Friday, October 29, 2010

Do you hear all the bells ringing? It is National Oatmeal Day!

Today is October 29, National Oatmeal Day.  What a day! Many years back I discovered that eating a big bowl of Old Fashioned Oatmeal with some goodies added, was a great way to begin the day. It helps to give me a healthy energy level throughout the day.
Power Breakfast for Quilters © by Ann Fahl
Go to my website and get my recipe and read a little more about this quilt. Old fashioned oatmeal when cooked with milk tastes soooooooooooo much better than the instant stuff cooked with water.  Believe me, it really does.  If you are eating too many simple carbs for breakfast, this will make a difference for you. Let me know how you like it.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Darning Feet--In Depth part 1

Before I begin this post, let's define what a darning foot is. A darning foot is an attachment for the sewing machine that is usually mounted on a spring or a hinge. It is meant to be used when the feed dogs are lowered, and allows the sewer to move the fabric under it, freely in any direction.  It is also called a quilting foot, hopping foot, or a free-motion foot, and may be called something else depending on your brand of sewing machine. I use this type of foot exclusively for all my embroidery on quilt tops and all my free-motion quilting. It doesn't restrict the sewer to any specific direction, it is very freeing when you learn to sew in this manner.

It is always amazing that I still make discoveries, even after I've been quilting for soooooo many years.  In my book Dancing with Thread I mention that I prefer to use a closed toe darning foot when quilting on the border or outside edge of a quilt. This is because it is less likely to catch in the edge of the border.

This particular day, I had finished the edge of the quilt, and was moving on to a different project. Too lazy to put the open toed foot back on, I just began to machine quilt with the enclosed foot.  To my surprise, it gave me more control and a better free-motion stitch quality than the open foot, which came with my machine.
Plastic closed toe darning foot for Janome machine
 Little discoveries like this continue to help make my work better. How could this be? The open toe style gives the quilter more visibility for quilting or embroidering around appliques or in the seams. It is easier to see, so I have always used this one for general quilting.

Because the closed toe above, does limit the visibility slightly, I think the improved stitch quality outweighs the visual adjustment I've had to make. Why does it improve the stitch? I think because it lightly holds the fabric down near where the needle pierces the fabric. There seems to be less pulling and stress on the top of the quilt; hence a better stitch. The opening of foot measures about 3/8 ths of an inch.
Open toed darning foot, original equipment for Janome machines
You can see in the above picture how much easier it is to see where the needle will pierce the cloth for the next stitch. So of course, I used to always use this foot!

Janome offers another darning foot.  Read about it in the next post, darning feet part 2

Ann Fahl

Darning Feet--part 2

A year or two ago, Janome released a new foot and bobbin case for free-motion work.  As soon as I heard about this new product I wanted to get the set.  The bobbin case works beautifully. It appears to be just the same as the factory installed case, but it performs better. 

New Janome darning foot for free-motion work
The new closed metal darning foot impressed me at first, because the pressure is adjustable by turning a little dial. You can see above the spring a little wheel that will adjust the pressure on the throat plate and quilt top. The metal enclosed foot is too small to see where I am stitching. The opening actually measures about 3/16 ths of an inch.  After using this foot exclusively for a month or two, I kept having eye strain. After I figured out what was happening to me, I put this foot away and have never used it since. Because I do so much quilting around flower petals and little details, the visibility this foot offers is too limited for me to use in my work.

Many of you have other brands of sewing machines. Check what type of feet are available for your brand of machine. After reading what I've written about what is available from my brand of machine, you will be able to determine what kind of foot will work better for you.

Happy free-motion quilting.

Ann Fahl

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Celebrating Gordon

All my life I've been a cat person. Over the years, there have been many felines in my life, but very few dogs. Across the road at my family's Indiana cottage, a young man named Nick moved in. Shortly thereafter, we got to know both Nick and his puppy, Gordon. Gordon was a beautiful Golden Retriever that spent his days either chasing tennis balls, or holding them in his mouth.

Over the years he became our favorite visitor at the cottage. He knew where my aunt kept the extra tennis balls in the closet, where the doggy treats were in the kitchen, and always waited for someone to toss him a ball. Always a gentleman, Gordon never lifted his leg, he just squatted. This is something women appreciate.  My uncle spends hours working in the yard fixing bikes and boats. You can be sure, Gordon would be close by, supervising the repair activities.

He loved running down the length of the pier and plunging off the end into the water with a huge splash. He loved riding in Nick's pickup truck and going for boat rides. He seemed happiest outside. In his later years, he had trouble getting out of the water, so the lakefront neighbors had stairs or piled up cement blocks to make it easier for him to climb out.  He loved all of us, and we loved him.

On September 22, Gordon died at the age of 9. We are all stunned at his death. I can't imagine how Nick must feel. The only thing I could think to do, was to create a photo collage, print it on fabric and quilt it for Nick. Here is how the small piece looks.
Celebrating Gordon  a quilt by ©Ann Fahl 10.5 x 8 inches
I quilted everything with monofilament thread. I folded a strip of dark green and basted it on the outside edge, then bound the quilt with a tone-on-tone beige print that was about the same color as the siding on his house.

Detail of Celebrating Gordon
Losing a pet is such a devastating experience, I hope this little quilt will stitch up some comforting memories for Nick and all of Gordon's friends.

Because Nick is probably not a quilt enthusiast, I enclosed a easel from Hobby Lobby and a small piece of foam core board to put behind the quilt. This way Gordon's quilt can be displayed on a counter, mantel or table top. 


Sunday, October 10, 2010


One of the earliest paintings attributed to Artemesia Gentileschi

Reading an occasional book gives me a break from my creative activities. My friend Sally gave me her copy of a book titled Artemisia, by Alexandra Lapierre.  Artemisia Gentileschi was a female painter living and working in Italy 1593-1653. The list of artists painting at the same time, she worked and competed with is amazing.

The story of her life got my attention immediately. The life of an artist was so difficult back then, having to make their own paints and supplies, finding people to commission and purchase your work, difficulties of working with patrons and having the Catholic Church limit the subjects that are appropriate for your work. As a young woman, she wasn't even allowed to be seen by young men. She was kept behind closed doors and windows. Social life and dating was nonexistant.

Her father was a famous painter and taught his daughter everything about his art. As she matured, she became a more accomplished artist than her father, Orazio. Many of their works in Italy and England are their collaborations, and still exist today.

The book was translated from the French language. it doesn't take long for you to accept all the foreign phrases, and you become fascinated by her life. It was well documented because of a rape trial and her membership in arts organizations of the time. She was a woman well ahead of her time.

Since finishing the book, I've looked up images of her known paintings. In my opinion, her subjects are awful, some violent, but she was still an amazing painter. Her colors are rich, fabrics beautifully rendered, her human figures are skillfully detailed.  Imagine what she might have painted if she was alive today? What subjects would she have chosen without the restrictions of her time period. Reading this story makes me appreciate my life as a woman and an artist working in the USA. The freedoms we enjoy today make our creative lives so much easier. Imagine wanting to make a quilt. First you have to spin the wool or cotton, grow and make the dyes for the fabric, dye and print the fabric, before even beginning to cut anything out.  And no electricity!

Here is a link to a website dedicated to her life and work. If you read this book, stick with it for the first few chapters, it will catch your interest soon. I was sorry when I was finished with the book.