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 (now The Singer Featherweight Shop): 

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!!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
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!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Slow Sunday Stitiching

Just a (semi-)quick update post because DH, our boys and I will be heading out to catch a mid-day showing of "Star Wars:  The Force Awakens".   We're all big Star Wars/Sci-Fi fans but haven't been able to coordinate all of our schedules to go see the movie until now.  Need to catch it before it leaves the theaters!!

High Strung +2 is in the final throws.....

I am now heading into the last two sides with the final two lines of stitching.  To make this go a little faster, I've been stitching the outer border with two needles at a time.  Needless to say I'm anxious for a finish!  

These last two lines of stitching are being quilted in my lap.  When I worked on the red inner border during the week and the first two lines of stitching in the final border yesterday, I did those with the quilt in the hoop.  At first I was frustrated that hooping the full quilt meant I was only able to stitch a small section at a time because the border would be positioned at the lower and  narrower end of the hoop instead across the widest part in the middle.  Then I remembered my "hoop cap"!

I made this back in 2008 when I first purchased my hoop.  At the time I had plans to make a doll quilt for an aunt who collects dolls and I really wanted to hand applique and quilt it.  However, I was so nervous about trying both techniques that I didn't even attempt to learn them until two years later (details here and here).  And yes, I did also finish the doll quilt that year too (details here, here and here).

So how did I come to know about a "hoop cap"?  I started subscribing to Quilters Newsletter when I started quilting in 2002 and from the beginning have purchased sets of back issues when I came across references to interesting articles that are in issues before I started subscribing.  In the June, 1996 issue (#283), Carol Matthews had an article titled "Hoop Caps".  The idea is that you could secure the edges of the quilt to the cap and then hoop the cap and the quilt together allowing you to quilt the edges across the widest part of the hoop.  Made perfect sense to me even though at the time I read it, I had neither a hoop or nor a hand quilting project in mind.  However, I filed the information away for that "If I ever..." moment.  

When I finally did purchase a hoop, I immediately made one.  This is a very easy project that only took me couple of hours to complete.  Carol's instructions call for using pre-quilted fabric but I actually used some muslin I had on hand and leftover batting and quilted them to make my own "fabric" for the project.

In keeping with the "hand work" vibe, when the borders are finished, I'm going to do something I rarely do:  I'm going to attach the binding by hand!  I've made over 80 quilts and I've only hand stitched the binding down on three of my previous handquilted projects and the edges of  another quilt because it had clamshells inserted between the quilt edges.  When we come back this afternoon, I'll cut the binding and tomorrow I'll attach it to the front by machine to be finished on the back by hand. 

Regarding the initial attaching of the binding, there's another exciting (and new) thing that will happen:  look who'll be doing that work:

Yesterday, when I took a break from stitching, I was able to also finally service my Featherweight machine and get her in working order (hence why the borders aren't already finished!!).  I'll have a more detailed post about that in the next day or two.  Attaching this binding (that's the fabric sitting on her bed) will be Fanny's (that's what she has been christened) maiden stitching voyage with me.  I'm so excited to see how she does!

So that's it for me (yeah, I know, never truly a "quick" post).  Later today and tomorrow, I look forward to checking in to see what everyone else is doing over at Kathy's Slow Sunday Stitching link up.  Join me over there and check out all the beautiful hand work being done this weekend and may The Force be with you!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Slow Sunday Stitching - The Valentine's Day Edition

I've been working steadily on "High Strung+2" over the last couple of weeks and am glad to say I am headed into the final stretch!

The good news is that I've completed the quilting on the center of the quilt. All that's left now is the top row of green squares and the two borders. I'm also loving the way the chain of stars and circles and reindeer are popping against the background quilting.  I'm tempted to outline stitch within the appliques but feel it would mash them down and  then they would be pushed down into the same visual plane with the background rather than remain separate and on top of it.  Not to mention that would be that much more stitching work to do!   For now, it stays as is since I'm pushing for getting this whole thing finished up by the end of this week.  Even if I wind up choosing to add the outlining, I'm still confident I can make my ultimate deadline of finishing the quilt by the end of the month.

However, along with the good comes the --- I won't say "bad" --- let's just say the "not what I planned/expected".  My plan for quilting the bottom part of this was that I wanted the stitching to follow the swirl of the chain of stars and circles so started there.  I did very little marking when I stitched this so unfortunately while I started off good:

When I came around the bottom under the stars and the reindeer, I got off course and instead followed the reindeer up and to the right instead of swirling back down to the right along the last star and circle.

Overall I'm happy with the texture created by the stitching but feel I blunted the visual impact of the swirl by mistakenly aborting the end of it.  Fortunately, where this will be hanging, that won't be evident.  And again, I'm not looking to rip and re-do at this point! 

What I am very happy to have gotten out of this experience (besides an almost finished quilt) is the revelation that I CAN make good progress doing hand work.  In my mind it's no longer "too slow",  just a different and relaxing way of working.  A very big change of heart for someone who started out quilting with plans to only machine quilt!   Of course the real test will be when I move on to the wholecloth quilt project after this.  For that one, I'm planning to attempt to execute it with really fine hand quilting which is something I haven't been able to achieve up to now.  But that will be a story for another Sunday! 

And speaking of Sunday Stitching stories, why not head over to  Kathy's Quilts and enjoy the work and stories of all the different types of hand work being done by crafters from all over!  Enjoy!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Get It Done! January Recap, February Goals

One month in the can already?!?  If I thought last year went fast, this year looks like it might go even faster!  I'm still working on how to be more efficient (the word of the year) in managing and executing my projects. To that end, I discovered the "Bullet Journaling" system.  If you haven't seen it, check out this video:

I'm doing mine in a regular black and white composition notebook and love the flexibility and tracking functions of the system.  I also enjoy the details and tips about the system that Kim shares at her blog Bullet Journal Joy.  It's already allowing me to see more clearly how I'm spreading out my priorities.

While I didn't get as far on the January Goals as I would have liked, with the journaling I could see clearly where I fell off and know how to avoid that going forward.  So without further adieu, let's review! 

The January Goals were: 

1.    Finish the Tucker mini Sew Along project:  This one should get done either today or (Plan B) by the end of the weekend.  I have four more Flying geese units to make up and then can attach them to the previous two sections (pictured below) to complete the top.  This one doesn't have to be quilted so once the top is done it can be backed and bound.

DONE!  And a nice way to start the year.
2.  Quilt "High Strung +2":  This one was supposed to have been quilted and done by Christmas.  That plan got changed when my sewing machines went on the fritz right before that.  The good news is that I immediately saw an opportunity to try something new that I've wanted to do: "Big Stitch" (hand) quilting.  I also saw the perfect set of Valdani threads for this quilt at the Craftsy year-end sale.  So while I'm waiting for the thread to arrive, I can layer the quilt and decide on how I want to quilt it.  I'm hoping that they'll get here quick enough to leave me time to stitch this up and call it done by the end of the month.
Although in my defense, I did hand baste it, order the thread to quilt it and got the header part all quilted this month too.

3.  Start on the Wholecloth project:  I'll go into more detail on this in the actual project post but for now, know that the plan is to get this layered and on the hoop by the end of the month.  I'll be using a pre-printed top but want to add some details to it too so have to think about what those will be.  This will be an ongoing project until whenever it gets done which could be mid-year, year-end or next year.

Well, while I didn't actually start the project itself but I did order batting for it.

4.  Start on the Baby Quilt:  For this month I definitely want to finally get this in gear.  At minimum, I'd like to finalize my plans for which quilt I want to make and stash the supplies for it.  If I'm lucky and can also get it made up, that'll be gravy.

NOT DONE.  Sigh!!

5.  Start on the Featherweight:  In addition to sending my electronic sewing machines in for service, I also want to get my Featherweight machine up and running.  Last year, I bought a book on servicing it and now need to sit down with it, take a close look at the machine and purchase the supplies I think I'll need to get it up and running.  I'll settle for that for now although if I get to actually fixing the machine this month that will (again) be gravy!

But high hopes for this month!
In Other News....
While it was not on the list for last month, I did also get one other UFO completed:  I finally trimmed up the Lincoln/Obama redwork piece and attached it to the quilt I had planned to add it to.  It's still up in the air if it will stay there (see the detail post here) but done is done!
So for the February Goals, here's what I hope to do:
1.  Finish quilting "High Strung +2".
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.
3. Service the Featherweight. 'Nuff said!
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.
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. 
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!
So that's it for February and I'm hoping for good progress this month!