Sunday, September 23, 2012

My Quilting Table

By Kaelyn Angelfoot

Its been three weeks since my last post, so I've got a lot to update. I did start putting together my quilting table. Its pretty straight forward. I was inspired by one of the quilting websites I was on, (sorry, if I find the link again I will post it.)

What you will need to convert a home sewing machine to a quilting table are:

1. Insulation foam board (found at any home improvement store such as Home Depot or Lowes)

2. Electric bread knife (to cut the foam)

3. Clear plastic vinyl, found at JoAnns in the home decor/utility fabrics section.

This is the desk I'm converting to a sewing table. Its your standard student desk and it used to hold my computer. It won't be big enough to do a large quilt, but it should suffice for the projects I have currently. The surface is approximately 18" x 36".  I measured the depth of the sewing machine face at 3" so I purchased one sheet of 1.5" deep foam insulation.

The foam board is sold in 8' x 4' sheets, so if you pick some up make sure you have a way to get it home. I had to break the board in half along the score down the center and transport it as two 8' x 2' sheets.

When I got it home, I used the bread knife to cut one half sheet into two 2' x 3' panels. The excess 6" will stick off the back of the desk to give me a little extra surface area.

Next, I placed the sewing machine on the right side of the foam board, approximately where I wanted it to sit, and traced & cut out the outline of the machine's footprint. If I did anything wrong here, it was that the machine was set too far back on the table. Make sure it is a comfortable distance from the edge of the desk or you may find yourself overreaching when you quilt.

I layered the second piece of foam board underneath the first and traced the cutout. The I removed that nifty little sliding thingy on the left side of my machine and traced the new footprint onto the second piece of board, inside the original markings. I put X's where I did not want to cut.

Be careful with the bread knife. By the time I was done, mine was overheating and almost too hot to hold.

And, the end result:

Now I have a very large and even surface to quilt on! However, its not complete. The foam board was slightly warped, so I need to DAP the two layers together and put some weights on them, the end result will hopefully be a flat surface. Once that is completed, I will cover the entire thing with the clear high-gloss vinyl that I picked up. The vinyl is important because it allows the quilt to glide across the surface of the table with minimum friction. I also really don't like the pink, so I may try to cover it with some white or neutral toned fabric underneath the vinyl.

Total cost for supplies: $35ish. Plexiglass extension tables sold online and in stores are $50 - $100.  Add a custom built extension table designed to your machine's specifications and we're talking $150 - $300 depending on size. (There is a company that does this if you are interested.) All in all, I think my version is a bargain. And I still have enough foam board left over to double my surface area should that become necessary.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Quilting Trials and Tribulations

By Kaelyn Angelfoot

I almost have my kaleidoscope quilt top completely pieced together. It is still lacking a complete border, but that should be remedied shortly.

It occurred to me that despite having semi-decent skills at piecing quilt tops together, I have very little experience with the actual quilting process. So I put together some old scraps from half finished projects, and I plan to practice free motion quilting on them. The first is the remaining kaleidoscope quilt blocks assembled, and the second was originally going to be a pillow case.

Doll quilt from kaleidoscope scraps

I still need to finish adding a border onto this quilt before I can layer and quilt it.

The other one is purple, and I've already started quilting it, but I ran into several snags. First, I choose a complicated pattern, because I have epic faith in my abilities. Here is the stencil I created from an image I found online.

Star quilt stencil
Pretty cool, huh? Its going on a strip-pieced quilt made up of various purple material. One of the fabrics used has a shooting star pattern.

Star doll quilt, in progress

 Which brings us to problem numero uno. My magic blue washout marker only shows up decently on the pale lavender fabric and the dark purple fabric, making it very difficult to determine where to stitch next. I plan on combating this by using a white or red chalk pencil to retrace what is illegible.

Close up of not-so-great quilting
Problem number two is that this pattern really requires a free motion quilting style, as opposed to the walking-foot straight stitching I was attempting to complete. There are a large number of starts, stops, and turns with this pattern and that fact coupled with the hard to see lines made my attempts at quilting extremely time consuming, very frustrating, and the end result was not pretty. There are wavy lines, skipped stitches, and crummy-looking starts and stops with overlapping stitches.

I have gotten my hands on a free-motion quilting foot and spent several hours watching how to videos on quilting. What I learned was that I need to take a step back and rethink my sewing set up, because quilting is vastly different from sewing garments. I also need my setup to be easily removable, since I still plan on sewing large quantities of Dagorhir garb in the near future. I have several ideas which I can hopefully put together this weekend.

Stay tuned! More updates to come.