Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Hello again!

 I know it's been forever, but I've been so busy. Work has been a whirlwind and it's left not that much time for crafts. Fortunately I've carved out some time for sewing and quilting. I finished a quilt for my cousin. My aunt said that he likes my quilts, so she wanted to pay me to make one for him for Christmas. I suppose this is the first quilt I've ever sold! I love how it turned out. It was pieced on my White Family Rotary and Singer 27, and free-motion quilted on my Singer 115.

I sewed a bunch of stuff for Christmas, and started plotting out two new quilts. One is actually a gift for my nephew. His parents love video games and named him after a video game character. This is the plan for a patchwork quilt for him. Do you recognize the character? It's pretty retro!

 I also started knitting. I've had a couple false starts with knitting over the years, and I've always regarded it as too slow to be satisfying for me. However, a couple months ago I got chatting with a woman who was passing the time by knitting, and she said that some people knit bunches of scarves just because they enjoy working with the yarn.


A quilt and yarn shop recently opened up in my neighborhood and I loved looking at the beautiful yarns, even though I didn't know how to knit. The idea of making scarves just to have a reason to work with the yarn really resonated with me. She also mentioned that projects that use bigger needles and chunky yarn go a lot faster, which I didn't realize. So, I bought some yarn and gave it a shot.

I made this cowl. It's pretty warm!


 I also made this scarf. I actually made the scarf first, but it wasn't a successful project. I learned to knit by watching a YouTube tutorial and somehow I missed the part about knitting a row, turning the work around, and knitting another row. So instead I'd knit a row left-handed, knit a row right-handed, knit a row left-handed, all along the scarf. The scarf is super-curly and curls into a tube the second you lift it off a flat surface. Whoops. At least the cowl is usable.


I'm sort of in love with knitting. I'm on winter break from work right now, which means I'm knitting and sewing up a storm. It's absolute bliss.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Design wall

I've always wanted a design wall, but I didn't really have the space. Now that I've moved into a new spot in the basement I was able to hang this tablecloth over the shelves near my space. It covers up the overstuffed shelves and gives me a new design wall! I'm so excited!

These blocks are for a quilt I'm making for my cousin. I don't spend all of my time gathering machines, despite what it looks like on this blog.

So excited!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

New space

Lately I've been working on re-arranging the basement. I have my sewing area down there, and my husband has an area where he does projects. I thought we could use our space better, and make a new and better space for the kids to play, if we moved things around.

My spot is done. Here it is!

I don't usually keep my machines out of their tables - I did it just for this picture. I kind of love it, though, seeing all those old machines out and ready for work. I'd love to host a treadle workshop sometime...if only my house was bigger (this is actually less than 1/4 of the basement of my 900 square foot house).

This cabinet came with the house. The previous owner was a school custodian, and this looks an awful lot like cabinets I've seen in schools' science labs around the district. I absolutely love it.

This is what the rest of the basement looks like. I'm going to get a tablecloth with a flannel backside and tack it up over the shelves. I'll FINALLY have a design wall! Oh, and the shelves will be covered too.

I cleaned out my old corner of the basement and I've started setting up things for the kids there. I feel sentimental, which is silly, considering that I'm just on the other side of a shelving unit from my old corner. However, I'm really excited about what my kids' new space will look like!

Like I said, my house is around 900 square feet. I share it with a husband, three kids, and three cats. It's cozy and we have to use every inch well, which is why I'm so glad that I have my own space in the basement for my machines and my sewing. I feel really lucky. I also think it's good for my kids to see someone modeling how rewarding it can be to make things by hand and follow creative pursuits.

This past weekend we had a rummage sale. We did fairly well. I had the White Rotary in the garage and for our rummage sale I dragged it around onto the porch so I could sew while watching our merchandise.

It was really nice! Later I moved the machine into the basement and put all of its drawers in. Now it's ready for regular use.

Right now in between working on machines and arranging my space I'm also working on a quilt for my cousin. I'll have to post pictures's just a patchwork quilt but I think it'll be really pretty!

Friday, July 18, 2014

White Family Rotary

I've been having some luck with sewing machines lately. Today I gave away my Davis Honeymoon and Bradbury machines to someone who will get more use out of them. It makes me feel not so bad about picking up yet another treadle, even though I just got that New Home this week.

But this one was free...someone on Facebook was just looking to give it away. It was meant to be!

This is my new White Family Rotary!

The woman who had it actually bought it at a rummage, and used it up until a few years ago. She kept the manual, an extra belt, and the attachments. She even kept the oil can!

The cabinet is so pretty. I can see why people love White cabinets.

We took the machine and drawers out to transport the machine, so I can't wait to get it all put back together. It's going to be beautiful!

This will mean some re-arranging of my current sewing space can only hold so many machines. However, I'm sure we can slide it in. It's a beauty!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Welcome home, New Home

I always peruse Craigslist. I have an app that lets me search my local Craigslist and the Craigslist listings for one town over, and it's part of my nightly routine to do a search for sewing machines.

So when I saw a New Home in a parlor cabinet for a mere $20, how could I resist? I didn't know much about New Homes, but the price was right for me to find out.

It turns out that New Home was a pretty interesting company, and the machine was pretty cute!

This is the treadle mechanism. I was kind of sad when I picked it up because there were no cabinet drawers to rifle through, but over in the corner there was a mix of sewing junk and dust, and there were two long bobbins lurking in there. Score!

You can also see the original finish. Beautiful.
There was a name scratched into the oil pan, and below it is written "RR #2." I wonder who it belonged to...
This was the cabinet when I picked it up two days ago...pretty good, but kind of grungy from living in someone's basement for years...

And this is how it looked yesterday. It still has flecks of white paint all over it, but the finish is much improved. I washed it with Murphy's Oil Soap and went over it with Howard's Restor-A-Finish. 
The machine head will still take some tinkering and oiling before it'll sew easily, but I'm really pleased with my new machine.

Monday, June 30, 2014

My favorite quilt

Over at Sew Mama Sew she's having a contest where you talk about your favorite quilt that you've made. It seemed like fun.

Tell us about your favorite quilt. When did you make it? What pattern did you use? What fabrics?
My favorite quilt is my log cabin rainbow quilt. It took a long time to make because it was my project in between other projects, the thing I took to quilt guild sew days or worked on when I couldn't move forward on another quilt because I needed more supplies.  I love it, though. I used a traditional log cabin block, and the quilt is made almost entirely of scraps. I did have to buy a green fat quarter and an orange fat quarter to keep the colors balanced, but everything else is remnants from other things.

 Have your shown it at any quilt shows or entered it in any contests?
Nope, my skills aren't that great. Plus I make quilts that are functional, not show pieces.

 What memories or people does the quilt make you think of?
When I was doing the quilting portion of it, I wanted to fill it up with whimsical pictures that were free-motion quilted into it. At the time my grandparents had passed away, and my mom was in the process of dividing up the estate. I had gotten some things my grandmother had sewn, and it made me realize that when I pass away, my quilts might be the only things left of me. So I included messages written out to my kids, pictures to represent people in my life (a robot for my son, an anchor for my grandpa who was in the navy, etc), and stuff like that. Someone in my quilt guild pointed out that the quilting wouldn't show on such a busy background, but the kids can see the pictures when they curl up with the quilt, which was exactly the point.

 What do you like best about the quilt? 
The thing I like best is that my kids love it. They like all my quilts, but they refer to this one as "the rainbow quilt" or "the beautiful quilt."

 If you could make this quilt again, what (if anything) would you do differently?
Maybe I would have waited until I had enough green and orange scraps to make it entirely out of scraps, so I wouldn't have had to buy those two fat quarters. Whenever I explain how it was made I always feel like I have to mention the fat quarters, just to be honest.

Where is the quilt now? 
 It's on the floor in front of my couch. One of the kids took it to bed and then brought it back out this morning and put it on the couch, but they kicked it off while they were playing with the iPad. Like I said, my quilts are very functional and I like it that way.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Oh, sweet Davis

My poor old Davis Advance. It's my oldest machine*, manufactured in 1896. I so, so, so wanted to sew on a pre-1900s machine. But the thing just won't sew.

I've tried threading. And re-threading. And using different needles in different orientations. And the results are always the sews a couple stitches, and then stops.

Yesterday it occurred to me that maybe I'm threading the shuttle wrong. This is the Davis shuttle.

When I bring the thread down under the spring on the side, it hangs limply along the shuttle, like this.

It's really loose, and maybe as the machine sews it slips along the shuttle. When I take the shuttle out the thread is often coming out of the back end, instead of the front, like this.

The pictures are fuzzy but there's a little metal finger in the center of the shuttle. I feel like the thread should maybe go under it, or that right?

Any ideas?

* Oldest machine that I can accurately date. I have a German hand crank machine that has a fiddle base and a transverse shuttle, and it looks positively ancient. I have no idea when it was made, though.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Last Project

I finished a quickie project last night. I bought a clearance-priced gray and white striped shirt for my daughter. It was from the boys' section, but it was pretty gender-neutral, and I thought maybe I could applique something on it that she would like. When I got it home, though, I found it was way too big for my daughter and just barely right for my son. So I let him wear it for a few months until she could grow into it.

Unfortunately after my daughter saw it on my son, there was no convincing her that it was a girl shirt without some modification.

Easy peasy.

I didn't even sew's just wool felt and Steam-A-Seam. I had intended to sew them on to provide some extra security, but I wasn't sure that a ball point needle would go through the felt. They seem pretty secure as-is.

This is my last project for spring break. It's been so nice to have a week off and get some sewing done too. On Tuesday I go back to work, and it'll be tough to go back!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Repurposed denim quilt

I really love the quilts that are made by the ladies in Gees Bend. They're so colorful and creative, and made without buying extensive lines of matching fabric.

I also read a book about the modern clothing industry, and it included a bit about what happens to donated clothing. Apparently only about 10% of what we donate is ever sold. Some of the remainder is recycled, and a lot of it ends up in landfills.

Given both of the above, I decided to try to make my own quilt out of repurposed fabric. I bought six pairs of jeans from a thrift store, added another pair that my husband wore out, and used a flannel sheet from the store for the back.

It's not my favorite quilt design-wise, but I love the concept. I also love the fact that I turned waste into something functional that my kids love. As usual, I showed it to them and there was a scramble to see who would curl up with it first. My son said it looks like something from his favorite computer game, Minecraft. I can kind of see that.

There's no quilting on it, so I suppose that makes it a blanket and not a quilt. I used my Singer 27 for most of it, but I also used my Free a bit. I love that machine.

My last couple of quilts have featured a lot of straight line quilting, so my Singer 115 has been pretty neglected (I use it exclusively for free motion quilting). I'm thinking my next projects will be a quilt for my cousin, and a small whole-cloth wall hanging featuring a ton of free motion quilting. I can't wait.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Hello, Free

I heard a theory that if you tell the universe your wishes, the universe's energy will bring the things you desire to you.  I don't think it's legit...however, I do believe that when you write down your goals you act with your goals in mind, and your actions are more likely to bring you closer to your goals.

I look at Craigslist every day, mostly to ogle the sewing machines.  However, since I wrote out my list of machines that I want I've been keeping a special eye out for those machines...and for the price I want to pay.  When I saw a Free listed I wanted to jump...but it was listed for $100, which is more than I want to spend on a sewing machine.  I kept watching and when it went down to $60 I went for it.

The cabinet is near-perfect...just a couple small nicks.  The machine's decals look new.  It's so pretty that my husband persuaded me to let this be an "upstairs machine," instead of living in my sewing area in the basement with my other machines.

So, it's upstairs.  It didn't take my daughter long to cover it with her dolls.

The handle pulls are so beautiful.  Also, the drawers on the right side of the machine are locked in place when the machine is in the cabinet, so I can keep scissors and needles in them without worrying about the kids getting them.

Auto-lift technology!  The machine comes up when I open the lid.

The low light in these photos don't do the machine justice...the decals are in great shape.


So pretty.  Why can't things look like this today?

It came with a whole box of attachments, plus extra bobbins and a tucker.

So fun!

And this was in the box too.

I'm so thrilled.  I still have to get my Davis Advance going (I just got the needles in the mail yesterday) and then I'll start working on this one...and maybe I can get some actual sewing in too!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Welcome home, Advance

It's been about two months, but I finally found time to get out to my parents' house and get the treadle base for the Davis Advance.  Welcome home, old girl!

It looks pretty good for 118 years old.  It was manufactured around 1896. 

I love the tray with the little holes where the bobbins go...or they would, if I had more than just one bobbin...

The finish on the top of the cabinet is in rough shape, but the finish on the sides and back is still beautiful.  And I like the design of the irons better than Singer irons.

This is the bracket that holds up the little table on the side of the cabinet.  Even this bracket is pretty.  Everything about these old machines is just beautiful.

The front plate isn't as pretty as my Singers, but I kind of like its simplicity.

The decals are pretty worn on the front, but on the back you can get a better idea of what they looked like.  I bet they were beautiful on the day they were made, and again, they're in pretty good shape for 118 years old.  Nothing else that I own will be in this shape in 118 years.

It's my only coffin top machine.  I wonder what was set on top of it to make that weird grid shape in the finish.

I need to order a belt and some needles (it takes extra-long industrial needles, not regular domestic needles).  I can't wait to start using it regularly.

Of course, that brings my herd census up to:

Three treadle machines
Two hand crank machines
One electric machine
Three machines that are missing parts or are just homeless machine heads

I have four other machine heads that I listed for sale on Craigslist.  It kind of hurts, but really, I need the space for machines that are at least close to functioning...not to mention fabric and all of my other hobby stuff.  Hopefully they'll find a good home, and not someone who will turn them into lamps or tractors.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


I saw a great idea on this blog and it's been kicking around in my head for quite some time.  You could turn your child's drawing into a stuffed animal!  Since my son loves to fill up pages and pages of paper with robot drawings, I asked him to draw me a robot to sew for him.

He drew a pretty complicated robot, but I gave it my best shot.
He adores it.  I still have to sew blue stripes on the legs, but then it'll be all done.  The proportions are off, but not bad for my first shot.

My son was glued to my side through the entire process.  I think it really sparked his interest to see his idea turn into something real.  He was full of questions about sewing and my sewing machine, my trusty Singer 27.  I love to model a maker mentality for him...I hope to encourage him to be creative.  I sew and my husband builds electronics and plays music.  I hope my kids pick something up that gives them a creative outlet. 

In the meantime he has a cool new robot to cuddle up with.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Crafty Goals

After acquiring my two new Davis machines I got into a conversation with my husband about which machines I really want.  I realize that our house is small and space is finite, and I can't just keep acquiring machines willy-nilly.  So I made a short list of the machines I absolutely want to get.  That also got me thinking about my quilting and sewing ultimate goal lists, so here they are.  It probably won't be of interest to anyone but me.

These are the sewing machines I'm really on the hunt for:
Free (any model with Rotoscillo motion)
Eldridge Two Spool
Davis Vertical Feed
Singer model 29
Singer model 99

These are the quilts I'd like to make sometime...probably not in 2014, but someday:
a Drunkard's Path quilt
a Double Wedding Ring quilt
a postage stamp quilt
another Log Cabin quilt, this time light/dark instead of warm/cool

And these are the other crafty things I'd like to do someday:
re-upholster a chair
make my own winter coat (my grandmother did this)
make an entire outfit

I think it's an attainable list.

Saturday, January 18, 2014


This week I was perusing Craigslist -  a nightly activity for me - for sewing machines.  Most of the time I just look at the machines, but this time one ad caught my eye.  Someone was selling an old machine - and included a ton of pictures in the ad from Pinterest about what you could do with the treadle irons.


I emailed him to ask if he had the machine still, and he did!  He said it was a Davis Honeymoon...I Googled and was pretty sure that was a vertical feed model.  I was so excited...I've wanted a Davis vertical feed for a while.  So I drove two hours the snow...getting lost get this machine.

It wasn't a vertical feed.

It had a vibrating shuttle.  I really don't care for vibrating shuttles.

It had a leaf tension mechanism.  I don't care for leaf tensions.

I was so disappointed. 

The funny thing is, though, that just last month my parents gave me a Davis Advance machine for my birthday.  It was really sweet - I had followed the auction on, but the price went higher than I wanted, and I talked myself out of the purchase.  However, I had shown the listing to my parents, and when I bowed out they jumped on it.  I had thought it was a vertical feed, and, again, I was wrong, but I was really happy to find that it was made around 1896.  I had always wanted a pre-1900s machine, and even though this one was only 5 years older than my Singer 27 from 1901, I was still so happy to have a machine from the 1800s.

I wondered if I could still sell the irons and use the Advance's irons for both machines.  Just swap them out.

I think it might work.  The machine beds are both the same size. 

And really, I have such a soft spot for these old machines, it didn't take long to start feeling a fondness for the Honeymoon.  The decals are grimy, but pretty.  

I still plan on selling the cabinet and irons...which is a pity, since they're so pretty...

I'll list them for a couple of weeks, and if they don't sell it won't be the end of the world.

I am sad that the slide plate is missing on the machine, because that's where the serial number is.  I'd love to get a date on this.  I also really want to get the irons and cabinet for the Advance from my parents' house so I can get both machines up and running. I can't wait to start using them.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Rambling about home sewing

I first fired up a sewing machine shortly after I turned 30.  I wanted to make some flannel baby blankets for my then-gestating daughter, as well as some other babies that were soon to be born to family and friends.  Mike and I had gotten a machine for our wedding but I hadn't used it until then.  I discovered that I really enjoyed sewing, so after sewing a mound of baby blankets I started searching the internet for tutorials on how to sew more things.  Once I stumbled upon modern quilting it quickly became my first love and took up most of my time, but prior to that I was more interested in sewing clothing.  I made some skirts for myself and dresses for my daughter, and even a couple pairs of pajama pants for my kids.  Very basic garments.  And even though I don't sew many garments I'm still fascinated by the idea, and I hope to get back into it once I'm not so intimidated by it.

I read some sewing blogs, and one of my favorites is Male Pattern Boldness, written by Peter Lappin.  He sews using vintage machines (he even has a Singer 66 treadle, though he doesn't seem to use it much) and sews clothes for himself and his partner. He recommended a book called Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion.  The book discusses the economic, human rights, and environmental impacts of how clothing is made today, and how cheap and low-quality today's clothing is compared to clothing 25 or 50 years ago.  I was surprised at the parallels between what is discussed in the book, and in the sewing blogs I read.

When I started sewing I knew nothing - my mom gave me a quick crash course on using my machine but I was still woefully ignorant.  In fact, when the bobbin ran out of thread, I let the machine sit for days because the idea of winding a bobbin was just a monumental task.  I've learned from sewing blogs and tutorials on the internet.  However, it seems like some of those women were also self-taught...which is fine, except that they see the stuff for sale in the stores as the ultimate goal for home sewing.  If they can make their projects look like the things for sale in department stores, they've done a great job.

But the stuff for sale in stores now is so cheap.  It's barely worth owning, let alone making.  When you aspire to store-bought clothing, it sets such a bad example!  For instance, it wasn't until I read that book that I realized that using a serger is a shortcut instead of a preferred method...I read so many sewing blogs that talk about investing in a serger to achieve a professional look.  I always doubted that I could make anything of good quality on my old straight-stitch machines, when in reality they've probably made things of higher quality than I've seen lately.

I really love the resurgence of interest in sewing in my generation, but we need to aspire to more than running two pieces of knit through a serger and calling it a professional-looking skirt.

I'm not sure what the point of this is, but I do know that after reading that book I want to sew more of my own things.  Maybe I'll have my mom teach me what she knows.  I also want to teach my kids - my son as well as my daughters - the basics of sewing.  Hopefully that will help, in some small way, to carry the information through to another generation.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Finally finished!

After 18 months of work, I FINALLY finished my scrappy log cabin quilt. 

It's made entirely of scraps, except for two fat quarters that I purchased.  And, to be honest, there was another fat quarter that I took a little square out of, and then used the rest for this.  But the vast majority of these pieces were just scraps. 

I adore it.

I pieced it mostly on my Singer 66 hand crank and bound it with my Singer 27 treadle.  I did free motion quilting on it with my Singer 115 treadle.  The quilting isn't an overall pattern...there are lots of hearts, stars, and swirls, some pictures of things the kids would like (our house, a t-rex, a robot), words (the kids' names, "I love you," my name and the year, etc), and other things.  My hope is that in the years to come the kids will spot these things as they curl up with the quilt.  And since there's the possibility the quilt might exist after I've passed away, I hope the messages will make them happy after I'm gone.

You can't see the quilting unless you really look.  I think that makes it more a secret message.

The quilt is around 64" by 64", which is about right for curling up on the couch.  I'm so happy to start 2014 with a finish I'm so proud of.