Saturday, February 28, 2009

Don't try this at home!

I had a moment of insanity. I figured, since I was already planning on the sewing machine going into the shop, I could at least satisfy one curiosity I've always had.

Here's what my sewing machine looks like when I take the bobbin case out.

Usually after every bobbin of thread used, I'll dab a q-tip around to pick up any obvious lint and fluff hanging around.

Every two bobbins, I try to open up the area and give it a real good cleaning. The little tab on the left of the wide silver "U" in the above picture opens up the hook removal.

Now you can see the spot of my deep curiosity. What's beyond that silver screw in the center? I envisioned gears and springs and a whole lot of lint. And hey, if I'm gonna be taking my machine into the shop anyhow, why not take a peek?

But before I actually unscrewed it, I decided I better take pictures of my needle positions, cuz this stuff isn't covered in the owner's manual! :D

Little do I know, this picture is what saved me a lot of trouble.

Undid the screw... and hey, I was right about the gears. But no springs or other loose stuff back there.

In fact, not even a lot of lint. No pools of oil either, so I haven't been over-oiling my machine.

Here's the back of the piece I unscrewed out. Just a simple gear to match the bar of teeth above.

Curiosity satisfied! Now to put my machine back together. That's when I had a second of panic - how do I know which gear teeth match up?! I tried to eyeball it, but I was one gear off. Referred to the picture of the needle all the way down, and was able to get it back in place. Phew. ;)

The crazy thing? My free-motion tension is ok now. I tested it long and hard. No more tear-inducing tension problems. I'm not sure if I need to take it to the shop now. Gonna have to sew for a few days to get a better idea. Cuz I'd rather not spend that kind of money if I can help it.

Just don't hold me responsible if you try this yourself! :)


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Something in the air?

I've seen a lot of irritation and sensitivity going around lately. Winter blahs? Nah, plenty of sun here. Cabin fever? Doubt it, it's been hitting high 70s. Sewing machine problems? Check!

It's probably my fault. I ran out of bobbin thread a couple nights ago and called it quits for the night. Tension was just fine. The next morning I load a new bobbin in, and the thread gets caught or jammed somehow. I strongly suspect that I pulled it the wrong way trying to unjam it, and made things even worse. I can not get a balanced tension for the life in me. It starts off ok... then wham! It's really skewed.


It's no fun. I don't know how to fix it. I know that I can't fix it, cuz it's a mirror image to the problem that I had last year. At least I've been down this road before, and I didn't let this problem drive me to tears and slamming doors trying to fix it this time.

The good news is that it seems to be able to piece just fine, and I had enough sense to buy a back up machine. Not gonna go bonkers this time. :)

Lastly, I'm so grateful that this didn't happen while I was dealing with my Christmas crunch and free-motioning my dad's and brother's quilt in the nick of time. I'll be sorry that I can't finish the charm quilt before the last cold spell... but I'm not dealing with any deadlines either.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Charming Monster

It took me a few days to gird myself up with enough courage to tackle quilting the charm squares after I pinned it. No question at all, it's the biggest quilt I've ever done.

I started off with thoroughly cleaning out my machine. Get lint out of the bobbin area, oil it, new needle, wind up 8 bobbins. Hope I have enough thread!

If I haven't free-motioned in a while, I'll go for a little test run on a quilted scrap that I've had for at least a year. Just get some fabric you don't love, slap it together with some batting and jump start your free-motioning.

The tension was spot on this time, but you can see where I had some serious fights with my tension in the past. Naughty machine! :)

Here's the plan for the quilting. Broken up into 4 sections, meandering all throughout.

At the very most, I would be cramming 49 inches of quilt into the throat space of my machine. Sounds doable!

I did mention that I have a throat space of 7.75 inches, right?

I'd say it's crammed pretty good there. The batting was so fluffy and fully of air before it was quilted. I know some people suggest using clips to help hold the roll, but I haven't had much luck with the ones I bought from JoAnn's.

Before I start quilting, I try to remember to check the backing fabric. Too many times I didn't take a few seconds to make sure it was flat, and then much later I would discover that it folded over and I would have to get real friendly with my seam ripper.

The start is looking good. I can do it, I can do it, I can do it.

I marked the center of the quilt with a pin at the intersection, so I would know how far down I needed to quilt the quadrant I was working on.

Each quadrant takes 4.5 bobbins! So I expect 18 or 19 bobbins just for the quilting. Also, each section takes three hours to quilt. I found out that my butt can only handle 1.5 hours of sitting at a time. :)

The first quarter done! I couldn't believe how the quilting squished the batting into thinness.

I was also tickled pink that I didn't get any puckers!! Doesn't matter, if there was a pucker, it'd be there to stay.

I'm really not friendly with straight pins or seam rippers! ;)


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Local Quilt Show

This weekend was my quilt guild's annual quilt show. I slipped by Sunday afternoon to take pictures and greet ladies I knew.

I got roundly scolded for not having a quilt entered in the show - three times over! :)

So I promised I'd show something next year. Have no idea what it might be!

It was feeling a little sparse this year. Not as many vendors, not as many people getting in my way of the camera.

At first I was a little confused, but then I realized that not everybody could just walk in like me because my annual $15 membership covers those kind of things. I know many people are feeling the pinch in their pockets these days.

It was nice to see the quilts, but nothing strongly popped out at me. Well, except for the 9-patch quilt above. I wanna make one.

Maybe it'll be my green and white one hanging in the show next year. ;)


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Crack of Dawn

I woke up at 7 this morning and figured I better buck up and get that charm quilt pinned. I didn't actually start pinning until 7:30.

I figured it'd take me 1.5 hours to pin it, but it actually took two. 2 hours and 440 pins! Yes, my finger is really mad at me. :)

I wasn't fast enough to get it all pinned before my husband woke up, so I did some creative rolling so he could at least access his computer.

On the bright side, he made me breakfast of scrambled eggs and sourdough toast. Just what I needed after all that pinning!

Before I can start free-motioning, I really need to make a dent in the pile of dishes... my cook has officially gone on a strike! :P


Friday, February 20, 2009

Holding my horses

I need more floor space! I was all ready to start pinning the charm quilt together. Got the top with borders done; the batting cut out; the backing sewn together; several hundred pins at my disposal...

And I simply just don't have enough room to layout half of the quilt decently to start pinning. My husband's computer chair is in the way, and he's using it. :P And given that I've already claimed the entire second bedroom for my hobby, it's not fair to ask him to pull away from his hobby because I need 3 more feet.

I figure my two options are to either get up at the crack of dawn and get that sucker pinned, or wait until Monday. We'll see! :)


Monday, February 16, 2009

Quilt Along fabric

I've selected the fabrics I want to use for Judy's Quilt Along. Since I just finished a bear's paw that involved LOTS of lines and stripes for my dad's Christmas gift last year, I'm skipping out on the stripe fabric suggestion. Plus... I don't have any that would work, and I'm not gonna buy fabric! :)

So I rounded up a bunch of hand dyes, with black for the background. I'm started to suspect that hand dyes and black is my "trademark" of quilting. Sure, I dabble with other fabrics; but I always come back to this specific combination.

I'm aiming for my bear's paw to sorta look like something from the Creative Scraps book that I picked up last month.

I'm probably also going to ditch the last border in Judy's version of the quilt - the whole striped fabric that I don't have. Yet... I'm tempted to try a piano key border like this quilt. Will have to think about it.

Hopefully this will also kick away my interest in the bear's paw pattern for a while, because this quilt will be my third time making it! My first time was three years ago, for a charity quilt. I do adore the quilting I did one that one though. :)


Sunday, February 15, 2009

It grew.

I started off this quilt with honest intentions. Just a large lap, maybe twin size quilt so I could get rid of my charm pack lust.

I was happily sewing away, not really caring where the squares went, except to make sure they didn't touch each other.

That was my one goal for the quilt, no squares must sit next to each other.

I put the whole top together, spread it out on the bed... and wow. It looked fantastic.

It was even matching the fleece sheets pretty well, and my dark green couch in the bedroom.

Country and homey feeling. I asked my husband if he liked the quilt, and he said yes. Hmm.

Why not add on two more rows and make the quilt from 16x20 to 18x20 squares? It's almost queen sized!

Toss in a 4" border, and you get a 89"x98" quilt. Perfect!

So, it grew. It grew into a monster!! :P I had delusions of hand sewing down the binding this weekend. Of washing it next Tuesday. Of sleeping under it Tuesday night. Now I hope to get it done by the end of the month.

On the bright side, 6.5 yards have been used up! Just for the squares. There's still the border, binding and backing to cover. No worries, plenty of fabric here. ;)


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Half as charming

I had lust for the 5" charm packs. Big time, and badly so! I was especially drooling over the Wildflower Serenade II pack. They retail around $8 for 40 squares.

Then I began to do the math. If I want to make a quilt that's 16x20 squares, I need 320 squares in all. That's 8 charm packs. Ok, now 8x$8 is $64! Cripes. I don't think I've ever spent that much on one single quilt top's fabric.

And wait a minute, didn't I say I was gonna tackle my stash harder? Then it hit me, 4 years ago I started buying Thimbleberries fabric with no real plan for them. Why not dig those up and cut up my own charms?

It's only half as charming because I found 23 fabrics to work with, not 40. Who cares, it's my quilt! And it's gonna have lots and lots of green. :D

Most importantly, I'm no longer feeling the lust for the charm packs and it didn't cost me any more money to cut up those squares. Make do or do without certainly applies here. :)


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Winter finally came

Oh, happy day! It snowed over night. :) I'm only sad that I didn't get to see the snow actually fall though. I love watching the flakes come down. But it feels like the winter I've been wanting has finally come.

I took a bunch of pictures of the snow at my in-laws house, and their dog was a pretty good object to include in the pictures.

I know... it doesn't really look like snow. It looks like somebody tripped with a bag of powdered sugar. :P Angel wasn't too happy that I was making her sit still - but she kept trying to lick the camera!

I had a lot of fun watching Angel play in the snow. I couldn't believe she was willing to touch it and all, since she hates baths so much.

She also hates the rain and is pretty miserable when the monsoon season comes. But snow? It was her best friend! She ate it, rolled in it, pawed it, rested in it, lovely wonderful snow. :)

I had to give her a good toweling afterwards, so she wouldn't stink up the house too bad.

But I'm really thrilled with the camera my parents gave me, it takes fantastic pictures!!

Probably for my father-in-law's birthday or Christmas I'll print up a bunch of pictures of Angel and the snow. Dare I call them "Snow Angel"? ;)

For Christmas 2007, I gave my FIL a picture of Angel in a frame. A simple gift... but when he opened it, he looked teary-eyed and gave me a hug. (Let's put it this way, nobody else got a hug for their gifts to him!) I know Angel really means a lot to him, but not too many people will show affection towards her.

My husband's happy now too. I can't whine that I'm waiting for winter to come. :D Seriously, it hit 73 last week and I was kinda grumpy about it cuz I had worked up a good sweat. It's a crime to sweat in the winter! :P


Monday, February 09, 2009

First Finish

Tada! First finished quilt for 2009.

A baby-sized quilt... but no babies in sight. (Sorry Dad!)

I do recall buying the fabric from a closing-down Hancock Fabrics right before my wedding in 2004.

I'm clean out of the stripe fabric now, only a string's worth left.

Hopefully I can get the "finished" ball rolling a little faster now. :)


Saturday, February 07, 2009

Saturday Quilting

I squeaked in some stashbusting today. I quilted a top that I made... oh, I'd guess in 2005 or 2006. I don't think I've blogged about it before.

I think I was on an Irish Chain kick back then. It's a pretty small quilt - haven't measured, but it's like 32x40. I also had fun with the direction of the stripes.

Quilted it with loopies. Shortly after I started, I wished I had picked a meander instead... but hey, it's done! :)

The binding's on, and in my book the quilt is good as done. Bindings seem to magically find their way sewn down and I barely have any recollections of doing it. I think it's because it's pretty portable to sew down a binding. In the bed, on the couch, in the car, at my in-laws.

I'm guessing the whole quilt took away another 2.5 yards from my stash. Huh. I better start quilting faster if I want to have any hopes of knocking down the fabric piles! :P


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Somebody whack me please

Cause you know, it's not like I have enough of my own stash to bust... instead, at today's quilt guild meeting I picked up 2 charity projects. One is a baby quilt that needs to be quilted and bound. The other one is 80 blocks that need to be put together to become a twin top.

But it's kinda nice knowing exactly what needs to be done, instead of mentally drifting from project to project without tackling anything, like I've been doing for the past week.

I blame the antibiotics I had to take for my ear infection. They wiped me out and I was either napping or sleeping in just about every morning. Now that my ear is better and the antibiotics are out of my system, I'm feeling back to myself.

Today I have:

-Biked 4.5 miles to my guild meeting and to check out an apartment. That took all morning.
-Clean up most of the kitchen, which made my husband a lot happier.
-Slow roasted a whole chicken and made brown rice for dinner.
-Caught up on my blog reading!
-Spent some quality time with my sewing machine.
-Didn't sleep in or nap!

Yay for health. :)


Monday, February 02, 2009

Stash Watch

It's always fun to look at other people's stashes, right? Take a peek at mine. :)

The reason why I'm posting it is because I seriously need to trim it down. It's not just because there's too much fabric or that I don't really have a handle on it... but because my husband and I are considering downgrading to a smaller apartment. We're thinking about living in a one-bedroom or studio apartment, and then renting a storage room if the combined will save us more than $100/month on our current rent.

There's not a lot of good news lately from my husband's job (public school teacher). First it was they're cutting some people from his department. Next they'll be doing a pay cut. The latest is that the whole school district lost about 25% of it's funding, and there will be 100 positions cut out, district-wide. We really have no idea where we stand at the moment. My husband's tenured, but even tenure status can't overcome the "we don't have money" problem.

How am I taking it? Surprisingly well! :) I think it helps that I've been through this ride before, when my dad found it necessary to leave his employment of 22 years. He started up his own company, and for a few years things were slim. No vacations, no eating out, small Christmases and birthdays. My parents persisted and now their company is comfortably successful. With that in mind, I feel like I can face pay cuts, downsizing and potential job loss and be stronger for it afterwards.

Which brings me back to my stash. I need it smaller so I won't need a storage room (and potentially saving us another $60 or so a month), smaller so there's less to move and more quilts to be enjoyed. My plan for February is to clear up the pile in front of the closet.

I would LOVE to be able to get all of my fabric to fit into the 6-cubes by the end of May. Delusional? Maybe. ;)


Sunday, February 01, 2009

Crayon Roll

Today my husband's family is celebrating my husband's brother's stepdaughter's birthday. (Confused yet?) I think the birthday girl is turning 7. Factor in the recent knowledge that my husband will be getting a 2.7% paycut for the next school year, I've been bucking down on creating more homemade gifts.

Today's gift is costing me $1.64 for the Crayon box, bunches of scraps and several hours of my time. :)

I cut strips of 8"x1.5". Later I'll discover I made the strips too tall.

Arranged and sewn in a rainbow of my pleasing.

For the "holder" part, I cut a 5.5" strip and ironed it wrong sides together.

The crayons measured 3.5" tall, so I figured a 2.5 tall after-seam-allowances holder would work out nicely.

Next I layered the backing, too-fluffy batting, rainbow and then the holder strip.

I'd very strongly recommend a much thinner batting! Like warm and natural or the thinnest polyester you have.

Here I'm testing to see how the crayons look in the roll. I sewed up and down each column.

And that's when I realized that my plan of folding the top half of the roll over the crayons just wasn't going to work. It's the batting's fault. ;)

So before I put the binding on, I hacked off 2.5" from the top. I also ironed it so it wouldn't poof so much.

I wanted to fold over the top to prevent the crayons from falling out, but I think they're snug enough.

Here I'm making the ties for the roll. I took a 1.5" strip, ironed wrong sides together to make a crease.

Then I opened it again, ironed the edges to the middle, then ironed the middle crease back in. Finished off with sewing a line down the open side to keep the tie together.

Before hand sewing the binding down, I attached the ties.

I went back and forth over it three times, because I wanna make sure it doesn't come apart! :)

All the crayons properly in their place.

It does bow a little bit because I didn't make any extra fabric room when sewing on the holder.

All rolled up and tied!

I'm not sure if I would make this again. I know it took me 4 hours. Perhaps because of the too thick batting, perhaps because I didn't know exactly what I was doing.

And I knew there was a reason why I don't work with miniature quilts very much. 4 hours of work and using up only half a yard of fabric? Yikes! I have too much fabric to work that slowly. ;)