Saturday, February 18, 2012

Reawakening my Mojo

About 2 years ago, I practiced drawing feathers until I was drawing them in my sleep.  I felt pretty comfortable with the shapes and was developing some speed and confidence...until I tried quilting the feathers on real projects.  Sample sandwiches went well, but actual quilts became so frustrating.  Often, when I came to seam intersections, my thread would shred.  Not all the time, just often enough to be unexpected and unpredictable.  I tried different thread, different thread companies, different needles, rethreading the machine and bobbin, but still encountered this problem.  I really lost my motivation.

I am so thankful that SewCalGal has initiated this challenge because I feel my passion for quilting returning.  I've read other posts from people who have encountered the same problem.  I think it is a matter of finding the smallest needle that makes the smallest holes, but will still accommodate the size of the thread.  My practice sandwiches for all future quilts need to include seams if I'm truly going to test thread, needle, and tension.

Throughout the month of February, I've been practicing feathers the Diane Gaudynski way.  I've really had to relearn what I had practiced so much just a couple years ago.  Here are some samples.

This last image is the one I chose to try with a fabric sandwich.  My first sandwich includes fabric with a bit of a pattern, which made seeing the thread difficult.  I used bottom line thread for the top and bobbin.

Some of the single feathers are too small.  They end up competing with the size of the echo background quilting.

I decided to use this sampler quilt as a practice sandwich and quilted feathers in some of the triangular spaces.  I used the same bottom line thread I had used in the small practice piece.  The thread shred a couple times at seams.  I changed my needle from a size 70 to an 80.  It seems to have helped so far.  I'm determined not to give up.

I decided to try quilting with silk thread.  This sample uses 100 weight silk on top and bottom line in the bobbin.  I really like the look of the silk thread.  It has a slight sheen.  I had some tension difficulties that still need to be worked out.  I need to really loosen the top tension.  This picture was taken before I added feathers to the other side of the spines at the top.

I had marked the spine with the white chalk pencil by Fons and Porter.  I had a lot of difficulty seeing through my plastic and metal darning foot.  I'd like to get another and attack the plastic with a drill.  I wish Janome would make an open-toed foot for this machine.

The bottom right plume should have been longer to look more appealing, so I think I'll add to it.  I can draw individual feathers that nestle nicely into a curve at the end of the spine, but I still need so much more practice with thread.  There are some pretty deformed shapes here and there.  Knowing what to improve is half the battle.

Here's a close up.

Thank you for such a fun month SewCal Gal and Diane Gaudynski and for reawakening my Mojo.


  1. Absolutely wonderful! I bought silk thread and was wondering what size needle and what tension I should try. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks Mary Ann. I've really enjoyed SewCalGal's challenge so far. When I used Bottom Line thread for the top and the bobbin, I tried the size 70 needle. It was fine on a sandwich but not on a quilt with seams. I changed to a size 80 and kept that one in when I tried the silk thread. I probably could have gone back down to the 70 for the 'whole cloth' type of quilting since the silk is 100 weight and there are no seams. My tension started at about 2.5 and I slowly lowered it to 2. I still get a little bobbin thread popping up when I change directions. I think it could go even lower. This has been such a great learning process.

  2. These are absolutely beautiful! Hope to be able to do this myself someday. Your insights have helped. Thank you!

  3. I think you did a wonderful job! Thanks for sharing your ideas on how to remedy the thread shredding problem. I had never considered practicing my feathers over seams. That's a great idea.

  4. There were so many entries I am going back to look at some I hadn't viewed. Yours are gorgeous!!!