even need it.  I mean, for real?  So... I almost bought one without ever trying it!

Juki's got the harp space!
Juki's got the harp space!

And then at QuiltCon there he was, the machine of my dreams, all set up for a test drive!  I met Cristy of PurpleDaisies who sells many FMQ supplies and was using a Juki TL2010Q for demo work.  It's the machine she recommends, don't ya know. 

Girls, the machine was perfect.  Perfect!  He starts and stops on a dime with no computerized delay.  I was actually on a break from a FMQ class in which we were using Janome's top-of-the-line quilting machines, when I came across the Juki in the vendor exhibits.  In comparison to the Janome, the Juki rocked, at least in my eyes.  I'm pretty sure there was a blissful smile on my face as I stitched some FMQ doodles.  I knew then and there that this was The One. 

Juki's TL line is "non-computerized" but not totally.  Let's explain.  These machines only do a straight stitch.  That's it.  (I'll be using my old Kenmore for special stitches like zigzag for binding.)  There is no screen or computer inside for selecting stitches, since there aren't any. There's no auto-tension (thank goodness!), no programmable stitch sequences, etc.  But there IS a lot of good stuff that you probably do want on the Juki TL2010Q:  needle up/down (defaults to needle down.... yay!), knee lift, feed dog drop lever (conveniently located at last!), reverse sewing lever (not a button - easier for me!), presser foot adjuster, speed control and, drumroll please.... auto thread cutter.  I believe the needle up/down and speed control are not mechanical, so you should realize you're not buying a 100% mechanical machine.  But every bit less computer you get is a bit less computer that can go wrong, in my book.

he's slim, he's sleek
he's slim.  he's sleek.

The auto thread cutter is my hero.  It engages with an immediate "ktch" that sounds deliciously powerful.  My Pfaff's auto thread cutter always took an annoying moment or two to fully run through. It was a 2-step sound, even though you just had to push one button.  Sometimes I wondered if cutting the threads myself would be faster?  When the Pfaff auto thread cutter un-threaded my machine (which was often), it definitely would have been faster to do it myself!

Anyways, the Juki thread cutter can be activated by pushing a button, or - and this is Much Better - by tapping your heal on the foot pedal.  Combine that action with the knee lift, which lifts the presser foot, and you can do everything without missing a beat.  It's awesome.  Completely awesome.  And by the way the knee lift is very ergonomically placed - not at all hard to reach like some knee lifts.  I did wonder if I might accidentally cut the threads with the foot, but that hasn't happened yet and I've been sewing all week.  Also, the auto thread cutter has not un-threaded the needle - not once!

Juki TL2010Q.... smooch!
Juki TL2010Q.... smooch!

Yes, indeedy, this seems to be the machine for me.  The only thing I've found fiddly is using the needle threader.  It works, but not easily.  Maybe with practice?

So, back to my story.  I almost bought the Juki at QuiltCon, but held off because I wanted to research my options.  I wanted to buy from an online store that had a reputation for good customer service, and preferably one that would cover shipping for warrantied repairs.  Eventually I narrowed it down to 2 stores.  I asked each if they would be interested in doing a trade for advertising at Stitched in Color.  Amazingly, both said "yes"!  I share this kind of private point because I want you to know that I chose to partner with because I felt it was the very best option, period.

From my research, SewVacDirect has a reputation for solid customer service.  Via email they were direct, answering questions about warranty service without leaving any murky gray areas.  But, the #1 reason why I wanted to buy from them was their extended warranty option!  On the Juki TL2010Q you can extend the normal 1 year warranty to a 2 year, 3 year or 5 year warranty.  Considering that this machine costs $999, buying a 5 year warranty for just $70 is a no-brainer, in my opinion.  The extended warranty includes parts, labor and shipping from SewVacDirect to you.  You do have to cover shipping to SewVacDirect's location in Texas.  Routine cleanings are not covered by warranty, so I'll be doing those locally or myself.

I don't know about you, but after all the research I've done and all the conflicting reports I've heard, I believe it's a real possibility to get a "lemon" of a machine.  My troubles with my Pfaff started early on, but really got frustrating at about 6 months.  I was just running out of my 1 year factory warranty when I convinced them to replace the machine.  In my opinion, for such an expensive machine 1 year warranty doesn't cut it.  The peace of mind of a 5 year warranty really matters to me!  And, if that wasn't enough, SewVacDirect has a 30 day policy for return for refund or replacing your machine with a new one if you are not happy with it.  You can even switch to a different machine, even a different brand, within reason.  It just shows they are serious about satisfied customers.

String Fever getting started
getting to know each other....

Ok, so that's my story!  I'm still in the honeymoon phase with my Juki, so I'll have to report back after getting to try some FMQ.  If there are any hiccups in the machine's performance or my experience with you can bet I'll share those here.  I know that shopping for a sewing machine is stressful and high-stakes, and that a good machine can make all the difference.  I'm hoping to be part of the solution! 

Thanks so much for all your help along the way!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

calling International Members for do. Good Stitches!

Since summer of 2010, do. Good Stitches {a charity bee} has been making quilts for all sorts of worthy causes from disadvantaged children to seriously ill children, hospice, women's shelters, foster children, cancer patients, you name it.  It's a bee run through Flickr, connecting quilters young and old, experienced and new from all over the world, who enjoy working in a modern quilting style.  In circles of 10, each little do. Good group makes one quilt per month for their dedicated charity.

Cheer Circle of do. Good Stitches January 2013 Starburst Cross Quilt
by Cheer Circle, quilted by Claire Jane

Through the years we've had lots and lots of members come and go.  While changes can be challenging to orchestrate, I welcome that fluidity.  Many folks can't commit to sewing month after month, as life is always changing, with demands ebbing and flowing.  I love that you can join us at do. Good Stitches, stitching or quilting for several months or years and years.

FAITH Circle February quilt completed
by Faith Circle, quilted by Debbie of A Quilter's Table

But sometimes things do go awry.  We've had a few quilts that don't seem to get finished.  We've had members disappear without any warning, leaving the rest of the circle in the lurch.  It's tough, but I'm committed to not giving up.  Always just pick up the pieces, keep moving forward and know that every bit counts, even the bits that are lost.  If nothing else, they change us.  They keep us thinking of others.

do. good stitches HAVEN quilt
by Haven Circle, quilted by Sara aka KnottyGnome

And besides, I hang on to the hope that every quilt will find it's finish someday, sometime.   For anyone who finds themself in a tough spot in do. Good (or any bee, really) just reach out and ask for help.  People will help.  They will understand!  Sometimes you might need to let other hands do the last work. And, that's ok.

do. Good Stitches - Jan 2013 DREAM circle
by Dream Circle, quilted by Sacridote

The quilts in this post were finished by various do. Good Stitches circles just within the last 7 days!  How awesome is that?

Pretty awesome.

Happiness Feb quilt top
by Happiness Circle, in process with Marika of Live, Laugh, Love... Sew

So, all this is on my mind because this week a change is coming for many international members of do. Good Stitches.  With postage increases everyone is feeling sensitive about mailing packages overseas.  We have members from different continents sharing the same circle.  And that's exciting, but possibly a bit impractical.

by Inspire Circle, quilted by Kelly aka ScrapStudio

When a long-time member of do. Good Stitches contacted me this week to share an idea on her heart - to start a Dutch circle - I realized it was probably time to take a step back and evaluate.  I talked to another long-time member from the UK, who shared she'd been wanting to start a UK circle as well.  At the moment, I'm juggling a lot of moving pieces to attempt to puzzle together purely local circles in Australia, Netherlands/Western Europe, the UK and Canada.  Each change is sensitive, as I don't want to force anyone to leave a circle of friends, but so far everyone feels drawn to going local.  Sometimes practical wins out!

flower applipue and EPP for Cherish circle
block by one of our UK members - BearpawandBearpaw for Cherish Circle

That said, at this moment we are in need of a few more international members to finish out our local circles.  If you are in Australia, Western Europe, the UK or Canada and have considered joining do. Good Stitches, now is the time!  Our bee members work from their own stash and communicate through Flickr, so we need members who are active on Flickr and whose fabric choices will mix easily with others who have "modern" taste in fabrics.  You can register to join via this form.  For more details, see how this bee works.

Those in the States are welcome to register as well!  We have a wait list and always need new quilters to be able to launch new circles in the States.

I know that many of my readers are already active in do. Good Stitches or in other charitable quilting efforts.  Thank-you for giving of yourself through this art we all love.  It's inspiring to sew among you!

xo,  Rachel

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

on my table

Here's what's been on my table....

working on my next class

Working away on my next class, the one with the Scandinavian inspiration.  Loving those Little Kukla birds and how perfectly they pair with that tiny Shelburne Falls print.  Oh, how are you Shelburne Falls challenge projects coming?

String Fever getting started

Getting to know my new machine over strings!  Scrap Attack {String Fever} button and details to be announced next week.  I'll be sharing a tutorial for this angular zig-zag/herringbone-style string quilt I'm making next week too.  You'll need legal paper if you want to make it!

slicing a Layer Cake

Slicing a layer cake for a friend's 30th birthday composed of 30 ten-inch squares.  Turns out I have more than 30 black and brown fabrics - her favorite colors!  Now what will she make?

Scandinavian flowers

Making these Scandinavian flowers and wishing, hoping, wondering why Spring is so shy this year?  Our annual Easter egg hunt is this Saturday.  Sunshine please?

What's on your table?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Welcome, Connnecting Threads!

The first time I heard of Connecting Threads someone was touting their uber-affordable threads.  I did some looking, and yep, you can buy 1200 yard spools of cotton thread for just $2.49.  It's pretty crazy. 

But Connecting Threads is not just about thread.  Turns out they stock their own exclusive fabric collections, affordable Quilter's Candy basics, batting (Hobbs Heirloom is 35% off!) and a whole passel of great quilting tools, all with free shipping for orders of $50 or more.

Their website is clean and professional, with lots of extras and pretty pictures.  Can't help it, I like pretty pictures.  And that's why I'm quite happy to welcome Connecting Threads as my newest sponsor!

Take this new collection, Soaked by Jenni Calo, for example.  At Connecting Threads they present each collection along with coordinating basics like dots and solids.  This particular collection also comes in laminate so you can make that adorable raincoat (which is totally on my someday "do" list).  They even link you to coordinating threads in case you'll be doing some to top-stitching.  I'm impressed!

Connecting Threads also offers precuts or "sampler" packs. I'm digging this Classic Dot sampler that you can buy as fat quarters, 2 1/2" strips, 10" squares or 5" charms.  Checkout all the colors included.  Yum!

But, honestly, it's the tools that get me.  Now that I've been sewing and quilting for a respectable amount of time, I'm starting to allow myself to buy gadgets that make life easier.  My goal is to weed out the really useful tools from the "ho hum".  Talking to friends and experimenting goes a long way!  So, here's my dream cart...

Clover Jumbo Wonder Clips 24 in a pack <br>(each clip is approx. 2-1/4in x 3/8in)
Clover Mini Iron
Dritz Grip Discs<br>(15, 3/4in discs, 28, 1/2in discs)
Fons & Porter Half & Quarter Ruler

Olfa Square Rotating Mat<br>(17in)
Quilter's Freezer Paper Sheets<br>(30 Sheets, 8 1/2in x 11in - Letter)
Roxanne Glue-Baste-It EZ-Squeezie Bottle<br>(1 fl oz)

$6.56 / ea

The Clover Mini Iron and Roxanne's glue would come in handy with all the applique I've been doing lately.  Flat freezer paper sheets that you can use in the printer - nice!  When I make half square triangles, I like to make them over-sized and trim down, so a ruler would be handy.  The Fons & Porter tool would also be good for working with scraps!  At QuiltCon I heard people recommending the Dritz Grip Disks and the Olfa Rotating Mat.  The mat would definitely be a treat... but, hey, I can totally see how it would save time and increase accuracy!  Maybe for Mother's Day?  Plus those Clover Wonder clips, which are apparently the best thing since sliced bread. 

In reality I tend to buy tools in bits and pieces, since it's hard to plunk down a lot of cash on anything besides.... fabric.  But, it's nice to find a store that stocks a great selection of tools. My local shops certainly don't and the last thing I want to do is pay extra shipping to try those famous clips!

Thanks, Connecting Threads, for joining Stitched in Color!  Now I know where to start my next wish list.  It's a pleasure!

Monday, March 25, 2013

the End is the Beginning

Phew, it's been a loooong journey! About a year ago I set out to buy a new sewing machine with lots of harp space for quilting at home. Posts about the purchase process, my early review and later disappointment with the Pfaff Smarter outline that journey, which included a total of 16 hours driving between my home and my dealer. OMG, I'm so glad that's done! I really respect the dealer I was working with, but at 2 hours drive away, dealing with an unreliable machine is just ridiculous.

So, let's tie up those loose ends. After sharing my Sewing Machine Woes publicly, I took one reader's advice to contact Pfaff directly about the ongoing tension problems. My Pfaff Smarter's auto tension had been completely irregular for about 6 months, which even made straight stitching shotty at times. My dealer reset and "fixed" the tension when I brought in the machine in December. But a week after that fix, the auto tension was going haywire again.

The Pfaff representative listened sympathetically and chose to call my dealer after our conversation. Then, my dealer called me and said he'd talk to his rep about getting my machine replaced with a new Pfaff Smarter. No one ever mentioned the idea of my getting a different machine, and I assumed replacing the machine with a new model of the same I had purchased was my only option. Honestly, that seemed fair.

bye, bye Pfaff!

Well, the Pfaff dealer took his sweet time responding, but eventually agreed to replace my machine (which by this time I'd owned for almost a full year) with a brand new Pfaff Smarter. I dropped off my defective machine with my dealer a few weeks ago. Since then I've been sewing on my original sewing machine, a dear old Kenmore. She's small, but she works!

Right now I've listed the Pfaff Smarter on Ebay, hoping to sell her new in box. I planned to use the funds to buy a new sewing machine....but things have turned out a little differently! In fact, the UPS man just arrived!

hello, Juki! 

Eeek!!! More details soon. Right now, I've got to go meet my new Juki from SewVacDirect!

Friday, March 22, 2013

{Tutorial} Patchwork Journal Cover

This tutorial was originally published on the Freespirit blog in December as part of their 12 Weeks of Christmas.  Today, I'm bringing it "home" in case you missed it!  Enjoy!

Zigzag Cover Tutorial

  •  1/3 yard Main Fabric  (shown in Simple Plaid Corduroy from Chicopee by Denyse Schmidt)
  • (9) 3" squares Zigzag Print (shown in Paisley Corduroy from Chicopee by Denyse Schmidt)
  • (9) 3" squares Zigzag Solid (shown in Freespirit Solid)
  • Standard composition book, 7.5" x 9 3/4"
  • Note:  Non-directional fabrics are best for any prints used.  Since the plaid print was directional, the direction of plaid stripes differs between the zigzag and background portions.
Step 1:  Cutting

Beginning with your main fabric, cut an 5" wide width-of-fabric (WOF) strip and a 3" wide WOF strip.  Shorten both to 26.5" long, producing 5" x 26.5" and 3" x 26.5" pieces.  Use the remaining main fabric to cut (9) 3" squares and (1) 3.5"x 12" strip. 

Cut zigzag print and solid fabrics to make (9) 3" squares per fabric.  Slice all 3" squares in half on diagonal, as shown.  This will create a 18 triangles per fabric: main fabric, zigzag print and zigzag solid.

Zigzag Cover0001

Step 2:  Zigzag Piecing

Layout your triangles to create a zigzag design.  You'll have 3 rows of triangle pairs:  main fabric with zigzag print, zigzag print with solid and solid with main fabric.

Begin by sewing all triangles into pairs.

Zigzag Cover0002

When matching triangles right sides together for piecing, overlap fabrics slightly as shown.

Zigzag Cover0003

Make sure the triangle points stick out just enough so that your 1/4" seam allowance begins and ends at the location where both fabrics' raw edges meet.

Zigzag Cover0004

When sewn properly and pressed open, the triangle pair will have neat, flush corners.  This can take a bit of practice, so don't be shy with the seam ripper.  That's how we learn!

Zigzag Cover0005

After creating pairs, sew pairs together to create long rows of triangles.

Zigzag Cover0006

Again, overlap fabrics as shown.  Be slightly generous when overlapping fabrics at this stage!  The 1/4" seam allowance should intersect the matched raw edges as before.

Zigzag Cover0007

When sewn properly and pressed open, the triangle set will have 1/4" seam allowances extending beyond each triangle tip!

Zigzag Cover0008

Piece together all 3 rows of triangle pairs. Each row will have 9 triangle pairs total.

Zigzag Cover0009

Note:  I learned this style of piecing zigzags from Anna Maria Horner's Folk Dance quilt pattern, a free pdf.  I prefer it to the half-square-triangle method of piecing zigzags since it uses larger triangles, which creates a zigzag with fewer seams and more beautifully presented fabric.  The drawback is that the triangle rows have exposed biased edges.  Take care when sewing rows together not to stretch your fabrics!

When joining zigzag rows, match triangle points so that rows are stacked right on top of each other with no offset.  Use lots of pins to ensure triangles remain aligned while sewing and to discourage stretching.  Join with a scant 1/4" to preserve triangle points.

Zigzag Cover0010 

Lastly, press row seams open.  Trim zigzag section to 26.5" wide, cutting off irregular sides.

Zigzag Cover0011

Step 3:  Piecing the Cover

Add the 3" x 26.5" main fabric piece above the triangle row and the 5" x 26.5" piece below.  In both cases, sew with the wrong side of the zigzag section facing up so that you can see the seam allowance and be sure not to sew through the triangle tips.

Press seams open.  Then, trim the work-in-progress so that it is 12" tall x 26.5" wide.

Add the 3.5" x 12" main fabric piece to the left side of the work.  Press seams, then trim to 12" x 29.5".

Zigzag Cover0012

Step 4:  Finishing

Turn under the 12" sides of the cover by 3/4".  Press the 3/4" fold on each 12" edge.  Finish the turned under edges with a 1/8" topstitch.  Lastly finish the raw, turned under edge of the 12" sides with an overcast or zigzag stitch to prevent fraying.  (I overcast the raw edges after the top stitching because I feel it increases accuracy to delay it.)

Zigzag Cover0013

Back at your cutting mat, lay the work right side up.  Fold one side in about 6 1/2" and then fold the other side in about the same amount.  As you fold, you are exposing the wrong side of the work and creating the inside flaps of the journal cover.  Fiddle with it until your folded work is 15" long, with both flaps about the same size (about 6 1/2" each).  Check the total length (15") against the cutting mat lines.  A bit of the right side portion should still be revealed at center.

Zigzag Cover0014

Now, use a clear quilting ruler to mark sewing guidelines at 1" from the top and bottom long edges.  Mark these guidelines over the wrong side portion only, skipping the right side exposed at center. Then, pin and stitch along the marked lines only, backtacking at the start and finish of each line.

Zigzag Cover0015

Clip corners and turn right side out.  Press thoroughly.  I often use a little spray starch to get the cover a bit crisp!  Slide in the composition book, which will require bending the cover all the way back at one point.

Zigzag Cover0016

Zigzag Cover0020

More more details and photographs of the finishing steps, see my general Journal Cover tutorial.  I've made all sorts of these covers, but this is my first public tutorial for a pieced version.

 Zigzag Cover0018

I'd love to see your creations at the Stitched in Color flickr group.  Happy stitching!

Zigzag Cover0021

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Spool Basket

As my online classes wind down, now is the time I get to make "souvenirs" for campers who earned all their merit badges.  This is especially fun when a camper chooses to be surprised by what I'll make!

spool patterns by sew-ichigo

I've been wanting to try out these cute spool patterns by Sew-Ichigo.  They're foundation paper pieced and partially freezer paper pieced, where y-seams are involved.  It was a learning experience, and not everything ended up perfect, but I'm happy with my little spools.  Making use of little fabric crumbs was the best part!

for a camper =)

I merged the spools with Ayumi's fabric basket tutorial, making the basket taller and longer so that the spools would be featured at center.  Somehow Chicopee Heatwave Stripe reminds me of thread, so that was quite the satisfying choice!

spool basket

On this side, I love how that tiny Cathedrals Good Folks scrap (center spool) placed itself just slightly off-center.   And the French General "la la la"... I guess this is why people get hooked on paper piecing!

lined with Architextures

Inside, she's finished with the multi-colored Ledger lining (all Ledger colors are still available at Lark Cottons!).  And now I'll be sending her off to her new home, where I hope she'll have a long and successful life as a holder of dear things.

spool basket, stay with me?

Do you know what happened after I finished my spool basket?  I got stuck. Like, WAY stuck.  I didn't want to sew anything, blog anything, instagram anything.  But, the kicker is it was a "work" day and work I must.

Last night a friend and reader asked me if Stitched in Color is a weight of sorts on me.  I had to answer... yes.  On the one hand I feel truly blessed to have a creative job that requires me to stretch myself, grow and make.   And, amazingly, I get to do this from home so that I can homeschool!  On the other hand, it is a job.  We absolutely depend on my Stitched income. It's not "extra". 

And so, yesterday, when I wasn't too happy with a block I'd made for my next class, I felt paralyzed.  Sometimes it feels like our life (and that 85% question of the future) hinges on doing everything right the first time.  Panic!  What helped was to remind myself that I can throw out that block, try it again and keep learning.  I have time to get it "right" and maybe even space to get it "wrong" sometimes.  Perfection is not the point, after all. 

Well, there's no real reason to share this here, except to say "I'm human".  Fortunately, stuck-ness passes.  Don't ever think that you're alone when you feel that creative paralysis.  In my experience, there's often something really great on the other side.
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