Work-in-Progress Girl


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Juki TL98E

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:

Look at this thing... So pretty!

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.

Juki TL 98E

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.

X!X!XFAILURE ALERTX!X!X

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.

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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.

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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!

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Sunday (Scrap) Stash

So last week for Sunday Stash I started the slow reveal of all the stuff I bought from Hawthorne Threads in the month of Misbehaving March (I’ve decided it needs a name – February Fabric Fast Fail and Misbehaving March?). Part of it was due to a gift certificate from Michelle, but part of it was just me having grabby hands. Most of it was me having grabby hands, really, and I extended it by also buying some fabric from Warp and Weft, which remains one of the loveliest online fabric shops I’ve ever found. (Seriously, Esmari’s just got such interesting fabrics… things that you don’t really tend to find elsewhere. It’s a well-curated collection, I suppose.)

But today, I’m just going to keep on picking away at the Hawthorne Threads loot… I picked up a scrap bundle in the “Fresh” colourway. I’ve bought scrap packs from them quite a few times and for a long while now they’ve had them on sale – $6.99 for about 2 yards of scraps by weight – so it’s usually hard to resist. This time I got mostly larger scraps (some of these are over a quarter yard, close to a half yard I think, though I didn’t get out the ruler to check the width) and unfortunately I’m pretty split on liking it vs. not.

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Last week I showed you all those lime fabrics I bought… I felt a little like they continued the theme into my scrap pack choices! I am not the biggest fan of the Denyse Schmidt print, Pie Basket, from Hope Valley, but I think I’ve probably got a half yard of it in my stash somewhere! The print beside it, that lime green… poppy print feels like a Laura Gunn print, but I’m not sure that it is – the painted background says yes, but I can’t find confirmation anywhere. On the bottom left is Poppy Modern by Jane Dixon for Andover and on the right Turtle Parade by Patty Sloniger from her Les Amis collection. I just.. I wish Hawthorne Threads had separate packs for children’s fabrics. They’re cute, those turtles, but what on earth am I going to do with a 6″ x WOF strip of turtle fabric? A lot of that children’s fabric that I gave away on the last Sew Mama Sew Giveaway day actually came from Hawthorne Threads scrap packs.

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I really don’t like that big chevron top left. It’s from Riley Blake and the colours are probably significant to some American university or football team or both, but they’re horrible. That yellow and that green do not belong together on the same giant chevron print. Next up is a print from Rashida Coleman Hale’s Washi line… I don’t know what the name of it is, but I know it’s getting pretty hard to find. It’s cute, but you know… I never felt inspired to buy anything from that line. I’m certain I’ll use it, but I just didn’t care about it that much. And finally another chevron, this one from Robert Kaufman, though again I don’t know it’s name. I think I’m just bored of chevrons because meh. It’s rather too pink for me, though the green does liven it up a little, but on the whole I feel pretty meh about it.

The rest of this post is going to be devoted to the fabric and scraps that Mari-Ann (@rockislander on Instagram) sent me in exchange for a bunch of Mendocino scraps I sent to her. I think some of this she sent me just because, but we both left feeling like we’d got the better end of the deal, so I think that’s a sign of a pretty good swap.

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I don’t know what almost any of these are, though if anyone is particularly curious, I might be able to find out if you ask. My single favourite piece is the second in from the right on the top row. Love that one. If you go see my March Gypsy Wife blocks, you’ll see a bunch of these fabrics in action — the swap was kind of set up so that she would send me things I’d be able to use in the Gypsy Wife quilt, either bright fabrics like this, or more muted ones for my Lower Volume version.

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Again, I don’t know the names of any of this stuff, but they’re going to be great for the quiet Gypsy Wife. When Mari-Ann was showing me fabrics that she could send, I was surprised by how easy it was to love love love the bright fabrics and how much less easy it was with the low volume. I like every one of these fabrics, but they sure don’t set me on fire the way that hot pink one up above does. Maybe that’s why I keep thinking I have no low volume fabrics – they just sink back into the background until I forget they exist, even when I think they’re lovely.

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Old School Tula Pink! So old school it’s printed by Moda, this print is from her Hushabye line and when it came out I kept wibbling over it because I couldn’t figure out why or if I liked it at all and I never bought it, in any case, but now I have a half yard of it, so I’m going to have to find something fun and interesting to do with it!

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And finally, the awesome and luscious and wonderful Hive in Turquoise from Patty Young’s Flora and Fauna line, another oldie but goodie that nearly passed me by back in the day. I bought a bunch of it in a couple of the colours, but for some reason never bought any of the turquoise. Clearly I was nuts because this is so awesome.

Linking up with Molli Sparkles for Sunday Stash!

Tune back in next week for even more from my March Hawthorne Threads purchases. I’m trying (trying!) to let it be enough to talk about fabric I bought last month, so that I don’t break down and buy even more fabric this month. I’ve sort of decided I need to adjust my goal as far as this fabric diet goes, so that instead of trying to buy nothing just for the pat-myself-on-the-back of it, I need to have a particular goal in mind. And that goal is a new sewing machine.

I’ve wanted a new sewing machine for ages, but for a long time I worried that I’d give up on the sewing and then I’d have an expensive machine I never looked at. And then I started thinking, well, the one I’ve got isn’t special, but it sure does work and I couldn’t justify buying a second machine when the first one was functional. But facts is facts and I’d like a machine with at least one or two bells and whistles. My current machine is like… wood blocks and hand claps, so even just one bell and one whistle… I could be happy with that. So the new goal is… try not to buy fabric until the end of August (my birthday is at the end of August, so it feels like a good time to treat myself), and if I’m successful, then I’ll buy the new sewing machine then, rather than waiting until next year, which had kind of been my loose plan.

When I say one bell and one whistle…. that’s because I want a machine that’s pretty low tech, compared to some of what is out there. I’ve been leaning more and more towards getting a straight-stitch only machine. If I still have my old machine, I can use that for zig-zag if I need it (and I rarely use it, to be honest). The couple straight-stitch only machines I’ve read about – I haven’t sewn on one yet – have more harp space and needle down functions and come with an extension table (a much larger one than my current machine has) and more useful to me accessories and so on. They require a little more fiddling – you need to oil them frequently and you have to do all the tension adjustments manually (which I already do anyway) – but I’ve never wanted to pay for a bunch of embroidery functions I would never use or 399 stitch combinations or whatever else. I like the thought of a machine that isn’t 90% computer because omg do computers cause problems or what? (Also, they’re a lot cheaper than machines with all the stitch bells and computer whistles.)

Locally I could buy a Brother PQ-1500S or I could buy a Juki TL2010Q from a store in British Columbia (I’d have to go visit my aunt in BC and bully her into driving me into Richmond to try it out). In general, I’d prefer to buy local, so I’ll likely go try out the Brother one day and see what I think, because I do want to try before I buy, and if I like it well enough, I won’t even bother about the Juki (where would I get it serviced? am I going to go back to BC if something goes wrong or pay shipping to get it back there every time?). I hope, when the day comes, that I wind up liking it as much as I’m hoping I will, because I sure do hate trying to learn anything about sewing machines online. There’s so much mixed information out there and without actually trying a machine, you can’t use online opinions for much… there are as many people who love machine X as people who hate it, and that seems to hold true across pretty much all brands and all price points.

Anyway, yes. Running off at the mouth. So that’s my new goal – stop buying fabric, buy a machine sooner. Otherwise it’ll be August 2015 before I do and I’ll likely wind up changing my mind another half dozen times about all the potential sewing machines I could buy.