Understanding your perfect 1/4″ seam

May 2nd, 2015

Hullo!  I’m home from being on the road most of April, and boy am I glad to be HOME!  I also want some sleep, so it may be a bit until I get to share pics of all the wonderful things I’ve been doing.  BUT, I recently had a question from someone who was having difficulty with her new, wonderful sewing machine which wasn’t giving her the wonderful quarter inch seam that she wanted.   I replied privately and in the comments, but thought I’d share my thoughts here since the “issue” applies to more than her specific machine.

Question:

I have had a little bit of trouble with my machine, but there is also a lot I like about it. My problem…I took a miniature quilt class last weekend, and was told to use the 1/4 inch stitch with the single hole stitch plate. I had already had trouble with the “pre-set” 1/4 inch stitch not coming from the factory with a true quarter inch stitch, and had it accurately reset. When I went to use the single hole plate with the 1/4 inch “button”, the needle does not go through the hole. Why would Janome design a machine that you cannot use the preset 1/4 inch stitch with the single hole plate? Am I missing something? Every quilter uses the 1/4 inch stitch and wishes for a single hole plate. I am so dissatisfied with this design that I’m thinking of changing brands. Can you set me straight?

Answer:

Thanks for writing! I have been on the road for weeks and was having trouble getting an email sent out to you directly, so not sure if you received it.  I understand your frustration, but want to explain why this happens on ALL brands.

To get a perfect 1/4″ seam, you need to account for the thickness of the thread and the thickness of the cloth, since some of the cloth is “used up” in the turn (when pressing).  If you stitch two squares of 2 inch  lightweight cotton lawn, cotton batik, and cotton flannel with the same setting (a default 1/4″ for example), then press the seam to the side as one would for piecing a quilt, the cotton lawn will be the widest, the flannel the narrowest.  That is because the flannel is thick and it takes up more of the flannel to fold back on itself.  To get a seam allowance that would yield a section that measure a perfect 3 1/2 inch across after that seam is pieced, you’d have to use a larger seam allowance with the lightweight cotton lawn and a narrower seam allowance with the flannel.

Then there is the straight stitch plate and quarter inch seams.  With our fancy new machines that stitch wide stitches, on the Janomes up to 9mm apart (that’s nearly a half inch across), the feed dogs must be farther apart to permit the needle to swing that wide on the decorative stitches.  That means when it comes to pieceing you have two choices:

1.  Leave the needle in the center with the straight stitch plate on, but then have the pieces feed ONLY with the left-side feed dog (because the quarter inch seam allowance won’t extend fully onto the right hand feed dogs)
or
2. Use the quarter inch foot, move the needle to your own personal perfect quarter inch (based on the thickness of your fabric and thread), and have the pieces feed over BOTH feed dogs so that it feeds straight and even.

Basically, you can’t have it both ways IF you have a machine, such as the 8900, that also makes wide decorative stitches.  If you want a perfect straight stitch, to be blunt, the old Singer Featherweight 221 has always had the best straight stitch ever.  That is because that is the ONLY thing that machine does–any straight-stitch-only machine will be the same.  Why?  Because the needle bar never moves.   It goes up and down only.

That means you can either get used to the Janome 8900’s (and any other fancy machine’s) requirements for getting a perfect-for-you quarter inch (including fine-tuning–the pre-set is just an “average” setting that frequently needs a little fiddling), OR have a second machine for simple piecing.   Frankly, I adore my 1934 Featherweight.  I don’t actually use it much, since I almost never piece.  And when I DO piece, I use my wonderful Janome because I understand what it is I need to do to make an accurate seam.  You can also create a “favorite” stitch that is set to your perfect quarter inch–you’d need to refer to the manual, though, because I don’t know how off the top of my head.

I hope explaining this helps–there is nothing wrong with your machine!   It just needs for you to learn how to adjust the settings so that they yield the perfect result for you.

Hope this helps!

Hawaiian Applique in Florida, Part 2: Ladies of the Lakes, Lakeland, Florida

April 20th, 2015

What fun we had, even if it was a small class!  More attention for everyone that way.  So the past few times I’ve taught this workshop, I decided I really needed to come up with a couple simpler “test drive” blocks in the 6 inch size that aren’t so fiddly.  I had Taro and Turtle blocks.  Everyone loves the turtle, but it really is pretty challenging.  So I thought I needed more options that were easier than the turtle.  I tried a whole bunch of ideas, but not much fits into a block as small as 6 inches (most students like to try one small before committing to one of the larger class patterns from my Nourish the Body, Nourish the Soul pattern, here) and still makes an interesting design while also being simple.  I thought about what is Hawaiian and would also be Florida?  I ended up with two new blocks:

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This is the cutout version of Flip Flops–I actually managed to keep one of the new blocks fairly simple.

And the stitched version.  I left one  flipflop unstitched to show what a difference the thread makes!

And the stitched version. I left one flipflop unstitched to show what a difference the thread makes!

The second block is adorable, not as fiddly as the turtle, but not exactly easy-peasy:

The cut-out version of cats.  I liked the whimsy of black cats on bird fabric.  But...those busy little birds kinda moosh into the cats.

The cut-out version of cats. I liked the whimsy of black cats on bird fabric. But…those busy little birds kinda moosh into the cats.

Red thread to the rescue!   I learned when making Under the Bali Sea that thread can save a project--before I added the aqua stitching on the nautilus shells the quilt was SAD.  Here, the red totally pops.  And we LOVE the kitty-circle!  Maybe I should name this the Zeus block in honor of our cat who departed this earth a few days after I got home.

Red thread to the rescue! I learned when making Under the Bali Sea that thread can save a project–before I added the aqua stitching on the nautilus shells the quilt was SAD. Here, the red totally pops. And we LOVE the kitty-circle! Maybe I should name this the Zeus block in honor of our cat who departed this earth a few days after I got home.

The students in both workshops (how lucky that I had the same workshop in both venues, which were–I did not realize this for a goodly while–HOURS apart) did such a great job with the blocks.  I’m honestly not sure which of these photos were taken which day:

Swirly turtles in progress--those little feet and tail are pretty fiddly!

Swirly turtles in progress–those little feet and tail are pretty fiddly!

And another set of turtles

And another set of turtles with dusty pink thread on a pale pink background.

Flip flops in progress--she's doing my colors!

Flip flops in progress–she’s doing my colors!

This student got a lot done.  She did the taro block, cutting the leaves in the + position instead of the X orientation, but used them as "X" on the second block.  AND she got her cats cut out, too!

This student got a lot done. She did the taro block, cutting the leaves in the + position instead of the X orientation, but used them as “X” on the second block. AND she got her cats cut out, too!

This student brought a gorgeous Jane Sassaman print fabric for her blocks and a black-on-grey background, but learned that in these blocks what is a great combination for piecing may present some challenges in Hawaiian applique.  The black background merges with the background.  As with the cats, thread to the rescue!  She luckily had the perfect green.

This student brought a gorgeous Jane Sassaman print fabric for her blocks and a black-on-grey background, but learned that in these blocks what is a great combination for piecing may present some challenges in Hawaiian applique. The black background merges with the background. As with the cats, thread to the rescue! She luckily had the perfect green.

Done!

Done! And a great job using the bold straight stitch to accent the outside edge.

Doesn't this flipflop block shout "Florida!"?!!!

Doesn’t this flipflop block shout “Florida!”?!!!

Two more cat blocks...gosh I hope these ladies sent me pictures!  The guild president was in the class and was already thinking up a mini-quilts display with the blocks.  I TOTALLY WANT PHOTOS Debby if you do this!

Two more cat blocks…gosh I hope these ladies sent me pictures! The guild president was in the class and was already thinking up a mini-quilts display with the blocks. I TOTALLY WANT PHOTOS Debby if you do this!

GOOD student--testing thread colors on scraps!

GOOD student–testing thread colors on scraps! Practicing mitering and points!

And this student followed the instructions to bring a wide range of threads--it really helped her pick just the right color!

And this student followed the instructions to bring a wide range of threads–it really helped her pick just the right color!

Despite being fiddly, the cat block was a hit.

Despite being fiddly, the cat block was a hit.

Happy Birthday Marie C.!  Hope you enjoyed the giftie tucked into your bag.  I sure enjoyed driving from Orlando up to Lakeland and having dinner with you, and having you in my class.  Keep in touch!

Happy Birthday Marie C.! Hope you enjoyed the giftie tucked into your bag. I sure enjoyed driving from Orlando up to Lakeland and having dinner with you, and having you in my class. Keep in touch!

So as you might gather, it was a FUN class!  The trip home was relatively uneventful compared to the trip down, although my suitcase got soaked in Boston where it was raining not snowing, and a few things inside were soaked.  Luckily, the quilts in the suitcase were inside a ginormous Ziploc Bag (I swear you could fit the contents of a stuffed laundry basket in one they are so big) and protected!  I’ve already ordered a hard-sided suitcase since the zipper pull also got trashed.  Mo bettah!

Insalata, a Food for Thought Quilt

April 17th, 2015

A short while ago I shared with you a first peek at my new quilt, Insalata:

Insalata, (c) 2014  Sarah Ann Smith.  Premieres April 10, 2015, at the Food for Thought exhibit at the National Quilt Museum, Paducah, Kentucky, USA.

Insalata, (c) 2014 Sarah Ann Smith. Premiered April 10, 2015, at the Food for Thought exhibit at the National Quilt Museum, Paducah, Kentucky, USA.  Size:  40 x 42.5 inches.  For sale.

When I made the tomato quilts that were the featured project in my workshop DVD for Quilting Arts, From Photo to Threadwork, including fabric collage and machine quilting (see here for the DVD or here for download), I knew I had one more tomato quilt in me.

I grew up in a town called San Anselmo, California, and mom lived there until she moved to Maine in 2008.  She and two friends would go out for lunch once a month, and often went to a restaurant called Insalata.   So she took me there, too, when I visited.  I LOVED the Chicken Fattoush salad, inspired by Lebanese and eastern Mediterranean cuisine!  I also loved the artwork.  The restaurant is in a building that, when I was a kid, was the Crocker National Bank.  If you were alive in the 60s you remember those banks with the really high (like 2-story) ceilings!  What to do to decorate the place?  She painted the ceiling a dark brown, used something warm colored on the walls (don’t remember what) and had some over-sized paintings made including some of persimmons that were each larger than a beachball.  The canvas wasn’t stretched, but hung from gromments/hooks on the wall; these pieces were easily 4-5 feet tall and over 12 feet wide.

Detail of raffia "roots" on the shallots. Insalata by Sarah Ann Smith. (c) 2014

Detail of raffia “roots” on the shallots. Insalata by Sarah Ann Smith. (c) 2014  Click for larger view.

Detail photo 2, Insalata, by Sarah Ann Smith (c) 2014.  Click for larger image.

Detail photo 2, Insalata, by Sarah Ann Smith (c) 2014. Click for larger image.

Each of the tomatoes is about the diameter of a beach ball!   So now I think I’ve finished with tomatoes.  For the time being.  Hope you enjoy!  And if you like this one, please be sure to visit the slideshow on the SAQA website of the entire Food for Thought exhibit, here.

The new Food for Thought catalog from Studio Art Quilt Associates.  Available to order here.

The new Food for Thought catalog from Studio Art Quilt Associates. Available to order here.

My pages in the catalog.  Great layout and design on the pages--love the enormous detail photo on the left.  The booklet is about 8.5 inches square.

My pages in the catalog. Great layout and design on the pages–love the enormous detail photo on the left. The booklet is about 8.5 inches square.

A little bit of Art

April 15th, 2015

To jump around in time and take things out of sequence, the day after I returned from Florida I got together with my older son’s girlfriend, Ashley, to work on an assignment for her college art class (I LOVE getting to share in my son’s and her assignments and learn stuff).  I lent Ashley some art supplies to save her the expense since I had plenty.  I hadn’t used my gouache much, so when that assignment came up, she asked if I would like to do it with her.  YES!

Ashley's finished self-portrait..isn't this fab?  This beginner has great potential!

Ashley’s finished self-portrait..isn’t this fab? This beginner has great potential!

The assignment was to take a black and white photo of yourself–a head shot (or color and then remove the color) with good contrast.  Size:  about 8×10 or a little larger.  You were then to trace/copy the shapes in various values onto bristol board (a card-stock weight paper with a shiny finish) and use black, white and one other color to create a monochromatic self-portrait.  Ashley did the assignment as given (good decision–see above), but I decided to muck around a bit (see lower down).

Here's Ashley's in progress.

Here’s Ashley’s in progress.

At first, I thought I’d do the portrait as a “grisaille” or toned underpainting, then go over it with a single color.  But once I got it done, since I don’t really know what would happen with the gouache–likely it would either lift the grays underneath or just cover them up–I left it grayscale.

My first effort.  Clearly I need a bit of instruction in handling gouache, but not too bad.

My first effort. Clearly I need a bit of instruction in handling gouache, but not too bad.  I kinda messed up the eyebrow and lid crease on the left, but it could be a lot worse.

I finished a bit earlier than Ashley, so decided I’d do a second, much faster, and be more loose in my application of utterly non-realistic colors.  You could scare a child into blindness or nightmares with this!

My two self-portraits.  The upper one isn't bad.  The lower one, just plain freaky!

My two self-portraits. The upper one isn’t bad. The lower one, just plain freaky!  But they do look somewhat like me.  Just hope I don’t look as saggy-chinned and jowelly and scary as the one in color!

 

Next post:  More Hawaiian applique in Florida!

Hawaiian Applique in Florida! Part 1

April 12th, 2015
With the ladies of the Gold Coast Quilters of Boca Raton.  I was so busy I think this was the only photo I got that day!

With the ladies of the Gold Coast Quilters of Boca Raton. I was so busy I think this was the only photo I got that day!  Because my Nourish quilt and the machine appliqued Haleakala Sunrise are touring with the 500 Traditional Quilts exhibit put on by Quilts Inc (the wonderful folks that bring you International Quilt Festival in Houston and other  locales), I made two new, pillow size Taro blocks.  This one will fit a 26″ Euro Square pillow.

So there’s a reason why I haven’t been blogging much–I’ve been too busy!   First I had another kerfuffle with the person who made the apparently derivative copies of my A Sense of Place art quilts (blogpost a couple of posts below this one in early March).  She sicked an attorney on ME (!!!) for saying that she appeared to have clearly copied my work!  She made all sorts of demands, only one of which I agreed to:  I removed the letter she wrote to me from my original post.  I had to spend two full days, right before the trip to Florida, dealing with this nonsense because they wanted a reply within  8 days–days when I would be away teaching!   Sheesh!  Anyway,  I refused all requests other than the one above, such as I refused to retract my assertions that her works were derivative, refused to request the removal of the discussion of copyright from both of the closed art quilt groups on which I mentioned it (without EVER mentioning her by name or identifying her site!), refused to retract my requests to Etsy and Pinterest to remove her apparently derivative works.   I wrote the attorney a LONG letter, starting with images of my works, a photocopy of a widely distributed book in which one was published (500 Art Quilts), and basically said “can you see what the problem is?  Can this end now?”  So…no reply to date from either of them so hopefully she will go away and learn  her lesson.  And I can get on with FUN STUFF!  Like Florida.

The trip began with a flight delay leaving Maine (after getting to the airport at 5:20 am):  the previous day there had been yet another snowstorm that messed up travel up and down the  Eastern seaboard.  There was no problem, however, because I had a four HOUR layover in Boston which, thanks to delays on United, turned into a six hour layover.  Luckily, I was easily re-booked onto a later connecting flight and only got in about 90 minutes late, and didn’t have to teach or lecture until the following evening.  AND my luggage showed up!

I had down time the first day--we had me come down a day early just in case, as it turns out we needed, there were weather delays.  That meant I had several hours on Tuesday to tootle around Boca Raton.  So I went to an area called Mizner Park after my gracious hostess gave me a quick driving tour of downtown Boca.

I had down time the first day–we had me come down a day early just in case, as it turns out we needed, there were weather delays. That meant I had several hours on Tuesday to tootle around Boca Raton. So I went to an area called Mizner Park after my gracious hostess gave me a quick driving tour of downtown Boca.  Thank you Marlys and Chris for taking me around!

This was one of the most bizarre things I’ve seen…yes, that is a ROLLS ROYCE Pick-up truck.  One has to ask WHY?  The guy wandering buy seems as confused as I was!

So I saw this pick-up truck and figured I'd never seen anything like it.  It looked to be a Rolls, but do they make pick-ups?

So I saw this pick-up truck and figured I’d never seen anything like it. It looked to be a Rolls, but do they make pick-ups?

Here's a shot of the front--yes, that's the winged lady on the front with the RR.  One has to ask WHY?  I googled, and no, they don't really make them, but people "convert" them.  WHY?

Here’s a shot of the front–yes, that’s the winged lady on the front with the RR. One has to ask WHY? I googled, and no, they don’t really make them, but people “convert” them. WHY?

After months and months (literally) of single digit and below zero air temps and colder wind chill, it was lovely to sit in the air in shirtsleeves!

After months and months (literally) of single digit and below zero air temps and colder wind chill, it was lovely to sit in the air in shirtsleeves!

I’m also taking an online photography course with Ricky Tims, so I was on the lookout for “texture” photos, and loved these palm fronds:

2015.03.Florida.HawaiianAppl.Plus02

No idea why the (C) didn’t show on this image, but it’s mine!

The first day I had a light supper with the guild board at QuiltStitches in Boca Raton (FB link here) owned by Johanna Felderbaum.  It’s a great shop–stop in if you are in the area!  She has a great range of fabrics.  Waving hullo!   That evening I gave my “How did she do that?” lecture, followed by Hawaiian Applique the next day.  Then on Thursday, I flew from there (well, Fort Lauderdale airport) to Orlando where I was booked with the Ladies of the Lakes Guild in Lakeland, near Orlando.   More on that in a few days!