Monday, July 30, 2012

Bernina 440 QE FAQs

I have pretty much read the Bernina 440 QE manual cover to cover but found that not everything is covered in the manual. I am still waiting to hear back from the dealer on my free classroom session. In the meantime I have accidentally discovered a few things which can be handy:

  • The bobbin winding speed is controlled by the stitch speed lever. Always wind the bobbin on a lower speed to get consistent stitch length. 
  • The machine displays a little oil can after 180,000 stitches. Apparently I crossed that mark so found some proper instructions to clean and oil the machine.
Will keep adding to this as I stumble across more surprises.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

A big step forward...

A must learn item on my quilting/sewing list has been free motion quilting. I read a small tutorial on FMQ last September and was awed. I could not fathom how someone could draw on fabric with a sewing machine, something I cannot do properly with a pencil on paper. I remember lowering the feed dogs on my old sewing machine, putting on the FMQ presser foot and trying to draw a four leaf clover on a piece of fabric. It seemed like an impossibility. The size and direction of the stitch was controlled by the motion of your hand and not the machine itself. I was enamored by the idea and needed to know everything there was about FMQ. I spent weeks after that just browsing blogs/websites/books anything that could tell me a little more on the subject. Soon I discovered that it was almost a requirement if you claimed to be a quilter of any standing. Since then it has featured as the no. 1 skill on my learning list.

I am quite aware of my drawing skills or rather lack there of so I decided I must get all the help I need to learn FMQ. My choice of the Bernina 440 QE with BSR as a sewing machine was mainly hinged on that, though I did not admit it at the time. I could not think of anything better to help me start FMQ. 

Next came the fear of trying. I figured it would take me hours and hours of practice before I could do anything decent with it. I tried a few times on practice swatches but figured it was not a skill you learnt in a day and promptly gave up. I had a few other things I wanted to learn which were easier IMO. I went through those too and mostly exhausted my list. No more excuses now, must tackle FMQ. I also noticed that everyone at my quilt guild did FMQ and made nothing of it. They seemed really deft at it without much fuss, this was encouraging. 

Finally I decided to just go ahead and give it a try, what's the worst that can happen. I did not have a quilt top handy so bought a charm pack of Lucy's Crab Shack fabric and sewed up a quilt top in matter of hours. It was quick and simple because that was not the focus. I pulled out a fabric from my stash as backing and without much delay started to quilt. Decided to keep it simple and do a meandering pattern. It can't get simpler than that. I did a few practice swatches, they seemed to look fine, so dabbled with it on the quilt itself. I was pleasantly surprised. It's far from perfect but it's not horrible either. I know the BSR must be attributed for much of the success but it wasn't as bad as I expected. I quilted in sections based on what I had read about FMQ. At first I did not have quilting gloves but then put on a brand new pair of gardening gloves that were handy and it seemed to make a big difference. For some reason the quilting on the front of the quilt looks better than the back. I don't know if it requires some tension adjustment. It's not complete yet, shall keep fine tuning.

Practice swatch

This post is rather long but for me it's a major milestone and I feel as if I graduated to 2nd grade :)

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Of miscalculations and foibles

Lately I have been sewing by the seat of my pants. Instead of blindly following a pattern I try to evolve the design as I move along. Hopefully this is a sign of being a more experienced quilter rather than a cavalier one. This process can take some unexpected turns as I found out during two of my projects.

In the excitement of having completed my flying geese quilt top I set about trying to complete the backing, basting, quilting..... but once the back was put  together I realized it's 17 inches short and there is no more matching fabric left. Every little piece has been used up. Some of it was bought from a small shop in India and can no longer be sourced. Now I am stuck in a quandary and am trying to bail myself out of the situation.

On another project which started from here, I used tea-dyed muslin as sashing to match the finer cotton of the fabric. Initially I started with wide sashing between the blocks.

This did not look aesthetically pleasing to me and I redid the quilt top making the blocks smaller and the sashing narrower. As a result I wasted quite a bit of fabric and ran out of the muslin. Now I need to run to the store and get some more, before I can finish it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

More pouches

I decided to sew some pouches for two little girls as gifts. They were made in record time as it was a last minute idea. The corners were pushed out and flattened on the way to their house in the car. There was no time to get any decent pictures. I snapped a few with my phone while the car was in motion and the sun was streaming down intensely (No, I was not driving). I do like how they turned out. The fabric is adorable. Finally cut into my stash of Kokka Putti de Pomme and used contrasting zippers. They matched with the little apple in the print. A quilting cotton has been used for the inside that was a Joann's fabric buy from eons ago.

Here are a few blurry pictures:

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Less of everything, more of sewing

Lately I have decided to spend less time in blogland and work on enhancing my sewing skills instead. It's not going as well as I had planned but there has been some progress. 

I finally completed my sewing machine cover. It was completely customized to my needs. It was certain that I would use it only if it was easy enough for me to put on and take off. I would not use it, if there was more than one step to the process. I am a big champion of ease of use. If the extra spool or the extension table had to be removed for the cover to be put back on, I would eventually stop using it. One easy swoop on and off was the primary requirement.

This is what I came up with:
I can just put it on without the removing the extension table or the extra spool or the FHM lever.

It fits snuggly when none of the extra attachments are in place. I don't even have to undo the power cord.

I added two flaps to every corner which I will sew press buttons or velcro to, this will allow me to seal the machine completely when required.
I was pretty proud of this cover as I thought it up as I went along. Did not need to blindly follow a tutorial, my first step towards sewing independently. It however did not start as well, initially when I was quilting the pieces there was much sliding of the quilt sandwich even though I had basted it with pins. I had to undo it a few times before I got the right presser foot setting to prevent this from happening.

This project had really been dragging, since I could not decide what sort of cover I should make. I had picked out the fabric for it a while back and even made a pouch with it before starting on the cover itself.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Flying geese quilt top completed

The quilt top has finally become a reality. It's my favourite so far. I don't know because it's been an effort getting it done or it really looks good but I love it. The crisp feel of home spun fabric is great and I took my time to iron it taking in the look and feel of it. The trick was to pin all the seams in place while putting the top together so that the seams line up correctly. The plain white fabric is a light weight cotton more like muslin. I decided not to use Kona cotton as it felt very coarse in comparison to the homespun fabric.

I think I am going to use more homespun fabric for the backing and a real light summery batting. I don't think I can handle a warm batting in this weather.

This is the most traditional quilt I have made so far but it looks real modern to me. To keep in step with the traditional feel I am going to do stitch-in-the-ditch quilting. It's going to be the first time I try it. 

The machine has been great so far. The precise nature of the stitch has made piecing the top a pleasure.

More on this: here more, progress, herehere

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Needle case

This may seem like a simple needle case to everyone but to me it is a showcase of a lot of different things. There is an embroidery swap at my local quilt guild so decided to make an embroidered needle case. 

I have always wanted to take something traditional and make it modern. I am not good at it but here is my attempt. I took a very traditional embroidery pattern mainly used by tribal Indian folks and decided to give it a modern take. You cannot vary the embroidered motif itself but I used a plain single colored DMC Perle, size 5 cotton thread to give it a modern feel. I used this tutorialKudos to this blog for painstakingly documenting the patterns and tutorials which otherwise would be real hard to get. The motif is a bit involved and I am a bit rusty with the technique but with some effort I managed. The hardest part was transferring the pattern on the fabric. I tried white transfer paper without much success, then eventually traced the motif on a see-through paper, embroidered the housing for the embroidery and then peeled off the paper. It was a lot of effort. In India, you can go to a shop where they will transfer the design for you for a very minimal fee. I miss the little things.

Embroidery in progress

After the embroidery was complete, I set about making the needle case. I based it on this tutorial. I added a few little details to the case. Tried a bit of hand quilting. Made a fabric covered button. These are so easy to make I wonder why I used any other kind of button. Added press buttons to the inside pocket to hold the contents securely in place. This was the final outcome.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


Just got back from a trip to Indonesia and picked up some great batik fabric. Unlike the usual batiks the designs I picked are very contemporary. It's good quality cotton and very saturated color. There was so much choice that it was hard to select just a few.

On my last day there I spotted this tiny shop selling rolls of borders and picked up a few yards of very nice borders. I love these.