Monday, October 19, 2009

Creative Festival and Quilt Bottleneck

I went to the Creative Festival on Friday night and bought myself a bunch of fat quarters, charm packs and layer cakes. It was quilt fabric heaven! I was equally impressed with the yarn booths (versus a few years ago) but didn't buy any yarn. For me, yarn is easily accessible - there are 5 yarn shops along Queen Street, and 2 near work. On the other hand, all the Toronto quilt fabric stores are inconvenient for me to get to and expensive too.

Although I do not have much to show, I am in the middle of finishing five 35"X45" blankets. 1) Why five unfinished quilts? 2) Why 35"X45"?

1) Why five unfinished quilts?

I used to finish one quilt before starting a new one. However, there are very distinct stages of making a quilt and each requires different mindsets and tools:
i. Design and estimating fabric requirements - math, research, inspiration. Needs a sharp mind to do all the calculations and maximize every piece of fabric!
ii. Cutting fabric - clear the table for cutting mat.
iii. Piecing top piece of quilt - snap on the 1/4" foot on sewing machine. Lots of sewing & ironing.
iv. Making quilt sandwich - find lots of floor space and pins
v. Quilt the sandwich & attach binding - install the walking foot
vi. Finish binding - hand sew. Need to be in the mood.

I find it much more efficient to make multiple quilts at once. eg. If I have the walking foot on, it makes sense to do all the sandwiching in one go before switching feet.

Currently, I have 3 quilts in stage vi (hand sew binding), and 2 in stage v (look for binding). I also have 3 unstarted quilts in stage i (design).

2) Why do I like making quilts 35"X45"?

The main reason, is that batting comes in this size. The size is perfect for a baby blanket or a picnic blanket for adults. It is small enough that it doesn't require too much fabric (cost effective) and is easy to maneuver with my sewing machine.

Speaking of sewing machines, I test drove a few quilt machines at the Creative Festival. I was in love with the Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.0, until I went home and read the online reviews. It apparently has some technical problems. Still, I love the IDT (Integrated Dual Feed - don't know why it isn't IDF instead), which basically turns the standard foot into a walking foot with just a click. No more screwing and unscrewing feet!

I also tried the Bernina Aurora 440 QE. The major selling point is the stitch regulator for free-motion quilting. For this machine, you don't even need to use the foot pedal. You just move the fabric and it sews by itself! But again, reviews reveal technical problems.

While tempted by the bells and whistles from these machines, I really don't have $2500 to spend. My current sewing machine can perform the basic tasks. Eventually, I will want a machine that can accommodate a larger sized quilt and can stitch letters/words... but that can wait.

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