Thankful for a New Year!

Happy New Year! May 2014 bring out the best in all!

Here’s what I was working on as the new year approached:

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The Postage Stamp quilt! My first ever finished quilt! I didn’t use a pattern, just played around with what scraps I had and the dissapearing nine patch block (thanks to Blair over at Wise Craft) and some half square triangles (love those).  I started this in October with the intention of making it a gift. It’s not a full size quilt, more like a lap quilt. I played around with the sizing until I thought it was comfortable and chose to quilt it with simple vertical lines. Note to any beginners out there: I advise you not to make your quilting stitch length less than 3mm. Unless you are a real pro and know that you will never rip them out. Anything smaller will make you cross eyed! It has been gifted and it is loved so I’m happy. I’m working on a few more that I’ll share.

and, meet the newest members of my sewing family:

Walking Foot

A walking foot – oh I learned the HARD way that you really do need this for quilting. Um yeah, spending a week ripping out horrible quilting stitches (and then getting help from my mom to complete the task when I wanted to give up and cry) taught me never to ignore the advice of more experienced quilters. There were no instructions on how to install this ginormous presser foot but this tutorial helped tremendously.

and…

Serger

MY SERGER! Oh happy day I am in love with this machine! It’s a Janome 8002d (such a fangirl) and after watching the instructional video three times I can safely say that I know how to thread it!

Serger Threading Guide

In 2014, I want to focus more on pattern manipulation and drafting (sloper I’m looking at you), cutting and sewing on the bias, and of course more quilting and serging. I also want to continue to expand my local circle of sewing friends – I love the energy and creativity when people get together to sew and help each other. And of course, I suppose I should say something about working primarily from my fabric stash before buying new fabric but we’ll see how that goes :)

May 2014 bring joy and contentment to all! And so much sewing too!

Janome Magnolia 7330 – Sewing Machine Review

Greetings friends and lurkers,

Sew Mama Sew is asking bloggers to review their sewing machines to create a master list. I think it’s a great idea so here’s mine (it’s a long one). I have two sewing machines, A Janome Magnolia 7330 computerized machine and a mechanical Singer Merritt 1812 from the 1980′s that I will review a little later on.

What brand and model do you have?

I have a Janome Magnolia 7330 computerized sewing machine. Blurry picture, I know.

How long have you had it?

I’ve had it for a little over one year now.

How much does that machine cost (approximately)?

Looking online most places are selling it for 399.00. I bought mine from a local dealer with an extended warranty plan and upgrade option. Personally I would buy from a dealer because I like to sew on something before I buy it, but it looks like online sales are becoming more and more popular.

What types of things do you sew (i.e. quilting, clothing, handbags, home dec projects, etc.)?

I sew mostly clothes and quilting projects on this machine. I sew with natural materials most of the time but I have sewn with polyester and other fibers with no problem at all. I haven’t tried leather yet though.

How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get?

I would say I average about five days a week in sewing time. Sometimes I sew for a few hours, sometimes the entire day. It really depends on the project at hand. I sew a lot. I put this machine through a lot and so far it hasn’t let me down, it can sew through multiple layers with ease.

Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name?

I love my machine and I’m very protective of it. At the moment it’s in my bedroom and when I wake up in the mornings and pass by it I get so excited to start my day with it. Perhaps a little creepy too.

I probably have a bias towards Janome machines, in high school I used to work in a fabric/quilting store for a few years and every couple of months Janome would come by and display and sell their machines, I always thought they were so cool and wanted to buy one but couldn’t at the time.

What features does your machine have that work well for you?

My favorite topic!

I absolutely adore the one step buttonholes this machine produces. I hear people with fancier machines than mine complaining about their one step buttonhole feature but I cannot complain about that at all.

I also love that I can sew on this machine without the pedal if I want to. This is such a great feature that makes sewing on any height possible.

I love having a top down bobbin and a clear bobbin cover so I’m able to see when I’m about to run out of thread. It’s really helpful for really crucial areas where running out of thread is not an option! I also love that the seam measurements are all marked on the needle plate. I used to use my sewing gauge so much back when these lines weren’t marked. It’s the little things that take up valuable sewing time I tell you.

I love the needle down function, I can’t imagine how I managed without this before! I love the simple backstitch button (no heavy levers or knobs to disrupt sewing flow) and the optional lockstitch feature makes a little knot with your thread for you at the beginning or end of a seam!

It also has a really nice selection of over-locking and stretch stitches and I eliminated the need for a serger (if you sew tons of knit fabrics it is not a replacement for a serger but for my purposes these stitches are perfect) . The blanket stitch is excellent for applique work.

I love the free arm to sew small tubular areas like sleeves.

I also really like the speed control feature. It’s also relatively quiet machine and easy to transport to and from classes/meetings etc.

Here’s a Youtube Review done by another owner:

Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine?

When there’s a thread jam or something it will stop and beep and sometimes that kind of startles me out because I’m like “OH NO IT’S RUINED”. It took me a while to understand the machine was trying to tell me something. It’s helpful but also something you have to get used to.

I really wish there was a triple needle position option, the needle has two choices for positions at the moment. My mom’s machine had three and it was such a great feature for stay stitching, basting, gathering, edge stitching and top stitching and even quilting. I make do but it’s just a convenience factor.

I do wish the machine would come with more presser feet, I’ve bought a few of my own such as a 1/4 inch quilting foot and an invisible zipper foot because the little tools make such a big difference and for the price I think Janome could have thrown a few more in there.

While I love the speed control even at the top speed, it’s not as fast as my mom’s machine from the 1980′s. This probably is true for most newer machines that are made out of plastic instead of more shock absorbing materials.

Would you recommend the machine to others? Why?

I would definitely recommend this machine to intermediate level sewers who want more options in terms of stitches and other computerized features that can save time (they really do save time if you sew regularly!). I am hesitant to say absolute beginners because most I know aren’t willing to spend that much on a machine so I’d say in that case go with a Janome 2212, I bought one for my sister in law and she has no problem using it at all. As for the whole German/Swiss vs. Scandinavian vs. Japanese vs. American sewing machines debate, I imagine it’s a bit like the debate over cars. I know people who sew on all brands of machines and they all produce beautiful things. There’s no substitute for trying things out for yourself, none! Not even this review!

What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine?

1. Price, make a budget and stick to it, sew within your means, it is totally possible if you do your research. Find a reliable brand and look at what they have to offer. Computerized machines do cost more money and have more to offer, but I sewed on a mechanical for years and was happy with that too. Accordingly, do you want some sort of protection plan with it?

2. What kind of sewing do you do or potentially want to do (Garment sewing? Quilting? Applique? Knits?) and what stitches would make that easier?

3. What are some problem areas that you want to conquer with greater ease on your new machine? (ie – one step buttonholes, sewing with knits)

4. If buying a used machine off of the internet with no return policy, please factor the possibility of servicing it/parts replacement or it being a dud into your budget.

5. If you’re serious about sewing well, be sure to test out the machine you want before committing to it. Everyone and every machine is different, you have to find a perfect fit in terms of comfort and ease for yourself.

6.  Think about where you will put your new machine in your living space and if you need it to be big/small/heavy/light/portable. Don’t forget that a sewing space is so much more than a machine, you need to have some cutting and pressing spaces that work for you too. Also, do you plan to take it to classes and retreats?

7. Some machines do not do well with any old thread, make sure you ask if there’s a specific thread that enhances performance.

8. Is there a local workshop/studio/guild where you can drop in to ask people about their machines? It’s a great way of making friends too.

Do you have a dream machine?

There’s a new computerized Janome Magnolia 7360 that has way more stitches and cool features, I’d LOVE to try that out and see what the differences are.

Bonus: Do you have a great story to share about your machine (i.e., Found it under the Christmas tree? Dropped it on the kitchen floor? Sewed your fingernail to your zipper?, Got it from your Great Grandma?, etc.!)? We want to hear it!

I just found out last week that I have been threading my machine incorrectly, there were a few more steps involved than my old sewing machine and I just assumed that they were the same. I have to say I haven’t noticed any difference in stitch quality before and after this discovery so I have to hand it to providence or to Janome (or both?) for making it through this long without messing up!

Thanks for sticking with this long review, I wish you luck on your sewing machine hunt!

*All opinions in this review are mine and I was not compensated by the manufacturer or anybody else for it.

:)

Birds of a Feather

Two more completed blocks, it seems like this quilt is developing an aviary theme. There’s this paradox between letting go of the design and guiding it as I pick up scraps and join them together. I really love this process. Excerpts from two poems came to mind as I was stitching these.

Modern Log Cabin Block

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I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
        When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
    When he beats his bars and he would be free;
    It is not a carol of joy or glee,
        But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
    But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings —
    I know why the caged bird sings!
Sympathy by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Wonky Log Cabin Block

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“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all -
Hope – Emily Dickinson

 What will I call this quilt? Do people name their quilts officially? It’s good to keep track of the things that inspire me as I put it together.

Follow your bliss
XOXO

Block Party!

Lately I’m obsessed with quilting. For over a year now I have slowly been working on my first sampler quilt using Craftsy’s 2012 Block of the Month class taught by Amy Gibson  (an AMAZING teacher!). I made The Asterisk Block and the Wonky Pound Sign Block way back in January 2012. Now I have six more blocks to share with you bringing it to a total of 8/20 blocks! In no particular order:

Sunny with a chance of Hex (not entirely finished)

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Hexagon Row Block

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String Block

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Broken Spider Web Block

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Balkan Puzzle Block20130910_135059

Chunky Chevron Block

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I wish I had better pictures but the phone pics will have to do for now. I have trouble keeping my bias edges straight, my balkan puzzle block is slightly distorted but I’m going to leave it as is, a memento of the learning curve.

xoxo

 

 

Late Summer Moments

A random post full of things I have been doing and thoughts I have been thinking lately.

Summer was a whirlwind. It was busy and slow at the same time. Lots of family time, lots of nature time, but not as much sewing time. A little bit of quilting though. English paper piecing is so addictive. The number one comment I’ve noticed about it is that people say they originally thought they would hate it because of all the hand sewing but later realize how much they love it once they start because you can do it anywhere. The hand sewing is just as therapeutic as machine sewing. I think I’ve discovered something new about myself with this. This is going to open up a world of sewing possibilities for me.

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Earlier last week I decided to do a little downtown exploring, and some job hunting. I explored the city on foot (and bus, but mostly foot). I’ve only recently started job hunting seriously and this is a much smaller town with not as many opportunities as one would hope for, especially for newcomers like me. It is also so easy to give up and say “oh woe is me”. I’ll keep trying, hoping that I find the right path, or that it somehow finds me.

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Cleveland has some really beautiful architecture. You don’t normally think about that when you think of this place but much of the original city was planned in the Beaux-Arts style. It also has a reading garden. People, if a city has a reading garden, it is doing something right. The main public library is such a grand and beautiful building. This is why I went into urban planning in the first place. This transcendence.

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I also had moments of silence in the midst of downtown. There is a very old church in the middle of the city, Old Stone Church and after walking all day I decided I needed to rest so I went inside and sat for a few hours. Nothing more, nothing less, I just sat there and said Thank You, Thank You for letting me be here, a place where I need to be. I love walking into churches, mosques, temples any sanctuary that humans have made to connect with the divine again. I say again because a few years ago the thought of anything remotely religious struck my inner core with such dread that I couldn’t step into any place labeled religious. I picked up sewing to build myself up without faith. And now the zen of sewing is bringing me back to a faith of some sort, teaching me a new way. Isn’t it funny how that works? I won’t even try to explain or understand it. I will just let it happen quietly.

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After the passing of a family friend (may God rest her beautiful soul in everlasting peace), I have been listening to the podcasts of the Ibn Arabi society. Maybe I’m looking for answers, maybe it is something more. I’ve also been reading a lot of Paul Tillich. I read him before in university but now the time is right to pick him up again. In times of confusion (or joy and happiness) I find myself asking ‘do I even have the right to hope or do I just accept whatever comes my way and stop asking for more?’

Participation in the eternal is not given to the separated individual. It is given to him in unity with all others, with mankind, with everything living, with everything that has being and is rooted in the divine ground of being. All powers of creation are in us, and we are in them. We do not hope for us alone or for those alone who share our hope; we hope also for those who had and have no hope, for those whose hopes for this life remain unfulfilled, for those who are disappointed and indifferent, for those who despair of life, and even for those who have hurt or destroyed life. Certainly, if we could only hope each for himself, it would be a poor and foolish hope. Eternity is the ground and aim of every being, for God shall be all in all. Amen. (The Right to Hope, Paul Tillich).

for God shall be in all. This will be my mantra for the next little while, I have to sit with this some more to understand it.

The other day while I was sewing I looked out the window and I noticed the most beautiful thing – a little hummingbird flying around the branches of this grand old tree in our backyard. It was such an unexpected blessing, and I felt the way I usually feel when I’m working with a new sewing pattern, or beautiful fabric or embroidering with vibrantly colored threads, just so caught in the moment with awe, gratitude and love. I think it was then that I realized, maybe my appreciation for creativity and participation in the creative life is my way of meaningfully revering this Life Force that created me and this little hummingbird.

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I will follow my instincts, be myself for good or ill, and see what will be the upshot. As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can. – John Muir

Above is a picture of Blue Hen Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a place I really love. Soon the colors on those trees will change and there will be more water falling but it will still be beautiful.

That is all for now my friends,

Peace.

Reflections on Quilting and Prayer

I’ve been quiet lately, quilting and praying. Praying for a dear family friend who accomplished so much more than most people are able to in her short life, to God we belong and to God we return. It was an honor to have known her. I pray for her young daughters, for them to be raised with the spirit of their mother’s love, which was abundant. For her husband to find some strength to carry on. For her whole entire family because the loss of a person like this leaves a big gaping hole. What a thing love is. Every few hours I have tears in my eyes because it feels like the best people, the ones with the biggest hearts, the ones who this earth needs the most, are taken too young and I can’t figure out why. It’s not mine to figure out in the end. So I quilt, and I pray. There’s something so sweet about taking little bits of beautiful fabric and joining them together to make something to keep you warm, all that labor and love stitched in between those layers. So womb-like.

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There’s a zen feeling, a state of calm contentment that makes me feel gratitude while I’m piecing fabric together. It is such a tactile art, my hands love the feel of fabric, my eyes savor all the colors and some part of my mind loves the different shapes and angles, watching them come together. My whole self wants to say “Thank You for letting me do this”. To who? I don’t always know, to Divinity, Creative Spirit, Life, God. Maybe this is what it means to truly meditate, to be caught up in a moment, the kind of moment that produces those rare but honest heartfelt prayers that are bound to be heard. Such a mercy. God please have mercy on them all.

Labour is blossoming or dancing where

The body is not bruised to pleasure soul

Nor beauty born out of its own despair,

Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.

O chestnut-tree, great rooted blossomer,

Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?

Oh body swayed to music, O brightening glance,

How can we know the dancer from the dance?

- Rumi

The Honeymoon Dress

Last time I posted my anniversary dress, but this week I’ll backtrack a little bit and show you my honeymoon dress. This was one of those last minute projects that I picked up while I was in the middle of so many other projects. I didn’t make a mock up, I just cut into my pattern and into my fabric as soon as I could. Sometimes the sewing daimon just gets you like that and you can’t resist.

McCalls M6070 Body

I used the same OOP McCalls M6070 that I blogged about in my very first post (blogged here) and a very slinky and easy to sew poly-knit fabric. The pattern was a breeze,  although I modified the way the waistband was sewn together. I wore this on my honeymoon and the dress was very much admired by my husband and other city folk. It is the easiest thing to wear and it’s very flattering. The ruching on the sleeves make it look very feminine, while the tie in the back ensures the shoulders don’t slip off inadvertently. As you can tell, I’m still learning how to play around with this nicer camera.

McCalls M6070 Front

McCalls M6070 Back

In other news, have you seen Liberty’s new collection? It’s inspired by one of my all time favorite poems by William Morris, “This Earthly Paradise” (you can read it here), the opening lines of which always leaves me in tears. The fabric collection however, fortunately (from a  mental health point of view) or unfortunately, (from a money point of view) does not.

Have a wonderful day!