Saturday, August 19, 2017

I'll take 'Throat Plates' for $200, Alex!

Welcome to day 5 of the Back to School Blog Hop. Thanks Sam Hunter of Hunter's Design Studio  for inviting me to participate! When Sam asked me what topic I wanted to write about this year I thought, well, I have a few interesting things to say about throat plates, so here goes!

Raise your hands if have more than one throat plate for your sewing machine. Good for you! No need to read further - skip on down to the end of this post to read my advice on how to make a living as a professional plate spinner. (Spoiler alert, I have no clue how to do it.) For the rest of you, lets take a moment to talk.

Stitch Plate, Needle Plates, Throat Plates: they are all one and the same. We are talking about that polished metal piece below your presser foot on your sewing machine that covers the bobbin area. For the sake of consistency I will be calling it a "throat plate" throughout this post. The photos I am using are of BERNINA plates, because that is the machine I sew on.

A throat plate typically has an opening for the needle and the bobbin thread to pass through, two parallel openings for your feed dogs, etched lines marking specific seam allowance distances, a screw or release to remove it for changing or cleaning.

Why is is important and what does it do?

On some machines the throat plate can be changed out for specialty stitching. In my experience, if I'm sewing a straight stitch only, such as piecing a quilt, I use a straight stitch throat plate and a straight stitch foot like in the photo below. Some computerized machines have a setting where you can select which plate you have on your machine to prevent accidents (my machine doesn't have this and I may have broken a few needles switching to appliqué and forgetting to change out my plate...)

Alternately, if you have a wide throat plate, such as a 9mm plate and are piecing or sewing straight stitches your stitches may appear slightly zig-zaggy (not a real word, but who's checking?) This is created by what I've been taught to call 'needle flex' and it can be extremely frustrating for us perfectionists. The solution is simple: match your presser foot to your throat plate opening!

Throat plates and feet are brand specific, and like bobbins, are not interchangeable. The good news is that most modern sewing machines have options for changing stitch plates and feet. This seems really simple to say, but honestly I sewed for years on an industrial machine and it never occurred to me to change the plates on my domestic. It wasn't until I started to meet other folks who quilted that I became more aware of these options. I pieced many quilts without a straight stitch throat plate or quarter inch foot. There was a noticeable improvement (from my level of frustration to the quality of my work!) once I started to change them out. 

Lulushomeatelier has a good article for Singer users on matching plates and feet. Here she shows options for straight stitch plates on a Vintage Singer 401 sewing machine.

Those etched lines on throat plates actually mean stuff. The vertical lines are there to help you sew consistent seam allowances. Some stitch plates have other helpful markings as well. Have you ever started to sew and your fabric jammed through the throat plate and into the bobbin area? The horizontal etched lines on these throat plates indicate the best place to place the top edge of your fabric and help prevent that! The plate on the left also has diagonal lines for help with stitching a piece that has a 45 degree angle. Different machine brands have different markings. Janome users might find this link helpful: Know Your Needle Plate, by Nancy Fiedler

There are a few cool after market products available for vintage sewing machines, like these from Sew Classic. I haven't tried these personally (I also sew on a 1950 Singer Featherweight) but let me know in the comments if you have!

Stitch plates are intended to be removed to clean under your feed dogs. Some machines also have a reservoir for oil there. You may also need to take it off to fix thread jams. Check your operator manual for details about whats under yours and how to remove it.

You've made it this far and I promised advice on plate spinning so here goes. Um,... Okay, I know nothing so I googled it and found this article from the International Jugglers' Association
The Art of Plate Spinning 

Image: Patricia Lam Fung demonstrates her plate-spinning skills in the January, 1960 issue of Southern Screen. This was found on The Parallel-Play blog but the source link was broken. Please leave a reply in the comments if you have further information.

Hop over to these blogs for more great posts featuring tips and tricks written by and for those of us who sew.
Stitch well and proser,

Day 1 – August 15 – Sam Hunter: How to spray baste a BIG quilt –
Day 2 – August 16 – Mandy Leins: Thread Dread: removing stray bits after quilting –
(you are here) Day 3 – August 17 – Nancy Stovall: The Sweet Creamy Filling –
Day 4 – August 18 – Ebony Love: 7 Indispensible feet for your sewing machine –
Day 5 – August 19 – Michelle Freedman: Machine throat plates –
Day 6 – August 20 – Teresa Coates: Edge/Under/Top stitching –
Day 7 – August 21 – Kelly Cole: Ten ways to regain your sew-jo –
Day 8 – August 22 – Megan Dougherty: Choose to Fuse: tips for working with fusibles for applique –
Day 9 – August 23 – Kim Lapacek: Tricks to being productive while hauling your kids around –
Day 10 – August 24 – Yvonne Fuchs: Circuitboard quilting on Domestic and Longarm Machines –
Day 11 – August 25 – Sandi Hazlewood: Chain Piecing Quilt Blocks Tips –
Day 12 – August 26 – Juliet van der Heijden: Paper-piecing with children –
Day 13 – August 27 – Maddie Kertay: Fabric folding for any storage solution –
Day 14 – August 28 – Cath Hall: Working with Lawn fabric –
Day 15 – August 29 – Tracy Mooney: Tips for the perfect seam –
Day 16 – August 30 – Teri Lucas: How to bury thread –
Day 17 – August 31 – Debby Brown: Securing machine quilting knots – www.
Day 18 – September 1 – Flaun Cline: How to put some sparkle in your fabric pull (part 1) –
Day 19 – September 2 – Jessica Darling: How to put some sparkle in your fabric pull (part 2) –
Day 20 – September 3 – Trish Frankland: A bigger blade really IS better?! –
Day 21 – September 4 – Lynn Krawczyk: Build a simple design with hand stitching –
Day 22 – September 5 – Jane Davidson: How to make scrappy HSTs –
Day 23 – September 6 – Linda Pearl: Low cost tips for organizing your sewing room –
Day 24 – September 7 – Christa Watson – Top 10 tips for quilting on a domestic machine –
Day 25 – September 8 – Sarah Nunes: To Starch or Not to Starch –
Day 26 – September 9 – Suzy Webster: Testing fabric for bleeding –
Day 27 – September 10 – Sarah Goer: Machine bind your quilts like a pro –
Day 28 – September 11 – Vanda Chittenden: Beginner paper-piecing tips –
Day 29 – September 12 – Cheryl Sleboda: Needle threading tips –
Day 30 – September 13 – Kim Niedzwiecki – Different thread weights and when to use them –
Day 31 – September 14 – Sandra Healy: Conquer Your Fear of Machine Appliqué –
Day 32 – September 15 – Sandra Starley: The Basics of Antique Quilt Collecting –

Friday, January 22, 2016

Sixteen Projects for 2016.

UFOs sorted and ready to finish!

Last night, inspired by the #PMQGUFO project, I decided to finish ten un-finished quilty things in 2016. This morning I decided otherwise. Nope. Not for me. The idea nagged at me on my walk with my dog. Projects that I'd started but hadn't thought about for years kept popping up in my mind. I stopped at a coffee shop and wrote down this list:

1. SMASS bee quilt from 2015
2. Brown bag scrap quilt from 2013
3. Log Cabin from 2010 or 11
4. Flickr Bee sampler #1 from 2010-11ish
5. Flickr Bee sampler #2 (ditto)
6. Whisper Quilt from Mary Fon's class 2015
7. PMQG medallion from 2014
8. Improv blocks from Katie Peterson class from 2013-14 ish
9. Reverse applique table runner from 2015
10. Improv blocks from Denise Schmidt workshop 2010-11ish

In an effort not to delete my note, I took a screen shot and posted it to Instagram. I waited a few moments, had a few sips of coffee, then decided to delete the post. I opened IG back up and there was a little red heart. Oh, that sweet little red heart. Crap. I refreshed the screen. Two more hearts and a comment. To be honest, those little red hearts felt pretty good. 

I made a secondary list of recent projects I'd started and had to finish for work or gifts:
11. The Hanukkah quilt for Pam
12. The improv Mini Quilts for various auctions
13. FHS quilt for the Franklin HS auction
14. Fancy Forest PWS sample

And a wish list for quilt projects I'd like to start in 2016
15. This droid is not for Sale quilt by Sam Hunter (The only project I don't have started on this list)
16. A quilt big enough to sleep under (A big start of some kind made with Jan's fabrics)

And for good measure a list of alternates in case I wanted to ditch one of or add to the original sweet sixteen. 
a. Trip around the Sun baby quilt from 2014
b. U of O totes that I promised a friend three years ago and never finished
c. Chevron quilt I started in 2013

Sixteen Projects for 2016. I will come back to this list and check them off as I finish them off. Please cheer me on - I will need it!

Stitch well and prosper -

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Hunter's Design Studio Back to School Blog Hop: TNT

Wowza! What a line-up! Today is my turn on Sam Hunter's Back to School Blog Hop! I love learning tips and techniques to add to my bag of tricks and this blog hop is packed with them. When Sam sent out the call for topics I knew right away I wanted to write about one of my favorite subjects: TNT! 

I work at Modern Domestic, a BERNINA dealer, fabric shop and sewing studio in Portland, Oregon. One of the things I get to do is diagnose whether machines need to be serviced or not. I learned TNT, a simple rule of thumb from our machine tech and it changed my life! I now have the power to perform sewing miracles just by following it to a T(NT). So before you drop an anvil on your machine when it starts to skip stitches or create crazy bobbin art, first try these three steps.

T. Thread. 
reTHREAD your machine! This seems really simple and obvious, but it is sooooo important! I have performed miracles by simply rethreading the upper thread! Sometimes you miss getting your upper thread in the take-up lever or between the tension disks. ALWAYS thread your machine with the presser foot up: It opens the upper tension disks and ensures you will have tension on that upper thread. Or perhaps it is your bobbin. It is easy on many machines to put bobbins in the wrong way (some bobbins are clockwise, some counter clockwise: make sure you know which way yours is!) Maybe you didn't put one in at all before your started sewing (true story! And yes, that would be me...) It can make a huge difference when you rethread! 

Also, all that super pretty vintage thread you got for a buck at that tag sale? Make it into garland or fill a jar with it, but for heavens sake DON'T USE IT! Thread has a life span and it WILL deteriorate. Invest in a new spool. If you don't remember when you got it, buy a new one. Do it!

Match your upper thread and bobbin thread. It is a rule of thumb people. If you are going to break the rules then be prepared to mess with your tension. More about that in a moment.

N. Needle.
Guess how often you should change a needle. If you said, "when it breaks?" then you are in the 90th percentile of domestic sewing machine owners. I totally did not know how important it is to frequently change needles. I can hear it now when I'm sewing - that 'puh, puh' sound of a dull needle passing through the fabric. Focus, grasshopper. Schmetz Needles recommends changing your needle every 4-6 hours of sewing time.

Match your needle to your thread and to your fabric. There are knit needles with rounded tips, needles with long eyes, sharp needles, needles for metallic thread - you get the picture. And guess what? There is an app for that!

T. Tension.
Just that word can make people tense. So put those shoulders down and I'll make it really simple for you. 99% of the time we are talking about upper thread tension. That is that little dial on top of your machine and has nothing to do with your bobbin (unless you are using a different thread in your bobbin.) BEFORE YOU MESS WITH THE TENSION PLEASE FOLLOW THESE STEPS:
1. Rethread your upper thread with the presser foot up.
2. Rethread your bobbin and make sure you know if it is clockwise or counter clockwise.
3. Change your needle.
4. Stitch out a sample.
I will betcha that it sews like a dream now! If not, we can talk about adjusting your upper thread tension. But first:
5. Get (as in buy) a new spool of all-purpose poly thread that is cross-wound. I'm serious.
6. Wind a new bobbin with this thread.
7. Double check that you are indeed using the correct bobbin for your sewing machine. You would be surprised how many folks don't. "But I always use this bobbin..." is not an acceptable response. I will let you down gently if I find out you are using a class 15 and you should be using an oscillating bobbin or if you are putting Singer bobbins in your Pfaff. 
6. (Again) Wind the correct bobbin with your new spool of thread.
7. Thread the upper thread with your presser foot up.
8. You already have a new needle from step 3, but if you skipped that then PUT A NEW NEEDLE IN!
9. Sew a sample. IF (and I mean if because at this point I am pretty sure your machine will be stitching great!) you are still having problems then we can chat about adjusting your upper thread tension or checking your bobbin spider (another topic for another post.) If nothing I have suggested works, you may need to consider checking in your machine in for service. It could be that the timing is off or there could be a burr on your hook. It happens sometimes.

So next time your machine is acting up remember TNT: Thread, Needle, Tension. It could save you a whole lot of frustration and you will feel like a genius - a super genius!

Check out these posts for a ton of great info! Thanks Sam for the fun hop!

Sept 1: Peta Minerof-Bartos of PetaQuilts – So, Does that Diagonal Method for a Pieced Backing Really Work
Sept 2: Cheryl Sleboda of – The Quilter’s Knot
Sept 3: Teresa Coates of Crinkle Dreams – The Importance of Pressing
Sept 4: Cath Hall of Wombat Quilts – Color Coding for Paper-piecing
Sept 5: Sam Hunter of Hunter’s Design Studio – How to Calculate and Cut Bias Binding
Sept 6: Melanie McNeil of Catbird Quilt Studio – Credit where Credit is Due
Sept 7: Mandy Leins of Mandalei Quilts – How to Keep a Perfect 1/4” Seam Between Different Machines
Sept 8: Rose Hughes of Rose Hughes – Fast Pieced Applique
Sept 9: Megan Dougherty of The Bitchy Stitcher – The Care and Feeding of the Domestic Sewing Machine
Sept 10: Lynn Krawczyk of Smudged Design Studio – Make a Mobile Art Kit
Sept 11: Susan Beal of West Coast Crafty – Log Cabin 101
Sept 12: Sarah Lawson of Sew Sweetness – Zipper Tips
Sept 13: Jane Victoria of Jolly and Delilah – Matching Seams
Sept 14: Jemelia Hilfiger of Jem Jam – Garment Making Tips and Tricks
Sept 15: Ebony Love of LoveBug Studios – Curved Piecing Without Pins
Sept 16: Misty Cole of Daily Design Wall – Types of Basting
Sept 17: Kim Lapacek of Persimon Dreams – Setting your Seams
Sept 18: Christina Cameli of A Few Scraps – Joining Quilted Pieces by Machine
Sept 19: Bill Volckening of WonkyWorld – The Importance of Labels
Sept 20: Jessica Darling of Jessica Darling – How to Make a Quilt Back
Sept 21: Debbie Kleve Birkebile of Mountain Trail Quilt Treasures – Perfectly Sized No-Wave Quilt Borders
Sept 22: Heather Kinion of Heather K is a Quilter – Baby Quilts for Baby Steps
Sept 23: Michelle Freedman of Design Camp PDX – TNT: Thread, Needle, Tension
Sept 24: Kathy Mathews of Chicago Now Quilting Sewing Creation – Button Holes
Sept 25: Jane Shallala Davidson of Quilt Jane – Corner Triangle Methods
Sept 27: Cristy Fincher of Purple Daisies Quilting – The Power of Glue Basting
Sept 28: Catherine Redford of Catherine Redford – Change the Needle!
Sept 29: Amalia Teresa Parra Morusiewicz of Fun From A to Z – French Knots, – ooh la la!
Sept 30: Victoria Findlay Wolfe of Victoria Findlay Wolfe Quilts – How to Align Your Fabrics for Dog Ears
October 1: Tracy Mooney of 3 Little Birds – Teaching Kiddos to Sew on a Sewing Machine
October 2: Trish Frankland, guest posting on Persimon Dreams – The Straight Stitch Throat Plate
October 3: Flaun Cline of I Plead Quilty – Lining Strips Up

PS. What's with the Roadrunner? That was my favorite cartoon to watch after school. I lifted all these images after numerous attempts to find the original sources. Sorry Warner Brothers!

PSS. Last tip. You made it to the end so I am going to share some top notch, valuable info with you. When you take your upper thread off your machine, cut the thread near the spool, lift your presser foot, and pull the thread out of your machine in the same direction as the machine stitches. Get out of the habit of yanking it backwards out of the machine. This will lengthen the life of your upper thread tension disks. Think of it as taking your vitamins everyday. You may not remember every time, but when you do you will reap the rewards.

Have machine, will travel.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Creative Blocks

“You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” 
 Maya Angelou

This month I had the opportunity to speak at the Westside Modern Quilt Club, a group of quilters who meet at the Pine Needle quilt shop in Lake Oswego, Oregon. The theme of my presentation centered on design and creative process. I spoke about inspiration and how I came up with ideas for quilts and quilt blocks. As I was speaking I passed around a basket of white charm squares and asked folks to write me a message. I suggested it could be a thought about sewing or a statement about inspiration or they could just simply sign their name or draw me a picture.

My plan was to take their creative thoughts and create a series of 'creative blocks!' A few quilters I know have been building versions of friendship quilts: asking for signatures or quotes on small blocks to assemble into a larger piece. I was inspired to make one of my own! I took the blocks from the presentation and added "stitch and flip triangles" on the corners with scraps from my Color Carnival quilt. I first learned this technique from Katy Pederson aka Sew Katy Did.

Going through a creative block can be real and frustrating experience. As a professional artist and designer I have learned techniques to power through those blank moments in order to finish jobs, meet deadlines and still do my best work. Creative blocks are a real thing, no doubt about that. From now on I am on a mission to collect them -- or at least this version of them! 

Thanks Westside Modern for inspiring this fun idea! And thank you to Generation Q Magazine for donating issues for everyone who came to the meeting. That was incredibly generous and folks were super excited about it!

Have machine, will travel.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Color Carnival Row-Along Rows 1-3

I am so excited to have my Color Carnival quilt featured in Generation Q Magazine this month! I put together my favorite piecing techniques, gave them each a little twist and named them after my favorite carnival rides. 
The GenQ quilt-holding team: me, ScottTracy and Bev.

Each week in July the instructions for the next row will be revealed. I arranged the rows in color order which was inspired by Marie from Cool Cottons. All of the blocks were made with Dear STELLA Confetti Dots. I twisted the arm of the uber talented Rachel aka 2nd Ave. Studios to work her magic and quilt it. Do I feel lucky? Why yes I do!

Here are the instructions first three rows:

Row 1: Tilt-a-Whirl
Row 2: Log Ride
Row 3: The Scrambler

GenQ cover pup! (Thanks Tfairy for the great photo!)
How about that cute dog on the cover! That is Ryder - my 5 year old yellow lab. We adopted him after he was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes (Type 1) at 3 months old. Type 1 diabetes is an auto immune disease and unlike type 2 diabetes there is no cure. Ryder is insulin dependent and gets multiple daily injections. To be honest, raising a puppy was much harder than managing his diabetes! He is a great guy and I am thrilled that he is the July cover model!

Stay tuned for the next rows and a give-away!

Have Machine, Will Travel -

Monday, May 26, 2014

Shoreline Throw

Maui was fresh on my mind when I got the Stitch Summer call for projects. My family had just taken a trip there and I had several quilt ideas in mind when I came back. When I saw that one of the issue themes was Maui that I knew I had to get to work!
I thought about the colors of Maui: there was the clear blue sea, green shady palms and sun bleached sand. I wanted to design something that was graphic with an Island feel. I had recently seen the Mosaic Collection by Marcia Derse for Windham and knew I wanted to use her fabrics for this project!

I started playing around with a half-square triangle technique where you slice up the HST and then rearrange the slices to form a new block. By rotating that block and making mirror-image versions I could create the diagonal zig-zag shape across the quilt. It took some brain power to figure out the layout and I admit I made quite a few blocks that I ended up not using, but I think the result is really exciting!

I quilted it on a BERNINA 710 which we have on a quilt frame at Modern Domestic. I drew rows of 'Es' and 'Ms'  -- I was going for a traditional Hawaiian Kapa cloth feel. The whole time I was working on it I was thinking about how it would look in the bright Hawaiian light. The colors had to be strong and vivid and the design had to have movement that felt like the wind on the north shore or the waves washing up on the sand. When I look at it now I think it has a bit on an 80s surfer-vibe which is totally awesome and something I hadn't planned on happening!
Imagine a version of this in hot pink and lime green! Wouldn't that be stunning? The magazine pattern I wrote is for a throw size, but it would be easy enough to build it out to a full or queen by increasing the number of blocks. Meanwhile I am going to go make a Mai Tai and dream about the next time I get to visit our 50th state. 


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Sewing Onions

"...because sometimes sewing makes you cry"

Here is what happens when you haven't admitted that you really do need to wear glasses all the time.  

Tracy writes, "I need sewing minions"

I respond, "Sewing onions? What are those? I want one!"
Tracy corrects, "Um... minions, honey, not onions."

Which of course sends me into ridiculous fits of laughter! As we continued to banter I decided I would bring the sewing onion to life. I drew this cute little Kawaii-inspired onion and I came up with a tag line:

"Sewing Onions, because sometimes sewing makes you cry..."

I loved my little sewing onion so much that I made pins (aka lanard swag) to bring to my Sm'ass bee mates at market. They were a big hit! Several folks suggested a sewing onion was the next generation of those cute little tomato pincushions. Of course I have to make that now too. Once I get back on my feet after my sixteen page 'to-do' list from Pittsburgh I am going to draw a cute little Spoonflower Sewing Onion print with tears and seam rippers. I drew a red onion version too - on tiny red pin dots. It is so dang cute it's killin' me!

I gave away all the pins  but I plan to get a new batch or two over at Portland Button Works - who are pretty much the most awesome button makers in the universe. Until then, feel free to grab my onion and post it on your blog! 

Have machine, will travel.