Old versus New

It’s funny, but when, I started to think about writing a blog..all of this technology was new to me, so I figured I would be writing quite a bit about my quilting projects as a newbie to quilting and sewing. Of course I am going to do this as well, and decided to document some of my disasters as well with my new friend the stitch ripper!

However, I have been on one of the sewing machine forums for the Janome 7700- a machine I bought last year and absolutely love. Anyway the consensus is that now, Janome are to bring out an upgrade for the 7700 with all new bells and whistles. I don’t have much detail on it yet, I think its in the ‘to be announced’ category for the Autumn/Fall.

Well this got me to thinking about all the technological advances in sewing machines and I am wondering what you all thought of the leaps there have been in technology for machines. The first machine I remember is my grandmothers Singer Treadle machine which I grew up with in the 50’s and 60’s. They are now called Antique! Anyway picture on the right is what I remember. My gran could make anything from curtains to quilts on it and all the clothes  in between . I would often remember seeing her sit for hours making things, hearing the whirr of the treadle as she pushed it to its limits. She could make it hum! And wherever we lived, it came with her, it was her most prized possession and always occupied a seat of honour in our house.

I can remember when the first electric machines became mainstream into stores in England too..this picture   holds quite a lot of memories for me as when i was 19 I got a job working for Jones in London, demonstrating their machines. It was crazy-I had left school, working my way towards college, and I literally walked in off the street with no prior experience of selling anything, and a very rudimentary knowledge of sewing. Certainly never seen an electric machine in my life. So I started demonstrating machines like the one in the picture..and they were cutting edge (pardon the pun) at the time. The machines were very brightly coloured, especially the hard carrying case of the Jones, Britain was just coming out of post-war austerity, everything before the mid sixties almost looked grey as far as I can remember it anyway, and then there were these huge splashes of colours in everything. Not just clothes and decor but in products as well. Design was becoming not just functional but appealing to the eye as well.

Jones was an interesting company to work for..originally british, were bought out by Brother in the late 60’s I think, but as there was quite a lot of negative press regarding Japanese made goods at the time, they kept the British name for a couple of years.So I started work in London. Hire Purchase was also a new construct then as well, but if ladies wanted a machine, they had to bring their husbands into the store to sign the loan agreement. Can you imagine that happening now??

Customer service was also good too – I remember selling a machine to a couple who were staying in London for a few days and the company made me take the machine to their hotel in Kensington, I had to travel on the underground with the machine and all the other bits, to their hotel after I had finished work and set it up for them and show them how it worked.They were so pleased, I even got tea and cake from them in the hotel!

So now I have to roll forward to 2011!! It’s been that long since I used a machine! I decided to buy one last year and the first one I bought for just basic stitching was the Janome CXL 301- which is this fellow on the right. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw it. The only thing I recognised was the foot pedal!! I didn’t know how to thread it or use the controls, it seemed more like using a computer accessory with all the buttons. But I loved it. The  manual was Ok and I managed to work it out eventually. I even made my first quilt on it using Alex Andersons quilt book for beginners. I wasn’t easy, just a rail fence design but I was so pleased to complete it.

So now I am fast forwarding 3 months from my original purchase. Hubby decided I should have a really neat Birthday/Christmas present and I phoned my dealer up to ask about quilting machines…more bells and whistles! So it was a choice between the 6600 and the 7700. I picked the latter because of the wider throat plate and when i tried them both out I just fell in love with it somehow. Of course she is not an ‘it’ anymore. My dealer was great and I had to put in my beloved 301 as a trade in and he gave me the purchase price of her off the 7700, which was great. This is one amazing machine. I found she quilts superbly,makes my free motion  quilting look far better.

There are a couple of things I don’t care for but that could be just a personal preference.  I don’t like the fact there is no low bobbin reminder, which would be a really good idea, there is no built-in or optional magnifier ( I hear the new Janome will have this). But have to say, that for increasing and decreasing stitch length, I find the touch screen not at all intuitive, I would prefer a wheel or button! What does that say about me I wonder, is that just an age thing or do other folk with this machine find it hard as well. Do you get used to the touch screen eventually?

I love the automatic thread cutter button, the lights, the zillion stitches that I havent even got to grips with yet. Oh yes and all the feet that come with it as standard.The power and graduation of speed is flawless as well all the other things.Regular home maintenance seems to be key here also, I really have to clean out the are around the bobbin regularly. I have got to listen to the sound of my machine now and when she starts to sound a bit ‘throaty’ I know its time to clean, if I haven’t done so before.

It seems to me that technology have really taken over in every area of life, even our machines.I often wonder what our grandmother’s would have thought of the new machines like the  Janome 7700. Not just an electric machine ,but stitches that are fully programmable and automated  at the press of a button. I know we have machines nowadays that do so much more than plain straight stitch but what do you think about the way technology is adding to the functionality of sewing machines? How far can manufacturers refine our machines to make them better. Will they be lighter machines in the future that can do so many things, rather like computers now that are lighter and smaller and have limitless capabilities. I for one will be very interested to see the new Janome this Autumn and what is being offered in way of improvements, functionality and design. They are amazing machines!

Phew!! I didnt expect to write as much as that!!

Art vs Craft

I was surfing the web like you do, and came across a link to my old college at Woverhampton where I studied Sculpture back in the 80’s. One of my old tutors on there was a wonderful stone carver, John (Paddy) Paddison, who studied under John Skeaping.( Barbara Hepworth’s first husband, Skeaping was a gifted horseman and taught Sculpture at the RCA. he eventually retired at the age of 80 to the Camargue where he rode and broke in cattle!)

'Paddy'

 

The reason I think of Paddy when there is always a debate about the craft or Fine Art forms of Painting/Sculpture versus ‘Conceptualised’ art form , is that at college he was very much seen as the old guard of the art school. Tutors then were very much promoting the ethos of concept art.Ideas were more important than learning the craft of painting or sculpture. I think their thinking was that if you could produce ideas, there were always technicians available to create your work, without the student learning techniques to a high standard, perhaps when time was at a premium, I don’t know.. It’s always been a contentious issue of debate, I have always thought that it is important to have the two forms of craft and art being side by side. What do you all think?

 

Anyway, back to Paddy. He  had his stone carving area in the yard downstairs in the Molyneux, in the plein air style..and my first year I opted for a module in stone carving..the only time this module was available was in February, in the freezing cold and open to the elements. I think Paddy thought that if we were keen then we would man up and keep carving through hail, rain and snow..which of course we did. He was a great teacher, always there to give a suggestion just when you needed it, and encouragement. I brought my greyhound in one day and he spent ages just looking at her and describing her lines and athletic build. It wasnt until later that I had the opportunity to see his wonderful work.

‘Flaying’ John Paddison-Stonecarving

I suppose the question I am asking is, where does art begin and craft stop..and what is the nature of craft? To my mind, someone like Paddy had both in equal measure. he had superb ability in making and fabricating techniques, which were acquired over a period of 40 years plus. he also had vision, and original ideas, and managed to use his material, in his case, stone to mould his ideas into a physical entity.

Working with textiles is very similar it seems to me. There has to be an understanding of,  and practical application of, techniques, a sympathy towards the materials we work with, and originality of thought in designing and creating pieces.

 

It’s so hard to master..I find just as I think I am getting the hang of Free Motion Quilting on the Janome, but so often, it seems to slip away and I am using the stitch ripper again – or my points dont measure up or basically I am having a really bad hair day regarding design and how things fit together. I know it all takes time and loads of practice, so hopefully, one day the lightbulb will go on! As I have started to get more involved with quilting, I am finding there is so much variety out there in the way people make and design quilts, from very traditional bed quilts  to wonderful art forms that are exhibited internationally. But all of them have that magic symbiosis of craft and art working together.

A Step Further.

At least I got my first page up without too many hair tearing episodes! Due to our Irish weather, and copious amounts of rain, I was able to spend all day yesterday tweaking my blog.

I saw a lovely pattern in a magazine that I thought would make a delish baby quilt but realised I would have to re-size it plus I didn’t like some of the design so went back to square one and redesigned it and added my butterflies to the quilt. What is it about butterflies? i really love them and Fabric Shack had some wonderful panels on special a  while back so guess I was just looking for an excuse to use them!

Free Motion Quilting is a whole other business though. Everyone says its practice and more practice, but I found it really hard to start with and there are times when you hit the sweet spot on the machine and it goes so well (for about 6 inches anyway!) I thought it might be quite cool to do wavy lines around the butterflies so that it looked like there was air movement around them..

Applique Butterfly on Pink baby Quilt

I changed the borders around,  and kept the ‘on point’ design which is a fairly universal  design I think. I appliqued the butterflies on using Bondaweb and then used applique stitch 45 on my Janome Horizon, had to fiddle about with the stitch length and width to get the right size. Boy am I glad I took Leah Day’s advice about having practice swatches. I generally am not so patient and then end up using the trusty seam ripper. her videos are fantastic. I have never had any lessons, but the Internet is wonderful -I watched her videos over and over on You-tube, not just the free motion ones but all the ones about starting off and bringing your threads to the front and all the other basic tutorials.

Baby Butterflies and Pink Quilt


Another rule I am making for myself is that I will try and post photos of my quilts and embroidery that is work in progress . That is something I didn’t think of before, I always like looking at peoples work before it gets to the final stage.It is really interesting to follow  how people have made things from cutting out the fabric to the finished article.

Hi everyone out there- my first quilting post!

I have a guilty pleasure …I love making things. I used to make sculpture, carving and steel work mainly, but even before that as a very young girl, I remember watching my grandmother make just about everything on her old Singer Treadle machine. That woman could sew! If it wasnt sewn, it was knitted and,growing up I used to spend hours kneeling on the floor next to her while she pinned out patterns and fabric. Hours were spent waiting for her while she looked through dress pattens at our local store.

I didnt think any of it had actually rubbed off on me until about a year ago when I started making embroidery and decided I needed to buy a sewing machine to hem up the edges of my linen to stop them fraying. I got as far as the dealer and bought my basic first machine, a Janome, which was wonderful. I really wanted to make a quilt though and bought a marvellous book by Alex Anderson and the first thing I made with it was a small rail fence quilt-not the seams for the embroidery which I was supposed to do (oh dear)! And from then on I was hooked.

So here is the very first quilt I made..on a small machine, and no idea how to cut anything out to an exact quarter inch seam or how to FMQ!

My first quilt-thank you Alex Anderson!!

So I made this first quilt using Alex Anderson’s quilt book and she ahd everything laid out so easily and straightforward I was able to folow it-not wihtout loads of mistakes on my part, using the seam ripper so many times and finally finished it. So pleased I completed it.

I get a  lot of ideas from looking at books and quilting magazines, and I subscribe to Fons and Porters Easy Quilts. So the next project was a throw for my son and his partner. The actual quilting consited of vertical strips of material and appliqued flowers added afterwards.

Another first. I am now discovering Bondaweb! So I found some real funky fabric- the cream fabric is almost Batik but with a bark pattern – I was delighted to find this as it looked really unusual  and really looked forward to starting on it

her is part of it under my first little machine, the  Janome-CXL301

Flower Quilt

I had to pin some of the leaves and petals first- the pattern has a running stitch weaving through the quilt,I had to draw this in freehand last of all and stitch this by hand. Now I know why I machine quilt- my hands are just not up to this!!

So finally finished it a week before last Christmas- was so relieved to get it done.

Still finding Free Motion Quilting difficult here so opted for a randomised swirly pattern. I watched a lot of Patsy Thompson videos..having to learn to sew from scratch is sooo hard. Really wish there was a group near home. Maybe it is good also,because if you really want to do a thing you will find a way!