Sunday, October 8, 2017

trickling along

creatively.  I have been puttering about either operating or working on sewing machines this summer, just at the speed of Mississippi mud before climate change.

NOT SEWING, but I have been very pleased with this garden.  I planned it, went to Lowes and got the lumber. I very craftily packed 8 ft lengths into my modest car with the male employees watching reprovingly (Where's her pickup truck?  Where's her MAN?). They also strongly doubted my choice in untreated lumber.  Organic, smorganic they thought.  Wait till those bugs come.  And that wood will rot.  It will rot, but I'm ok with that.  I got a bunch of good stuff out of there and I learned a lot. I think I'll put up two more beds next summer.  I choked some plants out, putting too much in there.

On to sewing.  I couldn't stand to work anymore on the bodice sloper for a while, so I switched to a woven camisole/tank top with darts.  I used a pattern I had on hand that did not have the "correct size" so I had to grade up. I'm fairly confident I did a good job of that.  I then made my first ever full bust adjustment.  In my previous life as a home sewer, pre-computer age, I never needed to do that. I was a fairly straight-out-of-the-envelope size 18 B cup.  It all would have went to hell when it came to crotch depth but that didn't matter then. I only sewed tops, dresses, and skirts. The first thing I discovered on returning to sewing was that I do need adjustments to patterns now.  Pants fitting wasn't too painful.  As I continue to gain more and more post-menopausal weight, the adjustments are getting more and more complicated.

I accommodated pretty well for the bigger bust with the FBA,  but the arm and neckholes were, yeah.  So I diligently measured and made darts and moved darts and redrew patterns, all that convoluted work.  I came up with this:

with more darts pinned in

Perhaps a little better, but not an exciting, flattering fit.  I revisited what I could find online about Nancy Zieman's pivot and slide method.  I ordered the book (I thought) and received a DVD.  I don't currently own anything that plays DVDs, so I reordered the book.  I looked at it, and noted she says your shoulders and armhole depth don't change with weight changes.  I believe they will if you pad enough fat onto those shoulders. 18 might not sound svelte to most people, but I was Army lean with 19% body fat, bikini strutting.  My measured top size is now 26 or 28. With results as above, I'm going to have to try going from the high bust measurement, thus a smaller size, and then slide out from there to accommodate the bigger parts.  I just don't believe I'll be sliding out from an 18.

 I had to abandon sewing garments when the thermometer hit 90. Unless I was going out doors, and sometimes not then, I wasn't putting on more than boxer shorts and a sports bra.  Even to try on was more than I wanted to do.  I marveled all summer at instagram photos of people wearing clothes. Menopause has been long, hot, and heavy in my world.

So, I switched to quilting for a while.  I finally decided that my very rare and old friend Shari deserved a cat lady quilt.  OK, Shari is my age, but we became friends at age 13 on an Air Force base where we were both brats.  Military brats form few if any lasting relationships during their travels, so Shari is one of only two people other than family I've known prior to age 30. The pattern I'm using is modern and so are the fabrics. I'm wondering if I have too many (very cool) cat prints and should have used a higher ratio of solids.  I can only tell when it gets done.


It took me a darn week just to pre wash, iron, and cut out all those curved pieces.  Thank God for  rotary cutters and acrylic rulers.  How the hell did women do those quilts before rotary cutters and olfa mats?  See my mock houndstooth kittys?  Day of the dead kitties?  I also have some Florida beach and bicycles for our childhood, and wild west mountains, for where she chose to end up. There are atomic cats and retro cats, cats in the garden.  Not old lady cats.

These are the first few blocks sewn.  There will be dark alternating with light blocks that form a secondary design of huge rings across the quilt. Pretty awesome design called Chic Country by Sew Kind of Wonderful, or same pattern by template is called Winding Ways and sold by Marti Mitchell.  Sewing those curves is supposedly intimidating, but there is a great video by SKW on Youtube and the blocks are designed to be trimmed down to size, not needing to be sewn precisely perfect.  Good damn thing, in my case.  I sew slow, and thus few quilts.  This will be, in fact, only my second quilt bigger than crib sized.  I'm highly anticipating getting to the quilting part, my favorite part. I struggle with the precision necessary with most piecing.

Finally, I finished those Style Arc Shelby Sweatpants, back in June, but there was no way I was going to put them on and get photos until it cooled off some.  I like the fit, with my standard crotch depth lengthening.  I added an inch to leg length that I would not add if I make them again.  Also, I'm not sure I wouldn't skip those zippered and bagged pockets and just pop in some side seam pockets, but if I went to the trouble I would certainly find better (higher) placement. They are low.

I was worried by the time I decided to put these on to photograph they would no longer fit.  I outgrew a couple things this summer.  Night shift in home health care involves very little activity, but still leaves you exhausted and not craving much activity daytime either.  The studies about sedentary lifestyle and disease links are hitting the news this summer.  Sitting for 6 or 8 hour stretches is more harmful than smoking a pack a day.  Linked to Diabetes, heart disease, depression, on and on and on.  I've started forcing myself to get up and move at least every two hours at work, and I've been trying to get in walks after work and doing fairly well with that.  I was so out of breath though, and then I was asked to pay $74. for a carton of cigarettes after taxes went up in Delaware.  So in another 4 hours I will be 9 days nicotine free!!!  I've been smoking 1 1/2 packs a day, and smoking for 44 years.  I'm hoping to take off quite a few pounds/inches, increase my activity stamina, and find a new job in the next year or two. I'll be freakin wonderful!

There were vintage machines acquired and tinkered with, another time to discuss those. Contemplating a video for the "newest" one.  Video for the quilting of the quilt too.  I'm really hoping I get motivated sewing garments with the weather and my commitment to activity- I'll need clothes to put on!!!

And maybe print this up poster size to keep the inspiration strong on exercise.  Is that my butt?????
I knew when this style started trending a couple years ago not everyone should wear it.  Ahem.  I do like the camouflage with roses, hearts, and peace signs.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Singer 306K reference for bobbin/standard needle modifications

My 306K has been waiting far too long for bringing back to life, maybe 2 years now.  I didn't know a sewing machine could be a UFO!

There are two small problems with the machine still: I snapped off the stitch length regulator lever, and it takes an obscure needle only used for these swing needle Singer models. The lever has turned out to be sightly scarcer than many vintage machine parts are.  I have a fair supply of the needles, but they only come in two sizes and only in sharp, no heavy duty or ball point or other specialty.

Standard 15x1 sewing needles used in domestic machines today (and most vintage, except for this small series of  "swing needle zig zag" machines) are about 2 mm longer than the 206x13 needles my 306 requires. If you try to use a standard needle for zig zag or specialty, it slams into the bobbin case and scratches it up and can put the timing off.

There are two very good options to modifying the machine to take the standard needles, and one bad one.  The bad one is to change the timing, which can end very unwell.  The second is to buy a different bobbin case, which may or not need some work with a dremel or some other tool to open the slot a little further.

This post describes how to modify the bobbin case for a  Singer 306k:  Andrew Caddle- bobbin case conversion.  This post by the same author suggests the Riccar 806 case can be used without any configuring:  Andrew Caddle-alternative-bobbin-case-available.  I am not inclined to go fiddle with a dremel, but I can find the Riccar bobbin case on ebay for less than $16 (free shipping!) so I'll probably go that route sometime soon.  Just not yet.  Andrew's posts are very well illustrated and explained, if you have or are considering a 206,306,319, or 320 go have a look.

Also, In Stitches Vintage Sewing posted the following in a facebook vintage machine group recently:

"What you need is a new bobbin case that fits the machine, has enough room to allow the swing of a standard needle, and in the case of the 306,319, and 320... a slot to match the extra guide pin in the hook assembly.
Sounds impossible ?
The modern replacement for all these machines is a Singer 20u bobbin case (part number 541678) and if you have a 206 you can pop it right in and start sewing.
In the case of the 3xx machines in this series, the 20u case has to be modified to add the guide slot it lacks... judicious use of a Dremel with a small cutter and diamond coated grinder yielded very nice results. After cutting, the slots were de-burred and polished and then tested in a 319k. (Last pictures).
The vibration of the rotary tool will probably loosen up the spring tension screw... that will need to be reset before you start sewing."

I wasn't sure I could give a working link to a closed group link or I would have. He also had great photos.  I particularly like the tip to check the spring tension screw on the bobbin case after you are finished!  Details!

As for my lever for my broken stitch length regulator, I let one slide by and I bought a second that didn't fit, although the seller said it came off a 306k.  Next payday, if still available, I will buy the entire assembly from another ebay seller and see if I can get that to work. $16, shipping included.  Not an expensive hobby, just one requiring patience.

It took me so long to find the above references, I wanted to file them away somewhere that my foggy brain could find them when I finally come around to needing them.  Perhaps they could help someone else find their way as well.  My 301 sews very lovely tiny tiny stitches without my being able to change the length, these machines are so worth rescue!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas

I was strangely smitten with this pattern when I saw it, nostalgia for the granny comfort of it. Something my Ma or Gran-ma would have worn in the 70's.  I got it on sale recently on the Vogue pattern site.  Much to my amusement, rifling through my vintage patterns on the very day this pattern arrived, I found this:

It may be hard to see details with my terrible lighting, but the robes are EXACTLY the same.  The vintage version gave an option of a tie belt.

And  never mind sizes changing, look at that $1.00 price verses today's  $22.50!!!  I would NEVER pay that for a bathrobe pattern.  I thought I was kind of crazy for committing to buying fabric for this thing, but blame it on the nostalgia!

The tradition of late pajama pants at my house is strong and thriving.  I'm glad I'll get them done eventually.  It used to be homemade cookie ingredients I bought and never made, until the kids started baking them up.  I threw out more than a few jars of green and red sprinkles.

And Happy Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, or whatever you may celebrate if you're celebrating.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Then I found myself

right in the neighborhood of G Street Fabrics! I took someone to look at an apartment in Rockville MD today .I wondered briefly about fabric opportunity; this is just outside of Washington DC and is much more urban than my slower lower Delaware world.  I shook it off because it was Sunday and  I was sandwiching this 5 hour round trip adventure between two night shifts. I did just have to ask the landlady if there were any near by fabric stores and she said "G Street".  I've been hearing about this store for years, and GPS had me 7 minutes away.

Because both time and money were not budgeted for fabric today, I was determined to get in and out and sin gently.  As you can see with that $16. total, I did just that!

I found lovely beefy ribbing that I needed for my sweatpants, yayyyyy!

that's a blurry dark pen for perspective.
I passed rows and rows of other lovelies without grabbing any because I had no specific project in mind that I needed anything for.  I could not resist grabbing SOMETHING from the $2.99 room, as it's nice to have stuff you don't mind wrecking in practice.  I found this Dia de Muertos spandex/poly blend, not to thin or too shiny, great for a thirteen year old girl to be inspired with.  Mmm, no, she said. So I'll use it for something, or not.

I grabbed elastic and a bra back on the way out, dying a little at not being able to spend time with all of the threads, buttons, and trims on the way out.

The store was smaller than I expected, smaller than Mood in NYC.  The selection was vast and included apparel fabrics for ever scenero, quilting, home dec and upholstery.  A separate little store sold Bernina sewing machines. The sales staff seemed knowledgeable (not much time for chat today, on my part) and very pleasant.

I would so love to visit this store again, with more target fabric in mind, more time and money allotted.  I don't think the apartment thing went through though, so it might be quite some time before I find myself in Rockville again.  All scheduled  Airport trips for my family will have to be done during normal business hours, as Rockville is fairly close to that airport.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Style Arc Shelby Sweatpants

I purchased this pattern at least a year ago.  I started a pair in a fabric I hated and satisfied myself with pattern fit.  I don't know why I took so long to make a "for real" pair.  So, finally, I'm working on them.  I'm surprised I've only seen one blog post about these, and nothing on pattern review.  They seem to be trendy and comfortable.

One thing I did know about Style Arc is that some of their pattern instructions beg you to go your own way.  This particular pattern demands it for the pockets.

First of all, the bag was too small for my big hands.  Probably that was my first clue that I should have just gone ahead and redrafted, especially since I needed to draft a facing to turn in and under the edges of the window opening over the zipper.

The instructions (found separately under a tutorial on their webpage) call for you to just mark the pants front, slash as indicated, and turn under. I think that would be pretty tricky without a facing, especially since next step is to slap the zipper underneath and stitch around.  Nahhh.  THEN they wanted you to sew the bags to whatever zipper edges were leftover working around all of that fabric flapping around. That would have been enough to make me abandon project right there. If I do it again I'll draft a new pocket all in one piece, with the facing piece in the middle and insert like a coin pocket in a bag.  I had already cut out the pockets and didn't want to waste that fabric (the ghost of my frugal sewing mother telling me not to DARE)!

Had I redrafted and recut, I might have avoided this.  I was thinking, do the same to the top and the bottom. The one edge was never meant to wrap over the zipper, and when sewed to do so it meant it could never meet the edges of the other side of the bag and would become much smaller indeed if trimmed to do so.

Don't you hate it when you are sewing something thinking, man this would be a PAIN to rip out and it's really a premonition.  I bought this little ripper for quilt ripping. It's miraculous on cottons, but worked pretty well on this knit as well.  The knobby end feels like eraser rubber and grips and pulls at stitches you've busted with the pointy end.  A plain eraser will work as well, but this is just kind of handy attached.  I think the point on this one is just a tad slimmer than my standard seam ripper too.

So, I've just got waistband and cuffs to finish these.  I didn't like the ribbing available at my closest Joanne's, 50 miles away, and I'm a little leery of trying to get the right match online, so I'm using self fabric for cuffs and band.  I hope to make another trip to NYC's garment district this spring and will stock up on some in basic black and white in different weights and widths.

much better, much less trimming needed.

AND I learned how to knit a pair of socks!!  The toes are only different shapes when toes are not in them.  I'm pretty pleased with these.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

No image available

well, unless you want this one.

Yeah, my world, bleary eyed in the dark.

Soooo, no great things to show.  I dusted off and oiled up one of my beloved vintage machines, the Kenmore 90.  Packed up some kid appropriate cotton, many good notions, and went to Walmart and purchased some more and 2 EASY patterns.  Hauled it all upstate (and upstairs to the 3rd floor apartment) and gave daughter number 2 a sewing lesson.  It was so much fun!!!  She was interested, concentrated and listened and made a pair of shorts with my help that night, and a pair alone the next day.  The machine is great for a beginner, sews kind of slow compared to all of my singers, very unfiddly about trivial things like TENSION (it sewed just fine with the check spring snapped off for a few months).  Does fabulous free motion embroidery and quilting.  Comes with a nice button hole attachment, and 30 cams for fancy stitches she'll use rarely if at all, and the original book.  A very forgiving and easy to use and maintain machine, in a nice cabinet.

On one of my nightshifts, I got seduced with Tunisian crochet and went off on that tangent for a while, hooking up about 10 or 15 round dishcloths that are now waiting to see if I'll block them on a corner of a sewing table.  Probably I will.  I did many colors and they are kind of cute.  I'm thinking hope chests for grandchildren, perhaps I should start some of those.  Embroider some more pillow cases, that kind of stuff.  I of course was inspired by a blog for that (Miss Abigail's hope chest) and it may be the site that led me to the shaker style dishcloths.

After I got a little weary of the dishcloth, I decided yes I COULD knit a sweater, especially if it were just a tiny little newborn sweater for the latest of my progeny due in October.  I probably can knit this sweater (it's swinging from the needles in the dark picture above) but so far I've unraveled totally twice and partially twice.  Novice knitting in the dark. Then I plan to do at least a matching hat, if not booties too.

I've been wishing to get back on the sewing machine.  August tends to knock the breath out of me and it did this year too.  I try to not put on clothes, let alone SEW any!  My yard is overgrown, the flower beds have more weeds than flowers.  Usually I get energized again in September, but the cooler weather is only now happening and I have 2 adult children moving families in with me this month, joining an adult daughter and her son already here.  I have not felt like pulling out yardage and patterns to spread around and cut.

I've decided maybe if I finally broke down and got a dedicated cutting table I'd start projects more readily.  Cutting is the part I hate because I have to make a place to get it done.  Someday I'd like a long and sturdy table with storage below like I've seen in so many studio photos, but since I'm giving up my spare bedrooms for a time, I've decided to copy someone's altered folding banquet table.  These plastic tables come in 30" x 90" and fold up for storage and have tubular metal legs.  If you cut some pvc pipe into equal pieces you can insert the feet of the table into the pipe and get the table to perfect cutting height, a luxury for my tall self! They aren't as wide as I'd really like but should be more than adequate for most projects where cutting is done on folded fabric anyway.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

I love when packages come!

Which may be fairly frequent these days, I have to admit.  This one came in less than 48 hours entirely across the country, Washington state to the Delaware shore.  I've actually been waiting more than a year for it though, because it had to be developed and machined and produced, etc, etc.

This is the brand new "Fine Line Clarity Ruler Foot" from Accents in Design and as of this writing isn't even up on their website yet.  This is the low shank and retails for $24. or about half of what it's cheapest competitor is charging.  Additionally, it's the only clear one that I know of, made out of some of that super tough poly-carb kind of plastic that lasts for years and years but allows you to get a clear view of where you are stitching.  It is designed for using rulers for free motion quilting on domestic machines, something only long arm machines could do until just the past couple of years.  If you have no idea what I'm talking about and think it might be interesting, I'd recommend looking at some videos on You tube. If you'd like some in-depth information about most of the many brands of rulers and feet as well as tips on how to do this kind of quilting, I'd send you over to Amy's blog.  I don't get any free stuff or money from the people at Accents, but I'm very happy with their stuff  and can't imagine liking any other products better.

I've used some kind of darning foot for free motion quilting and embroidery a couple of decades now.  When I first started playing I tried it with a hoop and no foot as well as using this strange cone shaped spring that sprung up and down to "hoop" the fabric.  I have had minor success with the hoop (and if you want to see some amazing stuff, look at  "machine thread painting" on You tube. The entire reason for the darning foot was to be able to move the fabric in any direction, sideways and diagonal included, without using a hoop.  I've read books by people who said it could be done without a foot, hoop, or any holding the fabric but if it weren't for (last link this post!)(and this guy is AMAZING!!!) P. Nosa I just wouldn't believe it.  For most of us, it is required to have enough tension held on the fabric by a hoop or a foot to allow the needle to pierce, pick up the bobbin thread, and come back up through the fabric without getting a snarly, ugly mess.  So, while I respect that it worked for some quilters to modify their darning foot to kind of skim rather than hop-

Presser foot down, needle down, the foot goes all the way to the needle plate and holds the fabric taut for stitch formation.  The spring covered bar has a lever sticking out, waiting for the needle screw to come back up when the needle rises...
and the needle rising will lift that lever up, causing the foot to lift, enabling the fabric to be moved in any direction in that fraction of time before the needle comes back down.  Feed dogs are lowered or covered for this operation. And the foot hops hops hops, requiring the operator to develop smooth  movements to get even stitch formation.

This ruler foot- no spring or lever. When foot is down it's a scant 1/8th inch from the bed and "skims" the quilt.  With feed dogs down, it allows for the "free motion" of fabric to be guided in any direction.  The smooth round sides allow it to butt against thick rulers, giving the quilter the ability to mix in smooth geometric designs with curvy free form without changing feet

My free motion improved dramatically the first time I used a darning foot and I was very leery of using a foot that didn't provide that taut hold for the stitch.  I also wear gloves enough at work nursing and REFUSE to wear them sewing, and I bought the supreme slider and it ate some Japan finish off two of my vintage machines so I don't want to use that.  I worried that a skimming, non hopping foot would not release the fabric as well in the movement/needle up phase as well as holding it down in the down phase. And that I'd have to put on the stinkin' gloves and saran wrap my machine beds or something.  I was just hatin' the idea of change.  Alas, the Accents folks went and made their foot non-hopping. So I bought two, in case I had to do some cutting and welding.

The first stitches were not a complete snarly mess, and there was some glide going on.  Not real pretty, but

with some upper tension adjustment and a little relaxation, the skipped stitches were resolved.  I couldn't play long, it's the middle of my work week and it took me an hour to find batteries for the camera (never did find the blasted charger and rechargables) and then I started loosing eye glasses and washers and feet and proceeded to dumping drinks of lemonade and coffee

Of course, some of this was happening...

All in all, I'm confident that the foot will be very useful in helping me keep a uniform distance in quilting lines with the ruler. The round shape is going to make movement smoother than the oval of my hopper.  I don't think all brands of rulers play nice with all kinds of feet- see how thick the ruler above is- that's why I could use that generic darning foot with it without it sliding on top. For a couple of years.  A GENERIC HOPING DARNING FOOT DID NOT COST ME EXPENSIVE REPAIR, because I have the previous confidence free motion quilting that I wasn't going to try and stitch through a ruler, and if somehow I did manage to shove that ruler under the foot and cause the needle to slam onto it- some shove indeed- I can repair my own timing on my 201, without needing any parts or tools I don't have.  If you have a $4000. machine, get the brand specific hunert dollar foot.  If you have a vintage singer, kenmore, etc, an all metal tank and know you can read how to do repairs, try one ruler with your hopping foot to see if you like it.  OK, moving on to -

As far as garment sewing- I should have known better than challenge myself with a marathon.  I have made progress, but kind of sewed backwards.  The shorts I wanted the most are the only ones not done because I still haven't drafted and cut out the pocket bags. I put in the invisible zipper and then jumped over to a tank for some reason, probably because it was all cut out and looking like a fast and easy.  I'm still new to the serger and it was nice sewing those slinky, thin jersey seams on it.  The seam binding bogged me down.  I ripped and sewed again, ripped again and starched, then tried paper under the fabric.  No go.  It is a wobbly, sad looking thing awaiting some stretch lace to come along and cover raw edges that I will cut. Honestly I should chunk it now, as I tried it on and that fabric loves every lump, bump, and bulge on me, yikes! It's pj's though, so it can stay a while.

I finished drawstring shorts and this racer back tank out of this more stable 100% cotton knit with ribbing used for edging.  It fits well and is sewn nicely enough.  I bullied my daughter into taking pics at the end of the day indoors and they are 100% not publishable.  Just wow.  I have a tripod, I'm going to have to set up some where to take photos of myself because she is not going to work out as a blog photographer.  She is fired. She wanted to be.

So I hope you can imagine this  cute, crisp cotton as a well sewn pair of drawstring with pocket jammie shorts. If you can't, they were only drawstring jammie shorts. I am itching to get on to some swimsuit sewing, last time I tried that was 1979! I also promised a bee-keeper lady at the farmer's market an apron sewn from bee fabric in trade for some honey, because I'm an idiot.  Oh, let me! 

I'm thinking I have 2 machines and a serger set up in my room- why can't I quilt and garment sew at the same time?