Friday, January 6, 2017

Purchasing a Sewing Machine - Things You Should Know

So you have decided to purchase a sewing machine.  And it's overwhelming - the choices available.  Let's break it down and look at what this all means.  Today, more than ever, there are so many choices.  It can be confusing and you may be left frustrated after your purchase without carefully considering your options. 
I don't want you to have a machine, in the box, occupying a corner of your closet.  You could just pile your money there right now if that's the case!  We don't want that!  So let's get started!

First, what are your needs and requirements?  And what is your budget?

Is this your first machine?  Or are you replacing a sewing machine - maybe the old machine isn't working (too expensive to repair)  or you are wanting to upgrade?
What do you sew?  Or want to sew?  Will a simple mechanical machine with a straight stitch, or a few zig-zag and button hole stitches, fit the bill?  Will you require more decorative stitch features?  Are you wanting to try some machine embroidery?  

Wow!  That was a lot of questions! Let's try some answers...

A simple machine will do...
Ok.  Do you need new?  Or will a vintage machine do the trick?  Second hand stores, auctions (estates, local and on-line), yard sales, church rummage sales, basements, barns, and even back alleys are full of inexpensive quality machines that still have years of service left in them.
Look for a clean, rust free, model with no cracked wiring and a hand wheel that turns freely.  Accessories and a manual are a bonus, but bobbin case, power cord and foot control are a necessity.

If this is your first machine, or you are new to sewing, and you are NOT feeling particularly adventurous, I WOULD NOT suggest you purchase your machine from Amazon or Wal-Mart.  The UPS man or the guy in tires will not be able to help you choose a needle for your next project or solve that tension issue.
Look for a local sewing center or quilt shop that may offer classes and knowledgeable staff.  And be sure to look for or ask about that support BEFORE you purchase.  If there is none, move on!  Yes, you might pay slightly more, but chances are that, if any difference, it will be recouped and worth the slight extra.

WORD OF CAUTION!  Trucks that pull up in a parking lot with "Classroom" machines, machines that sew leather, or are a "Serger-Combo" ARE NOT a good buy!  Your money and support drives off into the sunset when they pack up and leave the parking lot.  These guys are kind of like the vans that drive around your neighborhood with a load of great buys on meat!  Sketchy!

I've never seen a nice, well loved Home-Ec Classroom machine.  They have been abused by teenagers, and have broken or missing parts.  And really, where are these school that still offer Home-Ec?
Any machine will sew leather depending on weight of leather and if you use a leather needle.
"Serger-Combo" refers to an attachment.  It is a foot with a cutting attachment that does not cut very well, and guarantee you will want to throw it at the guy who sold it to you.  The machine sews a stitch resembling a cover stitch.  But Sewing Machines and Sergers are two different animals.

Final words.  Sit down and drive several brands.  Some sew smoother and quieter. Some will sew faster.  Find the model and brand that meets your comfort level.

So this is getting long.  Lots to digest.  We'll continue tomorrow with Part 2 - Buying an Embroidery Machine.

Happy Sewing !

Monday, January 2, 2017

Fresh New Year

I haven't seen quite as many news stories this year about New Year's resolutions.  Maybe we're just so happy to put 2016 behind us.  It was quite a year.

I have seen the sales, though, on items that are going to get us organized!  Not falling for it.  Plan to use up or continue to purge my ginormous stash.  And that's not to say I won't buy anything new.  There's always another "pretty" out there.

This is not MY stash, BTW, just a picture from Facebook that I hope I never resemble!  Something to show my DH that there are real hoarders out there.  I, happily, am still an apprentice!

Have my eye on Alex Anderson's new line from RJR due out in April.
What can I do with this?  Just love the colors and have a lot that will work with this.  Can hardly wait.  Something will come to me...about 3 A.M.  That's when my brain come up with it's great ideas.  Guess it's too distracted when I'm awake and need great thoughts.

So what are you up to during these dreary winter days in the Northern Hemisphere?  Lucky, Aussie's and New Zealander friends.  You are in the warm, sunny days of summer.
Drop me a line.

I'll be working on some upcoming happenings for 2017.  So stay tuned.......

Happy Sewing

Friday, October 21, 2016

Block 3 - A Little Birdie Told Me - Be My Neighbor

Applique can add beauty, or a bit of whimsey to a quilting project that piecing or creative quilting design cannot match.

Of all the the techniques that I have taught over the years, applique seems to stir fear in the hearts of my quilting students.  Never have really understood why.  Maybe it's the four-letter word - "hand." Applique is best known to be done by hand, but can also be achieved by machine.

Block 3 in our Neighborhood Sew Along has a sweet little bird sitting atop the roof singing a tune, I'm sure.  To encourage you to give applique a try, I have a couple tips and will show a couple ways to achieve success.

Option 1 - Finished Edge Fusible Applique

You will need Lightweight Fusible Interfacing and a pen or fine tipped marker. Trace the needed shapes on to fusible.

Next roughly cut apart pieces, placing them with coordinating fabric.  Leave at least a 1/4" margin around all pieces

With right sides together (right side of fabric and bumpy-fusible side of interfacing) sew interfacing to fabric following drawn lines.  Cut out shapes leaving a narrow 1/8" margin.

Cut  small slit in the center of interfacing being careful not to cut fabric as well.  Sharp, pointed scissors are best.  

Using that wonderful chopstick (we talked about in previous post) carefully turn the pieces right side out.  Use the chopstick to aid in turning and pushing out tight corners.

Since you cannot apply a hot iron at this point,  use the flat edge of chopstick and the heat from your fingers to press edges flat.

Here are two pieces of the bird.  You would next place the pieces on the block and fuse them in place according to interfacing instructions.  Then tack in place by hand or machine.

Because the edges are finished or turned, it gives more of the appearance of being "hand" finished.  It also gives "lift" or a 3-dimensional look to your work.

But we have some really tiny pieces with this project, so not all can be accomplished with this method.  The tiny beak is just too small to turn.

So let's look at my favorite method.....

Option 2 - Raw Edge Applique

This method requires a double sided fusible - like Heat N Bond or Steam A Seam Lite (I carry both).  Again trace pattern pieces on the paper side of fusible.

These fusibles have a paper and a fusible side.  When you fuse it to the backside of fabric, allow to cool, you can remove the paper backing to reveal a second fusible side.  This fusible side is slightly tacky (like a Post-It Note) and helps with placement.

 Roughly cut pieces apart, leaving margins and place on the back side of appropriate fabric.

Take pieces and fusible to ironing board and fuse to backside of fabrics.  Allow to cool and then cut shapes on drawn lines.  Remove (peel) paper backing off.  If you are having trouble removing, bend a corner back or pop up with the point of a pin.

Next apply pieces to your block. When happy with placement, iron in place.  Pieces CANNOT be moved or removed easily so be sure you have it where you want.  Use that chopstick again to move or place small pieces.

Pieces can be secured with machine stitching.  Work on a sample scrap trying different stitches on your sewing machine and don't forget to adjust both stitch length and width. You may choose a tight narrow zig-zag, a blanket or blind stitch, or a simple narrow topstitch.  Choose whatever you find pleasing.  I choose a blindstitch.

 Here's a little BlueBird for my block.  I didn't add a eye yet.  Maybe a button or bead when the quilt is finished.

Happy Sewing!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Block Two - Be My Neighbor

Are you having fun?  I have loved diving into my scraps, pulling out a bit of fabric and remembering when and where I used this fabric, friends I may have been with, or the lucky recipient of something made with love.  Brings warm and fuzzy feelings to be using the last bits.

Building Permits for Block Two went out early this morning. So let's get started.

Cut all your pieces according to pattern instructions.  And then piece together in sections.  There are two distinct buildings, so it is easier, I find, to build one at a time.

Two roofs which require those pesky Flying Geese.  The silo has a chimney - a neat little twist.

Have both my roof sections completed here.

And then there's all those HST's (Half Square Triangles).  They can be a bit tricky if your seam size strays North of a quarter-inch.

But there's a solution....

If you find that your HSTs aren't quite measuring up to size, cut your squares a little larger.  Draw the diagonal line and sew either side of line like normal.

Cut apart and press open.

Get out that square-up ruler.  Align the diagonal line on the ruler with the seam of the square as pictured.  Align with the measurements of square required and trim away excess.

Making your HSTs over-sized assures that you will have perfectly sized HSTs.
And that's it for this week.  Wasn't that fun?

Happy Sewing!

P.S. Don't forget to SHARE your pics!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Five Weeks Til Christmas

Block One is out today.

This quilt was inspired by a pattern by Kate Spain called Solstice for Moda Fabrics.  I have adapted it for another Moda fabric line from Sandy Gervais called Very Merry.  I have added different borders and prepared instructions for multiple sizes.
You are welcome to use your own color / fabric adaptations.  If you wish to use our fabrics, Kits will be available at our website - KK's Quilt Studio.   

For Block One.  If you would like to make:

Bed Runner (34 x 106 inches) - Make one Block
Throw/Lap Size (70 x 70 inches) - Make one Block
Queen Size (88 x 106 inches) - Make six Blocks
King - (106 x 106 inches) - Make five Blocks

There are several Flying Geese in this block.  I HATE all those extra little triangles that usually get trimmed away.  Just a waste.  So I am all about the No Waste Method of making Flying Geese.  It may even make you love making Flying Geese.  I used to avoid them - passing on patterns that had them.

First cut one large square (geese) and four smaller squares (sky).  Measurements depend on finished size.  I have a handy chart I saved from somewhere - can't see to find where - but Dani Fisk - this is yours, Thank you.
Right Click on picture to save.

Moving along.  Draw a line corner to corner on all your smaller sky pieces.

Place two sky pieces on larger goose as shown below and sew a scant 1/4 inch away from line - both sides.

Cut apart on drawn line.  Press open.  Yes, they look like little kitties!

Place last two squares on these "kitties!"
Repeat sewing either side of line and cut apart.  Trim away all those little dog ear corners.

You are almost there.  Press open again and voila!  Four Flying Geese almost like magic before your eyes!  And virtually pain free!

That's all for today.

Happy Sewing!

Thursday, September 29, 2016


Every where I look, my yard is filled spiders and their webs.  They've been there all summer, but it seems as fall approached they kicked up the "decorating" to full gear!

Working on the Be My Neighbor Sew Along has been great.  Bags, baskets and drawers of little bits, strips, and fabric ends have been hiding in the corners of my Studio and under my cutting table reproducing - I'm almost positive!  Well it's time to clean the cobwebs!

It's been on my bucket list - a string quilt.  So the spiders have inspired me to get started on the spider web block.  This is a foundation piecing block.  And I'm always looking for another way to use a ruler.

I pulled out my Cozy Quilt Designs Strip Tube Ruler and the EZ Dresden Ruler.  (Both are available on my website if there are not already in your arsenal.)

The is a recycling, Use-It-Up project, so I dug into my computer paper recycling bin as well.  Use scrap paper for a foundation for the strip piecing.  With the Strip Tube Ruler as a template, I can get two triangles from an 8-1/2 x 11 inch sheet of paper.

Yes, a corner is missing, but there's enough to get the job done.  I do not want to put a seam any closer to the corner because of bulky seam issues.
 Using the center line of the ruler, make a small mark indicating the center of the long edge of the triangle (the hypotenuse for all you math geniuses!)

Draw a line from that mark to the corner.

Do the same for both triangles on the page.

Cut the sheet in half.  Make lots more.

You can use scrap computer paper, old catalog pages, or newsprint, even old phone books.

Just make them all the same size.

Make as many foundations as you have scraps, or as big a quilt as you want.

I always go BIG and have A LOT of scraps and this will be an ongoing project - so stay tuned.

Next use you EZ Dresden Ruler to cut the center "kite" pieces which will form a star. These pieces will all be white or off-white / cream pieces.  Cut 8 inch wedges.  If you have a large enough piece of fabric, cut an 8 inch strip and cut wedges as shown below, flipping the template as you go.  (Cut your pieces 8 inches, not six as in the picture.)

Let's go to the sewing machine.  Lower the stitch length.  Tighter stitches will make it easier to remove paper when completed.
Center a "kite" on the center line of paper foundation right side up.  Place first scrap strip face down.

Seam width is not as important, but try to stay 1/4 inch along aligned edges.


Flip strip.  Press.  Repeat.

Keep adding strips until paper foundation is covered and looks something like this..

I know, it looks like a HOT MESS!  It gets better!

 Flip the pieced triangle over, paper side up.  Using your cutting ruler and rotary cutter, trim away uneven fabric edges.

Then it's looking a lot more like what we are shooting for!  And we did't have to do any strange math calculations.  Hurrah!

Here's two together!  Now only about 80 more!

So stay tuned.  I'll be working and the pile grows.

If you are one of those overachievers.......remove paper carefully so as not to stretch those bias edges.  Sew triangles together forming quilt top.  Quilt as desired and POST pics!

Happy Sewing!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Tool Tip Tuesday

Not all sewing room tools are found on the LQS notions walls.

Today we'll look at sewing with small pieces or pointed piecing.

It's pretty basic.  Always have something under your needle.  Chain piece your projects - one piece following in after the other.  My Grandmother Stella new this long before I began sewing.  She had this small scrap of fabric that she ran through the machine at the beginning and stopped sewing on until it began to look like a very hairy spider!

Points tend to want to get pushed by the needle through the needleplate and all sorts of unhappiness begins as it gets tangled, jams the machine, and interrupts our sewing session possibly damaging the fabric.

If your machine head is portable, leave the spider in place.  Protect your sewing feet from damage or scratching by the feed dogs.  There should always be fabric between them.

Then there the matter of running the sewing machine with your fingers very close to that needle.  Another simple fix - go out to eat Chinese!

Grab an extra set of chop sticks.  Even if you can't manage to eat with them they are very handy to hold or guide small pieces of fabric through the sewing machine.

They are VERY inexpensive if not FREE and can be used for a multitude of small tasks.  Try turning that next applique project with a chopstick.  Great for pushing out and making nice corners.

Your long tweezers from your serger are also very handy.

Sew, that's it for today....Happy Sewing!