June was…I don’t really have the words. I managed to get out and take some pictures. Which, to be honest, is pretty important for my mental health.
So I’m just going to share some of the things that ended up in my folder for June.
Each pic has a story. Like the roses I saw at the gas station with the two bums sitting on the curb. Or the ugly blue spruce stonecrop that faithfully comes up every year. Or just local fields that I appreciate. Wildflowers are so underrated. These things sustain me.
Almost two weeks left before the Fourth of July and all I have left is the label. (Have I harped enough about labels? Every quilt needs one.)
At the very last minute, I decided to scallop the edges of this quilt. Don’t ask me why. Because I don’t know. It was lovely without it, but I felt like I wanted a bit more…maybe a touch of femme or softness, or something to make it distinctive.
The pattern comes from a book called French Farmhouse by Marie Claude Picon. The quilts are all designed for rustic simplicity, which is lovely. But I never found a pattern I didn’t adapt at least a little. So same with this one.
The quilting, as you can see on the back, is all stars and stripes, in keeping with the theme. I always quilt on my domestic machine, a Bernina 780 (which was a precursor to the current 790.) I don’t enter my quilts in competitions–for obvious reasons. They are purely for the pleasure of creating. So you can see that I have a lot of fun with quilting, and I’m not hung up on perfection. As the Amish like to say about their quilts, “Only God is perfect.”
I like my quilts to be functional.
About the scallops. Don’t overthink.
I literally dumped some thread out of a Polish pottery bowl in my sewing room functioning as storage. I turned it upside down and started drawing the scallops. I did not measure. I did not plan. When I got to the last two or three at the end of a row, I just made minor adjustments so it fit. I don’t even know the size of the bowl.
So I assure you that you can enjoy creating scallops as a quilt edging. However, I DO have some tips because when you get to sewing, you just need to be prepared.
Scallop-Edge Quilt Tips
Cut before you sew. I know this sounds crazy, but a lot of books and instructions will tell you to draw the scallops and sew your binding on before you trim the scallops into shape. The argument is that the fabric is less inclined to stretch or distort. It’s stable and you have a straight piece on which to work. Feel free to go ahead and try it that way. Maybe it works for you. But I really need to see my cut edge. I like to work directly on the shape that the quilt will be in the end. It may not be ideal for everyone, but this is about what works for you.
Pin each scallop one at a time before you sew. Not gonna lie. This is a slow process. But you will get better results.
Use bias binding. Yes, you knew that. Of course you did. But, I’m always surprised by the number of quilters who don’t ever use bias binding on their quilts–even those that are meant to be passed down as heirlooms. When a binding is on the straight of grain, all the wear-and-tear is on about two or three threads going longwise over the edge. When the binding is cut on the bias, you have hundreds of threads that support the edge. It will last so much longer. I wrote about this in a previous post.
Don’t stretch. When you work with anything on the bias, it’s easy–really easy–to pull the fabric. It’s easy (and tempting) to stretch it into position. But this will just cause the quilt to curl and not lay flat. Fabric is very compliant and is happy to work with you. But you have to understand the ways it wants to be handled. The puckering that you see in the pinning, is exactly what you want to see. This gives the curve enough “give” to flip around to the back side.
No one in our house is allowed to use the phrase “new normal” or “in these uncertain times”.
For obvious reasons.
But for reasons mostly unknown to me, I dug deep into a closet not long after the stay-at-home orders began, and I came across a puzzle we never assembled. It was the only one in our home. 750 pieces. Challenging but not discouraging. It was an illustration of a floral shop during Valentine’s Day, which, of course, had passed at the time we were assembling. But it was loaded with cheer–flowers, cards, knick knacks, doodads and color. Lots of color.
I set it out on our coffee table and worked on it during the news (which was quite a bit at first, if you remember). Then I started doing it during briefings from the task force, from governors, etc.
Then one day our teenage son walked over and started working. He was in the midst of preparing for AP Exams. In case you hadn’t heard, they were canceled in their normal form, and were replaced by a very stressful, time sensitive, online interpretation. A year’s worth of studying and work reduced to 2 questions…and half the battle was the stress of wondering if all your technology would hold up. He sometimes stared at those puzzle pieces with me.
I understand if you’re not a puzzle person.
I guess not everyone is. But if you are visual–as I am–or spatial–as I am, you very likely find them relaxing. I do crosswords from time to time. But I find I just am not that up on pop culture or TV or movie stars or Greek mythology. When I used to play Trivial Pursuit, my default answer was always “Barbra Streisand.”
Neverthless, there’s also something meditative and calming about the images. I am very particular about the images I choose for puzzles. I don’t want a loud abstract spiral of pure color. That just seems frustrating and vague to me. But a homey scene with quilts and puppies and red barns and all the reassurances of a time that was simpler? Yeah, that’s for me.
The puzzle above was probably one of my favorites. If you find it anywhere, and you enjoy doing them, I highly recommend this one. And shout out to artist Chris Bigalow. His outstanding illustration is so full of tiny details, that I found myself studying and appreciating every piece. Inside the windows? All those little scenes are tiny puzzles…puzzles within puzzles. What a fantastic graphic. From the details in the upstairs windows to the coffee mug that says “I heart puzzles”, this is just a gem.
What’s the next one in line? I decided to try having a puzzle made from one of my own images. As much as I enjoy floral photography, I prefer illustrations on my puzzles. But I did have one image that I thought would make a fun puzzle.
So this next one is a photo I took while on vacation. It’s always been one of my favorites and the color, cheeriness and general tchotchkiness (is that a word?) would be fun.
Puzzles calm me. I know that people attribute a lot of good things to puzzle-solving. But for me, when working on a puzzle, I am distanced from the chaos and scary-as-hell reality we live in. I’m wrapped up in a world of shapes and color. I used to shun them because, really, what in the world is productive about jigsaw puzzles? You spend hours and when you’re done, you put it all back in the box and move on.
But that’s become a metaphor for me. A metaphor for life. We scramble, we work, we delude ourselves into thinking we must always be productive, but when it’s all over, it’s over. And has anything that any of us done had true lasting value? Our quilts, maybe. But only if someone truly appreciates them. Otherwise, they are just a way to keep ourselves going.
We all do what we have to do.
Next post I’lll share some sewing.
But for now? We keep a puzzle on the coffee table.
So I see a lot of people taking a renewed interest in sewing these days. First and foremost to make masks, second as a hobby, and third as a new skill.
But how do we shop right now in this state of retail confusion? I looked over the websites of some of the top sewing machine manufacturers and while they are all taking somewhat different approaches, they are definitely finding ways to sell machines.
Regardless of your location, or your region’s status with regard to COVID19 (Stay-at-home or not), Bernina is offering nation-wide curbside pick up or local delivery via Fedex or UPS. So if you know of a dealer you can trust, you can call and purchase a machine and receive curbside pick-up. Or, you can ask them to have that machine delivered via Fedex or UPS. Now, when it comes to shipping, I’m not sure who picks up the charges for that…likely the customer. But don’t underestimate your negotiating ability during this time. I’m sure a dealer would rather sell a machine than argue over shipping charges. Bernina does have a limited online sales venue on bernina.com , but at the end of the day, that sale just gets delivered to a local dealer where you would pick it up. Far easier to call a dealer directly. There are a limited number of Bernina and Bernette sewing machines available on Amazon (that look to be sold directly by Bernina–not used.)
I found it harder to get information on Babylock because their consumer website does not have any updates with regard to the pandemic. I also left a message on their customer service line, and have not received a return call. However, my local Babylock dealer is taking orders over the phone and doing curbside pick-up. I have to believe that Babylock dealers are left to their own devices with respect to each states’ executive orders, and each dealer is making their own decisions. No Babylock machines appear to be available for purchase on Amazon.
Janome does not have a statement online about coronavirus or whether they have any business changes. So I imagine that each dealer is handling it in their own way. Janome does, however, have a wide variety and price range of machines available for purchase on Amazon. Is it their top of the line? Perhaps not. But the Memorycraft is available on Amazon and that’s a pretty decent machine.
Curbside pick-up is available for all dealerships that are open. Also, singer.com has a wide range of all these brands available for purchase. HOWEVER, they have a huge warning on their website that their delivery response time has slowed, and they are having some inventory issues, which they are trying to manage. This is not unusual. If you have purchased anything online in the past month or so, you know that delivery times are sporadic at best, and frustratingly non-existent at worst. Your best bet would be to contact a dealer who handles these brands, find out what they have in stock and go from there. Singer appears to be the only brand in this category that has some availability on Amazon. However, a reminder that you get what you pay for. You will have no quarantees that a $150 machine will last or will handle the sewing you require. And if you purchase online, who will service? Just some things to think about.
Once again (and I hate to be down on them because I know they have decent embroidery machines) but once again, Brother is a black hole of information for consumer sewing machines. I recognize that they are a large corporation with lots of sales and supplies to manage. They do have a generic note on their corporate site that explains that they are doing their best to manage inventory and their supply chain. What that means to consumers is less clear.Their sewing machines are available in a limited capacity on Amazon. Again, buyer beware, as brands sometimes only offer online the cheapest machines around. If you simply must own a Brother, please find a dealer and ask them how they are selling at this time.
I think it’s safe to conclude that, as always, it is best to contact your local sewing dealership and tell them which machines you are interested in. If it were me, I would put off a very high-end purchase until you are more comfortable going in to test drive the machine. Unless, of course, your local dealer is open, and even then, please try to practice social distancing.
If you are wanting to make masks, some decent machines are available for purchase online, but I would recommend spending at least $500 to get something that will be dependable. The Bernina 215 for $799 is a great machine to purchase online. It is made like a Bernina, with metal parts and sews like a dream. I would call a dealer first to find out if they have one. I bet they would sell it for less than that price, and you could just do a curbside pick-up.
Whatever you decide to do, I am encouraged that so many are interested in sewing again.
Who knew we’d all get back to sewing and growing our food?
Please, please, stay safe, stay healthy, listen to your local officials, and help each other.
Author’s edit 5.13.20: I want to give an update about the “controversy”. I have listened to scientists and have also spoken to folks in infection control who have all made themselves clear about masks. They now ALL believe that the public wearing them is the best route to limiting this virus. While they would not want hospitals to be forced to wear cloth, the public wearing masks of any kind keeps as many droplets contained as possible.I wear a mask for you, and you wear one to protect me. Every day we learn more and this is no longer controversial. I want to make that clear. It is a minor inconvenience that we all need to endure because, frankly, it’s all of us versus this virus. And the virus is virulent. (Yes, I know it’s alliterative.)Here’s an article for reference. I’m now convinced this simple change in behavior can save a lot of lives.
I’ve been asked to share my mask pattern with you and it’s so simple, you won’t believe it.
But first, I want to talk a little about cloth masks.
Don’t wear a cloth mask for more than 2 hours. Change to a fresh one.
If it gets wet for any reason, even from your own breath, you need to change it.
Put them directly into a washing machine and wash in hot water with soap or bleach.
That’s the end of my Public Service Announcement. Knowing that, if you are on this blog, you are likely someone who sews, and anyone who sews can make masks out of their stash. I did not have elastic on hand for some of the patterns I’d seen, and then I ran across this video of German women making masks. They are using what appears to be a layer of muslin, another fabric, and then the ties appear to be cotton.
I made my masks out of white fabric so that anyone using them could bleach them. Please pre-wash your fabric before you start to assemble. I’m sure any color would be fine.
I start by cutting 8 inches along WOF (so 8 x 44). Then I make four cuts of 2 inches WOF.
Trim the 8 inch fabric to 8 x 15. You should end up with 2 pieces of 8 x 15 which will make 2 masks. You’ll use 2 ties (2 x 44 each) for each mask.
Fold the 8 inch fabric in half right sides together and sew with a quarter inch seam. Turn it right side out and press with the seam at the bottom.
Start adding pleats that are approximately 1/2 inch deep. Fold it over and press. You do not have to measure, You do not have to be precise. Just keep them basically even, and you’re good. You’re making 3 pleats.
Press all three pleats down nice and secure. Then I run them under a 1/8 inch seam just to hold them in place.
I use an edgestitch foot for this, (my favorite!) and move the needle as far to the left as I can. Remember, you’re making two masks at a time with these instructions, so you’ll make 4 seams, on the short pleated sides only.
Next we’re making the ties. Take a 2 inch strip and press it with both long sides folded into the center. I usually do one side, and then the other.
Then fold down about half an inch from the top and give it a press.
Then you give the tie one more fold in the middle and press it really well. I usually use steam at this point. Next find the center of the tie…remember, it is approximately 44 inches long, so somewhere around 22 inches. This does not have to be precise. Just fold it in half and find the center. Put the center in the middle of the short side of one of your masks and wrap the tie around it. (See pic.) I use 3 clips for each side–like a binding.
Start at the very end of the tie, and sew across the top of the tie and then down along the side. Again, I use an edgestitch foot. This time with the needle moved all the way to the right. This secures the tie and attaches it to the mask. Do this on both sides and you’re done.
Again, the pieces we just cut will make 2 masks. If you’re like me, you have tons of yardage lying around that was meant for a quilt a long time ago, or that was on sale. I heated up some water for tea and Iiterally had a mask completed and my tea was still warm enough to drink.
Please keep in mind the precautions I set forth in the beginning. We are all truly in uncharted territory.
I am *almost* a senior…not quite. But you might be.
Here’s a good breakdown of hours for grocery stores.
The best advice we can all take right now is this:
Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands. If you don’t remember the last time you did it, wash your hands.
Social distance. This is not a joke. Assume everyone is spreading the virus and stay away from them.
Clean commonly used surfaces regularly with disinfectant wipes or bleach water.
Don’t touch your face. Just don’t. (This is hard.)
As of this writing, we’re looking at another month or more of this isolating behavior. This is our new norm and we need to recognize that we are not alone. The entire world is battling this and it is our job to give the scientists, epidemiologists, doctors and nurses time and money and supplies to help us, and find a vaccine or cure. If my biggest hardship is staying at home and sewing, I am truly lucky.
I am also sending food via local restaurants to hospitals for the workers. This has the double effect of sending business to local restaurants and giving a gift to those on the frontlines.
I have no words of wisdom here. But with all my heart I am praying that you and your loved ones, and me and mine, will all be well.
Everyone I speak to is frightened, anxious and agitated about the future. We have no road map for this pandemic. But I think this much is clear.
We are permanently changed–physically, psychologically, financially, mentally.
Perhaps the way we were “doing” everything before was not ideal.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I am changing my daily life. First of all, I stay close to home. I don’t run around unnecessarily, I don’t shop at 5 different grocery stores to get a little bit of everything for each person in my household.
Second, I’m not spending any money now on things that are throw-away. I’m not purchasing that cute top that I know will only last a season. I’m not buying earrings that go in and out of fashion like the wind. I’m using the fabric that I already own to make things other people need, instead of catering to my own whim and fancy.
Third, we are wasting less. Do we really need to use that many paper towels? Do we know when we will be able to get more? What about that food? Time to make something with what’s currently in the pantry or the fridge because going out for something else is not much of an option. We are eating home-cooking more.
Fourth, I am caring deeply, anxiously, and actively about others. My mind is constantly on healthcare workers, grocery clerks, truck drivers, mail delivery people, folks who keep the lights on and the water flowing and even the Internet bubbling and Netflix churning.
Of course, I am worried about all those who now have no income. Can they move their business online? Can the local plant shop or chocolate shop or quilt shop be nimble enough to move online and are we all willing to purchase online to keep our friends and neighbors employed?
What about restaurants? I don’t have the answer here, but I certainly think we should be able to order takeout. Have the days of crowded, chattering, noisy restaurants passed us by? Maybe not for everyone, but for those of us getting up in years or with health problems or compromised immune systems, the answer is yes.
What will the future look like? I think that’s the question that torments me the most. It almost certainly will not look like the past. As I said, we are permanently changed. And if we are not, then we will learn lessons the hardest way possible.
How about this paper device created by Chinese company Meituan? You can order takeout to eat at your desk, but every meal comes with this paper shield that protects your food from any droplets that might be shed by a passing stranger. I don’t know how I feel about that, but at least it’s the way China is starting to think and create, as they begin to reopen their economy VERY slowly.
The doctors are thinking that even after this first wave, the virus will head to the Southern hemisphere and then be back for round two next fall. That may or may not give us enough of a reprieve to prepare with equipment, masks, gowns gloves, respirators etc.
But for now, I am still creating masks for local nursing homes, assisted living centers and anyone who wants them at the moment. For the first time in my life, I ordered groceries for delivery. My area of the country has been identified as a growing hotspot for the virus. I have a husband who still must go in to work three days a week.
May we learn how to live a little better together on this planet. May we learn to care for one another. May we learn how absolutely interdependent we are on one another.
I bought a new serger. I am not very good at videos, so here’s an unboxing blog. But before I get into that, let me tell you why I purchased what I did.
This is a Babylock. Babylock sergers have been the best in the industry for years. They lead the way in “air puff” technology, making it easy to thread those loopers. I trust that they know more about sergers than basically anyone else in the industry.
This Babylock serger is made in Japan, where Babylock actually owns factories.
I already own a Babylock Imagine serger. It’s a solid machine, still has a great stitch, and will become my back-up serger. But it’s well over 20 years old.
The new machine is an Accolade, which as I understand it, is the updated model of the Evolve. It has a cover stitch and that was the main selling point for me. I have never owned a serger with a cover stitch. On top of that, I got a promotion that included 15 different serger feet, handling everything from beading to ruffling to binding. To be honest, I have no idea how to use most of these features, so it will be an interesting learning curve for me. A real growth opportunity!
Of course, I purchased from a reputable dealer with a series of classes available. This is something I recommend to anyone purchasing any machine.
I was also given limited-time access to a full range of Babylock online classes, including all the instructions for my serger PLUS lots of technique and project classes.
Serger instructions are terrifying. They will frighten you. But you cannot let fear guide you. It’s just a mechanical machine, and it works more mechanically than any sewing machine you have ever used. That’s all. Mechanical machines like things done in a certain order. You can do this. Before I did anything, I watched the online video for the Accolade on Babylock SewEd. I have guide classes set up for next Saturday. But in fairness, I’ve owned a serger and after the video I only glanced at the instructions once.
It’s not as difficult as the instructions make it look. I promise.
I immediately set it up for a 4 thread overlock, my go-to stitch. I wanted to hem my husband’s pants, which were frayed from dragging on the ground. But first, a test stitch.
Ladies and gentlemen. Perfection right out of the box.
And that, my friends, is why I purchased a Babylock serger.
I went ahead and did the finishing stitch on my husband’s pants before I hemmed them on my Bernina. Could I have finished them on the serger with a cover stitch?
I think so, but danged if I know how yet.
Something exciting to learn!
In this time of slow fashion, slow food and environmental awareness, making one’s clothes is coming back around to be a thoughtful move toward sustainable living. I don’t want to throw everything in the garbage any more.
These pants and others now have new life. And I know that doesn’t change the world.
Tell me why you sew, and I’ll tell you who you are. Isn’t that the truth? These wonderful ladies, friends of mine, wanted to learn machine embroidery. We won’t talk about how long they have had their embroidery units neatly packed away in boxes with all the best intentions in the world.
We’ve been talking about getting together for years to learn the ins and outs, tips and tricks of the trade. Finally — we did it.
They came over to my house for a day and and I gave them the basic Embroidery 101 lessons. Someday, I will write it all down in lesson form for this blog. I know there are plenty of others out there who have an embroidery unit packed away somewhere, hoping that they will use it eventually. Or maybe you gave up on embroidery entirely.
I am here to re-inspire you. Machine embroidery is truly fun. And the more you know, the more you can experiment, and the more you are inspired to try new things. The hardest part? Getting started.
You can see from these pics that one of the biggest impetuses (is that a word?) for machine embroidery is, wait for it, grandchildren. And children as well . But I think the grandkids get the machine embroidery lovin’. Why? Because they are fun. The things we do for them is done with pure love with no expectations for anything in return.
That’s also why I teach. I want to share what I know, so that others can enjoy this craft. I also want us to use our hands, machines, brains and ideas to make things and to inspire each other, and maybe that will spread into the world and make a difference.
I don’t know if it will. All I know is that they will be coming back for another lesson next week. I hope it inspires you to dig in, as well.
The old saying goes “You can’t take it with you.”
No you can’t. But with any luck, we can quilt it, sew, it, embroider it and leave some of it behind and hope it does some good.