Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Quilting a Community

One of the things I love about quilting is the sense of community it fosters. While we quilters are an increasingly diverse group, there is that shared love of creating with fabric and thread and having our creations warm the body and/or soul. I love that even a pink haired twenty something quilter can have a point of interest that can intersect with that of a prim, blue-haired great grandma.

There are quilting guilds galore, quilting clubs, and cars full of quilting friends who travel all the quilt 'hops' from shop to shop. Shows, conferences and retreats too. There are even quilting cruises! Absolutely amazing and wonderful.

With the ability to hop on the internet and travel virtually world-wide, we can learn all kinds of techniques, 'meet' quilters from all over, and develop our own communities online. The internet, combined with quilting has given so many people an opportunity to build relationships and share their creativity.

My friend Robin and I 'met' first on a quilting forum online, then met in real life.
We quilters have a lot of love and friendship to share. Quilts of Valor, Project Linus, and many other great organizations have been formed as ways of blessing others with gifts of quilts and more. Quilters are a generous bunch!

This blog and its growth just amazes me. What started as a crafty escape from the worries about a husband with cancer and 3 little kids has grown almost as fast as my children have. You might want to read how cancer made me a better quilter. Just this past week my YouTube channel passed 3000 subscribers!

Being online has helped my interest in quilting grow, expanded my skills and knowledge, and pushed me to complete more projects than ever. I bet it has done similar things for each of you as well.

My blogging has grown from a "Look what I did" personal journal of sorts, to a "Look at what I can do and here's how you can do it too" kind of thing. It amazes me that while most of my blog's readers are in the USA, there are still so many from so many different countries. Canada, the UK, and Australia are my next biggest readership, but there are visits from places like Latvia, Greece, Iceland, Bangladesh, and Zimbabwe. There are even a few visits from countries that I wasn't quite aware of until this blogging thing happened. Google Analytics says I have received visits from 170 different countries! It's hard to believe that there are so many folks tuning in to read what I have written and posted.
Map of visitors from Google Analytics for the last 3 years.

Last week I was able to enjoy vicariously the excitement of a brand new quilter. She's a customer of the Janome dealership where I work part-time. She hadn't sewn at all and was so excited about her upcoming class that she quizzed me silly via the shop's Facebook page about machines. She had researched her machine choices and was determined that she wanted a machine she wasn't going to outgrow anytime soon. She ended up buying the brand new model Skyline S5 by Janome and she's used it so much in just one week that she's used an entire spool of thread just practicing her piecing.

One of the things that I think has her so excited is that she's going to be taking her classes with a good friend and she's also had a cousin (or friend?) help her start doing some piecing once she got her machine. That's the kind of enthusiasm I now 'see' in my mind when I get great comments here on the blog. I am so blessed to have a small part in someone else's creative journey!

I really think that without the people of quilting, the relationships it fosters, the people we gift the works of our hands to, quilting wouldn't be the heart (and body) warming craft and art that it is today.

All this rambling is to just say thank you and to encourage you to continue to help and encourage other quilters as you have helped me.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Working with Text Part 2

In the first part of this series, I showed you how to use Microsoft Word to make patterns for text projects. I covered how to not only get the letters or other text the font and size you want, but also how to make those huge letters in an easy to trace outline form.

enlarging text over multiple pages

It tends to be easiest to then print out the letters and use them individually, using a scaled-down version of your text document to guide the placement and spacing. If your printer can use larger paper than standard copy paper, you can use the paper size selection menu in Paint. Sometimes a sheet of legal paper is just what you need. See below.

Sometimes you want to print out your text at full size to get the full effect of the words together. If legal size won't do it, and you aren't blessed with a large format printer, this means printing on multiple sheets of standard 8.5x11 inch paper and taping the image together.

 There are several ways to do this, depending on what programs and even what printer options you have. Again, I am not an expert, and many of you may already have a better way that works for you. But here's a basic way to do it for free on a program most PC users already have. (I have another way that involves a graphics program, but that will the next part of this series.)

First make a text document that you want to print out in a large format (Above). If you made one following the steps of Part 1 of the series, open it now. Make sure it's spaced and sized how you want it. Highlight all the text and copy it with a right mouse click. Now open MS Paint. Most PCs come with this program in the Accessories folder. Paste your text selection into it. Sometimes some odd shifting happens in the copy/paste procedure.

 It's pretty easy to adjust the placement of the words by selecting the words that I want to shift and then dragging them into position. Below, I shifted the bottom line slightly to the left.

 Paint does not treat the text as vector images, so don't stretch the words much to resize. Instead use the resize option to the right of the select button for this. (Not shown) Your won't be able to specify inches or similar measurements with resizing or with Paint in general, just percent or Pixels. You have to play around with it to get it how you want it. Other programs have this feature, but again, that's for another post. It's best to get them the size you want them in the Word document before importing into Word.

 Since this method will print across several sheets of paper, I like to place a box around the phrase to help with centering the text on my project. It also helps with lining up the pages after they've been printed. (Above) The orange arrow points to the rectangle selection. Once you've clicked it, you can click and drag on the screen to make a perfect rectangle. In the upper right corner of the screen shot above is the line size button. I make it the thinnest.

Once you've got the image and text how you want them, it's time to set up the page.

Click the blue tab indicated by the orange arrow. On the drop down list, hover over the Print button as indicated by the green arrow. Don't worry, it won't start printing at this point. This brings up a sub-menu (you can also click on the little arrow to the right of the Print button. Go to Page Setup as indicated by the blue arrow. The dialog box below will pop up.

Much of this is pretty straight forward. Chose the size of paper you will be using and decide between portrait or landscape. Don't bother with margins. The bottom portion is where we will get this document nice and big.

Choose whether to center the text horizontally or vertically (orange arrow). I did both. Then click the circle by "Fit to" indicated by the green arrow. The blue arrow shows where you can now decide how many pages to print on. I entered in 2 by 2 pages. This is a fairly easy but imprecise enlargement process since we all can pretty much visualize the size of multiple sheets of standard paper. If you can't, pull out a few blank sheets and lay them out side by side to get a feel for how many pages you need. See the difference in the grey 'preview document'? Click OK.

You can preview before you print. The arrows above show you at the print menu again, but selecting 'Print preview'. I didn't get a shot of this, but Paint will show you the individual pages that it is going to print. It would be helpful if it showed all the pages at once, but it doesn't.  If you don't like what you see, go back and adjust things, resize, whatever.

Then you are ready to actually go to the print menu and hit Print! Double check and make sure your printer and Paint agree on the orientation (portrait vs. landscape)

This a previous version, without the rectangle around the words.
Then you will get your lovely large sets of letters/text. My example just happened to print each word out on it's own complete sheet of paper. That's what works best for making the  pattern, fewer pages to tape and lines to match up. But, ideally to better show you this technique, I would have had some letters cut between pages.

With Paint, you are likely to get some pixelation  of the lines. It's nothing that going over the lines with pencil or pen won't cure. Again, not ideal, but cheap and easy.

Then you tape the pages together. You can see in the image above where I cut away the margin where the box crossed from one page to another so I could tape it precisely. Sometimes it will be off a smidge and you just adjust accordingly.

So there you go. A quick and easy way to get larger phrases really big using Word and Paint. BTW, other things can be enlarged this way, not just text.

Upcoming parts of this series will be using a graphics program to enlarge words in a specific area to a particular dimension and various ways to transfer the text to your quilt.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Sunday Kind of (Quilty) Love

Sundays are made for relaxing, recharging, and relationships. After church, I find it's a great time to unwind by doing a little website surfing. So to that end I give you a few sites I've found recently. Some are quilty, some are just interesting, and some are of interest to a quilting blogger.

First, I wanted to share that free motion quilting instructor extraordinaire, Patsy Thompson has been playing around with ruler work lately and she's done a video you will enjoy.

I have become obsessed with the blog of softie designer, Abby Glassenberg. First of all, her softies are adorable, but she writes a lot about what's going on in the world of crafty, creative blogs and the work of the professionals behind them. I find it fascinating, a bit overwhelming, and very, very interesting. I'm working through her archives and am up to page 32 if that tells you how much I like what I'm reading.

Do you find yourself in a quilt shop looking at the yummy, must have fabric, knowing that it can't all come home with you? You start trying to do the math to calculate just how much you need for that quilt you want to make. While I don't have a problem with ever buying too much fabric, I usually do have a budget. If you are too conservative and get home without enough fabric for a particular project, it can actually be more expensive than buying a smidge too much. If you have a smart phone or tablet, you can take advantage of a yardage calculator. There's a few out there, but here's one from Robert Kaufman Fabrics. It's free!

With the popularity of online classes like those at Craftsy, the internet is turning into a hugely exciting classroom. How do you find good classes that fairly compensate the teachers without spending a fortune? Checking reviews is the best answer. Looking for free classes is good too. Can't go too wrong with free, though sometimes you get what you pay for. You can pace yourself by setting a budget, waiting for classes to go on sale (Craftsy is awesome at this! They even have a wishlist you can set up so you know exactly which class it was you wanted to buy the next time they have a sale) or try Skillshare.

Skillshare, an online class site has a free option in which you can take any class you want, but you can only watch 1.5 hours of content. I didn't find any quilting classes there, but did find a few knitting and crochet classes. There are a lot of interesting classes for business, blogging, writing, photography and various aspects of design and some other non-fiber crafts. Some of the teachers are obscure, while others are pretty well-known. I've found that 1.5 hours per week is just fine for me for some classes that I might never bother to pay for and also some classes that I might not normally be able to afford. I'm going to start using it as a weekly reward.

Now to wind up this post and return it to the subject of ruler work, it's time for some eye candy. Linda Hrcka at the Quilted Pineapple does absolutely gorgeous quilting on her long arm. She combines curvy feathers and ruler work to finish some lovely quilts. She even has a page entitled Eye Candy. It is sweet!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Proverbs of Quilting

Today, I'm sharing with you the wisdom, humor, and awesome writing skills of my friend Robin. To understand part of her wisdom, though she calls herself foolish, you will need to know that the Marvy Marker is one of those purple air-erase markers which can disappear quickly.

Chapter 1

1The proverbs of Robin daughter of Mary, quilter of stuff:
for gaining wisdom and instruction;

3A foolish quilter marketh her top with Marvy Marker and taketh a nap;
4A wise quilter nappeth not.

5A foolish quilter thinketh she can adjusteth while using a ruler;
6A wise quilter knoweth it is vanity.

7A wise quilter alloweth two years to worketh with a ruler;
6A foolish quilter alloweth two hours to worketh with a ruler.

8A foolish quilter marketh one border side with Marvy Marker;
9A wise quilter marketh 5 or 6 blocks.

10A wise quilter talketh not while using a ruler;
11A foolish quilter blabbeth to her daughter while using a ruler.

12A foolish quilter marketh with Marvy Marker;
13A wise quilter marketh with chalk.

14A wise quilter knoweth the ruler is a device of Satan and seeketh the light;
15A foolish quilter knoweth not and followeth Satan into darkness.


Give your compliments to Robin in the comments please? She's an excellent writer and funny as all get out. I'm hoping she will share with us again. Our quilting theologies do vary somewhat as she's a longarmer and clearly has ruler issues, but I won't hold it against her!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Ruler Foot Alternative: Parrs Reel Ruler

One of my passions in free motion quilting is doing ruler work. As I've posted before, the right foot for making these smooth lines and curves while quilting with long arm rulers and templates is an absolute must. This is a bit of an out-of-the-box technique right now, which takes a creative solution.

To use a regular free motion foot with long arm rulers/templates is to risk the ruler hopping over or under the foot, resulting in a broken needle at best, or a broken needle and a machine with the timing gone awry. It can be done, but isn't recommended.

In fact, even though I first put a ruler toe from the Janome Frame Quilting Foot Set (for the Janome 1600) on the Janome Convertible Free Motion Quilting Foot Set (High Shank) for my Janome 6600P nearly 3 years ago, it wasn't until recently that Janome gave me the thumbs up on the use of the toe this way.

Anyone with a Janome machine should be able to use the ruler toe on a Convertible Free Motion Foot Set for their particular machine. Some of the lower end machines may not be specifically listed, but should still be able to use the Janome Convertible Free Motion Quilting Foot Set for Low Shank Models .

The product links in the above 2 paragraphs are Amazon Affiliate links, which may provide me with some pocket change should you order something from Amazon after clicking them. This costs you nothing and helps compensate me for all the time I put into this blog.

There are some other brands that can use Janome feet, though some experimentation may be in order. Because fitting these feet to a non-Janome machine can be tricky, it is advised that you buy the feet from a Janome dealer in person, if possible, so you can test the fit before spending your money. (Besides, it's just a great idea to support local dealers over internet shops when possible!)

Juki has a hopping style ruler foot available on Ebay. Finishing Touches also has a ruler toe for Juki and a few other machines.

Most sit-down long arm machines should have a ruler foot available or be able to use the feet available from Finishing Touches.

Reneah has given us a fabulous tutorial on fitting the Janome ruler toe to a Bernina.

And finally, a reader had given me a heads-up on a new source for a ruler foot that she found at Fall Quilt Market. This new company bills their foot as available to fit nearly every model of machine and makes a version to fit the Bernina Shank Adapter.

I happen to have one sent to me by another reader and the creator of the Top Anchor Quilting Templates.

Now here's where it gets a little tricky, so it's best for me to state a disclaimer of sorts:

I am a Janome user. I have no access to the majority of machines available to test these feet to see what does or does not work. As I stated in the first paragraph of this post, it's a bit out-of-the-box. I am doing my best to let you know of suitable feet as I come across them, but I cannot assume responsibility for your results on your machine.

I think for the most part, my readers understand this.

So this new foot comes from all the way across the pond in the UK. It is called the Parrs Reel Ruler. It was not designed particularly to use with long arm rulers and templates as I have shown here, but instead to use with their own ruler system.

I am not particularly interested in their rulers, just the foot. The company has a wonderful series of videos on their site to see the rulers and foot in action. Check them out.

The foot that was sent to me also came with one of their rulers and I believe I have been spoiled by the thick, high quality rulers and templates made from 1/4 inch thick acrylic here in the states. The Parrs Ruler was thin and very lightweight in comparison, made from clear plastic. I was surprised to see they were only 1/8 inch thick. One drawback to their system is the need to 'break' (cut) thread to reposition the ruler away from the line of stitching. You are to use the groove in the center of the ruler to guide your stitches.

So the foot: It is a hopping style foot, which means it's a bit noisy, and in the down position presses pretty far down on the bed of the machine. As it hops, it does clear the quilt fine. At least on my machine it did. Betty, who sent me the foot she bought for her machine, a high shank vintage Singer, said the foot didn't allow room for the quilt to move under the foot.

This is the clearance in the high position. There are directions included to bend the bar over the needle bar and adjust the position somewhat.

The ruler foot is smaller than most, as it's made to ride snuggly in the center groove of their rulers. This means you can't use their rulers with a standard 1/2 inch diameter ruler toe. It will not allow for the precise 1/4 or 1/2 inch spacing using lines on a standard long arm ruler. The Parrs Reel Ruler that came with the foot seemed to have adjusted the ruler lines to accommodate this variance.

Size comparison between my Janome foot and the Parrs

The smaller size of the ruler foot gives me a bit of worry as there is a bit of play (wiggle) to the foot in its shaft. I did have to move my needle position to the left a few spots to get it closer to the center of the foot. This did leave my needle a bit front of center and I was worried that pressure from a ruler could lead to a broken needle on this foot, so in my "test drive" I didn't use a ruler positioned against the front of the foot. Given that this particular foot was not bought/fitted for my machine (but for Betty's), I can't say that this is a flaw on their part. Though if the foot was a standard 1/2 inch in diameter, there would be plenty of room around the needle.

The foot has excellent clearance for a ruler all the way around the foot. In fact, it has better clearance in one spot than the Janome ruler toe combination. Even though their rulers are thin, the sides of the ruler foot are sufficiently high to keep rulers from sliding over or under the foot.

Their website states that they can adapt the foot to a variety of machines, including Janome. The options given are for low reach, high reach, or Bernina machines. I assume that reach is equivalent to shank. I would definitely contact them to make sure the foot would fit before ordering as the order form gives no other fit options than those three options. The video shows the foot on what looks like a Janome.

The cost is pretty high, but you also get the #1 ruler and a Sew Slip mat (similar to the Supreme Slider). It has to be shipped from the UK, though they seem to be working on setting up a US distributor.

I will post a video review of the foot as soon as possible.

My verdict? If you have yet to find a ruler foot for your machine, or live overseas and shipping from the states is cost prohibitive, you might want to try the Pars Reel Ruler foot. With it's smaller 'foot print' and slight wiggle to the shaft I can't recommend it over a Janome foot if you are trying to make that choice. If they ever change their design to 1/2 inch diameter (unlikely since they'd also have to change their rulers), I might be tempted to choose it over the Janome foot, despite the hopping, for the 360 degree clearance and better view around the foot. Would I really want both? Not at the current prices for either.