Posts Tagged ‘Bernina 820’

Last summer, I met a new client who told me an old story. She had stuff in a box and didn’t want to move that box around anymore. She wanted to do something with the contents of that box that she could enjoy and that would honor the former owners of the artifacts in the box. Does that sound familiar?

Wedding Gown from 1910

1910 Wedding Gown

So, what was in the box? Three generations of wedding gowns, carefully wrapped in tissue: my client’s wedding gown from the 1970’s, her mother’s wedding gown from the 1940’s, and her grandmother’s gown from around 1910.

About the Design
Working within the confines of a 24″ wide by 36″ long size for the quilt, I needed to use the wedding gowns in a way that would visually feature and honor all three in some way. My client told me it wasn’t immensely important for her to be able to see her 1970’s gown in the finished quilt, but she really did like her braided belt. We agreed that her grandmother’s gown was the most interesting and should be showcased. Her mother’s gown was lovely and handmade, and had features I wanted to highlight.

Wedding Gown from the 1970's

1970’s Wedding Gown in the Box

To design this quilt, I used my Celebration Quilt worksheet to determine color, pattern, materials, techniques, and to make other design decisions. (If you own my book Creating Celebration Quilts or have taken this workshop, you have this worksheet.) While we quilters often think of quilts in terms of strips or blocks, I approached this quilt with layers as my goal. Each generation would have its own layer.

Layer One: Foundation from 1970’s Gown
My client’s wedding gown was made of a white knit, which gave me the additional challenge of stretchy fabric. To create a base layer for this quilt, I found an appropriate backing, added batting, and basted fabric from the skirt of the 1970’s gown to this quilt sandwich as if this gown were the quilt top. I grid-quilted it on my BERNINA 820 at 1 1/2″ intervals to keep the knit stable. Everything else in this quilt would be appliqued to this foundation.

Let me just pause for a moment and say how very hard it is to cut — yes, CUT — vintage garments. Here’s what I tell myself: This garment is beautiful. It lived a wonderful life and is now in a box where it gets no use, has no exposure, brings no joy. If I cut this garment and make it part of something else, it will have a new life where it will be seen and appreciated every day.

Layer Two: Background from 1940’s Gown

1940's Wedding Gown

1940’s Wedding Gown in the Box

My client’s mother’s gown was really special. It was hand sewn from silk and lots of really lovely lace. I wanted to include it so that you could see it was still a dress, but there wasn’t enough real estate in this quilt to highlight both the 1910 gown and the 1940’s gown. I removed the lining from the 1940’s gown and auditioned several layouts that would show the bodice clearly. I also wanted to highlight the points at the cuffs.

Layer Three: Foreground from 1910 Gown
My client’s grandmother was tiny. Her wedding gown looks child-size. Every detail was well-preserved and, well, beautiful. I couldn’t fit the whole gown on the quilt (If I could have changed the quilt size at this point, I would have.) and I hated to lose any of the gorgeous lace detail. I started by removing the lining and then I positioned the dress on the quilt without cutting away anything. I tried placing it vertically, parallel with the sides of the quilt, but that made for a really boring composition. Then, I tried angling the dress to the right and to the left. The diagonal line made the quilt much more interesting and it left some room to the right to show off the 1940’s lace bodice.


Couching by hand

Couched Floss in the Binding Ditch

Once I knew where everything would go, I pinned things firmly in place and then hand-appliqued everything to the base layer. Where there where big expanses of gown between the stitched edges, I followed the lines of the lace or construction and added more hand-stitching to keep things flat and secure.  Once everything was in place, I trimmed the quilt to size and bound it. To add a little contrast between the binding and the quilt itself, I added a line of Aurifil’s new cotton floss hand-couched in the ditch. It’s subtle, but I think it was an important addition. Finally, I added my client’s braided silk belt. This was what she loved about her gown and I wanted it to show. I handstitched it across the top and left the ends to hang free, framing the other two gowns.

Finished quilt: Three Generation of Wedding Gowns

Out of the Box: Three Generations of Wedding Gowns

A Few Final Thoughts
When I make a Celebration Quilt for a client, I try very hard to use only the materials they supply. Everything in the quilt should be infused with meaning and memories. The only fabrics I added to this quilt were the binding, the backing, and the fabric for the printed labels.

Don’t forget the back of the quilt! When I have artifacts or leftovers that would not fit on the front of a Celebration Quilt, I try to make them work on the back. In this case, I used the lace points from the 1910 gown to highlight the labels. Because the quilt was somewhat unbalanced weight-wise, I added a second sleeve at the bottom for a thin metal slat or drapery weights to help the quilt hang perfectly.

Three labels

This quilt needed three labels to tell the whole story.

This quilt has three labels. One includes the name of the quilt and information about how it came to be. The second label includes pictures of all three brides, including names and dates. The third label includes the anatomy of the quilt, showing a picture of the quilt with arrows identifying what artifacts are where. This is a good idea any time the artifacts may not be obvious or the quilt may eventually go to someone who would not recognize the contents.

This quilt may not be for everyone; it’s not supposed to be. My client is happy. She has hung this quilt in her new home where she can enjoy it every day. An effective Celebration Quilt is personal and meaningful — and designed as a one-of-a-kind piece of art. If you are interested in learning how to make Celebration Quilts, you can buy my book or come to one of my workshops. If you bring the seed of an idea, I’ll help you make a plan. If you want to talk with me about making a Celebration Quilt for you, e-mail me and let’s start the conversation.


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Recently, I was free motion quilting a baby quilt and I was interupted by skipped stitches. Everything would be perfect for a few inches and then I’d have to stop and rip. Since quilting is supposed to be fun (and this wasn’t), I did some research, started experimenting, and finally fixed the problem. Here’s what I learned – along with some words of wisdom from a few of my quilting friends.

What are Skipped Stitches?

The needle holes show where the stitches were skipped.

In free motion quilting, skipped stitches are when the needle carries the top thread into the quilt sandwich, but the thread does not form a stitch. The needle may leave a hole when it pulls out of the quilt, but the top thread also pulls out of the hole. Skipped stitches can come one at a time or several in sequence. I have a tolerance for one here and there, but groups look bad and I rip them out and try to figure out what’s causing the problem.

What Causes Skipped Stitches?

Skipped stitches are caused by incorrect timing in the stitch formation process. For stitches to form properly, the hook and needle’s bottom position must be timed just right. There are factors that can affect this:

  • How you prepare your sewing machine for free motion quilting
  • Thread size and quality
  • Needle size and type
  • Presser foot choice
  • Presser foot pressure
  • Your free motion quilting technique

As you make adjustments to solve the skipping problem, remember to change one thing at a time and test on a quilt sandwich that matches the quilt you’re working on.

Machine Preparation

Everything you need to clean your machine

  • Make sure the machine is threaded properly. This sounds simple, but a small oversight can cause big issues. Michele Scott, quilter, author, teacher, suggests turning the machine off and back on to restart or reboot to reset anything that may have become “goofy.”
  • Michele Scott also suggests trying a single hole or straight stitch throat (stitch) plate. The smaller opening leaves less room for the quilt to flap as the needle punctures the quilt sandwich, pushing it down and pulling it back up.
  • Reduce the top thread tension. Start with small changes, but don’t be afraid to approach zero. Just keep checking where the stitch locks (top thread with bobbin thread) to make sure you’re fixing your skipping problem and not causing a tension problem.
  • Make sure your feed dogs are down. I know, but check anyway. If you can’t cover them or lower them, then set the stitch length to zero to keep them from moving.
  • Make sure the needle is inserted completely and properly.
  • Clean the bobbin area and make sure there are no errant threads hiding there. Oil, if appropriate.
  • Victoria Findlay Wolfe, artist, quilter, and owner of Bumble Beans, Inc., suggests getting rid of all those dust bunnies hiding under your throat (stitch) plate. You may be surprised by how many you find!
  • Shannon Shirley, an award-winning quilter, says she gives her machine a good cleaning. Sounds like a great idea!


Successful combination of thread for this baby quilt

  • Use quality thread. This will cut down on lint (bonus!) and make a nicer stitch.
  • Try a different size thread. Sometimes really small threads can be too small to be caught by the hook. If this is consistently a problem, take your machine in to be serviced and explain the problem. This is an easy adjustment.  Try a thread that’s one step larger to see if this is the issue.
  • According to Kathy Lincoln, who teaches machine quilting, some batiks grab the thread fiber, interfering with good stitch formation. If batiks are giving you trouble, trying a finer thread could be the solution.


  • Dull or damaged needles can cause skipped stitches. Change your needle.
  • Use the right needle for your machine. I like Schmetz for my Bernina.
  • Microtex/Sharp needles work well with tightly woven fabrics, like batiks.
  • Topstitch needles have a bigger eye, which can be helpful if you are using larger thread.
  • Needles that are too small can cause flapping (why do they call it flagging?). Start with 80/12 and move up from there.
  • Kathy Lincoln says this about needles: It may seem counter-intuitive, but try going from a sharp point to a ball point needle. The ball point will separate the fibers instead of cutting through them.

Bernina presser feet, left to right: #15, #44c, BSR with clear plastic sole

Presser Feet

  • Start with whatever foot your machine manufacturer recommends. Generally, a darning foot is fine.
  • My Bernina foot #15 is my go-to foot for free motion quilting.
  • If flapping (flagging) becomes an issue, go for a foot that has more surface area, like Bernina’s #44. If you’re using the Bernina Stitch Regulator (the BSR), use the clear plastic sole. The idea is to provide as much coverage around the needle as possible to cut down on flapping.

Presser Foot Pressure

  • If the skipped stitches are caused by flapping, then increasing presser foot pressure can help reduce the flapping. While the presser foot does not actually ride on the fabric while you are free motion quilting as it does in regular sewing, increasing the pressure can limit the space within which the quilt sandwich can flap up and down.
  • Change presser foot pressure in small increments (On my Bernina, I change in increments of 5, starting with the default 50 setting) and test, test, test. For the batik baby quilt, I finally fixed the problem with a presser foot pressure set at 85.


  • Don’t push the fabric too fast. If you can’t slow your hand speed, then increase the machine speed.
  • Use your hands to keep the target section flat and firm (but not stretched or tight). I keep my hands flat, fingers at 12:00 and thumbs pointed toward each other at 3:00 and 9:00. Think of the stereotypical film director framing a shot with his hands. The area between my hands is where I stitch. Yes, you have to reposition your hands pretty often and, yes, it’s worth it.
  • Try to keep a steady, consistent speed.
  • Make a test sandwich out of the same materials you are using in your quilt. Test before you move to the quilt. Seriously. I like to skip this, but it’s best to play it safe. Use it to test tension and stitch quality.
  • I have an anonymous quilting buddy who says she switches off her machine and heads to the kitchen for an adult beverage. Hmm. That sounds like a plan. Take a break and start fresh later.

If nothing here works, then your machine timing may be off. You may need to take it in to your machine tech for service. Be prepared to sew at the shop and demonstrate the skipped stitches. Take your quilt or the test sandwich with you to the shop.

My baby quilt has a batik top, batik backing, and thin cotton batting. I was quilting on my Bernina 820 with Superior Threads’s King Tut (cotton 40-weight thread) in the top and Aurifil Mako (50-weight cotton thread) in the bobbin. The winning combination was a 90/14 topstitch needle, 1.25 top thread tension, the Bernina Stitch Regulator with the clear plastic sole set on BSR 1, and the presser foot pressure set at 85.  Now I just need to finish the binding!

For more information about this quilt, read my previous blog entry.

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I am a lucky quilter. I readily acknowledge this. I am a Bernina National Artisan and the happy recipient of a loaner machine — an artista 730e. I love the things it does that my Bernina 820 does not.

As a quilter, I spend my sewing time working on quilts and quilt-related projects. Yes, I learned to sew by making garments, but who has time to hem pants and replace buttons, much less learn machine embroidery? Me, apparently.

Eric on his BMW

My Husband on his Bike

The Project
My husband loves to camp. Recently, when he realized a lifelong dream and purchased a motorcycle, he began looking at his camping gear in a new way. He began to attend BMW rallies with his brother, toting all of his gear on his bike. He traded his folding camp chair for a Kermit chair, well-known to motorcycle camping enthusiasts. He exchanged his camp towel (an old bath towel) for a new high-tech microfiber towel. Then came the request. “My chair and towel look like everyone else’s. Could you put my name on them for me?” I thought quickly. Sharpie pen? Fabric paint and a hand-cut stencil? Ahhh. I could use my 730e to machine embroider whatever he needed. I could use machine embroidery to help him farkle.

I learned some important things through this process and I want to share them along with a few project details.

The Design
After much discussion, we decided to embroider my husband’s first name. I wanted to use my monogram designs, and so I campaigned for three simple letters. However, many of the campers don’t know his last name; they just know him as Eric. And the font was important, of course. After much back-and-forth with e-mail, PDF font samples, and help from patient and generous friends, we settled on a design.

Bernina 730e with embroidered towel

My 730e with Embroidered Microfiber Towel

Project Details
: The Bernina embroidery software I used allowed me to import True Type fonts. I went to ITCFonts.com and found the perfect fonts: ITC Rennie Mackintosh Std Bold and ITC Rennie Mackintosh Ornaments. Click, purchase, download. Check. By rotating and resizing, I was able to lay out the design exactly as we wanted it to look.

Thread: Both the chair and the towel are dark blue. We entertained yellow, white, and green for thread colors, but we settled on grey. I used Isacord thread. Great stuff!

Stabilizer: I used a tear-away for both the chair back and the towel. The towel had no real loops, and so I did not need that clear topping to prevent the loops from being caught and the design from sinking too far down.

Kermit Chair with Name

Embroidered Kermit Chair

The Back of the Design: I didn’t really care if the back of the name showed on the towel. Who would see it? I cared very much about the wrong side of the stitching showing on the back of the chair. My husband had the perfect solution. He had a patch he saved from one of the two coast-to-coast bicycle trips he made with Wandering Wheels. We both loved the irony of a bicycle patch on a chair used at motorcycle rallies. I sewed the patch on the back of the chair over the wrong side of the embroidery. Problem solved! You can see a faint line of stitching around the name on the chair.

Wandering Wheels PatchThis project took longer than I wanted it to, but I learned a lot about machine embroidery in the process. I loved using the technology I had on hand. I am mesmerized by the 730e as the embroidery module moves the hoop in perfect synchronization with the needle to form a perfect design. I must admit that I’m looking around the house for other things that need to be embroidered. I had fun. Maybe I’ll work on quilts next week.

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It’s that time of year again. We’re counting down until it’s time to open gifts in the Souder household. Do you celebrate your holiday with stocking stuffers? When I was little, we didn’t have much. Our stocking stuffers were practical gifts with a few chocolate coins and a tangerine. I think practicality when I buy stocking stuffers. And so, how would you fill a quilter’s Christmas stocking?

  1. Christmas TreeCotton swabs — for cleaning our sewing machines
  2. Bobbins — for the sewing machine we use the most (yes, we have more than one); I could use some for my Bernina 820
  3. That Purple Thang — really; it’s just purple plastic, but it’s a surprisingly useful tool
  4. Clover seam ripper — no one wants to rip out stitching, but I think this is the best ripper on the market
  5. Bobbin thread — in neutral colors; I’m a big fan of Wonderfil‘s Invisifil bobbin thread
  6. Machine needles — Microtex or Denim needles in size 80 or 90 would be wonderful
  7. Rotary cutter blades — sneak into the studio and check the cutter size, but don’t look for any gifts we might be making
  8. Something fun and inspirational — this will be different for each quilter; for me, something hand-dyed from Artistic Artifacts might be just the thing
  9. Subscription (or extension to a current subscription) to your quilter’s favorite magazine — in my house, that’s Quilting Arts, but Machine Quilting Unlimited would be good, too
  10. Gift certificate from the family — good for one full weekend of quilting time with no other responsibilities

From Moonlighting Quilts and the Souder family, we wish you all the best for this holiday season. See you next year! (Don’t forget to print this list and leave it where Santa will find it.)

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Awhile back, I shared with you that I drank the Bernina Kool-Aid. Well, a few weeks ago, I visited Orlando, FL, to attend Bernina University. What an experience! And more Kool-Aid!

Martin Favre Welcome at BU 2010

Martin Favre Welcoming Us to BU

The kick-off meeting was a huge multi-media event hosted by Martin Favre, Bernina of America’s president. The opening was filled with audio, video, dancers, showcases, entertainment, education, and, of course, sewing machines. You’re seeing pictures of the screens, since they photographed more clearly than the people on stage. 

Jennifer Gigas and a 380

Jennifer Gigas Introduces the 380

Before we went to Bernina University, we kept hearing about the new 3 Series machines: 330, 350, and 380. It was worth the wait to see these machines in action. They are wonderful machines for sewers of all kinds. I can easily imagine these machines being snapped up by young moms wanting to sew for their children and homes, by sewers who are becoming a little more serious about their work and want to upgrade from their beginner machines, and by sewers who want a second (Or third or fourth – you know who you are!) machine to take to retreats or classes or travel. The Quilt Patch, where I teach and manage the Bernina department, is planning a 3 Series event in late August. If you’re interested, you’ll have to reserve your spot. Look for the announcement on the Quilt Patch website in the next week.

Of course, Bernina University is about more than ceremonies. I took classes and learned until my head was full. My classes included machine embroidery, the CutWork tool software (OMG, too cool!), information about the 820 and the 830, and using online resources like websites and social networking. I saw amazing art-to-wear done as I prefer it – to personalize and augment your look, not to announce your entrance. It was inspirational.
View from the Window

The View from our Hotel Window

I wasn’t looking forward to Orlando in the summer, but northern Virginia was actually hotter than Orlando. Amazing. It felt odd to go all the way to the Land of Disney without actually visiting Mickey, but we had a tremendous view from our window of the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress. In the evenings, we watched amazing sunsets and then caught the 9:00 fireworks. All in all, it was a wonderful trip and I came back with my head full of ideas and projects. Now, if I only had more time…

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Is a Great Quilt Husband really like Santa Claus, unicorns, and a truly free lunch? I think not. This weekend I was reminded that I am married to a really, really Great Quilt Husband. Which, of course, begs the question: what makes a Great Quilt Husband (GQH)?

A Great Quilt Husband has hobbies. That helps him better understand when you want to spend time with your quilting. My husband will tell you that he really doesn’t have any hobbies, but I’d beg to differ. He is the commissioner for his fantasy football league. He brews high quality beer (yum!). He likes to make and fix things, which leads to…

Bernina 820 with table insert

My 820 with the Insert Installed

A Great Quilt Husband uses his powers for good. On Sunday, I taught a private lesson at the quilt shop and then I taught an art quilt class. During this time, my GQH broke down my sewing table and installed the insert for my Bernina 820. While he was at it, he reinforced the table since the 820 is heavier than my last machine. My entire studio is a reflection of his building and design skills.

A Great Quilt Husband knows how to answer design questions. A coworker of mine tells me that her husband always answers her design questions (Do I need more quilting? Do I need to change this color?) “yes.” He says that if she’s asking, then she knows there’s something wrong that needs to be addressed. My GQH listens to my questions, discusses the options, and then understands that his input is part of the process, not necessarily the direction I’ll take.

A Great Quilt Husband is patient. Need I say more? Okay. My GQH is patient with the number of hours I spend in my studio, the time I take with quilt-related activities outside of the house, and the effort it takes to plan the classes I teach and help my students.

Friends at the 2009 MAQF

In Search of New Products

A Great Quilt Husband understands that quilters regularly attend a lot of quilt shows. Further, a GQH would never misunderstand that attendance at a quilt show is a shopping opportunity. Rather, attendance is an opportunity to sample new products and exchange ideas with other quilters. *Ahem.*

A Great Quilt Husband understands that quilting will eventually take over the entire house. You’ve heard the joke? My husband is in charge of the garage, the attic, the utility room, and everything outside the house. The rest of the house is open for quilting activities and storage.

What other attributes does a Great Quilt Husband have? You tell me.

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I had a wonderful day today. I spent the work portion of the day at the local quilt shop where I am the Bernina manager and then I came home and worked on a very old Bernina for a neighbor.

Picture of Bernina 820

My 820

Let me start with this afternoon, when I was able to play with new machines. I worked with our Bernina tech on a client’s 820 (yes, I have an 820 at home), smoothing out some operational kinks. For those of you with 8 Series machines, a few tips: [Disclaimer: I am not a Bernina tech. These tips work for me, but they are not official Bernina recommendations.]

  • Don’t be afraid of bigger needles. I had a client who was repairing a microtex jacket using a satin stitch. She had tension and stitch width issues with an 80 universal needle, but all was wonderful with a 100 jeans needle.  Match the needle to the job. Keep in mind the needle may be larger than you would expect.
  • If your top thread is wound on the spool in flat rows, like Superior, Signature, or Sulky, you may run into some top tension issues. To avoid this, swing the multi spool holder out to the right and hook the thread on to an arm of the telescoping wand that is not directly above the spool. This should ensure that the thread pulls away from the spool rather than directly up where it can catch on the end of the spool and get hung up.
  • If you are freemotion quilting without your BSR, consider using a #15 foot. My tech just recommended this to me and I really like it. The opening is bigger and the front end is curved up ever so slightly. It makes all the difference.
  • If you are quilting with your BSR (8 Series machines only) and you are experiencing skipped stitches, you may need to have your spring replaced. Ask your tech; it’s an easy fix. My BSR functions beautifully now with the new spring.
Bernina 707 Minimatic

Neighbor's Bernina 707 Minimatic

When I got home tonight, I worked on an ancient Bernina for my neighbor. I should be careful who I call “ancient!” The machine was born in the 60’s and so was, well, never mind. My neighbor asked me to look at the tension because she was having trouble adjusting it. The machine is a gem! It’s a 707 Minimatic that was purchased in Africa. The manual is in Dutch, which my neighbor speaks, but I had to rely on the pictures. After a thorough cleaning and some oil, the machine is working again and the tension is perfect.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

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