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!!