Sunday, March 17, 2013

Fudging It!

Sometimes we want these arcs to go exactly where we want them but they are off a little bit. What a pain!
Here is a neat little trick that will help you out a bit.

This is where you want your arc to end. What to do? Never fear!
If you want that arc to end somewhere else, you can fudge it a bit.
This would be the normal placement of the anchor post, but you can move the post
and change where your arcs will end.

Lay the EZ ARC template with the notch over the point where you want your arc to end
and the hole for the anchor post near where it would normally be positioned.

Move the anchor post as necessary to make the end of the arc line up. 
When you stitch the arc, it will end where you want it.
Piece of cake - fudge cake!

Happy Stitching!


Saturday, February 23, 2013

By Request!

Several of you have asked for more detailed instructions on how to use the Baptist Fan longarm quilting template.
Here it is! Plus a few more.

Happy Stitching!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Ms. No Name

Yesterday I decided to tackle my Singer 66 Redeye treadle sewing machine and get her sewing. This particular machine has a lot of cosmetic damage, poor baby, so if the cleanup doesn't work, I have another head to drop into the cabinet.

Maybe that's why I've hesitated to name her - don't want to get attached in case she doesn't work out.

When I got her last year she was super grimy, so I coated the head in sewing machine oil inside and out to gently soak and loosen the grime. An old tea towel went into the bottom of the cabinet to catch drips, the head was lowered and the cabinet closed up. Since then, it has just been used as a stand.
A thorough cleaning can take weeks and includes disassembling everything, soaking all the parts in Liquid Wrench or kerosene, then cleaning each part separately before reassembling.
I wanted to make sure I could use her to sew before investing a lot of time, so I rubbed off much of the loosened surface grime with a baby toothbrush and soft cloth so I could test her out without getting my thread and cloth dirty.

This cabinet is very sturdy, has very little damage and is in great shape for its age. The hinges are still as tight as the day the cabinet was made and all the joints still fit well.

These original finish on these cabinets wasn't super smooth and glossy like a Baby Grand piano, and this one won't look that way when it's cleaned up.

The scratches and watermarks are minimal and will be easy to make disappear. (That will be the subject of another post.)

Mostly, she just needs a good cleaning.


My guess is that the masking tape was put on the edge of the lid to hold down peeling or chipping veneer. It will take some time and a lot of care to remove the tape  and fix whatever is under it without causing further damage.

She needed a new tension assembly and I just happened to have one in my parts stash.

Loosen that one little screw on the right, pull out the old tension assembly and slip in the new one, then re-tighten the screw and that's done! So easy!


She needs a new presser foot because the plating has been worn off the one she currently has. She takes back clamp feet and accessories, which I also happen to have in my stash so I guess I'll go dig them out.
She sews a good straight seam, and that's what we are looking for!  

The bobbin winder didn't get cleaned as much as the rest of the machine so you can still see lots of loosened crud.

The tan areas are not rust; they are either dried oil or bare metal that has lost its silver plating. The exposed metal will be dull gray when cleaned.

I couldn't find the spare treadle belt so I improvised and sewed two 36" shoelaces end to end; it fits perfectly and works as good as any leather belt.

A long time ago (way back in mid-last century) I did much the same thing with another treadle; a long narrow strip of fabric was tied in a square knot and worked quite well for as long as I used the machine.

Maybe after all the work is done, I can find pretty red shoelaces for a new belt! New belts are readily available, but why buy when you can make one with what you have on hand.

The decals that are still there are silvered and fuzzy so this machine will be to use, not display. The condition of the bed tells a tale of heavy use for a very long time.

The shiney black spots are paint on the metal, with all the decals and protective coating worn away. The dull surface is where the protective coating is disintegrating.

If I were to soak this head in kerosene, all that crackled finish would come off and most of the decals underneath would also be destroyed even more than they are now. I will probably just clean her again with baby toothbrush and soft cloth, and follow up with a coat of auto polish to protect what's left.

But dang - she works great. I sat and pieced on her for a couple of hours last night.
Someday she will tell me her name. Until then, I'll just call her Honey.
She's like me - lot's of wear and tear and showing her age, but still gets the job done. LOL! 

Maybe I'll find out where Bonnie Hunter sends hers and get her repainted cranberry or turquoise!
Since Singer changed their policies, you have to write to them to get dates now instead of just looking them up on their website. If anyone happens to have a listing, I'd appreciate a date for this beauty. For several reasons, my guess is she comes from around 1915 or so.

UPDATE: A facebook friend looked up the serial number and this machine was made in 1917.

Happy Sewing


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Way the Toes Go!

While stitching footprints using the new feather wreath template, I discovered that it makes a huge difference which way you stitch circles for the toes. You can see this difference plainly in the photo above. The line connecting the toes needs to be under the toes (left) and not on the outside (bottom right).  (Smaller stitches will help smooth out the design as well, but that's another subject.)
Stitching these was so much fun! This is a design I'm sure to use often in baby quilts, as wreaths but mostly just in arcs or even part of an overal freehand pattern. Love those footprints!
Feather Wreath Template Update
The graphic artist sent new artwork for the feather wreath template, which I signed and returned. He is sending a prototype for approval, and then next comes pricing and production. How exciting!

Create-A-Wreath Contest Update
The contest entries have been coming in and they are amazing! You folks are way beyond creative! I wish I could share them but you will have to wait until the contest is over.

Contest entries are due in another week so keep working on them! Anyone can enter even if you don't have a longarm quilting machine. It's the design that counts; you can send pictures of pen or pencil drawings, or stitched designs.

Don't forget you have until
midnight on January 31 to enter the
Create-a-Wreath Contest!
Happy Stitching!

Friday, January 18, 2013

One Step Closer!

It's been one month and one week since the EZ Arc quilting template was first offered to the public. Seems like a year!
It's been great, though. Our first order from the manufacturer has almost sold out and more are on order. The EZ Arc tool and all the others to be introduced in the coming months (including the feather wreath shown below) use the same TopAnchor system, which allows the template to rotate around a stationary post fastened directly to the top of the quilt in the stitching area in front of the machine.

Great News!

The artwork for our new feather wreath template arrived from the manufacturer today for approval. What do you think? The pink will be a much lighter pink when screened onto the acrylic and will help make the guidelines more visible.

Complete instructions will come with the template, but basically you stitch around one teardrop section, rotate the template and stitch the next section. After completing that part of the wreath, tie off the thread and start in the other section and repeat all the way around again. Piece of cake!

I am the furthest from a precision longarmer as you can find, and this new tool makes even my work look good! Here are some samples:

I can't wait until it is available to share with you all. I'm still shooting for the end of this month, but we'll have to see what happens.

Don't forget you have until
midnight on January 31 to enter the
Create-a-Wreath Contest!

Happy Stitching!


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Small Necessities Close at Hand

How could I keep track of so many little thingies?
Spending almost as much time looking for a small tool or part as I spend on quilting can be very frustrating! 
Some things as so important I just had to have some way of keeping them close at hand. It's frustrating to go looking for some small thing that I need and can't for the life of me find!  "But I just had the darn thing!" Sound familiar?
The solution was actually quite simple and only took a couple of pieces of self-stick velcro and two small disposable plastic lunch containers.
The top of my longarm machine is flat and these containers fit perfectly. The one in front holds markers, allen wrenches, tiny screw drivers, snippers, check spring, pack of new needles, and any other tiny thing that is needed often.
The container in back serves as a tiny waste basket for all those short thread tails and other small pieces of rubbish. Having it close at hand saves taking extra steps to reach the large waste basket on the other side of the room or (like I saw one person do) throw all those thread tails on the floor to be swept up later.
The velcro pieces are mounted on the top of my longarm machine and the corresponding part of the velcro tape is mounted to the bottoms of the containers. The containers can easily be removed, and easily pushed back into place as needed.
This was very easy to install, easy to use, and best of all - really cheap!
Happy Stitching!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Magnets to the Rescue

What a surprise and what a pain where you sit when you are in the middle of binding a quilt and discover that you missed some of the quilting stitches. What to do now?

I had several options:  stitch by hand (wouldn't match), sew on domestic sewing machine (stitching too different), or remount in the quilting frame. The last was my best option because the longarm was still had the same top and bobbin thread, as well as the same stitching length.

The 18" bar magnets were my lifesaver. These magnets are very strong and held the quilt in place on both bars long enough for me to finishing the quilting. This is a baby quilt, but the magnets also work with all other sized quilts.

Stitching is missing from the two squares behind and on either side of the hopping foot
The powder on the hopping foot is chalk from the stencil pouncer
This is the strong side that is put against the metal bar. The opposite side (without markings) has no magnetic pull.
One end of the quilt was wrapped under the belly bar and behind/over the top bar, and was held in place with one magnet.

The front end of the quilt was simply laid over the front bar and held in place with another magnet. The magnets can be moved as needed and hold long enough for me to finish the quilting.

These magnets are great for holding the top in place to float it. They're meant to be screwed to a wall to hold metal tools. I heard about them from another quilter, and it just so happened that Harbor Freight had them on sale super cheap. I'm sure they are also available in other places. I have five magnets now, but plan on ordering more because they are so darned handy.

Be careful with the magnets and keep them away from your electronics. Mine stay on the bars and are usually only lifted off the bars when I move them. The bars are so strong it's almost impossible to lift one straight up off the bars, so I give it a 1/4 turn to make a cross and that breaks most of the magnetic hold.

Couldn't resist the temptation to show you my 9 month old beagle Dixie. Batting Eater. Bad doggie!
Don't forget you have until
midnight on January 31 to enter the
Create-a-Wreath Contest!
Happy Stitching!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Top Down or Bottom Up?

What is the best direction to stitch a Baptist Fan pattern when using the EZ Arc quilting tool?
Way back in the last century, I learned the Baptist Fan pattern when I first did hand quilting with experienced quilters.

To draw the first fan, a string was pinned to the bottom right corner and a pencil on the other end of the string was moved in a wide arc to mark different sized arcs. The pin/pencil/string was then moved to the bottom of the outside line and the arcs of another fan were drawn. With fans drawn completely across the quilt, several of us could quilt at the same time.

We sat in front of the frame with one hand under the quilt and the other hand on top with the needle and thread. We buried our knot at the one end of a line, stitched the arc, and tied the knot at the other end, then cut the thread and started again on the next line, continuing until a fan was completed.  We stitched one row, and then rolled the quilt and stitched another row above the first.

Sewing from upper right and down to the left is the natural sweep of the arm for right-handed folks (the opposite is true for lefties), so that pattern was very easy for me to do right to left, and that is still the most comfortable movement for me today.

We worked from the bottom of the quilt up to the top, which is the normal way of stitching most of the quilts rolled on these handmade frames.  With a longarm, my favorite way to quilt is to work from the top down, and that is completely different from what I was used to doing for the Baptist Fan. No problem! 

You can easily start at the top with the fans swinging down because the EZ Arc quilting tool lets you stitch in any direction. In fact, you could start at the top right and work to the left if you want. Use the method that has the most natural movement for you.

What I usually do is load the fabric, batting and quilt top and sew across the top, then baste lines about 8" apart with large stitches back and forth across the quilt all the way down to the bottom, rolling the quilt on the back or upper bar as I go. I start stitching the Baptist Fan pattern at the bottom and work my way back up the quilt the way we always did when hand quilting in a frame, removing the basting stitches before quilting the fans. 

That's what works best for me even with the EZ Arc quilting tool, and you will find what works best for you as you continue to use the tool.

The EZ Arc tool can be fastened anywhere on your quilt and the fans stitched in any direction you want. Practice moving the tool to see which way is more comfortable and works best for you.

With this new tool, we are no longer limited by the swing of the arm the way we were when hand quilting, so just try different positions and movements until you find your favorite, then stitch away.

The answer to the question, 'Top Down or Bottom Up?' is 'Any Direction!'

Whatever works, I say. No problem!

Happy Stitching!


PS - remember to watch for Feather Wreath Contest details on January 15!


Saturday, January 5, 2013



Three lucky people will win a free


Watch for contest details January 15, 2013

Happy Stitching!


Friday, January 4, 2013

How Many Ways Can You Quilt A Baptist Fan?

Baptist Fans are one of the most popular and traditional ways to quilt, both by hand and machine. It's the first pattern I learned to quilt way back in my younger years while sitting at a handmade quilting frame with female relatives.

Most of us were right handed and sewing from the upper right to the lower left is a natural movement of the arm and quilting hand. These arcs are easy to stitch, and when sewing concentric circles, they naturally become the Baptist Fan pattern. It's fast, it's easy, and when close stitching was needed to secure the batting, it was the ideal pattern to stitch. We always worked from the right across to the left, and bottom to top. After each row, we rolled the quilt forward and started at the right with a new row.

Batting available today can often be safely quilted up to 10" apart, but 'way back when' folks used carded wool or cotton, or even cotton batting (often still containing the cotton seeds), close stitching was necessary to keep it from separating and migrating to other areas inside the quilt. Very old well-used quilts will often still have little balls or bunches of batting in between the close stitching, but I like to think those are just indications of the age of such a treasure.

Below is a link to Bonnie Hunter's post on hand quilting Baptist Fans with lots of great information.  Bonnie's method uses a hoop, quilting the fan all around the outside of the top and then filling in the center with fans.

I have always thought that machine quilting this pattern would be a bit more difficult so I've never tried it. Some folks mark the entire quilt and freehand over the lines as with any pattern, or use different machine quilting techniques and have beautiful results. My hat is off to them.

Longarmers are blessed in that we have many tools available to help quilt Baptist Fans. Folks lucky enough to have a computer guided system can just tell their computer and longarm machine what to stitch. Some devices work from behind the machine, such as an apparatus to make circles, grooved boards used with a stylus to guide the machine, and pantographs that can be followed with a laser. Many rulers and templates are available that can help in the spacing and formation of the Baptist Fan arcs, and these have the advantage that they are used at the front of the machine.

The newest device on the market that can help make beautiful Baptist Fans is our own Baptist Fan quilting template pictured above. The anchor post fastens to the top of the quilt in the work area, and the notched template fits over and rotates back and forth with the hopping foot to create arcs for designs. At the end of each row, 'walk' over previous stitching up to the next row.

No matter what technique or tool you use, our rotating Baptist Fan template can help make your quilt a wonderful work of art.

Happy Stitching!


Thursday, January 3, 2013

What IS That!?

Watch for our new feature What IS That!?

We love to look for old and new sewing/quilting-related items and share them here, many of which you will recognize, some that might have you scratching your head. Some items will be sewing machines, some will be attachments, some will be tools, some will be supplies. Ya never know!

Today's post is about my current favorite sewing machine 'Martha' and why I prefer that 60 yr old very heavy metal beauty over any other.

Many 'old' metal machines still exist today as any collector will tell you (and happily show you their herd). It just so happens that my Martha is a Singer 201-2.

There were as many companies making them as there were brands of cars.

It's very sad that so many of these wonderful old machines are only being used for tables and stands, or worse yet, thrown away.

My much loved and often used Singer 201-2, 'born' in the late 1940's, is a workhorse of a sewing machine. (Please don't tell her she's considered to be an antique - she thinks she's still a young chick!) To me, she's worth her weight in gold. She has a horizontal bobbin that just drops into the built-in bobbin case, and sews forward and reverse. That's it, nothing fancy. ;D

But that doesn't mean that this machine only does a straight stitch - oh no, it does much, much more.

Singer and other companies made sure that the home seamstresses had all the help they needed to make their machines do everything they wanted:  darning, embroidery, hems, join seams, lace edging, tucks, bindings, zigzags, ruffles, gathers, decorative cords and braids, buttonholes, zippers, even quilting. Yes, these babies were - and still are - very versatile. The good news is that the attachments needed to do all this are still available.

These machines were meant to last a lifetime, and many have lasted several lifetimes. How many generations might have used a machine made in the late 1800's?

'Martha' sews a perfect seam and has enough power to sew through practically anything you can get under the presser foot. I've sewn as many as eight layers of denim before she bogged down and groaned. Try that with one of the new plastic machines! Can't do it! But she also has a light touch when needed to sew those delicate fabrics. She can sew practically anything and do a great job at it.

Like most other old metal sewing machines, this one is very basic and easy to maintain. Give her a good cleaning (mostly just removing lint with a small paint brush), add a few drops of oil and she is ready to start humming away again. In the 15 plus years I've been using this Singer 201-2, she has never had to go to the shop for anything. I've had to replace the light bulb once ($6.95) and the bobbin winder tire ($.30) once, both of which were very easy to do. That's it!

Check with your Mom or Grandma to see if they still have and might be willing to part with their old machines. You just might strike gold! But please don't thrown them away! If you are desperate to get rid of one, there are tons of collectors that will take them off your hands!

Happy Stitching!