Saturday, January 23, 2010


Work has been BUSY so I haven't had a lot of time or energy left for sewing. We have a conference next weekend so everything will be down to the wire this coming week. Thankfully, I'm not attending the conference so I get my life back next weekend. However, I couldn't wait until then for some sewing therapy so I gave myself permission to start quilting the quilt and I'll do some job-work tomorrow before the football games.

I started laying out the quilt sandwich on my bedroom floor but soon got very tired of crawling around down there. I'm old. I enlisted DS#2 to help me carry the layers into the sewing room and I worked on it in sections on my cutting table. Quilt basting spray is immensely helpful for this, and I also did pin it at regular intervals. I know this is supposedly not the ideal way to do this, but it worked fine for me.

Finally, I was ready. Or so I thought. I originally wanted to do freehand meandering on the blocks and spent a couple of hours practicing that. I have done it before so it wasn't completely new, but I had to play with my machine to find the best settings again. The built-in free-motion stitches are rubbish.

Free-motion practice went well, but once I had the quilt at the machine and started wrestling it, I knew the meandering was not going to be a wise choice for my foray into machine quilting something bigger than a table runner. I decided to opt for straight line, NOT in the ditch, quilting - following the shapes of the block pieces and attached my walking foot to give it a go.

I spent a few hours wrestling it like this …

… but I did finally get into a rhythm.

I first tried rolling up the sides but that was actually harder to manage than just keeping it flat and moving everything around as necessary when pivoting at corners. As you can see, there is actually an extension table under there, which is a curse and a blessing. The curse part is because the quilt gets caught on the back corners of the extension table when I'm turning it. I may have to move this operation to the dining room table where I can have more tabletop behind the machine, but I'm resisting that because I don't want it on my dining room table for the next year. ;-)

I now have a grand total of three quilted blocks. At this rate, I might finish in 2015.

Can you tell which blocks are done? The near blue/white pinwheel, the green/plaid star above it, and the blue/pink basket on the right of the star.

Oh, and while my machine was at the hospital, it developed a squeak that is driving me CRAZY. But I don't want to take it back in and be without it again so I'm hoping it works itself out. You're not supposed to oil Vikings so I don't want to start squirting into it willy-nilly. If it doesn't stop soon, I'll be forced to give it up again because this is something I can't live with, like I did with its previous problems.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

They're Back!

Yes, yes, my men are back from their trip up north, but really, what's equally as important is my D1 is back too! My home is again full and complete. ;-)

Here she is. Notice the working Fix and Reverse buttons lit up, and the working lights. The bobbin winder is under the lid but it's fixed too. And, lastly, the needle threader works again.

These are the "bad" buttons. A $6.00 part. Well, only two of them are bad but the whole panel is one unit as you can see.

All of the parts totalled only about $40. It was the $89 in labor which was the biggest charge. But still, it's hundreds cheaper than I was expecting so I'm not complaining. Except to wonder WHAT TOOK ME SO LONG?? I'm still holding final judgment on the issue with the lights. The tech said that they kept burning out because I touched them with bare skin when installing new bulbs. But these aren't halogen lights so I think that's mostly hogwash. But I'm willing to be proven wrong, especially if it means that it's a $5.00 dual bulb replacement instead of a $xxx computer board.

It was strange sewing on it last night to test things out. It's been forever since I had a working needle threader so I had to dig into the brain cells to remember what to do with it, but I remembered pretty quickly. And the first thing I reached for when I started her up was the presser foot lever. Except — Designer 1's don't have presser foot levers. The foot raises and lowers automatically when you step on the pedal. It's funny how quickly you get used to (or UNused to) things. The Featherweight and Kenmore both have presser foot levers, of course, and there I was reaching for one of them on my D1. I had to laugh at myself.

Speaking of Mr. Kenny … Do you see his shiny new white ankle for snap-on feet? Well, that's courtesy of Gaylen who popped one in the mail to me and it got here in what must be record time. Washington State to Florida. Opposite ends of the country in two days. Thank you so much Gaylen! Sewing friends are the BEST! And now Kenny can use some of my favorite D1 feet.

And OMG but I swear this card was as good as getting that ankle! Gaylen is definitely a dog person who knows I am too and she taped the ankle inside this great card with Chili's cousin looking right at me.

My sons saw it and asked, "How did she know?" But Gaylen is a sewing friend and dog person. She just knows. :-)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I've Been Stripping

Don't you just love those really bad quilt-y puns? Stripping. I slay myself. Ahem.

So, as I was saying … I added sashing and stripping to the quilt blocks. No, I don't know which is which. Anyone?

Things I learned:

1. I'm pretty sure these blocks were the result of a swap or other bee-type exchange because even though they tricked me into believing they were all the same exact size, um … they weren't. Other clues were that the muslin pieces are many different kinds of muslin (or plain white, I don't know), and none of the fabrics are repeated in other blocks.

I had to make the decision to keep the integrity of the blocks (points, etc.) and say to heck with the sashing (stripping?) lining up 100% exactly. It's a practice quilt, after all, and I fully expect and want it to be used as a snuggle quilt while watching TV. Don't ask me why (I don't know!) but my 17-year old son always watches TV under a blanket, even if it's 98 degrees outside. Which, by the way, it is NOT. It is FREEZING. Although less freezing today than yesterday. I think we might have reached 50 today. But it was still officially freezing temps when I took the dogs out this morning so I'm counting it.

2. It's really, REALLY hard to pick fabrics to coordinate with "old lady" colors but which themselves will help the quilt to not look so old lady. Apologies to any old ladies who may be offended. ;-) I went with a dark green, gold, and not-bright red although the red looks brighter in these photos than it is. Maybe because the whole room where it's hanging for this photo is red? I don't know. I'm now thinking it looks Christmas-y instead of old lady, but that's really only in the photos. The red is really not that red. My camera just loves to enhance any speck of red in a shot.

3. Duct tape is handy when you're hanging a quilt top off french doors for a quick photo. Especially when you're home alone.

4. I have NO IDEA where I'm going to lay this out to make my "quilt sandwich" in preparation for actually quilting the thing. The driveway comes to mind, but my grease monkey son has left, well, GREASE in the driveway so I need to figure out a way to not transfer grease onto the quilt. Then again, I may temporarily rearrange some stuff in my bedroom instead so I can lay it out in the "sitting area." Said sitting area is actually dog bed area, which means heavy-duty vacuuming before any quilt is laid down there and probably shooing dogs off the quilt while I'm working on it. It will also be warmer to do it there vs. the driveway, although "they" are telling us it may hit 70 by Friday. Woot!

5. I love LOVE my Featherweight! I won't be able to quilt on it because the harp is way too small, but that little beauty sews 1/4" seams like magic. I love the sound it makes too. It's very hypnotic.

6. I like strip quilting because it's more of a no-brainer. Intricate blocks, though I love them on finished quilts, kill me. My Stars & Stripes may never get done, although I hope I do muster up the motivation because it's going to ROCK whenever it's done. Strip quilting is relaxing. Nothing to fit onto my body. No pattern tissue to wrestle with. Pretty much just cut some straight lines and sew.

Here's a straight-on shot of the quilt top. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you should be able to see where some of the blocks don't quite line up they way they should. But once it's in use, no one will ever know.

D1 Update: Still in the hospital. The $140 quote does include the Reverse, the Fix, my bobbin winder, and the needle threader. I think that's pretty much a bargin. Or bargain, if I could catch typos. Now that they have my OK to fix those things, they will also open it up and test the problem with the lights burning out. If that's an expensive fix like I'm afraid it will be, I'll continue to live without lights. There was a communication gap that seems to have been fixed now and I received at least 4 calls between yesterday and this morning. But I probably won't have it back until next week. We'll see. The repair guy doesn't make a trip to that store every day. I'm in quilt-y mode and I really need the D1 for that since it has a pretty good harp space. But I may just go ahead and start reacquainting myself with free-motion quilting on the Kenmore.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


No, this hasn't turned into a quilting blog. It's just that I'm not in the mood to sew clothes for me. But I don't want to finish up the last scrub top for my sister either. Part of my lost garment mojo is still not having my machine. Part is a need to clear out Stuff Taking Up Space. Yes, I'm aware of the irony of that statement vs. the lone scrub top.

The good news is that my machine should be done early next week and I think it's going to cost a LOT less than I was anticipating. Fingers still crossed on that one because there was also a bit of a misunderstanding as to what they were supposed to look at. How, I don't know, since I had a big list stapled to the work ticket. But I digress … Right now I've been told it has working Reverse and Fix buttons again and supposedly the light problem is fixed, and the price quoted so far is $140. But I'm unclear whether the bobbin winder was even looked at and the saleslady at the store didn't know either, since service is done off-site. I hate that about this dealer, but I have no other good choice. However, if the total bill is going to be under $300 when I was expecting at least double that, I guess I can live with it.

Anyway, back to the photo above. These are quilt blocks I've had kicking around the sewing space for years. I didn't make them. They were part of an Ebay lot of other things and I couldn't just toss them. They are completely not my colors or style. But there's still something about them that I like and the workmanship is excellent.

So, off to Joann's today to buy fabric for borders between the blocks, fabric for sashing, and fabric for the backing and binding. It was so crazy in there that I totally forgot about batting so I'll have to go back for that.

I was also a little crazed myself by the time I got to Joann's since my car battery died and with the men all gone this weekend, I had to deal with it myself. Not that I can't, I just prefer not to. After a couple of tries in the driveway with only clicks, it did let me finally start the car so that I could take it up to the place that sells and installs batteries. Whew! There are 4 other cars here but (1) who knows if they would've started either and (b) they are Guy Cars. 'Nuf said.

And why did the battery die? Because it's FREAKIN' FREEZING here and cold kills batteries. I'm not kidding about the freezing - it was in the 20s overnight and never even reached 36 today. Oh, and guess what I saw last night during the dogs' last piddle of the night? Snow. Yes. S.N.O.W. In Valrico, Florida. WTF. No, it didn't stick, but it was sure coming down from the sky at midnight. And today while driving around, the "rain" was bouncing off my windshield. I'm a northern girl by birth. I know sleet when I see it.

I know many of you have to deal with terrible cold all winter, but you pretty much expect it where you live, right? I live in West Central FLORIDA. I think I'm allowed to whine when it's like this for days on end. I'll be whining again next month when my electric bill hits the mailbox. Whoever's idea this is for a joke? Well, it's just not funny anymore. ;-)

Off to pull the new fabrics from the dryer and start cutting strips while watching the Cowboys beat the Eagles. I'll see how far I get tonight and tomorrow before I decide to go racing back to crazy Joann's for batting. I'm hoping the fabrics I picked will make the whole quilt more Me. But what I'd really like is a quilt that I won't cringe over if we kick it around the TV room and snuggle up in it. That's all I'm hoping to get out of this.

(And yes, Donna H - I know I still have the Stars & Stripes to work on, but I need my D1 for the applique blocks, plus working on making a top/quilt out of the blocks above will help me ease into wanting to work on those applique blocks. Shoot me if I ever pick something with multiple applique blocks again.)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Two and Done

Did I say I was making three scrub tops? Hahahaha! I'm bored already. I really do not like assembly-line sewing. Scrub #3 is going on hold because I want to sew for ME! I'll send the two finished scrubs off to my sister and at some point #3 will find its way to her too. Just not in the same package.

So anyway, this one is View A from the same pattern, KS 3709. (Pattern #3708 is the same pattern but in non-plus sizes.) Making this view, I figured what the heck good were those princess seams if they stay hidden, so I broke it up with a print and a contrast. I like how it came out. The print was bought a short time ago specifically for this batch of scrubs. The solid contrast has been a stash resident for years. It all came together when I was looking in the stash for something else. I like when that happens, like it's made to be. Oh wait, it was. ;-)

I'm especially proud of this edgestitching. Done completely on Mr. Kenmore with nothing more than my old eyes and the default foot. No guide rudders on specialty feet. I suppose I should invest in an ankle for the Kenmore that will let me use my Viking snap-on feet. Anyone know where to find one online? Until then, my foot choices for the Kenmore are dismal.

I forgot to include a pic of the back of the first scrub. It's got an elastic casing to draw in the waist for more shaping. I'm still deciding whether to add it to the latest top.

No word yet on my D1. I'm going to call about it tomorrow and see what's up. I really, really, really, really, REALLY!! miss my needle down and my automatic presser foot up/down, and my 25 needle positions, and ... well, just about everything. I could never use a straight-stitch only machine for garment sewing. Not now that I've sewn on the Dark Side. ;-) But, really, the Kenmore is fine and I shouldn't complain and it's actually been nice to have a Reverse again. Plus it sews nice and straight and one bobbin lasted for both tops and still has thread, but … I miss my D1 — warts and all. My menfolk are flying up north on Friday morning for a long male-bonding weekend with DH's father and brother and I'd really love to have my real machine back for my weekend alone. Since I haven't heard anything about it, I'm doubting that will happen.

We've been having a preview of the menfolks' trip up north. It's been extremely cold all week and we set a record with TWENTY-SEVEN DEGREES here this morning. OMG. Did the weather not get the memo that this is Florida?? It's supposed to stay cold for many more days. I'm not planning on going anywhere. Even the dogs don't want to be out longer than it takes to do their business. They don't have winter coats, natural or man-made. Chili was actually shivering this afternoon. I was right there with him. Brrrrr.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Scrub #1 is done, thanks to Mr. Kenmore. ;-) It's hanging kind of crooked in this pic. I still have 2 more in the assembly-line, cut and waiting for a thread change on the machines. I actually bought the main print for this top from a few weeks ago for me but when it arrived, it was not at all what I was expecting. I almost returned it but then I realized that it would be perfect for a scrub top. The contrast pieces are from stash.

The pattern is Kwik Sew 3709 and it's a winner. I'll write a full review when I'm done, but the quick version is that it has nice shaping, great seams and flattering pocket angles, and two similar yet different views in the same pattern doubling the value. There'd probably be even more residual value if I hadn't taken the lazy way out and cut (gasp!) a Kwik Sew pattern instead of tracing it.

The scrub pictured above is View B.

Here's a close-up that shows the upper yoke seam and a glimpse of the princess seams.

I'm making one more View B and one View A and hope to have them all done and in the mail/UPS truck by Friday. I would be further along except I goofed big-time on the center front panel. I completely missed that it was to be cut on the fold and cut 1/2 of the piece and actually sewed it — and serged it — to the side panels. Oops. Thankfully, I had more fabric. I may not be as lucky with the second one, so it's probably going to have a center front seam.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Tablerunner & Napkins & Kvetching

Done! I'm sorely out of practice with the binding but some washable glue and Wonder Tape let me pretend I'm an expert. I had attached the binding to the front of the runner before the D1 died and after the meltdown I seriously contemplated tacking it on the back by hand. That lasted for about 8 stitches. I'm so NOT a good stitcher-by-hand (because I never practice, of course) and it would've taken for-freakin'-EVER.

Here's the back. Or, it could be the front too since theoretically it is reversible.

I'm still debating whether to toss it in the washer/dryer to create the wrinkly quilty goodness or to send it on to mom in its current state.

I made four napkins. If I had been more forward-thinking when I bought the fabric, I would've bought more so I could have made more napkins. But I didn't, so I couldn't. The napkins are double-sided. Each has the same backing so they can be folded as four matching napkins or four coordinating napkins. On the napkin from the "backing" print, I used the wrong side for one side, which is a solid blue.

Sewing with the Kenmore was an … adventure. (I think it's actually a Janome-made machine, since its model number starts with "385.") It's not a total bottom-of-the-line, but it's only one or two up from that. And I felt it. Even my dilapidated D1 sews circles around this machine. But hey, at least I have a backup, right? Trying to think positive. ;-)

Here's the "new" line-up. Look how small that thing is. LOL!

The things I miss most from my D1 are needle up/down, all the needle positions, automatic tension, thread cutting, and just the overall ease of the sewing experience. I had to test and adjust a lot more with the Kenmore. Some of it is because I'm just not used to sewing with it but most of it is because my D1 just does everything so beautifully without adjustment.

Oh, and I miss all my D1 feet! I don't have a stitch-in-the-ditch foot for the Kenmore and I REALLY needed it for the binding. I made do with a generic adjustable edge-stitching foot, but it's not as sturdy as my Viking feet. That plastic guide thing on the right is wobbly.

Another thing I miss — winding a bobbin without unthreading. And ALL MY BOBBINS. I think I have 3 bobbins for the Kenmore. What a pain. I wish I had thought to buy more when I was at Joann's yesterday.

The Kenmore is good as a buttonhole station and it's a decent sewer, but it's not a *great* sewing machine. The stitch quality is acceptable but not outstanding. The Featherweight's straight stitch is much, much nicer. Even my fumbling on the treadle produces a prettier straight stitch. The D1 stitching is easily as nice as either of the vintage machines. I'm beginning to dread the edgestitching I'll need to do for my sister's scrubs. I'm not used to having to work at getting a straight, even stitch. Spoiled, I know.

I did drop off the D1 yesterday at my Viking dealer, which is inside Joann's. It won't even be looked at until Monday at the earliest. Sob. But at least it's there. I'll just have to wait for the bad news.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Is It Contagious?

Happy New Year!

Thank you all for the get well wishes! I think I'm on the mend. I got up this morning and could breathe through both nostrils and I'm not freezing anymore.

My sons were actually helpful, despite my whines in my last post — making store runs for more drugs and a load of tissues, and jumping in for odd jobs around the house to keep things going (dogs out, making a couple of dinners, etc.). DH was working very full days so he was off the hook. It's not that they aren't generally helpful in all situations, but like most men, they aren't good at "mothering," which is what I was whining for in my last post. When you're the mama, it's hard to get good mothering when the resident mama is down for the count and the biological one is a thousand miles north. ;-)

So, while I seem to be getting better, I must've breathed too hard on my D1 and it's now sick. I was all set to sew the binding onto my mom's table runner last night. I loaded an empty bobbin into the winder and … clack-clack-clack-crash! Ayiiiiiiiiii!

I shouldn't admit this in public, but here goes. I've been sewing without a reverse or lights on my D1 for a few years. The fix stitch button also doesn't work, but I can get around that with other methods. The part that's most inconvenient is not being able to turn it OFF when I *don't* want a knot at the beginning of a seam. Reverse can had by turning the fabric 180, which has been easy enough. It does suck that I can't use some of my utility stitches without the Reverse button, but it's been so long I can't even remember which ones anymore. The lights I really don't miss. I just have a table lamp shining directly onto the bed which is more than bright enough.

But not being able to wind bobbins? That's a show-stopper. And no, the Sidewinder bobbin winding thing doesn't work for Viking D1 bobbins so that's not an option even if I wanted one, which I don't.

I've avoided taking the machine in for repairs all this time because at first I just couldn't bear being without a sewing machine. It used to be my only one. I didn't count my Kenmore back then but I've since dusted it off and it's now part of the herd as my buttonhole station.

I've avoided the repair shop lately because, frankly, I'm pretty sure they're going to tell me I need a new motherboard and I just plain can't afford to drop hundreds and hundreds of dollars on that, after the year of $$ house repairs we've had. And after all this time, I'm just used to being without and something else always seems to take precedence in the budget. But no bobbin winding means it's time for the D1 to be hospitalized. She's going in with a list of all that's wrong and the instruction to not fix anything without giving me an estimate for each item first. I know the bobbin winder problem is not related to the motherboard and hopefully that won't be an arm and two legs. If I'm right and I need a new motherboard for the other things, unless it's a LOT cheaper than I think, I'll still have to pass on those other repairs for a while longer and continue with my workarounds for no reverse and the fix stitch. But at least I'll know how much to save towards it.

On the bright side, having some of these convenience features gone from my D1 taught me that I really didn't need them to sew and made me look at vintage and mechanical machines in a new light. Which is why I have the Featherweight and the treadle and dusted off the Kenmore. Hmmm. Blessing or curse? LOL! I even dug out the manual for the Kenmore last night and realized it does a lot more than I thought it did. When I bought it, I didn't really sew. It was for mending and Boy Scout patches, and I was more interested in price than features. I'm going to try finishing mom's table runner and napkins with it this afternoon. If all goes well, I'll start on my sister's scrubs next.

Coverstitch: Serging Bound Neckline at Shoulder Seam

So, you've bound your neckline "in the flat" and now one shoulder seam is unfinished. What to do? (Don't cut those binding ends off just yet!)

I serge my bound neckline shoulder seams like this:

1. Raise the serger knife to its highest position.

2. Before you put the pieces under the knife, slide the bottom layer back a smidge. The machine's differential feed will grab this bottom layer first and that slight grab will put it even with the top layer for the first stitch. (At least on my serger!)

3. Lift the front of the serger foot (with your fingertips, not with the lift lever) and put the fabric all the way under and against the knife.

4. Release the tip of the foot back on top of the fabric, which is now in position against the knife. (You see a ripple here because I was juggling fabric with one hand and the camera with the other!)

Grab the binding tails and gently guide them (and your shoulder seam) toward the knife as you step on the pedal and slowly start serging over "the lump."

5. Press the seam toward the back and, Voila!

6. After running the serger thread tail back through the stitching, sometimes a stitch or two will show at the neckline edge. When this happens, I get out my permanent fabric markers and color those threads to match or blend. I won't tell if you won't. ;-)

Coverstitch: "Lazy" Coverstitch Hem

Most of my hems I do "by eye," thus the "lazy" method.

First, I press up a hem.

With the hem pressed, I bring the item to the CS machine and place it raw edge side UP under the needles so that the left-most needle is just at the inside of the raw edge. Most of the time my edge does not line up right next to one of the guidelines because those guidelines are more regularly incremental than my "by eye" amount.

So, out comes my handy-dandy "hem guide." Yes, a little pad of Post-It notes. (Thanks to a PR member for this tip.) I butt it up next to the folded edge and press down so the whole pad is temporarily stuck in place.

Then I turn the fabric over so the wrong side is facing down and I'm ready to start stitching.

Voila! The underside of the hem is encased in coverstitching with no raw edges to trim. (Please pardon the stitch quality of the off-grain hastily made sample.)