WIP Wednesday

Well, it’s been quite a while since I did a work in progress (WIP) post, but I really want to start posting more often, so here goes …

Today’s WIP is the quilt I mentioned in my last post that I’m working on for my husband. Unlike most of my projects, this one does have a deadline – I’d like to take it on vacation with us next week! I know it probably seems crazy to take a quilt on vacation, but that’s only because you’ve never spent any time in a vehicle with Chris, who is always warm. Since I’m always cold, and I don’t feel like wearing a parka on a spring vacation in the South, I decided we needed a quilt for the trip. Also, the quilt I made for Chris a while back is way too big to be used in the den as a throw, so this very manly quilt will fill that need, too. ;-)

I found this motorcycle fabric online a couple of years ago. It’s part of the “Man Cave” series by Bernartex, and it is really beautiful. If you’re looking for some masculine fabric, I would suggest this series. I believe it’s ongoing, as there are images on the website now of cigars and such. Anyway, I combined that with some fabrics I had in my stash, and some Kona Solids to come up with the quilt top …

Motorcycle quilt top completed

Motorcycle quilt top completed

I guess I wasn’t really paying attention, because I didn’t notice that I had quite the pattern going here. LOL If I were to make this quilt again, I would probably replace the grey fabric with black, but Chris says he likes it just this way, so if he’s happy, I’m thrilled.

By the time you read this post, I will probably have the backing put together and the quilt sandwiched. And with a little luck, I’ll be well along in the quilting process. I mean, I only have a week and a half before I need it to be done. Here is the backing fabric …

Motorcycle quilt backing

Motorcycle quilt backing

Chris is a HUGE Texans fan, so I found this fabric a while back at Hobby Lobby and decided it would make a great backing for the motorcycle quilt – two of his favorite things in one quilt! The black and red will be borders around the Texans fabric, because it’s neither wide nor long enough without it. I haven’t decided if I’ll do two red borders and two black borders, or if I’ll do it like the front and run one and then the other all the way around. At first, I thought I’d do two red and two black, but I’ve been thinking it might look cooler to do the red and black together like the front of the quilt.

I have some ideas on how I’m going to quilt it, but I’ll save that to share once the quilt is completed.

Until next time, happy sewing!

Another addition

Viking Opal 690Q

Viking Opal 690Q

When I posted photos of my new studio, I mentioned that I purchased a Viking Opal 690Q machine. I also sold the Janome 8900 that I purchased two years ago. The truth is, while the 8900 is a perfectly wonderful machine for some people, it just wasn’t the machine for me. I never bonded with it, and while it did fine work, I was never really satisfied with it. So when the Opal caught my eye at the dealership a few months ago, I was really leery for many reasons.

First and foremost, I was concerned about some of the reviews I’ve seen about Viking quality in the last couple of years. They were bought out by a holding group that also purchased Singer and Pfaff. Anyone in the sewing world knows that the Singers of today can not hold a candle to the Singer machines our mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers used, and the biggest issue is the lack of quality. Having lived with a mother who sewed extensively, I know that the problems with modern Singer machines started in the late 1970’s. While she was away visiting her family one year, my dad decided to surprise her with a new Singer electronic machine when she came home. He was really trying to do a nice thing, but that machine turned out to be a major lemon. It was constantly in the shop, and it forced my mother to buy a mechanical machine so she could continue to sew while the Singer was unusable. After that, my mom never owned another Singer machine.

I have read some reviews about Viking machines in the last couple of  years that suggested the quality of the machines was about on par with the Singers of the late 1970’s forward. And I am certain that these people have told the truth about their experiences, because what possible reason would they have to lie about things like problems with thread tension, motors burning out, and other mishaps that have been reported? So I had very real concerns about what I might be getting in to if I purchased a Viking machine.

I also was a bit worried that maybe I was so much of a Brother machine junkie, I would never be happy with another sewing machine brand. I mean, there are people who are so in love with their Janomes, they sound like an advertisement when they talk about them, and I clearly just never really liked the Janome. Would I end up in the same place if I were to buy a non-Brother sewing machine again? Well, after owning this machine for more than two months, I can answer that with a resounding, NO!

I know it’s not been very long since I bought the machine, but so far, it’s been a dream to use. And I love it. I have found myself using it more frequently than I do George, because the piecing is just so great on the Viking. It is a bit noisier than George is, but not nearly so loud as the Janome was, and it’s not an unpleasant sound. The stitching on the Viking is just beautiful, and the decorative stitches are adorable. In fact, I already have plans to use some of those decorative stitches on an upcoming quilt I have in the queue. And I’ve had no problems at all with this machine, knock on wood. It’s been lovely to work with ever since I took it out of the box!

I will be doing a full review of the Opal 690Q after I’ve had it and used it a bit more extensively, but I can say that the projects I’ve used it for so far – some quilt piecing, and a knit t-shirt – both turned out lovely, and the machine did a bang up job on everything I’ve used it for so far. It’s quickly becoming my “go to” machine for many things, which is a good thing because I want to put George to work on finishing up quilts by using him to do in the hoop quilting.

Check this space in a few months for a comprehensive review on Opal!

A long absence

Sorry I’ve been quiet the last couple of months. I think the rain and the grey days and the cold weather just got to me this year, in a way it usually doesn’t. But the sun Has been making frequent appearances lately, and I’ve used the time I’ve been away from here to do a few things that will really make sewing more enjoyable, hopefully a little easier, and definitely more likely.

We moved in to this house about three and a half years ago, and one of the things that I never really adjusted to was having my studio area in the master bedroom, where we also sleep (obviously). I felt isolated up there, often alone, and it was, frankly, a bit of a pain in the backside to be constantly up and down the stairs. A typical weekend sewing day would go something like this:

7:30 am – Wake up, have some caffeine, catch up on internet stuff (Facebook, blogs, forums)

8:30 am – Housework

9:30 am – Start thinking about sewing, but DH isn’t awake yet, so wait a little longer to see if he comes downstairs soon

10:15 am – Start getting antsy and ready to start sewing; go upstairs and find DH either in bed or on the couch, but almost always awake. Get a little irritated that I’ve wasted time waiting on him

10:30 am – Run DH out of room and start getting ready to sew; start project

11:30 am – Realize I haven’t eaten anything and I’m starving, so head downstairs to get some lunch

12:15 pm – After spending the last 45 minutes talking to DH, get ready to go out for lunch and to run errands.

I know it’s hard to believe, but it just goes downhill from there. By the time I get back to the studio, it’s dinner time, or even later! So on an average weekend day, I was getting about an hour a day in sewing time. So I decided it was time to make a change, and although it wasn’t a very popular idea at first, after trying out the new sewing space for a while, I finally made the switch last month. And it is truly a BIG change for all of us!

This house has a nice, open layout downstairs, with a formal living & dining room, and separated by a wall, a kitchen, den and breakfast area. There is also an office that’s tucked out of the way. The formal living/dining area previously housed a pool table I bought before I ever met my DH, primarily in the hopes of giving the kids a place to hang out back when we had a massive game room upstairs in our old house. More recently, my DH was the only one who used it, and that was rare, so we decided to sell it and clear out that space to be used as my new studio.

I spent the last several weeks cleaning and getting things organized. What I haven’t done yet is to add some art to the little wall space I have, but I’ve waited long enough to share photos of the space, so here it is …

Here’s what it looked like before we sold the pool table …

IMG_3889

Before we sold the pool table, this is what the room looked like.

Before we sold the pool table, this is what the room looked like.

And here’s some of the transformation …

Decisions, decisions. Where will I put everything?

Decisions, decisions. Where will I put everything?

Starting to get things set up ...

Starting to get things set up …

Two of these Ikea Hermes dressers, back to back, form the new cutting table. It gives me TONS of storage.

Two of these Ikea Hermes dressers, back to back, form the new cutting table. It gives me TONS of storage.

This new cutting table is probably my favorite thing in the room!

This new cutting table is probably my favorite thing in the room!

Then, once I got the main storage ideas worked out, I needed to figure out how to store things like thread.

This is just a small sample of the thread that I've managed to collect over the last few months.

This is just a small sample of the thread that I’ve managed to collect over the last few months.

I had been keeping it in the big blue Craftsman toolbox I bought a few years ago, but I was quickly running out of room. I mean, that toolbox IS used for other things. So I went to The Container Store. Chris cringes every time I go in there, because he knows it’s going to be an “investment.” LOL I have long been a fan of the Elfa basket system (I had two from there, and one cheaper one from Home Depot or Lowe’s), so I was thrilled to find these solid drawers, which have available lids. The single runner baskets are perfect for embroidery thread. So of course I added another set of baskets …

Elfa Smoke Solid Drawers are perfect for storing thread.

Elfa Smoke Solid Drawers are perfect for storing thread.

Then there is the wall of Billy Bookcases from Ikea

These bookcases are sturdier and maybe a little taller than the ones you can buy from Walmart.

These bookcases are sturdier and maybe a little taller than the ones you can buy from Walmart.

You can see my fabric stash on the far right, and below that are some ArtBin cases that I use for “works in progress.” The ArtBin cases on the top of that bookcase are empty and waiting for projects. I also bought two cases of 10 men’s shoe boxes from The Container Store to store things like old sewing machine pieces (bottom right), fat quarters (top left) and other things that aren’t pictured here, like scraps and bias tape, zippers, and the like. I left out one of the shelves in the middle bookcase so I could store fabric bolts. In this photo, you can see my new Viking Opal 690Q, which I’ve not talked about here, but I will write about it soon. To the left of that machine is another set of Elfa baskets that contain things like hand embroidery, patterns, and other things I don’t have another place to store.

Another machine I’ve added recently is this Brother 1034D serger, which I love.

Brother 1034D Serger

Brother 1034D Serger and more baskets, of course!

George is living down here at the end of the room next to the big window.

 

George, the Brother DreamCreator VM5100

George, the Brother DreamCreator VM5100

This is where the Elfa for thread storage lives, and the Craftsman toolbox that I love so much. That toolbox is awesome, and if I had to move into a super small space and could only keep one storage element, this is what I’d choose.

Behind George, at the end of the cutting table, I have this ClosetMaid Cubeical shelf that’s really useful for small-ish things.

ClosetMaid Cubeical

ClosetMaid Cubeical

This is where my miscellaneous stuff, and my fabric dyeing supplies, are stored.

And last but not least, here is my design wall, which currently features a small throw I’m making for Chris.

Design Wall

Design Wall

I’m sure I’ll make a few tweaks as I go along, but so far, I really love the layout of the new studio space, and it’s incredibly functional. I no longer feel isolated, and I can sew when I want, how I want without worrying about anyone else’s schedule. I really hope that you’ve enjoyed seeing the space, and I’d love to know what others think!

Happy sewing!

Planning mode

I know it’s been a couple of weeks since I posted, and I didn’t want to let it go much longer, because … well, because I am making an effort to post to the blog at least a couple of times a month this year. And my silence hasn’t been because I’m not doing anything, because I am. It’s more because I’m trying to come up with a viable sewing plan that will give me some flexibility and some much needed clothing for the near term. I’ve found that right now, I’m not really in the mood to quilt, and I’ve realized that feeling is what usually drives me to look for another creative outlet, and before I know it, I haven’t touched a sewing machine for months. I don’t want that to happen again, because I firmly feel that every time you pull away from something for an extended period of time, you lose “muscle memory” and your craft suffers for it. I experienced this extensively during my four year hiatus from sewing, from 2007 through 2011, and I still haven’t fully recovered all of my skills, confidence and positive attitude about sewing (by “positive attitude” I mean the idea that I can make just about anything; I was a fearless quilter prior to my break, but I’ve been somewhat paralyzed with the fear of “messing up” a quilt since I returned to the craft). But I digress … Thus the reason for venturing into the land of Garment Sewing, a place where I have feared to tread for most of my sewing career, until recently.

A couple of months ago, I started working on McCall’s 6084 …

McCall's 6084

I’ll post a photo of the finished product and a review soon, but suffice it to say for now that it is one of my absolute favorite garments, and I really do love it. It’s far from perfect, and I want to perfect it, but it’s super comfortable and I wear it often (in fact, I’m wearing it right now). I am planning to make at least one more of these, possibly two, because I think you can never have too many cardigans, and if I buy fabric on sale, it’s way cheaper than buying a ready-made cardigan. And, I can make them in whatever colors I want, instead of being stuck with the colors the stores carry, which for plus size is most often either boring black or some garish color I couldn’t possibly pull off. Don’t get me wrong – I love black, and it’s a great basic. But seriously, how many black cardigans can one girl have?

Next on my radar screen is another version of Butterick B5215, in a smaller size, of course. You might remember that I made this t-shirt a few weeks ago, and it turned out to be much bigger than I really wanted it to be. I have traced off the smaller size and I’m gearing up to make it again. I really want to perfect this one, because I want a simple, good t-shirt pattern. Again, the current colors in the stores for tees just do not flatter me at all. When I was out looking for tees a couple of weeks ago, I found purple (which is fine), hot pink, pee green, some bright yellow color, and a bunch of pastels. I don’t do pastels as a general rule, and the other colors look terrible on me. Heck, I can’t even find a basic WHITE tee! And for some reason, most t-shirts these days are made out of fabric you could read a newspaper through, if you could actually find a newspaper to read. That might be fine for some teen or 20-something, but I prefer a little more coverage – I guess I must be getting old, but I want a t-shirt that’s actually thick enough to not see my bra through!

Another pattern I’m going to make is McCall’s M6802, which is another cardigan.

McCall's 6802

I like the style of this, and I hope it translates well to the larger sizes. I have it almost completely traced off – I’m just missing one piece and it will be done. I have a very soft rayon jersey knit I want to use for this, in camel. I think it’s going to be fabulous.

I also have a Butterick pattern I picked up recently – B5300 – it’s a nice basic blouse. I picked it up recently when I saw someone on Pattern Review talking about it, and I fell in love with it. Fortunately, someone else tipped me off that it was discontinued, so I managed to snag the very last copy of it that my local Joann’s had in their drawer. I have a polyester poplin (I thought poplin was a cotton type material, and I have confirmed that with a couple of other sewists, but … whatever) in both Ivory and Navy to make this one …

B5300

And finally, I need some new casual/comfy pants to wear around the house, so I have M4261 in queue …

M4261

I may also try the long sleeve tee and the jacket as well, but I haven’t decided  yet.

Of course, all these ideas are just that – ideas. I reserve the right to change how, when, or why the garments are made. ;-) My luck, and as slowly as I sew, this little bit might take me through the end of the year to get done, but I really hope it doesn’t!

Do you like Green Eggs and Ham?

As a very small kid, Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss was my absolute favorite book. I still have a lot of nostalgia when it comes to the book, and when we had a baby shower for my daughter in May, I included the book as the greeting card in the package. A package including a a Dr. Seuss Cat in the Hat quilt  I made. So, yeah … I’ve always liked Dr. Seuss, but Green Eggs and Ham was always my favorite. So when I saw the Green Eggs and Ham fabric that was put out a couple of years ago by Robert Kaufman, I didn’t even have to think about whether or not I wanted it. I just bought it without even really thinking about it. When I posted the photo of the fabric on Facebook, my former co-worker and old friend Julie decided she had to have it, too, and she ordered a quilt to be made for her brother for Christmas. She was a little late picking it up, but she finally did get it, just before Christmas. I didn’t want to post final photos of it until she had it in her hands, so now I feel comfortable showing you what the finished product looks like.

Green Eggs & Ham Quilt, Completed

Green Eggs & Ham Quilt, Completed

I really could not be happier with the way it turned out, and as I was working on it, this became one of my favorite quilts. Most of the fabric is from the Kaufman collection, but the solid fabric is a Kona cotton and I think it really makes the panels pop. Julie wanted the fabric I used in the border to be the primary fabric, but I didn’t want it to be too busy, so I used it in the border, obviously, and the backing …

The back of the Green Eggs & Ham quilt

The back of the Green Eggs & Ham quilt

 

Yep, I had to piece a little bit in there because I didn’t have quite enough fabric, but I was ok with that, and hopefully Julie was, too. At the time, this was the “most quilted” quilt I’ve ever done. I used star patterns I bought from Embroidery Library to quilt it. There are different stars along the border and the sashing than there is in the panels, but I didn’t get a close up of those.

Stars were used for quilting

Stars were used for quilting

 

You can sort of see them here …

More stars!

More stars!

I’m not going to lie – it was REALLY hard to let this one go. I was so happy with it, I really wanted to keep it for myself. Of course, I didn’t … but I wanted to!

Butterick B5215 – A Pattern Review … of sorts

This weekend, I managed to do something I haven’t ever done – I started and completed a garment! Sure, it was a t-shirt, but it was made by ME, and I got it done in just two days. I am totally psyched. I chose Butterick B5215, view B …

Butterick B5215

This is supposed to be a semi-fitted t-shirt. And I am very proud of the t-shirt I made, even though it’s way too big …

Butterick B5215 Black

 

When I tried it on after it was done, it was more of a tunic than a t-shirt, and I couldn’t figure out why. This isn’t the first t-shirt I’ve made from this pattern – I’ve also made view A, fitted, and view C, unfitted. View A fits perfectly, even though my tummy really isn’t cut out for a fitted tee, so to speak. It was the first one I made, so I thought, “Well, maybe view C will look better.” I was expecting a tee along the lines of a unisex t-shirt, sort of boxy and not all that flattering. I was looking for just a standard t-shirt. It was huge. I felt like I needed to put on leg warmers and start dancing to “What a feeling.” It just hung off of me. I was so disgusted with it, I didn’t even finish the neck binding (more on that in a bit). It’s still sitting in a plastic project box, propping open the guest bedroom door.

So when I finished view B and put it on, and it looks like it should have been labeled “tunic” instead of tee, I thought something was wrong with the pattern. So I went off to PatternReview.com to look for  reviews on this pattern. I knew there would be some, because it’s a very popular t-shirt over there. And sure enough, it looks like a t-shirt on everyone else. I couldn’t figure it out. Then when I was cleaning up and putting away the pattern, I happened to glance at the back of the pattern and I realized what I’d done. I made a 2XL, because that’s often the size t-shirt I need in ready to wear (RTW) just to fit over my chest. But in this particular pattern, a 2XL is the equivalent of a 26W-28W RTW! That’s why the shirt doesn’t fit. In this pattern, I need to make an XXL, which is what I did with view A. I think most people can see why that was confusing. I didn’t even realize that there was an XXL on the multi-sized pattern. I thought it was a XL. I suspect that’s also what happened with view C. So if you make this pattern, be really careful about the sizing, particularly if you wear a size 18W through 24W in RTW.

But still, the pattern went together pretty well. The only thing I don’t like about it – and that has killed my efforts every. single. time. I’ve made it, is the neck binding. On view A, I gave up and just folded the raw edge in and stitched it down. It isn’t great, but it’s ok. I can, at least, wear the shirt outside of the house. On view C, as I said earlier, I gave up on it, but I might pull it out and try to finish it a different way just to say it’s done. And on view B, this shirt, I followed the directions on the pattern exactly. It looks stretched out to me, floppy and too heavy. So I’m definitely going to find a better way to finish the neck on this one. My mom gave me a couple of tips, and I found a couple of tips on the internet that I’m going to try next time.

And even though this shirt is way too big, it is super comfortable, except for that floppy-ish neckline. So I’m probably going to wear it as a tunic. Surprisingly, there isn’t that much difference in the sizing in the shoulders between the XXL and the 2XL, so it’s a little big there but not horrible. I could put a belt on (if I wore belts, which I don’t) and it would be really cute with jeans.

If I had to grade the pattern, I’d give it a B-. The weird sizing thing aside, the problems with the neckline are just annoying. But despite the fact I’ve made this shirt three times and so far none of them have turned out perfect, I just cannot make myself give up. I’m going to give view B (and maybe view C) another chance sometime really soon. I mean, once I get this one right, who wouldn’t want custom-made t-shirts?!

Almost Ashamed

Wow. This has been a very unproductive year for me in the sewing realm! I feel as if I should turn in my sewing badge and walk home and unplug my machines. This is just completely unacceptable, and I have to do better.

There isn’t anything to review for 2014, really. I made the Green Eggs & Ham quilt, which I have yet to post finished photos of, but that’s because the owner only just picked it up on Saturday. I finished a quilt for my daughter, which also hasn’t been posted because it’s a Christmas gift, so I’ll put that one up on Christmas day. I made a shirt – again, no photos, so I need to do that. And a cardigan, but it hasn’t been hemmed, so I need to finish it. The baby quilt for my grandson, that was finished, thank goodness, because COME ON! How many unfinished projects can a girl have?  Umm … well, probably more than you can imagine and more than I want to count.

I did manage to get the Snoopy/Marilyn quilt completed. I think Sarah liked it, so that’s one that’s done and loved.

Wow. Four quilts and one garment completed. That’s just ridiculous.

I’ve started a quilting journal, where I can track projects that I finish, as well as those that are in various stages of construction, projects I want to do, and the time I spend on each one. I know that seems sort of weird for a hobby, but I think that keeping track of such things will give me a better idea of how I’m spending my time, and whether or not I’m actually making progress. I mean, at last count I had something like 10 or 12 projects that are in various stages – from completed quilt tops all the way down to a few pieces I’ve cut out. I know that for some, just working on the hobby is enough to make them happy, but I get my greatest joy from actually completing a project. And I’m not sure what the purpose is of doing something but never finishing it.

So, even though I’ve said in the past that my plans usually go to hell in no time, I feel like a plan is required to take back control of my sewing time and productivity. I’m not going to set specific deadlines on myself, but I am going to make a list of all the projects I have and their current state in my quilting journal. I’ll set up pages in the journal for each project to track progress, reasons why I’m not working on it (don’t like it, need some component I’m missing, etc), and what I’m planning or using to complete the project – this one is big, because I have a tendency to forget things like threads I’m using or want to use, designs for quilting patterns, and things like that.

I’m instituting a 30 minute a day sewing period. I’ve talked about it before and I did it for a while, and it worked out great; that’s how I finished my daughter’s quilt. But then I let it fall by the wayside, and I need to take control again. I’ve set up a place in my quilting journal where I can mark off the days that I actually accomplish this task, and I like marking things off lists. :-D

I have to make 2015 a more productive year if only because I hate seeing all my wonderful investments in machines, fabrics and threads sit around waiting for me to return.