Tuesday, April 26, 2011

We all know how difficult it is to know whether you're making the right decision or not and regardless of how many websites you look at getting a good personal recommendation is always so useful. It is with this in mind that we're posting feedback from one of our customers who purchased a Handi Quilter Avante 18.

Some of our customers buy the Avante for their own use and other make quilts for a living and Ulrike is in that category - her website has an interesting blog too. She takes commissions and has an outlet for her work at the Dedham Art and Craft Centre.

This is what Ulrike wrote about how she has found using the Handi Quilter Avante 18.


Quilting with the Avante is the best quilting experience I ever had and there are several reasons for that. Let’s start with the loading of the frame. The leaders are made of strong non stretch material and wide enough to be reached easily when pinning (in particular the back leader is still within easy reach). I know the instructions say you should pin and roll up the quilt top but if I’m quilting a smallish quilt I often don’t bother and just let it hang down at the front, together with the wadding. Still leaving the second roller in applies enough “pressure” to keep top and wadding in place when quilting. A few pins at the top edge to start with are all that’s needed. Easy! Threading the machine is no problem at all, access from both ends of the machine though is needed so don’t set it up too close to the wall even if you never want to use it from the “panto” side (as I call it). The display screen of the Avante gives you all the information you need to quilt: which mode you are in (manual or regulated), the speed (in manual mode) or the number of stitches/inch (in regulated mode), if your needle position is up or down when you stop quilting and you can choose weather the machine stops immediately when you press the stop button or if you would like it to do a couple more stitches. More you don’t need to know to start.

I would recommend to every one to start quilting in the regulated mode with a stitch length of 8-10 stitches, needle in the down position. In regulated mode the machine starts stitching when you start moving the machine! And how easy does it move! You can move the Avante with one hand (and that’s a definite advantage, because sometimes you need your other hand to hold threads out of the way or hold on to the quilt when quilting close to the edge) and you don’t feel the weight at all. It moves forwards, backwards, sideways with ease and without jerks or the feeling you are quilting “up hill” as some other machines do. The best test for every quilting machine are loops of different sizes. The Avante passed the test with flying colours. My longest uninterrupted time quilting with the Avante was 2 ½ hours and it was great. Only stop for the occasional bobbing thread change and a drop of oil and off you go again. No hurting wrists from holding on to leavers to apply pressure on pedals (like on the Grace frames), no hurting back or stiff neck from leaning over. If you were thinking about trying the Avante I can only recommend it. It has to be tested to be believed.
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Friday, April 1, 2011

Project Linus Spring Newsletter 2011

Joy from Project Linus in the West Midlands sends me copies of the Project Linus Newsletter to post on our blog but for one reason or another (I blame it on getting our Facebook Page launched) I've just realised I never posted this.

Fortunately its still Spring, not yet Summer. There are some neat hints and tips in here from Joy as well so read on!

I'll post more about Joy and her new venture Pastures New Quilting in a separate post....breaking news!


Spring Newsletter 2011

from Joy Edgington

PROJECT LINUS UK (West Midlands Region)


126,032 quilts delivered across the UK since 2000, 11,399 quilts delivered across the UK in 2010, 2,732 delivered by me in the West Midlands since 2004.  Thank you from all the children.

Hello everyone

It’s still cold but with a hint of sunshine occasionally breaking through.  Just peeping through the ground are snowdrops, crocus, daffodils and tulips so the promise of spring is upon us.

This is the time to have a good spring clean in the sewing room or cupboard or wherever it is you perch!  Get out those UFO’s from last year and get them finished.  Sort out your stash and use, swap or give away those fabric pieces that have been lurking at the bottom of the pile for ever – you’ll need the space for those tempting new ones that are coming your way.  Trawl through all those magazines and copy or take out the patterns you really want and then pass on the magazines to someone else for inspiration. 

If you don’t know where to send your unwanted magazines to, then you could try Freecycle, (just google it on the intranet).  This is a wonderful site where you offer out your unwanted goods in your local area and wait for someone to contact you with a view to taking them away.  I have used this site to get rid of 100+ paving slabs, an unwanted floor fan, Hollyhock seed heads, etc.  It’s also a good place to pick up things like buttons, fabric lengths, craft books etc.  The best of it is that it’s completely free!!!  Remember the saying that your junk is someone’s else’s treasure – well this proves the point.

 Looking ahead we have Malvern, Uttoxeter and the Festival of Quilts to look forward to as well as a whole heap of other exhibitions, events and workshops.  But even before then there is the Sewing for Pleasure show at the NEC in March.  Not strictly for P&Q but I usually find a few bits and plenty of inspiration.

For those of you interested in the progress of the Quilt Block Orphanage (QBO) I have now received 5086 orphan blocks and to date 456 quilts have been completed. To see photos of the quilts remember to go to the website – see address below.  As ever, big thanks go out to my small band of helpers who are busy cutting, stitching and quilting as I write this.



This time I thought I’d share a few thoughts about diets – I have decided I have a weight problem – I can’t wait to eat!!  No actually I thought I’d share some thoughts about needles but a bit like dress sizes they come in lots of different sizes from size 60 (or 8 depending on the numbering system used) to 90+ (or 16+) and all do a different job.  It all gets a bit confusing - there are even books written about them.  There are needles for quilting, embroidery, leather, denim, twin needles (clever things – do two jobs at the same time), triple needles (show offs), wing needles and metafoils (for metallic threads) and so on.  It stands to reason that if you use the wrong ones then you are likely to get the wrong result.

Now, it should go without saying that you need to match the thickness of the thread to the size of the eye but only the other day I wondered why I couldn’t make a thick thread fit through the eye of a thin needle!  It was a bit like trying to squeeze into a little black dress – I think I’m a certain size but the mirror confirms I’m a different one!

Basically the thicker the needle the bigger the hole it punches through the fabric.  Think about the size of the hole you’d make if you were dropped through the floor and then think of the size hole a super model would make – you get the picture?? 

Using a thick needle on fine fabric therefore is always going to look ugly.  Whereas piecing seams is more forgiving because you won’t see the holes when it’s all put together.  Quilting on the other hand is highly visible so a finer needle will give a more pleasing look.

However, this all assumes that you are using a sharp needle.  Again blunt needles will make bigger holes so the trick is to use these for piecing and save the fresh new ones for quilting.  I hereby give you permission to change your needles as often as you want to.  There’s no rule that says you have to use the same one until it dies on you!!

This is equally as true for hand sewing needles by the way, although I have to confess that I do tend to use a ‘favourite’ needle until it ends up curved or snaps in half due to overuse!  I did buy a new pack of assorted needles about two years ago but I haven’t actually opened it yet.  By the way always ditch rusty, bent or notched needles immediately.  To do this safely I have got an old spice jar – you know the ones with a plastic cap full of holes under the lid – that way I can post dodgy needles and pins into it and then when it’s full I throw the complete jar away.  No nasty pin pricks for me or anyone else that way. 

Which reminds me – does anyone else have a set of vicious flower head pins or is it just me?  No matter how carefully I treat them they jump up through the fabric and launch themselves at me without any provocation on my behalf!  They seem to take great delight in burying themselves inches deep in my skin and then kick and scream all the way as I try to drag them back out again.

All very well I hear you saying – but how do we know which size is the right one to use?  The smart answer would be to say get a book or look it up on the intranet – Schmetz or Bernina give good guidelines.  However, for the sake of practicality I work on the average principle.  That is that an average quilter will make an average quilt using average cotton fabric and average wadding (either polyester or cotton) therefore you need to use an average needle for piecing and an average needle for quilting.

Now the average needle size is like dress sizes.  Apparently that is size 12 in the UK (I wish) therefore the average needle size is also 12 or 80 therefore for piecing I use an 80 (or 12) needle.

For quilting I want it to be a bit more delicate therefore I use just below the average and go for a 70 (or 10) needle.  If I’m having a mad fit and using thicker materials for some reason then I go just above the average to a 90 (14) and for very fine materials I go for a 60 (8).  This means that I buy a pack of 80’s and a pack of 70’s and have a stand by box of mixed sizes – just in case!!  See how simple it all is now – hope you’ve found it helpful!

The same is true of pins of course – personally I find dressmaking pins a bit thick and short so I always use the longest, thinnest ones I can find – usually silk pins which seem to be very long, slim and elegant – a bit like those supermodels I mentioned earlier.  That way no matter how tricky the seams are to fit together (I’m thinking pinwheels here) I can usually slide the pin through in just the right place.  Then if the points don’t match I know it’s not the pin’s fault!! 

Actually I like to think of myself as a silk pin but in reality I’m just an 80 needle!!  And on that note it’s time to get lunch ……..

Don’t forget, if you belong to a quilt group please share this and help spread the word.


Joy

“We cannot reach out to every distressed child but we can help to provide them with tangible evidence that someone cares, along with the physical reassurance that comes with being snuggled up in a quilt and the lift to the spirit from the bright colours and cheerful patterns sewn into it.”


Project Linus UK                http://projectlinusuk.org.uk/
Quilt Block Orphanage     www.flickr.com/photos/orphan_block/
The Cotton Patch               http://www.cottonpatch.co.uk/
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The Cotton Patch is a family run patchwork and quilting business which was started by Jean Sewell in 1990. The shop is situated in Hall Green, Birmingham and expanded in 1999 to include the shop next door. Originally offering Mail Order catalogues, The Cotton Patch established one of the first patchwork and quilting websites in the UK. The Cotton Patch continues to be a premier supplier of patchwork and quilting fabrics, tools and notions and supplies customers throughout the UK and the world.