I took the Undercover Maker Mat on the CQFA Retreat. I got to try it out. That was why I made it.
I thought the front pockets worked pretty well. I can see where a pincushion might be handy, but I don’t plan to transfer my pins from pincushion to pincushion every time I use the mat.
I think the pockets would be more in use depending on the different projects I might be working on. I might use the larger selvage pocket on the left for a 6.5 inch ruler as needed. For what I did at the retreat having my snips and seam ripper handy was fine.
I had a couple of issues. First, you can see that the snips sleeve is in the pocket. Without the snips sleeve, my snips kept getting caught on the inside of the pocket. I added the snip sleeve because I didn’t want to cut the mat. Perhaps I should have used oilcloth for the inside of the pockets?
I didn’t notice it at the retreat, but I did notice it at the Jen Carlton Bailly class. I couldn’t get the legs of my Sew Steady table level when using the mat. I may want to make another mat that is larger so the Sew Steady doesn’t have to try and deal with different heights (mat/table).
None of this is fatal or a problem with the pattern.
No, my birthday is not in February, but I didn’t have a chance to show off my gifts until now. I am not trying to make anyone jealous.
It was a pretty big quilty birthday, which is not always the case. I got a new cutting mat. I have smaller cutting mats that go with me when I travel or participate in Sew Day. The mat I use in my workroom, however, is the one I got when I started making quilts more than 30 years ago! It was time for an upgrade and I am using and loving the new one. It does make a difference.
I received some new Tula dots. I’ll have to figure out something fabulous to make with them.
I also got a number of new project totes, which is great! I really like putting my projects in totes and keeping everything together. This little tote (right) fits charm squares. Not sure how I will use it, but will figure something out.
I haven’t tried everything out, but am slowly working my way through all the new stuff. I am so fortunate to have such great friends. It was so nice get things related to my passion.
Now that I seem to be okay with starting new projects, quilts are being thrown in my path in such a way that I can’t seem to say no.
The official name of this quilt is Halo Top. I plan to call this quilt Ring Toss, once I get around to making it. I am not a fan of the word Halo in very many contexts and this is one I don’t like. Ring Toss sounds like a circus and fun.
The other thing is that the pattern is referred to as “Jenny from One Block.” I really don’t know what that means and haven’t had any luck with Google yet.
I went out and searched the web for photos of the blocks to get some ideas. I came up with one from A Crafty Fox that was helpful. It is easy to see the block structure from this photo.
Fat Quarter Shop had a photo, which was interesting as well. It showed a grey quilt in the same pattern under the brightly colored scrap quilt. It made me think that a monochromatic border might be interesting. I’d have to work hard at showing contrast.
I bought the Accuquilt on sale in order to cut about 10,000 strips for the Renewed Jelly Roll Race quilt. I felt like it was an indulgent purchase, but also somewhat pragmatic. It worked really well for that type of cutting (as long as I was able to straighten the fabric accurately). I don’t have a large cutting table so cutting long strips can be a nightmare of folding. The Accuquilt works really well for this purpose.
I determined, early on in my Accuquilt ownership, that I was not going buy every die. I also did not plan to buy the applique’ dies. I don’t do much applique’ and I saw no reason to clutter up my shrinking fabric closet with dies I would never use. Having a complete collection is not important to me.
I also decided I would buy basic dies – squares and strips. I want dies that give me as many options as possible, so I buy sizes of squares, mostly, that I can use in various quilts. 2.5 inch squares is the die I use the most for ‘on spec’ cutting. I also use the 2 inch die as I am still collecting blue, green and purple squares for the Blueberry Lemonade quilt I plan to make at some point.
I have branched out a little. I have an HRT die. Never used, but I have it. It is a great example of why I try to be careful about the dies I buy. I bought it thinking I could pair it with 2.5 inch square a la the Spiky Stars quilt. It isn’t the right size. That is an obvious drawback for dies. With rulers, you can cut whatever size you need. The dies are usually limited to one size. I have seen dies with multiple shapes or sizes, but that isn’t always the case.
I often use SIL’s Peaky & Spike die, so much so that I have thought of buying my own. Up until now using hers is fine. She and I coordinate die buying now that we live near each other. That expands both of our collections.
Triangles are a pain to cut, so I either use the Triangle Technique or some other quick cutting method. Triangles are great to cut with the Accuquilt, but I haven’t invested in the dies. I have a few, I think, but I find they often aren’t the right size for my project.
I probably would have bought the electric version if it had been available when I was shopping. If you are thinking of a die cutter, see if a local shop has one they rent. Some shops do and that can be a good way to try them out.
The bottomline is that there is no one way for me to cut. I use rulers, dies, templates and whatever else works for my project. Do what works for you.
The other day I wrote about the pincushions I use when I am working.
I didn’t exactly lie, but I was mistaken. I actually have 5 (yes, FIVE) pincushions and I use them all, though the two I discussed the other day get the most use.
My workroom isn’t that large and it is full of books and fabric and desks, so there isn’t really much floor space. I could walk around carrying a pincushion, but I don’t. Apparently.
In addition to the two that move between my sewing machine and cutting table, I have one on the bookshelf above my ironing board, one next to my design wall and one that travels with me.
These three extras are where they are because they were given to me as gifts. I used to have a hand me down tomato pincushion, but people kept giving me cushions so now I am up to 5. I am not sure what I’ll do if I get any others. The sad part is that pincushions are so great. There are so many fun shapes and great patterns for them.
Anyway, the teapot pincushion is one that I keep on the bookshelf above my ironing board. It is a fun shape and those pins are my least favorite. Oh, the butterfly heads are fun, but somehow I just don’t like those pins. They don’t get much use as I only use them when ironing and I usually have to be desperate.
The design wall pincushion is another wool felt pincushion. It is a great color and very swirly and fun. I put in near the design wall, usually so I can pin quilt tops to it when they get too heavy for the flannel. I used it, and the pins quite a bit for the Stepping Stones n.2. The pins come in very handy when I am desperately trying to keep a top on the wall. It is annoying that the design wall fabric won’t hold a whole top.
The travel pincushion is essential. I have doubles of everything all packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice and the pincushion is no exception.
I completely used up all the pins in my travel pincushion between Sew Day on Saturday and the Rosalie Dace class. It was crazy to see this pincushion empty. A lot of my pins are taken up with the City Sampler blocks, but the others were just engaged with different projects. I was able to reclaim some so the pincushion does not look so desolate.
As you can see from the variety of pins, I have a lot of different kinds of pins. My favorites are Dritz Pearlized Pins. Of course, I love the colors, but there is something about them that works for me. They are not the thinnest or the longest, but they do work well for me.
I mentioned on Twitter (see sidebar if you want to follow me) that my Oliso had started to have problems. I could deal with them for awhile, but the poor thing just became exhausted and confused and I had to reach out for tech support. Tech support for an iron sounds weird, but I think that is what it is.
Oliso’s tech support is great. You get the same person each time (perhaps they have only one person and not a lot of problems?), which is important to me. I really dislike having to go through my problem each time I reply to a support ticket entry. Ryan, the tech person, told me how to reboot my iron (crazy, right?) to get it’s brain back in order and when that was not a long term solution, he worked with me to get the iron fixed.
Oliso irons have a warranty, but mine was old, so it wasn’t free. I think I have had the Oliso for 3 years. I know I bought it on MassDrop. Ryan, my new friend, didn’t care where I bought it, which was nice. I got a deal on the repair, but I think what happened is that they just sent me a new one. It is exactly the same as my old one and works great.
As you know I can’t sew without an iron. I have a Sunbeam as a backup and for DH to iron whatever he needs to iron. I used it as a test to determine if I needed a replacement Oliso or if I should go back to buying cheap irons. My iron strategy used to be to buy a cheap iron at Target whenever I had iron issues. Sometimes, my stepdad can fix the cheapies, but not always. The Sunbeam was fine, but having to sit it upright every time was a hassle. Yes, #firstworldproblem, I know. I like the stability of the Oliso always being in horizontal position. The iron sits on the ironing board next to the bathroom door, so there are a lot of opportunities for it to get knocked off. It has happened.
Still, the Oliso is pricey even at the reduced rate I got for the repair.
The horizontal position is, I realized, also good for my hands and wrists. That little bit of extra weight can make a difference if my hands are hurting me, whereas sliding the iron over to the units or fabrics is not completely weight free, there is little wrist flexing involved and every little bit helps.
I decided to pay the money and get the Oliso repaired. It is back in action. The Sunbeam is put away for stand-in duty in three years and everyone is happy.
I am not affiliated with Oliso. Just a happy customer.
I first mentioned tracking my fabric usage formally on a V&S post a few months ago. Peg recently asked about it, so I thought I would write more about it.
First, if you are a beginner, stop reading and go sew. You are too young a quiltmaker to be worrying about fabric usage.
Second, if you are prone to anxiety, stop reading. Fabric usage is not something you need to add to your list of anxieties. Go sew and enjoy your quiltmaking.
Everyone else may continue reading with the understanding that this tracking system is not to judge, but to understand how much fabric my projects actually take and my fabric usage over the course of a year.
I have been tracking my fabric usage since 2015. I did it all last year as well. Having more of a handle on how to use the spreadsheet helped me to understand what fabrics I was using and how much. I made much better choices about fabric purchases and continue to do so. I am not perfect, but getting better and fabric is so yummy that sometimes it is hard to resist. 😉
I use a spreadsheet that I originally got from Pam of Hip to Be a Square podcast. I have modified to suit my needs. Pam has a blank copy of her fabric usage spreadsheet available on a post from a few years back. It is a good way to start tracking your usage as long as there is no guilt involved. Cheryl, a BAMer, wrote a great post about her spreadsheet for the BAM blog. She talks about her theories around it, why she does it and how she does it.
While there is no shortage of fabric at my house, this spreadsheet is not intended to keep me from buying fabric. That would be a effort in futility and acknowledging that fact feels like a victory. I started so I would know how much fabric I am using per year as well as how much I am adding to my collection. I have a good idea of how many different fabrics I purchase in a year based on the Fabric of the Year quilts, but quantities were always a mystery.
There is no adjustment for how much fabric I have purchased and that changes the numbers a lot. The numbers above are gross, not net. I have to say that knowing how much fabric I used in 2015 spurred me on to sew more in 2016. Using a 100 yards is not out of the realm of possibility and if I made goals like that, that would be my goal. Less than halfway through the year, I am already well on my way.
I find the statistics interesting, but I don’t think you should track your fabric usage unless there is no guilt involved.
OK, smackdown might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it sounds impressive, right?
I am working on the Bonnie Hunter En Provence Mystery Quilt, as you know. The second step, which I have partially finished, uses Peaky and Spike* blocks. Peaky and Spike sounds more fun than “weird triangle blocks”, right?
Peaky is the pink part and Spike is the black on white part. For En Provence, I needed to make 100 of these elements. Not rocket science, but not squares either. The bias could be problem. At Sew Day I cut all of the Spikes using the appropriate Tri Recs ruler. This piece has no notches except for the top, which is easy to deal with.
I bought the Peaky and Spike die with a gift card for Christmas, but by the time I was ready to start cutting, it was still on backorder and had not shown up. I began cutting the Peakies from the ruler at Craft Night. SIL told me that she had the Peaky and Spike die and I switched to that. I cut all of the 200 Peakies I needed in about an hour. Much easier than using a rotary cutter.
The interesting part of this is the sewing. The ruler has a notch at the bottom (photo right bottom) and the die (photo left top) has a notch at the top. In the directions for the quilt, Bonnie admonishes us to be sure and cut the notch at the bottom**. As a result, I placed the ruler on the die cut Peakies and also cut the bottom notch. This got old really fast and I stopped.
Once I started sewing, it didn’t matter. The bottom notch (from the ruler) was certainly helpful. You need either the top or bottom notch to sew the pieces together easily and in alignment, however either one will work. I really didn’t need both.
The ruler has the advantage of enabling the user to cut multiple sizes. The Peaky ruler has the notch on the bottom because of the different sizes.
The die only cuts pieces for one block size, and, thus, can have the notch more prominently on the top.
This was a interesting learning experience.
*Peaky and Spike is the name given to these blocks by Doreen Speckmann. Doreen was a fantastic teacher, funny, fun loving and a master at helping students understand the structure of block elements. If you don’t have her book, Pattern Play, start haunting used book stores. It is a classic.
**The mystery quilt directions focus on the Tri Recs ruler and not on the die, though the die is mentioned as being available.
Well, from the”you learn something new every day department” comes word that you CAN wear out sewing machine feet.
The 9k has been acting up. Not badly, but like an old lady who wants attention. First, something electrical with the light went wrong pretty soon after I brought it home. I know it wasn’t the bulb, because, for a time, if I tapped on it, the light would come on, stay on for a bit, then go out.
I also noticed that the machine would feed the fabric unevenly. I thought I noticed it because I was used to the DC5100, which uses newer technology.
I could live with these annoyances, but when the machine stopped working completely, I was had to do something. One day, I turned it on, the machine made a horrible noise, so I turned it off. Then it wouldn’t turn on again. I swapped it out for the DC5100 since I needed to progress with the Cargo Duffle prep.
Since the machine not turning on was major, I texted Angie at the Sewing Machine Place, though I had avoided it until then despite noting a few issues. She suggested a few things. A different cord worked for making the machine work but she needed to look at it to see what could be done about the feeding and the light. I continued sewing on the DC5100 since I was on a deadline.
The YM and I took it in on Tuesday. I needed him for lugging the 50 lb beast. We found a parking spot right by the door, so I really could have dealt with it myself. She checked everything while I waited. I may have to buy a new power cord, but the old one worked at the shop. The big news was that the feeding problem comes from 20 year old feet.
I wore out the two feet I use most frequently. I could not believe what I was hearing. Angie told me that the feet are rubbing up against the feeddogs some of the time, especially the quarter inch foot and that, over time, the metal wears through.
In the photo, you can see the discoloration (I know the photo could be better, but with the glare of the metal the camera had a hard time focusing). That is a spot where at least the first layer is gone.
The foot I use for zig zagging (Janome F) had strips of metal on the plastic bottom and had the same problem. Angie had an F foot so I bought it, but had to go to Always Quilting to get the quarter inch foot. I have been using the DC5100 as I work on the Cargo Duffle so I haven’t had a chance to try out the feeding on the 9k with the new feet. I’ll let you know how it goes.
If you are having feeding problems, check the bottom of your feet.
Yes, I thought the Janome 9000, my first machine and one of Janome’s first electronic machines, was dead. All the evidence pointed to it being dead. After talking to the Sewing Machine Place lady when she serviced my DC5100, as I may have mentioned, I decided to take the 9k in again and see if there was any way I could sew with it again.
Well, the Janome 9k is back and back in action. I sewed on it all day Saturday from the moment I started to sew until I went to watch Ghostbusters with the family. I know that movie is old, but there are some funny lines in it and we wanted to see it again before we go to see the new one. Also, the YM had never seen it, so it is a good excuse to get him to hang out with us.
Ghostbusters was hilarious. There is good and bad with the machine.
I don’t have a machine sitting around that doesn’t work
It sews pretty well. It has a good stitch.
I have a knee lift to use again!
It is quieter than the DC5100
Embroidery should work fine. It was calibrated, etc, but I haven’t tried it yet.
It is still an older machine and some of the operations are a little smoother on the newer DC5100
The decorative stitches are a little squished
It doesn’t feed quite evenly, especially when I start out, but I think it did that before
I have to get used to it again
There is a strange whooshing sound when I sew. Not loud or annoying, just different.
She couldn’t repair the wear and tear on the machine and I didn’t expect her to. Having this machine back will keep me for awhile. I still want a new machine, though.
I decided that being at Grand Parlor was a good time to send my sewing machine to the spa. I wouldn’t have a chance to even think about sewing, which means that it wouldn’t make me crazy to have it gone.
I am not sure it has been serviced since I bought it and I definitely did not buy it with every day use in mind. As you might recall, it was a replacement for the Janome Jem, which I took to classes. Then, I began having irredeemable problems with the Janome 9k and switched to this machine (Janome DC5100) on what I thought was a temporary basis. Here it is a year + later and I am still using it. It was definitely time for a service. I might have had it serviced before, but I don’t think so. Off it went.
No major problems, but when I was on the phone with Angi at the Sewing Machine Place store in Millbrae, she said that she remembered me. I told her about my 9k and she was horrified that she didn’t remember and more horrified that she couldn’t fix it. I didn’t really remember the details, but she asked me to bring it in and see what was up. They don’t charge to look, so I decided I would.
First, I checked the machine myself. It has been sitting since I had problems with it in 2014. Fortunately the cover was on (what do you think I am? A sewing machine torturer?? 😉 ), so there wasn’t much dust. Immediately the problems started. It ran on its own when I tried to thread it using the needle down button. I couldn’t stop it without turning it off. I didn’t do any further testing. I am not be a sewing machine torturer, but I am also not a sewing machine repair person and it has been a long time since I used the 9k. It simply wasn’t familiar to me anymore. 🙁
I finally had some spare time last Wednesday and took it in. I couldn’t find a parking place nearby and had to carry it over a block to get it to the store. I work out, but that baby is heavy.
Angi was selling a machine so her colleague helped me. We went through all the details of the issues I had found and she found that the machine wasn’t feeding either except when it ran by itself. Angi came over when she was done and we had the whole conversation over. She insisted that she would have remembered these problems, but I think I didn’t bring it back, because I thought it was irreparable and I had already been to 3 repair shops. I felt bad because I hadn’t looked up the exact details of what happened last before I went there. I know I took it to three shops including hers, but looked it up by tag later and got some clarity.
Angi looked at the machine and thought that wires had been crossed somewhere along the way, though the problem may stem from something called the step motor. No electronics, which is good since they are hard to come by, if not impossible for a Janome 9k. She thought 2 weeks and ~$300.
I really want a new machine and have my eye on the Janome 9400. However, if I get a new machine with a larger throat, I have to get a new table as well and that adds to the cost. There is really no point in hauling out heavy furniture and bringing new heavy furniture in without painting and generally giving my workroom a facelift. New machine, much less a new table and decor are just not in the cards right now. YM is in college, I am building my business. The finances just don’t work. The other thing is that I fall in love with new Janome machines all the time. Since I have been thinking about new machines, there have been at least 2 others I have wanted. If Angi and her team can get the 9k running again, that will keep me for awhile longer. Cross your fingers.
The Sewing Machine Place
Millbrae, CA 94030
10:00am-5:00pm (call as hours may vary)
You probably remember me bringing home the 9k. It worked and I was really happy except that the needle looked out of alignment and the light bulb was burned out.
I called the place that repaired my machine. I felt like an idiot when she, very kindly, told me I could move the needle position.
I had never done that before.
Then she explained that she had had to do a factory reset when she re-soldered all of the connections. This meant that the machine was back to what it was like when I bought it. I didn’t remember ever changing the needle position but that was then and this is now. The machine works well. I don’t have to buy a new one; I am happy.
Except for the light bulb. I have an auxiliary bright light over the machine, but it does not shine on the needle. The little sewing I have been doing has been somewhat dark. I asked her about the bulb and she said she would send me one if I told her which one. I was at work; I had no idea.
Later that night I looked at the bulb, which I had to find first. I never had to change the bulb before. That may have been the original bulb! I took a photo and meant to call and tell her, but was too busy at work. My last days mean that projects are being heaped on my that nobody ever thought important before.
On Friday morning I decided I would drive down to the shop and pick up the bulb so I would be ready for sewing on Saturday. When I got there, I showed the photo. The nice lady, Angie, asked if the bulb had two prongs or a roundy sort of connection. I didn’t know. I just stared at her thinking I’d have to go home with no bulb and sew in the dark on Saturday. She gave me one with prongs.
I slotted it in when I got home and turned on the light. It worked and now everyone is happy(mostly me, but also my DH who is happy that I have stopped muttering to myself about incompetent machine repair people and damn light bulbs).
Update: sad news. The machine is on timeout again. I sewed on and off all day on Saturday with my new light bulb, my newly positioned needle and life was good. Sunday all hell broke loose. The machine started running super fast and then giving me an error message about a bent needle or something caught in the needle area.
I changed the needle. No help.
I rethreaded the machine. No improvement.
I rewound a new bobbin. Same problem.
I took off the sole place and cleaned the whole area. It was pretty clean already. Nothing.
I took out the bobbin case and cleaned out under there. The problem persisted, so I put the machine on timeout and took out the backup machine again (no knee lift- BAH).
I feel like I am in an abusive relationship and this might be the last straw. I am going to look and see if there are any contests at which I can win a new machine.
I have a talked a lot about my sewing machine in the recent past and the news has been all bad. 🙁
Finally, last week I got some GOOD news. Finally!
My mom took my machine to Always Quilting for me. I really had nothing to lose since it had been deemed terminal and, perhaps though hope was slim, I could catch a break. I feel like the machine has been at the shop forever.
Anyway, Wednesday I got a call from the woman who was working on it. She wanted to hear the story of the machine.
Why would someone want to know the story of my machine? Good idea, but it sounded weird. I think it just sounded weird, because nobody had ever asked me about that before. I told her my whole long sad tale of woe.
She asked if I had noticed skipped stitches or tension problems. I said that I could never get the tension right to free motion quilt, but other than that I wasn’t having any problems. She said that my needle bar was out of alignment. That was a new one on me! I now have a secret hope that I might be able to free motion quilt again sometime. Maybe? Perhaps?
She said that there had been too many hands on the machine and the connections were a mess. She said that a lot of the electronic connections had to be re-soldered, but no new screen was needed and I should have the 9K back by the weekend. I couldn’t believe it!
She said that the machine was NOT terminal!
I feel like I have won the lottery, a reprieve or something really good. I can’t wait to get my machine back.
I went and got the machine today. I normally don’t leave, but I am in a weird place with various projects and needed some exercise.
I got the machine back and set it up. First thing I noticed was that the light doesn’t work. Sigh.
The second thing I noticed was that the screen DOES work. YAY!
The needle bar definitely is different. I hope it is straight, though it doesn’t look straight. The seams seem to be straight if a touch wider than a scant 1/4″.
It sounds better, too. I like the sound of my 9k. It is quieter than my other machine.
I will also have a knee lift available again. I haven’t used it yet, but it is set up and ready to go.