Sunday, June 7, 2020


I am such a cheapskate but sometimes it turns out for the better. Take my latest quilt project where I'm using up grandmas' flower garden motifs from my aunt. I added some of my own to use up the last of her quilting projects. Looking at how others have used these patterns into quilts I didn't want to do the usual arrangement. Playing around with them I came up with the following ideas:
In this case I could try to arrange from light to dark hues. Maybe, but it would take a whole lot of these little buggers.
Here's another idea, adding them to white background, adding sashing to extend the size. Getting better.
Now I added a cream layer to each one and then added the green triangles in the created corners for a square block. With the navy pindot background I was giving this a big thumbs up.
But then I continued with that thought and placed them in groups of four with navy pindot sashing. Then I could extend the size with another set of wider sashing between each larger block. With three large blocks across and down I would need 36 of the smaller circles. I had 29 so I kept up my hand sewing until I had enough, adding the green triangles as I finished each one so when I was done I was really done.
Here's the arrangement before sewing them together as large blocks. I only messed up one set (and I'm not telling).
Each set got numbered
and sewn together (above is without borders, below is with borders)
until the top was finally done. The borders were different for me with the corner blocks alternating blue and green and I really like that touch. Here's where the cheapskate comes into play. I didn't have enough fabric for the backing and at 84" square it was going to take five yards. Now, this was a scrappy quilt and no way was I now going to spend $30 on backing. My daughter suggested I piece the backing so I rummaged around until I found enough fabric and came up with this idea:
The blue background fabric was the largest piece and used for the border on the front, the dark green fabric was good sized, too, but there was a flaw in it, some white streaks, so I needed to add something to cover that up. The multi fabric border was a fun part where I sewed strips of fabric from the front  together and then cut in 1.5" strips. When it was done and pressed I laid it down and put the quilt top over it: not quite big enough on one side. At that point I had to walk away and rethink this. I showed my husband an hour later and discovered if I turned the top around it did fit better. Whew! Now I just need to add the batting and get it quilted, one of my favorite parts. This one is so big it's going to take awhile!

Still selling a few sewing machines and some repairs I would rather not dwell on, but with people returning to work and the weather getting nicer I know this isn't the season for sewing except for those of us who are just a little bit obsessed (confession is good for the soul).

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Signed, Sealed, and Delivered

I've enjoyed digging into my stack of future projects and getting them done during this time of staying at home so, next up, was a bundle of fabric with cut squares and strips. First Quilters had a fabric sale a few summers ago and this zippered plastic bag looked cheerful to me so I bought it for only $3. Looking at the potential, patterns for half square triangles, sending photos to my quilting sister, Jane, I came up with this plan/idea:
Bag of fabric sorted and labeled to make sure there was enough???
Block design
It didn't take long to piece these blocks and I decided to use my treadle this time. Why? Why not? It gave me some much needed practice time and made it more fun, too. There wasn't quite enough fabric for all of the edges as well as one final block but all I could do was punt:
Bottom right corner: oh oh, not enough!
 So I had to mix things up just a bit and came up with this (see if you can find the pattern variation):
Final product: even the binding is done
I love the bright floral print but it was very bold so when it came time to free motion quilt it I needed to find patterns that would actually show off the fabric. Here's some of my experimentation:
Different designs on each fabric
Script? I can now sew words!
Using the Singer Futura XL400, I sewed each section with a different design with large flower type design in each gold square, lines of loops in the half square triangles, and even a feather type of stitch on the border. Some of the places were not-so-great so I removed stitches and tried again so the final product was something I was proud of. I decided to give this quilt to my younger sister, Mindy, who loved my last quilt and even asked if it was for sale. This one was just for her so I wrote messages in the border and in various places on the quilt. I don't think she has found them all yet but I'm patient, she will find them one by one and I'll hear all about it.

Along with quilt projects, I also was inspired to make something with all of the hankies I've collected. Not only were mine stashed in a box, I now have my mom's and aunt's collections so it seemed like a huge pile. I also had a stack of linen placemats and napkins that were just too cute to pass up at the Goodwill Outlet so putting them all together:
Hankie and linen arrangement
I sewed them on a large piece of white muslin, added buttonholes at the top, hemmed, and she's now on display on my shower:
Hankie shower curtain from doorway
Hankie shower curtain
I'm so glad I put these lovely items to use; they weren't going anywhere in a hankie box so I might as well enjoy them every day! Speaking of showers, I better wrap this up and get a shower before the online church service starts. No one can see me but old habits die hard and I like to clean up before church and that hankie shower curtain waits for me. Until next time, what are you sewing on?

Sunday, May 3, 2020

More Than One

As we continue to stay at home in Minnesota and I've sold out most of my basic sewing machines, I've been able to move things around in my sewing area. How nice to have most of the machines out of the family room and into the sewing room! In the process, I found some Singer 503's, 403's, and even a surprise 401. I had been ignoring the Singer 503 because I was sure it had problems but now I take a look:
Singer 503 with former repair note?
Nothing wrong and it even comes with a full set of accessories. This model doesn't have a built in zigzag stitch so you need cam 0, that's zero, to have a basic zigzag. My model had this cam and was ready to sell but then I found another 503 but no zero cam. The Singer 403 is similar, in that it also needs a cam for zigzag so I pull it off the back shelf to find it also has the cam and a full set of accessories. Checking all of my cams and then checking machines it appears I'm short one zero cam. In need of  the popup spool pins for the 503, I place an order but not for the cam because I'm not giving up yet.
Singer 503 top open: new spool pins!

A few more days go by and I take another look at the 403 and 503 but what do I find? The Singer 403 is a 401. What? They are very different machines and I know the difference: the 401 has a camstack so there's a whole host of built in stitches plus cams. The 403 has no built in stitches, just straight, so you need cams for any decorative work or even a blind hem. But there is sits, a 401 and looking into the top door I find the beloved zero cam that it does not need since it has built-in zigzag stitches. Now my 503 is ready for a new home and I have a 401 ready, too.

April is a big birthday month around here with four grandchildren having birthdays (10, 8, 5, and 1) as well as my husband. This has posed challenges but for the youngest she got a couple summer outfits made by her grandma:
Summer top with leggings, size 1

Playset with shorts or crop pants, size 1/2
They were so much fun and took me back to when I made something similar for her mom. Which sewing machine did I use? My Viking Designer 1 performed just fine but I'm becoming a bit disillusioned by it from time to time. I made up some new placemats for the small table we use for most summer meals out on the porch. Using only two pieces of fabric with a heavy interfacing, the top stitching looks really poor. Looking around the room and trying to decide which machine I should try next, there sat the Singer 31-15, an industrial model I have sitting in the table with a servo motor for the Bernina 318. I thread it up with some form of heavier top stitching thread and it comes out just fine.
Placmats with pocket for flatware
Placemats with heavy interfacing
This is another reason why you need more than one sewing machine! Next up: quilting more UFO's and free motion success!

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Safety Mask Sewing & Sewing Machines

When the order to stay home came from our governor, my husband and I were already staying home since we are part of the vulnerable population. My job has transitioned to home and even with a few early adjustments, it's going better than I think any of us expected. It's not easy but I think we can manage this and stay healthy. Then I thought about my sewing machine business and my heart sank: I could no longer have anyone in my home for demo's and sewing machines choices. Figuring that was just part of the price I would have to pay for this pandemic, I got a call for one of my machines. It was one I had listed for several weeks prior to all of this so we figured out a way for her to pick up and I would just be watching from a safe distance and all went well. Then another sold. Then another. Everyone wanted to make masks:
I started to look at some of my least expensive sewing machines to see if they would also work for this project of sewing masks. It doesn't take any kind of a fancy sewing machine, just one that is reliable. Hold on to your hats: I sold six in two days and they keep coming. I love how everyone wants to help out with making masks and now it has even been recommended everyone wear one so the need is even greater. So let me tell you the story of a Facebook request.

Back in March, I posted on Facebook that I was making masks and Loreal, an acquaintance from church, said she would make them if she only had a sewing machine. I knew she was home with little ones (this was before the stay-home directive) so I thought this might be a good outreach for her. I also wanted  to connect with her and just maybe this was the way! Just the week before I had a Singer Stylist 534 donated by another family friend who didn't care what I did with that sewing machine. It worked perfectly fine so I got it out, tested it out again, took a few photos, and sent them off to Loreal. She was delighted but didn't have any sewing supplies so I gave her twenty of the masks sets I had already cut out with thread, scissors, pins, and elastic. Having worked with a few new sewers, I even drew stitch lines on the fabric and pined the elastic in place. The whole thing got picked up and she got to work.
There were several text back and forth about threading, winding a bobbin, cord elastic (not a favorite for either one of us) among other things. Much to her surprise, she likes to sew! We are already planning on lessons when things are a bit safer but in the meantime she's made about 50 masks and I've made about the same.

Now I get a request for headbands with buttons, something that has been suggested so the elastic doesn't make your ears sore. I make up a couple but wait for them to be put into action and tweaked for fit before I make many more. What machine did I use? A Bernina 1100 serger, of course.
 Which machine have I been making
masks on? A cute Singer 99 in a blond wood cabinet, right in my living room.

No company is coming so I can spread out all I need to and I'm only accountable to my husband, a dear man who also helped sewing up the masks:

One final view of the current stash of masks:

as we keep on staying home and keep on sewing!

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Staying Home

So we are staying home these days but working from home. What does that mean when I'm always working at home? My work laptop came home with me and I set up a tall table in the sometimes sunny porch. There are two mornings each week where I'm in charge of monitoring our local chat service for the library and answering the group email account. We are all on internal chat so I keep up with everyone while we try to support our faculty in getting everything online for the remaining two months of class. I've learned how to work in chunks of time, taking breaks to go clear my mind; it's at those times when I will sometimes solve a problem so down time isn't always down!

Since I am no longer spending time driving for work, I not only have extra time at home but my sewing machines and projects are a nice break time diversion. Before everything started to close down I picked up two sewing machines from Goodwill auction, a Husqvarna Viking "Emma" and a Kenmore 158-1310. I couldn't resist the Emma since that's the name of one of my granddaughters but wasn't expecting much since it was just a mechanical model. This one surprised me with its solid feel, easy controls, and more than passable stitching:
Husqvarna Viking Emma
It came with all you could need with extra presser feet, some tools, a few bobbins, and a great padded carrying case. There was a receipt in the pocket showing it had been bought in 2003 for a fairly hefty price considering it is mechanical, in fact it was twenty times the price I paid. You gotta love an auction. Maybe some day Emma will sew with it but not to worry because it's a solid machine that someone else would like, too.

Next up is the Kenmore 158-1310, a nice machine that seemed pretty familiar. I clean it up and test it out to find it only goes backwards. What? Again? I checked my inventory database to find I had just sold this exact model with the same problem. Of course, I don't know what I did to fix the one I sold  so I put the cover on, made a note on its label, and had to walk away for the time being.
Kenmore 158-1310
Because I'm so happy with the Singer Futura XL 400, as I wrote about in Embroidery the Easy Way?,  and its embroidery functions as well as free motion, I took a chance and got a Singer Futura CE 250 embroidery sewing machine. It came with everything so there was less risk involved but I knew this was a problematic model. Upon testing it out, I could see the manuals were nearly identical so I was hoping for less of a learning curve. I was lucky that I could install the software on the same laptop as I had for the XL-400 with no problems or confusion on the part of the software but I kept getting error messages after the first project was stitched out. I kept playing with it until I got the right combination of thread and sequencing of steps but I'll need to use it more before I feel confident enough to sell it to someone. Here's a nice stitch-out:
Deer antlers and arrows on camouflage fabric
I didn't even use stabilizer and it turned out this nice so now I just need to keep trying different patterns and features. I'll do it "for the cause" (said tongue-in-cheek).

Not to let too much time go by, I attacked another one of the quilt block sets I got back in September at the river Rats TOGA. With one under my belt, pieced but not quilted (a future blog post), I got out a Joann's Block-of-the-Month set from 1997 where the blocks were all done and an attempt to assemble them. It looked like there had been a change of heart with some purple sparkle fabric added to the sashing but I took that out and started over again. Here was part of the planning:
Blue BOM 1997 with new sashing
This was the easy part since the blocks were all done and a pretty nice job of it, too. I used my Singer 66 treadle since this came from a treadle sewing group and that made it even more fun. Here it is all assembled:
Final assembly, waiting to be quilted
Because it has a white background, I needed white batting so I ordered Quilters Dream batting. I've seen it talked up in a few of the quilting books and it gets great reviews but it's a bit pricey so this was a smaller project to try it out on, only 45" by 60". This is also a smaller project for continuing to practice my free-motion quilting skills so it's a bit of a win-win.

Let's continue to keep busy and keep sewing because this is one way we can head off the pandemic: stay home (and keep sewing).

Sunday, March 8, 2020

A Quilting Vacation

I'm back from a week of vacation in Charleston, South Carolina, where quilting is alive and well. We met my quilting sister and her husband for some nice rest, good food, and as it turned out, visiting quilt shops. Who knew? It started out with a plan to have the guys do their own thing looking at ships and such but a wrong turn and  backup on the bridge meant they came along with us as we spent the day touring shops (I think they were along for the lunch).

First stop was Five Eights Seams, a bright and cheerful shop that actually had various sewing machines and classes.
I love the subtitle: Perfection starts here
More than just quilting, they had samples and fabric for clothing that caught my attention:
Border prints!
I did my best to resist but I bought one piece of fabric before I left, a lovely Lori Holt sewing themed piece that I planned on making a cover for my industrial Bernina 217. We shall see:

Heading up to Summerville, we stopped for lunch first at Fives Loaves Cafe and then on to People Places and Quilts. I found this very fun fabric with four different patterns in each width. I couldn't decide so I got a yard of each of the red and blue:

Then there were patterns! First I picked up the sewing machine cover with a camper theme and then I found the travel iron bag that doubles as an ironing surface:

They even added the heat resistant fabric so you don't have to go shopping around for it. If and when I make this little gem I will have to show you.

On another day we stopped at Wild and Wooly where they were having a birthday celebration for one of the owners who happened to have a rare February 29th birthday. How old was she? Not very old since she only could celebrate every 7 years or so but it was all fun with birthday cake and punch. Of course, we did buy a few items we were sure we couldn't find anywhere else, including camping themed fabric:

Camper fabric with a companion piece

Camping fabric paired with four patterned fabric
Loved the camping fabric and even found another piece of the four patterns on a width that I think might work together. So now I have several pieces of fabric and patterns for sewing machine covers but I only need one of my machines covered. Who knows where this will end?

Before our trip was over, my sister shared the quilt top that I had assembled for our aunt as a lap robe as I wrote about in Hand Quilting back in the summer. When Aunt Marcella died we just let that project drop, or so I thought, but she had it quilted for me and I am now the proud owner of my aunt's lovely flower garden quilt.
Flower Garden blocks all assembled and quilted
Another great trip was put away but we have many happy memories. The four of us are planning our next trip with our campers, maybe not this coming summer but for the next year. Could I pack a sewing machine along with me? We shall see!

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Chenille Maker

At the last River Rats TOGA I attended a session on how to make your own chenille. That's a bit of a misnomer since chenille is a type of fabric with many different looks and surfaces from rows of dots or bumps to intricate designs that cover the surface. What we learned about was how to make your own rows of fluffy fabrics using a chenille cutter. For Christmas I asked for the Olfa Chenille cutter since it was recommended but it was pricey, definitely a splurge. With time on my side and the cutter in my hand, I followed directions and layered three flannel fabrics on top of a piece of mid-weight  upholstery fabric. Rows of stitches were marked at half inch intervals with chalk and stitched:
Sample stitched and start of cutting layers
Then the fun began with using the cutter to cut the top three layers and leaving the bottom layer intact. It didn't look like much until I washed and dried it:
Washed and dried sample!
It turned out fairly thick so now I ask myself "What are you going to use this with/on?" and I haven't a clue. A whole quilt with these chenille squares sewn together? Back of a quilt? Hot mitts? I think I'm going to have fun finding out. In the meantime, I bought two sewing machines that have solved a few problems I had and one I didn't even know I had! First up is a Singer 31-15, an industrial machine without a table or motor:
Singer 31-15 head only
I've had one of these before and it didn't impress me so I gave it a servo motor and sold it. At the time I was enamored with a Singer 78 walking foot machine, ended up with a Bernina 217, and told myself I would consider another industrial if I could treadle it. Now I have a great machine but no industrial treadle base so what's up with that?

It came very, very dirty and you can see that it's been well used but it cleaned up  and would almost spin on its own so I brought it downstairs to wait for that treadle base...someday. Just for fun, I took measurements and found out it would fit in the Bernina 217 table. Although they are very heavy machines I only had to lift out the Bernina and put it back against the wall and the Singer only had to rest of the four corner supports. I gingerly attached the belt, turned on the servo motor and carefully depressed the foot control: it stitched! The feed dogs also broke the needle plate so the years of dirty build-up had provided a buffer for a poorly fitted plate. That was okay since parts are very cheap: I bought a new set of feed dogs, needle plate, and slide plate for only $13. Such a deal! I already have various feet, extra bobbin cases and bobbins, needles, etc. so we will be all set when they arrive. I'm going to have fun with this one, seeing how it might do some tasks better than the Bernina 217 or not as well but it's nice to have choices.

Along with the Singer 31-15 I picked up a New Home SX-2122 that was missing a few parts but basically just needed to be cleaned up and run. It was missing the front storage compartment so I looked it up at and found out it was also used with other models. Cross-referencing my database I found out I had one of the models listed, a $10 find at the Textile Center Garage Sale last spring. There were multiple problems with it so I stashed it away on my parts graveyard  shelf. The storage container fit just fine and then I noticed the electrical socket was in great shape on the broken machine. I had a New Home MyExcel 15S with a broken socket so I switched out the parts and now have 2 sewing machines ready to sew and that parts machine is officially off the parts shelf. I have a guy who takes them for metal scrap so it waits for his pick up time. Success!
New Home "Computer" model SX-2122
Now I'm headed to a weeks vacation with family for a much needed rest and relaxation. Maybe we will spy some sewing machines? At least we plan to visit a few quilt shops!