Better late than never

On New Year’s Eve, I posted about making weekly goals that I want to accomplish. While I didn’t accomplish much on that list, I did manage to do a fair amount of sewing during the week. I am happy to be able to report that the binding for the fleece jacket is 3/4 done. I am hoping to get it finished by tomorrow night; I would be working on it right now, but there is a wicked western sun coming through the window right where I would be sitting to sew, so I’m waiting for it to go down. Clearly, I need to replace the non-functional Venetian blinds at that window with something that actually works.

In other news, this followed me home last Tuesday …

My new toy, which somehow managed to just follow me home ...

My new toy, which somehow managed to just follow me home …

It wasn’t in the plan to buy a new machine; I had stopped by to take a look at what they had to offer, because the one year anniversary of my Viking Opal 690Q purchase is approaching, and I had until that date to trade it in and get the full purchase price credited toward another new machine, at MSRP. Now, I’ve been watching the machines since I bought the Opal, and let me tell you that it’s not always the best idea to trade in a machine against MSRP, because many times, new machines are marked down more than the amount the trade would give you. And that would have been no different with this machine. In fact, I got an outstanding deal on this machine, paying about half MSRP. It was a machine used at the Houston Quilt Show back in November for classes, but this machine had almost no time on it. It came with the small embroidery unit, which is still a very generous 10″ x 6″-ish size. Down the road, I might just upgrade to the large unit, which has an embroidery area bigger than 14″ square.

This is the machine I’ve been using the do the binding on the fleece jacket, and I will say that I’m thoroughly impressed with the IDT on this machine. Attaching the binding has been a much easier process than I was anticipating on the other two machines I have, and I am very happy with this purchase. But I have to tell you, that really wasn’t the case when I first brought it home. In fact, I wasn’t sure what I was doing the whole time I was making the purchase. When I got it home, I let it sit in the middle of the studio for a while before I unpacked it. Then I let it sit on the table for a few days before I used it. Oh, I ran a couple of sample lines of stitching on a scrap piece of fabric to be sure it would at least do that, but I didn’t actually use it until Friday. And from that first line of stitching, I knew that I would love this machine. But until then, I was pretty much freaking out, which is why very little was done on my list last week – I just couldn’t keep my mind on anything but trying to figure out what I’d do if this machine turned out to be a mistake (my dealer doesn’t allow returns). I’m very happy to report that it isn’t a mistake. Yay!

I will do a full review of this machine once I’ve had it for a while and used it, but right now I will say that I foresee this being my go-to machine for difficult fabrics. The IDT is making the fleece a breeze, so I imagine it will have similar results on other difficult fabrics. The Opal didn’t do so hot on the fleece; the Brother did fine, but the Pfaff just sang. I can’t wait to really put this machine through it’s paces and see what she can do!

Stay tuned … ūüôā

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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!

Hurricane Season Preparations

Last night, Chris and I were talking about the upcoming hurricane season and the things we need to do to get ready for it. Since we’re about 60 miles from the closest coast line, we don’t have to be as prepared as my parents do, who are less than 5 miles away from it. But there are still a few things that we need to purchase to feel really comfortable during the upcoming season.

Along with the standard bottled water, food and batteries for flashlights, we also need to purchase a battery operated radio – we had one but it’s disappeared. We also need to purchase some plastic sheeting, not so much because we’re worried about having to “shelter in place” as much as we are concerned about something breaking a window. Plastic sheeting would allow us to cover up the broken window (we aren’t close enough to the coast to warrant boarding up windows before a storm). We have a manual can opener, of course, but I’ve been thinking we might need an upgrade, since I’m pretty sure this can opener has been around since about 1952. It still works, but it’s a pain in the backside to turn. We keep medication on hand, though this year we need to¬†make sure we keep a couple bags of ice in the freezer at all times in case we lose power, because Chris takes a medication now that has to be kept refrigerated. Additionally, we need to restock our supply of matches, disposable plates, cups and utensils. Also on the list of things to check for resupply is the propane for the camp stove – a very important piece of equipment in the aftermath of a storm. Unfortunately, we don’t currently have a gas grill because ours died, but we do have a smoker and a charcoal grill, so we’ll be keeping lots of briquets around just in case, and finally, we have decided to buy a propane burner, which will be useful for a variety of cooking needs.

The last couple of days, we’ve been experiencing some bad weather in the form of thunderstorms, which means I can’t really do any sewing. I unplug my machines when the thunder starts, like so many other sewists do. That got me to thinking that I should¬†consider prepping a hand¬†pieced quilt project, which I’ve talked about several times before but I haven’t actually done yet. I think it’s a good idea because you never know when you’re going to be without power. When Hurricane Ike came through Houston in 2008, we were without power for more than a week, and sometimes there just wasn’t anything to be done. I don’t really worry too much about being hit by a storm this year, but I think it’s better to be safe than sorry.

If you live in a hurricane prone area, what are you doing to prepare for the possibility of a storm?

Happy New Year!

Well, the New Year is off to a roaring start! I spent most of yesterday in the studio working on a new quilt. This one employs Dr Seuss fabrics, because what person between the ages of six months and 60 years doesn’t love Dr Seuss? I originally intended this quilt to be for me, but once I started working on it, decided that I really don’t want to keep it – it’s mostly centered around The Cat in The Hat, and my favorite Dr Seuss book was Green Eggs and Ham. So this one will be sold, and I will make a Green Eggs and Ham quilt for myself at some point in the future. I think I already have a buyer for The Cat in The Hat, but if I don’t, I will likely list it on Etsy.

I’ve been contemplating a new sewing machine lately, one that has an embroidery function and that can act as a back up machine to Ricco when he’s in the shop. I’ve looked at everything, and even considered selling Ricco to buy an all in one machine with a wide throat, but in the end, I really think I’m going to stick with what I know and keep Ricco and add this Brother machine to the mix.

Brother Isodore Innov-is 5000

You’re looking at the Brother Isodore Innov-Is 5000 from the Laura Ashley series. What I like about this machine is that it is a combination sewing/quilting/embroidery machine with a reasonable size embroidery hoop (7″ x 12″) and a large color screen. The only thing I’m really not crazy about is the smaller throat space (less than 8″) and the fact that it doesn’t come with a piecing foot. Since this is touted as a quilting machine first and foremost, you’d think it would come with a piecing foot – after all, how much could it cost Brother to include that in the box? But it does come with the circular stitching attachment – which I don’t know what I’ll use it to do, but use it I will. Also, this machine sews in multiple directions – Ricco stitches forward and backward, but not at angles. That may not sound like a big deal, and I’ve had machines in the past that had multi-directional sewing that I never used, but this last year that function would have come in handy while quilting several times.

What I’m mostly interested in, and excited about, is the embroidery function. I sold a Brother 2500D back in 2012, and I’ve been kicking myself ever since. And now that I’m going to have a baby to sew for, I think it’s very important to have the embroidery function. One of my first projects with the new machine will be a diaper bag with some embroidery. And then maybe I’ll do some onesies, and a baby quilt, and … well, the list could be endless! I’m thinking of some soft blocks for a Christmas gift in 2014 for the butterbean, too, which could be embroidered with all sorts of cute things. But I digress.

I won’t be able to buy the new machine until March, when I get my bonus, but I will likely be designing projects long before then. And honestly, for small projects I want to start/do right now, I can use the Viking #1+ I borrowed from my Mom. I need to get that machine out and use it anyway. I really like the way it sews, so Mom may not be seeing it back for a while. ūüėÄ

I know that “agonizing” over such a decision as which embroidery machine to buy is totally a first world problem, but that’s the only type of problems I have in my life, and I’m grateful for that. Every time I get bogged down in something as mundane as which sewing machine to buy or whether I should buy that bit of fabric, I remind myself how fortunate I am to have such tame problems. I never have to worry about going hungry or whether or not my children will have clothes to wear. And I’m very, very fortunate that both of my children reached adulthood without contracting childhood leukemia like my friend Heather‘s youngest daughter. But I do recognize that not everyone is as fortunate as I have been in my life, and knowing how much it meant to Gabby to have a wish granted by the Make a Wish Foundation (and keeping with the spirit of my 2014, Challenge), I have decided to take part in the Wishes Quilt Along sponsored by Kimberly Jolly at the Fat Quarter Shop. Every month, she’s asking for folks who download the patterns to donate money which will go directly to the Make a Wish Foundation. My plan is to donate a monthly amount for the quilt patterns and then make a larger donation when the quilt is finished at the end of the year. ¬†Even if you aren’t a quilter, this is a great charity, and I encourage everyone to make a contribution, no matter how small, to make these kids’ wishes come true.

Throwback Thursday

Today’s throwback photo isn’t a quilt, or a picture of the kids. This one is a photo of an old sewing room I once had when the kids were small. We were living in this horrible apartment complex, though the apartment itself was pretty decent. Four bedroom townhouse with a decent spot for me to sew …

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The quilt that’s on the little table under the lamp is the very first quilt I ever made. The one on the wall behind my sewing table … well, it’s still not finished yet, but I’ve been putting some thought into getting it done soon. Both of the tables that support machines have been retired – the one where my sewing machine sits (my favorite machine ever, in the wide world, but now, sadly on it’s last legs) had to be thrown out when it developed a smell I couldn’t get rid of; the other went back to my mom. YOu can see the jacket of a dress I made for my daughter to wear to her fifth grade graduation (yes, the daughter that just got married last week).¬†What I really cannot figure out is why is the white dresser in this photo? I can’t recall why it was in this room, because it has always belonged to my daughter, but I’m sure there must be a good reason for it … if only I could remember what it is!

When I started flipping through my photos to find something to share today and I ran across this one, it immediately transported me back in time. You can see that it’s dark outside, which is when I spent most of my time sewing. My kids would fall asleep to the hum of my sewing machine most nights. This room made me so happy, and I spent so many enjoyable hours in here, even if I’d sort of forgotten about it till I found this photo. That’s why I think it’s important to take photos not only of events and family and friends, but also spaces where you spend time. My mood immediately brightened when I saw this, and it reminded me that I don’t always need the latest and greatest of everything to enjoy quilting. It’s not about the destination, after all … quilting, much like travelling, is about the journey!