The perfect 1/4″ seam, part two

May 7th, 2015

Thanks to my contact at Janome America, I learned of a couple new things that will help owners of the Janome machines that are capable of the 9mm wide stitches.   The top-of-the-line 15000 has a new throat plate that has THREE holes in it, including one on the right.  And there is a quarter inch “Clear View” foot that will work with that throat plate.  First, the presser foot:Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 12.50.27 PM

janomeknowhow clear view quarter inch

My contact wrote:

” I wanted to pass along this information sheet on a foot that we released for 9mm stitch width models last fall. Maybe this will help her. I’m also going to include this small excerpt from my contact in Tokyo too, as it applies directly to your machine –

*This foot can also be used with the MC15000, but by using the right needle position of the MC15000’s straight stitch needle plate with the 1/4″ Seam Foot O (a standard accessory), or the Clear View Quilting Foot and Guide Set (Optional Accessory No.: 202-089-005),  the same results can be achieved.

The above note is because the MC15000 has that three hole straight stitch plate, based on needle position. Previous models only have one or two holes in the straight stitch plate.

Just passing this along since I saw it!

Here’s a link to information on the Janome website, and another link for the PDF which has more information than on the Janome website  janomeknowhow clear view quarter inch .

The throat Plate is called the Straight Stitch Plate for the 15000, but can be used on Janome machines with a 9mm stitch-width capability (but check with your dealer FIRST to be positive it is compatible with your machine).  This is a not-so-great photo of the one from my machine.  Notice there are THREE holes.  The left and right holes are slightly not-round, which permits one to fine-tune the needle position to get your perfect seam allowance (see previous post).

Straight Stitch Plate for Janome 15000

Straight Stitch Plate for Janome 15000; if I can get my hands on the part number, I’ll update this caption.

My contact added that

“Yes, this foot will work with the 8900 as it is a 9mm model also. If you
wanted, you could ask your dealer to order the Mc15000 straight stitch
needle plate (with the third hole) and that would fit all the 9mm models
also. You just have to watch your drop position. Like you mention in your
post, because of the feed dogs and purpose of different sewing machines,
the needle drop is not always the same from machine to machine. This
happens when you are switching from quilting models, like an 8900 to
embroidery/quilting models like the MC15000. The “standard” positions are
changing based on the model.

This will definitely solve her problem then, allowing her to use a straight
stitch and set needle position with the straight stitch plate included
with her machine, and achieve a 1/4″ seam.”

I have to say, Janome is incredibly responsive to its customers.  I was THRILLED my contact read my previous post and wrote to suggest these new offerings.   Another great thing developed for the 15000 (which I sew on now) is the AMAZING extension table.  I don’t know what they did to the surface, but it is absolutely the “slippy-est” extension table I’ve ever felt.  Even though it doesn’t look as slippery as the clear plexi (perspex in the UK I think) tables, it is vastly superior.  When I saw the US VP for Janome at a show after I got this machine, I told him they needed to make ALL their extension tables out of this stuff.  It totally rocks!

 

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:

adsf

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!