Tuesday, February 12, 2019

On Display

I love to stumble upon sewing machines that are shown to be of value as I value them.  In December I stopped by my public library and found a display of toy sewing machines, mostly antique:

but a few are vintage:

and even an American Girl doll gets into the collection:

Can she sew?
I commend the library for having such a nice built in display space that you cannot help but notice as you walk into the library. The cabinets are about waist height so perfect for a child to see. They keep the displays up for only a few weeks so you better enjoy them when you see them because they will be gone before your books are due!

I have a few toy sewing machines but I find them less than satisfying because they really weren't meant to do any serious sewing on them. The exception might be the beige model in the photo above that I've heard several people comment on using them as a travel machine where they piece quilts. I like my little hand crank Harris but it's fairly heavy and not exactly a lap machine. Maybe an aluminum body machine would be a nice addition if you were traveling across the country in an RV.

This needs to be a shorter post this week as we have said our final goodbye to my husband's mother, Mary Dubay. You might have read about the dresses I made for her and the delight in seeing her in a fancy dress for some of the many weddings we were at together. She was always cheerful, enjoying life in her own Irish way. We will certainly miss her laughter and devotion.
Marie, Rose, Mary, and Karen, 2013

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Cabin in the Woods

We had a very deep freeze this past week so with my time off I managed to finish up a few things but then decided I needed to make something that I would not have been able to without the extra time at home. Since I had a huge run of panels, I pulled the wolf yardage out to see what I could do with it:
Panel with two different wolves and leaf border
I had about twenty panels to work with so tried to make up a tote bag but my first attempt was a too tall bag so I got stuck there and had to put it aside. For inspiration I looked online for ideas on how to use fabric panels and I pulled out fabrics from my stash to see what I could do with what I already had. Since the wolves were so "up north" I thought I could see if I had enough to make a small quilt using a log cabin block design. Here were my first attempts:
4 log cabin blocks with light fabrics in center

4 log cabin blocks with dark fabrics in the center
The dark centers won out but with four wolf panels in the corners and the log cabin blocks between them, it still needed a center block that would be unique. Let's see, it's a northern theme with log cabin blocks so how about a log cabin with the log cabin assembly/technique? I had to make this one up as I went along but it wasn't too bad. My husband picked the dark green for contrast:
Trying out borders and possible assembly
It needed to have cornerstones so I used some of the border print that came with the panels:
Sashing with cornerstone and first border
Now I could really picture the final border with mitered corners so it went together quickly:
Almost done now
I liked it but that log cabin was just a little too big and plain:
Just a cabin, maybe a bit neglected
The windows needed a border first and then a defined door (there's also a doorknob but it's too hard to see) and then some flowers along the bottom edge:
Frames for the windows and door with flowers popping up
But the top of the house front elevation was just a bit too plain so I added some ivy:
Special stitches added
I'm not too sure this helped or not but it's my solution to a very cold week:
Looks like it got down to -27 degrees
The quilt top is done and now it needs to be assembled with the rust colored Robert Kaufman print used in the blocks for the backing. How should I quilt it? I haven't decided yet but I'm tempted to send it out to be quilted but I'm basically too cheap for that. The creative part is over so now it's the real work of this creative endeavor.

Which machine did I use for this project? I got out a little Singer 99 for the log cabin blocks but used a Pfaff 2030 for the assembly. The Pfaff was in for repair so I put it to use to see if it would still perform well on a project and it did. I like to really give them a good test and it passed, returning to its owner the next day. I've been back to work and with a few extra days off right before the semester starts there is much catching up to do. I hope I can finish the quilting on this project before it is no longer winter. Of course, in Minnesota we still have months of winter to go!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Reading Time

I frequently get asked "How do you find the time to do all of this?" in reference to my sewing and sewing machine business. Part of me wants to just shrug and say "I don't know!" but when I really think about it I realize I have given some things up that I used to do that have given me the time to squeeze all of this in. Television watching on a regular basis is one of the things I no longer do; I used to watch about two hours per evening, including the news and now I only catch the news a couple of times a week and watch nothing else on a regular basis. That gives me about ten hours per week for sewing and such. My knitting has taken a big hit since I used to knit while enjoying my favorite shows but I still pick up my knitting when I can and even made a sweater in the last couple of years.

Next up is reading for recreation; I used to keep a database of my reading and listening books until a computer crash got me out of step with that practice. Now I listen to books on CD, streaming is up next, I think. I could easily keep a list of books read and listened to on Air Table where I keep my sewing machine inventory. There are many lists I could keep on Air Table to make life easier but then I would have to actually get it all set up, blah blah blah. Isn't it funny when we know we should do something to our benefit and still procrastinate? So now most of my reading is for business purposes but I do enjoy some magazines. Threads is one I have kept up with via the public library but this year I lucked out on an annual subscription for only $10. Sometimes it's just nice to have a paper copy, even if I will eventually cut it up or donate. I also have one of their archive issue CD's that I can reference back issues and it has been a space saver.

From one of the groups I belong to that sells used sewing related items, I recently bought the entire set of Classic Sewing magazine. I bought one issue last year and loved it but it's way to expensive to subscribe but then the sewing fairies smiled down on me and an offer of all of their issues for less than the cost of one year. They are beautiful, high quality photos, heavy paper, good writing, and each one comes with a free pattern.
Classic Sewing, patterns and magazines

Will I make any of these creations? I think so, especially since my newest grandchild will be a girl (can't wait until spring this year!).

We are now in a very deep freeze so all schools were called off and even the college library has been closed. For two glorious days indoors I'm going to finish up my block-of-the-month blocks for Saturday, find ways to use some fabric panels in quilting or bag making, make some homemade soup, and defrost the upright freezer. What better time to put all of the freezer contents into baskets and then into the garage while the freezer in unplugged. I can't wait to get it all clean again!

Just to show off one of the machines I have, the quilt blocks are being sewn on this little beauty, a hand crank Harris:
Harris Hand Crank all shined up

It has a transverse shuttle which gave me problems when I first learned to use one but the Harris is a gem and works great. A hand crank sewing machine lets you stop on a dime since you are going fairly slow plus it is just so much more fun! Here are a few of the blocks, jars and flowers last time and letters this month:

Completed blocks with those in the making
Stay safe and warm inside, friends, if you are part of this killing cold; it will be a great time to catch up on a few projects and even get some extra sleep, I hope!

Monday, January 21, 2019

Patience with Memory

My husband claims I'm not patient enough but I disagree. In this post I'm going to tell you about waiting for two and a half years to get a sewing machine part replaced. In my book, that's patience. It all started with a mere $6 purchase of a Janome Memory Craft 3000. No cords but for only $6 how could I go wrong? Oh, so many ways! First off, the power cord and foot control cost an additional $50 but that didn't seem too bad. When they arrived I tried to find out if it even worked and it not only worked, it stitched really nice: quiet, consistent, a very nice sewing machine until I tried to change the stitch length. Nothing. I tried to change the stitch width: nothing. The buttons would push but didn't work. Taking it all apart, the board that controls these functions was, of course, a maze of soldered connections and some of them had failed. You can't get these boards so I put the sewing machine in deep storage and hoped I might learn something down the road that might help in the repair or could use it as a parts machine.

I stumbled upon the Janome MC3000 again while cleaning out and moving sewing machines around and this time I checked to see if parts might be available and, to my shock, I could buy a new K-board. The price was steep so I thought I'd just wait and see if I could catch a sale. Missing the 20% off sale for Black Friday, I did manage to get it for 15% off in the next month. I was so excited to be able to finally get this machine to run but here's what I found when I opened the package:
K-board with broken section on left
One end was snapped off! You can see the screen is also wonky with a blacked out portion so this wasn't going to work. I contacted the company, sent back photos of the packaging, a mere padded envelope with a bubble wrapped sleeve, and they sent me a new board:
New K-board intact
I've taken the old one apart so many times, checking for model numbers and such, that it was easy to pull all of this apart and get it back together. Here's the original board:
Removed K-board
What I noticed later was how black the buttons were and the new one was very white. Age? Was it in worse shape than I realized? All of the functions seemed to work except for those two buttons but it might have been worse that I thought. Now to see how it all worked together and, with much fiddling with the tension I could now get this stitch sample:
Janome Memory Craft 3000 stitch sample
Pretty good, huh?I am very satisfied with this repair and sewing machine with its new lease on life. It wasn't cheap but it was within reason and such a good machine at that:
Janome Memory Craft 3000
It still sews very quietly, free arm, front storage compartment, thirty different stitches, needle up/down, needle threader, printed out manual, and now you know it has a brand new board and cords. This was very satisfying and someone will get a very reliable sewing machine, solid, and a great sewing experience. Whew!

Christmas finally got taken down since we are having below zero temps and the Christmas tree was in the porch. The porch is only heated via a space heater and needs to be closed off for a month or so. That entailed sorting through everything before putting it away since we decided to have a garage sale this summer and no time like the present to decide which things were no longer needed or wanted. There's a box of fabric, too, and with the Textile Center Garage Sale coming up in April it will be a time for cleaning out. Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day so I'm home and getting ready for my 93 year old mother-in-law to come for lunch. This is always a joy as she likes to get out and is so appreciative of anything we do. Might we each have such sunny dispositions and especially at her age!





Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Slick

I'm on a roll with making bags and all kinds of hunting/fishing gear for carrying and storing stuff. On Saturday I buzzed over to Ellie's to pick up some vinyl she was going to give away and then had to figure out what to do with it. Because of the size of the pieces, I took the biggest of the heavier pieces and decided to make up a bag to replace a taped up plastic bag. That's right, my husband was using a large plastic bag from Fleet Farm to haul around a sleeping bag and other bedding. When it developed holes he used packing tape to hold it together but it was about at the end of its life when I spied it in the laundry room. We could do better than this. It took under four hours on a Saturday night to come up with this:
Long view of his new gear bag
Short end to show off the zipper
The size was determined by the biggest piece of vinyl I had and I took suggestions for the handle placement. I wanted it to be sealed up pretty tight so suggested a zipper closing rather than Velcro or grommets. Time will tell how this holds up, especially in our cold climate.

 Not wanting to let any grass grow under my feet, I tried my hand at a vinyl bag like the cloth ones I've been making:
Front of bag laid flat
Back, or inside, of bag

Finished bag with lining
I'm not that crazy about vinyl bags myself so I was hoping a cloth lining would give a softer feel with the durability and waterproof features of the vinyl. It sure gives it more personality than the plain vinyl but hunters and fishermen don't care about personality. This bag is for a woman! I even made the side seams with a flatfell seam so it would be smooth and finished inside, a must to hide the shape edges of the vinyl. That was difficult on the last side but it can be done.

When I stopped by Ellie's she also had saved some attachments for me:
Kenmore cams, attachments, and booklets
I almost made a trip last week to pick up some of the same from a CL ad but had to cancel when I figured out how far the drive would have been. Now I'm glad I waited! My sister also sent a fun package of zippers, a walking foot labeled "New Home", and a plastic Singer box, the likes I have never seen before:
Plastic divided Singer box
All fun additions that will go with machines down the way. Hang onto those odds bits: you never know when the right machine will come along. It will, trust me.


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Bag Lady

I'm feeling the need to be productive as well as a little creative so enter the newest project of making bags. Not just "bags" but the nifty ones you get from "31" where they make bags with top flaps and zippers to keep things clean. For Christmas I bought my husband two for hunting only to discover they worked great to hold his chaplain work. Then I felt obligated to make some that would be bigger, as it was necessary, to hold hunting gear and to see if I could use waterproof materials. I found some gray twill with a vinyl lining, left over from a fire ring cover made last summer, that would work so I made up the following:
Vinyl backed fabric for a great gear bag

I used the twill side out on the body of the bag and turned the fabric over to expose the vinyl side for the bottom of the bag:
Twill reversed for a waterproof vinyl bottom
Vinyl inside, no lining or pockets
This one came after I made a large sized bag from the Green Pepper pattern, F851, and found out a Bernina 931 would fit in it with all of it's accessories:
Large size lined bag
Bernina 931 with accessories inside (note heavy weight white lining)
The gray waterproof bag went ice fishing this past weekend with great success (was not good luck in fishing but in hauling stuff around) so I'm going to make a matching bag, or at least as large as I have materials for.The pattern does not call for the handles to run under the bottom of the bag but I ran one long piece that would lend support for the contents.

One bag laid out to show how straps were positioned
There's an option for a pocket on each side, pockets on the inside, and I added lining on all but the vinyl versions along with top flaps and zippers on some of the bags. Some of the bags? That's right, I got on a roll and made the following up:
Lined bag for a Bernina 800 Sport
Medium sized bag, yet unassigned
It takes 3.5 yards of webbing for the straps and as long as I can use my stash I get by the 100 yard reel for my Etsy shop products I'm good. I found out if I need to buy it, even on a sale, it's about $3 per bag and that's not cheap. Sometimes it "makes" the bag so I have coughed up the money for some of them.
Navy webbing for a medium/large bag
Cotton webbing straps, showing off the lining
It helps that I have some of this heavier type fabric that I wasn't sure how I was going to use it and now I have found a good use for it! Even the lining fabric has been easy to coordinate. Since I need carrying cases for some of my machines, it's been a great way to keep things clean, contained, and ready to sell. I have made bags for sergers before  but somehow making them for the machines has not occurred to me until now. There are a few more to make before this project gets a rest and it's fun to find the parts and get it all coordinated. Now you ask "Which sewing machine did you use?" and you might be surprised to find, besides the Bernina 217, I used a Singer 201. That is, I used it until the stitching wasn't as good as I could get on the Bernina. So I'm back to the Bernina industrial and still lovin' it. I tried to share the joy with another machine but Bernie is the best so far. There's usually a reason for a good reputation!

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Cobbler Aprons in the Making

I like to follow-up on requests so I've been searching for a good cobbler apron pattern. There are several versions of a cobbler apron: some open in the front, some the back, some are open on the sides and just go over your head, but the one I'm thinking about is a button down the front in a wide variety of sizes. Voila, there's a pattern for that one, a republished 1977 version:
Simplicity 8152
Sizes ranged from extra small to large but what about even bigger? As it turns out, you can cleverly increase the size of a pattern incrementally and get a fairly accurate resizing. I went ahead and tried it out and came up with an extra large and even 2XL size. Diving right in, I made one of each size, learning along the way:
X-small to 2XL
Adding all that bias tape was going to be a challenge so by number four I figured out I needed to add the bias tape to the wrong side, stitch to the front side of the fabric, and sew up the side seams last. As always, you get better with practice so by the time I had one in each size they were looking pretty good. I asked my friend, Anne, who has a food truck business, if she would be my test pilot for this item. She agreed and we settled on a blue fabric with pink trim. It turned out to be a custom size with a tad more room in the hip and an adjusted neckline. She liked it!
Anne's cobbler apron
Which sewing machine did I use? I tried a variety of bias tape feet with different machines only to find it was easier to use the two step process. Since I could use any straight stitch machine I used the Bernina 217. I know, I know, I'm pretty sold on this machine and you are probably getting tired of hearing me sing its praises but for this type of work it's great. For the buttonholes, I used a Kenmore 158-1980 because it was the one I was testing out but they weren't the best quality of buttonholes. For Anne's I used a buttonhole attachment on a Singer 201 and liked the outcome much better. See, you need more than one sewing machine, just for the quality of all the various features. Just keep telling yourself this and you might end up with more machines than you can store!