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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Struggling with the 440: Making Pudge's quilt

About 10 years ago, I met a really cool lady on line. Well, actually, I've never met her. I did buy some plants from her on eBay and we've corresponded ever since.

In June, she sent me a request. Would I make a quilt for her neighbor, "Pudge," her "much loved" next door neighbor who was recently diagnosed with Leukemia.

Hmm. In my high school and early college days, I made several quilts for other people and now, I usually just make them to please me, try out designs/ideas, learn or for my family. For most people, they have no concept of what it means to make a quilt.

Since Teresa's husband who was my brother's age died of cancer about 9 months or so after I met her (he had been in a horrible tractor roll-over which didn't kill him, but did show that he had cancer), I thought that yes...I'd do this for her, even though this summer was an extremely full one with lots going on with my daughter (college visits, vacations to visit friends in CT, senior photos, etc) and I had recently been diagnosed with a recurrence.

I told her it would be a relatively "quick and dirty one," as I didn't have the time to put a lot of work into this ....after I suggested that someone else do it. I know me. With the schedule I had and my own issues, I knew it wasn't going to be done very quickly, but I'd do what I could. She told me that Pudge was into cowboying--roping and riding and that she thought browns and tans would be good.

I quickly got on line and found the center panel which I thought was pretty good. I showed it to her, and she said that would be good. I would add borders and other things to it and try to get it to her ASAP as when you are getting chemo get cold. I started looking for other fabrics to add, and found a Moda "Layer Cake (10" squares of a whole line of fabrics) called "Rawhide." Most of them went with the panel, except for the pinks and when the panel came I didn't think the larger scale pieces went with it.

One of the problems was making the quilt wider, but making it logical. The center panel had two borders, and the sides had none. So, I had to find something. One of the ladies I quilt with on Thursdays, graciously shared her stash of horse themed prints with me. In her stash, I found the prints of various brands on black and some roping on black. those would add the two side borders.

What do do to make corner stones to make the transition? Chris Landis was working on a quilt and in the corners of her borders were these great 5 pointed stars in a circle. I borrowed that portion of the pattern for her, thinking "piece of cake I can do these." Yeah. Right. Those pieces were extremely hard to piece and get right. In order to get 4 good ones, I made 13, and each of the stars took about 2 hours to do. Then....I misplaced the stars and started making them again. After 2 "remakes" I found the originals...under a pillow on the sofa in the family room.

Teresa had sent me the names of all of Pudge's kids and grand-kids...including blended families. 52 names, two of which were unborn babies and the families were keeping the names secret. Teresa got me the name of one of them...and finally got the second.

I had to learn how to use the embroidery machine (I didn't tackle learning how to use the Bernina embroidery module, but I did use the Janome 300e embroidery only machine I purchased several years ago on eBay. There was a learning curve on this one...and then of course made two mistakes on the names, some of which were uniquely spelled. Using straight strips in a border are called "piano keys." I liked how the piano keys turned out...they sort of look like ribbons.

Chris helped me figure out how to alternate the names and blank keys in order to make it turn out right. I did the short side first, because I had equal names on those sides. The two long sides were not equal, and I had to figure out what I was going to do. Chris suggested using brown cornerstones and use the star in a circle motif to quilt with.

Well, I thought I'd use my Embroidery circle attachment on the Bernina 440....It didn't work too well, and I didn't like the way it turned out. I wanted perfect circles, and this was surely NOT perfect....At left you can see the wonky circle. I felt that the only way to correct this was to hand stitch the circle and star in gold Perle cotton. Since the quilt is meant to be used and it would be on the back, I covered the back where the stitching was with another piece of flannel (I used flannel for the backing since it is more cuddly).

The Bernina gave me fits. I really wish I had had my 153 (which I sold to a friend when I got the 440) as the stitch was much better. The BSR (Bernina Stitch Regulator) wasn't working correctly, and the upper tension wasn't working correctly either. Usually, I try out threads and quilting motifs on a scrap, but since the panel came with these printed borders, I had no scrap to practice with.

First I tried brown. That looked pretty awful, so I ripped it out. Next, I tried monofilament and that looked pretty awful too, so I ripped that stitching out.

Next I tried this Superior Signature variegated thread in tan, brown and cream. I didn't like that either, so I turned to my thread stash and looked again. There, I found another Superior thread which was variegated cream, yellowish and grey. That looked great.

I did a whole lot of ripping out of quilting on this quilt. The stitching wasn't perfect. I was elated to send it out this morning via priority mail. Hopefully, he will get it on Saturday, after this go-around with chemo, but maybe it will be nice for him to curl up with when he feels poorly at home too.

I put in a hanging sleeve on the back and basted the sleeve closed. I thought that by doing this he would still be able to use it and yet, if they later decided to hang it, all they would have to do is take out the stitching and run a decorative drapery rod or a batten in through it.

Now, I have to turn my attention to getting my Dayton Landmarks segment done before Tuesday, and the exhibition proposal I'm sending in to the Dayton Visual Arts Center for the Miami Valley Art Quilt Network before Monday completed and sent. Just to add more interest, my daughter has a cross country meet on Saturday, I'm picking up my husband's cousin at the airport tomorrow morning, I'm doing some pampering with her and her sister on Friday, a luncheon on Saturday, AND my husband's birthday is Saturday. OY!

And the Bernina? I ran it over to the shop to get checked out while I'm gone to Montana next least I'm going alone so I don't have to get the house stuff done before I go. I must admit, I am tempted just to run over the Bernina...except that I know that my 153 was a fantastic machine...hopefully, someday the Aurora will be half as good a machine as that one.

When I get back, I'm going to work hard on getting the Handi-quilter frame set up with the Juki as I know it will be easier to move the sewing machine like a pencil rather than working with the quilt and moving it under the needle. I just have to clean out the area for it...and figure out how to set it up. After that? Practice, practice, practice!

By the way, this quilt measured 61 1/2" x 68". I have $100 worth of materials in it, and that was with some things being donated and most of the fabrics on sale or discounted for other reasons. Hours of labor. I just can't fathom how people are able to sell quilts slightly smaller on Etsy for $100 - $135.

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