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New hand sewing organizers

One of my favorite TV-indulgences is upon us! I am not a sports fan, but I cannot get enough skating, bobsledding, snowboarding, or what my husband referred to today as the “shooty ski-fast one.” Huge fan of it all. So, this year I prepared for what is inevitably a two-week break from my sewing machine.

The problem is, for the last several years *all* of my handwork has been done out of my well-loved Sew Together Bag. I’m caught in a never-ending cycle of binding quilts, embroidering toys, basting gussets, and stitching on doll hair. All of which means my Sew Together Bag is in a state of constant churn — being packed and re-packed. That means my long term handwork projects languish in a drawer because they aren’t packed and ready to go. But no more! I decided to sew up a few new sewing organizers to keep my handwork projects prepped and ready for action.

First up! Two modified WIP bags from Amanda at CrazyMom Quilts.

This is such a handy and totally adorable pattern. I made two little modifications to this super easy pattern:

  • I decided to give mine a fabric backing instead of vinyl. I just think they are cute this way and it was a great way to use up some partial fat quarters. 😊
  • I added a small D-ring to the back of each bag. This way I can easily clip them to a sewing organizer for on the go awesomeness.
  • If/When I make another set, I will use double binding strips in the middle of the bag where the zipper meets the vinyl (instead of single binding strips). That way I won’t have to deal with the vinyl sticking to the machine bed, or unfinished edges on the back of the zipper.

I’m so glad to have a neat and tidy place to put some of my WIPS. I hope to make a few more of these with vinyl scraps.

And next! An Inside Outside pouch from Aneela Hoey.

Aneela has the cutest patterns for sewing organizers. Whenever I sew with vinyl I end up cursing, and I was really expecting this pattern to be somewhat of a trial. I went slowly and carefully, but it sewed up very easily with minimal wrestling. I’m thrilled with how it turned out! I chose a seriously fantastic print by Tokyo-Milk that was gifted to me for my birthday. I fussy cut two little vignettes for the vinyl windows, and trimmed them out with a Tula tone-on-tone print. It’s hard for me to go right for my favorite prints, but I’m so glad I did! I did make a few modifications to the pattern below:

  • I added zipper end tabs to the vinyl pocket zippers (they are the green stripey bits you see peaking out). I really like to use zipper tabs and think they make for a nice professional finish. I also didn’t have the right size zippers for this project, and the zipper tabs helped me size them down to fit. There are tons of tutorials on zipper tabs, so I won’t explain that part here. The finished size of my zippers + end tabs was 9.75″ to cut down on the bulk at the side seams.
  • I added a needle book to the inside of the main pouch. It’s a double layer of 100% red wool, which I trimmed up with my pinking shears before stitching down.

My current EPP project (resized Tula Nova, wooohoo!) is going to live in this pouch, which will hopefully make it much easier to bring along with me when I go out. It will be so nice to have a dedicated home for my EPP project. Who knows, maybe I’ll even get it done this decade?

Linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish It Up Friday!

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Teddy Bear Evolution

You guys, I fell down a teddy bear shaped rabbit hole. It started innocently enough with some pretty simple teddy bears for Rare Science a la McCall C5461. If you aren’t familiar with the Rare Bear Program, quilters sew up OOAK bears with scraps and the bears are distributed to kids living with rare disease. They are super easy to make and I encourage everyone to give it a shot 🙂 Rare Science volunteers can do the embroidery & stuffing for you, but I’ve always been too much of a control freak to take them up on their generous offer. It costs me a little more in shipping, but I usually completely finish the heads before I send them to Rare Science for distribution. The work has been wonderfully fulfilling, and one of these days I hope to receive a photo of one of my bears with his/her child. Aren’t they cute, even with just their heads?

But I digress…

This December I needed a couple of emergency teddy bears. I decided to re-purpose McCall C5461 using my preferred materials: enter velour, faux fur and safety eyes! I made two rose gold bears – one in cotton velour with cotton sherpa accents, and one in two-toned rose minky with velour accents. I totally adore both of them and couldn’t pick a favorite even if I had to. I think the velour one has one of the sweetest expressions I’ve ever made – I’m totally smitten!

From there, I sort of got teddy bear fever. I started looking at artist bears and stumbled upon Emma’s Bears. Her work is just amazing! If you aren’t familiar with her art, you should absolutely go check it out! A lot of the techniques she uses are new to me, which is equal parts terrifying and exciting 🙂

I decided to order one of Emma’s teddy bear kits to get started. Frequent readers won’t be surprised that I went with a rainbow-tastic faux fur, haha. 😉 I also purchased her “Lyric” pattern because I’m a sucker for pandas.

I’ve sewn a lot of softies at this point, and even a fair number of bears, but this teddy bear was full of new challenges. For one, he is less of a children’s toy and more of a collector’s item. He has German glass eyes, fully jointed limbs, and a fully-jointed head. I added black shading around his eyes with silk fabric dye, and little white felt pieces along the lower edge of his eyes. I carefully clipped back the fur around his muzzle so he has puffy cheeks and a defined snout — high risk, high reward on that maneuver! Lest the quilter in me feel left out, I also employed some fussy-cutting skills to cut around the indents in the lilac fur (previously of purple plush guinea pig fame).

I am pretty damn pleased with how the he turned out, but I’m even more proud of the journey I took making him. It feels good to find new new challenges, and push myself outside my comfort zone. He will be a permanent resident around here, but I don’t think my bear making journey is over. I had entirely too much fun making him and can’t decide whether or not to add a collector’s section to my Etsy shop. I do love to make kids smile, but don’t adults deserve a little fluffy indulgence, too? 🙂

Happy sewing, friends!

Linking up with CrazyMom Quilts for Finish It Up Friday. I can’t wait to see what you’re all making!

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2017 Recap

2017 was a tough one for me. I found myself diving into sewing pretty hard — a necessary escape during these difficult times. I feel exceptionally fortunate to be able to express myself through sewing, and even luckier to use my art to help support the causes I believe so strongly in. All of which seems particularly important in our current cultural political landscape.

Social Action

Here are a few of the social action pieces I worked on this year, I hope to continue this type of work through 2018!

I had the pleasure of refurbishing a couple of vintage machines, including this green Necchi, for NuDay Syria’s “social business” program. My machines joined many others and journeyed to Lebanon and Turkey via container ship. Now they are setup for community use by Syrian refugees. Not only are these amazing women able to generate an income using the machines, but the machines also provide psycho-social support. NuDay Syria recently shared a photo of the machines in use and it brought tears to my eyes — I’m so honored and proud to support these brave and courageous women.

I also dusted off my knitting needles to make a pussyhat wearing doll to benefit Eyes on Refugees‘s auction.The money she helped raised will benefit several refugee families who live in my area — what an amazing organization!

And last, but not least, I made a few Rare Bears for the Rare Science Foundation. I started working with them in early 2016, and it continues to bring me great happiness. This duo of one of a kind handmade bears will go to children living with rare (“one of a kind”) diseases.

Quilts

We also welcomed quite a few new babies into the world this year. Celebrating these births with quilts brought me so much joy. A few minis snuck in to the mix, too. The two matching quilt tops are still works in progress for a pair of twins due in February, hopefully I’ll finish them soon!

Toys

And then there were the toys, oh fabulous the toys. My Etsy Shop had it’s busiest year to date, which is pretty exciting stuff. I’m humbled by the support of the sewing community — thank you for turning one of my passions into a business! These are a few of my favorite makes from my shop.

I also made a few teddy bears (finished just this week!) and fell down a bear-making rabbit hole. Just look at these sweet faces! Expect to see more bears in 2018!

2018 Goals

No recap would be complete without a few goals for the new year. I find myself continuing to struggle with photography and consistency with blogging — so that’s where I’m going to focus my 2018 efforts.

Wishing all of you a merry and bright holiday season and a Happy New Year! Also linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts!

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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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