My Mojo is Back!

I’ve been having sewing machine problems for about a year now. The most frustrating thing in a sewist’s life is walking into your sewing room with a hankering to sew. You sit down, put the pedal to the metal, and nothing good happens. Argh! I took my main machine in to the dealer and she just said, “User error.” I call bullsh*t on her. I’ve been sewing since I was 13 years old. I know what I’m doing, and this machine had a problem. (It’s known in the jargon as “birds’ nests.” My Spousal Equivalent even knows the term now, after all my complaining over the past year. When I came up to show him this first make on the new machine, he was almost asleep, but he looked at me and asked, “No birds nests?”)

From late-June into early-July, I worked at Interlochen Arts Camp in Northern Michigan to accompany dance classes for three weeks and took no sewing machines with me. It was a good break for me—a break from the sewing insanity, the disruption of my passion. When I got back, a small fabric store in Worthington, Ohio, was having a sale on the sewing machines they stock, and I was able to order the machine I had my eye on for 15% off. I placed the order, then started looking around for items I could sell to raise the money for the machine. I had a bunch of antique jewelry and silverware and several pocket watches that had been unintentionally passed down from my birthmother (here’s that story) that I’d been needing to take action on. I took it to a local gold and silver buyer, and when I walked out, I had a sizeable check to be able to split with my half-sister and pay for almost half the machine with my portion. I grabbed a couple of gigs off the Facebook “Pianists of Northeast Ohio” group, and posted fourteen old presser feet from a machine I no longer own. And now, two weeks later, I only owe $300 on the new machine, and I’ve already learned how to use it and have made my first bag. Happy, happy.

All the accessories for the machine (presser feet, bobbins, oil, and so on) came in a plastic ziploc bag. Of course that wasn’t good enough for this sewist. So I decided my first make on this machine would be a special bag to hold those goodies. Sew Sweetness designer, Sara Lawson, makes the best bag patterns I’ve found, so I opened her website. What I chose was the I-Spy Pouch. This pattern, which includes directions for three sizes, is part of the Minikins Season One collection of small easy-sew, minimal-hardware bags. I had recently fallen in love with the fabrics in the “Legendary” collection designed by Pat Bravo for Art Gallery Fabrics. I had seen one of these fabrics in a bag my cousin, with whom I share a love of sewing, had posted in the Sew Sweetness Facebook group. It caught my eye, and I had ordered a bundle of fat quarters from this collection from an Etsy vendor. I sorted through that collection while standing next to my zipper stash to find a nice match.

I-Spy PouchThe I-Spy Pouch has a clear vinyl window in the front so you can see what’s inside the bag. I always keep the bags in which sheets and mattress pads and other similar household goods are packed when purchased. I grabbed a small one and took it apart. It had just the right amount of vinyl for this medium-sized bag. I laid the vinyl on the ironing board, turned the iron on to the nylon setting, laid a Teflon pressing sheet over the vinyl, and proceeded to carefully remove the wrinkles in the vinyl. Thumbs up! Then I took it to my cutting table and cut the size I needed. I cut all the fabric and interfacing, fused the interfacing to the fabric, and set out on the inaugural journey.

I turned on a movie in my little sewing room television, and when the movie was over, my bag was finished. I proudly showed it to my granddaughter and her girlfriend, who are staying with me for a couple of weeks, and then ran upstairs to show my S.E. Thumbs up all the way around!!

JukiSo what do I think of my machine? I absolutely love it. It sews through the multiple layers of fabric and interfacing as if it were butter. My sense after completing my first bag with this machine is that I absolutely made the right move in purchasing it.

The one thing I didn’t say about the Juki TL 2010q is that it’s a straight stitch machine. There’s no zigzag feature. There are no multiple stitches from which to choose. It can’t make buttonholes or sew on buttons. It a semi-industrial machine that does one thing and does it well. It sews many layers of fabric together with a straight stitch.

Smart choice, Crewser!

A Jumper for Camp

I hate that it’s been so long since I posted here about any sewing projects. I don’t hate that I didn’t post. I hate that I haven’t had time so sew any garments. I tried to buy a jumper for camp, but couldn’t find any anywhere online or in bricks&mortar stores. And then I saw the Grainline Uniform Tunic pattern and had a great aha moment. Add to that the fact that JoAnn’s actually had the perfect fabric for this jumper. The cotton/spandex blend navy pinwale corduroy had just the right amount of stretch to make a jumper that I could be comfortable sitting on a piano bench for an hour or more at a time. #win!!!

I was leaving home early on Thursday, 6/20, to drive to Interlochen. I had houseguests two nights the previous week and had worked playing the piano for six days the previous week. And our kitchen reno had just been completed and we were trying to frantically get everything put back in place before our houseguests arrived.That all adds up to no time to sew. Oh, and there had been a leak in the return water pipe that put rusty water all over the floor of my sewing room, so fabric and supplies were strewn all over the basement. And my machine had been misbehaving on the last four bags I made, so I had no confidence it was going to behave for this jumper. BUT IT DID!!! And now I’m at camp wearing my wonderful new jumper. When my daughter-in-law, who choreographs for junior musical theatre at Interlochen each summer, saw the jumper last night, she immediately said, “I want one of those.” Of course she does. It’s a wonderful jumper.

Here’s the review:
Pattern Description:
From the pattern webpage: The Uniform Tunic is designed as a choose your own adventure sewing pattern. While we have provided four options for you, the possibilities are endless as all of the design features are mix and match! Choose your favorite neckline and skirt, decide between sleeves or sleeveless, add pockets — you can’t go wrong!

Pattern Sizing: 0-18, bust size 32-44. I cut a 16.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Very easy.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? Disliked only that I didn’t have enough time in my schedule to make another one before camp started. LOVE.LOVE.LOVE this pattern and will be making it over and over again.

Fabric Used: From JoAnn’s (shocker for me): A really nice cotton/spandex pinwale corduroy. In navy blue, of course, for my job as a collaborative pianist at Interlochen Arts Camp.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: Added 5.5″ to the length. I’m 5’8″ and needed it to be knee length – well, sorta. I actually love the length it ended up at, and I wear it with cropped leggings and ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT. (With leggings, my knees don’t show. The Uniform Police will leave me alone.)

I only put one pocket in because I got kinda scared off when reading the pocket construction instructions in the Madder book. I used a scrap of Guatemalan ikat I got three years ago at Common Threads, Uncommon Fabrics in Taos. Both front and back of the pocket are ikat which gives it enough substance to hold my phone without distorting the line of the skirt. Next time I’ll insert both pockets and will again use a substantial fabric like this ikat.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes, yes, yes. I love this jumper – oh, did I mention that?

Conclusion: A great pattern for creatives of all sewing skill levels. There are neckline options and sleeve options and length options. Whatever your uniform or tunic needs, this is One Great Pattern!!!

New Old Equipment

My last blog post—the last item I made—was on March 12. That’s about two and a half months! I got sick of looking at that same old post, so, amid the kitchen reno and the water leak in the basement sewing room that had rusty water running across the floor to the drain, and the tearing apart and putting back together of the guest room with its now-refinished hardwood floor, I finally found a couple of half-hour sewing segments.

I’ve been having bobbin birdsnest problems with my Bernina 330 (accompanied by a trip to the dealer/technician and a diagnosis of user-error – which I don’t buy), so I thought I’d abandon it for a while and see how it felt about things. I moved over to the Singer 201 I bought at an estate sale and had tuned up a couple of years ago to see how I felt about it being my new primary bag-making machine.

Well, I was successful, so to speak. I finished the bag. And the Singer does sew very smoothly. But it doesn’t have the computerized “oomph” to move the needle through the thick layers that bag-making necessitates. I have to move my hand up to the wheel and encourage it to move forward. To lock a stitch, I have to move my hand up to the stitch-length lever and push it up to go back, then push it down to go forward. And the numbers beside the stitch-length lever, indicating the number of stitches per inch, are no longer visible on this ~68-year-old machine. I have to turn on my phone light and hold it up to the machine to see the numbers that were incised there. So this machine is not going to become my primary bag-making tool. I’ve got to think about this problem some more.

The materials for this bag are a hand-dye cotton from my stash (not my dyeing—bought years ago either online or at my favorite quilt shop in Tucson), a fat quarter of Cotton + Steel from early in their existence, and a zipper and zipper pull from ZipIt zippers on Etsy.

Now back to reassembling my beautiful new kitchen. 😊

Update: On May 29 and 30, I drove my new Acura RDX to Newport, Kentucky, across the river from Cincinnati, to meet some DNA cousins on my unknown-birthfather’s side, including my—at that time—closest cousin, 91-year-old Bette. Her daughter, Beth, graciously included me in the cousin get-together. I had wanted to make enough cute little zippered bags to be able to give one to each woman in attendance. Alas. My machine problems made that impossible. So this pretty Bellevue went along and now lives with Beth, thanking her for her kindness to me.

I’m heading to Interlochen next week for three weeks of accompanying dance classes. I’ll think about this machine problem tomorrow later. Lah di dah.

Sewing Room Stand

The Jazzman bought himself a new iPad Pro, after four years of reading his morning news on an iPad Mini. His new-to-him device came with the keyboard case, which gives you a full keyboard on which to type emails, but doesn’t give you the right support to position the device in landscape mode on a table. When he drooled over the case on my new 2018 iPad Pro, I immediately thought, “Sara Lawson included a device stand in her Minikins Season 2.”

The finished Sewing Room Stand.

When I had this thought, there were four days remaining before my guy was leaving for a week in Florida with his cousin. And I had Friday afternoon lessons to accompany and a Friday night rehearsal, as well as a Sunday afternoon rehearsal before Sunday evening dinner plans. Could I make the Sewing Room Stand in that amount of time?

Supporting the iPad Mini.

Fortunately it’s a very easy make. No zippers. No hardware. Just fabric and interfacing and seams. So make it, I did.

The saddest moment was when I went to test it after stitching the last stitch and trimming the last thread tail. I leaned my big iPad Pro up against it, and down it went. It wouldn’t support the 2018 iPad Pro! So I took it up to the dining room and leaned his iPad Mini against it. It wouldn’t support the Mini! Now what the hell was I going to do. I put my phone on it, and it didn’t really even support my phone.

The pen and pencil saved the day.

Then I remembered that I had bought him a small spiral notebook and a new mechanical pencil and pen. I ran back to the basement, grabbed those items, came back upstairs and put them into the mesh pockets on the back. Then I prepared to take a video of the stand collapsing. But it didn’t collapse! The pen and pencil on either side of the back was apparently just what the stand needed to support the devices. It didn’t collapse with the Mini on it. And when I took away the Mini and put his iPad Pro on it, IT STOOD UP! It supported the device. Yippee!

Now I’ll just have to remind him to never remove the pen and pencil.

Supporting the Gen. 1 iPad Pro.

Folded and ready for the suitcase.

Bellevue Pouches

I decided to participate in a March bag swap among members of Sara Lawson’s Facebook group, “Sew Sweetness Sewing Patterns.” The organizer of the swap gave us a list of Sara’s bags and pouches that we could make for the swap. I chose the Bellevue Pouch, which is part of the Minikins Season 1 series of patterns. The Bellevue comes in three sizes: small, medium, and large. First I made the medium-size pouch out of the Australian aboriginal fabric that I had used several times for the Metro pouch. My DNA cousin, Barbara C., who shares a love of sewing with me, had admired the Australian print on some of the previous bags, and I was thinking of her the entire time I was making my first Bellevue. When I first posted the photo in the group, and she admired it, I asked if she would like to have it, as so many thoughts of her went into the making of the pouch. She said she’s love to have one of my bags. So off it went to Kansas City to live.

Then I got started on the two bags, a medium and a large, for my swap partner. The medium is made from two companion Bali batiks that I bought while in Bali last summer. For the large, I dipped into my stash and pulled out some Hoffman “Picnic Social” in the Aurora colorway for the exterior fabric, with lining of Carrie Bloomston’s “Scratch” in the Olive Oil colorway. I love the “handcrafted” zipper pulls from Emmaline Bags.

I keep forgetting to iron in my “Jananza!” labels before assembling that bags. Finally, finally on the large Bellevue, I remembered to fuse the label to the lining before sewing it to the zipper. Whew! And here are pictures of the zipper pulls—on the left, the pull from Tokyo, and on the right, the Emmaline pull.

What did I learn on these bags? First off, pressing the curved zipper, especially the second side, is very difficult. Ditto on difficulty for topstitching that curved seam. And pressing when the bag is done? Oy! The other thing I learned it that I should have changed my bobbin thread to match the lining for the topstitching on either side of the zipper. I don’t like the “olive oil” fabric with black thread. Oh, well. I’ll remember next time. Or not. It’s a toss-up whether I’ll now keep remembering to fuse the label in ahead of construction. Aging is not for sissies!