Sunday, April 29, 2012

My Summer Wardrobe Plan

I've been working on a wardrobe plan for summer for a few months without success. As I mentioned in my previous post, my life has drastically changed - and I didn't take that into consideration when planning styles and silhouettes. What would that have to do with wardrobe planning? I was stuck in thinking I had to have business casual clothes - when I no longer need them. Funny how habit takes over your thinking sometimes.

I was looking at Kohl's and JC Penney online for some ideas and came across handkerchief skirts and voilla! A light bulb went off. Rather than my usual suited separates, I soon found quite a few of these cute skirts in my shopping cart. What was I doing - goodness, I could sew those and I would have colors and fit that make the most of what I have.

My intended print and colors.
I'm following the suggestions from Stitcher's Guild - well, almost. I find for me that if I make the jacket in a print that it would go with both outfits. The 6pac rules are that the jacket is the color of the first underlayer and overlayer. I'm not sure that I can participate when changing the colors or not but a quick question would answer that!

I'm not totally done with the plan yet - and knowing me, I'll probably change my mind a time or two before all is said and done.

I found the pattern for the McCall's M6559 dress on the forum today and it reminds me of a dress I had from Talbot's that was my favorite a few years ago. It has since gotten too big so I guess all is not lost but I was happy to find it!

My first column solid color.
I'm thinking of replacing the straight skirt with another longer one. I'm going to wear skirts in the hottest weather this year instead of shorts - so I'll need a few of those but in the meantime, I really love those longer skirts. Straight ones are so easy and fast to make that I don't see a problem.

One problem I do have is fabric. Over 50,000 people in this town and there isn't a fabric store. I'll be buying online and suspect I may accumulate a little stash as I choose fabrics that aren't appropriate for my patterns.

My second column color.
I wish everyone listed weight on the knits other than "lightweight". Without actually having the opportunity to feel the weight and drape of fabric, I can see problems coming.

Also, I'm not as familiar with properties of fabric as I should be. I have no idea how to choose online through pictures rather than by feel. Evidently I'm a "touch" person.

I may lighten up these colors a few shades for summer. Pastel aqua and beige are calling my name right now!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Sewing when you're ill or disabled.

My life has drastically changed in the last six years. I was previously an energetic emergency room nurse who worked as many 12 hour shifts per week as I could get.

Within one month of not feeling well, I was in bed flat on my back and not knowing or understanding why. I went to doctor after doctor for months without answers other than insinuating it was psychological in origin.

Hummmmm. Not how I usually handle things. I've had no mental health history except situational depression when family members died.

I remained in bed for over a year and progressed to using a wheelchair for another year and a half. Slowly I got better by giving myself rehab and using pacing.

I'm presently back in a relapse and have no idea of the cause. I spend most of my time in bed and have difficulty doing housework, getting groceries or simply taking a shower at times. I fight to do what little I can and frequently these past two months, it's not much.

Now you know why this blog is a little slow in coming along. I try to keep my mind occupied and these past few weeks have spent hours trolling the internet and shopping for vintage machines! Not a bad hobby but it's getting a little expensive and I'll have to reign that in soon! I also want to actually sew but given the fact that at the moment, simply existing is difficult, I might have to put that off for a while. It's hard to justify spending my energy sewing when there is so much work to do here. I have to pace what I do and at times like this, ADL's take priority.

So what I'm doing in the meantime is accumulating the needed notions, patterns, accessories - and did I mention sewing machines? From my bed - as I write this.

I'm also trying to plan a wardrobe and it just occurred to me that I'll need sick day clothes as well as a normal wardrobe. Sometimes it's hard to simply shower and dress!

I think I'm a sewing machine collector not a sewer!

My new Model 99 Singer
In the space of two months I've collected so many sewing machines that I can't even count at the moment. I would guess five but it may be more. I fell in love with vintage machines and had to have vintage Singers that reminded me of my Moms.

First, I bought a Featherweight. That was somewhat of a fiasco. I was buying what I thought was in excellent shape. It came not as described and without some of the accessories pictured. I'm happy with the machine itself but the case leaves something to be desired. It smells and makes the whole machine smell. I repacked it away with potpourri in it hoping to get rid of the smell. We'll see. Still, I love it and am glad I bought it.

Next, I bought a Singer Model 99 and I love it! It's so pretty, all the decals are intact. It does have pin marks on the - flat part, what is that called again? The wiring going to the motor needs to be replaced because it is crumbling but all in all, I'm happy with it.

I also have bought a vintage Kenmore model 117-812 that I thought was so unusual. It looks kinda like a nightmare of a Singer! :) I had previously bought attachments and have no idea what kind of machine they go to but after doing some research, it appears they will fit this machine. What a deal!

I'm presently bidding on a Singer model 201 and that will be it for purchases of vintage machines for me! I have everyone I think I wanted - no wait. How could I forget? I would like a Red Eye Model 66 or perhaps a Spynx. Did I spell that right? That would be my last purchase!

Maybe a monogramer for my vintage machines would be nice. I bought the vintage buttonholer. Yes, I guess you could say I'm a collector now!

Did I stop there? No. I also bought a Viking Platinum Plus and a Singer 7258. I already had a Euro Pro.

Now if I could just keep all these attachments separated and organized, I will be doing well!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Antique vs. Vintage Sewing Machines

Vintage? Collectible? Antique?

Do you really know the difference? Whatever you do, don't rely on eBay or Craigslist for sewing machine valuation if you're just getting interested in older sewing machines. They are helpful to learn about different makes and models and to compare cosmetics. True worth however, is another thing.

You've heard that an item is worth what a market will bear, correct?

Many quilters have preferences in the older machines because of the quality of the stitch and have voiced their opinions on various boards and forums. I can't help but think their opinions, among others have increased the interest in these older machines.

When visiting eBay or Craigslist you'll frequently see a lot of hype in descriptions of these older machines. A machine made in 1940 is described as "antique" when in reality it has an opportunity to become an antique in the future but is simply vintage now.

Say you find Gramma's machine in her garage or attic. You want to find out what it's worth and start browsing the internet to find out what a similiar model is selling for. This is difficult for a number of reasons.

One - it's very difficult to identify a sewing machine model simply by looking at pictures. The machines made after 1920 are similiar in lines with very subtle differences in shape. Singer provides a website that will help identify it if you have the serial number. That shouldn't be hard to find because the serial number is usually on the front, bottom right-hand corner in the majority of machines you'll find now.

The decals on the machines are beautiful but definitely not an identifying feature of the year your model was made. It can ID a span of years but Singer manufactured machines with the same decals for a number of years. Granted, some are more collectible than others but the majority aren't antiques.

An antique is identified by a tariff act in 1930 as anything over 100 years. I tell you this because I don't want you spending your money on a machine that is described in ads as "antique" when it actually isn't. If you have an idea to invest in sewing machines with the purpose of a return on investment - you better know exactly what you're buying.

On the other hand if you're a quilter or vintage pattern sewer who wants to have an older machine to imitate the methods of long ago, whether a machine is actually antique is hardly an issue.

In either case, you'll want to base your purchase on condition. Many machines are sold without attachments, feet or instruction booklets. You'll find numerous listings on eBay or Craigslist for just the head of the machine. Some aren't even usable without a base of some kind because of the mechanisms underneath. Unfortunately, without the machine being complete, your investment has just dropped considerably. Depending on the model number, accessories can be hard to find. This is important because you'll want to actually use it! Hard to do without a shuttle bobbin or instruction booklet that is going to tell you how to thread it. Accessories are available for a price most times but how readily available they are will determine that price!

How to Buy an Older Machine

1. Know why you're buying it. Are you buying it for the investment? To actually sew with it? Or have you become a collector? This will determine the condition of the machine and possibly the model number. 15-91's are favored by quilters. Red Eye model 66's are preferred by some collectors. Don't even talk about Featherweights! Others buy for color, size or manufacturer. Do some research and know what you want before you actually jump in. I say this from experience!

I bought a Featherweight for $460 dollars and a few days later saw this on Craigslist for $200:

A Red Eye Treadle in an antique cabinet.
If I had seen them both at the same time, I would have had a difficult time deciding which to purchase. The Red Eye machine itself is common but that cabinet in that condition isn't. The Featherweight is also common - a dime a dozen. Decisions, decisions, decisions! One day I will have a machine in a cabinet like this not for investment purposes but to actually use. That doesn't mean that I don't want it beautiful.

Another issue I want to address is the condition you'll frequently see on those sites. Many simply leave the machines caked with gunk because they think it will devalue the machine if they clean it up. Faulty thinking. It's a mechanical machine and was meant to be used. This isn't 17th century furniture you're buying! Make sure it's at least clean!

2. Research the model and manufacturer you want according to the purpose. Research the kind of bobbins it uses, the attachments and feet that were included and the cabinet or case that was original. Does it come with the instruction booklet? Most are readily available on the internet through various forums but again - that's depending on the model.

3. Is the machine complete and in working order? If electric, is it in good condition? The older machines weren't grounded. I wouldn't want a live wire attached to cast iron, I'll tell you that. If it's not safe, you'll need to pay to have it rewired or do it yourself.

I recently bought a model 99 Singer that had a light layer of dust over it. To me, that's acceptable but it's another story for the machine to be caked with oil, dirt and who knows what unless it's rare.

4. Is the base included whether in a cabinet or case? What condition is it in? Cabinets and bases in good condition are more rare than a machine in good condition. See above for the issue of some models needing to be in a base due to the mechansim underneath. If your model requires it, make sure it has it or it's more money out of your pocket.

You 'll find some forums that say to choose your machine by the condition of the cabinet. I agree especially if you're buying an antique.

5. Look for machines at thrift stores, rummage sales and estate auctions. You might find it cheaper than on eBay. One of the reasons I decided to write this post is because of the hype and inaccuracy of information there. I was getting frustrated and I'm a beginner at this! I don't want anyone else being taken advantage of or lied to. I had the time to research but there may be those of you that do not.

And if you happen to see a treadle in a cabinet in southeastern Michigan such as the one pictured above - please email me. I'm determined to have one although I'm not sure where to put it!

Thanks and remember, I'm completely new at this. If there are any inaccuracies, please post in the comments below and I'll update the information. This is just my opinion as a new collector repeating things I've learned.

My Work in Progress Dedicated Sewing Area or Mom - What Do I Do With This??

I can remember when I was a kid and started cleaning my room. I would get almost done and there would be this little pile either on my floor or on the bed - and I would be lost. It's Deja Vu - let me show you what I mean.

Nice beginning to a sewing area, huh?
That doesn't look too bad, does it? The turquoise and brown containers previously housed all my office gear. I no longer have the need for an extensive office so I've decided to reuse them for sewing.

Probably not going to stay exactly like this - esthetics are missing. Gotta make it look better eventually!
Convenient place for rulers and the cutting mat, wouldn't you say?
Remember I said this was a work in progress? You have no idea!!!!

Office stuff, paperwork, books, dvd's and cd's and that's not the half of it!
Can you see the top of my dresser? - Don't worry, I can't either!
Looks can be deceiving, can't they? I cleared off another set of shelves and you see the evidence in the boxes! I no longer use those books and although I can't bear to give them away, I've packed them away for decisions at a future time.

I've placed my machine hoop in a laptop sleeve and it works great. Now I have to find a safe place for the embroidery extension. I think I'll cover the original styrofoam it came in and store it in that. If that breaks, I'm finished with my dream of little girls dresses, linens and other things I have found to put those gorgeous designs on.

Well, back to work - wish me luck!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

My First Quilt - The Grain and Wrinkle Fiasco!

How discouraging! My perfectly ironed quilt is no longer smooth!
I laid this out on the floor a few days ago to anchor the layers with safety pins and didn't give it a second thought when I folded it and put it on top of the ironing board. My Grandkids were coming and I couldn't leave it on the floor!

I'm not sure that you can see the horrific wrinkles in this image but believe me, they are there! There are so many things that books don't tell you!

Not only do I have the wrinkles to deal with but the fabric was printed off grain. I pulled threads AND tore the edges thinking I could straighten this up. I pulled diagonally on the bias. It was not to be - the LARGE pattern repeat is printed off grain.

So that means there will be no piecing on this. I can't cut the print straight if I want the grainline correct. If I hadn't quit so many projects in the past, I would scrap this. However, I'm determined to finish this quilt for my little granddaughter.

I thought a whole cloth quilt would be the way to go. However, I can't quilt in the traditional fashion because it is off grain and the print of the fabric would make it appear out of square.

Then I was reading the documentation to my new (to me) Husqvarna Platinum Plus. It describes embroidery of single motifs to anchor quilts. VOILLA! An answer! I can embroider single motifs to hold this quilt together without making it appear crooked!

Did I mention that I don't have a walking foot? I think with single motifs it wouldn't be as big of a deal. All the purchases I have made lately and I didn't get the most basic of needs! Geez

Hope you learn from my posts. It's not easy to post failures online. I'm somewhat of a perfectionist but sometimes I settle for "good enough". Especially when I am a beginner and trying to learn - finishing this project now is as important to me as perfection. I promised it and I want to deliver!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Sewing Organization When You Have No Sewing Room - Part 2

I'm beginning to collect a lot of sewing "stuff" and without a dedicated sewing area, it's just stuffed all over the house. Not a good thing for organization, peace of mind or ease of use.

This is the stuff I have to organize. I have a 500-600 sq. ft. apartment that has a kitchinette, living room and a bedroom. Seems I have to repurpose a few things to make it more convenient when I decide to sew. Just think - another two machines on their way!

I had a home office set up in my bedroom that I've since almost dismantled. I have a desk, and two shelving units that I'm going to repurpose. My bedroom is small but until I get other furniture, I'll have to make do with what I have!

I thought of clearing off my long dresser - there are two lamps, my jewelry box and perfume on it right now but it would be the perfect height for a cutting table! It's about 60" long so sounds like the perfect length too.

I thought if I put my desk at right angles to the wall with the shorter shelving unit next to it that it would make a good sewing area. The taller shelving unit would be just a few feet behind it. It currently holds my books but I think I'll only keep the ones I use regularly and pack the rest away to make room for sewing stuff.

Sounds like a plan to me and I'll post pics as soon as I've completed it. It might take a while - so don't expect overnight results! :)
Ironing board with the work in progress quilt
The storage tub that I broke yesterday - just what I need, another storage problem!
Notions and attachments sitting on my breakfast counter.
My Embroidery stuff sitting in a tray on shelves above the breakfast counter.
Cutting mat beside the couch.
Sewing books and extra batting between two chairs.

The Husqvarna Viking Platinum Plus Embroidery Machine currently residing on my desk.

My Singer 7258 and Euro-Pro Sewing machine sitting under the breakfast counter.

Sewing Organization When You Have No Sewing Room? Part 1

Well, I've done a bit of shopping lately and have gone from one sewing machine to five. In addition, I've also bought sewing machine attachments and feet. I feel very disorganized because none of those are interchangeable, nor are they labeled at the moment. I do have them separated, thank goodness!

I started out with a Euro-Pro that was given to me. It's not vintage but does have all metal gears.

My Euro-Pro Sewing Machine

It came with quite a few feet and other paraphernalia. It didn't sew at the time and I fiddled with it some, flipped it on it's side and the gears in the bottom were out of line. I'm still not sure exactly what I did - but it sews fine now! LOL Still, I felt I needed one that would be reliable.

I remembered my Mom's vintage Singer that I learned to sew on. Eventually I started looking on eBay to see if I could identify which model it was. I'm also a member of Pattern Review and started reading their Singer thread. That lead me to vintage forums and message boards. My Mom's machine was a model 66 Singer:

This was the cabinet.
and this is an example of the machine:

Image courtesy of
I remember that machine fondly along with the time my Mother so patiently taught me to sew. At the time I didn't fully appreciate the machine and I regret it so! I was a spoiled brat that wanted one of the new Touch n Sew's!

Well, that little journey down memory lane just fueled my interest in vintage machines. In my last post you'll see pics of the Featherweight I just bought.

She's not even here yet but isn't she a beauty?
I wanted to have a vintage machine that would pay homage to my Mom and her sacrifices in buying her machine during the depression. Eventually that lead to eBay listings and posts on Pattern Review. I also wanted a machine that would be reliable and give me a few more options.

So I bought this:

The Viking Platinum Plus Embroidery Machine
It arrived yesterday and I can't tell you how much I love this machine! It's about ten years old but was barely used when I got it. First thing I did when receiving it besides testing the stitching was cleaning out the bobbin area. Sure to her word, she hadn't used it much because I only found the slightest hint that it had been used. Barely any fuzz at all!

It came in two boxes - the embroidery attachments in one and the machine in another. Between all the gear that was included, it's adding to my chaos in my sewing area.

What am I talking about? It's currently sitting on my kitchen counter because I don't have a dedicated sewing area! That's the reason for this post! I have about 500 sq. ft. I am living in and the sewing machine's are taking it over!

Oh yeah - I almost forgot! I bought a few more...

Last month I read reviews of affordable sewing machines and found the Singer 7258 to be favored among users. On Amazon and on the Singer website, it's hard to find anyone with negative comments. At around $200 at your local Walmart, that's a deal!

I hadn't quite made up my mind to buy one yet when I found a new machine at my local Goodwill for $100. They were just bringing it out when I was paying for a Coach purse and jeans. Needless to say, that ended up in my cart too!

One more machine! I bought a Singer Model 99. It's 3/4 sized and based on the model 66. It's in fairly good condition cosmetically but the cord is probably bad. I bought this off of eBay also and he seems to be a little slow in sending it.

Yeah - ok. I fell for the lace!
So - five machines and I don't even have a dedicated sewing space. I live in a very small apartment in a "55 and over" building. I love it here because there is so much character and looks like a castle from the outside according to my Grandkids!

Norman Towers

Norman Towers is a nice place to live and all of us are like family. When I live in a building such as this, is it any wonder why I love vintage machines?

Friday, April 13, 2012

My New Featherweight Purchase!

I've done it! I found a Featherweight that's in pristine condition. I also ordered quilting feet and a buttonholer for it. It's a beauty!

I don't see a mark on her anywhere. I'll have to think of a name for her - most people on the boards and forums have special nicknames. I'll have to think of something unique. She's pretty shiny, isn't she?

Notice the sewing guage on the needle plate! Just what I wanted!

It will be convenient to set up in this small apartment because I don't have my sewing area done yet. I can also take it with me when I'm visiting family. The person who previously owned this used it for quiting class. I might do piecing on it, I'm not sure yet. I'm afraid of ruining the finish on it.

I've heard Carnauba wax is the best for the finish and I'm certainly going to do some research about the care of it. I'm so excited!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Nothing Sew Fast and Easy About My First Quilt!

See the bottom edge? It's not square.
I doubt if there is anything that's going to be fast and easy on this website although I'll probably find short cuts to things I make eventually. Shortcuts for sewing a quilt? I doubt it! Especially for this quilt newby.

Today I've prewashed my other fabrics and they are hanging to dry - a little! I'm going to iron them while damp to help get the wrinkles out. I'm also going to starch as I go, unlike the first batch of fabrics!

Now that it's almost time to cut and sew, I'm thinking of design. One of the fabrics I bought has flecks of gold in it and at the time I thought it was pretty. I have found now that it doesn't have the softness I wanted. I doubt that Dani would carry it around or want to be covered with it if it's stiff. I think I'll use that piece of fabric for the border and use the pink polka dot for the backing.

As the task of cutting and sewing looms before me, I'm thinking of making a while cloth quilt for her with heart appliques. I'm known for my unfinished projects and I don't want to get discouraged with this one.

On second thought, I think I'll use a little fussy cutting and center the snow white motifs on squares and alternate with white polka dot squares. Pink polka dot backing and the pink swirl/gold fleck for the binding. Maybe ruffled, we'll see! After all, how hard can it be to cut and sew 12" squares?

My First Quilt - Prewashing and Ironing Fabric

There are two schools of thought regarding preparing fabric when making quilts. Some quilters prefer to prewash and other's use the fabric without prewashing. I'm making this for my granddaughter and assume it will be well loved. I'm also concerned about sizing and chemicals used in manufacturing processes so I'm prewashing!

It was lying upside down on my ironing board and I can't find a way to flip it! I would like to do fussy cutting but I'm not sure for a first quilt if I'm up to it.

These are the other fabrics I chose:

The fabrics lying flat on my ironing board have been ironed but not starched yet. The fabrics folded on top I purchased on another day and haven't been prewashed.

How I Chose to Prewash

I'll be honest with you. I read everything I could find on the internet for preparing fabric for quilting. I read both schools of thought. Some prefer to use the fabric unwashed because it's easier to work with and/or it will be a display quilt. I chose to prewash.

I filled my kitchen sink with the hottest water possible and placed the fabric in it to soak for 30 minutes. I added about a tablespoon of detergent. No bleeding! That pleased me! After rinsing, I squeezed out the water and hung it in the bathroom over towel bars to dry.

A few hours later I checked on it and it was dry! I couldn't believe it! I used a dry iron and let me tell you - it was difficult to get the wrinkles out. Mind you - I haven't ironed 100% cotton in a long time! Each piece of fabric is a yard and a half and it took some muscle! I finally put water in a squirt bottle and it made it easier to get the crisp look I prefer. Half way through I remembered that starching the fabric might make it easier to work with when sewing! Great - that means I'll be ironing it again!

What I've Learned

I would have chosen more contrast in the colors, different sizes in the prints and possibly added some turquoise to the overall color scheme. I still might add a border of turquoise but we'll see.

I ironed the fabric instead of pressing which may have pulled it off grain. I found it difficult to get all the wrinkles out because I let it get too dry. I didn't realize 100% cotton would dry so fast! All I can say is thank goodness for permanent press fabrics because it was a bear to get all the wrinkles out. I'm sure as I get more experience, it will all be easier. Next time I'll catch it before it's completely dry and use spray starch. I've read that to prevent scorching it's better to spray one side and flip it and iron on the other so I'll be trying that.

If you read this post and have tips for me, please leave a comment! I have a few books that I'm using and I've researched on the net but I'm a complete newby at quilting. Fifteen years ago I attempted a wall hanging quilt. I had no prior knowlege and it was a disaster! I didn't know to baste the layers together and when I started quilting through it, the layers shifted. Yes, it was a wadder and I never finished it. Practice makes perfect, right? This time, I've read everything I can about quilting and will be using my references frequently. Hope it turns out right!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Bought Cutting Mat and Sewing Books Through Amazon

Have I told you that I'm just getting back into sewing after a long hiatus? I haven't sewn in over 15 years and I had given away most of my notions except for the most basic mending needs.

It's been necessary to replace them before I can start to sew. One of my first purchases was a cutting mat. I bought an Alvin in a 24 x 36" size due to the numerous positive reviews on Amazon. It arrived Saturday and is very sturdy and heavy. The price was affordable too making it a sure winner.

I next received my copy of Vogue Sewing. I must say, I was disappointed. I had read that it is a good basic sewing reference. Perhaps it's because I'm a visual learner but I found the illustrations lacking in detail. It does cover basic knowledge on hundreds of topics but I was looking for more of a "how-to" book versus merely theory. It might be good for a basic beginner but as a how-to reference, it is sorely lacking. I've thought of sending it back but at $20, I thought it worth keeping if only to give to my granddaughter or daughter-in-law who have never sewn.

There are still notions that I need to begin sewing again but I'll have to make a list. One of the first items that come to mind are pattern marking items. That will be my next purchase after reading reviews.