Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Meet: My Machine! BlogHop

Hello, all!   Today is my day for the Meet: My Machine BlogHop put on by Erin @ Sew at Home Mummy and Stacey @ The Tilted Quilt.  Whether this is you're visiting for the first time or you pop by all the time, welcome!

Sew at Home Mummy

Meet Oscar.

Oscar is my Janome 4120QDC.  I've had it just over a year now.  It was a gift from "Santa" that I was given a budget and allowed to "shop for" to make sure I got one that would meet my needs.  And then I had to wait. Which is fair. Not complaining.  But how in the world I made three quilts as gifts that year on my old machine, I'll never know.... (For the record, it was a Kenmore I had for fifteen years, made in the nineties so good enough to sew with but not good enough to last.  No amount of oil or servicing kept that one from squealing horribly.)

What was I looking for in a machine?

If you ever decide to use metal bobbins in your machine, don't let the lady at the sewing machine store know.  You WILL get a talking to.... Trust me.
  1. Free-motion capability. Check!! My old machine made it impossible to learn the technique and I had a couple of quilts waiting, basted, until I could.  Now, I have only myself to blame for any lack in that department. 
  2. Multiple needle positions. Check!! I have always had trouble with a scant 1/4" and wanted to be able to move that needle over just a smidgeon.  Scant 1/4" is now possible and very consistent!
  3. Drop-in bobbins.  Check!  My old machine, you had to remove the "storage/base" and then flip open the door, fiddle with the bobbin holder case thingy for a hour or so, swear until the air was blue, and then try to sew unsuccessfully before repeating the entire sequence... Not anymore!
  4. Versatility.  I don't just sew quilts and things with straight lines.  I needed a machine that I could do clothes, mending, bags, whatever, with and this machine doesn't disappoint.  However, I will confess that sometimes, really thick layers will cause some skipped stitches so I switch to a denim needle for heavy projects.  Though I was afraid of them, it handles knits beautifully.  Look at the Renfrew top I sewed last month (after having the fabric and pattern for two months...)  
Ah, stereotypical bathroom mirror photography.  Just what you were hoping for...!
It has a free-arm, great stretch stitches, seam finishing stitches, more embroidery stitches that I thought I could use ever (but it turns out that sometimes I want to write apple in both English and Russian. I can do that now.  Why? A whim. )

What are the bonuses?

  1. Automatic thread cutter.  Freakin' love it.  How did I ever sew without it?
  2. Needle up/down. Optional needle-down-at-stop settings.  A must for turning corners and having to stop during FMQ - no jogged stitches!
  3. Computerized settings.  Beautiful.  Makes it easy to ensure consistency in a project that happens over time, as opposed to all at once.
  4. Quilting kit.  It came with a walking foot, guide, extension table, 1/4" foot, stitch in the ditch foot and a couple of other doodads for quilters.  Nice perk.
  5. It's fairly quiet.  Compared to Squealy McKenmore, it's lovely, and a television or radio can be heard over it.  Very nice for a hockey fan.
  6. Lots of little bells and whistles. Stop/lock stitches. Variable speed control. Optional foot pedal. Wide variety of accessories available for it (love the border foot!) Eleventy billion stitches. 
That crazy one over the seam is ugly because of execution, not the stitch setting.  That one's all me.  

There's even an automatic threader but I rarely use it.

What would I change?
  1. The throat's a little small for quilting big stuff but I wrestle even large quilts through there.  Right now, I just consider it equivalent to weight lifting and skip the gym.
  2. When, oh, when are they going to invent little icons and alerts for things like empty bobbins and feed-dogs-down?  Better yet, have a voice that sounds like Redd Fox that says, "You're sewing with the feed dogs down, dummy!"  That would save me tons of frustration when I forget to raise them and create cumbersome thread knots, ruining fabric, and wondering why it's not going anywhere while simultaneously reminding me that I love Redd Fox. (God rest ye sir!)
  3. It's a little tricky to get even my tiny little lint brush into all the crannies that collect lint.  I wish there was a another layer or two of parts I could remove to get better access.  Every time I clean it out, I just know there's lint bunnies hiding in there laughing at me....  I need one of those vacuum kits, I guess.
Oh, and the thread spindle is a little short for things like Aurafil but I've managed to work around it by flipping the stopper around. But it works fine for Gutermann.

Would I recommend it? Yes, absolutely! but maybe not as your first sewing machine.  It's an excellent second machine/upgrade but I imagine it could be quite intimidating if you're just beginning.  Plus, so much stuff you don't necessarily need until you've practiced and gotten comfortable with the whole process.  That said, I've had no problems with mine; it does what I need it to, and then some.  It's given me a lot of confidence and room to grow and develop new skills.  
This is where I usually sew. Very untidy at the moment. And those fabric baskets are a bit of a fail but I'm not ready to talk about it yet. :-)
Plus, I've found I make sewing more of a priority since I got it.  The quieter machine means I'm not alienating people around me and I can use it more hours of the day, it's easier to take down and set up - though it stays out most of the time, and it's just nice to use.  So there you go!

Thanks for hanging out and reading about my machine!  There's lots more to get familiar with, if it tickles your fancy.  Go check them out!

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Gong Show of Everyday Life. Now with Ratatouille!

I am still alive.

It's been fun, though. Teaching and rehearsing for a high school show that finished up on Friday - an incredible time but it meant not a lot of energy to devote to other things. I'll spare you the details but basically, even my need to keep my hands busy while sitting faltered.  I embraced the potato-esque and stared zombie-like at the tv for a few minutes each night until told like an over-tired toddler to go to bed. Sleepy "oh-kay." Trundle trundle yawn trundle.... Well worth it. Every minute.

No sewing happened.  Not really.  I did manage 15 minutes on my thread-painting the other day but just as a diversionary tactic with a fussy nephew.  He sat on my lap and we used the "sew-ming ma-sheen."

So here's where I'm at now.

I did find a little time to actually cook something last weekend.  I've been trying to keep up with last year's mission to make one new recipe a week.  A lesson with some new English speakers led me to this video, and then to some marvellous ratatouille.  Seriously, the toughest part was the slicing, and honestly, how tough is slicing?

From this:

To this:

Easy. Delicious.  Served on brown rice with cold roast beef on the side. We all went back for seconds.

Trying to get caught up on my interwebs after yet another absence. I've been away from Flickr, in email correspondence I'm woefully behind, and my reader is jammed packed with 15-16 days worth of unread goodness. It will take me days, maybe weeks. We're looking at massive numbers here.

Oh! and on that score, since folk are panicking:  I use Reeder as my RSS reader.  Apparently, although it syncs with Google Reader, it will still go on after Google drops its reader, which caused me a huge sigh of relief since I didn't want to have to go hunting for a new one.  Again. (Curse you, Mail!!) Why I like it:  1)I can sync between my computer, my phone and my tablet, 2)it's clean and has a decent interface, 3) the learning curve on it was steep and once I got the hang of it, it was better than what I was using before. As far as I know though, it's Mac and iOS only.

I'm also working on a post for the Meet: My Machine Blog Hop this week - thank you to Erin and Stacey for the invitation!  My day is Wednesday.  You can read more all about the hop here, catch up with the other participants, and learn all about their sewing machines.  GREAT if you're considering an upgrade or second machine. Better if you're looking for more blogs to fill your Google Reader replacement.

Sew at Home Mummy
Here's the schedule:

Hope you enjoy it!! Okay - I've got to go do some stuff so that I can come back here sooner rather than later...

Saturday, March 2, 2013


Yesterday was a pretty good day.

I took a thread-painting class from Monika Kinner-Whalen at My Sweet Prairie.  Monika does these amazing thread-painted artworks and was generous enough to share her talents and process with us.  I've wanted to take it for ages and finally just booked a morning off and went for it. It was so much fun!
Tentative first stitches

She started us off with "cheater" fabrics, getting us to see the colours and shapes and get used to the feeling.  It's a lot like free-motion quilting.
Adding more dimension
When we were comfortable, we switched to our projects.  Monika gave us copies of chickadee photos taken by Edith Maracle (with permission, of course!) and let us choose a background fabric.  We used a lightbox to trace the main spots, used the photographs for reference and went to town!

I'm not finished yet but here's where I left off when class ended:
I grabbed some shiny black thread for his eye. Can't wait to work on it more!

I learned so much in such a short span, met some lovely quilters, and gained a new appreciation for rayon thread. If you are in the Saskatoon area and have a chance to take one of Monika's classes, I highly recommend it.  She's lovely and a wonderful teacher - so supportive!

Oh, and the Blades won their 18th game straight.  And it was a great game.  I love them even when they're losing but it's so much more fun when they're not.  GO, Blades, GO!
Ceremonial puck drop.  Nicholls (20) is the Children's Wish Foundation Point Man this year.  For every point he gets in the regular season, Acklands-Grainger donates $50 bucks to Children's Wish.  He cost them $100 last night. ;-)  yay!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Hexes Finished!

Somehow, February always gets away from me....

I finished the hexie table topper on Sunday, just before our guild meeting. I filled in the edges with half hexes and tiny kites (only every other half hex on the two sides they fit - I'm not THAT intense, though some folks and good for them!)

I used four or five long, skinny pieces of batting - you know, leftovers that aren't good for much, you hate to throw away, but leave you with a big pile of batting that makes you THINK you have a piece big enough for your next project...? Yeah, those. :) I didn't join them; I just cleaned up the edges, butted them together on my back piece and then laid the top over it. I quilted pretty thoroughly, (leaving this sort-of jewel shape...) and since this isn't going to be used in a cover hog battle or for making forts in the living room, that''ll do.

In keeping with my scrap plan, I used only bindings remnants from other project. Between this and my scrappy trip blanket, I have few binding scraps left! Yay! I did have to go into my stash to grab a yard for the back but that's what a stash is for.

Title: Compulsive :D
Approx 30x34"
Given to my mum
Never want to see another hex for as long as I live (or a year, if it turns out I'm exaggerating... )

I also finished my bee block for Simply Solids Bee for March. My lovely guild mate sent out these beautiful fabrics, for squares in squares... On Sunday, she showed us her inspiration piece so I'm really looking forward to seeing this one when it's done.

Off to take a thread-painting class from My Sweet Prairie.....!