Machine Embroidery Finish

Finished reversible table runner with an everyday side and a holiday-ish side.

quilted table runner
every day machine-quilted table runner
machine-quilted holiday table runner jenny skip
holiday side of runner

The design on the every day side was “traced” using the machine’s 2mm satin stitch, and free-motion settings. I feel that my machine’s specialty stitches are underused, so I wanted to try out one for this project. For stitching the outer border, the feed dogs were turned back on, and the machine’s star stitch was used.

star machine stitch jenny skip
close-up of star-stitch border

Finished just in time for Fall Selfish Sewing Week, It’s also the final wrap-up of National Sewing Month. Not sure if Selfish Sewing Week is a widespread phenom. I’d never heard of it before, but I do like the notion of it! Sometimes I don’t feel justified just sewing for myself, which is a little crazy, because there isn’t a lot of feedback generated from folks to whom I’ve given home-sewn gifts. Or the feedback isn’t overwhelmingly positive. If I sew something for myself and I end up hating it, it doesn’t hurt my feelings. If I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing it in public, there’s no visible shame, there’s no ongoing question. There’s no wondering if the other person received it in the mail, or getting the same package returned from the postal worker three months later.

What would you plan to sew if you were participating in Selfish Sewing Week? Something trendy?




Something for the home?

Etsy Fall Tutorials

Something for relaxation?

Spa Gift Patterns

Something to show your team spirit?

Go Gators! Etsy Offerings

The week’s wide open!

P.S. 23 December 2015

The more I looked at the finished table runner, the more that yellow binding around it didn’t agree with me. So I ripped it off and re-sewed metallic gold seam binding on the edge instead.

table runner, machine embroidery hack
everyday side with gold binding
machine embroidery hack with gold metallic binding
Christmas-y side, with gold-bound edges

Knitting, Always

Knitting is in my blood. I learned how (English method) from a grandmother when I was about nine, then never really developed that skill until I retired, a few years ago. My other grandmother, who was born in England and came to the US as a teenager, was an accomplished knitter. Her husband, my grandfather, was a descendant of Catalyntje Tricaud, originally of France but living in Holland to escape religious persecution, and who came to America in the 1600’s. Some sources say that Tricaud came from a family of specialty weavers. Perhaps the name Tricaud is a variation of tricot, from the French “to knit” and in English, a special type of knit fabric.

If you had to classify the degree of technicality of the types of knitting, probably machine knitting would be the most high-tech. We haven’t ventured into the world of knitting machines, probably because I don’t know all I want to know about hand-knitting yet. Most knitters I’ve met are pretty passionate about the type of knitting they like best: English method, Continental method, loom knitting…

Then again, the most low-tech method would be hand-knitting on regular old wooden knitting needles, do you agree? And you could be knitting with your own hand-spun yarn from your own sheep’s fleece, that you made into batts and spun on a drop-spindle.

My variety of knitting probably comes in as medium-tech. I bought this yarn at Hobby Lobby, on sale, and it was already intended to be made into a hat. The necessary amount of yarn was wrapped around a cardboard tube, with the knitting pattern attached on back of the label, and a big pre-fab pompon was stashed in the tube, so that when the yarn was all knitted up the pompon would be freed up to attach. The yarn, Keppi Sparkle, colorway Orange Fizz, was a mixture of lots of different types of fibers all together in a continuous strand, so it was self-striping.

Kepi hat kit skip jenny
Keppi Sparkle knitted hat kit

Rather than the traditional double-pointed needles (which usually spell disaster for klutzy me) I used a more medium-tech circular needle.

knitting needles jennyskip
medium-tech circular needle and yarn needle

This whole project was easy and quick. Meanwhile, I’m on another more complex knitting project, and I just took a break to zip through something rewardingly speedy.

knit hat
Keppi Sparkle hat in Orange Fizz

Machine Embroidery Hack

This project is the second of a number of winter holiday quilts I intend to make for gifts this year.

Defining Quilting, Wikipedia writes that in America in the early 19th Century, the type of quilting done was whole cloth rather than pieced assembly. Piecework quilting would have been a thrifty pursuit, using up smaller bits of cloth. But colonial seamstresses were also able to employ thrift in the whole cloth quilts by using old blankets as batting in between layers of cloth and sewing through.

This small quilt, slated to be a tabletop runner or a wall decoration, is pretty much a whole cloth quilt, except for the addition of a couple of strips on the sides of the red panel, to make it an even match to the reverse side.

Like the colonial quilters, I decorated the whole cloth with an embroidery design. Except I “embroidered” with the sewing machine, using a 2mm satin stitch that is loose in some areas, tight in others. I switched the feed dogs’ normal setting to “free motion spring action” so that the fabric could be moved around under the needle in whatever direction I needed to sew. Then I attached the free-motion spring-action foot (I tried the plain free-motion foot first and didn’t like it a whole lot. The spring-action foot is much better). So this is not one of those machine embroideries that stitched out an automated pattern inside a fixed hoop, it’s all free-motion sewing using the machine’s satin stitch setting. A narrow zig-zag could be used with a similar effect.

To add a special holiday touch, I used gold metallic thread. I’ve had problems with metallic thread shredding during machine embroidery, but this time I wised up and used a special metallic thread needle, and it worked pretty good most of the time.

gold thread and metallic needles,
needle and thread

With a nod to the thrift and industry of our colonial forbears, I used fabric remnants for the front and back whole cloth components, with the green and black strips on the side from a Robert Kaufman Kona cotton roll-up (2 1/2″ x 44″ strips in Dark Colorstory). Love being thrifty! Love to see a cast-off roll of fabric in the remnant bin and wonder what can be done with just that one lone little piece?

Skip looked at the embroidery and said “Wow! Where did you come up with that beautiful design?”

metallic design, craftsbyjennyskip,.com
machine “embroidered” whole cloth

I just turned the little quilt over and said, “Here,” and showed him the motif on the reverse, which I had just traced over with the machine needle, and it duplicated the design on the opposite side in bobbin thread.

tracing design machine embroidery
reverse side

Are you also working on holiday gift items? September’s almost over…

Give That Man a Cigar (pen)–Part 2

The stabilized cigar halves sat around the house for several days because it rained…and also, the main participant in the project broke his ankle.  Once the boot was installed on his broken pin, and the weather cleared up for a few hours, the cigar pen project was back in play. drilling out cigar
drilling out the center of the cigar half

First step was to drill out the centers of the cigar pieces, to make room for brass tubes from the pen kit. sanding pen tubes
sanding the outsides of the brass pen tubes

Next, putting a little “tooth” on the outside surfaces of the brass pen tubes by sanding with 80 grit Abranet, so they adhere better when they’re glued inside the cigar pieces. gluing pen
gluing up

Next, gluing the brass pen tubes into the drilled-out centers of the cigar pieces. cigar pen
brass tube is going to fit in this slot sanding cigar pen
sanding ends of cigar to flush with the brass tubes

The cigar halves, with their glued-in brass tubes, are then sanded on the disk sander until the ends are even with the outer edges of the brass tubes. turning cigar on a lathe
the cigar halves are then mounted on the lathe and trimmed

The cigar pieces are slid onto a pen mandrel and mounted onto a lathe to be turned and trimmed using a Rockler round carbide mini turning tool. cigar pen
shaping the cigar pen

Next, many applications of 1) thin CA glue and 2) spray-on accelerator, then sanding with more Abranet from 80 grit to 600 grit. Abranet
sequence of Abranet from 80 grit to 600 grit friction polish
application of high friction polish, then glue

After several coats of high-friction polish, then several coats of thick CA glue were applied, to fill in lots of little divots and voids that were chipped out by the turning tool. Even though the cigar was stabilized with resin, it wasn’t completely smooth and rock-hard. It was very chippy. The final finessing step is wet sanding with a series of water-soaked sanding pads in grits 600 to 20,000. wet sanding pen barrel
wet sanding for the final finessing pressing pen
pressing the pen parts into place

The rest of the pen parts from the kit are pressed into place. cigar pen
finished cigar pen

There, a cigar that isn’t bad for your health! Maybe next time we’ll get a Cuban cigar and see if it turns out any different.

Making Flying Objects to Help Make-a-Wish Foundation

One of my YouTube heroes, Steve Ramsey of Woodworking for Mere Mortals, has just started a campaign to support the Make-a-Wish Foundation, entitled Makers Care. This campaign was inspired by the need to provide transportation for children to support their wish. Steve will donate $5 for every picture submitted of an airplane made (up to $2000 I think), to Corporate sponsors are matching his donation. In addition, the website also provides a vehicle for anyone to donate to this cause, and offers random prizes for participation throughout the campaign. Thanks, Steve, for all you do to inspire woodworkers and for supporting our many ill children that have so many needs!
Our submittal is shown below. They aren’t planes but they do represent a method of transporting not only corporate executives (even presidential hopefuls), but also our troops, rescuers, medical transport, etc. So hopefully Steve will accept our photo contribution. Just in case, we are making a donation through Makers Care. If you are reading this blog, please support this effort… you will bring so much joy to the lives of these children!!

wooden toys
helicopter toys made from wood scraps

The wood for these toys came from my cut-off bin, and I used non-toxic acrylic paint. These toys are for designed for kids age 4 and older.

More than One Way to Make a Bench

This project started over a year ago with a call from a dear friend, Dwayne Barber, who has a company that specializes in supplying large renovation projects with unusual sizes and species of wood.  Dwayne calls me regularly to tease me with special deals on wood, like 16/4 slabs of air-dried perfectly clear cherry or 14 inch wide 8/4 slabs of perfectly clear air-dried padauk

A year ago it was a load of walnut including 16/4 and 12/4 air-dried boards. Included in the stack of this walnut were two beautiful 12/4 natural-edge slabs about 2 ft. in width and 10 ft. in length.  What immediately came to mind was a trestle table to replace our 50 year old colonial maple table, which had suffered years of functioning as the children’s layout table for science projects or Dad’s assembly table for woodworking projects. But I ramble…. Following the construction of a new natural-edge walnut table (which by the way is now functioning as an assembly table for a new display cabinet), the decision was made to start replacing the maple side chairs with benches, a more reasonable solution for supplying seating for our 18 grandchildren when the swarm attacks our home for holiday meals.

natural-edge trestle table in use as assembly table for display cabinet

For inspiration, I turned to Fine Woodworking Winter 2015 Building Furniture edition. The bench I selected was the one included on page 112 described by Daniel Chaffin in his piece entitled “Trestle Table with Modern Appeal.”

plans from the article
plans from the article

I was fairly true to the design, but since I had to glue up two ¾-inch thick boards to get the bench legs up to thickness, I felt I needed to cover up the joint, which would be exposed in the final construction. To accomplish this and to add a contrasting accent, I decided to ebonize strips of cherry with black India ink and use these to cover the joint.  In addition, I added ebonized strips to the seat edges.

first bench: note ebonized wood accents
second bench

Two benches down and six to go.  In order to move this project along, I decided to make a significant leap into 21st century technology and use a CNC machine to cut the bench legs.

So in lieu of the conventional shop equipment I used for the first two benches: table saws, drill presses with large diameter Forstner bits, and routers, I turned to a machine which, when programmed with the proper software, and loaded with a solidly anchored piece of wood, would cut out the legs. I place emphasis on the anchoring and software because it took several unsuccessful attempts to finally cut out the legs. 

wood for CNC machine
positioning the wood to be cut into a bench leg

My learning curve was sharp, and the project required a few support phone calls and trial/error attempts before I was done.

bench leg cut from CNC

Somehow, pushing the go button and watching this machine carve out the legs was awesome to witness, but I missed finessing with the more conventional tools, to shape the legs.  I’ve done projects totally with unpowered hand tools, and I appreciate the feel of the wood fibers surrendering to a sharp hand saw or chisel. But at my age, sometimes I have to succumb to more modern approaches to get the job done. After all, there is always the satisfaction of sanding and finishing!!

Rag Time Quilt

Have you seen these raggy-edge quilts? My first encounter with one was a few years ago, and I loved them: usually they looked like denim, but sometimes flannel. I always wanted to make one but they seemed so labor-intensive.

rag quilt
ragged-edge lap quilt

The old time-honored method was to sew the blocks together, with the edges exposed, then clip the edges so they fray when washed, as in this Craftsy article. I shudder to think of what my wrists might feel like after all that clipping, even with these special snips made just for that purpose.

Our local sewing shop started featuring a cutting tablet to make quilt blocks, and a rag quilt block template which cuts the snips at the same time the blocks are cut. The tool was called Accuquilt Go! cutter. The way it works: one or more layers of fabric are lined up on a cutting template, a thick mat is fitted on top of the fabric, and then the whole sandwich of template, fabric and mat are rolled through a pressing bar so that the fabric is mashed onto the blades embedded in the template, and cuts the fabric into the desired shape. Not an automated procedure, but a little more streamlined than making each individual cut with scissors or a cutting wheel. Actually, they do make an automated cutter but I haven’t tried that one yet. It’s about double the price of the Go! cutter.

Accuquilt cutter
Accuquilt cutter (on desk top) and cut blocks arranged in a pattern

For this lap quilt with a Christmas theme, I used flannel remnants from the remnant bin at JoAnn Fabrics. They often have smaller-than-one-yard pieces left at the end of the bolt, and they package them up in little bundles and sell them for half the normal price. The pattern for this lap quilt, which is on the back of the 8 1/2″ rag square template, calls for 49 double-sided 8 1/2″ square blocks sewn together. It gives you the yardage of each color you need, but I just cut up a bunch of remnants and then picked out 49 x 2 blocks of fabrics that I thought looked good together and arranged them so that no two of the same butted up against each other.

1-inch seam allowance
marking the throat plate for 1-inch seams

All the blocks are sewn with 1-inch seam allowances, then a 1-inch border is sewn around the perimeter. Next, it’s washed and dried (they recommend using a commercial washer because of the ton of lint that’s generated during laundering) and that makes the cut fringe fluff up.

cats on quilt blocks
who let the cats in? Arf, arf, arf

I kept all the blocks down on the floor until I sewed them together, so as not to get mixed up. As it happened, I had enough solids and prints to alternate them without ever having a solid connected to the side of a solid or a print to the sides of another print.

leftover fabric
leftover fabric bits and pieces for another project and better view of Accuquilt Go! cutter
fabric storage box
some will be stored here for patchwork and crazy quilts

Give That Man a Cigar (pen)–Part 1

Not that this was planned to go along with WordPress’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Grid…but there is a grid included in the project… stabilized cigar
grid inside the vacuum chamber

For more Weekly Photo Challenge: Grid click here.

Not being a cigar smoker, I don’t fully appreciate the culture of cigar smoking but I do have a relative that does. I thought I’d see if I could take a cigar (in this case, one that was made in the Dominican Republic) and make a ball point pen out of it by turning the cigar on a lathe.  In order to accomplish this, I considered two alternatives; stabilize the cigar with some kind of resin or grind up the cigar and mix it with a resin to cast a pen blank.

The option I chose was to stabilize the cigar with resin and use the stabilized cigar as a pen blank.

stabilized cigar parts
stabilized cigar parts after undergoing the treatment listed below

As I prepared for this project I couldn’t help but reflect on the memorable times my family spent visiting Ybor City near Tampa, Florida and eating dinner at the Las Novedades or Columbia restaurants.  I can remember the waiters having fun with my brother and me by seeing just how much Cuban bread we could eat at one sitting.  I can still remember how fantastic that bread tasted once we had lathered it up with (what seemed like) a pound of butter!

The history in this area is steeped in the manufacture of cigars.  I learned that in the cigar factories, a hundred or more (it seemed like that to a 10 year old) Cuban immigrants sat at tables rolling cigars while a man sat at a lectern in the middle of the room reading aloud articles from the newspaper.  Ybor City’s cigar history goes back to the 1880’s.  By the 1930’s there were 150 cigar factories in this area and Tampa was referred to the Cigar Capital of the World. For more history of this era of cigar manufacturing visit Save Cigar City’s page.

Dominican republic cigar
cigar made in Dominican Republic

Taking the cigar, I used the pen kit tubes for the Roadster pen to measure off the lengths of cigar I needed for the pen parts.

Note: If you go to the Craft Supplies web site to check out the link, you may see another link for a “Cigar Pen” kit, too. But don’t be fooled, that kit is for making a pen that faintly resembles the shape of a cigar, not a pen from a real cigar like we’re making here!

I wrapped the cigar at the cut point with blue painters tape to help support the cigar when I cut it into two parts.

prepping cigar for pen kit
cutting the cigar into lengths that will fit the parts from the pen kit

The two cigar sections were then placed in a Turn Tex Woodworks Juiceproof vacuum chamber for the stabilization process. The chamber was supplied with a plastic grid called a pressure fit submersion plate that can be used to anchor the cigar parts in the chamber when the Cactus Juice is added.

vacuum chamber
placing grid on top of cigar parts in vacuum chamber

Enough of the Cactus Juice is added to completely cover the cigar parts with an additional inch or so to allow for the Cactus Juice to ultimately be absorbed by the cigar parts.

adding Cactus Juice to vacuum chamber
pouring the Cactus Juice into the chamber

The lid is then placed on the chamber and the chamber is connected to a vacuum pump.  As the vacuum pump runs, it evacuates air from the chamber and the voids of the cigar parts.  As the air leaves the voids, you can see the Cactus Juice “boil” as the air bubbles up through the resin.

bubbling in the chamber

After about 20 minutes, the bubbles stop, indicating that most of the air has been removed from the cigar samples. The vacuum is then released and the cigar parts are allowed to soak in the Cactus Juice for about 20 minutes.

Following this soaking period, the cigar parts are wrapped individually in aluminum foil and then baked at 220 degrees F for two hours.  

cigars stabilized with Cactus Juice
stabilized cigar pieces ready to go in the oven

Next post: Part 2, turning the stabilized cigar on the lathe and turning it into a pen…

Using current technology to create 19th Century crafts