Monday, April 25, 2016

A Productive Weekend

I got a lot done this weekend -- or at least it feels that way.  I checked several items of my to do list.  But as most of them did not have specific intended recipients or uses, I guess it was more playing around.  But hey, they were on the list and they are now crossed off!

I will have to add pictures later, but on the sewing front:

- I finished a small tote bag project for my cousin Suzanne that I've had in process for quite a while.  It has really pretty machine embroidery about knitting that I got from  I just love their design aesthetic and their designs always stitch out perfectly.

- I made a sewing machine cover for Kyle.  It took more finagling than I expected.  I thought I would just measure the cover that came with the machine (which is just a plain white cheap vinyl or plastic of some kind) and sew it up in a snap.  But it turned out that cover wasn't remotely fitted to the machine, so after sewing it, I then had to do a little garment style fitting to take in some here and there and make a curved hem on one side.  But I'm pretty happy with it now.  It has less personality than I might prefer, so maybe someday I'll replace it with something that has embroidery or applique on it, but for now this is a gorgeous fabric and that will definitely do!

 - I tried out a couple machine embroidery designs I got from  One was for a quilted keyfob that Katie from Katie's Quilting Corner has talked about many times on her podcast.  The other was for these little monogrammed squares that you can attach a small chain or jump ring to and attach to your belongings to label them as yours (the idea being that you will know which pair of scissors at that sewing retreat are yours, etc.).  I will write more at length about both of these hopefully in another post as they were both okay, but did not impress me.

- I tried out making a wine glass shade.  My husband complimented it when I set it in the bathroom with a candle burning in the wine glass to see if it would be firesafe (at least firesafe enough for me).  And since he's not the most observant or complimentary guy, I take that one as a success.  (This is not husband slander -- he's great at complimenting when I specifically show him something I made with the clear implication being that I am seeking approval, just not great at noticing these things on his own).

On the non-sewing front, I did a deep clean of my bathroom and am pretty pleased with that, laundered my ironing board cover (which I never remember to do), and cooked up a pretty delicious Sunday dinner of shepherd's pie.

So yah, feeling pretty good about myself.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Naming my Sewing Machines

For the last few years (basically the entire time since quilting/sewing became my most serious hobby) I have struggled with naming my sewing machines.  I very much want names for them so I can refer to them to my sewing friends (really my one sewing friend), husband and myself more easily than saying "the small Singer -- you know, the second machine I bought."

Briefly, when I had just gotten the aforementioned Singer, I was using Ginger and MaryAnn for my two new and beloved sewing machines.  Yes, based on Gilligan's Island.  I thought it was so cute and clever because I had purchased MaryAnn in a panic when my decades old Kenmore (the only sewing machine I had ever used to that point) broke down while I was working on the gift wedding quilt that got me into my new obsession with quilting.  She was a Brother SE400 that I picked up at Wal-Mart in my panic to keep sewing while my Kenmore was in the shop.  Well, I could not have been more thrilled!  

Don't get me wrong -- I love my old Kenmore.  It was my mother's sewing machine, which she handed down to me when I was in college.  And I think it sewed like a champ for her and I know it did for me for years.  About 22 of them, in fact.  My Kenmore has 10 different stitches, I think, though I had never used anything other than straight and zigzag.  And it has a very smooth start, which wasn't the case with another Kenmore my Mom had.  It was carted around through at least a dozen moves during my college and law school years and the early years after when I seemed to move every single year, and it always started up without complaint and just kept on ticking.  It was completely and utterly reliable.

But my Kenmore didn't show me what a delight sewing can be.  Not that it should be my sewing machine's responsibility, but my experiences just hadn't thrown me into the joy of sewing.  So when I got my Brother I was amazed at all the features available for such a reasonable price.  I went to Wal-Mart that day looking only for a baseline model to get me by until my Kenmore was repaired.  I assumed I would spend about $100 or $150.  I assumed all sewing machines were pretty similar (at least at Wal-Mart).  But even at Wal-Mart there is a surprising range of machines and prices -- that day I think they ranged from $90 to $375.  Looking at the various options and descriptions, I just became so excited when I read the lists of possible features.  The electronic touch screen and what seemed like loads of decorative stitches; the automatic threader and thread cutter; and maybe most exciting of all the built-in machine embroidery unit!  I got so intrigued and excited that I splurged and bought the most expensive machine they had -- the SE400.

And when I got her home, she was just as exciting as I could have hoped.  I had never seen or contemplated anything like all those stitches, automatic features, machine embroidering and such a smooth, quiet stitch!  I sewed the rest of that quilt on MaryAnn and just wanted to keep going.  I didn't need a name for her yet, though, as she was the only machine I was using.  (I never went back to the Kenmore, primarily because MaryAnn was so lightweight and easier to move and I didn't have dedicating sewing space yet, so had to get out the machine and put her back every time I wanted to sew.)  

After maybe 6 months or so, I saw a warehouse special at Amazon for a Singer 2010 for what seemed to me at the time an outrageously great price (I think it was $175), and I couldn't let the opportunity to get a couple hundred (!!!) decorative stitches.  So I bought myself a little treat pretty much entirely to get those fun stitches.  So when the Singer arrived, I felt these new friends with whom I was spending so much time deserved their own names to go with their personalities.  I got hung up on the idea that the Brother machine was my reliable workhorse and the Singer was for fancy luxurious stitching, so the Ginger and MaryAnn names popped up and seemed to fit.  

Over time, though, it became clear that those names aren't right for me.  I don't really care for Gilligan's Island -- in fact, I couldn't reliably even remember the name MaryAnn.  I kept having to ask my friends or family what her name was again in order to refer to my sewing machine.  And I definitely wasn't interested in using any of the other names from the show for my other machines (I have since acquired 2 more new machines and still have my old Kenmore).  So for a while I have been waiting for inspiration to hit.  I'm not sure I've been particularly inspired, but I have, I think, settled on the idea of naming all of my machines after my favorite fictional characters (generally from literature and movies).  So, here is what I've settled on for now, though I think I will have to see how they work out in practice:

Bigwig (from Watership Down) = Kenmore
Samwise (from Lord of the Rings) = Brother SE400
Amelie (from the movie) = Singer 2010
Dracula = Singer XL-550
Kyle Hicks Ringo (a mashup of Kyle Rees from Terminator, Dwayne Hicks from Aliens, and Johnny Ringo from Tombstone) = Singer 9985

I'm feeling pretty good about this right now.  Dracula and Kyle are the machines I'm currently spending most of my time with -- they are the ones that are kept out and accessible.  Dracula has his embroidery unit attached at all times -- I really have no need to ever use that machine for regular sewing, so it is dedicated to embroidery.  He sucks up more and more of my time these days as I recently purchased Embrilliance software and have been spending a lot of time experimenting with in the hoop projects, stitching on blanks, and playing with lettering and fonts.  Because of the complexity of things involved in machine embroidery, I also have the most frustrations with Dracula.  Lately I have learned enough that most days go smoothly, but I still have occasional tension and other learning curve issues that lead to broken needles, shredded thread, offset stitching, etc.  So Dracula seems to fit as he is a character I am bizarrely enchanted by and drawn to despite his clear problematic qualities.  And he's a bit fancy.  Like machine embroidery.

Kyle is my day to day sewing machine for everything else I do.  He's the newest machine to my household, but I already know I can rely on him completely.  And he can do it all -- he has tons of utility and decorative stitches and all the other automatic features I have come to rely on, plus an intuitive touch screen interface that I like.  He's easy to talk to and still so sensitive.  He really gets me.  Oooh, maybe I'll add a Ringo to his name for Michael Biehn's role in Tombstone.  I love him, too.  It's a little dark for a sewing machine, which is something that makes me happy, but I am also using Dracula...

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

I'm back!

Well, after an extremely long hiatus, brought about by lots of different elements of life turmoil, I am hopefully back to blogging, as I have been longing for an outlet for some of my rambling thoughts which may not be of much interest to my husband and close friends.

While I previously saw this blog as a place to store music and book reviews and impressions and the occasional cat or family story, I now see it as a place where I can journal my sewing and quilting experiences -- a hobby I have picked up in the last several years, I think starting in 2012.  I have an incredible amount of respect and appreciation for all the terrific quilt and sewing bloggers out there -- especially the immense amount of educational information, tips, tutorials and general support and assistance which the community provides.  I would really like to contribute something to the online quilting community and hope this blog will be a start toward that goal.

On the way, I am likely to share cat stories and pics, some of my experiences living with MS, and possibly tales of my husband who I, frankly, adore.  I am also adjusting to a new career which is quite the life change (as well as a dramatic budget reduction) for my husband and I, so I will likely share some accounts of that process as well.

Welcome to anyone and everyone and happy reading!