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!
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”….
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.
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.
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.
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.]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And again, this one has charm squares of traditional Christmas colors, embellished with gold accents.
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.
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.
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)?
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…
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.
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!
Here’s another cat quilt featuring redwork embroidery.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sometimes people like to forget the pressing. But pressing is important; it makes the difference between shabby and sharp.
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.
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.
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.
The straps are from Cindy’s Button Company. I found a 1/2 yard remnant of Pellon Flexible Foam Stabilizer in the interfacing stash that was just the right dimensions to line the body, and used some plastic needlepoint canvas to line the bottom and top rim.
A small red zipper showed up in the zipper stash, and a packet of red bias binding provided the edging for an inner purse pocket and 4 loops to attach the leather straps.
Had this idea in my head for years, but it took a designated Selfish Sewing Week to bring it into the real world. Thank you Rachael at imagine gnats for your inspiration!
Using current technology to create 19th Century crafts