I recently interviewed friend and colleague Heather Kinion about her experience with a mid-arm quilting machine. We’re fond of BabyLock over here at Quilty; I talked to Heather about the Tiara and she dished on her experience.
M: Hi, Heather.
M: You’re a big fan of the Tiara. In fact, the first one you’ve tried is the one I have, right?
M: What do you like about it?
H: The Tiara is designed for free-motion quilting and it a mid-arm makes it so so so easy to do. It even makes quilting easy on big quilts that seem like they would be impossible to free-motion without a straight up long arm that would never fit into a corner of my guest bedroom in the city that still has a queen-sized bed in it!
M: The first time you sat down at the Tiara, what took you a minute to get the hang of?
H: The bobbin tension. It’s so important — but weird on any quilting machine, mid-arm or longarm. My domestic machine has a drop-in bobbin that doesn’t require constant attention like a mid-arm does. It isn’t hard to do exactly, but if you don’t check it, you can end up really wrecking it.
Honestly, I’d done almost zero free-motion quilting when I met the Tiara, so I was kind of terrified of the whole thing, although being able to sit down like I was at my domestic was a little less terrifying. I didn’t take a class with a dealer and I should have. In fact, that’s my biggest tip: for the love of the quilting gods, buy this from a dealer and take a class unless you really really hate doing hard things the easy way! And practice so you get the hang of free-motion. I used tips from Quilty web episodes, blogs, and and episode of Fons and Porter’s Love of Quilting that happened onto my DVR when I most needed it to get some basic strategies down. It just got better and easier with every project that I quilted. I would say that I still need to keep practicing that.
M: How does free-motion quilting differ from using your walking foot on your domestic machine?
H: When using my walking foot, I get things lined up and settled and I just power through the long stitches. I often push my pedal to the max. I cannot imagine doing that on the Tiara! It can go way faster than I can and even with the stitch regulator on. I also find that as a straight line quilter I tend to be rather minimalist and favor loose quilting, but when I’m on the Tiara I often find I’m drawn to making rather dense quilting even though sometime that’s not intentional but a result of the point of focus tending to draw me into a very small part of the quilt.
M: Got some tips for folks who have a new Tiara?
H: Always have a test quilt sandwich handy to check your tensions and don’t be afraid to adjust them. Keep the manual handy to make sure the adjustments you are making are the ones you want. Practice practice practice! When I’m getting ready to do a bigger more significant project, I quilt either a practice sandwich or a doll quilt for my nieces using the motif, so I am not starting out on the big deal project-my nieces are not particular on the quilting on their doll quilts, they just like wrapping their dollies and stuffed animals in them. And one of the longer-armers in my guild (the Chicago Modern Quilt Guild) always coaches me to take a deep breath and relax. And take the dealer class, it will be so worth it.
M: If someone’s thinking about getting one, what encouragement might you give them?
Well, I was worried I wouldn’t use it enough, and I don’t always use it every day or week or month even but I finish so many more quilts with it than I did without it. I don’t have to send so many quilts out to be long armed (although I still sometimes do). Even in quilts I would’ve straight-line quilted before, the Tiara is way faster. I’ve quilted an entire lap quilt in less than three hours! I think it’s taken me nearly that long to pin baste it. On top of that, it really opened up my mind to using quilting more as a design element in quilting and to the amount and types of projects that I can do. It’s expanded my quilting horizons so much in less than a year.
M: Heather, you’re great. But you know that.
H: Aw, shucks.
January 22, 2015 No Comments
Did you notice it’s a new year? Sure is.
I know. It happens so fast and now we have to change the date on our checks and letters nine times before we get it right, usually somewhere around the end of February. And of course, this time of year is one of resolutions and goals and things. The most effective goals are not vague ones, though. “I want to lose weight” is less effective than saying, “I want to lose 5lbs in January by replacing my potato chips at lunch with an apple and I will walk the dog around the block three times instead of just once.” That’s doable, right?
Quilt-related goals are the same. Let’s look at a few suggestions for specific quilt-related goals in the New Year, shall we? First, a tough, non-specific goal and second, a more specific one. Good luck!
Hard: “I’m going to finish all my UFOs, once and for all!”
Doable: “I’m going to finish two UFOs by the end of winter. The end of winter is April 1st, basically.”
Hard: “I’m going to hand quilt all my quilts this year, as God as my witness! Slow stitching!”
Doable: “I’m interested in this ‘slow stitch’ thing. When I finish my lap quilt/patchwork pillow project, I’m going to try some hand-quilting this time. If I like it, maybe it’ll be something I do again.”
Hard: “I’m going to sew more, once and for all!”
Doable: “This year, I’d like to try and complete six quilts, from fabric cutting to binding. They can be a variety of sizes and baby quilts count! But I really want to make more time for my favorite pastime/art and to commit to six quilts will ensure that I do just that.”
See? Now you think about your goals and be specific, okay?
January 8, 2015 5 Comments
It’s almost time!
It’s almost time!
It’s almost time…for Thanksgiving.
But it’s also time for the next Quilty shoot! This is equally exciting to some people (me) even though there is zero turkey involved. There could be, I suppose, if we get turkey wraps or something for lunch.
Starting next week, we’re firing up the Babylock Melody sewing machine, the trusty machine that has been on the show from the start. We’re revving up our Babylock Tiara, too, featured for the first time last season and back by popular demand. We’ve got guests on their way — including several of the Quilty columnist ensemble, including Kelly Biscopink, Ebony Love, and Vanessa Vargas Wilson!! — and I’m making sure all the demos are good to go and I have clothes to wear.
We tape 26 episodes at a go; we do that twice a year. Every time we have a shoot, the preparation is…heavy. To say the least. Because when the cameras roll, it’s gotta go well. The good thing is that after 4+ years of making Quilty, there are mistakes we no longer make. Oh, we make mistakes. But they’re new ones, so that’s lots of fun.
I hope you’ll tune into Quilty in 2015. On QNNtv.com, you can collect ‘em all. There’s clear, friendly quilting and patchwork instruction served up every week and we have such wonderful sponsors that help us show you all the good stuff, beautifully. I mean, sewing Moda fabric with a BabyLock machine threaded with Aurifil thread?
So I’ll see you on set. Well, not yet. But soon. And for the rest of your life.
November 4, 2014 3 Comments
You know how it is when you fall in love with a quilt pattern and you HAVE TO MAKE IT RIGHT NOW?
That happens to me all the time.
I recently came across this pattern in an old Love of Quilting magazine. It’s an antique kaleidoscope pattern created from a quilt at the International Quilt Study Center, which is the coolest place on earth, by the way.
If you love it as much as I do, you should give it a shot, but before you do, learn from my experience and know this:
1. It’s paper-piecing, which I love but some people definitely do not
2. There are no curved seams, which some people love but I definitely do not (so yay!)
3. The lights and darks matter way more than you think they do
Let’s talk about that third thing. See my quilt up there? Compare it to the quilt from the illustration. I ain’t gettin’ no kaleidoscope in my quilt, am I? No, I am not. As I was making blocks, I really thought I was in the clear. I thought the lights I was using were light enough that they would be in contrast — albeit low — to the darks I had selected. I LOVED all my fabrics. I LOVED making the blocks. I thought I was good.
Then I laid out what I had on the floor of my apartment. Hm.
As you can see, this quilt is not giving me the look I want. But I had worked hours on it! What to do?? I could’ve ripped apart my blocks and set them to the side and taken a risk to continue with my quilt using new, higher-contrast fabrics and blended these blocks through. Depending on the size of my quilt (I was going for queen) this could work. Maybe.
But what I decided to do instead was finish up five or so of the blocks I was ready to make and call it a scrappy baby quilt. It’s still a very adorable little bit of patchwork…it’s just not gonna work for what I originally intended. In fact, it’s going to go into Quilty magazine in 2015, so you can make your own version and try to get that kaleidoscope look if you want.
Anyhow, that’s my little lesson for today. Contrast really does matter. And sometimes, you need to make more than a few “sample” blocks to see if you’re getting the pattern you want. One or two sample blocks probably wouldn’t have shown me what I needed: I needed more of the quilt to see (or not see) the pattern emerge.
Good thing I love making patchwork and quilts, right? I mean, even when you screw up, it’s still the best thing ever.
October 17, 2014 5 Comments
We get to have so many wonderful people step into the Quilty set.
As my sister and Quilty producer Rebecca Fons will tell you, it’s not always easy managing all the people who we invite onto the show. It’s a lot of logistics for a flurry of activity just two weekends a year. Everything needs to be in place, with a backup, before the gun fires and everyone takes off running to the finish line. But when the guests come in, it’s a little quilt love party and that makes it worthwhile.
Last shoot, we welcomed Tisha Nagel (not Tischa with a “c” as she kindly pointed out) to the Quilty fold and she made an extra good impression. How come? Well, not only did she come with the fabulous quilt you see up there being hung by our crew, but she brought gifts. Like, really good ones. She brought gourmet goodies for me and Rebecca and potholders, too, which of course she made herself. A potholder might not sound like that big of a deal, but it was homemade. And it was in special fabric just for me, too.
Tisha has a great blog called Quilty Therapy (no relation to this Quilty, but certainly a friend) and she’s very active in the Indiana Modern Quilt Guild. She has an adorable child and an equally adorable husband and in general, Tisha is great — not because she brought prezzies* but because she’s a great example of today’s quilter: energetic, curious, creative, and passionate about quilts. Whatever age you are, whatever skill level you’re working, if you call yourself a quilter in 2015, you’re in good company.
Tisha, this one’s for you. Watch her episode at QNNtv.com, too.
October 6, 2014 1 Comment
We look like we’re getting engaged or something!
That’s me (Mary) and the lovely and talented Amy Ellis on the set of Love of Quilting, having just taped a fabulous, info-packed, energetic episode on Amy’s gorgeous star quilt.
Amy sewed at the Babylock, I helped cut pieces, we did improv piecing, set-in seams, AND found time for just a touch of “Hey, we’re friends sewing together!” patter. All in all, a great show. Amy and I are both Babylock spokespeople, so off camera, we chatted about our machines and the new, totally incredible Destiny machine that is coming out soon.
You know why I like Amy Ellis? Well, aside from the fact she gives me a great home-quilting article to run in each issue of Quilty? I asked Amy to be a guest on Quilty when we shoot in November…and she said no. That’s right: she turned me down. The reason? She’s been traveling a ton and wants to be home with her kids.
Amy, you rock.
Thank you for saying no. Being on Quilty would be really great, and I know you want to do it because you told me you did. But I think it’s really awesome that family comes first, that you know your boundaries, that you actually stick to them, and that you have faith that you’ll probably be able to be on Quilty another time.
Here’s to you, Amy! Now go make some rice krispie treats with those kiddos.
September 25, 2014 1 Comment
I’m working on planning the first half of Season 5 for Quilty. It’s takes a tremendous amount of brainpower to coordinate the show and the magazine — and believe me, I have made mistakes. But we’ve all done this Quilty “thing” long enough to know a little about how to do it. And as I set up episodes and plan quilts, I get very excited to be on set with the crew, including our newest addition: the BabyLock Tiara.
I have one. And Quilty the show has one. And it’s funny to watch guests and the crew go, “Woooah… What is that??” when she’s all unveiled and has all her doo-dads on and the TruStitch Regulator glowing nearby. (I have a little cloth doll that I stuck on the top of mine and I’ll make sure to put Spooly on top of the set’s machine this season; Rebecca, remind me!)
When I learned to make quilts, I learned piecing first. Quilting came later and that’s okay. Many of my quilts are finished by a longarmer, simply because I am usually working under publication/editorial deadlines and several quilts have to be done and turned in at once. But when I quilt at home, I use my Tiara. It’s a free-motion mid-arm machine, which means that you move the quilt under the stationary needle, as opposed to a long arm, which works by moving the needle around on the stationary quilt (nice if you can get one, but a longarm hardly fits in my apartment in Chicago, much less where I am in NYC right now.)
We haven’t gotten Matt Hyland, sound engineer, to make a quilt, yet, but I’m going to make sure he practices a bit more on the Tiara when we shoot in a couple months. It’s very, very fun to quilt on the machine; “addictive” doesn’t quite cover it. We’ll get him, yet!
August 26, 2014 No Comments
There’s no question that Team Quilty is pretty great. From the sound engineer on the show to Heather, Magnificent Step-Out Helper, to Sheyenne, who does all the crazy linking and url’ing from show to page and back, to Diane, who gets contracts to every last person who has a quilt featured in the magazine to — well, I could go on.
Our art director, Courtney, makes the pages of Quilty look pretty and make sense. But she does much more than that. She handles photography deadlines with grace while trying to make them square with deadlines for layouts, all while suggesting cool ideas (e.g., “Let’s take a picture of a quilt on a chain link fence!”) She also deals with silly requests from the editor — ahem — who, when editing the Sep/Oct ’14 issue, for example, decides that Spooly needs to be featured in a Halloween costume.
She doesn’t have the time to draw it, so… Courtney? Could you? Could you puleease??
Are you seeing what she did??
SPOOLY IS AN ALLIGATOR.
Or a dinosaur.
Maybe a toothy frog??
It doesn’t matter. He’s wonderful. And ladies and gentlemen, this is Courtney Kraig for you. Brilliant, talented, and she like, “gets it.” Which is a pretty rare thing. I mean, this is a talking spool of thread we’re looking at. Oh, and when I freaked out on her for doing such an amazing job and making me squeal out loud with glee when I saw it, Courtney replied, “lol — I think Spooly’s just really stoked to have feet!”
July 23, 2014 No Comments
I’m working on a neat Quilty book called “Dear Quilty.” Wanna be in it? Okay, here’s the deal.
Quilty’s been existence for four years, now. We’ve grown, we’ve improved, we’ve learned. And we know that you, dear Quilty reader/watcher/quilter have done the same. We know because you write to me (Mary), or Spooly, or Team Quilty in general and you tell us so.
I want to include letters from readers in the book. Because you’re just as important as the shows and the magazine and the whole Quilty “thing.” I mean, without you…we don’t get very far. Besides, Spooly likes the attention.
And so, I’m looking for great letters to Quilty. Shoot for 50-150 words, with images or without, and post them here in a comment field, or, if you’d like more privacy, you can send a message via the Quilty Facebook page or email Mary at mary.fons @ fwmedia .com (no spaces.) Okay? Pictures are great, as long as they’re high-resolution (300dpi or above.) At this time, we’re only doing email or posted comment letters; no regular mail entries.
Just tell Mary, Spooly, and/or the Team how Quilty has affected your life as a quilter. We know for a fact some people are 100% Quilty-taught quilters. Is that you? Tell us about it. Love the show/mag? What is it about the Quilty style that appeals to you? The more specific you can be — and if there’s a funny story that you think is good — all the better. Just telling us you like the show or the magazine is great (and appreciated), but to make it into the book…your letter’s gotta be extra sparkly.
We’ll get your picture in there. And it’ll be awesome. I can wrangle you a free copy. I’m not sure how many letters can be included, but I’ll gather 20 and then go from there.
Cool? Cool. I look forward to reading your letters!
June 17, 2014 No Comments
Okay, get ready for this. I found my escape, my runaway hiding place. There is a Quilty, Ireland. It’s a real town. It’s in Ireland. And there’s a cottage for rent.
Goodbye, cruel world.
By the way, it’s rented pretty much through the end of forever, according to the online calendar thingy. But you can try!
May 20, 2014 5 Comments