Friday, December 6, 2013

I have been sewing

some! Not lots and lots, dayshift Monday through Friday sucks the life out of me, and then there's family and holiday stuff (and weekends still on nightshift).  Since I got Betty working well, I've been quilting with an old quilt along I found on Pinterest, a skill building sampler. I've been sewing garments since at least 1973, and quilts since the 80's.  I've owned stacks of books and magazines and watched TV and now suck in stuff off youtube and pinterest.  I may have more sewing knowledge than all but 10 women on earth! But the problem is APPLYING it.  You have to DO to acquire skills, not just store it in your head.  Actually I have done most of those techniques, but seldom repeatedly.  I am fairly strong in garment making, but it interests me the least currently.  My quilt making is pretty shody, at least the piecing part, so that's what I'm doing.  This series at Sewn by Leila takes you through accurate cutting, seaming, and pressing block by block until you definitely get it down.  I've had improvement in 3 blocks.

I covered a wooden TV dinner table in flannel and then draped my cotton press protector I had made to keep my last sewn ironing board cover nice over the flannel.  Now I have a firm surface for pressing those blocks out FLAT.  I'm also using a nice homemade "best press" imitation solution for starching.  The log cabin was easy and I was thrilled it came out just millimeters off size after I marked a 1/4 inch on the Betty machine. I also went back to using a cheaper iron because I liked the heavier weight of it and it gets very hot and doesn't auto off- I slide the temp down when I stop, but it heats back up very fast when it's time to press again.  Walmart, Black and Decker Classic, less than $25.00.

This little nine inch came out with just those slivers when checked with the 12 1/2" square ruler I have.  Very gratifying.  Some of the corners didn't quite match up, but I could live with it.

This one I could not.  See on the top square, how the point top left extends all the way into the end of the seam allowance?  All of the other tips were variable too.  After I fussy cut the center, darnit!  So I redid the block and did much better, it's edges are peeking out under the first one.

I met the drama director from my kid's highschool at Lowes.  I had to ask if he needed sewing supplies and he had to tell me.  I gave him Ethyl.  She's a good ole work horse and will be fine for working all those fabrics encountered in costumes and props.  So then I had room for this sweetie pie!

This is a Singer 201-2 from sometime in the 1940's, and she was a GIFT from a coworker!  When I got her hefty chassis home, I was somewhat dismayed to hear no motor whatsoever with the power applied.  The light worked though, and I'd keep her just for a funky nightlight, honestly.  But I researched a little and found (of course) a tutorial for rewiring the motor (this is motor driven without a belt, you can't just slap a new or rebuilt one on).  I read it through, all 20 parts, made my shopping list (where did my old soldering iron I never used, and my voltmeter too go?), enlisted the aid of an interested young man with stronger hands than I have and got it done in 6 hours yesterday!  At the moment of truth- a big pop and the power strip kicked off.  So, I reopened the plug and put the wires in the correct places....the light still worked but no hum.  I went downstairs, disgruntled and hungry, but the young man stayed, insisting that it was the foot pedal that he had wondered about previously, a replacement part put on in the 70's or so.  He was right,

One wire had a huge glob of solder holding it down but it had broken free.  I pried off as much old solder as I good looking for a screw, found only a flap of metal and clamped the wire around that and soldered around that, reapplied power and listened to the sweetest engine whine.....finished putting her together and tried stitching and it's very pretty, thank you.

Now I know what a worm gear and a commutator are.  I've packed my first grease wells, and inspected brushings.  The machine had obviously seen professional maintenance through the years.  I have a few more hours of maintenance to do on it.

Lots of lint and not enough oil left in plenty of places still.  I have to learn it's quirks- I'm not sure that I'm inserting the bobbin thread correctly.  The needle threads from right to left instead of front to back or left to right, how odd.  I have a prehistoric buttonholer to play with.  I've read from many that this is a great machine to sew with in general, and especially pretty piecing, not so much free motion quilting.  One lady said it was great for FMQ, and I did see stuff about embroidery.  I figure it just may take some learning what it likes as far as settings etc.  It measures 9" from needle to throat, by the way.  And way high up.  I saw a photo of a queen size quilt under it with lots of room left over.  I think I might be done craving the top Janome's.  If this works as nice as I suspect it will, I may buy a basic mechanical Janome with a free arm for some garment sewing, or maybe not.  I definitely see more vintage machines coming my way.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Attention WalMart shoppers-

Sorry for the photo quality.  3 camera cards have disappeared, and the one I just bought is defective so I had to use the camera phone.  Still only so much photoshop can do with a poorly lit photo. Anyway.....the subject is irons.
For years I have craved a better iron, since watching Sewing with Nancy and envying her Rowenta.  Now the Missouri Quilt Company people have that cool Elisa or whatever it is that lifts up every time you stop moving it.  Coooooool.  But I read the reviews and the darn things quit after a year or so.  If I lay out more than a hundred bucks for an iron it should work exceptionally well till I die. 
After several cheap ones dying through the years I bought the Black and Decker classic above, because it looked and felt like the old timey work horses that last forever.  I was pretty happy with it, one of the kids dropped it hard and broke a chunk or something, and I bought another.  It too lasted for a long time then took a fall and kind of rattles on its chassis.  So I went a step up and bought the Shark, also above.  It cost more, I'm thinking about $40. at Walmart.  I probably would have sprung for a Rowenta but Joannes and the city is 50+ miles away, so Walmart was my only choice.  The thing just burnt up after about a week.  Heated up way to hot and burnt up some of my board, made sizzly pop noises and then quit.  I exchanged it and this one has been in moderate use for maybe 6 months and I was noticing tonight that it just won't stay hot.  I was ironing all of my uniforms, something I almost never ever ever do.  It would heat up and steam one small area and then blink to reheat for 3-8 minutes and repeat.  The wrinkles were staying.  The starch wasn't getting crisp.  I pulled out the semi-rattley Black and Decker and it was a whole new world.  Hot, crisp, starchy uniforms with sweet hot cotton and starch scent wafting up.  So if you want a good iron but don't want to pay more than $100 (or way more!) I recommend this one.  It doesn't steam vertically, I'll keep the shark for that because it does and still steams well, it's the plate that doesn't heat.  It doesn't shoot a stream of water either, but I can keep a squirt bottle for that.  It doesn't turn off automatically, which is an asset for sewing because the things always shut off just before you need them.  I'm pretty trained to unplug an iron before I walk away and the kids don't bother with them much anymore. I like the weight of it, an asset to the press process.  I think it's $25-$30 dollars.  It does steam pretty well, though I think before I set it aside it had a little clogging here and there.  I'll run a vinegar steam through it this week.
I was semi inspired to iron because I was trying out a home-made best press recipe.  I haven't tried the real deal stuff, but the homemade didn't really thrill me.  Maybe a little less flaking than that good ole Faultless in the can.  Cheaper, made with some water, some starch from a big jug, couple shots of Vodka (benefit, I got some pomegranate mix and had cocktails twice now, sipping one now), and some essential oil.  Maybe it would be more thrilling on a quilt in progress.  I've been too wiped out working days, evenings, AND nights with the new job and old job to do any sewing.  I watch videos of other people doing it as I try to sleep in between phone calls.  The new job came with on call status 24/7 365 days and why am I surprised that they are calling.  A lot.  Sigh.  At a pay rate of what I was making 20 years and one degree ago.  Time to look for ANOTHER job.  This one may be a good bridge though, at least it's the right specialty.
The self help book this week: What's your what.  The Eat your Frog book was ok for clarification of goals, but awful depressing for someone who seems to do nothing but work and sleep.  This one is to help figure out what it is you should be doing for someone who's a little befuddled about what they may really love and really be good at.  Good for the smell of career burnout on the edges.  I'm not sure I should leave nursing- Oh, I have loved it SO for parts of it.  But there have been big chunks of feeling used, abused, and beat up by it.  I am a Gemini with a limited attention span that has spent a lifetime moving around the globe and reinventing myself, and I have been doing this for 20 years now.  This book might push me in some good direction, since I seem poised to bounce again anyway.
The ironing board is right next to the sewing machine.  Felt good to be in that corner.  I did turn it on and darn a hole in a pocket.  I have a bag of new fabric (shame on me, it won't fit on the bookcase I have loaded with a good hoard already).  Maybe this week!  A bag.  A baby outfit.  Doll clothes.  Christmas table runners or wall hangings (quilted!).  I just have to get 18x 9 inches of space on the cutting table, and enough sleep to not be compelled to bed when I enter the room.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Meet Betty!


If she looks a lot like ole Ethyl it's because she's a younger version, both Kenmore 158's. No, no, no, no, NO I am not going to start collecting 158's, or Kenmore's or vintage machines.  But I gotta tell you, it is fun bringing them back to life!  I put this one on "lay a way" at the shop where I donated the computer Kenmore I killed.  The guy, a quirky little older man with a desire to chit chat all day long, had a fair assortment of machines in the shop and waiting in the next room.  When I picked this one he told me he'd want to clean and service it first.

Weeks and weeks later he called and told me it had a reverse that he could not repair.  He did offer me another machine, a later but still vintage Kenmore.  I hated the newer plastic one, with still nothing but zig zag and straight.  I tried out several others in the shop before I asked to just have Betty, reverse or no. He looked a little surprised, and gave her to me for the $45 I'd already paid. It wasn't a great bargain for a dysfunctional old machine.  It was the one I wanted.

The man told me he'd had her "all ready" and was looking at the beautiful stitches she made when he discovered she would not reverse.  At first I wanted to think maybe he is a little senile, but after more reflection I think he was just a liar. I've started a new job but haven't quite left the old job, so I'm working day and night. The first day I didn't even have time to plug her in, but I did see it was still pretty dirty on the outside.

It didn't take long to discover that it was pretty dirty inside too.  Really dirty.  I wiped and could tell that it had been lubricated everywhere well, just on top of all that old gunk.  I started man handling the reverse a little bit, and it wasn't long before it started to give, and then moved all the way into moving smoothly.  I still hadn't turned on the machine, gullible me, still believing that the seller had indeed checked it out and all that was wrong was the reverse.  Good thing I kept on going with the cleaning frenzy first, because when I got to the belt area, I found it completely off track.  I strongly suspected then that the machine had not been checked for anything.  I got to the bobbin case and had to laugh- it was screwed about 4 or 5 times around too tight.  There would have been no kind of stitch whatsoever that could have been produced with that case in.  So I slipped the belt back on (it does have just 1/4 inch or so too much play, I'll have to measure and order a new one- for both Kenmore's) and put that bobbin tension where it felt right pulling thread through and plugged it in.

Those old Kenmore's do a pretty, pretty stitch. I like how they kind of slant.  This machine allows the needle to be positioned in center or right or left.  It looks like it would take the same size cams that my earlier model takes.  I am sad to say I don't have any, though I see them on eBay sometimes.  I'll need a cam to do a blind hem stitch, which is really the only stitch I crave beyond the basic zigzag and straight.

What's a cam, you youngster's ask?  It's a little plastic disc that sat in this hidey hole and would do decorative and specialty stitches.  Like maybe 2 per disc.  It would not play music, take your picture or connect you to anything.

 Betty can take a double needle, Ethyl can't.  Ethyl came in the cabinet and I've never taken her out, but this Betty! WOW, she's one heavy machine.  I couldn't tell the light was on when I plugged it in and thought there wasn't one, it's that unhelpful.  I was thinking no power switch was kind of bad.  Took me until the second day to find both of those items.
If I hadn't been cleaning her, it might have taken a month!! Why are they both back there? 
The working day and night thing is going to slow down the sewing, but maybe I'll do a belt replacing video when I get those.  After I measure.  After some sleep.  In October I'm only going to work 5 days/one night weekly.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy and Hondo by Louis L'Amour.  The one I'm taking a break from this minute is Hondo, because last night I started not enjoying Eat That Frog.  I am well aware that in the matter of things that are good for you, not liking it is where you probably need it to be.  I liked the beginning, I was all about writing down goals and making lists.  I even felt this kind of renaissance return to clarity and brighter days thing in my brain, I felt clearer than I normally do since becoming a night shift zombie.  But then I got to the part where I kept thinking, OHHHH, this is why I'm where I am now.  This is the stuff I shoulda been doing back in my 20's and 30's.  I still know that there were things I couldn't change, and things I wouldn't change even if they made some magic time zone thingie that would enable me to go back where I could change. I resisted cell phones for a long time, let me tell you, I am NEVER going to use any magic time zone changer thing.

So I'm reading Louis L'Amour for the first time in my life, because a "western" novel didn't ever really appeal to me before (except Larry McMurtry, lovvvvveeee any and all McMurtry) and they always looked kind of skinny and a little cheesy to me.  And they are simple, but I'm digging it.

Uh, huh.  Writing more often was on one of those lists, but the BIG UGLY frog is still lying by my feet.  I'll get it done, just not first, and now I'm feeling guilty about it. Be careful with reading those darn self help books.

Post script, maybe 2 hours later: I ate tonights ugly frog, OK.  And no, I don't feel better.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Can't make just one!

of pretty much anything at my house.  So, I started out to make two quick stuffie monsters, and grandkid #1 said, "Oh, I want one too!"  Good thing they were fast, and good thing she has been learning to sew.  She was assigned to help with cutting, face layout, and stuffing.

Inspiration from Pinterest.  One tutorial has gone 404 on me, but there's another one here if you'd like.

By the time  we got to the stuffing part, Ms. 16 month old was in the room and "helping" stuff, both monsters and her own shirt, and ears, etc.  And before I started closing them, Ms 25 month old was on the bed too, thrilled.  It was her excitement over Mike and Sully from Monsters Inc that started this whole thing.

The stuffing ran a little short and the stitching wasn't pretty, but boy did they fly out of there.  And have been carried all over since.  Kinda like when your hamburger casserole thingy  gets way more excitement than your 6 hour from scratch gourmet whatever does. 
I did a rag doll some 23 years ago, I remember putting a LOT of work into her.  She's still downstairs, a little worse for wear (what did happen to her right arm?  I always remember her as an amputee). I think I'll make more toys, somewhere in between monster-fast and way too much fussing-doll long.
Oh, I've started a new self help book, Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy.  I thought it was just to get better with procrastination issues, but he promises to make my whole world better.  I love a good self help book, like a good cook or quilt book.  Sometimes, if you apply the advice, or prepare the food, or cut and sew, you get some good results.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Mike's quilt

is DONE!  Forgot to put his name and birth date on it, and neglected to sign and date any quilt so far, but I can go back to that. So, here it is!
As I mentioned in a previous post, the pattern is called Baby Bites and it was free from modern quilt relish.  I added the half square triangle borders just because I'm a sucker for punishment and I thought they'd add to the nautical feel.  My technique improved during the making of the quilt.  It really drove home that I have to cut and sew extremely accurately if I want stuff to come together right.  This one is wonky, my next will be much less so.
I've been influenced by lots of great quilters, the Fanning's, Harriet Hargrove, many more.  The lady who most blows me away today is Judy Madsen of Green Fairy Quilts.  I wish she had a quilt cam up and I could watch her for hours.  She does use long arm and I am on a 50 year old Kenmore zig zag, but I still try and emulate what I can.  I saw her ruler work video and just went nuts.  I searched for ruler work on a domestic machine and found these.  I practiced 4  diamonds and then did these, very pleased with the results.  I got a curved ruler too, it's a goal to use that one soon, but I really loved the straight one.  Quilt shops don't carry these, but I'm telling you, go online to accents in design and get one! FUN!
This is the fine line one.  There's another continuous curve one, the domestic machine link above should show it to you or search accents in design for the website.
The blue HST are much better than the red, but I was showing the circles here, sorry!
I was trying to free motion a feeling of waves in the navy blue and thought maybe for the red I'd use circles, like suns or lens flare in the sun.  The whole quilting was a bit tricky "relearning" FMQ on the older machine.  I ended up tracing two sizes of circles and then kind of free form joining them with some lines and free form circles.  Not great, but I am happy enough with the result.
It's done while the baby is still a baby, Mom likes it, and the baby's uncle said, "hey Mom, now you can start making your kids their own quilts".  Pretty good praise from my youngest son.  And so I will.  I've still got one more grand without a quilt, she's going on 10 so it can't be a crib quilt.
I visited a Janome dealer today to look at that darn machine with an 11 inch throat for quilting.  Tomorrow I have a job interview for a position that will pay me at least $10 more an hour and it's day shift too!!!!  Maybe that Janome could be my Christmas present to me.

Friday, August 23, 2013

On a little roll

Nothing like my back to school frenzies when I had 5 little kids, but still fairly prolific for me these days.  The baby quilt is almost done, just binding and getting his name and birth date (8/21/13!) on there.  It's ions away from where I want to be as far as quilting, but all things considered I'm fairly pleased.

I took a peak into my old stash cupboard downstairs and  found some goodies.  Four cute Halloween prints and one cut out scrub pattern (1998?) from when I was going to sew up holiday scrubs for the team.  I think I got the doc's done and then staffing went to hell and we were all doing 6 doubles then a day off for a few months. One Christmas print snuck in the pile.  I decided to go ahead and finish the cut scrub, though I thought it would be too small for me and too large for my nurse daughter.  It fits great!

I didn't pull out the instructions, and as I have long suspected construction seemed more pleasant without them.  It's not as if it were my first or second or even tenth top I've made.  My sweet Ethyl machine has no free arm so I hemmed the sleeves before the final seam.  It also won't take a double needle, so double top stitching had to be by eye.  I probably will never make another except maybe for little kids or dolls because for the cost of the fabric it's cheaper to buy ready made most of the time.  This was already cut and the fabric is pretty cute for Halloween- seasonal but not big huge overpowering motifs.

Happy little Frankenstein heads with sunny yellow bats.
I also made a very fast new ironing board cover.  I like having it covered with a fabric that makes me happy, and this one does.  Found it a Walmart, surprised to feel that it was a little heavier than quilting cottons and looks to be very durable.
It was also very inexpensive, I'm thinking about $5 a yard.  I bought 1 1/2 and it was enough length to cover the board in one piece.  I layed it over the board and cut around with a 2 1/2 inch drop.  Turned up one narrow hem and stitched.  Marked where it starts to narrow on both sides, turned it over one more time and zig zagged stretched elastic on top of the folded hem.  I stitched a length of string into the fold below the elastic on both sides, securing it at the start point with several back and forth stitches and then encased it along the fold as I stitched down the hem.  The string exits the bottom for drawstring ties.  I folded twice at the bottom over another piece of string and left the very ends unstitched for the draw ties to exit there.  Pull it up, tie, it's on.  I could have elasticized the whole thing but couldn't find enough skinny elastic.
I have made (or purchased) several board covers through the years that I liked, only to stain or singe them promptly.  I had a fair amount of fabric left and decided to make a little cover to lay down when I am pressing lots of pieces.  It's cockeyed here to show what size I went with, I keep it flat on the board and you don't really see it's there.  It will be easier to just throw into the wash as needed than stripping off the entire cover, and hopefully this will stay pretty for most of a year.
I have some bias strip making to do.  And some baby photos to take!


Sunday, August 11, 2013

and Yay!

I am being thrilled by ole Ethyl!  After I fixed the bobbin winder and the zig zag, it seemed likely that I'd be able to do pretty much what I wanted on her- as long as the darning foot gave me success.  Well, it came, and it too needed modification.  I had to bend down the top bar so my needle bar would catch it and make it "hop".  But it was easy, and a complete success!

It is different from my broken Kenmore.  It's supposed to be better to sew on a flat surface, but I have been very used to compensating with my machine on top of the table.  I have to push the quilt around differently.  For some reason I'm straining my shoulders more and had to swivel my chair up quite a bit.  I miss not being able to turn the machine to an angle and I can't quite wedge my legs under this table door to work at that angle.  The foot and machine response are different.  Add up all of that and it was like I was very new to free motion again, and clumsy at it.  I don't think it will take long to get a groove on this machine though.

I just did a little bit of practice on an old pillow case stuffed with batting, and it WILL take some practice but I think the rulers are going to be GREAT!  Very easy to move the quilt and stitch, I just need to get expert at eyeballing where to place the ruler.
One really great thing about the machine- of course there is no needle down feature- but it seems to stop in the down position 90% of the time anyway.  My broke Kenmore did not do this.  I could put the needle down with a button to draw up bobbin thread or make a turn, but you couldn't set it to stop there.  It always stopped UP. 
So, I've pretty much stopped craving a $4,000 machine.  I am thinking, maybe one more vintage?  A new back up to my back up?  I cleaned up Ethyl inside and out and oiled everything, we are both humming as we sew.  With oil and use, the zig zag and bobbin winder no longer need nudges and operate smoothly.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


I killed my primary machine Monday.  I was so upset for a little while.  It was more than 20 years old and had it's share of missing/broke things.  The reverse for zig zag quit working some time ago, the bobbin cover has been held on with tape for a couple years.  Sears doesn't make the same cover anymore, bad design from day one.  The top tension disk has been acting up for the past year or so, the thread would jump or get lodged somehow deep in a crevice and the thread would break, requiring rethreading from spool down.  It was a random problem, but I couldn't see enough of the mechanism to identify the problem.  I started quilting and got  big ugly loops on the bottom. I played with the tension for many attempts and changed top and bottom threads and the needle with no success and decided to go in and look at that disk, requiring taking the machine housing all the way off, bottom, sides, top, and front.  I couldn't see anything broken and it seemed to function ok, so I cleaned it thoroughly and put it back together.  RRRrrrrrrrRRRR silence.  The thing powers up, the stitch number pops up on the screen (alternating with SP for bobbin winding function), the needle moves into place for straight or zig zag.  The motor will not engage.  Will not.  I called a repair guy and he said I probably shorted out the circuit board when I opened the front housing, that many are designed to do that if "unauthorized" repairs are attempted.

I knew I was risking it when I went in. I've done so many of my own repairs in my life (plumbing, electric, carpentry, masonry, auto, computer, etc etc etc) that I didn't think I'd REALLY kill it.  I'm still taking it to the guy next week to ensure it's not a loose thingy that I didn't see.   I attempted it myself because I really can't afford a repair.  Of course I can't afford a new machine.  I do have my back up.
A machine this old should have a name.  Maybe Ethyl.
I bought this one years ago at a thrift store hoping the cabinet would work for my (dearly departed) newer Kenmore, it didn't.  It does have a pretty straight stitch.  I can't recall if the zigzag ever worked for me, it doesn't now.  It also won't wind a bobbin, I believe it needs a belt, not sure. (update on Thursday- I've fixed the bobbin winder, though its still tricky and stiff to start, and I can engage zig zag if I pop off the top cover, no screws involved, and nudge it into place). I had just pulled it out to see if I got better scant 1/4 seams with it than with the primary and I think I do.  As I recall from previous play, it did not do a better job with free motion quilting, but I (just last week) did order a new darning foot that may improve that a great deal.
Because this one knew nothing about the missing darning foot for the primary
and this darning spring just wasn't getting results on ole Ethyl.
I have been so motivated by all I've found on the internet about sewing.  I had pretty much stopped sewing the last 10 years or so, as fabric stores moved further and further from where I live.  Fabric prices skyrocketed too, and I earned more and didn't feel guilty about paying some premium dollars sometimes for nicer ready to wear, stuff I would have been compelled to make at home years ago.  Then I started seeing such fabulous trends with sewing from simple designs for kids and got sucked in by the sewing revival. Quilting and retro and knock offs, sewing is not the chore that it once was when you had to buy a pattern and alter it and get the correct fabric and trims and sew it the way the pattern said to.  I already know so much about sewing, hundreds of tips and techniques, but I was getting exciting clicks and pops as I recognized I would be able to use that knowledge in more free and personal choice ways.
I was motivated and excited and inspired, but frequently I was irritated too.  I read many blogs, and I truly admire the authors and, well, artists- but!!! I get miffed sometimes when I see their machines and fabrics and equipment, especially when included are pics from their nice cameras of their nice homes and families.  I think, oh, yeah, SURE if I had a hubby that provided like that I could let creativity flow a little more freely too.  Then I feel bad because it is petty.  Everyone has their own stuff to deal with.  So I'm feeling bad because I don't have the funds (or the TIME!) so many bloggers have, and then I feel bad because I'm envious.  It's not just the money either, it's the whole wholesomeness I see, the pictures of on our way to church and when we get home we will have these muffins with stuff from my garden.  Those pretty houses!!  I have peeling lead paint I'm trying to protect the grands from, a failing septic, my bumper is duct taped onto the car and I work alternating nights with my daughter so when I have a night off I'm babysitting nights and days when I'm home, and she watches the baby nights I'm gone and days I sleep.  No vacations in my world.  Shopping trips are rare and small.  I've had issues with drugs and people in my house that made me fear home invasions from junkies and police.  We have had theft issues, money and electronics can walk right out of here.  The refrigerator is a nightmare of leftovers and please don't touch from several families, dishes are abandoned and no one will claim them. 
 I've wanted to put some of this out here, not because I want to portray my life like some daytime reality show (I HATE those shows) but because my life does seem so different from all those other bloggers.  I was pregnant with kid number five and my oldest was 6 when I became a single parent and homeless. I am so grateful that I CAN let my adult kids that need a place still to stay here.  I couldn't give them cars and college to help them launch into the American dream, but no one is living out of a bag on a street.  I mentioned drugs, but none of my kids (or anyone currently in the house) is in need of rehab, and I'm really grateful for that because it's a reality for lots of their friends. I don't like all the problems that are in my life, I take responsibility for most of them.  I'm trying to stop taking responsibility for things that aren't mine.  I just feel funny sometimes trying to write about sewing with a curtain over all the stuff going along side.  I could say nothing (if you don't have anything nice to say, says Thumper's mother), but that feels restrictive.  I could  put a pitcher of pretty lemonade on the table as a backdrop for a photo and it IS nice to put your best foot forward, but what about other folks who have holes in their socks while looking at what I'm trying to show about sewing?  I want to be honest about the whole thing is what I'm saying.
I do ramble on.  So, while I see all these new Bernina's and drool, Janome's, I know it's possible to sew great stuff on very basic machines.  And because I currently have no other choice, that's what I'm going to try to do.  I may buy a new used machine from the repair guy (he sharpens scissors, I suck in breath!) but it will probably be another old one.  I'd like one that could use all my snap on feet from the departed Kenmore, but I know I can buy an adapter shank for that.  Ethyl here loads needles with the eye in front and the flat side of the needle to the rear, so none of my twin needles will work.  I'd like a machine that can take those needles, oh, and the walking foot.  I would like a free arm, and a blind stitch.  Auto buttonhole only if it truly does a nice one, the Kenmore had the feature but it frequently was not pretty. I do not want an older computerized model.  They don't hold up like the old work horses.
I never was big on sewing "cheaply" because if I'm going to invest my time I want the best end product I can get, and that means have some decent equipment and quality materials.  But frugal, YES.  I like my sewing gadgets and goodies, but I'm going to make do with what I've got.  Having said that, also just before busting the Kenmore, see what I ordered and has arrived:

These are fine line and continuous line rulers, hard to see, from
The two together cost about $60 including shipping, but I tried for two weeks to work out some kind of homemade job without success, and was obsessing about them.  I'll be able to do that beautiful precision ruler work I love so much in longarm quilting on a domestic machine with these.  As soon as the darn darning foot gets here, maybe today.  I do allow myself a certain amount of spending yearly on hobbies, and this and the feet (and needles I can't use now) just about put me there.  A used sewing machine will put me over, but I could put it on next year's tab, it's almost September!
Enough rambling.  I have a loose toddler with a sucker and a bag of crackers in here.  And the dog needs a bath.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


my piecing.  I have mentioned that piecing is not my favorite part of quilting.  However, if I'm going to do something I like to do it right.  I last showed the modern baby block quilt I'm working on, and how I decided to put on some kind of pieced border.

Wow, that's some bad piecing.  In fact, it's so darn wonky it almost looks intentional, though I assure you it was not.  While I was unwilling to start from scratch with another pile of strips going into squares going into half square pairs, sigh! I was determined to make the strip on the other side a little better.
I started off by squaring up those little blocks before going any further.  I have a perfectly good little ruler for the job, why not use it?
It seems crazy that trimming just this much (some more and some less) of these would make a big difference, but I kinda knew it would.
And, boy, didn't it!!


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Photos are disappearing!

from previous posts.  I am aware I don't take the most outstanding ones anyway, and to date I may be the only soul who has looked at this blog, but it IS irritating to put work into any project and then see it altered in an unhappy and unexpected manner!  I tried researching why and got some vague finger pointing at the Picasa photo site, which I guess archives photos for Blogger or something.  My PC is very ill and I only have the laptop to work off of and I just can't handle any big trouble shooting today.  So I guess I'm just whining.  I need to wash the dog but he's hiding under the bed, so I think I'll just browse pinterest until maybe the caffeine kicks in.  Grrrr.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Mostly stalled

on my latest project.  Within days of proudly finishing the cousin quilts I got seriously motivated to start and finish another baby quilt for the grandson due in August. I recognize that I like piecing much less than quilting, so I looked for a top that would be fast. I found Baby Bites from Modern Quilt Relish.  Great Guns! And I really DID finish it in about an hour and a half.  Then I had to go thinking it needed a border, and of course since I hate piecing I decide to do a half square triangle one.  But I do think it will add to this quilt.

I think only the white, red, and blue will remain and probably all facing the same direction.  I had a fleeting fancy about piecing lots of nautical flags but returned to sanity.  Red against the red and blue against the blue.  I am thinking about the quilting of it- some simple ship shapes on waves and waves and waves on the blue side, maybe some continuous curves on the red?  Its a bit of a shame I feel feathers would be wrong, I've been doodling the heck out of them on night shift and think I may be ready to quilt some nicer ones.  Maybe some wall hangings or table runners soon for gifts.
I did sneak in an afternoon of helping my granddaughter sew.  We made a patient gown for her AG doll, she already has nurse scrubs for the other.
She's getting better at cutting, seam finishing, and added curves with this project.  It won't be long before she can do it all alone from a pattern.

I confess, I really loved the authenticity of the backdoor waving in the wind feature.  This pattern and tutorial were free from myagdollcraft.blogspot

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Cousin quilts are done!

These took wayyyy too long.  I guess about a year and a half for both.  Of course, I'm not a quilter (though I enjoyed these enough where I might become one.  Maybe I'm now a beginner quilter).
I have quilted two twin sized quilts and one wall hanging in the very distant past, and collected a fair sized quilt library.  These quilts are from a pattern from one of the books, my version of the Pink Mosaic Crib Quilt from Marti Mitchell's Scrap Patchwork and Quilting.  I've read enough books and blogs to know I broke a few zillion rules on these, but it was all by choice.  I wanted the pieced squares to be puffy, so there's no quilting inside them, while the surrounding blocks were fairly densely quilted.  I did so very much enjoy the machine quilting part.  I also chose to bind them with folded-over blanket binding, to give the toddlers  some silky stuff to rub their fingers on at nap time.  I almost lost my courage on that one come bind time, but in the end I was happy with that choice.


I ignored quite a few mistakes, but of course there were a few that just had to involve a seam ripper.  I really can't explain what happened here but toddlers were running in and out.  As I recall, it didn't take as long to fix as it looked like it would.

I found a tip for using the stuff offices use for gripping papers when filing to grip fabric and move it where you need it, such as when putting edges together to sew.  Much better than licking your fingers.  I bought some quilting gloves but it's summer and guess what?  If you put this stuff on all ten finger tips it works well at moving fabric for machine quilting too.  The gloves just sat there after I figured that out.


I can't remember binding any of those former quilts or sweating mitering corners.  This time I was a little unsure so I researched on YouTube and found a tutorial using bobby pins. (Lizzie Leonard, How to Mitre corners on Quilt Binding).  Even though I only had one and it was a little bulky with decoration, it worked well, especially with all those dense layers of folded satin blanket binding.  And yes, I did mix metallic, rayon, and 100% cotton threads on this quilt, with all purpose polyester in the bobbin.  My babies will like it.  I think it will last OK.

The second quilt I chose to hand stitch the binding onto the front.  A little more work, I liked them both equally.  Now I'm confident I can do it both ways, though the hand stitched looks nicer on the back.  Just slightly.
I found myself thinking about more quilts throughout this process, especially once I started the quilting part.  The piecing was a little tedious for me.  I was happy with how most of it matched up, and comfortable with what did not.  They are, after all, Grandma quilts, and imperfections add some to their charm.  I think it says to them, she struggled with this because she loves you.  As much as I loved the quilting, I'm not blind to how amature most of it is, though there were some places where I went into the zone and was very pleased with the results.  I'm now compelled sometimes to draw quilting in the air, and I print out stuff and copy the lines on paper.  I think I've been bitten by the quilt bug.  Alas, there are other projects out and waiting, and I don't expect to have another quilt top whipped up at lightening speed anyway.  Hopefully in less time than these two took!

Monday, May 20, 2013

I’ve been busy.

 May 1st I had a bit of a shock when I found my hours had been drastically reduced, but I took a deep breath and said, “this could be a good thing”!  Within a few hours I had convinced myself it was going to be a very good thing indeed, and was full steam ahead with plans on how to live a new lifestyle, including different ways to make money.  May 2nd I got a phone call saying, “here, take most of these hours back” and my mood plummeted for a while.  I might add all of these hours are night shift and after 3 years or so of this I am not adapting real well yet.  I’m fatter and weaker and less sharp and way less social, which is to say not at all.  But the alternative income is like the sound of a bird in the bush, and the night shift hours are a bird in the hand, so to pay the mortgage and electric…..

ANYWAY, I’ve been soothing myself with two needle crafts that I’d laid aside for quite some time.  At work, I’ve been doing hand embroidery.  It’s pre-stamped on pillowcases and not requiring any real creative input from me, but it’s something I haven’t done since the 1970’s.  I really really like doing it, and can foresee more stitching in my future.  I’m doing these for me and that makes me glad, I haven’t made myself anything in a long time.

At home, I got busy on the two crib quilts that got shoved to the back burner for a year.  I’m pretty confident that I will complete these before either Grand is in school.  I made some quilted bedding for my eldest granddaughter’s 18” dolls this winter and it reminded me of how much I loved doing free machine quilting.  I’m not very good yet, but I think I might learn to be. 
I very much enjoy the free motion even if I can't make it as smoothly as I hope to.  It's one of those activities where the zone thing happens for me, and I can forget time and worries for a little while and just DO.   I made 2 twin sized quilts 20 years ago, and one wall hanging so I'm still pretty much a novice.

Would you believe right in the middle of my groove my bigfoot broke?  I've had the thing for 20 years and have been unsuccessful trying to freehand embroider or quilt on various machines without it.  Stranger still, I impulse bought the darning foot pictured beside it this winter, thinking of doing these quilts and "just in case"  It works just as well.
When I started to piece some more on the second quilt, my little quilting foot with the quarter inch markings had disappeared.  I suspect a toddler.  Luckily I'm able to decenter the needle to the right and then the last mark on the throat plate is 1/4 inch away.  My piecing improved in just one quilt!
The advice you may have heard to fill extra bobbins when machine quilting is very valid, as I was reminded quickly into my project.

I spent some time and money investing in books on quilting and sewing before the internet got big.  Here are two great ones on just the quilting (nothing about piecing) here.  The Fannings also did a great one on machine embroidery.  They are probably still in print, and maybe at your library.
I'm already thinking of more quilts!  This summer I'm also planning on some pants, capri's, and shorts for myself, to fit my larger nightshift body.   I'm going to try to finish both quilts before I start another project.  I'm very good at letting projects rest for a while.