Two Serger Tips

How long have I owned a serger? It’s gotta be close to 25 years. Most of the serger sewing I do works perfectly fine and I’m happy with it. However, when I need to sew in the round (like when attaching the neckband to a t-Shirt, or at the bottom edge of pants), when I stitch past the place where I started, I end up trimming the edge of the beginning stitches. It annoys me – I usually end up zig-zagging across that small part of the edge. The other day, I figured out how to solve that problem (although why it’s taken me 25 years to do that, I don’t know!).

Normal Knife Position

This is the normal cutting position with the knife blade (upper right corner) in the up position beside the presser foot (and the small white knob on the left with no writing).

Knife-down Position

I realized the other day that when I reached the place where I started stitching in the round all I had to do was lower the knife to the down/lock position (below the presser foot, in line with the needle plate, with the small knob on the left showing “lock”), and here’s what I get:

Round Serged Seam Join

No trimmed stitches! I can connect the join and not worry about that centimetre of trimmed stitches in front of where I stopped serging! (The trimming happens because the cutting knife is in front of the needles and trims the seam edge before it gets sewn – in the round it catches and trims the already serged edge.)

I have a second tip. The other day, I was helping a friend set up her new coverstitch machine (that’s a sewing machine that only does a three thread coverstitch – just look at the hem on your t-Shirt – that’s a three thread coverstitch). Threading the needles is straightforward. Threading the looper (on her machine, that’s to the left side) is not intuitive and involves some very awkward threading from back-to-front on the looper itself.

I pointed out to her that she only ever needed to thread the machine once, then she never have to thread that looper again – just cut the thread at the spool, tie on the new coloured thread, make sure she’s raised the presser foot to release the tension on the tension disks, then pull on the old looper thread bringing the new thread through the entire thread path.

It’s the same with a serger – cut the looper threads (on a serger there are two loopers) near the spool, tie on the new colour thread, raise the presser foot, pull the new thread through the machine. I actually do that with all four threads even though I’ve not figured out how to tied a tiny knot that will go through the needle eye – I just cut the needle threads when the new thread reaches the eye and re-thread the needles with the new colour. I use an overhand knot (which I pull snug) – I’ve tried reef knots but they’re no smaller.

Threading the needle paths on a serger or coverstitch machine from spool to needle is easy; it’s the loopers that can be complicated. Tying the new threads on and pulling them through is an easy fix.

Crazy Quilt 6″x6″ Sample

Experiment – Crazy Quilt 6″ x 6″

A quick try at “crazy quilt”. I learned several things with this experiment:

  • Leave out the batting, it isn’t necessary
  • Use light tear-away stabilizer instead
  • Be sure to save modified stitches as I go along so I don’t have to recreate them
  • The centre element should have a more irregular pentagonal shape
  • Cover area with fewer fabrics
  • Use brighter/lighter fabrics
  • Decorative stitch each strip as I go (much easier to make starts and stops exact)

In fact, I need to do another experiment – this time creating the entire block in the embroidery hoop! I’ve never done that but I have several block possibilities that create crazy quilt blocks as embroideries.

In any case, this is another possibility for the set of 6″x 6″ blocks!

With this block, I trimmed it to 6.5″ square, then added 2.5″ muslin strips to the sides to frame it. That will work. As soon as the 6″ mounted canvas arrives, I will try trimming and adding border strips in some colour or other so the sides of the pieces are uniform – that might be where the black comes in – the sides of the pieces could be finished in black fabric.

Afternoon

Crazy Quilt – Created In-The-Hoop

This block I created in the embroidery hoop using an embroidery design I had in my collection of embroideries. I like the shape of the central pentagon better – as I carry on – if I carry on – to create a series of these, I need to begin with an irregular central shape.

However, doing this in the hoop isn’t straightforward – the embroidery is set up to work with raw edges – the built in basting secures each piece but doesn’t take into account that the first basting seam needs to stop, the fabric turned, then the tacking to continue. In addition, I had to enlarge the embroidery in order to get a 6″ finished block – this resulted in the embroideries being larger than they want to be. Finally, the decorative stitching wasn’t done as the block developed but after all the fabric had been basted.

So, I don’t intend to carry on in the hoop – but this exercise was useful since I learned about

  • working in a clockwise order
  • trimming my fabric after each addition
  • leaving out the batting, using tear away interfacing instead, works well for the neatness of the stitches
  • and I still want to do decorative stitching as each fabric piece is added

Two New Tops

I made another knit top after finding this striped cotton knit in my stash – the last cotton knit in that drawer. I added a bit of flare because the knit was light with a soft drape. However, the fabric was difficult to work with, I made sure I had stretch needles in my serger, my quilter and the coverstitch machines, but the fabric edges curled forcing me to pin closely at the edges in order to have the seam edge lay flat! I’ve gotten very used to not having to pin – taking time to pin the edges practically doubled my sewing time.

And it’s a very warm day today so I decided to wear the heirloom top. I didn’t realize I’d set it up with a slightly dropped shoulder (that’s because I drafted the pattern from my other lightweight cotton top which has a dropped shoulder) but if I don’t say anything about it, nobody but an experienced sewer would notice it. It will be comfortable on this hot day. (This is the best of several photos I took – I didn’t manage to smile in this one which was the clearest image of the shirt!).

Huntington Point Beach

Huntington Point Beach

The piece is finished — well, almost. I think I want to take apart the bottom right corner and see if I can straighten it just a wee bit. I may not be able to, but I think I have to try.

I’m pleased with how the work turned out. You have the impression of the dried seaweed blown against the driftwood log and the dried grasses on the gravel beach itself. You can see the headlands recede into the distance with the sun illuminating the top of the nearest ridge.

The colours in the piping bring out the blues and golds from the image and the very dark navy frame lightens it. From a distance, the log glows because it’s sun bleached.

My next job is to make some adjustments to a beaded lace wedding dress — take up the shoulder straps a tiny bit, replace the skintone mesh in the front cleavage slit with a longer piece (bringing the two edges a smidgeon closer together), finally cut the train from the two underskirts leaving just the lace and tulle train at the back and hemming the underskirts. That’s for tomorrow.

Progress…

Huntington Point Beach

I’ve spent the entire afternoon trying to piece this image. The distant background – the hills leading down to the bay weren’t so difficult, but trying to get the foreground assembled in some meaningful way has been difficult. What I see in the foreground is a lot of thread painting to simulate the grasses and seaweed on the beach; I’m not trying to emulate the gravel beach entirely with the fabrics.

David (and the log) are still paper, but it’s almost time to print him on fabric and carefully cut him out so I can add what’s needed to the foreground.

The surf is a bit of lace but it will still need to be overstitched to make it more realistic (I need to stitch some surf in each of the inlets, as well – same with the water – I need to stitch some horizontal wind lines to suggest movement in the bay.

Back to work.

Back To Wall Art

Huntington Point NS

I’ve time to get another wall art piece made before the exhibit in Parrsboro at the end of July through to August 19. I went through a bunch of photos I’ve set aside in a wall art folder on my desktop and decided to try this one – David walking on a driftwood log at Huntington Point Beach (West Hall’s Harbour/Simpson Road) taken Nov 1 2007.

My plan is to make a 12″ x 9″ image by piecing the background – sky, Bay of Gundy, hills, beach, seaweed – then printing the image on lawn fabric of David on the log (enlarging it about 115%), adding a fusible web, fussy cutting David and the log, and fusing the cutout to the background.

I started yesterday gathering fabric scraps from my many boxes of small fabric pieces. I now have a pile of stuff sitting on my cutting table. I hope to get to it tomorrow.

As you can see, I’ve sketched out the basic elements of the image on a muslin backing fabric. I won’t need large pieces of fabric to fill the area. I’ll start by trimming the scraps to an approximate size, adding fusible web to the back, then start to assemble the panel.

I’m also toying with another idea.

Hawaiian Tiki on Big Island

I took this photo at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park a gazillion years ago! I was fascinated by the Tiki on the beach there. So obviously connected to the totem traditions of Canada’s west coast Haida people. I have this photo hanging in my sewing studio. It’s in portrait view. I think these two wooden sculptures would make a great focus for a coastal landscape view with them off-centre on the left. I’m just trying to figure out how to sharpen the image so I can highlight the demarcations with stitching.

Another photo I keep coming back to is the one of Charlie’s first visit to a beach when he was maybe a year and a half.

Charlie at the Beach

I made a wall art piece from this photo in 2017 using appliqué and thread painting but I’ve always wanted to extract him from the photo and do the piece again.

The problem is the photo I have was send in small format from his dad’s iPhone and I can’t enlarge it and get any sort of sharp image! I’ve played with the photo endless times to no avail. I went so far as to call his dad, my nephew, and asked him to try tracking down the original. No luck, probably long gone. I may have to enlist some help from the iPhone Photography School people to see whether anybody can help me out.

For now, it’s David at Huntington Road beach and possibly the Tiki.

Night Sky

Night Sky – Quilt Top

Here is the completed Night Sky quilt. I finished quilting it yesterday – it wasn’t a simple job because I’d decided to quilt on the diagonal within the flow of the strips which meant I had to keep pinning fabric strips to the edges so I could hoop the pinned layers.

Quilting Detail

I set up a swirl embroidery in two columns, used a variegated thread which blended with the various colours of the strips. I started at the strip end, changing to navy thread when I reached the dark fabric (often in the middle of a quilting run). A fiddly job, to say the least. However, I didn’t want the light thread to interfere with the speckled effect of the navy background. In some sections I had no choice but to carry the light thread into the navy but I hauled out my handy permanent navy marker and darkened the stitching. That worked well.

This was an edge-to-edge design which actually matched up very nicely – I could successfully place the next design and have it line up with the ends of the previous one. The joins are barely noticeable – I can pick out a few but most are perfect alignments.

Night Sky – Quilt Back

I widened the backing by creating a panel from scraps leftover from the Poppy Field quilt inserting a long batik strip of a rather wild palm leaf batik. In the photo it looks black but it’s much more colourful than that with purples, pale greens, pinks which blend with the other small batik samples.

My goal with this quilt was to showcase the beautiful fabrics in the curated set from the jellyroll. In the end I did have to add a few other strips on order to have enough to make the quilt long enough. Finished size: 47″ x 60″ – a good lap size; great for a wall hanging on a large wall!

Re-Vision

Reworked Quilt Top

I was suddenly awake at 7:00 this morning (I normally wake at 8:00). Got out of bed and went to work (before going to the pool at 8:45 as always on a Friday morning).

First, I removed the narrow pumpkin sashing from the two “straight” sides. Then I carefully unstitched the three navy bits in the bottom right corner and replaced each with fabric that blended with the main strip in each location. Now there is no jarring bits of navy in that corner.

So, from “Poppy Field 2”, I can name this piece “Night Sky” which brings out the golden speckle in the navy fabric and implies a city scape below.

I think I’m happier with that. Next on to coming up with an idea for piecing the back.

Poppy Field 2 – An Idea

This afternoon I went through my fabric stash looking for 1/2 metre cuts which I could use for narrow sashing. I came up with five possibilities. I gathered up the panel and the fabric pieces and marched down to Deb to ask for her 2¢.

We started with the panel on her dining room table – after auditioning the five fabrics at the edge of the panel against the remaining Ruby Star Society navy Speckled we settled on a light beige Stonehenge with soft blue in it.

We moved the panel to the floor to better judge the fabrics – that’s when I had the idea to offset the panel and instead of sashing and a border, to “sash” with large triangles on the outside.

To visualize the rotated panel better, we taped the new outer dimensions with masking tape. The mitres are less jarring at this angle – now I needed to do something with the straight sides. I thought about opening seams and inserting several more navy Speckled elements at the straight edge – that would break up the flow of the piece, however.

The idea I think I’ve settled on is to sash the two straight edges using the pumpkin Grunge – that will create a finished look on those two sides; then join the filling triangles directly onto the other two sides. Rotating the panel 10°/15° changes the impact of the “ragged” edge of the strips – those joins become much less jarring; their 45° angles fight less with the new outer edge of the panel. I have just enough fabric to make this happen if I cut my triangles from the length-of-fabric!

I still plan on quilting on the diagonal – 3-4 strips at a time. I now need to spend some time thinking about what kind of embroidery/quilting will give me the continuing flow from the colour into the navy I’m seeing in my head!

I don’t know what to do with the quilt back yet – I will incorporate whatever navy Speckled remnants I have but there won’t be much. And I don’t have many scraps remaining from the jelly roll strips I started with. It’s too soon to worry about it – the “problem” will percolate and something will pop into my head when need an idea.

Poppy Field 2

Piecing of the Strips Finished

The strip piecing is finally finished. I have called the quilt “Poppy Field 2” because that was the name on the batch of strips. I will have to come up with another name for this effort.

Looking at the image, seeing the top on the floor, I can see immediately what I have to attempt next – a similar piecing but with the strips coming from a single point in one corner. That will involve grading each and every strip in order to generate the quarter circle full of radiating strips! I have more jelly roll collections in my stash so I could certainly use one to try out the idea.

Back to this quilt top. The current size is 47″ x 60″. I think I want to add a narrow 1/2″ sashing in some contrasting colour then complete the top with a 3″-3 1/2″ border which will make the quilt top something like 53/54″ wide and 66/67″ long. Colour and fabric for the sashing is a decision for another day when I get back to this. For now, I have to say I’m reasonably happy with how the piecing has turned out.

One aspect of the piecing I’m not completely happy with is the mitred joins – when you see the quilt from the corner the angles are interesting:

straight on I think the mitred joins are awkward. My intention is to quilt along the strips (on the diagonal) 4 rows at a time using variegated thread and bringing the design and colour across the dark blue background. If I come up with a suitable design those mitres will be overstitched and I may be able to create the illusion of a starburst.

Now to start exploring designs to use for quilting the project.