August already?

Well, ok…not quite August. I genuinely cannot believe July is almost over, though! It’s been almost a month since I posted my little pouch tutorial. Here’s what I’ve been up to in the mean time:

Work. Lots of work.

Oh! Also important and new:

Mad Men season 4 premiered on Sunday! I’ve started a tradition with Lara from Lara and the Reel Boy — we’re going to watch together every Monday. Do you watch Mad Men? If not, you should. My friend Kathryn bought season one for my birthday last November, and I’ve been catching up frantically ever since. It has fantastic story lines, and even better clothes! Is it geeky to admit that part of the reason I love it is due purely to the styling of that era? I’m gonna go with no, and also show you a little something I was inspired to create thanks to Joan Holloway et al

I refer to this formally as the Pond Pillow…


But secretly, in my head (and now in writing on my blog, so I suppose it’s not-so-secret) I refer to that lovely grey quilter’s linen as Sterling Cooper grey. Doesn’t it remind you of Don’s suits? Or the in-office couches? I’m planning on buying more ASAP!


And I love this macro shot. Such lovely colors!

Moving on from my Mad Men obsession, my older sister Whitney and my mom both had birthdays this month, July 13 and 14 respectively. I asked them to choose a sewing pattern they liked, and fabric for me to use. They chose Amy Butler’s Sophia bag pattern, and some Anna Maria Horner prints. Here’s what I’ve finished so far:

…and it has bright yellow lining! This bag is Whitney’s. My mom’s will be blues and greens.

The Sophia bag is definitely more time-consuming than I bargained for — a LOT of cutting and ironing and basting and sewing in zippers and lining and hand stitching and blood and sweat goes into these babies. I think I spent about 10-15 hours on Whitney’s. I’ve cut out all the pieces for my mom’s, and I’ve bonded all the interfacing — just need to get sewing!

Yesterday, one of my friends left town to move to South Korea (Lance, if you are reading this, I miss you already!). He had an amazing sewing that he’d been asking me about for a year or so, and we’d talked about how to get it running again, but with both of us being so busy we never got together with the sewing machine to see if we could clean it up and “Make it work!” (yes, that was a Tim Gunn quote). Well, Tripp went to see Lance one last time yesterday, before he left.. and brought me back a little surprise!

Isn’t it lovely? I have no idea how old it is, but it was made by the Jones Sewing Machine Company who were (are?) based outside of Manchester, England. Tripp said “Lance wanted me to give you this — and I thought, even if it doesn’t work, we can clean it up and display it when we move!” (don’t you love him already?). I heartily agreed with that sentiment, and I am VERY excited that I was chosen as the lucky recipient of such a gorgeous machine. Oh, in case you were wondering — it *does* work! Between amazing and giving friends and such a fantastic boyfriend, I am one lucky lady!

Lastly, I got 6 packages in the mail today (the postman probably thinks I’m crazy). I’ve been looking for dishes since we moved here, looking everywhere I can think of, and finally it hit me like a ton of bricks: The reason I didn’t like any of the dishes I saw was because they were all way too complicated. Floral patterns, stripes, polka dots, square dishes — I tend to like much more simple, classic designs. While cruising Amazon, I rediscovered Fiesta ware, which both my grandma and mom use. Hello, bright colors, strong ceramic, and durability? What’s not to love?

Since I love color, I bought a variety.

Look how pretty my dishwasher is now! (Such a weird sentence, I know, but anything that can make me happy to do dishes is ok in my book).

I’m still awaiting the arrival of shamrock (a grassy green) and cobalt blue sets. I think this dishware will provide LOTS of inspiration for color combinations in quilts and the like, which makes me extra happy!

Alright, it’s way past my bedtime. I’m off!
-K

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Pouches!

Today I decided to make a quick project to test out my new Janome 6260. After a quick survey of my supplies, I went with the Perfect Box Pouch by Indie House, since I was in dire need of a new makeup bag.

I wanted to use something fairly sturdy, which made me think of the Far Far Away II line — it’s such an amazing cotton/linen blend, perfect for bags. I altered the pattern a bit, because I had a rather long zipper and I needed a fairly large bag. The final project measures 12″ long x 4″ wide x 4″ deep; I chose to make it bigger so I can use it for a travel toiletry bag. I used Heather Ross’ Moon and Stars in Tangerine, and lined the bag with Kona Cotton in Coal. Take a look!:

After whipping this up, I wanted to make a smaller pouch to hold makeup brushes. I found a few examples, but no tutorials that fit exactly what I wanted — so I made one myself! This project is super simple, but I figured I’d put it out there for any sewing newbies to enjoy 🙂

–Unlined Zipper Pouch tutorial–

For this project, you’ll need:
-1 fat quarter of fabric
-1 8-inch-long coordinating zipper
-zipper foot
-coordinating thread
-iron
-seam ripper (just in case!)
-fabric marking pencil
-clear ruler
-rotary mat/cutter
-your handy dandy sewing machine

Step 1:

Cut out 2 9×9″ squares. I chose Sleeping Beauty in Dusk from Heather Ross’ newest line, Far Far Away II.

Step 2:

Finger press a crease roughly 1/2″ away from the fabric’s edge. Make sure the crease is at the “top” of the fabric, so that the design is upright. For this design, I wanted to make sure Sleeping Beauty wasn’t sleeping upside down. Iron the crease.

Step 3:

Grab your zipper and pin it carefully along the creased edge.

For this part of the project, you’ll want a zipper foot. If you have never used one before, they look like this:

and are made to allow you to sew your fabric as close as possible to the zipper, in order to make it nearly invisible (although this is *not* considered an invisible zipper)

Step 4:

Sew your zipper to your creased edge. It helps to move the zipper pull away from your sewing. I begin with the zipper closed, then open it completely about halfway through attaching the zipper. If you try to sew alongside the zipper pull, your seam will not be straight — you’ll end up with an odd little curve, so make sure you move that pull!

Now pin and sew the other piece of fabric as in steps 3 and 4:

This is what you will end up with after sewing in the zipper:

Step 5:

True up the sides and bottom of the pouch,

Switch back to the standard zigzag foot

…then pin and sew a tidy seam around each of the 3 sides. I used a 1/2″ seam, which gave me room to sew a second seam 1/8″ away, for extra sturdiness. Make sure your zipper is partially open for this step, in order to turn your pouch right side out!

Step 6:

Trim the bottom two corners to reduce bulk.

Step 7:

Press open your seams

Step 8: Turn right side out, and voila! You have a little zippered pouch!

Now go make one! They’re super quick — I think mine only took about 20 minutes from start to finish, including each step. Visit Indie House and check out her tutorial to make a boxy little pouch of your own!

Not perfect, but..

I’ve been doing a lot (a LOT) of hand piecing while saving up for a proper sewing machine. The list is as follows

1)The beginnings of a Little Folks voile pillow, which will be completed when I receive my new machine (it shipped today!). These are 1″ hexies:

2) a Little Folks hexagon quilt, which will likely reside in my living room, draped over the couch so it can be appreciated regularly (2″ hexies):

3) an Echino pillow, to match another project (more 1″ hexies)…

4) a patchwork quilt! The plan is for it to be queen sized. It’s made of 7″ squares, and it’s about 15%-20% done so far, entirely sewn by hand. It’s a mixture of Anna Maria Horner’s Good Folks, Etsuko Furuya’s Echino line, a bit of Heather Ross’ Far Far Away I (and who knows, maybe I’ll throw a bit of FFA2 in there, as well); also in the mix are lots of Kona solids (Raisin, Pomegranate, Daffodil, and Candy Green, to name a few)

I’m interrupting this post to point out how beautiful Austin can be:

…and lastly, two actual finished projects. A complete, albeit extremely imperfect, potholder (inspired, of course, by Ashley from FilmintheFridge, though hers are considerably neater):

…and a Little Folks fabric rosette, sewn to a bobby pin so that I can 1) feel a bit retro and 2) force everyone around me to appreciate Little Folks, and bring a bit more fabric appreciation into the world 🙂

I realized last week in a few conversations with coworkers that I *never* discuss sewing at work. It doesn’t really relate at all to what I do, and I work mostly with men (not that men don’t sew, but these men don’t). I had a few people ask me recently “so what are your hobbies?” and they seemed genuinely surprised when I told them I spend each weekend sewing. It made me laugh a bit, because most people (myself included, before a year or two ago) seem completely unaware of the modern quilting movement. I also noticed that I address the issue in a self-deprecating way, for some reason — my response to the hobby question is usually something along the lines of “I like to sew and quilt…yes, I’m an old woman stuck in a 24-year-old’s body, apparently, haha” which I really need to stop doing. I’m proud of myself for learning how to create useful objects that could quite possibly become treasured items. What’s wrong with making something that is both useful and beautiful? Nothing at all! That’s my new goal: to address those who ask in an informative, non-self-deprecating way.

Do you ever find yourself dismissing sewing and quilting, even though you love it?
-K

Holidays! Gifts! New Sewing Machine!

Well, it’s been quite a while since I last posted…apologies. Hope everyone had a Happy Christmas/Hanukkah, etc. We’ve had a lot going on here in Austin.

I got my new sewing machine in a few days ago, haven’t had much of a chance to fire it up because of the holidays. I had various knitting projects to finish/gifts to stitch. I think she may need to be oiled a bit before I can do anything with her, but so far everything seems to be working fine with her (knock on wood).

Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve, which is my very favorite holiday. Exciting! I don’t have any plans and Tripp will be at work, but I may end up with friends…not too sure.

January 8-10 Tripp and I will be going to NYC! We’re really excited as neither of us have ever had a chance to visit before. We’ll be going to be interviewed for a documentary. I’ll be able to give a bit more info after we return.

I received some awesome gifts for Christmas:

-A pair of red TOMS from Tripp

Also from Tripp, Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving (newest book by my favorite author)

and Mad Men, Season 2! If you are wondering if I’ve already watched all 12 episodes, the answer is yes — in 2 days. This show is insanely addicting. If you have never seen it, I’d highly recommend it. I’m not usually a fan of dramas, but this is an excellent show. Also, period costumes! I am a huge sucker for period costumes/settings.

Lastly, and perhaps most relevant-ly (not sure if that’s a word, but 2009 is almost over and I’m feeling kinda reckless), my dear friend Kathryn got me this:

I can’t wait to try out some of the patterns!

Of course I’ll be back to work on Ezra’s quilt soon. I also recently mastered hand-sewing and even learned to blind-stitch a hem, so if this machine gives me fits like my last one did while quilting, I may be hand sewing his quilt 🙂

More soon!

K

Done and Done!

So, I (nervously) took the plunge.

After writing up the post on sewing machines I may/may not buy, I bought one — but it wasn’t on the list! I know, I’m pretty wild.

Here she is (picture from the ebay auction):

There’s a photo of the same machine (just a different color) on flickr (It’s actually for sale, if you’re looking for an older machine!).

She’s reviewed on pattern review here.

The machine was apparently just chilling out in someone’s closet, the seller on ebay sells sewing machines regularly and said that it has had virtually no use at all, and that it runs perfectly. It has no signs of wear and tear, no rubbing on the belt or anything. Hopefully she’s as awesome as she looks and sounds!

She was a steal, too…I paid $75 +shipping, because it was on buy it now/best offer. Woohoo!

Now to wait for her to arrive…I’m dyin’ here!

-K

The Art of Purchasing A Sewing Machine OR How Not to Waste Several Hundred Dollars

This past Wednesday I sold my sewing machine. To be frank, I was sad to see her go, but it’s on to bigger (well, actually about the same size) and better things.

Before I start in with machines I’m considering, I have a list of needs and wants for the machine I buy. I need a machine that:
-costs under $250.
-is capable of quilting.
-either comes with a darning foot and an even feed foot, or has reasonably priced feet available for purchase.
-has a drop-in bobbin.
-comes with a variety of decorative stitches.
-has buttonhole feature.
-has automatic tension.
-has adjustable stitch length & width.
-has adjustable presser foot pressure.
-A quilting table would be nice, but isn’t a necessity.

Here’s a list of the current candidates I’m considering:
Brother XL3750
Brother XL-3750 Convertible Free-Arm Sewing Machine with Quilting Features

Average Review on Amazon:
4/5 stars (25 reviews total)


Recommended on PatternReview.com?:
No, not yet reviewed.

Reviewed on SewMamaSew?: No.

Pros:

-under budget

-has quilting features

-drop-in bobbin

-35 built-in utility, decorative, and heirloom stitches, each with multiple stitch functions

-Free-arm/flatbed convertible sewing surface

-Over sized sewing table

Cons:

– No mention of buttonhole feature.

-No mention of automatic tension.

-No mention of adjustable stitch length & width.

-No mention of adjustable presser foot pressure.

-Subject to tension issues, according to some reviews I’ve read. This makes me hesitant to purchase this model.

-A newer model, which technically doesn’t give it a real chance to have thorough reviews. The fact that it’s newer also means it’s likely not as sturdy as its predecessors, with more parts made of plastic rather than metal. It’s also a “lightweight” model, which isn’t really a feature I need or want — I’m looking for a machine that won’t “walk off” my sewing table.

-Patternreview.com’s Brother Sewing Machine Review section has no mention of the XL 3750. Not a good sign, as this tells me that either this machine has a reputation I’m unaware of, or it’s simply not that popular of a buy.

Other considerations:
This model is on eBay for $134.99 and is listed on Amazon.com for $118.26. My previous machine was $99.99 and had similar reviews and issues. Considering that my budget is about $200, I’d rather come close to number, unless it’s an antique and well reviewed machine that happens to be available for a bit less via eBay or Craigslist.

Brother ES2000

Brother ES2000 77 Stitch Function Computerized Free Arm Sewing Machine

Average Review on Amazon: 4/5 stars (72 reviews total)

Recommended on PatternReview.com?: Yes, by 1/1 users. Also received several accolades in the review’s comments.

Reviewed on SewMamaSew?: No

Pros:

-costs under $250.

-is capable of quilting.

-Free arm sewing machine.

-77 stitch functions.

– tension adjustment control.

-has a drop-in bobbin.

-comes with a variety of decorative stitches.

-has buttonhole feature.

-has automatic tension.

-has adjustable stitch length & width.

Cons:

-No mention of adjustable presser foot pressure.

-No quilting table.

-like the XL 3750, this machine is a lightweight model, which does worry me. Additionally, the reviews are good but not great. It also seems that the negative reviews point to a lack of support from Brother, which bothers me.

Other considerations:

$142.00 on Ebay, $158.57 on Amazon. This model is computerized, which I don’t necessarily need, but it’s an interesting addition to consider.


Brother XR 7700

Brother XR 7700 Computerized Sewing Machine w/Free Bonus Feet

Average Review on Amazon: 5/5 stars (1 review)

Recommended on PatternReview.com?: Yes, by 1/1 users.

Reviewed on SewMamaSew?: Yes, reviews are here and here.

Pros:

-Needle Up/Down Setting

-Buttonhole feature

-Drop in bobbin.

-Adjustable stitch length/width.

Cons:

-Not enough evidence to make me want to purchase this model! Only 2 reviews between Amazon and Patternreview, which does worry me a bit.

Other considerations: Computerized model. Again, I’m not sure how I feel about computerized models on the lower end of the price scale.

Brother XR9000

Brother Xr9000 Computerized Sewing Machine

Average Review on Amazon: 4.5/5 stars (2 reviews)

Recommended on PatternReview.com?: No.

Reviewed on SewMamaSew?: Yes, find the review here.

Average Review on Costco.com: 3.75/5 stars (9 reviews)

Pros:

-costs under $250.
-is capable of quilting.
-comes with a darning foot.
-has a drop-in bobbin.
-comes with 80 stitches, as well as an alphabet for monogramming.
-has buttonhole feature (8 styles of buttonholes).
-has adjustable stitch length & width.
-A quilting table.

Cons:

-no mention of adjustable presser foot pressure.

-has adjustable tension control.

Other considerations: Goes for $269.00 on Amazon, currently available for $149.99 on eBay. This machine was originally available only through Costco (for $179.99), which explains the lack of Amazon reviews — the Costco.com website has several reviews posted.

Bernina 811 Sport

Bernina 811 Sport on eBay

Average Review on Amazon: Not available on Amazon

Recommended on PatternReview.com?: Yes (1 review here)

Reviewed on SewMamaSew?: No.

Pros:

-Embroidery Stitches

-Adjustable Stitch Length and Width

-Adjustable Needle Position

-costs under $250.

-is capable of quilting.

-has a drop-in bobbin.

-comes with a variety of decorative stitches.

-has buttonhole feature

Cons:

-comes with a darning foot and an even feed foot.

-has automatic tension.

-has adjustable presser foot pressure.

Other considerations: This is an older model that is only available used, so I may have trouble finding parts for it. Additionally, I’m worried about having to get a machine serviced, since I don’t have a convenient way to quickly access a service center. Besides that, I have several projects currently in the works that need finishing, so obviously the machine that will work best immediately is the one I’m most likely to buy. This model is currently on eBay and the bidding is at $26 (!!) as of 11/30/09 at 11:52 am.

Bernina Nova 900

Bernina Nova 900 in Yellow

Average Review on Amazon: Not available on Amazon

Recommended on PatternReview.com?: Yes (1 review here)

Reviewed on SewMamaSew?: No.

Pros:

-Free Arm

-Adjustable Stitch Length and Width

-Adjustable Presser Foot Pressure

-Adjustable Needle Position

Cons:

-possible foot pedal circuit board

-side-loading bobbin, which I really want to avoid.

Other considerations:

Currently at $125.00 on eBay (+$25 shipping), not a bad price for an excellently reviewed machine. It’s pretty basic, so I’ll have to take that into consideration.


More machines to come as I analyze them to death! 🙂

-K

Sewing machine meme fun!

Since it’s Sewing Machine Month at Sew, Mama, Sew! I’ve decided to participate in the Sewing Machine Meme that was posted a while back. I actually found this at Oh, Fransson!

What brand and model do you have?
I have a Singer Simple machine. It was one of my graduation gifts from my mom. I don’t think she thought I’d ever get a chance to bust it out, but I really just needed some inspiration to get started sewing again, and a bit of extra money to buy fabrics and notions. Now I sew every weekend. I love my little machine, even if it isn’t super fancy!

Singer Simple

Singer Simple

How long have you had it?

I got it in May of 2008, so just over a year.

Approximately how much does your machine cost?

It was just over $100. Not too expensive, but if I need another one I’ll have a bit more to spend.

What kinds of things do you sew?
I’ve altered clothing on it, made aprons, quilts, and bags.

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

I sew at least one day a week for usually around 8 or so hours…as long as I can! 🙂

Do you like/love/hate your machine? Does it have a name?

I like my machine. I can’t say I love it, because I’d rather have a top-loading bobbin. Her name is Beebee, though 🙂

What features does your machine have that work well for you?
It’s quiet! That’s what I love most about it.

Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine?
Just the side-loading bobbin. Other than that, we cool.

Now that I sort of know what I’m doing and get the machine serviced regularly (and especially since I got a walking foot) it really does everything that I want it to.

Do you have a great story about your machine to share?
Ahhh…no. My machine and I have no great adventures to share, although she did help me finish my very first quilt top!

Would you recommend your machine to others?

I would recommend it to anyone who is newer to sewing. Since it’s a pretty basic machine, there are a few things I want that I’ll have to purchase for it (various feet, for instance), but if you just want to make simpler stuff, it’s perfect!


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

I think it’s important to be able to test a machine out a bit to make sure it fits your needs. Don’t just buy the first machine you see because OMGSEWINGMACHINEIWANT. Be patient and do some research first, and you’ll be much, much happier with the result.

Do you have a dream machine?

I would L-O-V-E to have a longarm quilting machine, to quilt all my ‘tops, both real and soon-to-be created, in a way that is both beautiful and a heck of a lot easier than using a machine with a walking foot. I am happy with my Beebee for now, though. She’s pretty, she’s quiet, and she sews beautifully.