Friday, September 30, 2011

Quilting is pretty math

Don’t believe me?  Do you do piece work, take away the pretty fabric and put it on graph paper, or in a program like ElectricQuilt ( my favorite)—remind you of geometry in school—yep it is.  Oh, you only do appliqué? How do you figure out how much fabric to use, or how to miter a corner? Math.

Personally I love math. Eventually I want to do a quilt based on the Fibonacci Sequence, I just haven’t figured out how. I do have an entire color way of a fabric I intend to use. We all know that may change. How many times have you thought you would do a particular quilt in one set of fabrics, only to change your mind, sometimes even after you start?

Many new tools and techniques make the math easier for quilting. Invest in good rulers; it will make for better outcomes. There are other things that help, but those are for a later blog.

You know all those intersections that get a bit bulky? I use a seam whacker, and a heavy espresso tamper to tame them. Of course a hot iron first is helpful. I press as I go with a bamboo finger pressure tool that my Grammy made. You can buy them in many shapes and materials. I have others, but prefer her bamboo one.

Now back to that mystery quilt…

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Thread is so important. If you are using really old thread please stop. It’s not good for your project or your machine.  You will be sadly sorry.

I found some REALLY old thread after our recent move. It had been my Grammy’s, it was on wooden spools. The thread was seriously CRUNCHY. A Xacto knife made short work of de-threading the spools so my granddaughter could string them with her beads.

Again it is important to match the thread you are using with what you are doing. Embroidery thread is not really very good for garment construction. Serger (yep—got one of these too) cones, not so great for embroidery.

I have in my limited machine embroidery experience, learned to love pre-wound bobbins.  Good value for the money—they get way more thread on that bobbin than I do.

And storing your thread is important. Those wall racks that you used (or might still be using), unless it is covered it collects dust. That dust ends up in your sewing machine. You will end up paying for more servicing of your machine. Except what I am actively using, mine thread is now all in plastic cases of one sort or another.

So what am I working on? I am finishing a mystery quilt top, which I decided to change a little bit. Hopefully the top will be done soon and I will share a picture or two…and then the hand quilting will begin  J

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Best First Steps

Find a good fabric/quilt/machine store. Unless you already have a found one…shop around. Talk to the owners. Talk to the service tech(s). Talk to their customers. Look at their classroom(s), newsletter, fabric and notion selections.

If you already have a machine, it’s important to take care of it.  When is the last time you had it serviced? Servicing once a year really is a must, but more often if it’s heavily used. If you can’t remember the last time you had your machine serviced—it is long overdue.

When is the last time you changed your needle? Has it been in so long it’s stuck? With normal use (not leather or upholstery, rip-stop, fur, etc) they usually last about 8 hours. Titanium needles sometimes will last longer. Many sewing issues are due to dull needles, or needles that are wrong for the type of fabric being used. Sewing machine needles, like hand sewing needles come in different kinds for different jobs. It is far easier to change your needle then end up replacing expensive fabric or with a costly repair when your machine eats a piece of a broken needle.

If you don’t have a machine, or have one you want to replace…go try all the different machines you can! Go back more than once, get the right fit-this is a big decision. I learned on my Grammy’s Singer (I still have it and it still works.) Then I used my mom’s Kenmore until I was in high school and bought my own, gently USED machine.  It cost me a whole month’s wages (tips included). I t lasted for 20 years (and died.) Then I got a Pfaff Creative 1471-still have it. Last year I bought a New Pfaff Creative 2170. First NEW machine I have ever owned.

I tried them all; Brother, Signer, Viking, Janome, Bernina, and some other off brands. I tried them all more than once, some stores were not happy to have me come back in a third time and not buy (and with that any chance of getting my business was gone.) The deciding factors—the store, technical staff, the Pfaff walking foot—and I already had LOTS of bobbins that I could use with it. Oh, and it was on sale. I do most of my sewing/quilting/crafting purchases only if they are on sale. So if you find a machine(s) you like and you’re not in a hurry—put it at the top of your wish list and watch for a sale.

After you buy your machine—at least take all the free classes that come with your machine. You will kick yourself later if you don’t. You will learn new things, things you have forgotten, and probably a few things you don’t really care about. But remember, things change over time, and one day you’ll probably be glad you learned it. You’ll also meet new people and develop a relationship with your store if you don’t already have one.

Not directly machine related--I am hunting a new seam ripper. They do need to be replaced on occasion; they don’t rip seams as cleanly when they are dull. And yes, we all need them.  Over time I have become picky over my tools, and I don’t have to settle for the one from the dollar store right now (but a sharp one from the dollar store is better than a dull one), so I am looking for an ergonomic one that is the right fit for my hand…I’ll let you know when I find it. Suggestions are always welcome.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Yes—I still take classes

I have been sewing, quilting and crafting in general for a very long time. I still take classes. I take classes to learn new skills, share my skills, see and use new tools or techniques. They help you see things through different lenses, get inspired, inspire others. They can also sometimes provide a social interaction with very different people with whom you have something in common, providing an opportunity for personal growth. It is amazing sometimes how a total stranger can provide you with the answer to something in your life, or provide a missing link.

Some classes I take online and some in person. Both are useful to me. Some people do not like online classes, I find them different, and if it is a recorded one as opposed to a webcast or other live online class; you can watch the same part over and over and over again….as many times as you need or want to.  Some people don’t like online classes due to a lack of social interaction. Depending on the type of online class, this can be the case, but if you take an interactive online class, there is social interaction; it is just a different type of social interaction. Different is sometimes good. In person classes obviously give you the human touch.  I find them very enjoyable learning experiences. Even if you don’t learn a new skill, you can always learn something.

How do I pick classes? Well, it has to fit into the family schedule and budget of course. I get newsletters from my local fabric shops, they always have class listings. I have developed a list of favorite teachers and techniques. I belong to national groups such as American Sewing Guild and Quilters Club of America that routinely schedule events. Also, having taken several Scrap Therapy  classes, they are always high on my list. And no, I do not have all my scrap fabric cut and neatly organized—not yet, but I am working on it. I had a lot of scraps to start with.

Treat yourself, take a class. Take your daughter, mother, friend, or go it alone. But test the water. I think you will like it.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Why I Quilt, Sew and Craft

For family: Family tree quilts, to preserve family memories. Christmas quilts to celebrate the Holy Day, and we use them for “sick-day” quilts. Somehow they are the most comforting when the family is sick. Wall quilts to dress up the house, some seasonal some not.

Clothing when it’s cheaper; my kids loved that during the parachute pant craze—theirs were always one of a kind.  And pieces of that leftover fabric have made its way into other quilts over the years. They see quilts every now again and see a toy I made or a piece of clothing I had made them in the past. My granddaughter now plays with cloth dinosaurs that I made for them. It is such an awesome feeling it defies description.

For friends: I love the feeling I get when giving something I have handmade. They signify for me, and I hope for the recipient; that I willingly and joyfully gave my time and talent to make them something so they could feel special, for more than just an instant.

For Service: My particular calling is making prayer shawls. They are a very intense personal experience for me, and I have been told that they have provided strength and comfort to those who receive them. I have also made preemie quilts& blankets, and chemo hats. I like to make jewelry, quilts, and other handmade items for charity raffles. I am a Komen for the Cure supporter.

Stress Relief:  Half an hour a day will suffice, but more is always better. Whether working on something for family, friends, service, or even for myself; creating is satisfying.  I hand quilt most all of my quilts, the moving of the needle in and out, through the fabric is soothing. It also brings back very fond memories of time spent with my Grammy.

Inspiration: Inspiration, like smiling, is contagious. At least that has always been the case for me. I love to share, and I love when other people share. Some of my best ideas have been born from someone else’s work, or thought, or conversation. Watching a child, especially a grandchild and share, it will inspire someone about something. Walk through the park, or a museum. Live life to its fullest and share it with other, especially people you don’t know. It makes the good times better and the not-so-good times much easier.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

You named your blog what?!

What do fiddlesticks and humility have in common? My Grammy. I have been thinking about her a lot lately. As life turns, the lessons that she taught on many levels, are all relevant, helpful, and comforting.

"Fiddlesticks" was the only "expletive" I ever heard my Grammy use. It was usually followed by the need for a seam ripper. She taught me to sew, quilt, have proper tea, serve others, be thrifty, kind, gentle, and humble. On every quilt she purposefully made an error  as a reminder that we, people, are not and can never be perfect (real errors didn't count.) The error was normally a mis-set block that she called a humility square. Thus the name of the blog--Fiddlesticks and Humility.

She was always willing to share knowledge with anyone who asked. She also shared her talents and provided what she could to those in need. Whether sewing a quilt for someone who lost a home to a tornado, or making school uniforms for those who could not afford them, she always did what she could.

She had a passion for life. From riding in an open cockpit plane with cloth wings, trying my dad's skateboard when he was in school (in a dress with gloves on--she ALWAYS wore gloves), to getting mad at the doctor who would  not clear her to fly on the Concord.

As times get tough and money tight, many people have asked for knowledge sharing on sewing, quiting, and a host of other things. Life still moves way too fast for most people to quickly learn the thrifty, useful traditions of the past. Many have asked for classes, some have no time or money for classes. So a blog seemed the easiest way to share the most knowledge with the most people quickly.

Passion and inspiration are enhanced when shared. We can all learn something from one another. Hopefully this blog will allow some of that to happen.