Friday, May 22, 2009

Workroom Setup

I thought you might like to see the space where Millhouse is set up. The workroom was once a branch of The Bank of South Australia, and it was built around 1875. The building is in the centre of our little town, those big double doors lead out onto the main street. We use a side door for visitors though, we would have no privacy at all with the main doors open. The large windows are wonderful, they let in so much natural light that we seldom need to turn on the lights in the daytime. We have shelves behind Millhouse to hold customer quilts in boxes and bags, and the rolls of batting are stored there too. When we need to cut batting we lay the roll on the table at the back of the machine and slide the scissors along the aluminium channel to make a straight cut. We have several vintage clothes airers that hold the next quilts we want to work on, with their backings prepared. It helps to look at a top and get ideas, while working on whatever is on the machine.

To the right is our sewing area, we have two machines set up, one for binding and one for simple piecing. I collect vintage sewing machines, so there's no lack of machines to sew on.Even our carpet is patchwork; we bought 5 remnants and stuck them together to cover this large area. I love the old floral carpet, it's about 30 years old, and so many of our customers recognise the pattern when they come in. It must have been very popular years ago.

We have zippered leaders on Millhouse, it was a necessity as the two of us share the machine. Mereth works on customer quilts during the day, and I work on our quilts or develop patterns once she stops work for the day. It's great to be able to zip quilts on and off. And if we ever have one of those 'Doh!' moments and pin the backing to the wrong roller it's the work of seconds to zip it off and put it on the right roller.

There's another reason why we like the zippers. One of the first quilts we did was a huge candlewick quilt, heavily embroidered, and with thick poly wadding. We did all the ditch-stitching, and had the quilt on just the two rollers, going back and forth to fill in the blocks. As we got back towards the start of the quilt, there was so much bulk on the backing roller that the embroidery thread caught on the box that hangs off the bottom of the carriage.There's not a lot of space between the roller and the metal box; it was a heart-stopping moment, to realise that we could have ripped a customer quilt. Now, as soon as we have stablised the quilt and it's on two rollers, we zip it off the backing roller and onto the top roller. I don't ever want to risk damaging a quilt again.

And this is how we pin on, taught to us by the legendary Kaye Brown, who is our big sister in quilting. The pins stay in the leaders all the time; when we pin on we just slide the tip of the pin out, lay the material in place and slide the pin right back in. I like doing it this way, as I never have to worry about spacing pins any more, or having a huge pincushion full of pins near at hand. They're right where they need to be.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Simple Pantograph Designs

One of the things we're involved in right now is making quilts for the bushfire survivors in Victoria. You can read about it on my other blog, and on Mereth's. And there is another blog here..Obviously these have to be quilted quickly, to get the quilts out of here and over to the people who need them. I've been using some of my really simple pantographs for these, with great success. The one below was made with scraps given to me last year by Terry Elverd, a fellow Statler owner in Western Australia. I felt rather guilty that I'd accepted them, as I have so much fabric already. It's so nice to be able to pass her generosity on to others who really need it.

When frame quilting systems for domestic machines were released I was asked to come up with a range of very simple, small designs that would work with the limited throat space. Some machines only have 3" of quilting space, so the designs had to be very uncluttered and easy to follow. I put together a pattern pack of 24 make-your-own pantograph sheets, and they were supplied with the Husqvarna frame system for a year or two. I have two of these simple design packs now, Pretty Simple, and Super Simple. My sister Meredith has one, Sweet & Simple, which is the one now included with the Husqvarna frame system.

They are easy to enlarge or reduce, which makes them very versatile, as you can't do that with a standard panto; on the mastercopies of each pattern are registration lines that allow you to align the sheets perfectly. Before I had a roll printer of my own I tested all my pantos by printing them out this way, so I could stitch them out and fine tune the design before sending it out to the printer.

I had a shortarm machine in the beginning, and I realised that these designs, enlarged from the original 3" to 5", were perfect for the larger system as well. And now I use them on my Statler, still at the 5 - 6" size, because they are ideal for those customer quilts where simple quilting is required.

They quilt up very quickly, which is such a bonus when dealing with large quilts, and leave the quilt wonderfully soft and drape-able. Many of our customers prefer this sort of quilting to the more elaborate designs. It can be priced very competitively too, because of the ease of stitching and speed, and that is a big factor for customers these days. And at $70 Australian, or approx $48US, it's 24 pantos for less than the price of 4.

They are great for sashing designs too, especially the ones which can be used as P2P designs with the Statler. There aren't specific corners to use in borders, but I have plans for accompanying blocks, so the corners will be included in that.Dandy, from Super Simple

Saxon, from Super Simple

Pattern Links

Aussie paper patterns
Pretty Simple
Super Simple
Sweet & Simple

USA paper patterns

Pretty Simple

Sweet & Simple

Super Simple

Digital patterns

Super Simple

Sweet & Simple

Sunday, May 17, 2009

My sister, Meredith England, and I design quilting patterns, and quilt for others using our Gammil Statler. On this blog we'd like to share ideas and solutions to quilting problems, talk about how we choose designs for quilts, how we overcome problems, and how we design our patterns. It will be an advertisement for our patterns, no apologies, but that's just one part of it. Whenever we are confronted with a problem and overcome it, it's good to tell others about the experience. When we invent and use a pattern succesfully, it's a good thing to share so that others can have access to the same pattern. And there are longarm quilters out there, who may be too busy to network with local groups, but might enjoy keeping in touch with us and seeing what we get up to.

Meredith and I have been talking about setting up this blog since the arrival of our Statler, Millhouse, 18 months ago. There is so much to learn when quilting for others, and even though we have both quilted for more than 30 years there are still surprises. Just when we're about to get complacent something crops up that we've never seen before, or challenges us in new ways. That's why quilting never gets dull.