I’m feeling very talky today, so naturally I’m home alone all weekend AND I don’t have to work till Monday. No one to talk to! GAH. I’m going to go crazy. A little bit.
Anyway… I spent so much of May not sewing that I got way behind on my just-for-me sewing plans – I didn’t even look at my May A Lovely Year of Finishes goal (which was my Layer Cake HST Quiltalong) and I didn’t touch my Gypsy Wife blocks at all. So I’m behind by all of May and now need to get June done for two quilts… so that’s going to be my goal for the month, getting all those sets of blocks finished!
Here’s where I’m at:
By the time I’m caught up, I won’t be able to fit all my blocks on the design wall any more! (And so probably I’ll wind up taking down the low volume ones and leaving the brights up instead.)
I’ve only got five more blocks to sew for the Layer Cake Sampler Quiltalong…
which means I could finish them by the end of the day if I’d just focus on them. But I’m too distracted! Too distracted by sewing up a block of the Infatuation quilt:
I went and fished another solid out of my bin of solids, one which I fortunately had about three-quarters of a yard of (it takes 5/8s I think to make a single block). I really like this blue, but I think I need to learn to label my solids when they come in the door because I have no idea what colour it is. I’m pretty sure it’s a Kona cotton, but when I compare it to my colour card (which is out of date), I can’t decide what colour it is. I thought at a glance that it was Midnight or Nightfall, but when I put the fabric up closer it looks more like Navy or Indigo. I tend not to find the colour card all that useful in that way… the swatches are two small and I often think I have a match, then when I get it in yardage I discover that it’s really not at all what I thought. Anyway, I actually really like how it looks with a selection of fabrics from Lottie Da and True Colours (crappy Instagram photo):
But whether I love it or not, I don’t know what it is to order more anyway! How much would it suck to make a guess, order 6 yards, and then find out I’d got something a shade or two off?
I’m starting to think that’s what’s going to happen is I’ll make four of these blocks, with four different backgrounds and I’ll either crap out and decide that a 60″ x 60″ throw is enough (or I could slap a border on it so that it’d be big enough to be useful… I’m short, but I like a quilt to wrap under my feet and over my shoulders) or I’ll find something much more neutral and make four coloured background blocks and five neutral ones so that I could mix them all into one quilt. (But then I’d probably not find it that aesthetically pleasing, so. I don’t know.)
Anyway, I also have five or six small things to make, a couple pouches and some hot pads (and I need to find my Insulbrite for those… I know I’ve got two opened packages of the stuff, so I really do need to look) and some other little bits and pieces. None of it sounds like so much when I lay it out like this, but I never seem to sew half as much as I want to, so I never can tell if these ideas of what I should do are realistic. In any case, these are only the things I hope to get done this month… and the Gypsy Wife stuff is the actual proper goal.
So I was not a winner this past Giveaway Day at Sew Mama Sew or not a winner of stuff, anyway. Per usual, I found a bunch of new blogs to add to the rotation, even though some weeks I don’t have enough time to read all the blogs I already follow. (Fair question: how much more sewing would I get done if I spent less time reading about sewing?) Point being, that’s winning of a different kind, right? I like finding new blogs and new Canadian blogs (or just new to me ones). And also, I kind of won by finding this gorgeous pattern for the Infatuation quilt, which I bought right away (forget waiting to see if I’d win it or not… let’s face it, with 500+ entrants, I probably wasn’t going to!). I thought it would be perfect for using this bundle of Heather Bailey’s True Colors line that had stumbled into a Mad About Patchwork order some time ago.
The bundle wasn’t quite big enough for the size quilt I want to make, so I started picking up some bits and pieces of Lottie Da, another line by Bailey, to add in with it. Here are a million and one (3) photos of the original line, plus the assorted Lottie Da prints I picked up:
I didn’t plan it out very well because I got enough prints, but I didn’t get enough of the right sort of prints – I’ve got a spare one that doesn’t fit in, plus I need one busier print to go along with two of the blender prints. Each set of nine fabrics will make up three blocks – except the particularly leafy green one (in the bottom photo) won’t be in the quilt and… something else will be. It’ll probably be another butterfly print from Lottie Da, but I’ve ordered two choices so we’ll see what happens.
I was really undecided about what sort of background to use – I don’t want to pull in pure white (since the fabrics have an off-white background) and so I’d checked Hawthorne Threads to see what solids they recommended and they’d suggested a Michael Miller Cotton Couture grey as well as a few of their own Hawthorne Hues fabrics. I happen to know someone with a nice big stack of Hawthorne Hues in her possession – Michelle at Factotum of Arts – so I fired off an email to see what she thought of the fabric itself. You never quite know with solids – Cotton Couture and the Art Gallery Solids are probably the best feeling solids out there, Kona Cotton is nice to work with but less luxurious to touch, Moda Bella and I have had some tiffs in the past (omg the ripples in the fabric, even when I’ve neither pressed nor ironed), I’ve used solids from a local fabric chain store that was much thicker than quilt shop quality solids, but much more shred-happy… anyway, the point being, without actually seeing and touching the Hawthorne Hues, I was a bit nervous to buy 6 yards for a quilt backing.
Michelle was absolutely magnificent and didn’t just tell me what the fabric was like – somewhere between a Kona and a Cotton Couture in terms of feel – but also got out her own bundle of Heather Bailey’s True Colors line and photographed it up against a dozen or so different colours from the HH line and posted it for me on Instagram! She’s the awesomest! I can’t access IG right now (the last couple updates have made it so the app doesn’t function on my phone any longer), so I can’t show you all the photos she took for me, but from her selections I picked out three different Hawthorne Hues fabrics, plus a light grey Cotton Couture to audition for background fabrics.
This orange solid from Hawthorne Hues, Pumpkin, was my total wild-card pick. I think it’s interesting and it lifts up everything and makes it all seem even brighter and happier than it already is… but oh my god does it scare me to think of 5 yards of quilt background done up in pumpkin orange. I don’t actually think I can do it!
Jade, another Hawthorne Hues fabric, is probably my favourite choice. It’s lovely and not so overwhelming as I think orange would be… but I’ve got a finished quilt top that is almost this exact same colour (it’s done in cross-weaves, but it’s a very similar jade). It feels like I should do something different, just because I’ve done that colour before. (I should really get that quilt top basted and start quilting it…)
Plum Azalea (I think? I’m questioning everything right now!) from Hawthorne Hues is my other favourite. It’s very, very similar to one of the colours from the True Colors line, which is a little scary, because I’d hate to piece it and have those purpley-pink prints kind of disappear against it, but look how the oranges and greens pop up off of it? Lovely.
I keep calling this grey, but Michael Miller calls it Khaki. I picked this one up because I thought I’d be too scared by the bold colours and need something lighter to fall back on for the background… but it’s awfully dreary, isn’t it? Or maybe I should say that the only reason it doesn’t wind up dreary is that I cropped enough of the grey background out that you get drawn into the bright Lottie Da and True Color prints and sort of forget that background behind it.
But here’s the real issue with this colour:
What’s that? You can’t tell what you’re looking at because it’s just a big sea of grey? Yeah. Kinda samey, isn’t it? Super duper samey.
I had bought these four colours so that I could do test blocks and see which I preferred, but then I got thinking about it and realized that if I do four test blocks, I’ll have sewn up a throw-sized test quilt! The blocks are 30″, it’ll be a 60″x60″ test! That’s an enormous test! (And yes, okay, I could do a maquette, quilt-style. But I’m not sure I could scale down the curved piece for a maquette.) So yeah, I haven’t quite decided what to do as far as that goes. I’ve got enough of the print and solid fabric to actually make 4 test blocks, so I technically speaking COULD do it… but if I put in that much effort just on the test, am I actually going to want to sew the quilt?
I do need to do at least one proper test block because there is curved piecing and that’s something I’ve never actually done before. Well, I say that. I’ve done it once before. I had gotten some swap blocks long, long ago and one of them was all curved piecing, but kind of badly done, so I pulled the block apart and sewed it together again, to fix the curves. But that was probably eight years ago and I was just fixing a block that had previously been sewn, it’s not like I was starting with crisp new fabric. And I think I did it by hand, which must also make a difference. Anyway, I do need to do at least one test, just to get a bit of curved piecing under my belt, maybe I’ll stop being so scared of it. But I’m not sure I want to do four test blocks. I dunno, I dunno.
Anyway, linking up with the always fabulous Molli Sparkles for Sunday Stash:
So I’ve been thinking about how I haven’t really had a lot to post lately (I say that, but have three in progress posts, all very overdue, which I could expand out to six, but won’t…) and that got me thinking about how I should do a series of posts about the quilts I own. Not the ones I’ve made, though I’ve got a couple of those, but just the quilts that are in my possession, all of which were either given to me or which I liberated from my Mom’s house. The quilt I’m going to talk about today was kind of given to me, but kind of bought by me. Bought for a song, really, hence the kind of given to me part of it…
Back in I think 2010, my mom’s family had a family reunion – it was held out at my Aunt Helen’s house in the Fraser Valley in BC and relatives from the US (California, Alaska, Montana… no wait, North Dakota… the one with Mount Rushmore, maybe that’s South Dakota?) and all over western Canada came out for the weekend. In order to pay for the food and a bit of the water/electricity bill and all of that, the family donated items for a silent auction. My Aunt Helen took me upstairs to one of her closets and pulled out a pile of unquilted quilt tops and asked me to help her decide which one to put into the silent auction. My aunt at one point quilted A LOT (she’s more into making glass beads now), but she (like me) had a lot of finished tops and not so many finished quilts, so from the few she pulled out of the closet, I picked the red Double Irish Chain. I LOVE a red quilt, so hells yeah.
I was ever-so-slightly afraid that my family members would bid like… $5 and a two-four of beer for this double or queen-sized entirely hand-stitched quilt, so I made sure to put down the first bid, and I bid $50. I thought for sure someone would bid above that, but I wanted it to at least start with a number less insulting than I thought some of my family members might give it. Nobody outbid me. (I mean, c’mon! It’s hand-stitched! It’s made of fabric, which is not free or even cheap! It came attached with a promise to get it quilted and usable! This was worth so much more than $50!)
It took a couple years, but when my aunt was coming through Calgary in 2012, she brought me the hand-stitched, hand-quilted quilt:
Love! Did you see that quilting detail? The entire thing is hand-quilted in a one-inch diagonal grid! Crazycakes. When I got it, it was covered in cat’s hair, which I have some allergy issues with so I was going to wash it, but then I discovered some cat’s claw marks in it too:
Two edges of the quilt had several claw gouges in it, right along the edge of the binding, and I was afraid to wash it, just in case those clawed areas ran or frayed a lot. So instead I folded it up and put it away in the closet for two years, until this week when I decided to just suck it up, chuck it in the wash on gentle and see what would happen. SUCH a bad idea.
Forget the claw marks, which did fray a little, and which I think I should just whip-stitch together and then patch a bit of red blender fabric over top of. Forget that entirely, instead, think about what happens with cheap, non-quilt shop quality red fabric:
The staining is almost all of it from just one fabric in the mix – that one with circle dots and stripes on it. Everywhere that fabric is up against a white patch, it has bled. (Sometimes it even blend from folded over areas in the wash-machine and the white patches it was touching were also bled all over.) It’s so frustrating and so disappointing because this is such a lovely quilt and I was really looking forward to having it in rotation with some of my other bed quilts. But to be honest, I could be a lot more upset about than I am, I’m going to try washing it with Oxy-Clean and see if it helps, but if it doesn’t… I’m still just going to use it. It’s a nice quilt, even if it does look like it went a dozen rounds with a sippy cup of juice.
So May has been a bit of a difficult month for me. You mightn’t have noticed, but I’ve only updated a handful of times all month and mostly they’ve been Sunday Stash posts – as in not much more than some pretty pictures. I’ve worked on and finished a couple things, but I spent most of the month in a haze of sickness – I had bronchitis! I had so little energy just waking up sent me back to bed! – and that means I’ve got relatively little of value to show you. But I wanted to write a post to say that I’m still working on answering the comments from my last Sunday Stash (about ugly and unwanted fabric, which several people hinted or said outright that they’d love to take off my hands, and I’d love to let you, so I really need to get to it!) and just to show that I am still alive and kicking.
I occasionally post videos that I make for a group of online crafty friends, called Talk to Me Tuesday, so I figured I’d post my most recent two. This one from this week shows some mail I’ve received recently. The fabric basket swap was for the 4S swap on flickr (Simple Sweet Scrappy Swap) and the Travelling Swap Box is a box of crafty things that is being sent from person to person in my Talk To Me Tuesday group:
This video is from when I was so terribly sick and shows what I sent away for the 4S swap and also what I received from the Strawberry Dumpling Pouch swap (Dumpling Swap) and also something that my friend Mari-Ann/Rockislander sent me for so thoroughly breaking my attempted fabric fast. It’s a bit brutal to listen to because I could barely talk.
I made it sound a bit awful, that Mari-Ann was waiting for me to fail, but this is what I said to her when we were talking about it: I never thought of it as awful, just like you said… fabric is my Kryptonite :D I thought it was pretty funny, more like… hey, we both know you don’t really want to do this, even if you think you should, so let’s not call this incentive, but when it happens, and it’ll happen… let’s celebrate :D
In any case, I’m hoping to get a few posts written about actual things very soon! I have really done very little in May – I haven’t even looked at my Lovely Year of Finishes project or my Gypsy Wife! (And I was a winner last month for A Lovely Year of Finishes!) – but that basket I was talking about needs to be properly shown here and the things that I sent away for the Strawberry Dumpling Swap as well! So I hope to be back soon…
So last week I talked a little about having a stash of “uglies” that are fabrics I don’t like or want any more and so some of that was what I gave away for my Sew Mama Sew giveaway last week.
I had a few people mention to me that the fabric wasn’t really ugly that they liked it quite a bit, which is fair enough. I didn’t even really think it was ugly, I just didn’t see myself actually using it because the colours just don’t work for me terribly well, nor the prints. It’s easier to lump them all in as Ugly though than to have a bunch of different categories for all my unwanted fabrics. Which is maybe what I should call them, just unwanted.
I have a huge collection of these things. Well, not huge, but huge enough. They sit on the window sill in my sewing room, absorbing sunlight and probably getting faded down the one side. My “uglies” pile is a collection of a bunch of different things – some of these are things that I think look fine, but that I can’t figure out how to use:
These ships were too big for the quilt I wanted to use them in. I don’t often use this kind of novelty print, so I really don’t know what to do with it! Same with the squirrels. They’re cute, but I really don’t have the least idea in mind for them.
Sometimes I have no effing idea what I was thinking when I bought them. I mean, I know what my original idea was.. but it was a terrible idea and now I’m stuck with mass amounts of such a terrible print. (One of those I have enough for a quilt back!)
Speaking of no idea… the manzanita print? Ugh. The couches? Fun, but… what can I possibly do with them? The owls and spiders? So not my style. Some of these aren’t horrible, exactly, but I just can’t work with them. Sometimes it’s the colour (like that yellow print) or the texture (like that gingham, which is heavier than a typical quilting cotton) or the quality (like the pink lattice).
This is a never-ending and un-fun Sunday stash because these are all things I don’t love in any way, so who wants to talk about them?
The rest of these are all things I bought before I could afford to buy nice fabrics, so I’m wary of using them because they’re not maybe the greatest quality.
Well, there’s the quality issue, but then there’s also the faux tapestry look. I can’t imagine any scenario in which I thought that was a great print, yet I’ve got a couple metres of it in two different colours! The celtic prints… yeah. I originally had the idea of using the Celtic knot prints… in a Celtic knot pattern. That’s not too obvious an idea AT ALL. When I first started sewing, I lived in a town with only one fabric store – Fabricland – and I was working part-time at a place that paid $8.50/hr. I wasn’t ordering fabric online, I couldn’t afford to go into the city to get nice stuff. I just had to deal with what was on the racks, and this was the kind of stuff they had. Fabricland quilting cotton has definitely improved in the last ten years – they sell big brand names now (usually relabelled, but if you check the selvedge you’ll find Robert Kaufman and Riley Blake and so on), but they didn’t back when I first started.
People always tell me I should donate fabrics like these, but honestly someone would have to drive up to my house to get them or else to pay to have them shipped, because the nearest place I know of that takes donations is an hour away by transit (and also, some of this stuff I would donate, but some of it I’d rather trade for). I got rid of about this amount of fabric just before Christmas – mostly florals that my mom had bought me and some childrens prints – and then in my last stash clean-up found this many more. I wonder how much my tastes will have changed in another five years or ten? I guess I should get start using some of my stash, save myself winding up hating it all!
Linking up with Molli Sparkles for Sunday Stash:
The Sew Mama Sew Giveaway is now closed – the winner will be notified today and the winner will be revealed Sunday, May 18.
If you’re here for the SMS Giveaway Day, just scroll down a bit till you see the SMS logo – there’s a bit of bloggy housekeeping up top here! Feel free to stick around though or just to come back when the craziness of Giveaway Day is over – I’d love to have you back!
So last week I did a bit of a giveaway with my Sunday Stash and in the end I wound up with three winners — I had chosen two people who both wanted Strawberry zip-up pouches and then I thought and thought and thought and decided that I’ve got more than enough fabric to make pouches for both of them, so I decided to do that, and then found a third winner for the gift card. So my winners are Jo at Riddle and Whimsy, Mara at Secretly Stitching, and Katy at Lethargic Lass. So congrats to all three of you!
Just for a change, I haven’t got any new fabri…. okay, I lied! I just remembered that I went to my local fabric shop for some sewing machine oil and came home with these beauties I’d shared on Instagram:
I didn’t, incidentally, come home with sewing machine oil because I got so distracted by the mirror ball fabric and Lizzy House’s jewels prints that I completely forgot the oil. When I did go back the next day, I did walk out with oil and without fabric! Success! (Of sorts. The oil was my last attempt at getting that Juki sewing machine working. It didn’t help, so I think it just needs to be serviced to see if there’s something wrong with the machine or with the way I’m trying to use it.)
Anyway, in light of the fact that I thought I had nothing to share, I decided to do a Just One Day Early post of my Sew Mama Sew giveaway prize, which is a little bit of a destash, since the two fat quarters are fabrics I’ve had in my stash of “uglies” for a while and since the charm pack was something I’d bought with the intention of eventually using it in a giveaway. (I’ve had it for some months, these are neither of them recent purchases.)
The two fat quarters are both from a Dear Stella line, which I think was called Mimosa, which I haven’t been able to confirm. (Dear Stella doesn’t list the line on their site any longer, but Google suggests I might be right.)
The charm pack is the very lovely Sunrise collection from Kona. I just love that photo of it – makes me want to buy a bit of all the colours and just stack it up somewhere to ooh and ahh over. Lovely!
So my giveaway is open internationally and will be awarded to someone who leaves a comment… oh, I don’t know… telling a story about a favourite sunrise you once saw or maybe a link to a photo you took of a beautiful sunrise. Or maybe you can tell me what you like to do with charm packs or with layer cakes (since I’m working on a Layer Cake Sampler Quiltalong, I’ve got layer cakes on the mind… I’ve got at least three or four more stashed away in the closet!). Or tell me about your fabric stash: do you have an uglies pile for things that come into your possession that you don’t like (or things you’ve changed your mind about and then wonder what the heck you were thinking when you bought them)? What do you do with those fabrics? (I’ve heard and even believe that adage that if you still don’t like it, you haven’t cut it small enough. It’s true, you can do a lot of good with a lot of ugly when it comes to fabric, if you figure out the right thing to do with it, but sometimes I just don’t have the patience.) In any case, leave a comment! And leave a comment that’s more than just “thanks for the chance” because if that’s all you say, then you’ll be disqualified immediately. Also, please don’t leave your email address in the body of your comment – WordPress gives me (but NOT my readers) access to your email address so as long as you type it correctly, I’ll be able to contact you.
Best of luck and remember to hit up Sew Mama Sew from Monday through Friday this week (May 12-16) to enter as many giveaways as your little heart desires.
ETA: I always do my best to respond to all the comments people leave on my blog – and will even be doing so this week! – but I WON’T be forwarding them to your email like I usually do. If you’re interested to see my response, feel free to pop back in another time, but I’m not expecting it, so no worries! (Mostly I’m just using my comments to number label all the entrants so that Random.org can do an easier job of drawing a winner.)
So I’m still way behind on posts that I started to write in mid-April, but I decided to scrap one of those draft posts and rework it into my May Goal for A Lovely Year of Finishes: my unfinished Layer Cake Sampler Quiltalong blocks/quilt top. While I was on vacation, I got seven more blocks done and I’ve done two more since then, but I think I still have five more to go. Here’s the newest finishes:
(Yikes! I forgot to take pictures of the last two blocks! I’ll add them in tomorrow or you can probably see them in my Instagram feed thing on the right. Unless I’ve taken pictures since then, but I don’t think so!)
Maybe I should say more about these blocks, but there’s just too many to really talk about them all! But to say what I’ve said in the past: the prints are all from Basic Grey’s Eva line of fabrics and the off-white is a Moda Bella solid.
I’m pretty sure I’ve got five left to sew up in order to finish all 20 blocks, so my goal for A Lovely Year of Finishes is to get those blocks done and to get the quilt top pieced… So I still need to cut out the sashing and figure out what to do for cornerstones (it isn’t easy to find more of this fabric and I’m not sure how much Eva fabric I’ve got left in my stash). And of course piecing all of it. It’s going to be quite a big quilt top, really, so it’s the kind of thing I love to put off and never finish…
Linking up to WIP Wednesday with Lee of Freshly Pieced, WIP Wednesday with Needle and Thread Network, Let’s Bee Social with Lorna of Sew Fresh Quilts, and finally Sew Bittersweet Designs and Fiber of All Sorts for A Lovely Year of Finishes.
So I don’t know if you know this about Canada, but sometimes we get snow. And sometimes it lasts forever and ever and ever and ever. It’s May, yes, but it’s been snowing again. Normally when we get snow in May it hits the ground and melts, but it’s only melting on pavement and sidewalks, so the trees and grass are all white and wet and it’s gross and depressing and this winter just won’t end. A month ago I kept taking pictures on Instagram and labelling them #ohmygodawinterforayear, which was a reference to an Arcade Fire song, Winter for a Year:
But the other day I had some mail arrive from China with various different cuts of strawberry print fabrics. Summer in a brown envelope! I’d ordered it because I was participating in a Strawberry Dumpling Pouch swap on Instagram/Flickr (#strawberryswap or Dumpling Swap), but it didn’t arrive until after I’d finished sewing the project with non-strawberry fabrics. Sigh. Thanks, Canada Post, for holding it in Richmond for a couple extra days after saying it’d been processed through customs!
Now that I don’t have a need for strawberry print fabric, I’m wondering what the heck I’m going to do with the stuff! I need a second strawberry swap just to use it up… But then again… WordPress is telling me that yesterday was my 3 year anniversary on WordPress and this is going to be my 222st entry (which I’ve been watching/waiting for), which means it’s time for a giveaway!
Per usual, I’m going to do two giveaways and they’re going to be as follows:
1. A $25 giftcard to my favourite Canadian fabric shop, Mad About Patchwork. You could pick up this Mormor bundle from the Designer Bundles section or Spring Forecast from the Curated Bundles section or, you know, you could get five-sixths of that Shot Cotton Sampler from the Stash Bundles section. (It’s really too bad there’s not a $30 gift certificate option – it’d open a few more doors!) Or you could do like I always do a throw in a little of this and a little of that. I recently picked up a selection of Essex Linen blends and you could too!
2. The second
possibly more boring giveaway will be a hand-made pouch or drawstring bag made with some strawberry print linen, as seen above. It’s not made yet, so you’ll just have to imagine it in your mind’s eye! The winner can choose between a zipper pouch (likely the wide-open pouch from Noodlehead, but it could be a dumpling pouch if you’d like something tiny) or a drawstring bag from the In Color Order tutorial. I will also include some charm squares, cut from my own stash, in the colours of your choosing and, well, who knows what else… something, surely.
I’ll be drawing two names, the first one drawn will get their choice of prize, so if you prefer one giveaway over the other make sure to mention it in your comment. (If the first winner doesn’t mention a preference, than the second name drawn will get their first choice.) Otherwise just leave a comment of some kind and something other than “thanks for the chance!” You could tell me about the weather where you are (though maybe I won’t want to know, if this snow doesn’t go away…) or you could tell me why raspberries are better than strawberries or you could give me your favourite strawberry-based recipe or you could tell me about your favourite place to shop online or what kind of swaps you like to participate in or share some of your favourite music with me or whatever….
The winners will be drawn on Saturday, May 10 and will be announced on Sunday, May 11 in my next Sunday Stash post, so enter the giveaway by Friday, lest you miss out! You don’t need to be a follower of any kind of be entered, so if you’re popping by from Molli Sparkle’s Sunday Stash or from Fabricholics Anonymous, feel free to enter.
And speaking of Fabricholics Anonymous? Well…… this was an April purchase and it’s not something I pre-planned and it’s not something I “needed” to finish a swap requirement (I’d planned to use it for a swap, but I got by without it when it didn’t arrive in time and would have got by without it if I hadn’t bought it at all). So I guess that’s another month in the failure zone. (And if you’re a close reader, you might also have noticed I mentioned recently buying some Essex Linen blend fabric. So you know. There’s that.) I’m really not very good at this not-buying-fabric thing. Maybe May. Actually, no, not maybe May, because Pink Castle Fabrics had a big sale on all their bundles and I am weak. Maybe June.
So in a bit of good news/bad news, a good friend’s mother-in-law, who was a quilter, recently passed away and left behind a very nice array of quilting supplies and sewing machines. None of her family members are interested, so they had me over to her house to look through her things and see if I wanted anything. She had a Grace quilt frame and three sewing machines and all the various accoutrements. As nice as it might be to learn to quilt with a frame, I really don’t have the room for it – I rent two bedrooms in my sister’s house and could make use of the basement, but it is unfinished and none of the plug-ins are connected yet – and whenever I wind up moving out of here, the chances of my having that kind of space are pretty slim anyway. She also had a really lovely old Singer sewing machine, which I didn’t take home either:
So lovely (so dusty!), but I wouldn’t use it (and don’t know if it was in working condition) and again… don’t really have room to store extra things like a sewing machine I wouldn’t use. Even if it is lovely as anything.
What I did bring home was the quilt that was on the frame – which I plan to quilt up and return to my friend and his family – and a Juki TL98E sewing machine.
This straight-stitch only machine was the one the owner used on her quilting frame and it was all set up and ready to go with the aforementioned quilt. I brought it home a couple weeks ago, but haven’t had a chance to look at it until last night, when I finally took off the cover, figured out how to thread it (Thanks to Sarah for the help with that and the bobbin!), and tried it out.
I haven’t been able to sew more than a single stitch with it yet! Every time I try to sew, the top thread breaks… or at least I think that’s what happening. At first I thought it was unthreading, somehow, but looking at it more closely, there’s a shredded thread every single time.
This is what it’s looking like from the top – one, two or three stitches, and then the top thread is pulled through to the back and the needle is just going up and down with nothing in it.
And then from the bottom.
The things I’ve tried include:
1. Changing the needle – I switched it first from a 100/16 to an 80/12. As far as I can tell, she only used Schmetz Universal needles in the machine — all the supplies for the machine were in the same zipper bag and that’s all we found — so I’m not sure if using them rather than the ones recommended by the manual is causing a problem. I also changed the needle again, in case there was a flaw in the first 80/12 needle I used.
2. Changing from the FMQ foot to a regular piecing foot and being sure the feed dogs were engaged. (They were.)
3. Changing the thread – she had a different thread in the bobbin than on the top of the machine, so I wound a new bobbin from a Guttermann spool I recently bought and used the same thread on top and bottom.
4. Cleaning inside the machine. (Repeat this a lot of times, culminating in the time when I took off the throat plate so I could sweep out dust around the feed dogs, dropped one of the throat plate screws on the floor, and lost it down the air vent. (I tried using a fridge magnet to sweep around inside and see if I could get it back, but no luck.)
5. Changing the bobbin case tension (it seemed to unspool more quickly than I imagined from the description in the manual – it was a bit of work to find the sweet spot where it moved without sticking, but wasn’t just falling like happens when you drop a bobbin while holding onto the thread).
6. Back way up near the top of the list: threading and unthreading and rethreading and threading again, lest I was doing something wrong, again and again ad nauseum, pretty much every time I tried anything and it didn’t work, I’d do this again. And then again for good measure. I tried turning the spool the other direction on the spool rod too, just in case that was wrong.
7. Changing the stitch length. That shouldn’t have made such an issue, but it was set to six, so I switched it back to ~2.
8. Fiddling with the presser foot pressure. It seems very tight, regardless of where I set it, but the fabric feeds through nicely regardless.
9. Fiddling with the tension knob – I’ve gone higher and I’ve gone lower, and I still haven’t managed to do any more than what you can see in the picture above.
It was obviously a machine she used, so I do think there’s got to be something I am doing wrong, but I can’t figure out what it is. I haven’t got any spare money at the moment, but I’m a little tempted to take it in somewhere to get it serviced and see if they can’t help me figure it out. It really does need to be properly cleaned (because even after my multiple attempts, I keep finding new bits of dust to fish out of the works every time I open it up) and there was a half an inch of broken needle inside the… well, where you access the bobbin mechanism, so maybe something was damaged by that she hadn’t discovered it yet. Or maybe that’s why the quilt on the frame wasn’t started yet, maybe there was some kind of problem.
I haven’t paid my friend anything for the machine yet – and it was a conditional yes, I’ll take it off your hands, in the sense of being yes, I’ll take it if I can figure it out – but I hate to feel thwarted by a sewing machine. I’ve been sewing for years and years! A piece of machinery, even a complex one, shouldn’t be giving me quite this much trouble!