Sunday, March 30, 2014

Traveling Crafter

I took a traveling OT job and have booked a hotel room for the first week of my 13 week contract. I left my new 830 sewing machine at home. I brought my old machine and a small amount of stuff to work on. Now, think of a budget vacation hotel room. Where does the sewing machine go? There's no ironing board. No desk. The coffee table is small, round, and knee high.

I drive a full sized truck. I could have brought half my sewing room. I was unwilling to turn myself into a beast of burden, loading and unloading equipment. Bud and I discussed this and decided on a solution. We bought a 25' travel trailer. Because it was the end of the quarter, we got a significant discount on the price. We take delivery April 5. We'll spend the weekend pulling my SCAdian camping gear out of the attic and stocking our trailer. For the next three months, I'll live in the trailer during the week and at home on the weekends.

Instead of paying $350/week for a room that doesn't meet my needs, we will rent a campsite for $250/month. I can cook my own food, sleep on my own pillows, and have space to work on my projects. In the long run, I expect to save anywhere from 50 to 75% of what I would have spent on hotels and eating out. I could have found a campsite for less than $250, but I don't wish to live in a trailer park right next door to a major highway.

FWIW, I am almost within sight of Legoland Florida. I'll probably have to drive past it on my way to work.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Everything Close at Hand

So, I'm up, it's the middle of the night, and I am trying to solve a problem that was floating in my head before I fell asleep. I got up and went to my studio. I thought I'd located a possible solution on Pinterest, some weeks earlier. I have at hand an already prepared sample for testing so I sketch it out. I do a test. Not quite right. I reach for a paper punch to create a template. Punch! Nope, I need a 1/2 inch smaller punch. I've got it. Punch! I use it for sketching and I like the sketch. Test. Win! Then I get out the materials to create a more durable template. Punch! The edges are rough. I've reach for the right file to smooth the edges. 20 minutes after walking into my studio, the problem is solved. Because I yam what I yam, the tools I used are already put away and the finished template is stored with the project. I'm still awake. Now what?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

I Like It!

I had been using a standard sewing machine to do the Free Motion Quilting on Bud's Flying Geese quilt. I struggled to complete 7 to 10 units in a day of working. My hands hurt, I got tired, I felt I was fighting with the project. Then I bought the 830 and found myself with double the space to work in to the right of the needle. A good portion of my difficulty with FMQ was difficulty with the space limitation. The overall quality has improved. I don't have nearly the fatigue and discomfort. There is still some, but I can complete a lot more before I need to take a rest break. Comparing my early efforts to my recent results shows significantly improved technique. Curves are smoother, stitch length is more consistent. FMQ is a skill that requires practice. It also requires the right machine. I might be better able to produce a good result using a standard machine after using my 830, but I'd be annoyed at the constraint.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Adjustments and the Learning Curve

I was trying to switch from embroidery to decorative stitching. I forgot to swap out a piece of hardware and broke a needle. Not just broke, shattered into many pieces. Sigh. I wasn't able to get all of the bits of needle out of the bobbin area right away. I ended up pulling out the vacuum cleaner attachments after many attempts with the lint brush. I'd clean, try sewing, discover the tension was incorrect, then go back to cleaning. In all the testing, a metal fragment knocked the tension for the bobbin thread out of whack. It was too tight. Gaahh. Normally, having the bobbin tension out of whack is a significant problem. It is not at all easy to adjust the tension on the bobbin. Well, on all of my other machines, it was difficult. However, on the 830, I was provided with a special tool and the bobbin case has a ratchet style tension adjustment. I moved the tension one notch/click and tested, moved it a second notch/click and tested and poof! The tension was again correct. While many might say that the 830 tension is twitchy and difficult, I think that adjusting the bobbin tension on this machine is much easier than on any other machine I've owned. On the other hand, I also have learned that I need to use the software on the 830 that will prevent the error that caused the broken needle in the first place. I neglected to tell the machine that I had changed hardware. If I had done that, the machine would have prevented me from stitching with hardware that didn't work with the decorative stitch I had chosen.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

New Sewing Machine

OMG. I just bought an 830  sewing computer from our local shop. The machine is used. The lady who owned the shop was the first owner. I will be the second. It needs a cleaning before I take it home, but I won't have to pay for the cleaning. I will take it home tomorrow, I hope. In the meantime, I have the manual to read.

This makes machine number five. I am very excited about it and am looking forward to getting familiar with it. Instead of the 6" space between the needle and the body of the machine, there is 12" of space. I will have room to do my freehand quilting. There are USB ports on this machine. Bernina has entered the 21st century. There isn't FireWire. Oh well.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Waste Fabric!

I was digging through the instructions for the Mariner's Compass quilt to figure out how many yards of fabric I needed to buy. I was dutifully reading through the directions, making notes and adding up inches when I looked at the actual layout of the pieces. Instead of looking at a tiny diagram, I took out the pattern and unfolded it.

Wow. I can tell the fabric manufacturers LOVE this woman. The layouts are for speed during construction, not efficient use of fabric. Not by a long shot. In some cases, I'll use her suggested amounts of fabric. In others, I'm going to take apart her pattern and put it back together in a much more fabric efficient way. There is no way I can allow myself to waste that much fabric. Not at $13.00 a yard for batik cotton. I'm not the kind of person who saves every scrap for use in some other project. I hate scrappy projects.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Marking and Quilting

I've been using the chalk pencil and the air erasable marker to mark small sections of my quilt before I start a session of machine quilting. The air erasable marker lasts for more than one session before it fades off into no marks at all. The chalk pencil will brush off as I work and I have several times had to refresh the marks right before I stitch an particular area. Annoying as that might be, I'd rather the marks be too transient than permanent.

There is a huge fatigue factor. I'm a beginner, and I'm more tense than I wish I were. I don't have the muscle memory yet, though I can tell it is improving. I work very slowly, so I spend more time tensed up per pattern repeat than when working faster. Do I want to speed up? Certainly! I'm just in no rush to do so. I'd rather practice accuracy slowly than disaster at high speed. 

  • Repositioning my hands very frequently helps.
  • Making sure that the quilt is not falling off the table helps.
  • Planning ahead so I don't have to sew accurately 'backwards' helps.
  • Working in short sessions with significant breaks between them helps.
There are 244 pattern repeats on the quilt. The first day I tried, I completed three. I stopped after I got two of the scrolls upside down. Yesterday, I managed to complete 6. Today I did 10, and they look better than the first 9. By the time this quilt is completed, I should have the pattern stitch perfect.