Weekly Photo Challenge: Community…Gossamer

Holiday flings…party things….gossamer wings

Images of Christmas season in my little community: headed to the office party, living in my community of cats, fashioning gifts from remnants. Dragonfly pattern from 5D Embroidery. Sulky metallic embroidery thread. Shopping bag pattern is Kwik Sew K3612. Happy holidays, all!

For more Weekly Photo Challenge: Community click here (and go ahead, add your own!)

Weekly photo challenge: Grand

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A grandiose Christmas tree in the Thornebrook shopping center. Or, should it be called a “holiday tree”? If the focus is shopping and buying presents to curry favor with our materialistic friends and associates, probably “holiday tree” is good. For more Weekly Photo Challenge: Grand and/or to submit your own interpretation of the theme, go here.

Holiday remnant project: gym towels…possible quick gift, or even wrapping for small gift.

machine-embroidered gym towels

gym towels for yoga class

I found some terry cloth remnants at Joann Fabric, cut them into small towels, and embroidered yoga motifs: crown chakra, aum symbol. I found some nice chakra embroidery designs at Urban Threads. Then I just turned under the exposed seams and sewed narrow hems. The shiny stuff on the brown crown chakra embroidery is Solvy stabilizer that will wash out. It’s good to put on top of fabrics that have a nap or texture, to keep the needle from snagging or skipping during embroidery.

I was looking at some old family photos and found this one of my GRANDfather’s Christmas tree, circa 1910. He decorated it himself, as he attests in the handwritten inscription on the back.

Christmas tree 1910

Grandad’s Family Christmas tree c. 1910

Christmas 1910

Grandad’s (as a child) own words on back of Christmas tree photo

Reviewing Ruby

I read the blog Sew Mama Sew, and decided to participate in Mama’s
Sewing Machine Reviews as currently featured. Good idea, I really like to read sewing machine reviews that are real testimonials that aren’t being presented for purposes of commissioned sales or something like that.

What brand and model do you have? Husqvarna Viking Ruby

How long have you had it? about 3 years

How much does that machine cost (approximately)? about $5K

What types of things do you sew? quilting, machine embroidery, clothing, bags, pillows, home dec, hats, toys

How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get? I sew at least one project a week. I sew a lot of fleece things, which generate lots of lint, so she gets some wear and tear.

Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name? I adored Ruby until I had to put her in the shop, and she stayed in there for more than 90 days, all during November and December; that really put a damper on my holiday sewing plans last year!

What features does your machine have that work well for you? the machine embroidery feature works very well most of the time. I traded up for Ruby; I had a Viking Topaz 20 before, and I didn’t have as good an experience with her and machine embroidery, or maybe I was more of a novice when I had that machine. But Ruby seems definitely more smooth and accomplished than her predecessor Topaz 20. I like the automatic thread cutter button. I have many specialty feet to experiment with; some work better than others.

Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine? She sometimes shreds thread as it runs from the spool through all those mechanisms down into the needle. The shop employees will say it’s because you used cheap thread, however, it happens with all different brands from time to time. Yes, it’s worse with cheap thread (Coats and Clark), but it has happened with their favorite brands to recommend, too (Robison-Anton rayon and Madeira). Sometimes she produces bird-nesting underneath seams and I can really find no apparent reason. I re-thread the machine and maybe or maybe not will have more bird-nesting. I re-thread again and no bird-nesting. Maybe there is a little burr inside that mysterious thread path. When the repair guy tries it, it doesn’t bird-nest for him, of course.

Would you recommend the machine to others? Why? I don’t think they make this machine anymore, the new model that replaced it is the Ruby Deluxe. When I attended training classes for using my new Ruby, one of the class members had a problem with her machine from Day 1; she asked for a replacement machine and they wouldn’t give her one because she had bought a floor model machine. When mine was in the shop for 90 days, the problem was the motor. I think that if I buy another machine, I will research a lot and not buy a Viking next time, even though I have tons of accessories for a Viking. I bought the Viking from a local shop, so that I could be sure of ongoing maintenance and tech support, but I was disappointed in the customer service during that crisis when she stopped working so soon after purchase. They had promised to keep me updated, but I had to initiate every query. I had to borrow back my old mechanical Janome from someone I’d lent it to for basic sewing during the time Ruby was in the shop, and the Janome was a champ. The next town south of me (an hour’s drive) has a Janome shop. Good customer service means a lot to me.

What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine? Cost, reputation of company, tech support, customer service, buttonhole making capability, training opportunities.

Do you have a dream machine? I once dreamed of trading up to a Husqvarna Viking Diamond Deluxe, but I don’t think the features are worth double the cost of my Ruby.

I also have a Brother serger for overlocking seams, a Husqvarna Viking serger that I mostly use for coverstitch, and an old Singer Merrittlock serger that I haven’t been able to get working, plus a little collection of toy sewing machines.

Ruby

Ruby

Sewing With Hemp #2

I just finished sewing a batch of sprout bags for a soon-to-be non-profit organization that I love, Plenitud PR. To see the story on how I got involved in this and the prototype bags of hemp cloth, go to my prior post https://jenyjenny.wordpress.com/2012/11/22/sewing-with-hemp/. We went through several styles and tags for the sprout bags, and finally settled on this:

shows their website, plenitudpr.org

shows their website, plenitudpr.org

The folks at Plenitud in Puerto Rico hold workshops on sustainable living, and sometimes put up displays at events like Earth Day celebrations. They demonstrate how to grow sprouts by putting seeds in the hempcloth bags and watering them a few times a day for about 5 days, resulting in a harvest of fresh green salad fast food. Perhaps you’ve read that a bill has recently passed in Colorado, making hemp-growing legal in that state. Here’s an interesting article by a proponent of hemp as a sustainable building material, Jason Lauve, “Team Hemp House.”

I used the hemp 7 oz. summer cloth from Hemp Traders, the one that Plenitud staff members like best, and made a drawstring for the bags out of 100% hemp twine 3 mm thick. On the website, hemptraders.com, I found that one can order scrap hemp cloth by the pound, so being the remnant-seeker that I am, I asked for a pound of scrap. What they sent me was a heavy, long, skinny canvas-like piece of hemp cloth that had what looked like burned-off ends. No problem. I eventually decided it looked like the right size and shape to make a yoga mat carrying case.

I usually keep my yoga mat in the car so I don’t forget it, but this one was in the bathroom since I brought it home from the gym the other day after having smashed a cockroach on it during practice (so much for ahimsa, eh?) and I wanted to rinse it off in the shower before using it again. I wrapped some of the hemp scrap around it to get a rough measurement, cut a rectangle that seemed fitting, and machine embroidered a border motif on it (from Embroidery Library). Then I cut some circles that roughly correspond to the wound-up ends of the mat, and sewed them on. I put a little hem on the unfinished ends in case they want to unravel some day.

snap closure

snap closure

I left most of the hemmed edges open, they’re just sewn together at the ends where the circlepieces connect. After breaking a couple of needles, I switched to one for sewing leather, with better results. I really hope I didn’t screw up the alignment on my needle sewing through thick layers of this very heavy, but seemingly breathe-able cloth. One of the properties of hemp cloth is that it’s supposed to resist mildew. Sometimes after practice I wipe the mat with those wet-wipes they dispense at the gym, to get the foot-germs off, but it’s never soaking wet after practice.

The mat fits very snugly in this bag, so I don’t think it would ever fall out while carrying it, but I sewed on one snap in the center. My DH felt that velcro would have been a great closure, but oh my goodness, no. You just don’t know the overall demeanor of my group. The sound of someone ripping open a velcro seal in class, shudder! It is not welcome, as they’ve been known to announce. Ditto, the sound of someone snapping their mat out of its roll and flopping it casually on the gym floor. We’ve been asked not to make unnecessary noise when coming in to class, especially if we come in late and everyone is already sitting in a meditative pose with their hands folded in prayer position or facing up. And don’t leave your smelly tennis shoes on the floor anywhere near the nose of your neighbor, put those bad boys over by the wall. I think it’s funny, every time they announce that, my eyes involuntarily roll up into my head and I try to guess which of the ol’ ladies it originated with. I know it’s not the tall skinny lady with the Eleanor Roosevelt hair-do because her trainers are more often than not right there next to her mat. And I refrain from adding loudly to the announcement, “And for heaven’s sake, don’t fart! Don’t even think about farting!”

Ahem. I digress.

I added a strap to carry it on my shoulder. I’ve seen lots of bags with various kinds of straps, and I think they are pretty cool.

all bagged up and ready for down-doggin'

all bagged up and ready for down-doggin’

off to the gym

off to the gym

Craftsman Style with Remnants

My DH is a woodworker and a maker of Craftsman-style furniture. His most recent accomplishment is this “grandfather chair” and ottoman in the style of Gustav Stickley.

Stickley-style Grandfather Chair

Stickley-style Grandfather Chair

He has also made a settee, a Morris Chair, a media console, and several tables. As the rooms are graced with more pieces of Arts and Crafts style furniture he has lovingly produced, we’ve thought about adding accessories like lighting, textiles, art objects and even wall coverings.

At one point I collected machine embroidery patterns for making textile pieces to complement the style of the furniture. And yesterday, I FINALLY made for DH my first Arts and Crafts themed pillow.

linen remnant gingko pillow

linen remnant gingko pillow

Er, sorry about that moire effect; it’s the first time I’ve noticed it so prominently in a photo. Perhaps because the linen fabric slubbing catches light and shows off the warp and weft more dramatically than other fabric? How does one fix a moire effect in a photo? I am posting a tag on here for “Weekly Photo Challenge: Pattern” because that is the theme of the challenge for this week. The photo has a moire pattern going on, although it’s not sought after. If you want to see more Pattern photos in the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge, click here.

Sewing divas must be using linen a lot more lately, because I’m finding great pieces of it in the remnant bin at Joann’s. Thank you, sisters, you know who you are and I appreciate you!

thanks for the linen remnants

thanks for the linen remnants

Linen is made from the flax plant. I love to picture an old-fashioned flax spinning wheel with its birdcage distaff overflowing with fiber. I have a large cache of well-used table linens from my grandmother, that are still in majestic shape, even with so many washings and ironings and applications of starch. Linen fabric is thick and lustrous. However, one wrong glance, touch, or breath out of place, and it’s wrinkled.

The embroidery design for this pillow is a stylized gingko vine. I plan to make more textile items using the gingko and other popular Arts and Crafts motifs: dragonfly, moth, lily. I tried to find the source of this design but I couldn’t discover where I bought it from; so sorry. I also found a treasure trove of machine embroidery designs for a quilt at Secrets of Embroidery. That project will be a long time in the making! But don’t you agree that the painstakingly hewn and polished and hand-crafted (complemented with machine tools) furniture needs a hand-pieced and theme-embellished quilt to set it off?

settee, with pillow

settee, with pillow

matching Morris chair

matching Morris chair

Shabby Sixties Southern Cookin’

I dunno what got into me, but I decided to make a cake.

Normally, I do not DO cakes. Me baking a cake? No, not unless it’s in Bizarro world. But I’ve been teased by lots of media lately: superhero movies, a resurgence of The Help through a cook book I bought that has Book Club recipes, birthdays, Mother’s Day, and some vintage-interest blogs and Pinterest images.

I bought some of the ingredients; then a few days later I bought a few more. On the day I wanted to attempt it, I realized I didn’t have all 6 sticks of butter that I needed so I had to go back to the store. I knew I needed at least 5 hours of time to get through it comfortably.

Finally, on Mother’s Day, after everyone had gone home, I started on this monumental (for me) project. DH was thrilled. Yes, he grew up in The South in the 1950’s and 60’s and was familiar with caramel cake. His mother had baked caramel cakes. He could remember the icing on the second and third day when it hardened up and tasted just like candy. I, on the other hand, had only just heard of such a cake in the past year. The batter was made from self-rising flour and buttermilk, and lots of eggs. I’d made homemade cakes using that cake flour that comes in a box, but didn’t recall using plain old flour for a special cake. And to come up with the 8 cups of sugar the recipe called for, I emptied out 3 paper sugar bags way back in the inner sanctum of the cupboard. This is the first time in recent history I cooked icing on the stove. What seemed like hours later, with balls of sweat pouring off my forehead onto a paper towel on the front burner (turned off), the icing mixture reached the soft ball stage and I was ready to whip it in the stand mixer.

I don’t know how those women pulled it off in the 60’s, working in the kitchen with no AC, producing a gorgeous and delicious meal. I would have been fired; I would have been cleaning toilets and mopping floors at the prison back then rather than in the kitchen whipping up some Southern Belle’s Junior League luncheon extravaganza.

The sho-nuff shabby caramel cake

Well, here it is. Not purty, but if you like sugar a lot it will fit the bill. It’s shown here next to the roses from my darling Amy, and the carnation which was a sweet Mother’s Day gift from the young men at church.

I thought I might also sew something reminiscent of the good ol’ days in the kitchen, and I machine-embroidered a couple of tea towels. All I really had to do was add the text and colors with the software and change the thread. These are Embroidery Library designs and the white cotton/linen towels with hem-stitched borders are from allaboutblanks.com.

tea towel

BTW, if you’d like to see more ugly cakes, here’s a good site: Cake Wrecks

More Legacy Needlework

Here is part of a quilt top made by another of my great-grandmothers, Edith Mane Colby, who was born in 1877 in Maine.

Quilt top made circa early 1900's

She died in 1910.

It is a crazy quilt, made from scraps of fabric, many of which are so old and worn they are very ragged and holey now. The fabric pieces had a seam allowance of about 1/2 inch, and were stitched together with rather thick embroidery thread in a feather stitch. There was a backing, but it is mostly shredded as you can see in this photo.

Reverse side, with remnants of shredded backing on top

.

irregular pieces are sewn into square blocks, then sewn together

a separate, smaller piece

The fabric pieces for this quilt were likely remnants and scraps from cotton dresses and shirts worn by the family members during the years 1880 through 1910. Can you see it in your mind’s eye? [The Sherlock Holmes stories were written by A. Conan Doyle during 1880 and 1914, to give you a bit of a time line reference].

My mom, who was named for her grandmother, decided to use some of the quilt to make art quilts for family members for Christmas presents this past year. This one was given to me.

Mom's art quilt

close-up of the patchwork

She pieced together some fabrics she had in her stash with old pieces of her grandmother’s quilt and other interesting items of note. Some of the fabrics, especially old, worn, and fray-prone ones, were overlaid with netting to protect them and to add some texture. On the left side of the full pic, I see three white-embroidered cutwork flower-shapes; these once adorned my Aunt Jeanne’s wedding dress (made by Gran.) I also see some crocheted edging that has been couched over the top of the mini-quilt, adding color and texture.

To Grayzie, an art quilt is still a quilt, and highly sought-after

Here is my poor shortcut to a quilt, lacking the handiwork, but useful and practical in that it is made with modern-day remnants (so, please don’t hate, ancestors!)

pre-pieced remnant

I started with an adorable boy-baby cotton flannel fabric remnant. These pre-pieced baby-quilt fabrics can be pretty pricey, unless you settle for a remnant. But they are too tiny to stand alone, so you must pair them with other fabrics to made a worthwhile project. For mine, I happened to have 2 yards of Minky Cuddle Lamb in baby blue in the stash, that I’d bought online at fabric.com during one of their sales, and I probably used a code to get a percentage off, too. I trimmed about an 8″ strip off the Minky so it would line up with the remnant, once they’d been matched together and an allowance for a “cuff” at either end was turned down. I sewed the flannel remnant to the Minky, wrong sides together, on both long edges, forming a big tube. Then I turned the tube right-side out. I wanted to machine-embroider the baby’s name on the top cuff, which I did, using Tear-Easy stabilizer in the hoop, spray-gluing the Minky to the Tear-Easy, and then spray-gluing a water-soluable stabilizer piece to the top of the Minky. Then I basted the layers of stabilizer and fabric together in the hoop, using the machine’s Fix function. Even with glue and stitching, I was paranoid about the works moving around during embroidery because the layers are so heavy and bulky, they’re liable to shift and then…disaster. However, the embroidery went well. I stitched through all layers, in the ditch at the junction of the Minky and flannel seams, having lined them up so that the flannel panel was (theoretically) exactly in the middle, leaving Minky borders on both long sides. Then I folded the top and bottom edges under, turned under an inch or less, and hand-basted the layers all together to make sure that the flannel top edges were securely covered by the Minky “cuff” at top and bottom. Then I machine sewed all the layers across the top and bottom seams of the “cuffs.” To machine sew, I used a roller foot. That Minky can sure slide around and get warped and distorted, as I can attest from having tried to machine seam it first without the benefit of basting the layers together. Once basted, and sewn with the roller foot, it was good going. I added another seam about an inch away from all the edges of the blanket. With lots of seams, and no batting inside to shift around, I reasoned that I didn’t need to further quilt the blanket, but I thought it would look so cute with a little tie-quilting. And so it was quickly done, with a few strands of cotton yarn.

Modern-day shortcut quilt

A quickie quilt, with remnants

In 1890, or 2012, who wouldn’t want a warm quilt to sleep with, and to dream with? 🙂

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