Spiral Eye Needles are The BEST Invention EVER!

Pam turner creating her prototype Spiral Eye Needles
Pam turner creating her prototype Spiral Eye Needles

Spiral Eye Needles are The BEST Invention EVER!

I found these spiral eye needles about two years ago and I have fallen deeper in love with them every time I use one. Pam Turner had an idea and invested her life savings in it because she felt it was so good. I agree with her. 

Her easy threading needles blow the Clover top loading (not-so-easy) needles completely away. Pam’s needles are ‘side’ loading.. get that? Side loading. That means the thread goes in from the side. The advantage is the thread isn’t pulled out of the end slot when going through the fabric because THERE IS NO END SLOT. This easy threader stays threaded. 

I use this most of all for burying quilt threads on my long arm. But I multiple size of her spiral eye needles and use them for embroidering, beading and other quickie things. 

The only minor problem I have found is when embroidering if I have the side slot turned towards the fabric and pull the needle through with pressure. In this situation, once in a while the fabrics weave can get caught in the slot. The advantage of not having to strain my eyes when threading far outweighs this. It’s easiliy solved by spinning the needle so the slot is not pulled against the fabric as I stitch.

As I get older, my eyes switch more slowly from distance vision to close up. Threading needles has become harder and takes longer because of it. The Spiral Eye Needle actually is faster to thread even when my eyes are focusing well. I’ve given a few of them as gifts. 

These aren’t the most inexpensive needles you will ever buy, but they are the cheapest if you count the amount of time you spend threading and if your vision is a little bit off they will save you even more time.

I had a professional longarm friend tell me that the spiral eye was too expensive for her to use. I asked her how long it took her to bury threads… 10 minutes to an hour depending on thread changes… Most pros get paid by the square inch. If you could cut the thread burying time to 25% of what you spend now… how many more quilts can you get done. This is a cheap investment for a pro. And for someone like me… it’s a godsend for my eyes, sanity, and patience. 

 

Plus I use one of those little strawberries with sharpening grit. My favorite two year old needle is just as good and sharp as the day I got it. 

Note: These are photos from Pam’s website http://www.spiraleyeneedles.com/

I love darn good yarn

I love darn good yarn

This is a wonderful display of capitalism working at it’s best. A really fun group of girls building a business that helps artists find rare materials and that also helps women in poor countries get their goods to market. Also it’s green, keeping awesome stuff out of landfills. It’s genuinely helping everyone from the earth, to disadvantaged women, to the owners of the company and even the artists who use the materials they import to the U.S. YES!

Detailed Information about the Free Form Table Runner Class Feb 22, 1014

The Free Form Table Runner class being offered Feb 22, 2014 from 10 am to 2 pm. at the Texas Art League Gallery. Sign up at the Gallery. There will be a break for lunch, you can bring your lunch or some students may wish to work on their project so we arrange for lunch from the Coffee Shop, or perhaps a taco run. Iced tea and water available during the class.

Click here for PDF to
save and download.
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For more detailed information, Please click on this image for a pdf you can save and print. This flyer will also be available in the Texas Art League Gallery; and, in the Watermelon Shop next door if the Gallery is closed.

The Gallery has limited hours but is open most afternoons Tuesday – Saturday. They would really appreciate more volunteers who would like docent at the gallery so that it may open more hours of the day.

The Texas Art League Gallery is at at 509 E Davis Street, Luling, Texas 78648.

Freeform Table Runner is easy peasy fun! My first artful quilty teaching will be in February!

I’ve put my body where my mouth is and have volunteered to teach a fabric art class. February 22, 2014 will be my big debut. I wanted something that anyone can do, something quilty, and something fun. What to do?

I have so many ideas but some needed a little experience. I tossed around the idea of a fused art piece and that is a real possibility because you don’t have to sew if you don’t want to. The idea of doing self portraits using fabric, fibers and other stuff crossed my mind. But that is probably a 3 or 4 meetings type of thing. A fast piece applique using Rose Hughes technique is on the list for sure. Finally I settled on doing something that looks hard, but really isn’t and can be done in 3-4 hours. We are going to make.. drum roll please… a wonderfully wavy free form table runner.

Lembo is a great sport and volunteered to be my crash test dummy!
If my He-man Texas Cowboy husband who has never ever sewn on a machine before can do this, you can too!
I needed a crash test dummy to try out my class. I wouldn’t want to get myself or my students in over my head. I needed a never ever sewed in their life ultra beginner. After cajoling and promising delicious food I finally talked my cowboy horse loving Texas he-man husband into it. He had never ever touched a sewing machine in his life before. Perfect!

I set a timer and we started. And.. Viola! He did it! If I add a half an hour for setting up and settling down, the class should do this in three and half hours.

Below are pictures of the he-man’s first quilt and couple of other samples, two use batiks and the third uses a wild design and some textured prints. He wanted red, bright red. I like his fabric choices a LOT!

I suggest choosing one focus fabric, something super bright, crazy, different, or big print. And choose the rest as more solid, or finer textured to go with it. That kind of combo seems to work out best. But there are no rules in this class for fabric choices. If you love it… do it!

What makes this so easy?
No straight lines! You don’t have to sew straight.

What makes this so fun?
Every student will make a unique artful free form table runner just their own. Never-Ever’s and experienced beginners will all be successful.

This is free form quilting… easy, no rules, no straight lines, no quilt police looking over your shoulder!

What to bring?
Yourself ready to have fun, learn something new, and take home a wonderful unique artful piece for your home or a gift.

Fabric You will need one piece 15-16 inches wide and 5 pieces of fabric about 6 inches wide cut selvage to selvage (selvages are the edges of the fabric, not the cut edge, this will be about 42-45 inches long).

Optional: for a $10 fee, I can provide a kit of five fabrics for you. Color choices limited to stock on hand. Browns, pinks, blues, greens all batiks.

If you choose to bring your own, keep in mind that many similar printed fabrics side by side may get lost in each other. For success choose one really wild crazy fabric and pair it up with teensy prints or solids that complement it. Batiks or hand dyed fabric are wonderful for this type of free form craziness. Suggestion, choose one really wild or colorful fabric that will standout from the rest. These are only suggestions, if you have a wild crazy idea, just go for it!

Thread is necessary and we will have neutral and black on hand. If you want to use thread to match your fabric, pick a thread which will go with all 5 fabrics you have chosen.

Batting is the stuff that goes inside the quilt to make it have shape and body. We want a thin batting that will take 8-10 inches between quilting stitches. This will hold together better. I suggest Warm and Natural batting or any other that will accept lots of space between stitches. You do not want the all polyester with 3-4 inch between stitches. It will be too puffy for a table runner if you ever wash it, it will puff up.

Sharp Scissors or a Rotary Cutter would be even better. If you have a rotary cutter bring it with a fresh sharp blade. If you don’t know what one is.. that’s okay. Bring scissors, sharp ones. I will have a rotary cutter so you can try it, but the class will have to share if they want to use it.

Sewing Machine If you have a sewing machine in good working order that will stitch a straight stitch and a zigzag stitch, bring it too! Make sure it’s working before class. If you don’t have one, don’t worry, contact me before class and I can arrange to have one available for you (limited to 6 students).

Bobbin filled with thread.

Presser Foot Yes, I forgot to take this vital part of the sewing machine with me to a class once, make sure you have at least the regular straight stitch foot. If you know what a free motion foot is and have used one, bring it. We won’t teach it in class, but you can certainly play around on this project with it.

Except for the cost of supplies, all proceeds from this class will go to the Texas Art League to support their gallery space and future classes.

Example of 5 earth tone batiks used in a freeform table runner
Example of 5 earth tone batiks used in a freeform table runner
Adding a color opposite of the majoriy can really add some spice
Lembo decided to spice it up by choosing a bright red as one of his colors. The red really adds some pop!

(I was asked about fat quarters, if you have them, you will need 7 fat quarters — five for the top of the table runner and two matching for the back. Please cut each of the 5 fat quarters the long way and stitch them into a strip to use in the class. They will make a strip about 9″ x 42″. The last 2 matching fat quarters should be seamed together to make one really fat long strip to be used for the back of the table runner which should end up around 17″ x 42″. Don’t bother to trim these to size. This is freeform and nothing needs to be exact. DO! Remember to cut off the selvage before you assemble them into strips!)

I have cancer, I’m not dead yet!

“I have cancer. I’m not dead yet!” was a statement I made many times before, during and even after my hospital stay at MD Anderson.

I am talking about it now because some of my friends are experiencing major illnesses including cancer and it is difficult for them and their families. I hope by sharing my experience, I may help them and their families avoid some of the unnecessary stresses that we went through.

One of my family members would answer questions for me when my friends or doctors would ask questions to me. It was so bad that I couldn’t choose my food, apparently having cancer meant to some people who I couldn’t make any of my own decisions. I couldn’t talk to my doctor and nurses without being cutoff and interrupted, answers that were not mine nor accurate were given to the doctors. I felt like that family member thought I was helpless and like I was already dead. I was exhausted from the cancer and from the surgery and healing processes going on in my body, and it was even more exhausting trying to overcome the family member to communicate to my nurses, doctors, orderlies. I had my speech, I had my brain and I felt like I was being totally dismissed and disempowered. It was disrespectful of me, it was a horrible feeling. I tried to convey my feelings to that person, and it seemed as if I was heard, but it kept happening. At first I questioned myself… was I sicker that I thought?

Cancer is pretty icky, but seriously my cancer was not infecting my brain speech center and I could talk. So… Nope, I wasn’t incapable of communicating… I was just slow at it because I was tired. I got frustrated of being prevented from communicating. That frustration grew and I got angry. I was not a nice person at times. Then, finally I cried for real, out of the frustration and anger. But anger didn’t help solve anything. If anything it made things worse because I appeared to be “losing it”. That just made my family try harder. It was a vicious cycle.

Finally one day, when that family member was in the bathroom, I called the nurse into my room and asked her to ban that family member. She was a bit incredulous. I asked her to get a social worker or family psychologist and have them come, I wanted to speak to the shrink before that family member could come back into my room. I felt horrible, but I had to so something.

Finally, I was able to explain my feelings and the counselor was able to talk to my family. That family member expressed that they were only trying to care for me, to help me rest, to take the burden off. The counselor tried to help that person realize that even though, Yes, I was tired, and Yes, it took me a little longer to answer the questions, that they were not helping me and that they were not respecting me, they were making me feel totally helpless and frustrated and thus angry. My family felt totally helpless too. They were just trying to help.

Disempowering a patient who wants to take part in their own care can be very harmful for their healing process. You may not know you are doing it.

The counselor explained that behavior was actually making me feel sicker and more helpless than I was. The counselor explained that my family needed to pay attention to me when I told them, “I can answer”, “stop talking for me”, “I have a brain, stop talking. I want to make these decisions”, or “please go away, I want some quiet and privacy”. The counselor helped me realize, I was the one sick and I was the one that needed rest and respect and that it is OKAY to want alone time. And, I could nicely ask for the space, that I shouldn’t feel like I was a bad person because I needed it and finally that it was definitely ok to demand that and get the nurse to help me reinforce it.

This situation really is about you, the patient, and what you need.

The situation got a little better and in the future when I got tired of it all, I politely asked my family to leave my hospital room and they listened more often. Sometimes I asked them to get me a drink, or some food, or something else. Sometimes I simply asked them to go take a break for a while. Usually they respected those requests. But sometimes they ignored my polite verbal indicators that I wanted some space and so once in a while I called the nurse. We got through it.

I believe, we actually built more respect for each other because of it. I don’t doubt they love me. I also believe they finally saw me as an adult for the first time (I was in my late 30’s when this happened). I learned it’s okay to need people and it is also sometimes necessary to get a third-party (like a counselor) involved, when communication breaks down. It can really improve situations. Hospitals have specialists just for these situations. Use them, that is what they are there for. This situation really is not uncommon at all.

Finally working on a pattern I bought so I can learn a new technique

Going to quilt shows always inspires me. People come up with so many ways to do the same thing. At the Houston a International Quilt Show 2012, I saw a beautiful stained glass style wall hanging in a vendors booth. But it was odd, the ” leading had no seams and wasn’t ribbon or bias. It kinda looked like stitch and slash, but was way more refined. The pattern maker, Linda Everhart, was there with her husband selling her patterns talked w me a bit. She also sold me two patterns. The instructions in the patterns were very clear. As often happens, I got home put the patterns away and got busy with other things.

I have been sick for a couple of days and going stir crazy. So I decided to do a quick project but being sick didn’t feel creative enough to start something from scratch. Also didn’t feel like manhandling some big heavy thing that needed some free motion, didn’t feel like standing at the long arm… . I pulled out those patterns I had laying around and found Linda’s Inspired Dreams. Here it is in progress.

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This is basically a whole cloth reverse applique. It’s really fun and fast to do. It’s a combo of fusing and applique as you quilt. You don’t do any sewing at all until you quilt the layers together. Now, for the part of assembly I think is the most fun, stripping off the last of the freezer paper.

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I’ll post a photo after it’s quilted.

Fabric tension is as important as thread or any other tension on a longarm

Tension in the fabric is as important as tension of the thread.

Taut but not too tight is about right. When on the rollers with the rollers locked and ready to quilt, the fabric should deflect with the weight of your hand resting on it, but not much. You don’t want to bounce a quarter like on a soldiers bed, but you do want it firm, it should look smooth.

Sewing techniques can lead to tension issues.

If the fabric is pulled through a machine, or the machine presser foot tension is set differently between seams. The seams created can be “tight” or “loose”. On a quilt back pieced from long lengths to create a stripped effect, sewing improperly can lead to huge problems when mounting on a long arm. I also think sewing on a dry warm day versus a wet humid day can cause some of this. But so can sewing when you are upset with your husband and are working out your tension by escaping to the sewing room. Perhaps even moving from a kitchen table at the beginning of a project to the teensy side table next to the couch can matter (especially when sewing long straight strips.

It matters how you put a bottom on the roller bar

Lots of the issues mentioned above can be overcome by an experienced long-armer. Of course, I didn’t know this being so new to the game. I had to call in my guru, Laurie, who helped me laugh off everything and gave me tips to sort it out. Basically to overcome the tension in the seams issue, it helps to mount a pieced quilt bottom so the longer pieced seams run parallel to the roller bar. If you don’t and the seams roll around the bar, then the fabric essentially double layers wherever the seams overlay each other as they wrap around the bar. This means that the flat areas of fabric can’t lay flat. You’ll end up with tight seams and loose areas between the seams. The loose areas will wrinkle, pucker, and make your life miserable since you will not be able to get even tension on the quilt back.

Simple rule, on pieced backs, mount the back so the long pieced seams are parallel with the roller bar.

Silk dupioni table runner

Buying the silk because it was so lovely before I was entirely sure how to work with it meant that it sat around for a long time. The quilting store in Kerrville Texas sold it to me and a lovely lady told me how to stabilize it. She also told me to treat it just like I wanted to before I sewed it together. She said “get it wet before you sew it”. Well I did, I washed it even. Then I tested it. It’s true that if you do this, the silk won’t spot later if it gets wet. I used woolite to wash it. I abused it, put it in my front loader on delicate. However I didn’t dry it, I did hang and air dry it. I ironed it. And then I stabilized it and sewed all over it. Without stabilizing it would have been a nightmare. But the stabilizer kept it from unraveling that much. This is a Christmas present for my Aunt and my Mom volunteered to bind it. She did a great job with the dupioni strips I cut for her. The binding wasn’t stabilized but I did press it with Best Press to make it stiff and hold together some to prevent raveling. And, yes, I used steam. I also found a blog where a lady advised for silk to do a double French fold binding and to NOT press the fold in the binding at all. That is what we did. I think myself and my Mom will do it this way for all fabrics in the future. It came out beautiful and was so easy to fit and to miter.

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The first traditional quilt I pieced.

Here is a photo of the first quilt I ever pieced. I wanted to learn how to use the advanced features of auto fitting and cross hatching of the Innova Autopilot and I was bored with using el cheapo walmart $2 sale fabric whole cloth practice quilt sandwiches. So I decided to use a quilt top that I had made which I didn’t care if it got messed up. Having been in my closet for about three years, when I got past the initial learning phase with my longarm, I thought that my first piecing should be my first long arming too (especially since it wouldn’t bother me if I messed it up.) While pretty colors, this color combo just isn’t me. And neither is the calico print type of fabric. I had also screwed up in cutting and had to substitute some of the fabric (the aqua squares). So, I had never bothered to finish it by quilting the top to batting and a back. I bought the quilt pattern and kit on sale, because I wanted to learn how to piece and this looked kinda intermediate in difficulty. Turns out the directions were great and so it was pretty easy to make. It was from a kit put together at The Quilt Haus in New Braunfels, Texas. The pattern is Starshine by Creative Sewlutions. It is also the most difficult quilt that I quilted on my Innova Longarm so far.

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I am so not the Queen of Organization, but this organizer rocks!

20130924-234448.jpgI used to, well I still do, keep scores of thread cones in baskets. I love thread almost as much as I love fabric. I always had a problem keeping tack of all the threads currently being used on the three or four projects that I seem to jump between. Until now –drum roll please–I have found the most awesome cone thread holder in the world. Yep! I think I have.

I use those 3000 meter spools from Isacord, Aurifil, Superior, Sulky, Floriani, and a few others, so the run of the mill thread holders for those dinky spools just wouldn’t do. ROM Woodworking of Modesto, California, is making some of the nicest oak thread holders I’ve ever seen and now am using. I bought the Ultimate Felicia Thread Holder. It is both free standing or wall hanging. So it is easily moved around your workspace Or put away on the wall. It can also hold your basic larger rulers and cutting matt in slots on the back of it. And, it holds 96 spools of thread. The thread holder rods are thicker than the ones on those mass produced things you buy in the crafty stores. It is made of furniture grade solid oak. The edges are all routed and finished. It’s sturdy without being ugly. It is simply fantastic.

A-plus! Thank you ROM.

By the way, in addition to thread holders, they make ruler holders, spinning notions holders, and all kinds of sizes too. They even make floor standing spinners that would be great for a longarmer or professional embroiderer. This is definitely something that anyone sewing would be interested in.

Hey, I’m not being paid to endorse these products… I just really like them and wanted to give a shout out about it.