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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Getting At Those Dustbunnies

April showers bring May flowers!  Showers clean away the grubby remains of winter.  And that's what we're doing today.  Cleaning out the fuzzy remains of those last 29 quilting/sewing projects!

These instructions are written for a  sewing machine with a top-loading bobbin.  Many of today's modern machines are top-loading.  But there are a few front or side-loading bobbins that we will discuss in another post.

So get your tools ready! Gather everything and let's get started! 

A good brush is essential.  There are brushes specifically sold for sewing machine cleaning.  Don't forget to check the automotive section of your local hardware store.  That's where I found the brush with the puffy red end.  It's for cleaning your dashboard and air vents.  A small paint brush is also handy for sewing machines.  Don't forget pipe cleaners and Q-tips for tight places.  Tweezers, not pictured, are good for grabbing on to loose threads or reaching in to tight spaces.

You should have a bottle of sewing machine oil handy.  DO NOT use any other type of lubricant or oil than what is SPECIFICALLY labeled as sewing machine oil. If your oil appears cloudy or yellowed, it's time for a fresh bottle.  Don't worry, it's inexpensive.  Repairmen are not!

A small lid from a plastic container for screws and small parts. And last, but not least, a small screwdriver.  Stubby, short ones work great for removing needleplate.

First let's remove the needle.  Dispose of safely.

Remove the screws from your needleplate.  Store them in a small lid where they won't roll away and become lost.  Remove bobbin cover and bobbin.

Remove the needleplate and store safely aside.

If you are unsure or haven't done this before, you may want a digital camera, phone with a camera, or a tablet to take pictures of your machine parts and placement for reference.  It may come in handy when you go to put things back together.

Having exposed the bobbin area where most of the bunnies breed, you'll want to remove the bobbin case next.  Here you will find the rotary hook - the silver round thingy!

If you haven't cleaned in a while - or EVER - you might find a compacted accumulation of lint and threads.  Depending on what materials you are sewing, this can build up fast.  Flannels, cotton quilt batting, and inexpensive threads are the biggest culprits.

Clean this area with a Q-tip with a drop of sewing machine oil.  It works like a magnet attracting dust.  Place a drop of oil at the bottom of the rotary hook.

Continue to clean the area around the hook with Q-tip, brushes, and/or tweezers.  If you have a automatic thread cutter, ensure it is free of stray threads.

Check the feed dogs for accumulated and compacted lint between the rows of teeth.  Remove with blade of small screwdriver or tweezers.

Once you have ensured that everything is clean and clear, it's time to put everything back together.

Before you replace the bobbin case, ensure it is clean and free of lint and threads.  If your case has a little tab of felt, DO NOT REMOVE!  It belongs there.
The bobbin case should lie flat in the rotary hook.  Not cockeyed!  To ensure you have placed it correctly, rotate the hand wheel towards you one full rotation slowly.  The rotary hook should rotate smoothly and completely without hanging up on bobbin case.  If the case gets hung up, STOP.  Remove and replace bobbin case correctly.

Now replace the needleplate and screws.  Tighten securely, but do not over tighten.

Insert a fresh needle for your next project.

Repeat this process often for best machine performance and longevity.  Try at least every 2-3 bobbin changes.  And if you sew often, send your machine to your dealer or qualified repairman for annual spa day maintenance.  Don't wait until something goes horribly wrong in the middle of a project - because, it will, you know!

These items are available in our store.  Click here to shop.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Spring has Sprung

It's been a while and I am bound and determined to get back to blogging.  Spring seems like the best time.  Everything is fresh, renewed, and growing.  Awoken from the long winter's nap!

It’s that time of year.  Taxes are done and things need to be put away.

Winter is slowly losing its grip and those beautiful spring clothes with bright colors catch our eyes!

Someone recently commented that she saved slivers of fabrics for the birds to collect for their nests!  What a great idea!  And wouldn’t it be fun to find a bird enjoying her own beautiful fabric!   So what is your Spring project?  I’m tackling my sewing room.  Here’s the plan…

Clear out the piles.  Where to start?  Well, somewhere, anywhere, any pile – just start.  Clear off a surface because you need that space.  Sort things by project, and by use and what you want to save, throw away, or give away.  Can’t find that tool that you bought – it’s probably in one of those piles!  Stack fabrics by color on accessible shelving or by project and put tools in
jars or baskets that make them easy to access.

Keep in reach what you use the most.   What do you use every time you sew?  Scissors, rulers, rotary cutters and pins need to be easily at hand and safely stored.  
Group supplies in task areas.  Pressing supplies should be by the ironing board, cutting supplies near the cutting table.  Re-purpose items.  A cutlery baskets is good for storing pens, scissors and any number of things.

Check out more storage ideas on our Pinterest page.

And this was found on All People Quilt.

Get rid of anything that no longer inspires you.  Throw them out or better yet, sell them or donate them.  Gather all the fabrics, patterns and instructions that go with that project and place them in a clear bag.  Take them to your next guild meeting, or donate them to a church, assisted living facility, 4H Club, or prison program.   Or use UFO’s for quilting practice.

Label and Mark Your Supplies.

Spring Cleaning makes getting started on the next project an enjoyable affair!  Less stress and let’s face it – an organized sewing room just looks great! 

Show us your favorite clean space.  Yes, you can brag!

Or your disaster!  Your quilting / Sewing sisters/brothers will help!

Who knows, you may win a FREE Fat Quarter.  Submission are due by April 10, 2016.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Learning Experiences

I have been out of the loop and off the grid for a while, but I am back! Did some pre-summer vacationing, visited with our children, and did some traveling.  A bit of battery recharging.  Highly recommend it to everyone!
It takes some thought to get back in the groove.  Things that you forget if you are not doing them everyday. So that is my subject of the day - What are the most valuable lessons that you have learned?  Were they your biggest mistakes?
Barbie and her quilt

Having begun my first quilt many years ago, I have learned a few things since that time.  Those early quilts weren't pretty  and quite a number remain unfinished in a box somewhere.  Frustration and inexperience having got the best of me, I put them aside and moved on to something new.  Do you have a few of these UFO's? a box of them?  a closet of them?

There were few, if any, classes on quilting available when I began quilting.  Just a few tips from well meaning friends and guidance from Grandma.  My mother was never a quilter.  She sewed, as many of her generation, only out of necessity. Having myself married a Marine, we were never stationed close to home where we could pop in for a quick bit of advice.  And there was no YouTube to search for a helpful technique video!  So I was pretty much on my own.

My quarter-inch seams were adequate. I thought!  It was a mystery as to why seams were not perfect.  I avoided points!!  Later I began to understand the importance of accurate cutting, accurate sewing, accurate pressing,  resulting in accurate piecing!

And every good quilt does need some thought and preparation.  Whether it is your own creation or you are working from a pattern.  Carefully plan your cutting and sewing.  Read through the pattern completely - start to end.  Even pattern designers make mistakes!  So no matter how tempting to start right in - grab your favorite beverage, find a cozy chair, and read / plan every step.  Assemble every tool and fabric you will need, wind some bobbins and change your cutting blades.

There is nothing more I hate than cutting a piece at the wrong size, but I have done that more times than I would like to admit!  Check out my scrap basket!  Can you relate?

And then comes assembly.  Again, if you aren't paying close attention - you could be setting yourself up for lots more work!  Like sewing an additional row of piecing that did not belong on a block.  AAAAGH! Every block in the quilt is wrong.  Additionally, it was a waste of fabric.  I set that whole quilt aside and it is on my TODO list to un-sew.  Un-sewing is my least favorite thing to do, but it must be done to move forward!  (TODO is another quilting term meaning at some indefinite time in the near or far future - could be never. )

Placing a quilt on the frame to begin quilting is always an exciting step.  But again, pay attention!  After stopping to replace an empty bobbin, I failed to check that I had inserted the bobbin correctly or even check the tension.  It has to be done every time you change the bobbin.  Yes, there is a correct way to insert  a bobbin.  Your sewing machine does not like to sew when the bobbin is backwards!  Much later - much too much later, I discovered the tangled mess that the bobbin had left on the backside of the quilt.  And of course, it was not loose enough to just give a tug on the thread and it would all easily pull out.  Leaning across a quilting frame for an hour is not a fun afternoon activity.  FROGGING is another quilting term I have learned.  It is called FROGGING because you have to RIP IT out.

Many times, I have been asked, "How do you know so much?"  Well, it could be because I have had that problem before!  My motto is -"There are no mistakes - only learning experiences!"

When you look at it from this perspective, keep in mind that is ok to have a "learning experience."  Just keep them to a minimum by preparation and planning and with careful and thoughtful execution.

And what is your favorite "learning experience?"

Happy Quilting!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Spring time brings changes

Boxes, boxes, boxes!  Being a military wife, I should be used to it - but you never remember in what box you packed what!  Guess being older doesn't help!  I can still make 10 pounds of stuff fit in a 5 pound bag! Yeh!
If you've missed me, I'm sorry.  Will be back at it shortly.  I know, start a Blog, and then drop off the radar...  Have been busy moving my quilting studio from my old store location to my home.  And doing a little Spring cleaning...actually Spring purging... along the way.
So, stay tuned, I will return soon!  Smell those Spring flowers?  All kinds of inspiration is coming...

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Practically Perfect In Every Way

Is the quarter inch seam really important?

Mary Poppins was self-proclaimed as "practically perfect in every way."  Well, let's face it, we aren't quite that perfect.  With practice (and a few tricks up our sleeves), we can make a valiant attempt!  I think when someone pointed out to me that a slight miscalculation can be multiplied over a number of seams, it brought home the importance.  A seam that is off by one eighth of an inch over just one block with eight seams can be off one whole inch. 

One of the first things you'll need to master as a new quilter is the Perfect Personal Quarter Inch Seam.  Mastering that seam will be the very foundation of your quilting successes. In the Beginning Quilting classes it's the first thing.  And it must be found on your sewing machine, not mine.  Finding a good quarter inch can be different on every machine. 

Well, then how can I find my PPQI?  There are different techniques and you may even have your own.  Here are a few suggestions:

Lets go to your machine.  If you are able to move the needle - left or center - move the needle to the center.  Machines that have guide marks on the needle plate are usually measured from the center position.
Grab a ruler.  Lower the needle by turning the hand wheel towards you -always towards you, never backwards.  Place the ruler up next to the right of the needle.  Note where the quarter inch lies.  Is it the edge of the sewing foot?  Does your machine have the quarter inch marked on the needle plate?  Now you know where the edge of your fabric should lie.

Grab a stack of sticky notes.  Place a small stack of notes to the right of your quarter inch mark on the machine bed.  Use them as a "bumper" to guide fabric as you sew.

Grab some painter's tape - the blue stuff.  DO NOT use masking tape.  You cannot reposition it.  Masking tape leaves a sticky residue or just can't be moved.  This can be used as a guide, too.

Those are the two easiest.  Use one of these methods to guide your fabric as you sew.  Placement of the fabric before it goes through the machine is very important.  After it reaches the needle and is sewn. it is too late for changes. 

Maybe you have a quarter inch foot.  Quilters think that because they have the QI foot,  all should be fine.  Let's see.

Let's sew a seam and measure.

Is it a PPQI?  Do we need to adjust?  Do not force fabric up against the blade, or allow the fabric to stray too far from the edge.  Both can give unfavorable results. 

Other aids are helpful with guiding fabric and helping to assure that you are achieving the best  results.  This guide is awesome and you'll see more of it in later posts.  It has multiple uses and is from New Leaf Stitches and Kari Carr.  See her website for more info.

The PPQI should be actually a thread's width shy of a quarter inch.  Why? And this is where the thread you are sewing with matters.  When the fabric is opened, seams are pressed to one side or opened,  the fold of the fabric,  ever so slightly, adds to the seam allowance.  The heavier the thread, the fatter the fold (and the seam).  Threads are identified by weights - the higher the number, the thinner the thread.  Quilting thread can be 40 - 60 wt.  So back to our subject....  This is why you might see instructions for a "scant quarter inch."  Your PPQI  just might not be a quarter inch after all.

One final test comes by pressing the seam open and measuring the results.  Have you successfully reduced the stitched fabrics by one half inch?  For example, two squares measuring 2 inches should measure 3 and 1/2 inches after sewing.  No more, no less.

Now that we have the technical details of the quarter inch resolved, we are ready to move on to the next quilting fundamental - pressing seams.

Stay tuned!

What is your favorite method to achieve your PPQI?  I hope you'll share.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Never Ending Piles of Laundry

Last week we talked about washing, or not washing our quilt fabric.  There was a lot of discussion and personal input.  Some said they only do wall hangings which can be heavily embellished, so there was never any thought to laundering.  Others are "recycling" found fabrics.  We all agreed those needed washing before adding to our stash.  Thanks to everyone who chimed in with their thoughts on the subject.

But all this "laundry talk" got me reminiscing about laundry day(s) when I was growing up.  It was a big production even with only 3 kids.  My husband comes from a family of 7 kids - I couldn't even imagine!  Of course, he was a "city" kid and his family was probably "automated" before my "country farm" family.  But it was still before disposable diapers and other modern amenities.

We, my mom and I, started by sorting all the laundry.  Yeah, that part hasn't changed.  Laundry was washed in a wringer washer and three laundry tubs.  This wasn't the actual wringer, but very similar.  The three tubs were arranged around the washer and were for rinsing and fabric softener after the wash cycle.  We didn't start with fresh water every time.  Laundry was like children - we all got the same bath water!

I was fascinated by the wringer.  Mom fed the laundry into the wringer with a stick.  Stirring the hot steamy water and picking out the garments one at a time to feed through the wringer. After convincing her that I was equally adept at the process, she gave in and allowed me to "feed the beast."  My attention span was short and it wasn't long before "the beast" attempted to suck me in with the laundry!  Luckily Mom was close and came to my rescue by releasing the rollers thus freeing the laundry and her youngest.  Needless to say, I was done with that machine and thought hanging laundry outside on the line was much safer!

We filled the backyard with laundry lines.  There were two permanent ones and several temporary lines that ran between trees.  They were "solar" dryers before solar was cool! Laundry was hung and taken down when dry only to be replaced by a freshly laundered load of sheets, tablecloths, linens, towels and the usual laundry.  When I was talking with my Mom recently about this blog, she reminded me about the wire frames she used to put inside my Dad's pants while they dried to assist in placing a crease.
A small pan of starch was mixed on the stove.  Not sure why we heated it, maybe to make it last longer.  It was for the things that needed a good crisp finish.

After the laundry dried, we folded as we took it down or piled it in baskets to be ironed.  I never understood the process of making it damp after we had just hung it to dry.  But sprinkling with water from and old pop bottle was the next step.
 And when I went to my mom's to take this picture, there it was right below the kitchen sink where it always had been.  (My husband was amazed!  I wasn't.)  Laundry to be ironed was dampened, wrapped in a large sheet of plastic and put next to the iron for the next morning.  It was time to feed the chickens, gather the eggs, and make dinner.

The next morning's chore was ironing.  
We had a special "beast" for that, too.  I thought everyone had one - an Ironrite Ironer Mangle.  Even Grandma, my Mother's mom, had one.  Ours sat in the dining room and was disguised as a very nice piece of furniture - covered by a wooden cabinet.  

Grandma's was white, but had it's own chair, and sat in the basement on the farm.  When Grandma and Grandpa retired from farming and moved to town it went to the garage.  She used it occasionally.  But by then, we were all into Permanent Press. 

 The Ironrite was wonderful for all those sheets, table cloths, etc.  It had a cloth covered roller that pressed the fabrics against a very hot iron plate.  You operated the roller with knee controls.  When I started quilting, pre-washing all my fabrics, and was ironing yards of fabrics, I often thought of that machine.

Loads, stacks, piles, and neatly folded and put away.  Then we did it all week.

Friday, February 14, 2014

To Wash or Not to Wash...

To Wash or Not To Wash...

This is my maiden voyage into the blogging hemisphere so be gentle with me here.  My quilting dreams have morphed from the brick and mortar store, to an internet store, to a presence on social media on the internet. 
So I thought Id talk about how I got to "here" and recent conversations on some quilting boards and in a class I was teaching earlier this month prompted me into my first Blogging subject - laundry.  Now there is dirty laundry, airing the laundry, do the laundry, clean laundry that my children return to the floor only to be washed again - you know the type.   No, this conversation began with, "Do I wash my fabric before I start quilting?"

The answer was a definite "Maybe" or "Sometimes."

If you are working with fabric that has been hand dyed, or may have dyes that are going to bleed on to other fabrics, the answer is "Yes, you should pre-wash."  Synthrapol is used in the dyeing process and can be useful for rinsing out excess dyes remaining in hand dyed fabrics.  Retayne is another product
that helps set colors in fabrics so that there is no further "sharing."  The idea is to remove any excess dyes that remain in fabrics - particularly reds, purples, browns, and blues.  If it's midnight, your LQS is closed, and you need to start tomorrow, you can always fall back on HOT water and white vinegar to set the colors.  And no, you can't put them in the same load.  You must wash colors separately.
So now you've washed your fabrics...

And that crisp finish is gone.  How do you get that back into the fabrics?  There are a few solutions.  First, there  is good ol' fashioned starch.  Remember that from laundry days past?  Well, you have to be my age or older.  For the younger crowd, you'll fine this product right in the laundry isle of your local grocery store.

 To give your clothes a crisp edge, simply mix equal parts of water and Sta-Flo® starch into a standard household spray bottle. For a light starch feel, add two parts of water to one part starch.

So, now, one word of caution, well, several.... If you are going to finish this quilt and not get distracted as we quilters do and move it to the UFO pile.  Don't use starch.  Silverfish, and yes, we all have them, will find your fabric!  Bad news!!  And if you do finish the quilt, it will need to be washed to remove the starch.

In recent online board conversations, several "recipes" for making your own "starch products" were shared.  I'll let you do your own internet searches.  I can't recommend or say I have tried any of them.  One included vodka as an ingredient.  Now if I were going to use vodka in my sewing room I certainly wouldn't be spraying it on my fabrics!

A better idea is to use something like Mary Ellen's Best Press Starch Alternative.  It does not leave little white flakes like starch and it comes in many delicious scents or unscented.  And best of concerns over bugs in your fabrics or quilts.

One additional thought on washed fabrics - If you are one of those quilters who wash every fabric as soon as you add it to your stash - how do you know for sure you washed it?  I run my fabrics' cut edge through the serger to prevent that hideous ball of unraveling that cottons are prone to form.  Don't have a serger?  Pinked edges or a zig zag on the sewing machine works just as well.  When I see that edge I know that a fabric has been washed.

But since I don't like to do laundry, and can't wait to cut into that pile of fabric I just brought home from the LQS, I seldom wash my fabrics.  

Your thoughts?

But all this talk of laundry has led me to the subject of my next blog - how much work the laundry used to be.  What a production it was!!  So stay tuned.  Until next week!