Monday, December 31, 2012

New Stuff

It didn't take me long to break down and get the recommended rotary cutter. My Olfa arrived right on time to keep my sanity intact. The other cutter is sitting upright in a fabric bin to remind me to listen. Maybe someday I'll try a new blade in it. The one it came with could very well have been defective. Those things are known to happen. And it's just my luck. Lesson learned.

In the works is a very special project; one detailed enough, and just different enough to really get me going. My husband is huge with scenery of undersea life. His arm is a big reflection of that in the tattoo I designed and did for him called 'The Aquarium from Hell'. Bold, bright color in an undersea land of fantasy creatures. So, when my charm pack order of 'Splash' batiks came, he pounced on it.
     "Underwater colors. There, there, and there", he said, pulling them from the pile and setting them aside. He had that glint in his eye, then nodded and walked away.
Well, that settled what his kitchen table placemat theme would be. I'm calling it 'Under a Foreign Sea'. Once the dimensions were set, I realized I needed more of the same fabric, so I ordered another charm pack. Once it arrived I could organize the colors and do the math- how many of this and how many of that. I had a LOT of fun designing this project! When the second graph workup was done and hubby said 'Ooooo', it was time to go to work.
My desk is covered with pieces and parts and pens and markers. On my TV tray is the cutting mat, my precious Olfa, and more pieces and parts.
I pulled the graph paper out of the notebook and keep it with everything else involved in this, right next to me for special notations. Each row is cut and stacked and placed in a baggie with it's row number marked on the bag. It's the only way I can do these projects and not mess them up.
This TV tray has been the handiest little investment for my studio. I can move it anywhere, leaving room for my chair to roll between the desk and the sewing corner.

A major snowstorm hit us, but that didn't bother me. I was designing! But, I did manage to catch Dobby, our coyote snow dog, waiting to be let back in. We are discovering that he likes to play in the snow. He wants to be chased around in it. Well, that won't happen anytime soon.
And then the sun came out, lighting up and revealing all those lovely snowbanks.

With all this fabulous new fabric, I noticed a certain set of colors were emerging that looked great all together, so this is the pile that will become a quilt for my Mom. She likes the small print, too, and the colors match her.
It will be a basic star block- simple enough where I can't make too many mistakes. The cutting will start today, and I'm learning that I like all the cutting to be done so I can just sit and sew. This whole process has been a journey of discovery for me. Not only did I ever imagine I would do this type of detailed quilting, but I never dreamed it would latch on to me with a grip of steel. And at my age!
I took the piece on the far right out of the equation. The white was just too stark. Now it balances

Now that my dialysis schedule is back on track, I hope to get these all done and pick up on the two in-progress quilts. And there's my treadle to work on. If I ever get caught up, I'll be lost.

Stay Warm and Quilt the Day Away!

Monday, December 24, 2012

On The Desk Today

I really didn't feel like doing much of anything this morning, but by early afternoon, I was bored to tears, so I got going on some quilting I've been wanting to do. And I actually made some progress.
Last week, my friend Dee Lowe, sent me a pay-it-forward package, and it had the most amazing fabric pieces in it. After organizing the fabric in bins and baskets, my head started rolling and tumbling with all the possibilities staring at me. One thing I absolutely had to make was a Dresden Plate from the most beautiful sunflower fabric I have ever seen.
These little beauties needed to be balanced after cutting and sewing, so here is the circle that I came up with.
Of course after sewing them together, I neglected to take a picture, but trust me, they're together and bright as the sun. Aren't they just the cutest?
I just happen to have a fabric that will make the center and look like seeds! You'll see the end product in a later post.

Watching quilting videos is a learning pastime for me, and one was on the disappearing four patch. Rummaging through my new charm packs, I found some nice floral in purple. I hope I did this right!
The cutting and rearranging-
Now it's ready for the lavender backing.

I put this block together after I got the new charm packs, a present to me, along with a cutting board and rotary cutter. Two more strips and she'll be ready to back.

The fabric for this little blue floral mug rug was originally part of curtains that my Mom made a long time ago. Even though the curtains have no place on any of my windows, it does serve a wonderful purpose in this case. After the front was together, I realized exactly how the back needed to be.
These are ready to go. Personally, the back with the floral grouping looks much better than the front. So, you can choose your side.

Now, I'm wiped out and there's other things to do, and I'm so very glad I don't have to get up tomorrow. Once the holidays are over, my schedule will go back to normal for a year. Thankfully!

I owe you all a Dresden Plate post, and that will be forthcoming as soon as I catch my breath.

Happy Sewing

Saturday, November 17, 2012


This is a short post on how I make my templates for cutting pieces for quilting blocks. They are easily made, cheap, and durable. You can make them in almost any size you need and mark them however you would like.

Here is what I start out with. I get mine at the dollar store. My advice is to get them now before they get any smaller. The package I bought last week is almost 3/4" smaller all the way around than the last batch.
They are almost clear, which makes it easier to see a particular placement of a design on your fabric.

I have a large 7" square ruler and it was not cheap, although it works where I need it to. My ruler stash includes a 2" by 18" grid ruler, which is invaluable everywhere. But, sometimes I don't want to concentrate on the 1/2" mark when I'm cutting binding or I need something wider for a certain project, so I cut my own from a mat. The same goes for the square templates, as you can see below.

And I worked out a pattern for a 6 pointed star- almost on the same lines as a Dresden Plate.

So, there you have it- my cheap and easy way to make templates that will last a whole lot longer than heavy paper or cardboard.

A little tip for you: once you have made your marks with a permanent marker or pen, coat your markings with clear nail polish so they won't come off.

Simple Sewing at it's best!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dresden Plate Block- Part 1

This block is one of the prettiest I have ever seen, and with my method of making the template for it, you will be able to make two different sizes. It's easy to make this template and will save you some money, too. You will be able to control the size of the petals, along with their lengths, to suit what you had in mind. So, grab a large piece of paper so we can get started.

Find something very large and round. A plate or a bowl will work. Lay this down on the paper and trace all the way around it, like so:
Carefully cut out the circle, then lining up the edges, fold it exactly in half.
Make a good crease on that fold. You will need the line, and the lines after it. Unfold the circle and using a pen or marker, mark the creases on both ends. You will be doing this after every fold.
To make the next fold, match up your marks and crease the paper well. Open the circle and mark the edges on each end of this crease. You will have four equal segments in your paper circle.
With the third fold, you will match your marks and you will see a 'V' on the paper. When all four notches match up, make your crease, unfold the paper and mark those ends with notches. Keep going with the folding and marking until you have a circle with 16 equally segmented petals.
You do not have to have 16 petals and you can stop anywhere, as long as each segment is equal. You might want your petals fatter, but I would not recommend going any smaller than what I show here. Considering your 1/4" seam, you could easily run into problems going that way. This is just my advice, and you do not need to follow it. These are just basic instructions for making the templates.

Okay so far?
Now that you have a nice paper circle, pick a petal, any petal, and outline it, like this-
This is the piece you will use to make a template. But first, you will need to make more marks.
Start with the narrow end of the petal. Bring your ruler up so that you have a one inch bottom. If you make it any smaller, you won't have much room come sewing time. Make your mark straight across.
Next is the top- the widest part of the petal. Mine was 2 inches across when the ruler was placed notch to notch. Mark that line, too.
This is the small petal and it calls for 16 petals to make a complete circle or flower.
Now, if you want a longer petal like I did, tape down a piece of paper to make the extension. Mark your bottom line, then measure up to your desired length. Mark that and do that again on the other side. My larger petal is 3 inches across at the top with a one inch bottom.
These next three pictures will show you how I did this.

I did not know this until I started putting the large Dresden Plate together, but it takes 18 petals to make a complete circle, where the smaller takes 16 petals. Please make note of that on your template.

Transfer these to a heavy piece of cardboard, as in an insert in a new shirt. Something that will last a while. Save your paper templates for when you need new templates. I like to mark any notations right on the template because I know I won't remember any specifics later on.

One more thing to do.
Trace different sized circles on your template cardboard. Make a few different sizes, as you might want a smaller or larger center for the flower. Use anything handy- a cup, bowl, whatever you have. You might not want a circular center and that is up to you, but from what I've seen, a circle is used for the center. Here are two of mine.

You are now done making templates for your Dresden Plate. Get your fabric ready. In Part 2, we will make a Dresden Plate block.

If you have any questions, please use the comment section below and I will get right back to you!

Happy Sewing!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Conversion to a Hand Crank

This is my new, improved Singer. And here, I will give you the basic instructions for turning your vintage sewing machine into a real, old fashioned piece of working equipment. After you are done converting, you will wonder why it took you so long to do this.

After your hand crank and bolt have arrived, it's time to make the change to a more simplified sewing machine. Here is my Singer with her nest of taped and frayed wires that powered her motor. I have to wonder how I made it all these years without getting shocked or causing a fire. It was a relief to remove the mess.

The motor, that was a disaster waiting to happen, is gone and has been put in a box. Taking advantage of this, it might be a great time to clean where you couldn't before. My poor baby really needed a good wash down. A little Dr. Bronner's and water helped to release some of the grime and not hurt the decals any more than they already were.
The plate that covers this hole in the back also housed the light. Until I can get the plate back on, I'll use a heavy, rigid piece of clear plastic, adhered to the rim with Aleene's Tack It Over and Over. This product won't leave any residue when you peel it off and I highly recommend it. It's also great for sticking holiday decorations to your windows and doors. When they come down after the holidays, just peel the Aleene's off. No mess!

Everything is off and time to clean up the hand wheel and oil where it's necessary.
Reassemble the hand wheel, spoked washer and clutch knob exactly how you took them off. Make sure you tighten down the small screw on the clutch knob.

I apologize for not having a picture of everything put back on, but I was so excited about getting the hand crank on, I forgot! This procedure takes more time when you clean first, but my baby really needed it.

The bolt hole that held the motor bracket is where you seat the crank bracket. Line it up nice and straight and screw the bolt down tightly. It will pretty much line itself up, but make sure you have the hand crank mechanism upright. There is a small arm that comes off the hand crank, and this is put between two spokes of your hand wheel. You might have to move that arm into place before you tighten down the bolt. Either way, this arm is what moves your hand wheel, while you are turning the knob. It rotates your hand wheel, which in turn, moves your needle bar and needle up and down.
Know what? It's done!

This is a full on view so you can see how the hand crank is positioned- to the right of the hand wheel.
Another view of the hand crank position:

That's all there is to it! Like I said- the cleaning where you couldn't reach before the motor was removed takes the time. If your machine was already clean, you will have this conversion done in under 30 minutes.

This Dresden Plate was the first thing I completed on my hand crank Singer, after a little tweeking of the tension and adjusting the stitch length. This was also an experiment to see if my template worked, and there will be a tutorial on how I made the template coming up.

This is how I made the conversion. Please do not use my photographs without letting me know first.
For all of my friends/sisters on the vintage site, I dedicate this post to you! You all will never cease to amaze me with your knowledge and advice!

Happy Sewing

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Let's Catch Up!

I know. I know. I have neglected this blog terribly, but truthfully, there has been so much going on that I pretty much forgot about this long-lost blog. So, in the interest of proper blogging, let's do a little catch up.

Back in August, I got the deal of the century with this 1960s Sears Kenmore sewing machine. She needed a little help- like a new belt, but other than that, she seems to be intact and able to take on the burden of a LOT of sewing.
She came in her original cabinet, with only a few blemishes, which is fine by me! I put my machines through a lot of wear and tear. I'm learning tons of things from the Vintage Sewing Machines site that I joined, so if there is a problem I have loads of ladies to scream for help to.
Still on the machine front- I have decided to convert my vintage Singer to a hand crank. Being able to sew off the grid and when the power is out will be fantastic. Someday, maybe a treadle base will come my way, so that I can put her in the base to use that way. It has been my goal to get a treadle for a long time.

Now on to odds and ends.
I'm always amazed at what you can do with fabric when you put your mind to it. Here are two tins that I covered, and one has been painted a little to add to it's overall appeal (mine!).

For quite some time I had been collecting red, white, and black fat quarters, and then it came the time to make something. Not having made a quilt in decades, it was time. Using graph paper, I plotted out the pattern after having counted the amount of blocks I had on hand. I only messed up twice, but I had to fix it. If I hadn't, I would have been looking at those spots and cursing a blue streak at myself for not fixing it. Well, the quilt top is done and I'm in the process of machine quilting the back to it. The binding will be a snap.

I rescued a quilt that my great Aunt Thelma made and gave to my mother. It hung on the clothesline through a few good hefty rains, being too big to fit in my old washer. Mom graciously has allowed me to use the quilt, so here it is, on my bed. I sleep under a quilt of love, for sure.

Pardon me for sneaking in this picture of our King of the Country- Dobby. Isn't he handsome?

Years ago I made a pattern for a hat that I thought was pretty nifty, and it's easy to make. Here's the hat and the man I made it for- my Chef William.

The girls and I were joking around one day about toys for our sewing machines, so I thought I'd throw in this picture of my new old machine and the little toy all four of them share.

The quilt came out so nice, and there was red and white material left over, so I decided to try my hand(s) at a table mat. This was a new endeaver, all the way around (so to speak). It will go on my bedside table, next to the bed with the quilt of love!

That little experiment done, it was table runner time. This is the first block of that runner, which I'm making for Mom.

Always being a fabric hound, I'm constantly looking for new material, be it old curtains from the thrift store or new bundles of fat quarters, or vintage style prints at a $1.00 a yard. This is the newest batch I picked up and it's first duty was to make a log cabin block. I don't have a picture of that, but this is the fabric it's made from.
I love the earthy tones and many of my other pieces will match this group very well. I have lots of graph paper to design new blocks and my poor little brain wears itself out trying to come up with something new. Well, that's difficult in my case because I like the classic patterns for quilts. I'm not an abstract artist. So, the hunt goes on.

So, there's the scoop. I promise- this blog will not be neglected again. Anything sewing related in my world will be found right here. There will probably be a post or three about my granddaughter's sewing. She's taking lessons and has her own machine!And she's 8! The same time I started sewing. That's my girl!!

A pile of sewing and house chores await, so I am off to get things done.
Have a wonderful Fall and.... Happy Sewing!!

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Perfect Time

When it got light enough to see, my heart swelled with joy. We had snow overnight, and it was a spectacular morning! Here is what I saw first.

And then I saw this view:

No matter what window I looked out of, it was Mother Nature's masterpiece. What a perfect day to put up the tree.
It's been a while since I put up a Christmas tree, so it took a little while to get everything set up and just so. It was like being on a shopping spree as I pulled things from boxes. My memory of them had faded somewhat over time, due to the length and the ups and downs of my health over the past two years. So, everything, even tiny ornaments, were a joyful surprise as I opened their boxes. Mitch Miller was playing quietly from the studio as I assembled the tree, strung the lights, and debated over which garland to use.
After placing the tree on the bench, I noticed it was horribly bare around the base. Lacking a traditional tree skirt, a huge red stocking wrapped around the base became a tree skirt, with no one the wiser but me. And now you, of course. Hey, it works!

I used all my vintage ornaments, and they were placed very strategically for maximum viewing. It was imperative that they be seen, no matter where you looked at the tree. The bells were first, then the Shiny Brites. The little wood birds fluttered into place, gently swinging from their branches. All the other ornaments came one by one, each finding their own spot on the tree. What do you think?

I needed to dress up the oil lamp bracket on the wall, so I used a candy cane style candle and a garland wrap to fix it right up.

A pretty little bird:

And one with bells for neighbors:

All in all, we have a fantastic tree with bright and shiny decorations throughout the main two rooms of the house. Finally, everything we have collected and bought over the years looks like it should- shimmery and sparkly and merry and bright! Even our fiber optic snowman still works. His subtly changing colors match the tree lights to perfection, and you can't ask for better than that.

I'll close this bragging post with a night shot of the tree surround.

I hope you all have a warm, festive, relaxing Merry Christmas.


Cowland Studio