Category Archives: Machine Embroidery

The Covers

While waiting to be caught up in the next project, I’ve been turning out a few interim FO’s (finished objects) that loosely fit into the category of “covers.”

The main thing they have in common is that they’ve used up larger pieces of fabric that have been lounging in the fabric stash.

These are mostly cotton lightweight lap quilts we sent to the non-profit organization that is closest to our hearts, plenitudpr.org .

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The tops of the quilts are cotton flannel remnants pieced together, and the backs are cotton remnants in sizes of about 2 yards. The solid yellow one above possibly has some polyester in it. But the idea was to have a smooth, bedsheet-like side and a warm, flannel side. The edges of the backs extend over the tops, and are folded over and sewn down with a machine featherstitchto make borders.

img_2460This one is a lap quilt made from the selvedges of fleece fabrics. A few  years back, I was making fleece blankets a lot, and trimming them with packaged Wright’s fleece binding. First, Wright’s discontinued the royal blue fleece binding that went perfectly with Florida Gator trademark pattern fabric. Now, you’ll be lucky if you can find fleece binding on eBay in any color other than black or white. Normal people, I guess, would trash the selvedges, but I threw them in a box, and this is the end result. This little quilt of sewn-together selvedges can also be turned around and used for light non-fiction reading if we get tired of watching TV in the La-Z-boy. Fun for the whole family.

Next, if you’ve seen my Pinterest page, you might find that I’ve gone nuts pinning tablerunners. These little projects are wonderful for expressing creativity, but not getting bogged down in a big, long, quagmire of obligation like you would get making a full-sized tablecloth or a queen-sized quilt. It’s just a little slice of a quilt, the slice with all the good stuff in it!

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As soon as we put a covering of any size on a flat surface, a cat’s bohunkus is right on top of it.

This tablerunner was an experiment, using remnants. The top is 5-inch squares pieced together, and the back is one whole piece, about a yard of 44 or 45-inch wide cloth, cut in half lengthwise and pieced together on the short sides. I longarm quilted it, loading the short sides on the frame and rolling out the length. I used the meander stitch, and although I thought I had the tension right from the previous project, it came out with some of those spidery-looking ugly  stitches on the back. When Lorraine came over and did a little project, we decided that one problem with the tension was the cheap-o thread I had loaded up. Without even thinking, I got a cone of thread that I normally use in the serger and threaded it up, bobbin too. Next time, we will try thread designated for machine quilting.

 

 

 

Display Cabinet Build #7

The display cabinet is finally (almost) finished! It’s been a long project, slowed down even further because of personal injuries, a hurricane, and multiple design changes during the construction, but we’re so happy with it.

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display

We ordered the glass for the shelves and mirror, and originally planned to pick it up ourselves with the help of our friend Ray and his truck. Then Skip wrenched his ankle, and we decided carrying glass around might not be a good idea, so we rescheduled the delivery and asked for the Glass Company professionals to install it.

Then—wouldn’t you know it—Hurricane Hermine blew in, and the delivery was postponed again.

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display
display
display

Once the mirror was epoxied in, we were able to mount the shelves on the brass rods.

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display glass

We ordered the mirror backing to be 1/8 inch thick, and the glass shelves with a 1/2-inch bevel on the front edges.

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case

We’re going to place felt dots on the undersides of the shelves at the points where they sit on the brass rods. And then Skip will add some molding to the outer perimeter of the mirror.

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displaying quilts

Shown above are some tentative display items. We’re enthused that we can vary the items we decide to display. According to proper fengshui, you shouldn’t place a mirror directly opposite a door, but I’m hoping that the friendly, creative, familial Qi of the objects we’ve chosen to feature  on the shelves will be retained in the home. Currently, nothing is on the lower shelf, because the kittens have been jumping up there and lounging on the shelf with great delight. They are able to reach their little paws up into the next shelf, so we must favor kitten-proof display items there.

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close up of display items

The lower shelf has two quilts my grandmother made, and an antique glass service plaque (see more about the origin of service banners and plaques here). BTW, we saw an awesome video recently  about making a wooden service banner, from Opa’s Workshop (click to watch!). As for the two quilts, the one on the bottom is chronicled here in a prior post. The top one is a Dresden Plate quilt that was probably originally made in the 1950’s or 60’s. I can see places where my mom tried to mend it with fabric that I recognize from my own stash, part of which I inherited from her stash!

The middle shelf has an antique quilt that my great grandmother made (see a prior post on this quilt here) to the left, and a woven pine needle mat that was made by my grandmother, circa 1960.

The upper shelf has several quilt mats hand-sewn by my mother during the last few years of her life, when much of her precise quilting skills and abilities were stolen by Alzheimer’s disease. But it is heart-warming to me, that she enjoyed piecing beautiful fabrics together into practical projects, even up to the end.

Here’s the You-tube composite of the whole process.

 

 

 

Family History in a Quilt, c. 1980’s

When we had lots of family members descend for the Beach Weekend, we were dragging out bed linens from the closet to accommodate folks sleeping on the beds, couches and floors. I found this quilt my grandmother had made. Part of the crazy-quilt patches had come unsewn, so after everyone left, I took it to the sewing machine to mend and repair it as best I could.

I’d forgotten that my grandmother wrote on the back of it. She had a whole set of these little tubes of “embroidery paint”  similar to this modern-day product (click the link to see).  For a time period, she was very prolific with the embroidery paint, making pillow cases, sheets, all sorts of things. She had been in the habit of stamping a design or motif onto a piece of fabric, then embroidering (or drawing with the tube paint) over the stamped designs.

This is what she put on the back of this quilt:

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For John, made by Gran in 1985

Here, on the backing (which looks like it probably was an old sheet, so thin here it is almost transparent) you can see the underside of some heirloom quilt stitching, all hand-sewn. In the next photo, you can see the top side of the feather-stitching, probably done in a few strands of contrasting-color embroidery floss.

The quilt top itself is remarkable too.

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double-knit patch quilt

It’s made of patches of double-knit fabric, which was an innovative fabric type for those of my grandmother’s era (she was born in 1906). See this article at Seamwork about the differences between the double knit fabrics available then vs. now.  John said, “I remember it [the quilt] was really scratchy, the sort of polyester material that leisure suits were made from.”  Hence, the soft cotton sheeting on the back of the quilt, which side would go next to the tender skin of a little 4 or 5 year-old great-grandchild.

I’d like to say that I matched the embroidery thread and repaired the blanket in the style and manner of the original–but for me to do that would involve quite a learning curve. I picked a decorative stitch on the sewing machine and put the pedal to the metal. For any curious posterity, it will show obvious mending by machine.

Meanwhile, how enlightening to have this information!

Super E-Z Family Beach Bags

by jenny

I like summer sewing projects to be quick, functional, colorful, and fun. These bags are for our family beach weekend this summer. For the past few years we’ve scheduled a beach (or, near-beach, or similar-to-a-beach) weekend for the kids and grandkids to all get together and have a party and relax before school starts up again.

We get motel rooms close to each other, so that the kids can go back and forth to be with their cousins, aunts, uncles, and us. We let them pick all their own activities except for one big family dinner during the weekend.

So far, it’s been fun and relaxing: no big expectations, they can go to nearby attractions if they want or just lounge, go from pool to beach and back, get grocery-store food and eat in their rooms or go to the restaurants they choose.

This year, we wanted to give them some little mementos and practical things for the stay, so we made up some simple beach bags for each child, couple, or family unit, so they can tote stuff around: pool toys, towels, wet bathing suits, groceries, or whatever.

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beach bags

I used up lots of stray bottom-weight fabrics from my fabric stash, as well as some wet-resistant fabrics that I’d bought to make diaper covers for some of the little grandkids (too little too late though, I think they’re all potty-trained now).  Anyway, they are cute fabrics and came in handy for this project, to make lining for the bags. I was going to keep it simple and not line them, but I tried it on one and liked it a lot.

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cutting liner to match fabric

 

I had lots of remnants that could be used for straps: I bought a big roll of red, white and blue flag-motif (it looks like elastic but is not as stretchy as real elastic) at a close-out sale for about a buck.  And got some other kinds, as each bag uses quite a length of strapping, like about 3 yards each.

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remnant strapping

They’re not the coolest but they are, at least, a functional souvenir of the 2016 family beach weekend.

Here’s how we made them:

Part 3 Display Cabinet Update

You can see why it takes me so long to get something built, if you go back and see when I started this! Between teaching, grandchildren visits, woodworking merit badge stuff, etc.,  there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to make shavings.

Thus far, I have sanded the cabinet’s framework, given it several coats of wood conditioner and added a couple of applications of Minwax red mahogany stain. There is still some blotching I have to deal with, but the distressing I applied (not a lot) really is giving me the aged look I was hoping for. I have brought it back inside to gel a little while I work on the brass and leather components.

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brass rod

I cut the ¼ inch brass bar stock in the lengths required to span between the front and back frames to support the glass shelves. Using the golden rule, I laid out the shelf locations and made a drilling guide to help me locate and drill the holes in the frames for the bar stock. You can see in the picture where I dry-fitted one of the brass bars in the frame. I haven’t decided yet to round off the ends of the rods and let them stand proud on the front of the frame.

I cleaned all the leather panels with Dr. Jackson’s Leather Cleaner from the Tandy Leather Company and then conditioned the leather with Dr. Jackson’s Leather Conditioner.  After the panels had dried overnight, I gathered together a tape measure, thick CA glue and some painter’s tape. I found the center of the larger panel and marked it with a pen. I measured the dragonfly applique and tried to outline the space on the leather for the applique with the painter’s tape. Bad idea… the painter’s tape would not stick to the leather! So I made a couple more dots on the leather with a pen to guide me to set the dragonfly by hand. I did get a little squeeze-out, which was hard to remove.  Not sure how to deal with this. I’m going to take a waste piece of this leather, put some CA glue on it and see if acetone will take off the glue without taking the dye out of the leather. I am considering alternatives: 1. Don’t do anything (it will be almost impossible to see the glue squeeze-out in the foyer where this will be…a sleazy alternative), 2. If the acetone removes the glue and takes out some of the dye, touch up the spots with leather dye if Tandy has some to match, or 3. Pry the appliqué off, trying not to damage it so I don’t have to go crawling on hands and knees back to the sewing room to get a new one made. Then carefully apply the dragonfly to a square piece of the same leather, tool a border on the square and then glue the square over the damaged area of the panel.

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panel in place

In the next post, I’ll report on how all this leather stuff worked or didn’t work. I will joint, plane and glue up the mahogany panel for the bottom shelf, finish staining and clear coating the framework and install a bottom panel for the lower compartment of the cabinet.

I still have to install the leather panels, miter the ends of the brass rods to frame the leather panels, construct the top for the cabinet, cut and ebonize the glass stops for the sides of the cabinet, and begin working on the back of the cabinet.

Display Cabinet Build Update

by Skip

Finally, a few days freed up to get back to the display cabinet build!

I finished cutting out the panels that will fit in the bottom of the cabinet. The burgundy leather was cut to fit each panel and was attached with contact cement.

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attaching burgundy leather to panels

My wife has prepared three beautiful dragonfly appliqués that we will apply to the center of each leather panel in keeping with our Arts and Crafts theme.  My friends at Ace Hardware contacted K&S Metals and found the 36-inch long, ¼-inch diameter brass rods that I will use to frame each of the leather panels.

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brass rods

As with most of my furniture builds, the wood is set in the air-conditioned house for several weeks before it is taken into the shop where it is cut and milled to size. Then the pieces are brought back into the house for assembly. With a very good portable dust collection system, I was even able to cut the mortises for the dominos in the house. Of course I planned this activity while my wife was busy in the sewing room. No harm—no foul!

Once the display cabinet framework was assembled and glued, I began the tedious process of sanding. We set up two work stands outside the front door so I could easily take the cabinet in and out of the house between standings. I started with 100 grit and worked up to 220.  I wiped down the wood with alcohol to get off all the dust and applied a coat of wood conditioner.  I have taken a test sample of this wood and sanded and stained with a red mahogany stain. It was a little blotchy, so I decided to test another piece with a wood conditioner and this worked a lot better. I decided not to use a grain filler. This wood is very smooth and not very porous.

For the next phase of the project, I plan to drill the holes in the side frames for the brass rods that will support the glass shelves in the cabinet. I will apply the stain to the framework, apply the appliqués to the leather panels and install the panels. 

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dragonfly machine embroidery appliqué

I will construct a wooden bottom shelf and top for the cabinet, glue up 9-inch wide mahogany boards, sand and prep these for staining. I will also decide how I am going to deal with the back of the cabinet. An easy solution would be to install a mirror with a plywood backing but my wife is voting for mahogany panels.  I think in this election, she gets more delegates!!

I may start cutting, sanding and finishing the glass stops for the glass side panels.  My thoughts on this are to use ebonized cherry for the stops but I don’t want too many things going on with this cabinet. I already have red mahogany, brass, leather, glass and embroidery appliqués!

Quilting for the Tropics

by jenny

My grandmother used to say “We lived in ‘the tropics’…” which included Guam  and Hawaii, during the time period leading up to World War II. When they retired, they moved to Florida, which she considered to also have a tropical climate.  And she wasn’t always happy about the heat and humidity in Florida. Being a practical quilter, she wanted to make quilts that would be useful to the prospective owners. One of my favorite quilts she made for us had a pieced top made of scraps leftover from when she made us flannel pajamas, and the backing was cotton sheeting. There was no batting in between. It was just the right weight, and kept us toasty warm but not suffocated like a heavy blanket would. The cotton backing was cool and almost slippery.

I kept those attributes in mind when I set out to make some quilts for our favorite non-profit organization, Plenitud PR.  They do workshops in sustainable living practices, organic gardening, rainwater management, and much more. Although the temperature is always around 70 to 85 degrees F, some of the workshop participants would appreciate sleeping with a light blanket.

I used cotton flannel remnants for the quilt tops. Remnants are usually what is left over on the bolt of fabric after most of the yardage has been sold. They are typically less than a yard in length, and packaged as remnants and sold at less than the usual price. At JoAnn Fabric, they are normally 1/2 the regular price, and sometimes go on sale for even less. Some cheaply made cotton flannel is wound onto the bolt so that the fabric grain is skewed. I always wash lengths of cotton flannel before cutting, then make sure the cut edges are straight, by cutting a little notch near the cut edge and ripping the fabric along the straight grain until I reach the end of the cut edge. Sometimes I have to cut and rip more than once to be able to rip straight to the other edge.

For these blankets, I embroidered plenitud.pr on the lower front. Now that I have looked up the web site, I see that it is Plenitud PR (without the ., but technically it is now PlenitudPR.org. Placement of the dot can be crucially important in our high-tech world). But since it is just a blanket now, and currently has no power to connect to the Internet (now, but how about in the future?) I will leave as is.

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hooping the fabric for machine embroidery

The backing is extra-wide cotton, made for the special purpose of backing quilts, so that it doesn’t have to be pieced. I spotted these bolts of extra-wide material at JoAnn’s, and was able to find several that only had a small amount left on the bolt. Another $core: I was given the “end of bolt” discount price for the yardage. The backings were cut just a few inches larger than the quilt tops, so that the larger edges could be folded over and stitched down for binding the edges. I used several of the machine’s designated quilting stitches for channel-quilting the tops to the backings, and for top-stitching the bound edges. Some of the stitches I wasn’t so happy with. For all the stitching, I used the walking foot, AKA Interchangeable dual-feed foot with the zig-zag attachment. I used the automatic stitching setting so I wouldn’t be cramming my foot on the pedal for a long time, but the tension and stitching looks very uneven on some of them. It’s not the prettiest stitching I’ve ever seen but ripping it out at this point seems unsustainable….

For historical information about quilting in the tropics from older generations, Hart Cottage Quilts site is fascinating to read.

Function Overrides Form in the Sewing Room

I like making furniture, generally Mission style and Arts and Crafts, where form is as important as function. As a mechanical engineer, I struggle with form and the artistic aspects of woodworking.  Just give me a set of plans, and I’m happy.

For this project, I threw form out the door and focused on function. My wife generally doesn’t invite me into her sewing room. It has something to do with the electrical capacitance of my posterior and how it drives her computerized sewing machines into bird-nesting and stitch-skipping. But the other day, I was invited to come into the hallowed space and observe a woodworking request she made.

My wife has an old [but magnificent] teak desk, handed down from her grandmother, with a cutout for recessing a sewing machine. The proposed project was to enlarge the cavity to fit one of her machines.  The project was fraught with uncertainties. To cut into the desk top, it looked like I would get into some of the table’s structural elements, which could be a real problem. In addition,  she wanted to switch this table with another table sitting next to it. This other table probably weighs a zillion tons. So I made a suggestion  to come up with another approach to solving her problem.  She has been working at a pop-up plastic table which she oriented perpendicular to the aforementioned tables.  She found this to be really convenient, but she had to move a machine over to this table each time she used it. 

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Before: using pop-up plastic table. Pictured: new-ish Birds’ Nest Removal Tool Kit from Nancy’s Notions

What might have been an easy project with a little bit of risk,  ended up with me committing myself to a major sewing room overhaul. Fortunately I didn’t have to pull a building permit or bring in a survey crew. I grabbed a scrap of paper and drew up a plan.

First: covering the two existing tables with a sheet of melamine would seal up the hole in the sewing machine table and hide a charred pit in the other table. [Side note explanation: when I had two snake-loving children at home, the sewing room was a snake room.  A heater under the bottom of one of the snake cages overheated and burned a fist-sized crater in the formica desk top.]

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First step: sheet of melamine covering the two desks to level the surfaces

Next, I would construct a table on wheels which could be moved back and forth, perpendicular to the newly-covered tables.  My wife could easily slide a machine onto it as she changed sewing functions from machine embroidery to quilting to other sewing. I also designed a trough in the rolling table, similar to the recessed cavity in the teak desk, for  a sewing machine to slide into, allowing its throat plate to be level with the table.  An insert would be made to cover the trough when a level surface was needed.  Can you now see how I moved from the prospect of enlarging a small hole to a major construction project?  Fortunately my wonderful wife was more interested in function than form, so I began visualizing how all this could be accomplished using construction lumber from a big box store,  Heaven help me if I would have to dig into my umpteen thousand board feet of wood I have stored in my shop or air drying in my back yard!  And I wasn’t even going to elevate myself to the use of domino loose tenons or pocket hole screws! This was going to be held together with a butt joint, glue and screws.

I made a materials list:

6 @8 Ft. 2×4’s,

4 @8 Ft. 1×6’s,

a 2 Ft. X 4 Ft. sheet of ½ inch plywood

2 sheets of 4 Ft. X 8 Ft. melamine particle board.

Then call a friend with a pick up truck and head out to a big box store.

Earlier I had taken my wife to Harbor Freight to pick out two furniture movers to provide the rolling base for the table. My wife was very impressed how I could walk into a store, go right to the location of the furniture movers, pay and be out the door in less than 5 minutes. Contrast this with the hour it takes her to complete the transaction of buying a zipper at Jo Ann’s.

Then the fun part of the project, chopping wood! After building the support structures and mounting them on the furniture movers, I decided to add a minute bit of form…I pulled out the rattle cans and painted the structures white to match the melamine surfaces.  You will note that the structures were built in different configurations. The reason for this was to allow a cutout on one end of the sewing table to house the box (trough) required to drop in a machine for free-motion quilting, allowing the throat plate of the machine to be level with the table top.

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building the structures onto furniture movers

I rolled the two structures into the sewing room prior to adding the superstructure to tie the two together. I used the 1×6 boards to construct this framework. My wife and I then horsed the table top into the sewing room and placed it on top of the structures.  I was going to fasten the top with screws so that it could be removed easily in the future. However, since I didn’t spend a lot of money on the wood, I decided to pull out the nail gun and nail the top on.

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table top mounted on the two structures at the ends

The box for recessing the machines was constructed with ½ inch Baltic plywood. I placed a ramp on one end of the box to aid in sliding the machines into the box from an adjacent table. Measuring this box was a trick, one that I couldn’t master, as it turned out. The object was to make the box deep enough that when installed in the table, the sewing machine throat plate would be even with the top of the table.

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checking the fit of the sewing machine box insert to the table top

  BUT WAIT, there were two machines of different sizes with different throat plate heights.  So the solution was to design for the machine requiring the deepest box and then use a thin insert to elevate the other machine to the proper level. The plan was to suspend this box on the cutout in the table top, to hold the choice of sewing machine. A piece of melamine could cover the opening when the box wasn’t needed, say for a non-sewing activity like pattern layout or quilt basting, or when a machine was in use but the throat plate didn’t need to be flush with the table top.

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securing the box to the table top from underneath, drilling through brackets

When all was said and done,  minor tweaking was required to level each machine in the box. Small wood inserts were made and labeled to use with each machine.

I have made a lot of furniture for the house, but this was not my finest hour.  Function definitely overcame form! But my wife was happy. She liked the new set-up, and because the rolling structures that made up the two ends of the table had places for shelves, she also acquired more storage space.

Christmas Quilts, the Final Chapter

Actually, no, I didn’t get all ten quilts finished by Christmas, if that was your question—but I did do eight of them!

These last three varied from the previous batch in that 1) these are not made from Eleanor Burns’ Tossed Nine-patch pattern and 2) they are not as intricately pieced, and 3) I decided to add embroidery to these last ones, having practiced a little bit on the machine and determined it wouldn’t cause me to have stress-induced conniption fits.

All three were made of Moda’s French General Esprit de Noël fabric collection of red and beige.

First project includes a poinsettia machine embroidery from Embroidery Library, mostly Moda 10″ fabric squares but also includes a few stash fabrics. For the backing I used white extra-wide cotton with a rose pattern jacquard-weave, from JoAnn Fabric. Extra-wide means there was no seam on the back. I used Wright’s red quilt binding and polyester thread.

Second quilt is all French General Esprit de Noël fabric squares. The backing is a beige cotton, the thread is also a beige cotton. I machine embroidered a Steampunk Santa motif from Urban Threads on the back. Also used Wright’s quilt binding.

Third French General quilt is a whole cloth lap quilt made from an Esprit de Noël border print. The front and back are the same size panel. The quilting was done in the hoop of the embroidery machine, using a Heart-in-hand motif in the center, and something I have in my file as SWD quilt design. Sorry, I know I should name these files more precisely if I want to document where they came from. The thread is cotton Aurifil, the binding is Wright’s, and the batting is polyester.

I should mention that I used many tips and techniques for these from two quilting classes. One was a class offered at a traveling quilt expo I attended a few years ago, for making Eleanor Burns‘ Tossed Nine-patch quilts. The other was an online class from Craftsy, Free-motion Fillers Vol 1, taught by Leah Day. I learned a lot, but I can see where I made some mistakes, too. So I hope the recipients of the quilts will forgive those shortcomings, and I’ll gain more experience at this and be able to make more fun things out of fabric.

Hope you have a very merry Christmas, or whatever holiday it is you prefer to celebrate! We’re thankful for the freedom we have to be able to worship as we choose.

Pick Your Passion: Quilting, Bluegrass, or Armchair Quarterbacking

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“Black & White & Cats Galore” quilt on display at the festival

Offering some recognition (!) to the quilters and musicians who put on the local Quilt and Bluegrass Show at Thornebrook. What a pleasure to walk the park, shop, and look at 75 or so gorgeous examples of fabric and thread art.

Thornebrook quilt show craftsbyjennyskip.com
Thornebrook setting for quilt display
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quilt on display at Thornebrook

Thanks to the Tree City Quilt Guild, A-1 Sewing, all the vendors, and the musicians. Patchwork was the ensemble performing while I was there. I love to listen to beautiful, pure folk singing with string accompaniment. Sublime!

Patchwork bluegrass
Patchwork singing bluegrass in the pavilion

Here’s another cat quilt featuring redwork embroidery.

redwork cats quilt
cats in redwork
Pam McIntyre quilt at 2015 festival
this one is by Pam McIntyre
thread art at Thornebrook 2015
gorgeous thread art mini-quilts
 Pele art quilt Thornebrook 2015
Goddess Pele art quilt at Thornebrook
Pele description
artist’s description

The festivities were slated to run until 5 pm or until it rains, so looks like the rain won out. Meanwhile, in another part of town, in the pouring rain, the Mighty Gators barely squeaked by with a win against unranked Florida Atlantic, in overtime. Unbelievable! Amazing day: pick your passion and run with it!