Thursday, June 2, 2016

Get It Done! April Recap, June Goals

I've been a long time away from the blog and am a day late to this party!  Both April and May were very busy months for both sad and good reasons (more on that in another post).  Despite my tardiness in getting to this task, June is already expected to be better (more on that in another post too) so I'm trying to re-focus myself so I can get back to what I enjoy -- the quilting.

As I expected, the ambitious April GID list proved to not be doable although with all that went on, it was more due to the circumstances at hand and not my own productivity challenges!   I did get to one project:  #8 on the list, the chair pillow in Civil War fabrics:

This is a free pattern on the American Patchwork & Quilting website that I had long planned to make from my CW scraps.  It also gave me a chance to use my new Accuquilt Go! cutter to cut out the applique circles.   However, it is not totally complete because the pillow insert I bought for it turned out to be too small (and you'll see in the picture below how I got the shot above).  This happened even after I realized that the insert I bought prior to making the pillow was going to be too small and then returned to the store and exchanged it for a larger size.  Unfortunately, even the replacement was not big enough to fill the pillow and since it was the largest size round insert they had, I was still stuck.  However, I have a plan ---
This week I bought some high loft batting and I'm going to try to pad out the insert I have to fill the cover out completely. 
That said, for the rest of this month some of my previous "words of the year" will need to be heeded.  "Purposeful" (2015) and "Focus" (2012) will rule the work plans for June.  So some things from previous GID agendas will appear again while some new things that I want to get done will be added to the list.  So here's what's at bat for June:

1. Quilt CW Chronicles
The last time this one was on the GID list was in March.  Since I'm expecting guests again this month, our new guest set up will utilize a (soon to be delivered) high riser bed.  When set up, the two twin mattresses on it pushed together will offer my quests the equivalent of a King size bed.  My own bed is queen-sized so all of my bed size quilts (both made and planned) are that size.  Despite being tempted to source and start a new King quilt project, I decided to try and finish this one instead.  It is huge so is closer to King than anything I have. It's also long over due for completion and will complete the primary phase of my Civil War quilts series so I welcome the chance (and deadline!) to work on it.

2. The T-shirt Quilt 

This one was on April's GID list for decorating purposes and represents the most important of the projects in that category that I need to get done.  I had picked out all the shirts I wanted to use for this project back in April (and there's one more in use that will be added).  I had bought that pack of t-shirt quilt interfacing sometime last year when I happened to catch it on sale.  This will be the first time I've attempted to make this type of quilt so hopefully it will be a fun learning challenge too.  

3. Pastel baby quilt
Although I've had a baby quilt on my lists since the year started, this is actually a different one from the one previously planned. This is a commission project that I'll get paid for so it'd be good to get it done.

4. Graduation quilt

In the course of the last two month's events, I met a family friend who is finishing up a degree.  She saw one of my quilts and wanted me to make one for her for her graduation. Unlike when we quilters usually get this kind of request, she totally understood when I told her she'd probably have to wait a while for it and uncharacteristically for a "Quilt Muggle", she fully expected to pay for it and understood it wouldn't necessarily be cheap!   
However, I was also inspired by the effort she has made to complete her studies especially during the difficult time we were going through --- so much so that I immediately searched for and found a pattern I liked and began searching for fabrics and graduation applique motifs to bring it to fruition.  In the end, I may wind up gifting it to her but let's see if I can get it made first!

5. Quilts Of Valor
A shot of the stash storage!

I had planned to put making QOVs on the May list in honor of Memorial Day but since I never even got to make up that list, here it is now!  It also has a decorating component to it so with guests coming and the patriotic season still in force until July 4, now is a good time to try to get at least one of these done for donating.

6.  (Not a quilt but quilt related)  Terrace Barn Sign

It stayed pretty cold here almost right up to Memorial Day so it was only last week that I finally hosed off my terrace, uncovered the patio furniture and got all the planters filled.  Although there were two quilt-related projects on the April list for out there, the barn sign is the top priority for me right now.  I had prepared the wood last year and have finally decided on the design I want to use so it's just a matter of getting to the taping and painting!

So that's it, hopefully doable and hopefully more regular posts to follow!  Here's to a productive June!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A New Post for the Tuesday Archives: Design Walls

Wow, Val who blogs at Val's Quilting Studio picked the perfect "Tuesday Archives" topic for me this week!  I had just finished upgrading my design wall  this morning when I checked to see that this week's topic is Design Walls

So this week my wall went from this:

To this: 

Here's why:  I had put up this "permanent" design wall back in 2012 after we had finally gotten around to painting the townhouse after moving in in 2011.  In our previous apartment, my design wall was a flannel backed tablecloth stapled to the wall:

(Those blocks are from my Brrr! quilt which can be seen here.)

When we moved, I mounted the portable design wall I had constructed in 2010 (details on that in this post) to the wall as a temporary measure....

......using these giant 3M hooks:

17004 Command(TM) Utility Hook
Photo courtesy 3M Command Products
Click here to find out more about them

Product Plug:  I love all the various 3M hanging products!  I use them to hang all my quilts, picture frames, a bulletin board, posters, signs and my design wall.

As you can see from my 3M storage case, I use the small clear hooks, all the sizes of the picture frame (Velcro-style) hooks, the plastic and metal picture frame hooks (for frames that have those sawtooth hangers on the back) and the cord clips (see this Bonnie Hunter post about that).  My Underground Railroad/Pioneer Sampler quilts are hung on a curtain rod that is hung on two designer 3M hooks!  Recently, I saw that Janet over at the Rogue Quilter blog also uses 3M hooks to hang her "Yardstick Quilt Holders", something I must try in the future.

My current design wall is made from three 2ft wide x 8 ft long, 1" thick pink foam insulation boards you get from Home Depot.  I had cut the boards down to six feet because although my walls are 8 ft high, I needed to accommodate for the outlet on that wall which I did by hanging the wall above it rather than cutting an opening in the boards:

I also decided to only mount the wall as high as I could reach without using a step ladder.  At the time, I believed that six square feet of wall space would be enough to handle most jobs and it has.  My plan for the open space above the wall?  To make a quilted (what else?) banner declaring this "My Happy Place".  And while I have gathered ideas for that, I hadn't up to now started on that project yet. 

However, I admit there have been a few jobs over the years where I could have used just a little more space.  Earlier this month I was finishing up "Christmas Cobblestones", a Moda Bake Shop project, that started as a leader/ender for last month's pieced label project

Unfortunately, I only have a shot of the finished top but while I was laying out the blocks and strip-pieced sashing to confirm the final layout, I needed just a little more space for it all.  For that, I had to tape the top sashing to the open wall space above the design wall.  Right then it clicked in my head:  maybe I really should have made the design wall to the full height for those times that I needed it AND (more importantly) why couldn't I PIN my "Happy Place" banner to the wall for day to day display and then just take it down when I needed to use the full wall?   

Fortunately being a quilter, I never threw away the "scraps" of the original insulation panels so was able to pull them out and measure out the additional amount needed for the new inserts.  As can be seen in the picture below, I prepped them the same way I had done the original wall, clicking them together and then taping the back seam with Duct tape, covering it with batting stapled to the back and mounting the 3M hooks on the back of the boards and the wall. 

using these.....

17206BLK Command(TM) Picture Hanging Strips For Dark Frames
Photo courtesy 3M Command Products

Click here to find out more about them.

I'm glad to have a full wall now and the bonus is that I pulled out my banner ideas folder and hope to start making some of the parts for it which I can put on the wall as I finish them, designing as I go which should be fun!  I haven't done any quilt work lately so hopefully the next time you stop by there will actually be a "project-in-progress" on it for you to see!

If you'd like to see what other design walls look like and what they have on them, click over to Val's Quilting Studio and see "how's it hanging" in other people's studios!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Get It Done! March Recap, April Goals

Posting this a little late today --- our community garden opened for the first day of the season and I wanted to get in early and turn over the soil in our bed in prep for planting!  As for the quilting report:  to sum it up, March was weird!  After the high of hand quilting and finishing the "High Strung + 2" quilt, I had hoped to quickly get it labeled and move on to other things.  Strangely enough though, right after I just wasn't motivated to sew.  For about a week, I did not approach my machine.   On top of that, one of my husband's aunts (my MIL's sister) was admitted to the ICU and the whole family gathered to go see her.  That meant we had to host my MIL and her husband on short notice when they came up from North Carolina.  His aunt seems to be rallying for the time being, but it was unsettling while we waited to find out about diagnoses and treatment options.  Then there was the purchase of a long desired new tool in the Gadget Fanatic arsenal (detailed here) that kept me busy Internet shopping from the end of February and throughout March. 

As a result, I pretty much worked off and on (and more off than on) on just one project the whole month.  Worse, it wasn't even one on the list AND it STILL isn't finished!  It's the label for the High Strung quilt and this is what I've got so far:

Yeah, I know a pretty detailed label but there's a story (there always is) and if I can ever get it finished, you'll definitely hear it!  Oh wait!  I also made some strip sets and blocks for yet another holiday lap quilt.  This was a PIG* sitting on my cutting table and I figured I could "kill two birds with one stone" (pun intended) by using it as a leader/ender project while putting together the pieced units, rows and border on the label above.  The hope was to get it off the table and onto the back of the quilt.  Well, at least the first part happened anyway!

*PIG = Project In a Grocery sack

So regarding March's list:  I'm not going to list out everything from last month -- if you need to see what I had planned to work on, check out this post and know that the status for everything planned for March is NOT DONE

Moving right along to April: what's in the hopper?  I need to take a little detour this month.  Although I will bring forward two projects from the old list, I'm completely changing direction.  In honor of the need to spring clean and prepare for possible house guests in the coming months (in addition to the potential for my in-laws to return to see our my DH's aunt, my youngest son graduates from High School in June),  I want to focus on house related projects this month.  Well, technically this too is a carry forward from last month -- it just changes from a "choose one" option to having each project spelled out as individual items.  So the Goals for April look like this:

1.  March carry-over #1:  Prepare the wholecloth quilt for quilting. 

2. March carry-over #2: The secret project.  Well it sucks that it isn't already done for this month so now the hope is I can at least get it to the flimsie stage by the end of the month whether it's done in secret or not.

3.  T-shirt quilt for the couch.

4.  Wool wallhanging for the kitchen.

5.  Seminole kitchen curtains.

6.  Wool wall hanging for the entrance to the kitchen.

7.  Wool garden wall hanging for the living room.

8.  Chair pillow in Civil War fabrics.

9.  Side board table runner.

10.  Appliqued Spring table cloth.

11.  Quilted chair cushions for the terrace chairs.

12.  Not a quilt but quilt related:  terrace barn sign.

The bad news?  Last year when I made goal lists this long they remained largely undone!  I'm hoping that some fresh sewing coupled with extensive house cleaning will help move these projects along faster than normal.  I also have a few general home dec projects I need to work on like a pillow for our entry bench and new curtains for the dining room that I also want to squeeze in.  If I pull this off, my Bullet Journal will really be busy this month!

Looking forward to a spring filled with gardening, sewing and a refreshed home!  Wishing everyone a very Happy Spring season!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Efficiency is finally a GO!

Was checking in to draft my next "Get It Done" post and realized I haven't posted since the first of the month!  There has been things going on although not really pertaining to the "Done" list!  My word for the year is "Efficient" and from my humble beginnings as a quilter, I've always been a fan of having "the proper tool" to complete tasks.  However, that can get expensive fast in this quilting game.  To that end, there's been some new arrivals in this Gadget Fanatic's household:

(Be forewarned, as usual, a long story ahead!)

From the time they came out, I admired the Accuquilt Go! cutters.  However, I'm fairly proficient at cutting with rotary cutters, rulers and acrylic templates so I couldn't justify the cost of the machines and dies for most of the projects I had plans to make.  Most people seemed to like the machines best for strip cutting.  I use the June Tailor Shape Cut (pictured below) for doing most of my strip cutting and find it fast and efficient so didn't see where a GO! would improve upon that. 

When I learned to Hand Applique back in 2010, all that changed!  I realized that a GO! cutter would really be a benefit for cutting all those odd or repetitive applique shapes.  Imagine cutting circles, leaves or really small hexagons or other more complex shapes like birds, feathered fronds or swags six at a time with just a crank of a handle!  That's when I really began to covet getting a machine!  Any time I saw a giveaway for one I entered hoping to win one.  Usually in order to enter you had to sign up for Accuquilt's e-newsletters (which you can also do at the bottom of their home page) and that of course led to periodically getting notices about new dies and offerings. 

I thought about dipping my toe in when they introduced the smallest machine, the GO! Baby which is not too expensive.  That idea got nixed when I realized that one of the applique dies I coveted most was the Alphabet die set which is too big for use in the Baby machine.  The Baby can use dies up to 6" wide and while there are many dies that size or smaller, the ones I wanted most are bigger.  The largest Accuquilt machine, the Studio cutter, was also out for me because it is heavy so requires a dedicated space for it and I don't have room for that.  So a regular GO! machine it would have to be.  Then as I began regularly trolling the Accuquilt site, I discovered their "Block on Board" (affectionately known as "BOB") dies.  These are dies that cut all the units of a pieced block on one die.  Okay, now they were starting to pull me in with the possibility of also using the machine for regular piecing but again, how to justify the price?

One of the features of buying directly from the Accuquilt site is that each purchase generates "Rewards Points" that can be cashed in to discount the price of future purchases.  During the Holiday shopping season last year, they made an offer that if you just created an account on their site and set up a wishlist, they automatically loaded 250 points into your account.  Worth $5 and given the cost of the machines and dies, I felt that every little bit helps!  I examined all the dies they offered and loaded my choices into a wishlist but my points sat unused until after the New Year.

Even as I trolled the Accuquilt site, I also trolled eBay, hoping that maybe another option was to buy a used machine from someone giving theirs up or upgrading to the larger GO! Big Electric machine that came out recently.  Many machines came up on that site at many, many, MANY different price points.  What was offered also greatly varied in terms of how close to (or far from) "New" the unit was and whether it came with the Value Die set usually offered with the machine (and whether it was the old 10"x10" version of the value die or the new 6"x12" version of the same die).  Some auctions included extra dies (new or used) and you had to read carefully to see if the machine came with all the original accessories like a die mat, the die pick, the instructions or even the original box.  Also, on eBay many sellers (both individual and stores) are selling the individual dies at prices that sometimes beat the sales offered on Accuquilt's site.

That is how they got me!  Shortly before Christmas, an auction came up for a BOB die called "Alex's Baskets" by quilt designer (and celebrity and the woman who got me hooked on quilting) Alex Anderson.  This die cuts all the triangle and square shapes to make a 4" (finished) pieced basket and the bias strip for the basket handle that's appliqued onto the block background.  This was special for me in that I had actually made these baskets for a scrap quilt from Alex's design back in 2009:

I had used the pattern from her very first book "Quilts For Fabric Lovers" which made 4-1/2" finished basket blocks:

I enjoyed making that quilt but hadn't really thought about making another one since it's really fun done scrappy but that means the cutting is also a bit fiddly.  When I originally made it, I collected scraps of  6-1/2" inch and 6" inch squares of basket and background fabrics, paired the fabrics to be used for the blocks and sub-cut them into (2) 3-7/8" large HST triangles (in basket and background fabric) and (2) 2-3/8" small HST triangles and a 1" wide bias strip (basket fabric) and (2) 2" squares (background fabric) to make the block. 

Using this die, I can cut a 5" square for the basket and a separate 5" x 6-1/4" rectangle for the background and run both through the die once to cut all the little pieces.  Even better, if the fabric I want to use would work for both the background and basket (although not in the same block!), I can cut one 5" x 11-1/4" piece of fabric and running it through the machine will leave me with both basket and background units that can be mixed and matched at will with units cut from other fabrics . 

Funny thing was that I didn't remember seeing that die on the Accuquilt site and sure enough when I checked back it wasn't there although they did offer other dies by Alex that I also saw listed on eBay.  Was it possible this was a discontinued die?  Well that was enough to peak my interest but even better, the die was up for auction for a starting bid of 99 cents!!  Most dies retail from $20 up to a high for the Alphabet 2-die set of $200.  I figured if I could get this die for anything up to $30, I'd consider myself lucky.  And guess what?

And I tested the die by making a block!
I won it!  Even better I paid $17 for it including shipping!!  Even better than that, since then I've seen the die offered on eBay for no less than $40 and as high as $80!!!  This is definitely one of the older dies because the areas on the foam base where the block units will be cut are the same color as the uncut areas.  On the new dies, the area where the fabric will be cut is a different color from the uncut areas so it's easier to see where to place it (see the picture of the Value die at the top of the post).  Okay, so now I had a die but I couldn't use it unless I got a machine! 

From that point on, I very diligently checked out all the eBay auctions that came up.  I'd come close to placing bids a few times and did submit a "Best Offer" on one that was declined.  In the meantime, all during February,  Accuquilt had a sale on dies and accessories, offering 10% off if you bought one and 15% off each item if you bought two or more.  Next to the Alphabet die, my next most coveted die was the "Log Cabin" BOB.  One thing I've also learned while trolling is that the individually purchased dies don't come with the (white) mats needed to cut the dies.  The (new) Value Die set that comes with the machine does come with a 6"x12" mat which is what I also needed for the "Alex's Baskets" die.  For the Log Cabin die, I'd need a 10" x 24" mat to go with it.  The Accuquilt sale and my new account points were enough that if I bought the die with the mat, the discounts (and the fact that if you spend above a certain amount shipping is free) would mean I'd basically be getting the mat for free.  I was very, very, VERY tempted to buy it but only if I could get a machine beforehand.

With time running out on the sale, from my lips to the Quilt Gods' ears!!  A machine came up as a "Buy It Now" listing that was around the price I was hoping to pay for a used machine in good condition.  It seemed to come from a thrift outlet store and the description said that the machine was barely used and had all the original accessories.  With the shipping it was about $30 more than I hoped to pay in total but that was still $20 less than the best super-discounted price (with free shipping) I had seen for the machine on the Accuquilt site back at Christmas and was $70 less than the regular sale price it sells for normally.  I still had some reservations about buying used but took a chance since although the seller didn't take returns, eBay offers a 'Money Back Guarantee" if you are not satisfied with your purchase. 

Well, if you've stayed with me this long, you saw at the top of the post that I got my machine!  And once I placed the order for the machine, I went to Accuquilt and placed the order for the Log Cabin BOB.  Since then I've found more good deals on eBay for basic dies that cut circles (which I've already used for a project that I'll detail soon), hearts and the Fall Medley die because there is a treat jar that I'd like to make that I thought I could use it for.  When I found a discount coupon that gave triple reward points, I also splurged on the 4" Clamshell die and a 5"x10" mat for my circle die.  Now I'm waiting to see if  can catch a really big sale (maybe Mother's Day or they'll have another warehouse sale like they did in January) and I can use the sale discounts and all my accumulated points to get the Alphabet die set.  I've tried the machine and all the dies out (the machine did come with the Value set and an extra 6"x6" mat which is another reason why I splurged for the Clamshell die) and they all work great!  So I'm now looking forward to putting yet another new machine through it's paces this year!

If you have a GO! (or another brand of die cutter that you use for quilting), tell me what you like or dislike about it and if you have any tips for using and storing the dies.  Any information that makes this even more useful will be much appreciated!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Get It Done! February Recap, March Goals

Technically, I got less than half of the February list done but the finishes were so big and so satisfying, it felt like a win any way!

The February Goals, were:
1.  Finish quilting "High Strung +2".
DONE, including the binding (read about it here).
 2. Start on the Wholecloth project.  At worse, I'll get it basted, at best I'll get the quilting underway and this will be an ongoing project until whenever it gets done which could be mid-year, year-end or next year.
NOT DONE, so back on the list for this month.
3. Service the Featherweight. 
DONE and already put to work!
4.  Birthday Gifts (tentative).  I have two friends (husband and wife) whose birthdays are a day apart in February.  The wife's job recently moved and she asked for something to decorate her new cubicle.  Since I have made her other things before, I have long wanted to also make her husband a quilt.  Last year, I had finally found a pattern and fabric for it.  Unfortunately, I'd have to get on these in the next week to make their birthdays.  However, I might just start them and send "Happy Birthday IOUs" until I can get the actual gifts to them.
NOT DONE, still PIGS* and will have to go on the back burner (and off the list) for now.
5.  Start on the Baby Quilt:  I've got to keep this one on the list because I definitely want to (finally) get this in gear.  Once again, I'd like to at the very least finalize my plans for which quilt I want to make and stash the supplies for it. 
 Also NOT DONE but this one must stay front and center.  Got to get to it!
6.  The "Secret Project".  This one is for the DH and while I don't think he reads my blog, I will be working on this in secret at home with just glimpses here on the blog.  Need this one by April so need to get started if I'm even to come close!
Also a PIG* and NOT DONE but has a deadline so must get started on it. 
* PIG = Project In a Grocery bag
I'm a little torn going forward.  I'm pleased with the progress I made last month.  The success was partly from keeping the list light but also giving myself a realiastic picture of what I needed to get done to accomplish the list.  
The Bullet Journal has been a big help in that department because I not only list what I want to do but also list all the steps of each project separately and actually consider how long I think it will take me to do each one.  As each week progresses, I see where I stay or fall off schedule and adjust (or more often eliminate!) accordingly.  Doing so in advance also quickly helps me put in perspective how much to add to the list --- meaning once the "To Do" list is threatening to run past two pages, it's time to regin it in!   
So in order to make a list of the March Goals,  think I need to start with the priorites and work my way down to the possibilities:
1. Start on the Wholecloth project:  Like last monthat worse, I'll get it basted, at best I'll get the quilting underway and this will be an ongoing project until whenever it gets done which could be mid-year, year-end or next year.
2.  The "Secret Project":  Because I need this one by April, I have to get this started now.  This one is for the DH and while I don't think he reads my blog, I will be working on this in secret at home with just glimpses here on the blog. 
3.  Start on the Baby Quilt:  O.k. time to (finally) get this in gear by at the very least finalizing my plans for which quilt I want to make and corralling the stash and supplies for it. 
4.  Projects for the Home:  I don't know about you but it's already starting to feel like Spring to me.  I want to start Spring cleaning and along with that spruce up the house.  I have any number of projects that I want to do along those lines but the top five are two kitchen wallhangings, two runners and a pillow cover.  I'm going to play this by ear though and plan to tackle one at a time and see what I get done.
5.  Quilt Chronicles:  I realize that I still have the last of my Civil War Series quilts to finish.  It's a big one and one that I want to custom quilt.  This is the most ambitious thing to try to accomplish but if I could do it, would be a load off my mind and my Flimsie shelf!
Hopefully, this will be another month, another stitch, another finish!

Friday, February 26, 2016

"High Strung + 2" Is A "Book It!" Finish!

It took a while but it's finally done!!!
And a great shot with a new lighting system I set up!

This quilt just goes to show that you do not have to make each quilt in a book individually, you can combine elements of a few into one project!  "High Strung + 2" is made with a combination of motifs from quilts in the book "Tis the Season:  Quilts and Other Comforts" by Jeanne Large and Shelley Wicks.   From the book, I combined the overall design of "High Strung":

....with the Stars and Circles from "Holiday Stars Trio":

 ....and a Reindeer from  "To All A Good Night":

These aren't the only designs I've used from this book -- I also made their quilt "Vintage Cherries".  Mine was called "Vintage Cherries For Valentines" because the colors they used made me think of chocolate covered cherries!  That one was finished last year (pictured below) and has been hanging on the back of my couch in celebration of the holiday this month.

For "High Strung + 2", if you are interested in a little (ok, a lot) of process then read on.....

My original plan for the year was that I'd start it off hand quilting a wholecloth project.  However, when my sewing machines went out just before Christmas, I realized it was an opportunity to finish up some other projects by hand instead of by machine as originally intended.  I decided that one of them would be this holiday quilt.  I had started it in December 2014 with plans to have it ready for that Christmas but that didn't happen.  I then worked to complete the top in January of 2015 and figured that with the rest of the year to complete it, it would be ready for the holiday at the end of the year.  The machine fiasco nixed that plan and if this quilting hobby has taught me anything, it is that persistence is the key to a finish!   

After learning to hand quilt in 2010, I have long wanted to try the "Big Stitch" version of it.  My decision to try it with this project was advanced when Craftsy had a year-end sale and I saw a set of Valdani threads for sale.  These were the threads as they were pictured on the site:

The green variegated (2nd row, third from the left) with what looked like purple or burgundy, the light gold (next to it) and the red (1st row, third from the left) all seemed perfect for using on the High Strung quilt.  So I worked on hand basting the quilt while I waited for the thread to arrive.  However when they did arrive, I was a little taken aback because what I received actually looked like this:

Important lesson here:  I've learned over the years that when buying fabric over the internet you have to take the color presented on screen "with a grain of salt" meaning you have to allow for the possibility that the color may vary some or even a lot from what is rendered on screen. If you want exact matches to something, you are better off shopping in person in a LQS or craft store.  Now I know that's also true for thread!  However Craftsy is not to be faulted in this case.  When I took pictures of the spools, the initial shots (both in natural light and under flash) looked like this:

As you can see this shot is pretty close to what Craftsy showed!  The picture I used earlier which is (to my eye) closer to what the spools actually look like in person, had to be taken nestled deep in my couch to get that image.  So the issue here is that these threads really seem to react to the light around them when it comes to picture taking although I do believe that the green/purple/burgundy variegated was actually substituted with a completely different color thread.  In any event, the less variegated green, the cream/tan (what had looked white in the original Craftsy picture) and the red would still work for this quilt so I changed my expectations a bit and moved on, albeit starting on the stitching a little later than I had planned. 

So, after hand basting the quilt (to stick with the "Hand Work" theme): took some time to "Quilt Whisper" this one.  I really wanted to follow the swirl of the "stars and circles chain" so that was my first stitch choice.  I also wanted to do a "seed stitch" style of quilting in the top section.  This is a warm-up for quilting my Heart & Home top since I had an idea to do something like it on that one too.  I ended up stitching these much bigger than I originally envisioned.  I started out making them very small but then ripped those out in favor of these bigger stitches.  

Not sure you can see it here, it was hard to get a good shot of these.

I did very little marking when I started stitching the bottom section so unfortunately while I started off good, when I came around the bottom instead of following the last star and circle down, I went up.  So while I think that diminished the impact of the swirl, the overall texture of the background still looks good. 

Another feature I liked for this quilt is the reindeer harness.  I managed to dig out a scrap of some faux leather I had laying around.  Initially, I had attached some silver beads to embellish it that were pretty hard to secure.  I did it by trying to sew a big French knot through the bead before basting the quilt.  Unfortunately as I worked on the quilting, the beads began popping off!

Fortunately, during the course of working on this I had signed up for and attended an introductory jewelry making course at a local Joann's store (yeah, I know, like I really need another hobby!).  To prepare for the class I had gone through some supplies of my mother's that I had.  At one point she had started making earrings and embellishing felt tams.  I truly lucked up when I found these among the things from her stash:

Little Jingle Bells!  Perfect!  Also good is that they had a shank on the back so were much easier to attach even with having to do that after the quilting!   Another hurray for sticking to a theme!

The green and burgundy fabrics, the applique background and the red border and binding fabrics were all cottons from Connecting Threads "Prim Pennies" line from two years ago with a few injections of other green fabrics from their "Candy Basics" line and the green plaid with orange is from their line called "Mix It Up!".  The applique motifs were flannel scraps and stash from the making of my "Flying For Cover" and "Triangle Trips" quilts back in 2010.  The finished wall hanging is 45" x 65-1/2". 

Looks like, for once, I'll be ready with Christmas decorations before the holiday for a change!  If you'd like to see what other projects from books have been made this month, head on over to Sharon's at Vrooman's Quilts.  You might just see a project that has been sitting on your bookshelf waiting for you!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Putting the Featherweight In Service

Twelve years ago, I came in possession of a Featherweight machine.   It originally belonged to my mother's boyfriend who was a tailor.  At the time, I had only been quilting for two years and had always heard such good things about these machines so like most quilters I coveted one.  Not for sewing with it mind you -- I just wanted to display it!  Once I had it, I set up the quilt space display I had dreamed of.

The iron 2nd from the left is real and belonged to my great grandmother!
I made my first mini quilt for it, choosing the design and sizing the quilt so it would deliver the maximum impact when displayed on the machine bed.  I also eventually learned that you can date these machines by their serial numbers (here is one place to look that information up).  Based on its serial number, this one was made in 1952 so is one of the "Centennial Edition" machines.   It was a given that when we moved, setting up another display in my new quilt space was a priority.  At first it started like this:

However that first little quilt looked really lonely on that long expanse of wall and I realized that I had the perfect excuse to make more mini quilts and the perfect place to display them.

Back in December with a couple of projects still to finish up for the end of the year, both my main Janome and back-up Euro-Pro sewing machines went on the fritz.  At that point, I thought it might be time to actually try to use the Featherweight for sewing.  When I originally got the machine, I had no idea if it still worked and (sheepishly) admit that I didn't even try plugging it in.  Ironically, I had thought about this very same thing in April so had done some research about Featherweight maintenance and based on what everyone said had purchased David McCallum's book "The Featherweight 221 and I" which promised to get me up to speed on servicing, maintaining and even restoring Featherweights.  So when I sat down with the book and the machine.....

....almost immediately I found out that I was out of luck!  The first thing I discovered was that the belt on the machine was split!!  This meant that even if everything else worked, the main part that drives the needle was kaput!  Fortunately I was able to switch production of the projects I wanted to work on to doing them by hand.  Even so, I still (finally) plugged in the machine and found out that in fact the motor and light DID still work so decided not to let the broken belt be an impediment.  I added a plan to service the machine and get it back to running to my 2016 "To Do" list.

Once my hand work was moving along at a good clip and my Janome came back from service, I wanted to see if I could also get this machine up and running to use as the new back-up.  If I can learn how to maintain and service this completely mechanical machine myself, I won't have to stop production when my electronic machines need to go into the "hospital".

I finally sat down with the machine two weeks ago and reviewed the whole book and the machine to determine what parts and supplies I would need.  I researched where I could get the things on my list both on the web and locally.  Unfortunately none of the local places were nearby whereas two of the three best web sources I found offered free shipping.  Even for the one that didn't, the shipping cost was less than what I would have paid in carfare to travel to Manhattan or gas to drive up to Westchester which is where the two closest local sources are.  By the weekend, all the orders arrived from:

April 1930's Featherweight Specialty Shoppe

Note:  They are conducting in-person workshops on Featherweight maintenance all across the country this year.  If you're interested, information about where they will be held is here.

Nova's Featherweights and Quilting:

and NgoSew (eBay): 

 Also following the instructions on Nova's site (scroll down to her June 2015 "Tip of the Month"),  I went to the local hardware store to purchase some Kerosene to clean off the old lubricant on the gears before putting a fresh application on (this is the smallest bottle I could get which is still waaayyy more than I needed!).

With Mr. McCallum's great instructions, I worked my way through replacing the belt, cleaning and lubricating the machine's gears (there are also great videos on this at April 1930's and at Nova's at the bottom of their pages), oiling the machine and cleaning it off (soap and water).  I also had to change the feet on the bed of the machine -- the old ones were totally dried out and crusty!

I replaced the original light bulb:

....with a new bright LED one:

 Here are the two bulbs:  the old one on the left and the new one on the right.  Not only does the new bulb have a "cleaner" light but another advantage is that it is sheathed in silicone so is not hot to the touch!  I've read more than a few comments about being burned by the old lights because they (and the metal housing above them) get very hot once they've been on a while.

I bought a supply of bobbins, a 1/4" foot and a walking foot made for single hole thread plates so I'd be ready to stitch once it was up and running.  I would like to eventually buy a new bobbin case and a needleplate with seam guide markings but I think I've spent enough on this for right now!  Oh and what's a shopping expedition without a few tchatchkes!

Nova had this cute Featherweight pin that I just had to have to add to my quilt pin collection.  I had seen red or white felt spool pin pads at a number of sources and figured I would just make my own from some felt I have around here --- that is until I saw the *cutest* crochet spool pin doilies at April's and again I just couldn't resist!!  The only thing I've still got left to do is get some (would you believe it) car wax to polish her up.
I've christened her Fanny -- a fun bit of alliteration and a nod to a (deceased) aunt of mine!  So after all of that, the real question is:  Does she work?

Yes!!  Here she is on her first project with me:  sewing the binding strips (with the new 1/4" guide foot) for my High Strung +2 quilt.  Something else I didn't know about Featherweights is that while they are straight-stitch only machines, they are able to stitch in reverse!  Next she also managed just fine attaching the binding to my "High Strung +2" quilt that I finished hand quilting on Monday.  This gave me a chance to try out the walking foot. 

What I hope to use her for next is an accessories project just for her!  Many people swear by their Featherweights as a traveling machine.  My Euro-Pro machine was my traveling machine but I admit it's pretty heavy and bulky even with the Tutto bag my MIL gifted me many years ago.  One of the places where I saw McCallum's 221 book recommended was on Jeni Baker's blog In Color Order.   She did another post where she made a tote for her machine (and there's another good tutorial over at the Crafty Hipster blog too).  It just so happens I already had a bag pattern for a tote the same size and having made a tote in 2014 as a gift for our neighbors, figured I can try making one for the Featherweight too.  Looking forward through out the rest of the year to put this baby through her paces!!

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Attention Vintage Sewing Machine Fans!!
If you are a fan of antique machines, you may be interested in a new documentary on them called "Still Stitching".  It can be purchased on DVD or watched as a streaming download.  Check out the preview on YouTube here.  The DVD can be purchased here and you can tell your own vintage machine story here and possibly win prizes!