Category Archives: Sewing

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.

machine embroidery hoop jennyskip
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.

Rag Quilting Up a Notch

Continuing from the first Christmas Quilt post, in which we compared using an Accuquilt Go! Cutter vs cutting and snipping rag-edge blocks by hand like quilters had to do in the 19th Century, I may have mentioned that Accuquilt has a new electric cutter on the market.

I got one of those new-fangled cutters for Christmas, from Skip, so I’ve been using the heck out of it, naturally!

craftsbyjennyskip.com go! cutter
Accuquilt Go! Big, the electric cutter

The thing is, I’ve got a bad habit of buying flannel remnants at JoAnn Fabric.  I try to keep them organized into 5 boxes: 1) boyish pieces at least a yard in length, 2) girlish pieces at least a yard in length, 3) smaller boyish pieces, 4) smaller girlish pieces, and 5) remnants that are not of a baby-blanket-like color or theme.

I tend to use the yard-long pieces for receiving blankets and the smaller pieces to cut up for quilts.

The 8 1/2″ square rag block cutting template with the cutting mat probably takes more of a beating in use than most of the other templates and mats. There are lots more cutting blades, due to the fringed edges, and the quilter needs to pick out the threads from the template with the pick tool. I’ve tried using other implements with the pick tool: tweezers, needle-nose pliers, shop-vac with various attachments, and not all of them work that great. I’ve read many comments from users who’ve said, “It’s not worth it, all the work you have to do to pick out the threads…” ” the cutting edge doesn’t cut all the way through…” “you can only cut one layer of fabric at a time”….

flannel Accuquilt Go! Big rag block
preparing flannel for cutting on the Go! Big

I’ve found a few uncut edges, but mostly the cutter works pretty well. It has a few little glitches now and then, but mostly it’s a breeze. With flannel, I cut 2, sometimes 3 layers of fabric at a time.

girl baby rag quilt jenyjenny
girl baby quilt
frog baby rag quilt
frog-themed baby rag quilt (not washed yet)
monkey baby rag quilt jenyjenny
monkey-themed baby rag quilt (not washed yet)
boy baby rag quilt layout
layout for boy-themed baby rag quilt
cowboy rag quilt
Cowboy rag quilt 9 blocks x 10 blocks
back of Cowboy rag quilt jenyjenny
back of Cowboy rag quilt

The automated Go! Big is so much easier to use than the regular manual Go! Cutter. It does cost about double the price, but Accuquilt cutters sometimes go on sale at JoAnn’s or the Accuquilt website, or some Quilting Personalities’ web sites like Eleanor Burns, for good price cuts.

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. 

supplemental plastic sewing table
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.]

melamine desk top
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.

craftsbyjennyskip.com structures
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.

sewing table craftsbyjennyskip.com
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.

sewing machine box insert
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.

attaching sewing machine insert craftsbyjennyskip
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.

Four of 10 Quilts for Christmas

Wow, that’s a tall order. I’m starting to realize that someone may have to wait til next Christmas to get their quilt.

I decided a few months back to get some precut fabric packages from Craftsy, in the form of Charm Packs. A Charm Pack is a package of 5″ fabric squares in coordinating colors. There was a sale of Christmas fabrics going on near the end of the summer, and I got Moda and Robert Kaufman packs in the Evergreen, Under the Mistletoe, Holiday Flourish, 3 Sisters Favorites, and French General Favorites collections. I also had a few packs I’d snagged at Cary Quilt shop a couple of years ago. Sorry I can’t remember the collection name just now, but here is a picture of the top I’ve been working on from that set.

Christmas quilt craftsbyjennyskip
Christmas Quilt #3

I’ve found that the average Charm Pack has about 42 squares, which is not exactly enough to make a very big quilt. The quilts I want to make are mostly intended to be lap quilts, something you’d pull over you as you were lying on the couch watching TV or reading. And the ones I’ve made seem to end up a little smaller than most instructions I’ve seen for making lap quilts. If I use nine 5-inch squares for a block, and then sew together nine of those blocks, and then add a border strip around the outer edge, that’s about the size I want to make.

I used a pattern that I’d made once before, Eleanor Burns’ Tossed Nine Patch. I took a class on this pattern at a traveling Quilt Expo, and each of the students practically made an entire quilt top in the class, as Burns’ catch-phrase and company name says: Quilt in a Day. It really was a magnificent experience, an investment, because I knew I would try to reuse this pattern again and again.

Here it is again, using a charm pack of red and white squares.

quilt craftsbyjennyskip
Tossed Nine-patch top in red and white

And again, this one has charm squares of traditional Christmas colors, embellished with gold accents.

quilt top craftsbyjennyskip.com
Tossed Nine-patch lap quilt top

This is the one I’m about to square up and bind. Like the first one, it is made of reds and blues, along with the traditional pairings of red and green. But I’m loving the addition of light blue and turquoise as Christmas colors.

lap quilt craftsbyjennyskip.com
Tossed Nine-patch almost ready for binding

To do the free-motion machine quilting, I had two options on my machine: spring-action or not spring-action. I had used the non-spring-action before when I finished up the quilt I made in the aforementioned class. I was pretty happy with it, but actually I have a slightly different machine than I had back then. I chose the other option, the spring-action one. Both options had specific presser feet to use. The non-spring-action free motion foot was just a small, clear, snap-on foot that looked like a regular embroidery foot except it had an open front. The spring-action foot was a complex item. I had to unscrew and remove the shank that was on the post, and screw on the spring-action foot to the post from the left side. At the top of the right side of the post is another screw that keeps the needle tightened up and ready to sew the fabric. The spring-action foot had a metal bar, kind of like a stretched-out heavy paper clip, that rested on top of the bolt that keeps the needle tightened up. Within the shank of the foot was a spring. So while you are free-motion quilting, the fabric gets moved about by your hands rather than by the feed dogs, because on this setting, the feed dogs are down. And this foot rolls with the punches, skimming over the fabric. After a quilt and a half, the little metal bar suddenly broke off, and I had to do something else.

broken sewing machine foot
broken spring-action presser foot

Of course, the sewing shop didn’t have another one in stock. And they had never seen a foot part break like that. It wasn’t a clean break, if you look at the break closely, it looks like the metal fibers just pulled apart, if such a thing could happen. Anyway, I tried to finish using the other option, but my results really sucked doing it that way. Thread breaking, needle breaking, birds’ nests, ugh. Some days, sewing can be a real disaster.

The one that I finished, I bound using store-bought quilt binding tape that had been in the clearance bin. Since it is now December 8, I’m open to using short-cuts like that. Our foremothers in the 19th century couldn’t get store-bought short-cuts like that, and they did all the sewing by hand. I’ll close with possible reasons for not finishing a quilt project by a self-imposed deadline, then vs now:

Why didn’t you get your Christmas quilt finished (in 1850)?

1) Frostbite
2) We had to use the dining-room table for skinning a deer
3) Wanted to conserve the candle supply, so we slept instead of working by candlelight

Why didn’t you get your 10 Christmas quilts finished (in 2015)?

1) Ran out of backing fabric and wanted to wait until I got a new Joann’s coupon before I bought more
2) Sewing machine malfunction on orders from one to five, one being a broken part, five being a broken motor (in which there is no workaround)
3) Husband had to use the dining-room table to assemble a frame for a new display cabinet he’s making

These are just possible examples. I may actually finish this project…

Pick Your Passion: Quilting, Bluegrass, or Armchair Quarterbacking

quilt festival
“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
quilt festival
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!

Thanksgiving Food, Fun and Games

We love the holidays! Some of our recent holiday get-togethers sported a theme: Mexican Food Christmas, one Thanksgiving dinner featured barbecue from a local take-out restaurant, one time we had a British Christmas lunch with a standing rib roast, Yorkshire pudding and mince tarts. One time we made our own turducken, stuffing a chicken inside a duck, then stuffing that inside a turkey. Fun, but labor-intensive! We like to have food for vegetarians, semi-vegetarians, diabetics, gluten-intolerants, appetizers to hold off appetites until late-comers arrive, buffet service, and of course, desserts. Some of the kids like whatever we offer for dinner, but some desire Thanksgiving fare to be traditional: turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pies.

Although Thanksgiving was celebrated in America in various states prior to the 19th century, it wasn’t an official holiday until President Lincoln declared it so in 1863. A Native American Iroquois traditional feast was observed at the end of the harvest season, with cornbread and giving thanks; corn being the chief crop for which they were thankful.

This year, we’re not only going to have dinner, we’re going to play with food as well. We’re gearing up for an afternoon game of Cornhole, hopefully sitting around a fire pit and making roasted marshmallow S’mores for an evening snack.

First, the Cornhole game boards.  There are several plans available on the web but generally they can be made with a 2 ft. by 4 ft. piece of 1/2 inch thick, pressure treated plywood, a couple of 8 ft. lengths of 2×4’s and some carriage bolts.

glue-up craftsbyjennyskip.com
glue-up
corn hole game board craftsbyjennyskip.com
assembling and clamping the corn hole board
cornhole craftsbyjennyskip.com
drilling holes for deck screws to reenforce the corners
nailing craftsbyjennyskip.com
adding pin nails to aid in fastening the plywood to the frame
legs craftsbyjennyskip.com
pieces that will become legs of the game boards
board legs craftsbyjennyskip.com
board legs rounded to make them retractable
bolt holes craftsbyjennyskip.com
drilling the bolt holes for the legs
board with primer layer
corn hole board with Kilz primer
game board craftsbyjennyskip.com
painting the board
game board
masking the board for painting
craftsbyjennyskip.com
finishing the blue part
cornhole craftsbyjennyskip.com
painted Cornhole game board

Now for the bags. I’d seen a set of 8 corn hole bags, with the UF gator logo on them, at the Book Store, but they were about $50. I found this set at Wal-Mart for only about $15 so I snapped them up, thinking what a bargain I got. When Skip saw them, he asked “Where’s the rest of them?” I didn’t realize I’d only gotten one set; you need to have 8, not just 4 bags.

gator cornhole bags
the store-bought bags

But not to worry, I had some duck canvas remnants in the stash to make corn hole bags, so I thought I’d give them a try. Corn hole game components must adhere to strict regulations. The bags must conform to size and weight specifications, and the type of fabric for the bags is also specified.

beans
bean bag filling, from beans dry-pack canned in 1996
filling for the bags
15 ounces of dried beans

According to specs, they can be filled with dried corn, beans or some other approved substance. My store-bought bags are filled with plastic pellets. After filling and sewing the edges of my home-made bags, they weighed 15.7 ounces, the same weight as each store-bought bag.

The bag seams are sewn at the bottom and sides, then the bags turned inside-out and filled. The remaining opening edges are turned under, and pinned, leaving a wide enough edge for the seam to be sewn. I used a narrow zipper foot, a versatile attachment I’ve found useful for many sewing tasks. It’s reversible, so you can clip it on so that it flattens either the left edge or the right edge of the seam as you’re sewing.

seam
seam using narrow zipper foot
corn hole
ready to play? Three woodies and one throw to go…

 

Just found this web site that show what a store-bought corn hole set might cost: https://www.victorytailgate.com/cp-23710-Florida+UF+Gators+Cornhole+Game+Set+Onyx+Stained+Stripe+Version.html. Oh, and this is on sale, with a set of bags included, which are a $50 value (it says.)

As opposed to our set for about $20 apiece.  I bought half the bags. The ones I made may have cost about $5.00.

Christmas Pageantry

Here’s a short little post to describe a tiny piece of a Christmas project we’re taking part in: helping to make costumes for a local production of the play Savior of the World.

The costumes for the play are modeled after the paintings of Carl Bloch, a 19th century Danish artist. The patterns are simple, the colors are muted, and the overall effect of the costumes is deeply symbolic. You can read more about the costume design in this article: Costuming for Savior of the World Production.

robe costume craftsbyjennyskip.com
robe costume for Savior of the World Christmas play

As a Christian, I like to go to at least one event during the holiday season that portrays the Christmas story. And by that I mean focusing on the story of Jesus, Mary and Joseph; although other productions featuring toys, dreams, visions of sugarplums, St Nick, Macy’s, animated cartoon animals, and little girls freezing to death while out trying to sell matches, etc. can be impressive.

Christmas music can elevate me to spiritual thoughts, and can bring back intense memories. Like Mrs. Horak, our third-and-fourth-grade choir teacher, banging the lid on the piano to get us to shut up and pay attention during the endless rehearsals. And fear, when she would stand next to us while we were singing, and shriek out loud “You’re FLAT!” which would cause us to sing softly, then she’d yell “LOUDER! OPEN YOUR MOUTH!” Then she would run to the piano and play the notes, and make us sing them over and over again until we were singing right. She hated it when someone would pronounce it “Christmiss.” She would yell, “CHRISTMUSS! Say it!” I must admit, sometimes when I’m singing Christmas carols, I don’t even sound like my normal self, I can actually hit those high notes. It brings me back to those frosty, dark nights in the lunchroom turned auditorium at our elementary school, taking off my coat and putting it on a pile of coats, wearing black patent-leather shoes and a choir robe, filing in a single-file line to stand on bleachers. Then, we sang for what seemed like (and probably was) hours. We sang Christmas songs, but we also sang “Oh come, Oh Come Emmanuel” and “Kumbaya,” among others, as part of the Christmas program. It was something we all looked forward to.

Thanks to everyone who carries on these traditional performances: singing, instrumental shows, dancing, displays of decorations and crafts. You bring all of us in the community together!

Modern Hemming

I always thought that blind-hemming was the only hemming that was acceptable for clothes that would be worn out in public. Blind-hemming, to me, was done by hand. Imagine my surprise, and skepticism, when I found out blind-hemming can be done on a sewing machine! Some machines have a designated blind-hem stitch, some have attachments for blind-hemming.

Sewing machines became popular in the 19th Century, but lots of sewing was still done by hand. Hand-sewing is rather an art, wouldn’t you say? I love beautiful hand-embroidery, trapunto, appliqué, quilting. Those fancy stitches make plain old blind-hemming look like a country cousin. We are a couple that is also fascinated by what machines can do. So I decided to give blind-hemming on the sewing machine a try. As luck would have it, Skip had 4 or 5 new pairs of pants that mysteriously came in with no hems at all, and each pant leg was about 5 inches too long.

pants to hem craftsbyjennyskip.com
pants

The first step was to get Skip to try them on and say where he wanted the length to be terminated. About a year and a half later, we were ready to go to Step 2: measuring the inseam.

pants inseam
measuring the inseam

Next, cut off the excess. You have to leave some length to make a cuff or turn under. I think a pants hem should be about 3/4 inch to 1 inch. My grandmother taught me that the 2nd joint of my index finger is about an inch long, so I can eyeball that distance as a rough measure.

cutting off excess
yikes, the cut-off. It’s a little scary.

What if I cut it off too short? Oops, I have done that before! To be safer, wash and dry the pants before hemming (if the label says you can do so; don’t wash them if it says: “dry clean only”), and make the inseam a little longer than you think it should be.

pants hem
fold up a hem, fold it up twice, and press

To sew the blind-hem by machine, you take the folded-over-twice hem and fold the outermost fold back in. My machine has a blind-hem foot and a blind-hem stitch that does about 4 straight stitches, then a side stitch, which is the blind-tack. If I were sewing the blind-hem stitch by hand, I would knot the thread, push the needle through the folded hem edge, then attach the thread to the pants with a tiny little stitch that can be barely seen from the outside of the pants, then grab a big stitch from the folded edge of the hem, and again, attach the thread to the pants with a tiny little stitch, grabbing only a thread’s breadth of the pants fabric with the needle.

blind hem foot
sewing machine’s blind-hem foot
Husqvarna Viking Diamond blind-hem setting
machine set up for blind-hemming
blind hemming by machine
Placement on throat plate for sewing the blind-hem

Sometimes people like to forget the pressing. But pressing is important; it makes the difference between shabby and sharp.

unpressed pants hem
These are the hemmed pants before pressing
pants hem
pressed pants hem

If you click on the last photo, and zoom up, you’ll be able to see the blind-tack stitches. They are more noticeable than if sewn by hand, but they look ok. They look good enough.

Fitness From One Century to Another

We’ve had some interesting discussions lately about how to avoid getting cancer. One way is to quit smoking if you’ve been a smoker, or to never start if you haven’t been. But, living in the 21st Century, we can benefit from LOTS of prior research that tells us things we can do to avoid getting cancer. The older we get, the more I realize that none of us is immune to it.

While surfing the list of online courses offered by University of Florida, I happened upon this one you can take for just $20: TAKE CONTROL TO REDUCE YOUR CANCER RISK. You don’t need a college degree to guess that some things you can do to head off cancer include proper diet, exercise, using sunblock, and staying away from chemical exposure, right?

Googling cancer’s history brings up a wealth of horrific lore about how the disease was looked upon in the 19th century. Apart from the various forms of gender-specific cancers, cancer overall was thought to afflict mostly women. Men were encouraged to ramp up diet and exercise so as not to be “subject to women’s diseases.” [from The Emergence of Cancer as a Public Health Concern by Ornella Moscucci, Phil, BSc ].

So diet and exercise were emphasized in the 19th century, but perhaps not to the extent they are now.  Our ancestors probably did lots more walking from place to place than we do, and had physically intense jobs to do, unless they were on the wealthy end of the scale. I’ve had ancestors from both the wealthy side and the poor side. The upscale ancestors may have entertained the notion of Physical Culture, in which exercise with light apparatus such as dumbbells, bar bells, ropes, and other props may have been employed.

Our affluence and  abundance of leisure time may have added to our risk of ill health, by allowing us to overeat and under-exert.  I just finished a 6-week class at the local gym called “Tighten Your Tummy” in which light apparatus, of the sort I’ve never encountered before, was employed. We used foam rollers, a BOSU, a Pilates ring, mushy balls, and exercise mats for two 30-minute intense workouts per week, in addition to a 30-minute minimal workout (like walking or yoga) per day.

BOSU crunches craftsbyjennyskip.com
crunches on the BOSU (note AAW 2013 t-shirt, now part of my workout clothes)
yoga mat and wedge craftsbyjennyskip.com
yoga mat and wedge apparatus

 

 

 

 

 

I go to a one-hour yoga class every morning, and I’ve been toting some light apparatus with me in the form of a yoga mat. More and more, my fellow yoginis (I go to the Women’s Gym) have added to their caches of apparatus: blocks, straps, wedges, towels, light dumbbells and gripper things. Which is kind of funny, when you think about it, since one of the 8 limbs of yoga is Pratyhara, the withdrawal of the mind from sense objects. But we don’t get far into the metaphysical aspects of yoga, it’s more of a fitness regime for us.

It was time to sew a new and upgraded light apparatus carrier, since the mat bag I made a while back is barely big enough for the mat and nothing additional. While the Gaiam online store had a nice selection of bags and totes at fairly decent prices, of course I decided to make my own. I found a piece of beige pleather in the remnant stash, some purse magnets I ordered a while back from Nancy Zieman, and a length of funky, fringe-y woven trim in the ribbon, ruffle and trim stash. That’s all it took! Easy-peasy.

pleather remnant craftsbyjennyskip.com
pleather remnant
purse magnets jenny skip
purse magnets
pleather gym bag
finished gym bag
gym bag jennyskip
carrier for light apparatus