Monday, March 29, 2010

Tip of the Week: REALLY Basic Care for your Machine

It is surprising, when you think of how much they cost, that people ignore some of the little things they can do to make their machines run well. 

Many of us (not me, people!) only use 100% cotton thread in our machine.  In my opinion, it has never been about the type of thread, but the quality of thread.  Computer programmers have an acronym for this:  GIGO, which stands for garbage in, garbage out.  If you think you can buy the 4 for $1 thread and not have problems, you are in for some unhappy surprises.  I've already posted about the threads I prefer, and thread breakage has never been a problem for me.  Using cotton thread  on top and in the bobbin means one thing:--LINT--no matter what brand you are using, and what they say about it.  I use cotton on the top and a lightweight poly in the bobbin, and my machines (four of them) seem to like the blend.  A project may also involve lots of lint.  I've recently grown fond of the bags, bowls, and baskets made from clothesline; this is a lint making project if ever there was one;  ditto for fleece, corduroy, and Minky®.  There is no way to avoid it, but you can lessen the impact that lint will have on your machine by cleaning your bobbin case each time you change the bobbin.  I cannot stress this enough.  One day, in a workshop, a classmate's thread broke repeatedly.  She changed the needle, sewed more slowly, and still the thread kept misbehaving.  I suggested changing the bobbin entirely, and when I saw the bobbin case, I knew immediately what the problem was.  She had enough lint in there to make a small stuffed animal!  You don't need fancy tools to clean your machine;  I use the brush that came with my machine as well as another favorite brush that looks like a dollhouse-sized bottle brush.  I also use a Q-tip, but before I put it in my machine, I twist it around a little bit to ensure there is no loose cotton on the tips.  I never use canned air on the bobbin case, but will use it on the bed, and on the surface of my sewing table.  Another handy tool I use is a pipe cleaner, particularly in the upper threading areas. 

The second most surprising thing is that people simply forget to change their needles; each time you start a project, or every eight hours (new project or NOT),  you should change your needle.  A worn needle can not only damage your project, but do serious damage to your machine and its timing.  As for my favorite machine needles, some folks swear by Organ, and I've used that brand on occasion, but I prefer Schmetz and Klasse needles.  For long wear, Klasse and Organ makes a Titanium needle that will wear much longer than the eight hours.

These are little things, but they will save you time and aggravation; I mean, sewing is supposed to be a happy time, isn't it?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

On the Road: AQS Lancaster

Another road trip, this time with Empire Quilters Guild to the inaugural AQS Lancaster (PA) show.  The show in Lancaster was originally Quilter's Heritage Celebration, which ceased production after 22 years.  Fortunately, AQS has mounted a credible show for those of us easterners who can't make it to Paducah, Nashville, Knoxville, or Des Moines.  I shot more than 150 pictures.  The link to those photos appears at the bottom.

It was a beautiful day, perfect for a road trip.  I was looking forward to this trip for a couple of reasons; having been to Paducah, I knew that the show would be in good hands, but I wondered about the new venue, and what changes AQS would bring to this event.  I ran in to folks from Empire, Garden State Quilters, Nubian Heritage Quilters guilds, even one of the founders of the newly organized Modern Quilt Guild, with her mother and daughter.

There were several things I liked, especially in comparison to having to run across a heavily trafficked highway at the former location to get to some of the satellite venues.  The new center is beautiful, in a part of Lancaster that I'd never visited; it's their downtown, and this convention center is the crown jewel in a redevelopment effort.  Attached to the center is a Marriott hotel. There is a restaurant in the hotel, plus concessionaires set up on two levels. There are plenty of restrooms, enough so that no men's room would have to be commandeered by women.  The shuttle service is reliable and efficient (or so I am told).  There were vendors galore.  There was a men's den, with TV and comfy chairs for men who had been shanghaied for the journey.

Next, the things I found curious, lacking, bothersome, or downright irritating.  There is no on-site parking at the center for cars.  I don't want to ask where our bus driver parked.  How do you build a multimillion-dollar convention center and omit parking facilities?  AQS ran out of programs.  We arrived around 10:20, the show having opened at 9, and were given a booklet describing workshops, of which they had plenty. I hope this is only because the copy orders were somehow switched.  The ratio of quilts to vendors could have been better.  I was surprised at the small number of quilts on display; perhaps I've been spoiled by Paducah, Chicago, and Houston. There were many lovely quilts, but at those previously mentioned shows, while viewing one spectacular quilt after another, I caught myself thinking, REPEATEDLY,  this quilt didn't win a ribbon?  Not even an honorable mention?    I found the layout, in which the aisles had vendors on one side and quilts on another, to be distracting and counterproductive to the flow of shoppers and viewers alike.  Even more confusing was an aisle of quilts where you could photograph one side, and not the other.  Because of the path I took, I unintentionally photographed a 'no photos' quilt from the Burgoyne Surrounded exhibit, and got the requisite talking to.  I didn't see the sign, which was displayed behind me and I wasn't the only transgressor, either!  A display of quilts and vendors was offsite, at Liberty Place; I never got there.  I did not wish to risk missing our return boarding, with the shuttles running every 30 minutes.  I figured it would cost me over an hour in travel time.  In Paducah, they used nearby available spaces such as storefronts.  I saw empty storefronts that they might consider using next year.   Something within walking distance might have better served quilters and the vendors.  AQS did not have a pin for this show.  Surely Pin Peddlers could have filled an order on the fly.  The hoodie on sale had a modern design, but was not in the least bit artful.  The cafeteria area in the basement closed before 1:30; had my friends not been insistent, they would not have been served.  Why would you  not let people know that the cafe was closing at an odd hour by posting this info conspicuously?

Would I go again?  Absolutely, just not for a one-day trip. An overnight would have given me the luxury to explore a little bit more, plus do some shopping at the Lancaster fabric shops.  Zook's/Sauders was at the show, surprisingly, but the best bargains are still to be had at their shop.

Photos from the show can be found here.

P.S.  You will notice that I took several pictures of the carpet and one of a mirror and the wallpaper at the show.  I look for inspiration everywhere.  ;-D