Saturday, June 29, 2013

APQS George Review

I have been waiting for this day for a month. Last week, I went to the quilt show in Raleigh and tried out a few machines. Today I got to meet APQS' George. My friend Debbie, who also happens be an APQS rep, has gone out of her way to help me with my longarm research and managed to track down a George owner who was willing to let me come to her house and try out her machine. Of course, she lives in Raleigh. Road trip #2 in as many weeks! You can imagine how impressed my husband is with that;)

So Debbie picked me up and drove me to see the George. I have really been hoping that this machine would be the one.

So here's the pros:
- Nice and sleek with a clean, modern look and a long table that will fit nicely in my kitchen
- Height adjustable table
- Easy threading and easy to put the bobbin in
- Smooth
- Simple, no fancy gadgets to worry about
- Not too expensive at $6650, and shipping at around $250
- Friendly local service by my AQPS rep:)
- Lightweight, can be portable
- Option for an L class bobbin

And the cons:
- Seemed a little loud to me, but that is only in comparison with my domestic machine
- Vibrates a bit more than I'm used to at high speeds
- The pedal. For some reason unknown to me, this pedal is powered with the heel, not the toes. It was a very heavy duty looking pedal, and not very easy to depress. It was frustrating for me because I am a barefoot quilter. I am used to using my toes to adjust the speed as minutely as I like. My heel is totally uninterested in quilting. I really had to struggle to get the pedal down and I could feel a difference in my leg immediately. I'm wondering how it would feel after 3 hours at the table. I'm sure I could get used to it, but I don't know that I want to start a new learning curve. That is kind of the whole point of upgrading to a sit down longarm. Stick to what I am used to.

My alternative is the Innova sit down machine. Of all the machines I tried out at the Raleigh show, this was the one I liked the best.

- Very smooth
- Easy to maneuver fabric underneath
- Similar pedal to what I am used to
- Decent price. It was $5900, but that could be a trade show price, I'm not sure.

- Ugly and boxy looking. Hey, I may be shallow, but appearances are important to me.
- High shipping cost: $550! So basically, it almost equals the cost of the George. Not much savings involved for me once the costs are all added up.
- Heavy table that does not adjust. It does have castors, but why would you want to move it? I am short and I would rather bring the table down to me than have to bring myself up to the table. I am very happy with my small stationary stool. I don't like though big office chairs and I would have to buy one to quilt on this. Also, it is a bit wider than the George table and would stick out more into the middle of the kitchen.
- M class bobbin. At this point, I'm leaning toward small bobbins. If Karen McTavish prefers them, it can't be wrong, right?
- No local service. I've been told that their phone service is great. Speak to the owner himself and all that, but if this machine ever needs hands on work by a professional, it has to take a trip to Virginia Beach. Mapquest tells me that this place is 5 hours away. I'm sure my husband would be pleased to know I was driving 5 hours to take my machine to the doctor. Not!

So now I'm stuck. I almost have the money to buy one, but I'm torn. How about a hybrid? Easy of quilting from the Innova in the George body, sans pedal? Hmm. I'm still leaning toward winning the George. Then I can break myself into it without the angst of paying a lot of money for something I'm not sure I can adjust to. Think I'll call APQS up and see if there are any plans for normal pedals in the future.

Anyway, thanks so much Debbie for all your help! Don't think I could handle being a sales rep for all these finicky customers who can't make a decision:)

7/21/13: Update on the George:
I spoke with the sales guy for APQS and he said that I am supposed to use my toes on the pedal, not my heel. Sounds much better to me. I decided to go ahead and take the plunge. I've got a deposit down on the George and Debbie got me a great deal. Waiting for the email telling me it is on its way, woo hoo!

Annette's phone quilt

Annette always challenges me to new heights when it comes to quilting. She brought me this colorful quilt that she made for the pre-teen daughter of a friend. The first thing she said was that she wanted cell phones in the pink squares. I though, mm hm, right. Sure! 

In the meantime I was wondering how on earth I was going to pull that one off. It was the keyboard that concerned me. As you know, quilting involves the creative use of continuous lines, and keyboards with letters on them defy that concept. As luck would have it, I googled cell phone images and a schematic of this one came up. I was even able to put it into Paint and re size it and print. I simply cut out the image, traced it with a Frixion pen (oh do I love those), and drew in the rest of the lines. Voila! Cell phone image extraordinaire. Can you see how proud I am of this accomplishment? ;)

Annette also asked for text messaging abbreviations in the bright green triangles. I'm not a huge texter myself, and I am pretty ignorant about all of these abbreviations. I was amazed, and horrified about the variety of text message abbreviations to be found on the Internet. I mean, seriously, who uses some of these things! Anyway, I took the more appropriate ones, and hopefully more common, and quilted them in cursive.

I didn't want to cover up these adorable silhouettes with quilting, so I echoed the shapes to make them stand out more.

Thanks Annette!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Carrie's rabbit quilt

Carrie finished this adorable rabbit quilt and asked me if I would quilt it for her. She got the blocks from Michelle May's blog, The Raspberry Rabbits. They are just so cute!

For this quilt, Carrie wanted Carla Barrett's ( Continuous Curve design for the squares.

And she really liked the background filler on Patsy Thompson's Tulip Quilt.

She also chose Kim Stotsenberg's border design. I suggested a dark gray thread for the black border so the design would show up, but not be too prominent.

Love those bunnies! Thanks Carrie!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Original Sewing and Quilt Expo in Raleigh

I've been waiting for months to go to this show! I'm almost in the market for a sitdown longarm and it is very difficult to find them near Winston-Salem. This was the perfect opportunity to test out as many as I could. I joined a carpool that set out from Sewingly Yours and we all headed over to Raleigh:)
I didn't realize that this was more of a trade show than an exhibition, but they did have some really neat little quilts on display. In retrospect, I was so interested in the actual quilts that I forgot to get the info on the quilters. Sorry if you see your quilt and I haven't given you credit:(
Here's a couple of my favorites:

The APQS George was not on site, but I tried out Innova's new sitdown. I also got to test Gammill's new sitdown, the Tin Lizzie version and the HQ Sweet Sixteen. I tentatively tried out a couple of long arms, but I am pretty sure my comfort zone involves moving the quilt myself.

Out of all the options, I liked the Innova the best. It had a good 18 inches of space and was super easy to move the quilt. It had a light touch, like the old car I learned to drive on. You know the kind you can turn the steering wheel with one finger? The Innova was like that. A bit boxy and unattractive, but a good feel and industrial strength. It went through two layers of Steam-a-seam without blinking an eye.

The Gammill was nice, but a little loud and harder to move the quilt around. It is a bit fancy for me. I don't need an Android tablet attached or a black light. And it was a good $4000 more than the rest of the sitdowns. The Tin Lizzie was alright, but not great on visibility and the HQ kept jamming on me. Never a good sign. So I get to try out the George next week. I'm leaning toward that one anyway. Hope it lives up to my expectations.

I also got this really cool gadget called the Fabulous Fabric Glide by the Gypsy Quilter. It has little rubber grippers on the bottom and handles on each side for holding onto. And even better, a nice wide open space on one side so you don't have to wrestle it under your presser foot. They let me borrow one and take it over to the Gammill so I could give it a try. Love it! I have been going through a lot of gloves and this seems like a great idea. And a great deal too. It was only $19.95 for a pack of two (one big and one little).

The show didn't have a great selection of fabric, so we drove over to this little quilt shop called Wish Upon a Quilt. We almost missed it. It is tucked back into what we would call an Industrial Estate in Wales. Construction businesses and window sellers, that sort of thing. But it had an amazing display of fabric and really friendly staff.

I caved and broke my saving streak. It's been a while since I've bought much fabric. I've been busy saving. But who can resist temptation like this? And my cousin is having his first baby. I just had to get some little boy fabric.


Is this not the cutest fabric! I'm not quite sure how I'm going to lay it out yet, but I love the little cars and bright fabrics.

This one is my favorite! I'm usually not a pink fan, but this pink is so light that it is almost a neutral. If you look closely, you can see the little green lizards running up blue stalks. I bought enough for a bag and a Kindle cover. Love it!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Thriving garden!


In addition to quilting, I love to garden. Mostly I plant flowers. We live on a 1/2 acre and I spend a lot of time planting flowers or moving them around to display the best advantage. Last year I started a vegetable garden. We removed all the grass from this area next to the play set and I set a bunch of flat stones down in the shape of a sun. It worked out pretty well, but the clay soil turns to concrete in the hot sun. I had read that raised plant beds were the way to go. I decided to paint concrete blocks and use them for the raised beds. In addition, I could plant my strawberry plants in the holes. I bought a bunch of strawberry plants a few years ago, but the whole thing they've done is spread all over and produce zilch!

So this is what it looks like now. All squared off with raised plant beds on the right side. I'll probably get the rest raised eventually, but you'd be surprised how long it takes to paint a bunch of concrete blocks!

The strawberries were a success! They were very happy there and I got at least a gallon of strawberries. I even froze two quarts. Not bad for a small patch I think:)

The roses and clematis were also the happiest they've ever been.

Same with my climbing rose.

And I have apples! Woo hoo! Apparently you have to plant these things in pairs. Pollination or some silly thing:) Well, I bought another one, but it was still bare as a newborn when the first tree was spouting out flowers. Somehow, a few got pollinated. Looking forward to apples for the first time.

I'm trying out carrots in a pot this year. They always end up stunted in the ground. My friend Carrie said they need some sand, so I snuck some out of the sandbox and threw it in the mix. Fingers crossed!

The zucchini is thriving though. Always reliable:) Picked the first one yesterday. Sliced it and baked it with Parmesan last night. Yum! The kids have all given it the thumbs down. Worst vegetable ever apparently:(

Looking forward to tomatoes soon too. They really can't compare to store bought ones. So much more flavorful. I spent last summer eating tomatoes and cucumber from the garden. Lovely!

The only casualty so far is the giant cabbage my daughter brought home from school. It has been in the ground since March and was really starting to look nice. Then, overnight, a nasty group of caterpillars attacked it and turned it into Swiss cheese. My daughter is unimpressed. She was looking forward to showing her teacher pictures of a cabbage the size of a baby (this is how they advertise these things) and winning a prize. Oh well...
Now if we could just keep these little furry terrors out, then all will be well. I apologize for the fuzzy pic. I caught this sneaky chippie trying to get to the bird seed. No one told him these wooden sticks are supposed to be a support for the rose bush, not an express elevator to the chow. The squirrels have also missed that memo. Not bad for a zoom in through the screened window though. I was in the house at the time.

More of Betsy's quilts

Here are the last two of Betsy's quilts. She had a bunch of 12 blocks that were mostly the same size. She wanted me to piece them all together. I cut them all the same size and set them in sashing. I was thinking of maybe quilting an overall pattern, but Betsy said she would like the blocks themselves to be emphasize. She didn't want the quilting to take away from the blocks.

So I stitched in the ditch all around the patterns in the blocks and quilted a swirly pattern on the sashing and borders.

This last quilt was the most delicate of the bunch. You can see that the large block in the lower left corner is different. It looks like it might have been cut from a skirt. It is that crinkly sort of fabric that is very stretchy and fluid. The sashing and outer borders are also pieced with this fabric. The other blocks look like they might have been put together with fabric from men's shirts.

Again, these were all hand pieced. Amazing! I gave some spray starch a try on the skirt fabric, but it didn't really seem to make a difference. So I just pinned the whole thing really well and quilted a meander across the whole quilt. Then I trimmed it all square and bound it.
Thanks so much Betsy!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Terry's quilt

Terry is a member of my quilt guild. She told me that she had a quilt that had been waiting for 15 years to be completed! She asked if I could do an overall pattern, so I picked a honey colored thread and decided to quilt some oak leaves.

You can see the quilting best on the back. Lots and lots of leaves!

Thanks Terry!

Holly's quilt

My sister Holly asked me if I would make a quilt for her. Her husband has cancer and he has been sleeping on a twin bed in the guest room. She wanted to get a queen bed for that room and brighten it up with a nice quilt. She gave me a bag of fabric that she liked and asked for a chevron pattern.

I decided to practice my feathers on the white strips. Feathers are a bit intimidating at first, but I am really starting to like them now. I have found that they shape up better if I start from the bottom.

Then I quilted a paisley swirl on the blue strips.

And regular swirls on the pink strips.

Then I cut strips from the leftover blues for the binding. All in all, it turned out great! It ended up being 90 x 91 and I managed to get it all into my little domestic machine. And the best part is that Holly loves it. Good times all around:)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Annette's black and white and yellow quilt

Annette made this bright and cheerful quilt for her daughter. She wanted a simple pattern, lines back and forth, kind of like the lines on the squiggly ball fabrics.

The solid squares and circles and rectangles are fused on, so I simply outlined them.

Here's the back. It is a lot easier to see the quilting  on this side.

Thanks Annette!