Stitching the Civil War

In a moment of  madness in  January I decided to take up a new quilting challenge!!!  

I was asked by one of my quilting friends  from America  if I would be interested in making an eight inch block each week by following a blog of Barbara Brackman’s called Civil War Quilts.

 I have enjoyed books by Barbara Brackman where history and quilting often mix in a wonderful combination, and was interested in this new challenge.   Of course making a block a week is quite a committment, but luckily a group of friends  is also doing the  blocks  and we are encouraging each other by sharing photos as we complete each block. 

Some of us are using the traditional reproduction fabrics, some are using florals and  others using brights.   Surprisingly we are all managing to keep up to date and we all look forward to the next post on the blog, to see how difficult or straightforward the construction is.

Making " Cotton Boll", the latest block in the Civil War quilt challenge.

Barbara gives some history about each block and links to books and diaries to read as well.  It is a fascinating blog and worth reading -even if you don’t want to do the stitching!!

To piece these blocks on the machine I have been using the lovely Ne 40 .

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The Sewing Room Summer Maintenance

Now that the summer holidays are over, and the children have gone back to school, it feels as if people have turned their attention back to their sewing projects. 

Our online store has had a “run” on quilt hanger, quilt label & thread orders in the past two weeks and we kicked off our “Calendar Girl” thread of the month program with Cotton mako’ Ne 40 thread.

Cotton Mako' Ne 40 is perfect for quilting echo background designs.

So with everyone back sewing, I thought that this would be a good time to talk about getting your sewing machine ready for a new year of stitching.  I think that my machines are trusty work horses, one is more than 20 years old and the others are at least 10 years old, and all are still stitching well.

I do occasionally have them serviced by an experienced mechanic, usually only when they have an obvious problem, but I am scrupulous about cleaning the bobbin race and oiling regularly.

The needle plate & bobbin case removed so that dust & lint can be brushed out from around the bobbin race.

Take the needle/presser plate off the machine to brush out the built up lint & fluff. Modern domestic machines often come with an instruction that says that they do not require oiling.  However a cotton tip/bud dipped in some good quality sewing machine oil is the perfect tool for brushing around the bobbin race to pick up the last  little bits of lint. The thin film of oil that this leaves behind helps to keep everything running smoothly.

Most machines will have a lever or switch to allow the feed dogs to be dropped.

If it is possible to “drop” the feed dogs on the machine, then do this and clean around the bobbin race once again. Don’t forget to re-set the feed dogs once finished otherwise the fabric will not be pulled through under the foot when you start sewing.

The other maintenance item that I check regularly is the needle.  The accepted practice is that a needle should only be used for 8 hours of stitching. This is a good starting point but sometimes you will need to change the needle more frequently. Listen to the action as you stitch, if the needle is making a lot of noise it may have become blunt. Some fabrics such as batiks, battings such as cotton and projects with lots of thick seams can wear the needle point at a faster rate.

Specialist machine needles are available for quilting, embroidery & fine fabrics

In the scheme of things the cost of a new needle, or a specialist needle for a particular job, is nothing when compared to the cost of your precious sewing machine.

A little bit of preventative maintenance is always better than costly repairs.

Capturing those special Quilty photos

Our applique sampler, made with Cotton Mako' Ne 40 (find the pattern in the Freebies Box)

Most people carry a camera around with them everyday, as part of their mobile phone, so it is easy to take a photo of anything that catches your eye. However, as I discovered when I first started taking photos of my quilts, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the “instant” photo will show clear quilting lines, or accurate colours.

Most of us have at least one camera in our collection.

 I am not an expert photographer, but I thought that I would share a few tricks & tips that I‘ve collected that have helped me improve the quality of the digital photos that I take of textiles and threads for my website. 

One of the first things I discovered was that natural light was much better than using the camera flash. When a flash is used it tends to flatten the stitching line so that the beautiful texture, that makes the quilt, is lost and the quilting is difficult to see.

If you want very clear images of the stitching, turn off the flash & try using the macro setting on your camera (this is the setting that has the tulip symbol)

When taking photos using the macro setting, or taking close ups,  a tripod makes a big difference as it holds the camera very still, giving the image a sharp focus.

Cotton Mako' Ne 40 colour 4653 used to fill the leaf with thread painting

Before actually taking the photo, take a critical look through the view finder to check behind the item being photographed. Remove any of the distracting “stuff” and set up a backdrop that will enhance the featured object. Sometimes this may mean a neutral coloured wall and other times it may mean a “stage” setting to create a story.

Yummy, a colourful basket of Aurifil threads

I thought that this was also an opportune time to remind you about our Aurifil photo competition.   Entries don’t close until 28 February 2011 so there is still plenty of time to send in a photo.

Download the guide lines from the Green box to the left of the screen.

Next time I will talk about editing the photos for use on the internet. Your photography hints are always welcome so please send us a comment.

Carry your Tissues in Style- Free Pattern To Download from Green Freebies Box!

This month we focus on the Aurifil 40 wt thread. I always consider this thread as my ‘universal’ thread. I use this thread for my dressmaking and most of my machine patchwork piecing.
I have decided to make a small, cute cover for the tissues I carry in my handbag. The fabrics are bright and easy to find amongst my overly crowded bag.

40Weight(green spool) is the perfect thread for everyday sewing

The bright orange decorative stitching adds a bit of fun to a very easy project.

Decorative stitching makes your holder special

You might like to stitch several rows of fancy designs or perhaps the initials of someone special for a personal touch.
Make several for your friends and relatives. They fit easily into lunch boxes, school bags and briefcases.

Fast! Fun! Finished!

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