Friday, June 26, 2009

some oldies but goodies

One thing that I would like to do here, as I sporadically post, is document some older projects.

These are my first two "quilts," made for each of my nephews when they were born. I actually realized that I had never really documented either of these anywhere and really wanted to do that for posterity's sake. I call them "quilts" because the quilting techniques here are minimal.

I've been a cross-stitcher since elementary school and that has been my primary means of gift-giving for a long time. I started to look for something for my older nephew, Reece, well, before he was actually born. I found the pattern book for Winnie the Pooh themed cross-stitch and it led to the idea of making a quilt out of the cross-stitched blocks.

You can see what I mean by minimal quilting techniques--solid blocks pieced together, sewn right-sides together and turned, and then tied. But all that cross-stitching sure took awhile.

So when I began to work on Mitchell's quilt, I had problems finding some cross-stitch patterns that really excited me. I finally happened upon this lovely boat themed book, but I felt bad because I wasn't going to be doing as much actual cross-stitching on his as on Mitchell's. But I loved the alphabet boat sail SO much.

So I said to heck with it. I actually did some hand-quilting on this one, just in the large solid blocks, to kind of liven it up. And I assembled in a more traditional manner with a binding.
I made sure when I gave them, to tell my sister that they were to be used. You can see the stains and know that they are. And they're loved. Mitchell actually asked me a couple of weeks ago if I would make him another blanket--this time with Spiderman on it. I said that I have lots of other people to make blankets for first because they never got one from me. Plus, I don't know how to make Spiderman. I think that will hold him off for awhile.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I love Dress a Day. I would wear a dress a day (or at least a skirt) if I didn't have a quickly growing forest on my legs. And I'll never be one of those women that can't shave. Unfortunately I inherited my dad's hair genes rather than my mom's. Well, hopefully not all his hair genes, because I would not look attractive with a giant gleaming forehead...

In any case, Erin at Dress a Day posted a link one day to this gorgeous vintage number on Ebay.
Out of my price range, and too small anyway.

But it brings to mind this Vogue pattern:

I bought this pattern when I first saw it, perhaps on Dress a Day... and have been hoping to magically one day find a 1" stripe fabric to use on it. Gingham is the obvious choice here, but I already have a dress in a large gingham--the Butterick walk-away dress--and I really don't know that I need two gingham dresses in my wardrobe. That idea may get the better of me one day when I get tired of waiting for the 1" stripe though.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

an exercise in spinsterdom

So sometime in the last few months I joined the local quilt guild with my crafty friend Heather. The timing of that was quite serendipitous as it was just in time for their biannual weekend of quilting classes.

There's nothing quite like adopting a cat and joining a quilt guild to make a single 30 year old feel so spinstery, but here I am. And even better, I decided I'd combine the two and make my first ever machine quilted project for my cat.

This was done following the basic pattern that our (fabulous) teacher gave us. It's interesting actually to see how different such a basic piecing pattern can turn out based on the use of fabrics. 15 quilts in the same class, made following the same directions and they're all totally different.

My inspiration for the birds came from the IKEA fabric that I used for the back. I bought this fabric to hang on a canvas on the wall in my apartment--a project that has yet to be completed--and had enough leftovers for the quilt. On my trip through the local quilting shop, I got a little bird happy, but I was pleased with the composition on the front.

The actual quilting was another story. I was using my new-to-me Morse machine for pretty much the first time without really giving it much of a test run. Tension problems galore! Oh, and the presser foot pressure issues, even with the walking foot... notice how some of my squares turned into diamonds, rhombuses (rhombi?)? The stitching in the ditch was an exercise in frusteration. I need to work more on that and figure out the quirks of the machine.

The free-motion quilting was still frusterating, but also quite humourous. This was my first time ever trying free-motion quilting. Ever! And it shows. My circles are all not-quite circular. And my curves aren't quite smooth. I did the first bit in class on the Morse which actually, despite the walking-foot challenges, worked quite well. I finished it at home on my old Singer, which did not work so well. It's a much faster machine and my shapes got even wonkier and my stitches way too small.
I tried the feathering, as our teacher had encouraged in class and it turned out okay, though I clearly need practice there. The stitches don't look so bad in photo here, but up-close it just makes me laugh. I suppose that's the best I could ask for.

Oh, and the cat likes it.

Monday, June 15, 2009

not entirely a sewing project

My friend's daughter is turning 2 this week. My friend, V, has been looking for a play kitchen for this occasion--but not just any play kitchen, an old school wooden one. When you're dealing with a budget, I guess those are not easy to come across. What she found however, were instructions for an IKEA hack to turn a little side table thingy into a sink/stove combo piece.

So we spent Saturday honing our woodworking skills.

Or really, V honed her woodworking skills, while I honed my wood holding skills. I'm afraid of power saws.

So what you see on the left, is the end table, with a hole cut in it for the stainless steel bowl 'sink', fabric circles glued down for the 'burners', cabinet handles for the 'knobs', and some 1/4" plywood for the 'oven' door. The feet are wall/shelf brackets and all that is attached to the thicker plywood backing with a dishdrainer for a shelf.

The 'fridge' is a toy chest that we painted, put some hinges on and put on brackets of its own. There are a couple of shelves inside as well, just more thin plywood on glued on wood cleats.

We decided we were done with woodworking when it got to the decision about making a door for the under-sink cabinet. I offered to whip-up a quick curtain.

(I'll share a photo once it's actually in place.)

I had already decided to make an apron for my individual contribution for the birthday girl. I started that with pieces from a Moda charm pack that I picked up a quilt show a few weeks ago.

I took the charm squares and just cut them on the diagonal and started playing around, arranging them into something pleasing to the eye--my eye anyway. I used some wrapping paper to trace out a pattern for the apron shape and cut two of those out of muslin, making one side shorter than the other. I sewed the charm square patch to the bottom of the short muslin piece, sandwiched the two together, did some basic stitcing-in-the-ditch over the patched part and edged the whole thing with bias tape. I think it's going to fit funny for now, but it will be something that the 2 year old can grow into too.
When it came time to do the curtain, I cut some of the other charm squares in half and patched them together. Some quick seams, some leftover bias tape and that was about a 30 minute project.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

sewing machine, part deux

I feel special to have two machines now!

What brand and model do you have?

This is a Morse Apollo 6200. A 1960s Japanese Singer knock-off made in a Toyota factory of all places.

How long have you had it?

a couple of months

How much does that machine cost (approximately)?

I got it for $25 off of Craigslist. Plus gas to get to the suburbs. It may need a tune-up yet, we'll see.

How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get?

This one has not gotten much. I need to play it with some more and figure out the tension and some other things, but my thought was that it would be my secondary machine, for use in traveling. If I do get more into quilting though, I think this will be the one I go to for the fancier stuff as it's not as fast as the Singer and therefore easier to control in some ways.

Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name?

No name yet. Unless I just want to go with Raul--who, as the sticker on the neck says, serviced the machine at sometime. I don't love it yet. Well I do in a way, it's growing on me. It has funky little features that I love--the giant reverse push button, the light in the end of the arm

I hated it in a quilting class as the tension was wacky, but I'm figuring that out. It's actually built to handle double-needles so there are two tensions discs on the front and the bobbin case tension is all screwy too.

Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine?

See above, re: tension.

Do you have a great story to share about your machine (i.e., Found it under the Christmas tree? Dropped it on the kitchen floor? Sewed your fingernail to your zipper?, Got it from your Great Grandma?, etc.!)? We want to hear it!

No great story. Saw it on Craigslist, did a bit of research, decided to take a chance. The machine had obviously been stored for awhile as the plastic case was dirty and nasty, but the machine was clean as a whistle and looked like it had been used very recently.

I love my old Singer, she's very dear to me, and she sews great. But I've been wanting something that was more portable and had a built-in zig-zag stitch.

Monday, June 8, 2009

sewing machine

What brand and model do you have?

Singer 15-91 in a model 42 "writing desk" cabinet. Serial number issued in 1946.

How long have you had it?

It officially came to live with me in September of 2001, when I moved into my first post-college apartment.

How much does that machine cost (approximately)?

It cost me nothing but a $75 tune-up. If you want one, it all depends on how much you're willing to pay. A great resource for vintage Singers for anyone interested is

I have some accessories that came with the machine, but have had to purchase others. Attachments like button-holers can run $10 to $20.

What types of things do you sew (i.e. quilting, clothing, handbags, home dec projects, etc.)?

Mostly clothing. But I have done some craft-show purses, some home-dec and some quilting. I'm working on maybe getting more into quilting. We're seeing how that goes.

How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get?

It depends on my mood. Sometimes I go for weeks at a time without sewing, sometimes I make a dress in a weekend. Sewing is something that is therapeutic for me, but also something that I don't do in moods when I might most need it.

These machines are so sturdy though that there's not much wear and tear happening unless you're doing something hardcore.

Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name?

I love the machine! It's one of my most prized possessions. She doesn't really have a name though I occasionally call her Pearl for my great-grandmother.

What features does your machine have that work well for you?

It pretty much as one feature--straight stitch. Ha. No, but really, it goes forwards and backwards. It runs fast and hard. The bobbin winder is great! I finally experimented with lowering the feed dogs for the first time. That's about the extent of the machine itself.

I have a zig-zag attachment that doesn't produce a very good zig-zag, but the old button-holer attachment is great. I have a number of the old feet--the bias tape foot, the edging foot, etc--and have played around with them though frankly I've never really needed to use any of them. I do not have the scary ruffler foot but wouldn't mind one day.

I love the cabinet. Mine is not in the best shape, but it's got several drawers, it's nice and sturdy and it's purty. Because it was a model meant to double as a writing desk when the machine was not being used, it's got a drawer with a pen/pencil tray and an old inkpot! Apparently it's rare to still have those.

Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine?

I do wish that I had more options for stitches sometimes and that it were portable.

Do you have a great story to share about your machine (i.e., Found it under the Christmas tree? Dropped it on the kitchen floor? Sewed your fingernail to your zipper?, Got it from your Great Grandma?, etc.!)? We want to hear it!

I did inherit it from my Great-Grandma. She never really sewed that much, but she was a woman back in the 1940s and therefore needed a sewing machine--this was supposedly a 'gift' from my great-grandfather. My great aunt used it a lot though before Grandma died and it got passed to me.

It's not really related because it was another Great-Grandma, but one of them did lose part of a finger in an industrial sewing machine incident.

Would you recommend the machine to others? Why?

Old Singers are great machines. The 15-91 was one of the most mass-produced because it was so solid, but so easy to use. They're pretty easy to find in good shape still and because they're a standard straight, low-shank machine, you can still buy all the accessories that you need, including brand-new feet and even vintage attachments.

What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine?

I've never bought a new machine, so I don't know!

Actually, the criteria for the second old machine I bought was that it be more portable and have a built-in zig-zag and button hole and that it also be a straight, low shank machine that uses the same bobbins so I didn't have to buy anything else.

Do you have a dream machine?

I think I'm happy with what I have.