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Mini Tula La Passacaglia

Sometimes I get sucked into the Instagram vortex and drink too much Kool-Aid. Occasionally, I’m able to overcome the urge, but when it came to the La Passacaglia craze I just couldn’t help myself. I mean, seriously, have you seen those fussy cut cogs of perfection?! The fact that my first (and last!) EEP project was sitting abandoned in a drawer didn’t matter — I definitely *HAD* to start this enormous paper piecing project, because obviously, this time it would be different.

So, I started my La Passacaglia quilt in January of 2016 with all the enthusiasm it deserved. I bought new Tula fabric! I invested in new hand sewing needles! I made the center medallion! And that’s where I stopped. I would pick it up every now and again, but mostly it has just sat. And sat.

Sometimes, we have to accept our limitations and move on. As much as I admire and envy the EPP goddesses who walk among us, I’m not meant to be one of them. And so, I made the executive decision to turn my Lapassacaglia into a mini. A mini just for me 🙂

Once I cut myself some slack and stopped pressuring myself, I actually really enjoyed working on my mini version. The colors aren’t what I would have picked if I had known it would turn into a mini, but hey, it’s still Tula-themed and it makes me happy. And now I have a little bit of Tula’s Prince Charming fabric hanging in my sewing room where I can admire it every day. And technically, there’s also a bit of Seed Catalog hanging in my sewing room should one be so inclined to examine the back 😉

Before I appliqued my cog/medallion, I quilted a 10-point star on my quilt sandwich (yay maths!). I pushed my boundaries a bit and used variegated gray thread for the quilting. I was unsure at first, but I really love the end result! Once I had the mini all quilted, I appliqued down my lapassacaglia cog and bound it in Tula Pink’s coral hummingbirds.

This is the first mini I have made for myself, and it looks a little lonely on my wall. I need to make it some friends ASAP 🙂

Linking up with CrazyMomQuilts!

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Scrappy Triangle Baby Quilt

Another one to cross off the quilty bucket list! I’ve wanted to make a triangle quilt for ages, and the fact that I had a stack of adorable orange triangles leftover from this quilt was the perfect excuse to dive right in. I added some navy, deep teal and white-on-white prints from my stash and it became the perfect travel-ready project. Because, yes, I am that person who brings a sewing machine on vacation. 

Can you blame me though? Look at this beautiful room! This is seriously my favorite place in the world. My family owns a lovely house up in Prince Edward Island, Canada and this summer we (finally!) made it back up there — it’s been five years since our last trip! We were joined by my parents and siblings and had the most wonderful time together. If teleportation was an option, I’d be up there every night! 

But I digress. After sewing the triangles into pairs and then quadruplets, I arranged them on my design wall back at home. From there, the quilt top went together quickly, though I gave myself a bit of a free pass on the accuracy. Just don’t look too closely at some of the points! I love that there are a few fussy cut blocks in here, and that there’s no shortage of little critters peaking out here and there. The tanuki are a personal favorite 🙂 

Luckily for me, I had the perfect backing for this quilt already in my stash — aqua owls from Patty Sloniger’s Les Amis line for Michael Miller. I’ve been hoarding it for too long and I’m glad to put it to use. But, it’s the quilting that I love so much about this quilt. I was inspired by argyle and decided to quilt it with diagonal lines right through the triangles. I love the secondary design that it creates. The gentle quilting plus the flannel backing make for a perfectly cozy and cuddly baby quilt. 

This one is being gifted to our dear friends who just had their second child, but first son. He’s just about the cutest thing that ever was, and I can’t wait to see him use it 🙂 

Linking up with Finish It Up Friday with Crazy Mom Quilts. Happy sewing all!

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Found: Purple Kenmore 158.48!

Hey, remember that time I gifted a pink Kenmore 158.47 to my sister in law, fell in love, and swore I would hunt down a purple one for myself? Well, mission accomplished, folks. Meet my unicorn the Kenmore 158.48:


Isn’t she the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen? Crazy retro dial? Check! Heavy on the chrome? Check! Purple? Checkity-check! And her cabinet is totally gorgeous, too. 


Ok, so she might have a case of pin-rash. And, unlike the one I restored for my sister in law, this one was pretty freaking neglected and, let’s be honest — beat to shit. Someone ran the bobbin winder without a bobbin tire and made a mess of her paint job. Her motor also sounds a little rough, so I’m not going to put her through her paces until that’s been addressed (read: no touching until I’m a little more comfortable with motor restoration!). 


But! The important thing is that I rescued her and fully intend to spoil her rotten. Starting with a replacement cam set that I found on eBay 🙂 

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Hipster Rabbit

Hello hello! I hope everyone enjoyed  a nice break during the last few weeks of summer. 

I think this is one finish where the photos can do most of the talking… meet Hipster Bunny!
The pattern is by Quilt Art Designs. I originally saw this pattern pop-up on Instagram and knew it was a must make for my bunny-loving friend. The designer has so many awesome patterns, so I’m sure this one won’t be my last. I mean, seriously, look at that macaw


This mini was made all from stash, and mostly from scraps. There’s some Kate Spain, Violet Craft, and some text print and pink chicks of unknown origin — a sure sign that it was time to put them into service. I kept the quilting simple with some straight lines and quilting in the ditch.


I’m going to be honest — parting with this one is going to be extra hard. I’ve been planning to make myself a mini-quilt wall, and lusting after mini-quilt swaps on Instagram. Whoops. Hopefully I get to that soon!

Linking up with Finish It Up Friday with crazymomquilts. 

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King Scrappy

We all know that scrap-busting is good for your health, and man, am I way overdue for some scrap therapy. Plus, my scrap-bins are overflowing to the point of embarrassment. Quilts might be a way more effective use of scraps, but I’ve been craving a little toy-making so I decided to make this scrappy fellow.
Before I go any further, I want to credit Missenota whose gorgeous rainbow lion popped up in my IG feed awhile back. So, if you don’t already follow her, you should! She is wonderfully talented and she has an adorable little assistant 🙂 Thank you for the inspiration, Missenota!


You know how sometimes you try something to just to see if it’s possible? Well, I have to admit that this project got a little out of control on that front. It easily took 50 hours to bring this critter to life, and I had to resort to some less than savory techniques (fray check, oh noes!) but in the end? Totally worth it, I am smitten!


The pattern is by Jodie of Vintage Ric-Rac fame, but I complicated the pattern by using quilters cotton (in addition to the recommended layers of felt) for the mane. I used a rotary cutter and an uncanny amount of sealant to prevent fraying, and to my surprise it worked like a charm! Even so, he isn’t exactly rugged. Which is just fine by me because I need a sewing room mascot. He is going to keep an eye on things in the sewing room from a safe and cozy vantage point. All hail King Scrappy!


This guy is full of memories. The gray coating wool is left over from a renaissance costume. The white + black felts and quilters cotton (Heather Ross *and* Tulapink treasures, gasp!) are from the scrap bin, too. I found the vintage mother of pearl buttons (swoon!) and some little accent buttons in my button collection (have I mentioned that my VSM addiction has had the unintentional consequence of creating a vintage button collection?). I will admit to splurging and purchasing deep teal wool for his coat. It’s perfect and I make no apologies. Everything was sewn on my featherweight and I enjoyed every single stitch.

Linking up with Finish It Up Friday. I can’t wait to see what you are all making and how you’re using your scraps this week!

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There’s only one thing better than secret sewing, and that’s secret sewing for Quilty BFFs! My Quilty BFF, MamaPeaches, is just the best. Not only is she fabulously talented, but she *knows* that I needed that purple Kenmore and that extra bundle of Heather Ross. She also had the cutest little boy late last year — his cheeks could slay anybody. So, what do you make for your Quilty BFF and her son? Answer: Something crazy. Something awesome. Something that could only be fully appreciated by a fellow quilter. 

Enter this quilt. This crazy quilt full of 8 matched points and 324 paper pieced triangles. The pattern is Grandma’s Surprise, though it’s really just an amped up kaleidoscope quilt. And because it’s for MamaPeaches, I broke into the bundle of Carolyn Friedlander’s Botanics that I’ve been hoarding for years <3. I really hope it fits the bill!

Organization and time were definitely key to the piecing on this one. I made myself a colorized key and kept the WIP up on my design wall so I could keep track. It seriously took over my design wall for more than a year. I worked on it steadily and secretly for a year, but never rushed. I get imprecise when I rush, and there wasn’t a lot of room for error!

Against my better judgement, I picked the most fantastical of dark tangerines with tomato-red glitter stars for the backing. I love the color drama it created, except somehow I missed photographing it! Originally I planned to quilt this one with stipples, but I had to revert to 1/2″ straight-line quilting to compensate for the orange bobbin thread and white top thread. No amount of bobbin fiddling was going to get the tension right for FMQ. In the end, I’m happy with how the quilting fades into the background and lets the piecing shine 🙂

The backing is all the pop of color that this one needs, though you’ll just have to take my word for it (sorry again!). It’s framed with a simple charcoal gray binding.

Truth be told, this little quilt has been living in my sewing room for months. I’m terrible about getting to the post-office. Sorry Mama Peaches. I’m happy to report that it’s been gifted at long last, welcome to the world little Peaches!

Linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts and Finish it Up Friday. Happy sewing!

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I need another sewing machine like I need a hole in my head. But, I think this video of my oldest is all the justification I need:

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If this machine could talk, she would have quite the story to tell. I found her on craigslist for $110 — making her my most expensive VSM yet. It’s difficult to find hand crank sewing machines here in the US so I didn’t feel too guilty for paying a premium for her. This particular machine has a few bonus features that aren’t found on more common Singer models, too. For one, it has a stitch-length lever (not a knob!), which includes a reverse (!!!). This machine also has an ejection button for the shuttle, which is super cool.

The gentleman who sold her to me said it belonged to his grandmother and then his mother, both of whom were “master seamstresses.” He insisted that it was a Singer, but lucky for me, it is not 🙂 Of course, realizing what *it is not* is quite different from knowing what *it is,* ha! After hours (and hours) of scanning photographs, I tracked the machine to Germany and then finally identified its manufacturer. As it turns out, this machine was never made for the US market and must have been carried across the Atlantic by one of its previous owners. I am so fortunate to own such a treasure!

This Vibrating Shuttle (VS) hand-crank machine was made by Bernhard Stoewer AG, around 1907-1910. The machine was probably badged, but the decals with the badged name are long gone. Similar machines can be found here: http://www.needlebar.org/cm/thumbnails.php?album=181, http://www.sewmuse.co.uk/german%20sewing%20machines%203.htm, and http://tammyscraftemporium.blogspot.com/2009/11/1910-bernard-stoewer-treadle.html. I suspect that the badged-name may have been removed deliberately during WWII because the surrounding decals are undamaged. The first two photos here are before shots, and they make her look better than she did.

Restoring this machine was challenging to say the least — some parts were broken and the finish was quite damaged. If this machine had a wooden lid, I’m afraid it’s missing too. Unlike other Stoewer bases, this one doesn’t have brackets to support a lid, so maybe it’s not missing? Regardless, it’s evident that the machine spent several decades, if not the the last century, exposed to the elements. Perhaps as a result, the clear-coat was completely shot, though the decals were mostly intact.

To the previous owners’s credit, the machine was well oiled, but that oil also acted like a magnet for dust and grime. She did turn, but she couldn’t make a single stitch and I don’t collect expensive doorstops. I cleaned her as gently as I could (sewing machine oil and soft rags!), but the only thing holding on to the decals was grime … and the grime had to go.

After an overall cosmetic cleaning, I began breaking her down. Where possible, I removed the inner workings and cleaned them with very fine #0000 steel wool and rubbing alcohol. Um, and a metal pick because the grime was stubborn. The rest of the inner workings were cleaned in place using the same method, but I was super careful not to get the rubbing alcohol on the painted parts of the machine. Then I flushed all the oil points with Blue Creeper, and gave her a nice drink of sewing machine oil. The shiny bits were polished with my Dremel and Mother’s Mag & Aluminum polish. The wooden base was restored with Howard’s Restore-A-Finish, and then a generous amount of Howard’s Feed-N-Wax. Hm, that’s like one paragraph of explanation for 140 hours of work! I had mechanic’s hands for weeks!

I had to leave my comfort zone quite a few times on this restoration, including:

  • taking apart the tension assembly
  • repairing/reshaping the tension spring
  • removing the entire presser foot assembly
  • removing and disassembling the hand-crank
  • removing the spring from the shuttle bobbin
  • fabricating new parts (more on that in a minute).

Even when I’m armed with service or adjuster’s manuals I’m wary of those tasks… but um, guys, there’s no adjuster’s manual for this machine. Hell, I didn’t even have a user manual (I do now, please email me if you’re in need!). I used manuals for the Singer 27/28 and Singer 127/128 for reference, but, I digress. My overall tactic was pretty simple: I took a hundred million photos as I went along, and somehow I managed to put things back together correctly. I am not going to ugly-up the place with working photos, but if you’re in need of WIP photos please send me an email!

Thanks to my set of Chapman screwdrivers, I was able to prevent further damage to the screw heads, many of which were partially stripped. PHEW. I don’t know about you, but I never want to track down a replacement screw for something that was machined in Germany over one hundred years ago.

Once everything was cleaned and oiled, I turned my attention to the missing thread guide on the face plate. I bent a cotter pin to match the shape of the missing guide, and used a high heat glue gun to attach it to the backside of the face plate. I was so afraid that the repair would be an eyesore, but it looks fine. You really can’t tell from the front, and it isn’t half bad from the back either.

After two months on the work bench she’s fully restored and in full working order. My daughter is learning to sew and becoming increasingly independent on this machine. She’s working on some improvised quilt squares and it’s just amazing to see her work through the piecing on her own. I’ve also used the machine myself for making my niece a leather purse — I put a low-shank teflon foot on and away she went! The top-stitching really was lovely… until I couldn’t fit multiple layers under the presser foot 🙂

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Overall, I’m thrilled with the functionality of this machine and her place in history. It is clear that this machine was heavily used and central to someone’s livelihood, but she wears it well. I do wish that I had been able to do better by her cosmetically. If I win the lottery, she might become a candidate for a custom paint job. Maybe she would enjoy her new lease on life in royal purple with silver decals?

 

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The right tool for the job

I treated myself to a set of #9600 screwdrivers from Chapman Manufacturing for my birthday, and I just have to take a moment to sing their praises. I should have purchased a set for myself ages ago! These tools are such an improvement over the enormous collection of screwdrivers I had amassed (read: stolen from the garage and squirreled away in the sewing room). But, before I go on, I’d like to add that these are all my own unbiased opinions. I don’t have any affiliation with this company, other than my new love-affair with their products 🙂

What makes me so giddy about screwdrivers, you ask? Well, these bits are engineered to properly fill the screw slot. You can see a great visual of this difference on their website, here: http://chapmanmfg.com/pages/insert-bits. The bit shape means that 1) it transfers the force more effectively to the screw 2) less force is necessary to turn the screw and 3) it is less likely to damage the screw head. Those three things are so so important to vintage machine restoration, but I think any sewist could benefit from them. So many of my VSMs came to me with damaged screws — heck even my modern machines’ show some damage from repeated assault with a traditional screw driver.

When my set arrived I jumped for joy because, well, *pink.* But then I got down to business and put it to the test. There is one machine, a little Singer 20 clone by GRAIN, that I have been working on for over a year. It has remained frozen despite my best attempts with penetrating oil and a hairdryer… until now. I combined the right bit + the “midget ratchet” and pop! I was able to remove the stubborn screws with ease, and without damaging the irreplaceable screws. From there I was able to give it the rough cleaning it so desperately needed. I’m happy to report that the machine is turning freely now, and awaiting her cosmetic spa-day.

And the icing on top? Chapman is a woman-owned company, and their tools are American Made from American Made materials. They’ve won multiple Green Circle Awards from the DEP. Their grounds are even a NFW certified wildlife habitat. And there are cats and the cutest dog in the shop! That’s a lot of icing in my book 🙂

And if you’ve read this far, thank you for bearing with me through my dork fit. Every once in awhile you come across a tool that revolutionizes things, and they deserve to be cheered on. And if you’re interested in purchasing your own set, I found mine here: http://chapmanmfg.com/collections/slotted-flathead-sets/products/9600-starter-slotted-bit-set.

Happy sewing (and tinkering)!

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Rainbow Unicorn Goodness

I’m going to let you all in on a little secret… I grew up with the real life Mary Poppins. It’s true! And yes, she’s just as wonderous and fantastical as you might think — I’m so fortunate to count her and her husband among my nearest and dearest friends.

So, you can imagine my excitement when I learned that they were expecting their first child. I cried happy tears, and then I got to work because this child needed the most amazing of quilts. Requirements included whimsy and rainbows. All the rainbows.

I plotted. I toiled. I stressed. I had a whole secret pinterest board dedicated to ideas. Seven months went by, but none of my designs really stuck with me. And then! It finally hit me — rainbow unicorn! BECAUSE OF COURSE RAINBOW UNICORN. Luckily for me, Kristy at QuietPlay had the perfect pattern.

In the flurry of sewing that followed, I choose a dark charcoal gray for the body, and the brightest of rainbows for the mane and tail. I also pulled two metallic fabrics for maximum sparkle: The background print is Whisper Stars from LizzyHouse (swoon!), and a silver Cotton + Steel for the hooves and horn.

I knew I needed to expand the 25″ unicorn block, but I was afraid to mess with its awesomeness.  I don’t like traditional quilt borders, and floating a 25″ square in a crib sized quilt created a vast expanse of negative space.  It stared me down from the design wall for at least two more weeks while I obsessed over a solution. In the end, I decided to offset the square with a few flying geese and a square in a square block. I added the extra flourish on just two corners, and I’m pretty pleased with the effect.

In the negative space, I quilted some wavy shapes that are somewhat similar to a topographical map. The unicorn’s fur is FMQ stippling, and the flying geese are hand-quilted in matching floss. The quilt is backed in a soft squishy flannel, and bound in dark charcoal.

I’m happy to report that the quilt has been put to work. Tummy time and childhood memories, here we come! 🙂

Linking up with CrazyMomQuilts, happy sewing!

 

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Hello blog land!

So I had another unplanned blogging hiatus. Whoops. I assure you that I’m still sewing up a storm. If you miss my ramblings, please come join me on instagram! I’m so much better about sticking photos up there!

Last night I sat down to sew on my Brother Select-o-matic, and I was reminded how much I adore this machine. Every time I use it I fall more in love with it. It is smooth, consistent and reliable — every damn time. It doesn’t throw fits. And it makes the most charming and satisfying purr when its running. Seriously, it’s my sewing nirvana. I also get a fair number of emails about this gem of a machine, so I think it’s time for a little update.

The most common question I get about this machine is “hey, how can I take the darn top off?” Such a good question. The machine is sort of a puzzle box, so let’s start with a diagram:

Diagram
Now the trick:

  1. Set the Indexer Knob to zero (do this by turning and holding the Switch Over Knob to the right while you manipulate the Indexer Knob)
  2. I also think it helps to put the Stitch Selector Knob at #1, but perhaps I’m superstitious.
  3. Once those knobs are set, the Indexer Knob will release itself so it can be removed
  4. Twist the top of the Indexer Knob while holding the bottom/flatter part still. It should screw right off.
  5. Now unscrew the top screws which are holding the top on. It should look something like the photo to the right. –>
  6. Now lift the top up. How about that?! Now you can clean the cams and make everything spiffy and new! And here’s a sneak-peak at what you’ll find under the hood…

Next most common question: where can I find replacement parts? Good news here, folks. This machine was based on the patents for a Singer 15 so it’s super easy to find reproduction parts. Happy little list with links below: 

And the best part about publishing my dorkiness for all to see? Readers are kind enough to send me photos of their machines! Thank you for sending your photos and letting me share them!

This is Lindsey’s beautiful Brother Select-o-matic HZ3-B1 in beige/pink and gunmetal gray.   

Allison from https://www.allisondillard.com/ shared these photos of her Riviera branded machine:

   

If you have a photo you’d like to add, please send me an email or post a comment. I’d love to share more of these beauties!

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