Archive for the 'Sewing' Category

Paralysis of Analysis

Actually, a lack thereof.


This quilt had a deadline and my main goal while making it was to not get bogged down over-think everything. I didn’t plan it out ahead of time, I didn’t shop for fabric and I didn’t let myself think too long about any design decisions. I think my design intuition works just fine like this, my analytical side really just gets in the way. I don’t really enjoy planning out projects, I am usually itching to just get started, but some aspect of my neurosis feels like I have to think through the project before I start so I make sure to do it in an efficient way. I have been known to get so tied up in the planning of projects that I never actually start them.

Paralysis of Analysis is a phrase my dad has been repeating over and over the past year. It seems that he has finally discovered internet forums (in a very 1998 style) and is having a blast posting photos of his car creations for other people to comment on. It is also not something from which he suffers. In fact when we do projects together I will be drawing out plans and calculating distances while he already has a drill or saw in hand. Clearly there are merits to both approaches and some sort of middle ground is probably a good place to be. Since I seem to suffer mostly for over thinking and I have to work a little harder to just jump in I wanted to focus on not getting tied up in the planning.



I made this quilt for a new baby of some good friends who just moved away to Europe. I used fabric entirely from my stash making it quite nostalgic for me. I know that it won’t mean the same thing for baby Amaya to see my parent’s waterbed sheets from 30 years ago, but I’m sure she will form her own attachments to the colors and patterns.



Pattern Details:
I based this on “Flock of Triangles” from the Denyse Schmidt quilt, but the color layout is obviously quite different. I looked at a lot of zig-zag colored quilts like this, but what I ended up making was somewhere in-between.
It measures 39″ by 58″
The fabric is all from my stash, mostly cotton but a few old sheets that are probably cotton-poly blend.
The batting is organic cotton-bamboo.
I machine quilted it in a zig-zag pattern using a walking foot attachment on my Singer 301.





Vintage Singer(s)




I’m adding my 2 cents to the great sewing machine debate. Here is my response to the Sewing Machine Meme from Sew Mama Sew.

What brand and model do you have?
I have two machines, both 1950′s Singers. The first is a mocha colored Singer 301 and the second is a black featherweight (221). The 301 weighs in at 16lbs and the featherweight weighs in at 11lbs. The 301 has the same bobbin case as the featherweight but uses a slant-shank instead of a low shank. It is often called the “big-sister” of the featherweight and mine came in a portable case that looks like an old suitcase.



How long have you had it?
I have had the 301 for 4 years and the featherweight for 2 years.

How much does that machine cost (approximately)?
I recieved the 301 for free from a woman on craigslist (see below). Vintage machines don’t have very regular pricing, but you could probably find a 301 for between $100 and $200. You may find one for much less.

I purchased the featherweight from craigslist for $100 but they more typically cost $200-$400.



What types of things do you sew (i.e. quilting, clothing, handbags, home dec projects, etc.)?
I sew anything and everything. I have made quilts, clothes, bags, curtians, pillows – you name it. In addition to sewing light-weight cotton and machine quilting I have sewn canvas, heavy vinyl, seatbelt webbing, bike innertube, and sailcloth on both machines. They are troopers.



How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get?
I sew at least a few times a month and sometimes every day. I ask a lot from my machines as far as sewing heavy duty and unusual materials but they don’t show much wear. Both of them had clearly been used by previous owners but are still going strong.



Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name?
I love both of my machines but they do drive me crazy occasionally (see below).



What features does your machine have that work well for you?
My machines only do straight stitch (both forward and backward). I have external accessories for zig-zag stitches, buttonholes and a walking foot. Both machines came with a variety of feet, I have only used the zipper foot and rolled-hem foot regularly. The featherweight is not large enough to fit a bed-sized quilt for machine quilting, but the 301 is.



Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine?
Sometimes the tension can be disagreeable. I will get frustrated and stop for the day and often when I come back later and try again everything works fine. I also have problems with skipping stitches on the 301. I have tried to troubleshoot why it skips stitches (changing needles, matching thread and needle, checking bobbin tension) but tends to be rather mysterious.



Do you have a great story to share about your machine (i.e., Found it under the Christmas tree? Dropped it on the kitchen floor? Sewed your fingernail to your zipper?, Got it from your Great Grandma?, etc.!)? We want to hear it!
I posted a want-ad on craigslist for a Singer 301 and was contacted by a woman who had two and gave me one. Thats right, a really nice woman I met on craigslist GAVE me the machine in return for me working to “save the earth from the ill effects of humanity” (which is really what I do already, right?).

I had always wanted a featherweight. I have a nostalgic attachment to the machine I learned to sew on – my mom’s featherweight was her 16th birthday present. My featherweight was another craigslist find – the machine was not listed as a featherweight but I recognized it from the photo and drove down to adopt it from the son of the original owner. His mom ended up calling me later to give me an additional box of accessories she found. I was happy to get a machine that had seen a lot of use but was still in great working order. I have put plenty of hours on it since then as well!



Would you recommend the machine to others? Why?
If you have a little patience and a love for vintage machinery I highly recommend getting one of these two machines. They are simple enough to understand and troubleshoot. I don’t know much about other vintage models, but these two both sew an excellent looking straight stitch. They use standard shank styles so you can buy new feet if necessary and featherweights are dearly loved by the quilting community so there are reproduction replacement parts. Along the way I picked up a second 301 that does not run and I’ve been keeping it stored away for spare parts when I need them. A vintage machine is not for everyone though, you have to love the quirks and personality. They sure do look cute sitting on your sewing table though!



What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine?
I would consider strongly what it is you want to sew and what your temperament is in relation to machinery. Do you need to use a lot of different stitches? Do you want to machine quilt large things? Do you like knowing how your machines work and tinkering with them when things aren’t quite right or do you prefer to treat it like a black box? Knowing some of these answers ahead of time will save you some frustration later on.



Do you have a dream machine?
I had always wanted a featherweight but now I have one! The next machine I want is an industrial machine so I can sew even more ridiculous materials. My apartment can’t handle that now, but someday!

April Showers




My friend and co-worker is having a baby. The fact in itself is not surprising at all, but what is more unusual is that this is the first time I feel involved. By involved, I mean that it has fallen to me to organize things like baby showers and post-birth food deliveries. The new parents are not American and their families live far away so I feel like it is our responsibility to provide a support structure. I should point out that I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing when to comes to babies or baby related things. I have no siblings, I never babysat while I was growing up and I don’t know the first thing about dealing with small children. I don’t know what is supposed to happen at a baby shower either, but there I was having one in my apartment.

The one part of this whole baby experience I do feel mildly comfortable with is making things. I started with my standard baby shower gift, a flannel blanket (monkeys above, tutorial here) but I wanted to make something more this time.

I decided on a baby sling. At the suggestion of collected orange I used this pattern as a guideline. I chose the most gender neutral fabric I could find in my stash (a waterbed sheet from my parents circa 1978?) and paired it with an undyed flannel. The result is cozy flannel on the inside, printed fabric on the outside.






I’m a little worried that I made it too big for Mom, but I think it should fit Dad. I have many other fabrics suitable for a mom-sling so if they like it I will plan to make another one a bit smaller.

I also wanted to knit some baby footwear. After 4 failed attempts (too small, too big, etc.) I settled on Saartje’s Bootees (rav link, web link see sidebar) and some Debbie Bliss Cotton Cashmere I had in my stash. The buttons are vintage from my grandmother’s button jar. I think the booties are adorable, I only hope that they will fit at some point!





The shower itself was fine, I made it a potluck and the new mom requested no games and no pink, so basically we sat, snacked and visited. I consider that a success.

Next up on my list is organizing some food for the new family post-birth. I don’t know if I should do this formally or just tell people about it and have a free-for-all of food getting dropped off. I have an extra freezer down the street lined up to help out but otherwise the only preparation I have done is to ask Mom what she wants and doesn’t want to eat. Does anyone have suggestions for me? What works well or doesn’t work well? I’d love to get advice from some people with firsthand knowledge!

finie 1 (quilt)




We managed to finish the wedding quilt for n’s brother in time to take it across the country with us at Christmas (only 2.5 months after the wedding itself!). I spent an entire day working on it in December, first sewing the blocks together to make the quilt top, piecing the back together, and binding it together. It took another couple of hours to do the machine quilting and sew the binding on with the machine before we were ready to pack it (in a carry-on!) to bring with us. We finished the hand sewing of the binding in MD and I embroidered a patch with the names of the bride and groom and their wedding date.



I hung the quilt top in my window while I was trying to find sufficient light for photographs. It reminds me of stained glass and makes me want to sew pieced curtains someday.



The back. It is made mostly of a gray blue (delft blue kona cotton to be exact) with one pieced section. The light was not agreeing with me that day, it made me miss our old apartment.



Almost finished, nighttime shot. You can see the machine quilting here, I did straight lines again. I found it much easier doing the machine quilting this time around. I don’t know if it was because I used a different batting, but it was substantially easier. I thought about doing squares in each of the blocks, but I was under time constraints and I had done the lines before so I decided to stick with what I know. I think for the next quilt I would like to try free motion quilting.



My mediocre attempts at embroidery.



Nick helps with sewing the binding to the back.



All done! Cato approves.

I feel so relieved having this done!

Just to remind you about the details, pattern is a modified version of “Drunk Love Two-Tone” from the Denyse Schmidt Quilts book. We did 6 by 7 blocks with a small (3″) border of green on two sides. See the full progress here and all of the photos here.

coming together




Remember that quilt I was planning a while back? Yeah, I forgot about it too… Back when we found out they were getting married N and I decided to sew a wedding quilt for his brother and his wife. I got as far as cutting out the pieces before the wedding took place, but work and sewing wallets and bags took precedence so I haven’t touched it since September. I left the rest of the block piecing to n while I worked on other things. I won’t say he was diligent, but he did eventually get through them and the quilt squares are all finished.

Last night I laid them all out on the floor. There is a bit of a tighter fit in our apartment now (compared to the last time I did this) but I made enough space to lay out the design.



I didn’t follow the pattern I made on the computer when I was originally planning the quilt (or even look at it), but just having the constraints of distributing color and block type around made the layout similar to the original design:



N took things a step further and wrote a computer program to search for the optimal quilt layout based on edge color, center color, block type and highlight color. With 42 blocks there are 1×10^51 combinations possible. His program was still searching, but we took the best result so far and laid out the design.



Since the colors are fairly well distributed within the blocks, all of the desings look similar to me. I haven’t picked one yet, but since I picked up all of the blocks off the floor (If I don’t, the cat makes a mess of it) when I put them back down again I will surely make a new pattern. Who knows, maybe after another day of optimizing N’s program will give us the best result of all!

p.s.
Last weekend, while visiting the grand opening of the A Verb For Keeping Warm Workshop, I met some folks who suggested I take my bags over to a gallery space nearby. I did, and now there are a few bags and wallets for sale (in public!) should anyone happen to stumble upon them. The gallery is called blankspace and carries lots of cute handmade items, many of which I recognized from other local etsy sellers. I hope it goes well, but I’m not getting too excited this time.

losing the sun (traveling part 2)




I’ve been on a marathon for about a month and a half now. Only a few more days before I can really relax..

What have I been up to this whole time? Well, I’m glad you asked. First I went with N to his brother’s wedding in MD (but I mentioned that already…).

Next was the Color Fiber Festival. I actually missed about half of the festival because I had to go to my office and finish up my poster for the next branch of my adventure. Here we are setting up the Girl On The Rocks booth.


I got several really nice things at Color but I haven’t gotten a chance to spin any of them yet.



I think I am most excited about the drafted lamb’s fleece (Tanner, from Flynn Creek Churros). It is a lovely shade of chocolate brown and quite soft.



I also scored a gorgeous roving from Krista at Pigeonroof Studios. I kept looking through all of the selections and pulling the same one out, so I knew it was the right color for me!



Yak from A verb for keeping warm.



California Variegated Mutant (love the name!) from Tactile fiber arts.

The next morning I flew several thousand miles in the opposite direction to Hawaii for a conference and a few days of exploring. I made a best effort to spend as many sunsets at the beach as possible. I think I did pretty well.



I discovered a few things about traveling alone in a tropical locale. For one, it is difficult to put sunscreen on your own back. In response to this realization one person said that it would be an excellent opportunity to make friends on the beach. I chose to wear a shirt instead.

For lack of motivation to do much driving on my own I spent one entire day sitting on this beach:



It was time well spent.

When I returned home it was all of a sudden winter, and I was just in time for the election and a few days of intense work and a little sewing.



More sewing you might ask? Yes (!), more sewing. I’m frantically trying to prepare for the Bazaar Bizarre! I’ve been trying my best to cram a little sewing into all the cracks in my life. I’m going to make it (the show is this Sunday!) but I might not want to look at a vinyl banner or my sewing machine for a while afterward. If you are in the area please stop by! I’ll be at a booth with Girl On The Rocks – just follow your nose to the table of moustaches and recycled vinyl. Expect another post about the event soon…

multiplying

First there was one

then there were twins

and now a whole family!

Ive been keeping a bit of a secret from you… In November after a tip-off from Karrie I went to the East Bay Depot and adopted a twin of my singer 301 sewing machine. The new 301 looks pretty, has a nice box and all of its attachments, but it also looks as if someone poured motor oil everywhere inside and then let it sit for 30 years. It was completely seized when I took it home but after some elbow grease and a good dose of advising from my dad the gears are all turning. With enough time spraying solvent into it I think I can get it running again.

Fast forward to January 2008 and an unanticipated craigslist find. Ive been looking on craigslist for the table which goes with the singer 301. I’ve seen them on there before and I’m not in a hurry so I figure that if I look long enough I’ll find one. My RSS feed picks up a lot of other sewing machines though and yesterday I saw a little featherweight listed for $100 (they usually go for $200-$400). I couldn’t resist and drove down to Mountain View to pick it up last night.

Its not in perfect condition – it looks well used – and thats the way I like it. I dont want a machine that cant be used! It runs and all the parts and attachments are there – even the original manual!

Look how tiny it is!

Just about everyone I talked to said I was crazy. 3 sewing machines in a studio apartment?


Well there is another bit of news I have yet to share…. We are moving. Our new place is still in Berkeley about 2.5 miles south of where we are now. It will have walls. More on that later…

apron

I’ve been working on this little number for wearing while crafting and also for when I help Karrie at the Bazaare Bizarre on Dec 15th.

The apron features the infamous rainbow canvas which I love so dearly as well as twill tape ties and vintage polka dotted double fold bias tape. I have made multiple variations on this theme but I’m really in love with this one – the “miniskirt” version. In fact, I like it so much I have a hard time taking it off when I leave the house…..

babies and such


More baby blankets for more babies… They are everywhere!

I wish I could find a better resource for cute flannel prints. Joanns is always disappointing and my local fabric store often does not have the prints I like. Does anyone have a good suggestion for buying flannel prints online?

In other non-crafty news, N played a show with some folks on Saturday at Mamma Buzz cafe in Oakland. It was the first non-dead hensons show of his I’ve been to in many years. Maybe there will be more in the future?

Ive also been out enjoying the remnants of summer (oh, who am I kidding, it could go on like this for weeks). I went out to Point Reyes for a day of hiking and being near the ocean. There is just something special about waterfalls at the beach.


more craftiness to come soon…

machine quilting away


This is what it looks like with me trying to wrestle a queen sized quilt under my machine at midnight. Surprisingly, its coming out pretty well! Ive never machine quilted anything larger than a pot holder before so keeping the beast under control is my biggest challenge. I thought I would be able to get away with not marking all of the lines on the quilt, but so far that seems very unlikely. The thing is so big and heavy that it steers itself all over the place and I loose track very quickly of where my straight line should go. The chalk clicker and the tailors chalk are definitely my friends…