Back Home From Sailing Adventures!

Been having a great time on our sailboat, but because it is hurricane season, we parked the boat in a safe location and flew home for the summer.  That is a good thing since I have been having withdrawals from my longarm and other art supplies.

I took up photography while we were on the boat, so I wanted to show you a slideshow of few of my favorite images:

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Now I need a good way to organize and stow all the 1,000’s of images I took.  Luckily, my good friends, The Pixeladies, are having an eClass starting soon on organizing all your images using Photoshop Elements.  I am going to take it, and I hope you will join me in this class.  Stay tuned, I will tell you more in tomorrow’s post!

Hugs, Carla

Buying a Discontinued New Tablet PC- For Artists

As mentioned in my last post, it was time to buy a new tablet, so I decided to follow my own advice and pick up a brand new, yet discontinued, tablet PC for a fraction of the price.  The model I selected was offered on a reputable website, but would save me quite a bit of money in the end.  I needed a new Tablet PC to run all my design software, like Photoshop Elements, Illustrator, and Art & Stitch.

lenovo-tp-x230-n2c2bhv-laptop-tablet3The model I purchased was a Lenovo Thinkpad x230, which I purchased from B&H Photo brand new for only between $600-659.  It is currently offered now for $634 US here.

I want to let blog readers know my first impressions and how my purchase has worked out so far.

The package shipped promptly from B&H, and arrived just fine in a brand new box.  This was indeed a brand new machine and not a refurbished one.  I opened the box and then proceeded to set up my machine and install all my software.  This notebook does not have a CD/DVD player, but I just used my portable one that connects to the computer with a USB plug to install all my software.

Once I had Photoshop Elements 13 installed, it was time to try it out.  Sure enough, it worked perfectly!   It has similar specs to my last Tablet PC, the Fujitsu T902, but I paid less than 1/3rd the cost.

The pros:  Lenovo x230 is a fine tablet and comes highly rated by other artists.  The price was right.  Tablet works as advertised.

The cons:  The keyboard set up takes some getting used to, but I added a mouse for ease of web surfing and clicking.  The Wacom digitizer and pen are a bit different than previous Tablet PCs, it seems to have some pressure functionality.  It will take some time to get used to the new set up.  This machine was released a few years ago, and is now discontinued.

All in all, I am very happy with my new tablet, and love that I spent less than $660 US. I think this is an excellent value for what you get. I can now start drawing and designing once again!

Let me know if you have any questions.  Hugs, Carla

 

 

New Tablet PC Purchase!

t901_twist_antenna_stylusThis post is for all the students and blog readers who write me about wanting a Tablet PC.  As mentioned in my post (seen below) my current Tablet PC, a very pricey Fujitsu T902 purchased about 3 years ago for about $2000 US, had the power cord disconnect.  It was not very robust a machine, as the cracks on the case reveal.  I decided it was time to get a new Tablet PC, so I started my research.

TCHICK copyo date, over the last 10 years, I have owned 3 Tablet PC Convertibles, which means they act as either a  PC laptop or notebook, and also have tablet functionality to allow me to draw on the Wacom digitizer monitor screen for art purposes.  My first one was the best, a Toshiba Portege, however, Toshiba stopped making Tablet PC Convertibles awhile back.  My second tablet PC was an HP Touchsmart tm2, but it never lived up to my Toshiba Portege.  It finally bit the dust during my AU trip and has been long discontinued.  I then purchased the Fujitsu T902, however, it is now out of action due to Ethan tripping over my power cord and disconnecting it.  I plan to get this repaired so the Fujitsu becomes my backup Tablet PC.

The last few years have seen rapid changes in the Tablet industry, and is very confusing to most people, even tech savvy readers.  I knew I wanted a Tablet PC, with enough system memory so it would run my favorite design/drawing programs like Photoshop Elements, Adobe Illustrator, and Art&Stitch digitizing software.  The digitizer needs to be by Wacom, mainly due to the better performance and precision.  This ruled out buying Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3, which instead has a digitizer called N-Trig.  I also wanted an Intel Processor, and my Operating System (OS) could be anything between 7-8.1, since Windows 10 isn’t out yet.

www.carlabarrett.com

I looked at all the current offerings, and trust me, there wasn’t all that many offerings which met my art and design needs.  I could have spent anywhere between $1-3K, but then decided to try something that I recommend to students in my Tablet Design classes.  That is to buy a slightly older, discontinued, highly rated,Tablet Convertible PC for a fraction of the original price.

So I went for it!!  The Tablet PC Convertible I bought has all the specs that my Fujitsu T902 had, but instead is a fraction of the price at $659 US.  I purchased a new, discontinued Lenovo Thinkpad x230.   Since I bought it from a reputable retailer, if I do not like it, I can easily return it.

Watch for my upcoming review.  It is supposed to ship to me in a few days.  Free shipping, even.  If this works out, I will have an affordable option to recommend for students.  🙂  Hugs from Carla

Happy New Year!

Home now after 3 trips in 3 months!  October, I was in Australia.  Went sailing in November in the British Virgin Islands.  December was spent spending quality holiday time with my Dad and Doris in Missouri.  I am a bit traveled out, I do say!

Example of Digital Quilt drawn in Photoshop Elements

Example of Digital Quilt drawn in Photoshop Elements

In the meantime, the power cord on my Fujitsu tablet PC was detached by accident by a cute little boy named Ethan.  That means for the first time in over 10 years, I am without a tablet.  Do I hear a gasp?  🙂  So now I am on the hunt for a replacement tablet PC, and I need to have my Fujitsu repaired, too.   Promise to write a post about my research for those interested in this subject once I look at all current offerings.

10waystabletOnce my Tablet PC is replaced, I plan to announce another Quilt Whisper design class.  I may even hold a brand new class, too.  Stay tuned as I will announce it here, on FaceBook, and through my mailing list.  If you are not one my mailing list, please write a comment indicating you wish to be added.  I promise to never share your email with anyone AND will not send out junk mail to you.

Here’s to a wonderful and creative 2015!!  Hugs, Carla

Designing Quilts- Jill’s Applique Quilt

Jill Applique quilt "Before"

Jill Applique quilt “Before”

Thought I would begin a new series on designing quilts for machine quilters, so let’s start with a lovely applique quilt by my friend, Jill.  Jill Rixman, the owner/teacher of the applique pattern business called Artfully Applique, is truly a master applique artist.  She needed a quilt to showcase patterns for sell in her booth at quilt shows, so she brought her quilt to me.

When I first started quilting over 10 years ago, Jill came to me with the first quilt that I quilted for her.  That quilt still hangs in her booth, receives many compliments for her and apparently, sells many patterns.  As a machine quilter, the  first topic to consider is the purpose of the quilt- which in this instance is to sell Jill’s applique patterns.

In keeping with my 2014 goal of drawing (and then digitizing) custom designs for every quilt I work on, I first needed to divide up the quilt into distinct design spaces.  For Jill’s quilt, this was simple.  You have 2 sizes of applique blocks, the inner circle and the negative space between the circle and block.  Then you have the  background fabric space, which will be further divided for interest and to draw the eye inward towards the center.

Let’s start with the center block, which is the focal point of this quilt. Here is my design choice for the center block outside of the circle:

carlablock2jilljillframe2 copy

Since this is my main design, all the other designs in the quilt will relate to this design to ensure quilting design cohesion.

Jill has chosen my circular fill for the inside of each circle and around the applique.  I gave Jill several fill options and this is the one she prefers.  Let’s move onto the small applique block design now.

For the smaller blocks, I wanted to design something similar, yet able to fit inside the smaller dimensions.  This is what I eventually came up with:

carlablock1jillNotice that both designs frame the applique circles.  By choosing to quilt frame designs in the block, this showcases the importance of the applique work.  I will also pick a thread color that will blend into the lighter spaces.  This is because I do not want the quilting to compete with the applique work, instead, I want the quilting to complement.

Obviously, I will also stitch in the ditch the blocks.

Let’s talk about the proposed background design.   To draw the eye inward towards the center, I will add some linear ray lines with freeform fill.  This will provide some nice texture in the background.  Plus I can also add small motifs into the freeform quilting, including butterflies, flowers, leaves etc. along the quilt’s theme.  Once again, I will pick thread that matches the background fabric, I want to provide interest and texture, not compete with the block applique and piecing.

carlablock1My frame designs are actually rather clean and simple.  The reason for this relates to the owner’s quilting design preference.  Jill does not like too much quilting, so I wanted to respect this.

Here are a few sketch designs which did not make the cut, including my favorite one on the left  I think Jill would like this design if I removed the cross-hatching fill in detail.

carlaframe1The next design was discarded as looking as too “alien” like in the corners.  LOL!  Don’t believe me?  Look below:

alienquiltdesign

This gives you an idea for how I design for a quilt- and my thought process as I get ready to quilt it.  I have Jill’s quilt loaded, and will start it after Thanksgiving.

Let me know if you have any questions.  Just leave me a comment and I will write back.

Happy Quilting!  Carla

 

 

Loading Quilts with a Longarm System

With stand up machine quilting system, we quilt using a frame and table system like shown below:

Carla Barrett's Longarm Quilting Machine

Carla Barrett’s Longarm Quilting Machine

The quilt backing is attached to the canvas leaders on the top roller and the very bottom roller on longarm systems.  The batting is laid down on top of the backing and then for the quilt top, you have several options for how you load the top.  Most machine quilters will either partially float the quilt top or fully float them.  There is a 3rd method, the no-float technique, but I do not recommend this method for a wide variety of technical reasons. In machine quilting, just as in life, there are often many ways to get to the same end point.  I always advise new quilters to try it every way, then chose the method they prefer best.  So, let’s go over the various techniques and start with my favorite way, the Partial Float Method:

loading a quilt info by Carla Barrett

loading a quilt info by Carla Barrett

As you can see in my illustration, the backing is attached to both the top and bottom leaders, while the quilt top is only attached on the bottom leader and rolled up.  The batting is laid in between. I prefer to partial float for several reasons.  I feel this method gives me the most control of my sandwich during the quilting process, especially for larger quilts.  When I load the quilt top and roll it up, this will give me an idea for how much excess fullness the top will have, so I can plan my quilting design accordingly.

Quilt top is partially floated, edges are basted to maintain a straight edge.

Quilt top is partially floated, edges are basted to maintain a straight edge.

When you quilt, the fabric draws in towards the stitching, and so I control the top edge of the quilt and the sides by careful basting.  You can put on your machine channel locks, or use a laser level to provide a straight line for your basting.  This way, you start out with a very straight quilt sandwich. As I advance, I use a T-square to keep the side edges basted straight.  I prefer basting to pinning the edges.  Why?  You would have to use lots of pins to give you the control you need compared to basting, and then the chances increase for running over a pin accidentally.  For non-quilters, if you run over a pin and hit it just right, you could break a needle, which could then damage the quilt if you don’t stop in time.  Also, you could throw off your machine head timing, too. Back to partial floating- during the quilting process the quilt will want to draw upwards as you quilt.  This tendency will be limited because the top is attached at the bottom and rolled up.  The roller has locks so I can control the vertical height of the quilt during the quilting, too. Let’s talk about the next quilt loading strategy- the Full Float Method, which looks like this:

Full Float method of loading a quilt for stand up quilting

Full Float method of loading a quilt for stand up quilting

As you can see, the backing is attached both top and bottom.  Then both the batting and quilt top are carefully laid on top and basted straight for control.  The edges are draped over the bottom roller and hangs down during the quilting process. I often fully float smaller quilts and quilts with a 3D element to them.  If the 3D quilt is large, sometimes I will add a horizontal line of basting near the bottom roller to control the vertical stretch as I quilt.  Obviously, this is optional.  Some quilters like to use a weighted magnetic bar (used for organizing tools) from Harbor Freight to assist with top control while fully floating, while others do not.   Obviously, you need to have metal roller for this to work.  Caution, too, that the magnetic tool bar is clean when you use it to weight your sandwich.

King Plus batik quilt I quilted for Barb Kiehn.  This quilt hangs straight.

King Plus batik quilt I quilted for Barb Kiehn. This quilt hangs straight.

No matter if you full float or partial float, you want to end up with a quilt that hangs straight.   Of course, this assumes that the quilt top and backing were straight to begin with.

TIP: The biggest tip I give new machine quilters is to not distort the quilt sandwich tension by over tightening the side clamps or having your roller tension too tight.

There are many variables involved  in machine quilting (including your sandwich tension, side clamps, stretchy leaders, bias quilt, design consistency, etc etc.), any one which may contribute to ending up with a quilt that waves when it hangs. Note to quilt top piecers- what machine quilters see frequently are backings and quilt tops which come to them not straight or square.  Depending on the variance of the horizontal and vertical measurements, and if there are lots of bias sections on the top, this will also affect your quilt and how it hangs in the end. The 3rd way to load a quilt is pretty rare, called the No-Float Method or sometimes called the Full Attachment Method.   Please note that I do not recommend this method for a variety of reasons I will explain in a minute.  Here is what this technique looks like:

No float/full attachment method of loading a quilt

No float/full attachment method of loading a quilt

The illustration above shows you how the quilt top and backing are both attached at the top leader/roller, with the backing and top attached on the bottom leaders/rollers.  Why do I not recommend it?  For a couple of reasons, including that you cannot quilt off the top edge of the quilt, something many freehand and pantograph quilters do often.  There will also be a section at the edge where it is not quilted or has batting, the part you pin, zip, velcro or otherwise attach to the leader.  This could cause issues with the preferred binding technique. I only knew one machine quilter who attached her quilts this way.  If this is how you like to do it, and don’t mind the negatives, then certainly do it the way you like it.   I think I will stick with partial float, and in some cases fully floating. I hope this post has help you to visually understand the differences in the various ways to attach a quilt with a stand up quilting system.  Would love to hear from you if you have an opinion, no matter which way you load your quilts.  Happy Quilting, Carla

Swirly Texture

barbbirdYesterday, I posted this bird, a gift from my friend, Barb.  Someone asked me about the quilted design underneath the bird, so I thought I would share this simple freehand quilting design- with easy step-by-step directions for the beginning machine quilter.  Remember to practice by drawing it out numerous times until you are comfortable doing it.

how-to by Carla Barrett

how-to by Carla Barrett

 

Here is how nice it looks when quilted up:

Carla Barrett

Carla Barrett

Happy Quilting!  Carla