Friday, October 14, 2011

Test Driving the Sweet 16 with David Taylor

That's the HandiQuilter Sweet 16, which I have been lusting after for the past couple of years.  It is basically a sitdown quilting machine with a very large flatbed surface to work on.  You push the fabric around under the needle, unlike on longarm machines where you guide the movable needle over the fabric.  There are no feed dogs and no presser foot.  It is strictly for free motion quilting.

David Taylor is a true pro in this type of work, and is an official "Ambassador" for Handiquilter, sharing his expertise and passion for this machine. 
He does detailed and meticulous pictorial hand applique, and then enhances the imagery with very close machine quilting, using hundreds of thread color changes along the way.  (He likes the Sulky Blendables 30 weight cotton thread for this, by the way, because their variegations in color are random on the thread.  Good tip there.)

Here is one of his quilts:

It's his dog, Maynard.

David's class was about "quilting organically".  He does not mark his quilts, but intuitively responds to his imagery by quilting "the way things move and grow".  I love that approach.....but as you know, I am not this kind of quilter.  My agenda was to see if spending a day with a pro and the Sweet 16 would help me see if I could integrate this kind of quilting work with crazy quilting in any way.  It has been an issue bugging me a lot.  Can it be done?
My friend Debra Hardman is great at it, which is why I wanted her quilt in my book.

She is quite the master.  I couldn't hope to quilt anything like this, but still I wanted to see what would happen, how it felt.

David started us out with a neat exercise.

He gave us some large scale floral fabric to practice on.
He also showed us how to handle a larger piece of work on the Sweet 16.

He's got the excess rolled up against the back, and has made "waves" in the quilt so that he can easily move the quilt around under the needle.  He likes to quilt from forward to back (probably from years on a regular sewing machine); he starts all his quilts in the center and quilts outward from there, turning the quilt as he needs to.

He emphasized how his lines are always curved, never in a set pattern of length.  He demonstrated by doing a freehand animal face.

He slowed the machine down while outlining the eyes.  The Sweet 16 lets you set the speed, a great feature.  But it is not a stitch regulator.  David again and again stressed that the movement of your hands has to match the speed of the machine.  Like in driving, how you steer and how much you hit the gas are definitely related.  He also said, "You don't watch the steering wheel as you drive, you?" 
You are always looking ahead to where you are going to stitch, and your hands will follow your brain's in driving.
Naturally, this takes lots and lots of practice.

OK, on to my sample.  The jury is definitely out for me on this!  The results were crude, but held possibility...

First was my crazy quilt block.

Boo.  Quilting for quilting's sake on a CQ block is a no go, for me at least.  It HAS to be integrated and essential to the overall design of the piece.  And that could happen, especially if the CQ was pictorial in nature.  I do like the way the butterfly could move on the patch with quilting.

OK, next is the "Go Crazy" 4 block sample.

Again, boo.  No likey.

Then I tried messing with May the cat.

The face is a wash. (If I dived into thread painting however, that could be cool....) I learned that there is little point in quilting on velvet.  On the other hand, I kind of liked what could be done by quilting the white background doily.  Potential there.

 Next came the printed photo landscape.  This got me excited.

David said that I was embroidering here, not quilting, and he was right.  But that's what I do, so who cares?  What I liked was that with practice and a deft touch, machine embroidery could work on a photo of this scale.  I didn't know that before.

Finally, my biggest rush of the class.  I had brought one of the running figures from Mark's quilts to see how I might quilt that.  I asked David what he would do, so he sketched out some quilting lines and then I sewed over them.  I was thrilled with his idea.

Click on this to see...basically, David put the runner in context, with a simple road leading with perspective to a background.  I never EVER would have thought of this.  In heavier thread, this would be smashing.
While I won't go this detailed on Mark's quilts, I will definitely use the concept.  I had to hug David, I was so happy!

Another thing I came away with was this:

When wearing these gloves, it is very easy to move the quilt around under the needle, because you get such a nice grip.  They are breathable and comfortable, light and unobtrusive.  This was a major score, and will make quilting Mark's five quilts infinitely easier for me.

Do I still lust after the HandiQuilter Sweet 16?  Oh indeed I do.  But I can't justify the money for one yet; I can make my Juki do a lot of what I need still......but boy oh boy did I learn a lot in class, and am so glad I went.


Stevii said...

Thanks for this Allie. Great overview on this class.Maynard is an amazing quilt. How he handled all that white is genius.

Amy Munson said...

I to have the dream of a large quilting machine. Alas, it will have to wait for a bit. Love machienegers, make machiene quilting much easier.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you I'd love one of those but I can accomplish so much with my Kenmore as I free motion all my quilts that I make for display at work, they can all be found on my blog.

Leonie said...

So glad you were able to take this class Allie. Whether you will ever own one of these machines or not, you learned some valuable tips that will play out in your own interpretations and creations. I can see the wheels turning all the way from north of the border (-:

Judy S. said...

Sounds like an interesting and helpful class!

Deb Hardman said...

I think you are being a little hard on yourself as far as your machine quilting is concerned. You have the artist's eye, & you have only just begun. It takes time & practice to get where you want to go. Try to doodle every day on paper. Let it flow without thinking. Just doodle. & why don't you fly up here for a few days, & I'll give you a free intensive? We can have our own little quilt camp. We'll do Threadplay & free-motion machine quilting. You are a natural. I know you can do it.
Oh, & thanks again for the kind words about my quilting!

Pat Winter Gatherings said...

You should take a class with Ellen, she does the same thing with a Bernina..much less expensive, same results. Looks like a fun day!

Susan Elliott said...

I just learned a lot too from reading your post. The runner in context was waaaay cool...and it's all just more tools to put in that creative toolbox of yours. How did the jersey knit perform? Did it bunch or stretch?

Pamela Kellogg said...

Awesome and interesting post Allie! For me, I'm all about the handwork but it's fascinating to see what can be done with specialty machines. I never had any desire to have an embroidery machine of any kind but I do love seeing the possibilities they offer.

Hugs, Pam