Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Fashion Formula Skirt Number One

I know, the title implies there will be more than one of these skirts.  The answer is yes.
I picked up this great pattern from Serendipity Studio.  It's call Fashion Formula Skirts.  I'll admit it, I'm a sucker for a tiered skirt.  They are comfortable, easy to make and fun to wear.  They let you showcase one fabric or a stack.
On Saturday I went to Bear's Paw Fabrics and did some shopping in their discount isle.  I can't pass up a batik, particularly when I need to make a skirt like this.  I picked up five different fabrics to make at least one skirt.  I should have gotten more fabric, but I can always go back.
The Fashion Formula Skirts booklet is a quick formula for a skirt that anyone can do with some simple math and the right tools.  Cutting is quick.  The skirt made up quickly on my serger, with details stitched with my sewing machine.
I probably spent more time making sure I knew which fabric I wanted in which teir than I did with the cutting.  Here are my four tiers cut and ready to be seamed.
I seamed each tier together and used my serger to finish the edges.  I also used the serger to do the gathering and construction.  I use the sewing machine to do all the top stitching.  Each seam is top stitched down with coordinating thread.
I love this skirt and will make many more.  (Don't mind that pile of free-motion quilting practice under the skirt.)  Sorry about the wrinkles.  I'd been wearing it and had to put it onto the dress form to take the picture.

Someone commented on  my dress form over on Google+.  This is Rita.  She is a "Uniquely You" dress form.  You can find her on, though I bought this one years and years ago at a Jo-Ann Fabrics.  Funny, I never realized I named the dress form but have never named a sewing machine.  Things to ponder.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Charm Swap

I have several people I follow over on Google+ and I stumbled across a charm square swap, hosted by The Amateur Quilter.  I've never done a fabric swap.  I've done five or so swaps through the Quilting Gallery, but those were for coasters or mug rugs.  This is my first fabric swap.  I won't bore you with all the details, you can go read about over on Flickr if you like.  I just wanted to share my fabrics.
I wanted to take pictures that clearly show the scale of the print.
Step one, pick out some fabrics.  The challenge for me was to find 1 yard cuts of fabric.  I'm terrible at buying much of any particular fabric.  I have loads of fabric but most of it is smaller cuts.
Step two, chop those fabrics into 5" squares and stack them up neatly.
Step three, put these squares into a zip-lock, stick into a mailing envelope with a return envelope and  send off.  The tricky bit will be waiting patiently.  The deadline to ship the charms is May 24th.  I'm ready to ship today or tomorrow.  I'll be waiting for a while for my stack of charms.  I can only hope that everyone else is in as big  hurry as I am.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Live Quilting and Feathers

Yesterday I pulled out my string-pieced bits so I could finish up some more of these paper pieced feather blocks.  The fabrics are from my scrap bin.  I like to have projects that use up some of those scraps.
While stitching, I caught up with Bonnie over at Quiltville through Quilt Cam.  I don't always catch Bonnie when she is live, but I try to fit it in when I can.  I finished up with Quilt Cam just in time to pull up Fiber Cast from Lynn over at Simply Colorful Fiber BLOG.  She keeps me motivated, too. 

I finished up three feathers.  These feathers are for a project the Baltimore Modern Quilt Guild is doing.  I'm not very practiced with paper piecing, so this was an opportunity to practice the skill.  I'm still not sure I'm all that excited about paper piecing, but I am getting better at making these blocks!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Last week there was an amazing sale over at Urban Threads.  Their new pack, Gilded Heraldry, was on sale and I couldn't resist.  I picked it up before I really knew what I was going to do with it.  Then, it occurred to me that I knew exactly what to do with it.  Well, mostly.

Months ago.  Maybe more like a year ago.  I picked up some denim jackets at a thrift store in Virginia.  I knew I wanted to add embroidery, but not what embroidery.  Urban Threads always puts out great sets, so I knew one would come along that would fit my collection of jackets.
I tried on a couple of these denim pieced and settled on this one made by Levi Strauss.  I picked a design that would fit into the side panels and started stitching.  I stitched this design on both sides of the jacket.  The other side is the mirror image of this one.  I thought about the back design for a while before settling on the eagle.
I think I would have had better results if I had basted better.  This denim does have some stretch to it.  Since it is my jacket, I just won't point it out to anyone and it will be fine.

I even considered opening up one of the seams on the sleeve so I could add some more embroidery, but decided it was done.  This is one that I could have gone totally over-the-top with if I didn't rein myself in.

The thread is Magnifico #2176, Cinnamon, from Superior Threads.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Serger Camp 2014

Last week I attended Serger Camp.  Three days of serger class put together by Ellicott City Sew-Vac.
I purchased the Enlighten, a great serger, last year during the Original Sewing & Quilt Expo in Baltimore.  During the class, I had an opportunity to work with the Evolution.  The Evolution is an over-lock and a cover-stitch machine.  It does the job of two machines.
That means that I had to box up this pretty little thing to make room for my new machine.
This is the Evolution.  It does everything. It has over-lock stitches, cover-stitches and is just plain awesome. 
I reviewed the packing list to make sure I had everything.  After some simple assembly, I was ready to get her situated in the perfect spot.
The package deal included the rolling tote and the 22-foot attachment kit.  Considering how much some of these feet cost, this is definitely the way to pick up these feet if you think you will use them.

What have I done with this amazing toy?  I pieced a fleece blanket out of some 8" squares I had in a bin and did a cover-stitch on my t-shirt scarf.  I think I'm ready to make some more great things with this machine.  I wonder where I put that knit fabric....

Sunday, April 20, 2014

She's Back Scarf

My husband supported the Veronica Mars movie through Kickstarter and part of that meant he got a t-shirt.  He didn't want it, so he handed it over to me.

This will be a quick overview of how I made this t-shirt into a scarf.

I thought the fabric was very thin and just not a very good quality t-shirt.  I looked at the design and figured it would make a simple scarf. 
First I trimmed off the top of the shirt as close to the sleeve seams as possible.  I smoothed the shirt as best I could with the bottom hem lined up.  I lost a little of the screen print, but I don't mind.
I did a quick press on the cut edge and stitched it with a wide cover-stitch to match the existing hem.

Wear it as a single loop.
Wear it doubled up for a tighter scarf.

One cut and a pass through the serger and I've got a simple scarf with some interesting graphic details.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Singer 457 'Stylist' Sewing Machine

I regularly monitor Craig's List for vintage machines that are reasonably priced and that will fit within my life.  This is a Singer 457 Stylist sewing machine that I picked up Friday morning.  The lady I purchased it from said she bought it in 1977. 
I did a little test before purchase.  Something that I will have to sit down and blog about.  There are so many great machines out there for less than $50, but if you don't know much about sewing machines it can be intimidating.
Step one when I got home was to start taking her apart to see the inside and get some oil on metal parts that haven't seen oil in years, probably decades.  Underneath the top cover, you can see where the grease is still on the gears, but I don't know the last time it was applied.  While inside the machine, I checked all the wiring to make sure it was still flexible and not damaged.

I don't have any replacement grease, so I left it as is until I get grease.  I did put some drops of machine oil in there as a start, though.  The test stitching was very rough, but likely just because she is very dry overall.

The bobbin area is beautiful.  Only a little surface rust on the forward bar.

Next, I pulled off the bottom cover to see all the workings from below.  Not too bad here, either.  (I will have to take a class on setting timing at some point.  I can't just keep avoiding it.)  The number of dust bunnies tells me it wasn't used very much. 
Then I pulled off the face-plate to look at the presser bar and the needle bar.  I love how the basic mechanical workings of a sewing machine hasn't really changed in over 100 years.  The presser bar can be adjusted and I've read that you can actually free motion quilt with this machine.  I'll have to give that a try at some point. 

The last thing I removed was the front plate.  I really only did this to make it a little easier to clean the plate and the front of the machine. 
I did a couple test stitches to check the balance on the stitching.  I did have to adjust the bobbin tension as it was too tight to let the thread leave the bobbin.  I used different color threads so I could see how balanced the tension was.  This is pretty good.

Finally, I turned the cabinet over and tightened up all the screws.  A couple of the legs were a little wobbly, but all it needed was about a 1/4 turn on some of the screws and everything was good as new.
The down side is that I didn't check my floor before I spun the table and scratched the top with a rock either I or the pups had tracked in.  I'm pretty sure that long scratch was all my doing.  Oh, well, I'm not looking for a museum piece, I want another machine that sews and I've already proven that it will do that.  All that is left it to put a coat of wax on the cabinet and get her back into the cabinet.

For reference, I visited the following sites.
Singer Sewing Info UK had great pictures and information.

Sew USA had the threading diagram, which was a great help for setting up for bobbin winding.
I got paid to clean up this machine, too.  One penny, from 1976.  The discolored areas are from some grease I wiped off after I managed to shake it loose from the machine.

Even newer UPDATE:  I have repaired this machine.  Go read about the replacement of the failed gear in this post.

UPDATE:  Since I posted this this sewing machine is no longer in working order.  This machine, like many of the time, had nylon gears.  The gear that drives the bobbin hook was damaged.  I don't know if this was because it was damaged when I got it, or I damaged it by failing to properly lubricate the hook area.  It could be either of those things.  I was sewing along and the machine stopped picking up thread.  I did some troubleshooting and found that the reason it wouldn't pick up thread is because I had no movement of the bobbin hook.  I did some research and a replacement gear would not be terribly expensive.  It would however require me to take apart much of the machine to get to the damaged gear and then after reassembly it would need to be timed.  While I enjoyed the time I spent with this machine I don't think it is worth the time to replace the damaged gear.  When buying a vintage machine I recommend you take a screwdriver and flashlight and take a good look under the hood before handing over your dollars.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Spring Swap

I participated in the Springtime Mug Rug swap hosted by Michele at the Quilter's Gallery.  These are the two mug rugs I made for myself. 

Here are some pictures of the front and back of both mug rugs.
In hindsight, I can see that the label works so much better with a dark color thread on these batiks.  I still love the batiks for this project.  Bright colors are just so much fun!  I fussy-cut some of pieces to make the fabrics work for me.  I love these flowers.
Both patterns were designed by The Patchsmith.  You can find her patterns on Craftsy in her store.  They are reasonably priced, so click through and check them out.  The butterfly trail was free-motion stitched before I layered the top with the batting and backing.

The appliques were stitched down by machine with Masterpiece from Superior Threads before I layered the top over the batting and backing.  

While Masterpiece is not intended for quilting, I did quilt with it in this case.  Since I did all the quilting free-motion on my sewing machine, I could stitch slowly and get good-looking stitches without thread breaking.  I don't think I could get this good a stitch with the long arm with this thread.  I would have used So Fine! #50 for long arm quilting with this level of detail.

The binding was attached by machine on the top and hand-stitched to the back.  I don't usually use a narrow binding, but these mug rugs finish at 5.5" by 9" and I thought a binding cut at 2.5" would be entirely too wide.  This binding was cut at 2" and finished just a hair over 1/4" on the front and right at 3/8" on the back. I could have cut the binding at 1.75" and gotten a great result on the front and back.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cheery Placemats

My friend picked up a pattern for some place mats and these fun, spring colors.  She pieced squares, slashed, stitched those together, slash and so on.  The resulting made fabric is bright and cheery.

I cut the made fabric into two pieces to get it onto the frame with the most effective use of the batting and backing.
I learned this all-over quilting design while taking a class with Erin Underwood.  A simple clam shell surrounded by a couple rows of petals.  This one is fun and really adds a nice effect to the surface.  It is also easy to move around as you can echo petals or sneak in another clam shell or two.
On the back, you can really see the quilting design.
Top thread is Fantastico from Superior Threads.  This is a dye sample, so I can't tell you if it will be available in the future.  I love the surprise threads I can get from them with their Try Me specials.  I used a yellow So Fine! #50 (color 514, Polo) in the bobbin so it would mostly match the top thread and blend with the back.  Matching a bobbin thread to some variegated threads is a challenge.  I like the little bit of visual interest that these threads create, but I don't want the bobbin thread to sneak onto the top and show up when I don't want it to.
After pulling it all off the frame, I trimmed the two large pieces and cut out six place mats.  The all over quilting was a great option for this.  I'm glad I quilted it as two large pieces and then cut it down.  It takes the design right over the edges and I really like the effect.  It also means that all six place mats are the same size since they were cut from the quilted piece.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Free Motion Quilting

Today the Baltimore Modern Quilt Guild hosted a free motion quilting class by Erin Underwood.  I have never taken a quilting class, so this was a new thing for  me.  Yes.  I am a crazy quilt lady that has never taken a quilt class.  (I suppose I have taken online classes, but this is my first real, in-person class.)

We started with meanders and loops and swirls.  The problem with sharing samples is that I may get a little off-task and quilt something we haven't covered yet.  We spent about three hours going over different designs and how there are stitched.  I used my thrift store Singer for this class.  I didn't have the right foot for the job, but I managed. 

The best part about this is  that I might be able to move on from the simple meander when quilting smaller pieces on my domestic sewing machine.  I learned a couple things and the best part is that I think I may have figured out feathers.  Before today, I just had difficulty working the petals back to the center in a cleean way.  Today, I think my feathers don't suck!  Such an improvement.

Thread used is So Fine #50 from Superior Threads.  For the record, I love this thread as much as all the other Superior Threads I have tried.

There was a question about what that "#50" means when talking about thread.  If you want to know more about how this measurement is derived, please go check out some of the great information on the Superior Threads site.  Click here for a direct link to the article about how thread is measured.