Catching Up

I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been working on several things over the last few weeks, and time just got away from me. But it’s been a busy month, even though I don’t have a lot of “progress” to share. In no particular order, here’s what I’ve been up to lately …

  1. Craftsy.com had a promotion for the month of October where you could sign up for a set price and have access to all their classes. Of course, I had to sign up and I’ve been watching classes on cooking, sewing, machine embroidery, baking, and other great subjects. I heard about this on PatternReview.com, and I understood that it was a test environment to see if a subscription service would be viable. I also heard that the people who were invited got an email with one of three price points – $9.99, $14.99 and $19.99. I signed up for the $9.99 price point, but I would have no problem paying $14.99 a month for unlimited access to Craftsy courses. At the $19.99 price, I’d have to give it some thought, but overall, that’s still a great value. With the subscription, you don’t retain access to the courses you take after your subscription lapses, but overall, I think it’s a great way to explore new skills.
  2. I really am getting desperate for some new clothes. Last month, I went through my closet and made a list of the basics that I really need – some blouses (not pull over tops, but real blouses with buttons), a lightweight jacket, a pair of slacks or two, and a few other things. I started pulling together fabrics and patterns to make these items, and the first one is underway – a fleece jacket made from Simplicity 2208, view A. I’ve never worked with fleece, or plaid, and I’ve never made a jacket, but I’ve been told this particular pattern is fairly easy, so I’m hoping to have it done before the cooler weather hits Houston next week (according to Eric Berger at the Houston Chronicle). I finished tracing off the pattern last night and I’m hoping to start laying it out on the fabric tonight.
  3. I’ve been doing some research on sewing cabinets for my Viking Opal 690Q. I know a lot of people really like the Ikea tables for their sewing machines, but I am not one of those people. In fact, I really have an intense dislike for it. My Opal doesn’t get used nearly as often as I want to use it because to me, it’s just an awkward set up. I guess I’m just too used to the Horn of America cabinet I have for the Brother DreamCreator VM5100. Right now, I really like the Kangaroo K8605. I would totally go back to Horn, but they seem to have moved primarily to electric motors for their cabinets instead of hydraulic lift, and the prices have skyrocketed as a result. I don’t NEED an electric motor and it’s just unnecessary cost.
  4. I’ve been doing a little free motion quilting (FMQ) practice, trying to decide between the Brother and the Viking. I think both do a really good job with the FMQ, but the Brother has a much better set up, and the throat is wider, so it makes sense to use it over the Viking. I really want to spend more time doing this, because I would like to finish the Cat in the Hat quilt that’s just sitting here. You may remember, if you’ve been reading for a while, that I started to do FMQ on this quilt back when I still had the Janome. Yes, the Janome that’s been gone for more than a year now … /blush

So, you can see that I’ve not been sitting around eating spoonfuls of whipped cream or peanut butter, watching tv and neglecting the sewing room. There HAS been activity, but nothing that I deemed exciting enough to share. I’m just not one of those people who turns out a new garment every night, or who makes massive leaps in quilting on a daily basis. I am trying to make an effort to get into the studio every day for at least half an hour, and I’ve been surprised by how much actually gets done when you spend thirty minutes in there every day.

Hopefully, I’ll have some photos to share on the jacket construction by the weekend. And I’ve thought about a series that documents my progress by spending at least thirty minutes in the studio each day. Maybe I’ll start that this weekend … hmmm. Watch this space for the beginning of that series!

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!

Sewing Machine Review: Brother DreamCreator VM5100

Brother VM 5100 Dream Creator

Brother VM 5100 Dream Creator – AKA George

I’ve been sewing on George, my new Brother DreamCreator VM5100 for almost three months now, and I’m ready to talk about my initial impressions. Keep in mind I still have some things I want to try out with the machine, but I’ve done a fair amount of piecing on it already (I’ve pieced two 70″-ish square top on it in the twelve weeks or so since I’ve had it). What I haven’t really done much of is free motion quilting, though I’ve done a good deal of embroidery on it. So with those disclaimers … here we go.

This is my fourth Brother sewing machine. The first one was my PC-8500 which was purchased used, the second was a Brother SQ-9050 I bought at Walmart and the third one was a “refurbished” 2500D. I still have all but the 2500D, and I’m still kicking myself for selling it in 2012. I would love to have that machine back, but that’s not going to happen. As a matter of disclosure and if you’re uaware, I also have a Janome 8900 that I purchased in February 2013. Up until I purchased George, the Janome (Ricco, by name) was my primary machine. Since I bought George, however, Ricco has seen almost NO sewing time. More on this in another post.

I brought George home and unpacked him almost immediately. Since it had been nearly two years since I’ve had an embroidery machine, I decided to give embroidery a go first. Of course, I first had to buy embroidery thread (I’d let all mine go with the 2500D), and then I found a design to use on the Green Eggs and Ham quilt I’m working on for my friend Julie. This embroidery design is meant to be the quilting. This is actually one design, stacked to be embroidered twice.

Star Overload

 

So far, the embroidery I’ve done with this machine has been wonderful!

But what I’m REALLY thrilled with is the stitching this machine does. It is so nice and pretty! I mentioned earlier that I’ve put together an entire quilt top on the machine in the weeks since I got it, and the machine really sung through the whole thing. I did run into a small problem, as one of the blocks in the quilt was a pinwheel, and George sort of bogged down where all the seams intersect, but I did a little reading, made a few adjustments to the automatic height adjustment (the machine’s default from the factory is to have that feature turned off), and voila! No more problems. In my research, I found that the little black button on the side of the J foot is actually there to be pressed in to help you get over those tougher seams. In more than 10 years of sewing, I never knew that. When I told my mom about it, who’s been sewing for more than 40 years, she didn’t know it either, so I didn’t feel so bad. LOL

The machine comes with a good variety of feet, including a 1/4″ foot with a guide. However, I’ve found that I much prefer the J foot and the use of the 1-29 stitch, which makes the perfect quarter inch seam. The reason why I like the J foot over the 1/4″ foot is that the feed dogs don’t make enough contact with the sole of the 1/4″, whereas the J foot’s sole is making full contact with the feed dogs. It really makes for a much more even feed and a lot fewer problems with fabric shifting.

In the three months I’ve had George, he and I have made a quilt top, made a pair of elastic waist dress pants, a couple of t-shirts, and repairs to a pair of my husband’s jeans. In every case, George has really done a fabulous job. I couldn’t be more happy about his performance.

The only thing I was not really happy about – and this is totally my fault – is that I didn’t do enough research before I bought this machine. If I had been more thorough, I would have chosen the Brother DreamWeaver VM6200D instead of the VM5100 for two reasons. First, when I bought my machine, the difference in price between the two at my particular dealer was about $1100. I thought I didn’t need the laser seam guide nor the V-Sonic pen, which seemed to me to be the primary differences

between the two machines. There were also two other feet included with the 6200D – the MuVit digital dual feed foot, and a droplight embroidery positioning marking foot. I was told the cost of each of these feet were about $150 each. To be clear, this information did NOT come from the dealer where I purchased my machine, but when I actually got my machine home and decided I wanted the MuVit foot, I found the cost is actually $400. The droplight foot is about $250. If I’d known that two features I did want would cost me $650, I would have just paid the extra $1100 and gotten ALL the extra features at once. But overall I am very happy with my machine – so happy, in fact, that I’m considering adding another one next year.

Really, three months isn’t long enough to give a full review, so I’ll post another review in a year or so, once George and I have been able to get even more familiar with each other. But I want to spread the word that this machine is FABULOUS, and if there’s anyone on the fence about buying it, DO IT. You will NOT regret it!

Confessions of a Quiltaholic

I am a stasher. Yes, that’s a little like a hoarder. I buy fabric even when I have no definite plans for it, to be used at some “future time.” I’ve done this since I first started quilting about 10 years ago, and I can’t see myself stopping now. Last month, I added more than twenty yards to my stash. Some of the fabrics, I’ve been coveting for MONTHS. I fell in love with one piece in particular, the first time I saw it, but I was practicing “restraint.” I don’t know why, really, but I thought I should limit my fabric purchasing. Silly girl! Don’t you know you can’t forget a fabric love? Well, I know that now, so when I headed to that shop for something else, I had my fingers crossed that they might still have some. They did!

I have more pairs of scissors than one girl should be allowed to have (last count, 10), and more rotary cutters than I could ever use (eight). I have one Craftsman tool chest drawer half filled with thread, and boxes of thread on my storage shelf.

I currently have six machines – the Janome 8900, a Brother PC-8500, a Viking #1+ (that is technically my mom’s machine, but … ) and a Brother SQ-9050 I bought from Walmart a few years ago. I also have a White serger They all get used. I added a new machine in March, the Brother DreamCreator VM5100, which is seeing a LOT of use. I love it already.

I have two cutting tables – one for actual cutting, and one I use for various other things – pinning quilts, sorting fabrics, and other quilty type things.

I have one sewing cabinet where the DreamCreator hangs out, and a small Ikea table for the Janome. I’m considering buying a new cabinet next year …

My studio is actually part of my master bedroom. Since the master is H U G E, it isn’t crowded or in any way difficult to work or sleep in. However, I still dream of a dedicated studio that’s at least the size of my current bedroom. Right now, I have a king size bed, a dresser, two end tables, a love seat, a 40″ tv with stand, an ironing board, a set of Elfa wire drawers, a Horn of America 3180 cabinet, a Craftsman tool chest, and a set of nine cubbies in the room. I could put another 3180 cabinet and set up the second cutting table in the room and still have space to move around and not feel too crowded.

I keep trying to convince my husband that we should move our bed into the spare bedroom and let me use the master as the studio. He’s reluctantly agreed, but I really think that’s something I will wait to do once my son is out on his own in a few years.

I sew more days than I don’t, even if it’s just to do a couple of small things. I would sew more, but I like spending time with my husband and he likes being in the living room where he’s more comfortable. I tried to get him to let me move my studio downstairs and he didn’t like that idea either. And truthfully, as loudly as he has the surround sound sometimes, I’m not sure I would want to be down here either.

There’s lots more I could confess, but a woman can’t give away all her secrets! Well, not all at one time, anyway. 😉

March Update

It’s been a crazy month in the studio. First off, I bought a new machine, a Brother DreamCreator VM 5100 which I named George. He’s a beauty. I’m really happy with the stitch quality, and the extra space in the harp is just so great. That makes two machines that I now have with a harp that’s at least 11″ and I doubt that I can ever go back to a “regular” sized machine because they all seem so small.

Secondly, I am still working on the Green Eggs & Ham quilt, and there is progress. The top is completely put together, the quilt is sandwiched and I started the “quilting” late last week. I’m using George to put stars on the quilt, both in the blocks and on the sashing.

Star Overload

Quilting detail

Green Eggs and Hame 1

 

I’ve also started another quilt, one that cannot currently be discussed because it’s a gift for someone. I wasn’t really pleased with it at first, but I’ve worked out a better plan for it, so I’ll get that going this evening.

The great thing about having George and Ricco (my Janome 8900) is that I can have George putting stars on the GE&H quilt and I can piece on Ricco. I’m VERY happy with this set up, though Ricco needs to go into the shop for a cleaning. When that happens, I’ll use either the Viking #1+ or one of the other Brother machines I have. See, having multiple machines is a great thing, and progress doesn’t stop when one has to go to the shop!