Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Maintaining your sewing machine . . .

For many years, my sewing machine was something I pulled out once a year to sew some curtains or make minor clothing repairs.  I never thought to clean it.  I mean how dirty could it get spending most of it's time resting in its original box under my scrapbooking table?

About this time last year I set aside my scrapbooking things and took up sewing in earnest.  I purchased a new machine (Singer 4422 Heavy Duty) for Christmas, I sewed what feels like a million handbags and never thought to clean it once.

A couple days ago I was sewing through some particularly thick layers of fabric.  The material was so thick that I hadn't noticed I forgot to lower the foot on my machine.  For those of you who haven't experienced this particular dilemma, let me explain.  When one sews without lowering the foot, the stitches appear to be coming out perfectly.  It's very deceptive.  However, when one flips over the fabric to reveal the backside of the stitches, one finds a mess of loose and tangled thread.  I my particular situation, I was sewing along for several inches until my fabric stopped moving.  It was then I realized my mistake.

The bobbin (which I repeatedly type out boobin for some reason) thread was all tangled up and wrapped around the feed dogs.  I had to cut it all out and cuss for about 2.5 minutes until I realized I had thread embedded deeply within the internal workings of my machine.  Then I figured it was about time I removed the metal plate in order to see what I was dealing with.  So after another bout of cussing because I couldn't find the tiny screwdriver that came with my machine I eventually did and this is what I found:

Oh.  My.  Goodness.  My sewing machine was definitely in need of some serious cleaning!  I used some tweezers to pull out all the bits of thread I had lost down under the feed dogs.  One more round of cussing and I found my little lint cleaning brush and went to work.

Shown above is just a portion of the lint I cleaned out of there.  Gross, right?  The lint in the grooves of the feed dogs was so compacted it was like felt!  I will never let it get this dirty again.  Never.

I finally got it all cleaned out.  I checked my manual and found out that my particular machine wouldn't require me to apply oil to any of the moving parts.  I changed the needle as well and was amazed that I could actually feel a difference in sewing performance.  The machine was smoother and quieter.  Amazing!

Because I like to share as well as entertain, here are some good links about sewing machine maintenance:

After browsing these links and videos, I realized I would have had a much easier and safer cleaning experience if I had removed the needle!!!!  Next time I'll remember that!  No more Miss Lazy Pants for me when it comes to keeping my machine clean and serviced.  I am curious if any of you have ever been so lax in your sewing machine maintenance.  Please let me know I'm not the only one!

Happy crafting and big hugs from Montana, 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Rivit Media--legit or no?

Have you heard about Rivit Media?  I'm thinking about joining up with it, but they want me to fill out a W-9 tax form.  That gives me pause because I am wary of putting any of my personal data out online.  With Google AdSense, I didn't have to give them my SS#. . . . but I'd like to make more than $0.01 a day.

I'm making this post to ask if any of you have had any dealings with Rivit Media.  I've done my own research through various channels, but would really like to hear a testimony from a real person.  Any info is greatly appreciated.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pink Ninja Mask Tutorial

It's cold up here in Montana!  We've had a few inches of snow fall, turning the world around us a nice clean white.  Much to my disappointment, the snow fell over a few piles of leaves I hadn't bagged up yet.  But that's life, right?

In lieu of hats and scarves this year, I'm trying out these "ninja masks" for my kids.  They have hoods on their coats so hats are a bit redundant.  Scarves are nice, but difficult to manage and wrap around properly.  So far these ninja masks are a hit.  Plus, they're reversible and that makes them even more fun!

Below you can see that the opening is sized to allow varying degrees of face exposure.

This is the pattern I used for my kids ages 5 and 7.
I probably made the top a bit too high, causing
too much wrinkling of the fabric at the top of the head.

Step one:  Drafting a pattern.
  • I just drew the above shape onto a sheet of freezer paper.  I would suggest tracing one of your child's stocking caps as a reference for size.  You could also trace your child's actual head to get a good idea about where to place the face opening.  
  • Resist the urge to cut in under the chin.  That will make it too narrow to slip on over the head.
Step two:  Cutting the fabric.
  • If you have two-way stretch jersey, use it as I think that would be ideal.  I used one-way stretch jersey, which worked just fine.  I folded the jersey so the stretch went around the head.  
  • Cut one pattern piece for the liner and one for the outside.  The mask is reversible, but for sanity's sake, I'll refer to outer fabric and lining fabric for the this tutorial. :-)
Step three:  Sewing.
  • It would be ideal if you could use a walking foot and a jersey or ball point needle on your machine.  I used the jersey needle, but haven't invested in a walking foot yet.  
  • Keeping your outer fabric folded in half, stitch along the outside with a .5" seam allowance. (see dotted yellow line in the diagram) Don't sew around the face or neck openings or across the fold.    Repeat for your lining fabric.  
Step four:  Attaching the lining.
  • Cut some notches (triangles?) out of your seam allowances along the curves on top of the head.  I just used some pinking shears and trimmed from the forehead to the back of the head.  This will help ease the curve and allow your child to appear less pin-head-like. ;-)
  • Turn your outer fabric inside out so the seam allowances are on the inside.  Don't turn your lining fabric.
  • Slide your outer fabric inside your lining fabric.  Take some time to match up the seams and openings.
  • Pin and stitch around the face opening using a .5" seam allowance.  
  • Make some cuts into the seam allowance around the face opening being careful not to cut the stitches.  
  • Pull the lining up from the bottom and flip it inside out.  Shove the lining into the face opening.  
Step five:  Finishing touches.
  • After you have everything straightened out and lined up, you can top-stitch around the face opening.  I top-stitched using a straight stitch on the pink ninja mask and it worked great.  The top-stitching on my son's mask broke after a few uses so I re-did it with a zig-zag stitch.  That allowed the stitching to stretch and not break under rough handling.  I'm sure if you consult your sewing machine manual, you'll find a list of stitches that will work well for seams that require some stretching.
  • The last step is to pin and stitch around the bottom of the neck hole.  If I had a serger, I'd have used it here.  Alas, I don't so I zig-zagged all around the bottom very close to the edge.
  • If you stretch your fabric as you zig-zag the edge, you'll get the ruffled/wavy effect visible in the pink ninja mask.  

And that's it!  Hopefully you find this tutorial useful.  Everyone in my house is very pleased with these masks.  I am even thinking about making one for myself for skiing.  :-)

Happy crafting and big hugs from Montana,

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Patchwork Pillows

Hello friends!  I'm slowly but surely crossing things off of my sewing to-do list.  These two patchwork pillows are Christmas presents for my mom.  She loves the colors of autumn, so I'm hoping she'll be pleased with these.

My previous project involving patchwork was my entry for the Solids-Only Tote Challenge.  You can check it out here.  For the tote, I learned my lesson about mixing types and thicknesses of fabrics.  It can be done, but it's a headache!  I decided to give myself a break and chose only regular cotton calicoes and prints from my stash.  For the backs I used a soft micro-suede in a light brown color.

I was able to recycle some things as well.  The striped fabric came from an old sheet set and the micro-suede came from a bed skirt.  The batik-ish print with the ankhs has been both pillow covers and curtains in previous lives.  It's kind of funny to see the ankhs on pillows once again.  ;-)

The photos above show my pillow using the "log cabin" style of patchwork.  In this version I made 3 inch wide strips of varying lengths and sewed them together into one very long strip.  I started with a single square of fabric and sewed the edge (not the end) of the strip to the square.  I trimmed the strip off even with the square's sides and rotated the square counterclockwise.  I repeated this process over and over until I had a 22 inch square of patchwork.  The result is a vary random pattern of blocks.

If you are totally new to the log cabin process, take one minute and look at this log cabin tutorial.  The step-by-step photos will have you nodding your head in comprehension in no time!

Instead of using batting, I used a section of an old fleece blanket and quilted it all together with a gold heavy-duty thread.  The fleece gave the patchwork the support it needed without the poofy-puffy effect that batting produces.

The pillow in the photos above is a variation of the log cabin method.  I learned how to accomplish it from this great tutorial by Aneela from Comfort Stitching.  Aneela calls it the "crazy scrappy block".  The result is very vortex-like spiral.  I'm very pleased with the look of this one.

Well, that's all for now.  Hope you all have a happy Thanksgiving!

Happy crafting and bug hugs from Montana,

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Solids-Only Tote Challenge: My Entry

Update:  You can see all 18 of the finished totes and voter for your favorite HERE.  Anyone can vote once a day until Dec. 31st. 
Hello tote fans!

Keren from sew la vie and I have been very busy lately hosting The Solids-Only Tote Challenge!  You should visit the challenge homepage, read about the challenge guidelines, and meet all the challenge participants.  Including the hostesses, we have 19 participants!!!!!  [insert girlish squeal!]  Yes, 19 talented people from all over the world!!!! It's very exciting, isn't it?  

Since bags are kinda my gig, I was stoked for this challenge.  I made a pretty impressive [insert tooting sound of my own horn!]  inspiration gallery and pinterest board from which to draw ideas.  My big ideas?  Wanna know 'em?  Well, scroll down if you don't.  [insert cheeky wink!]  

First big idea:  Patchwork.  I've been obsessed with quilting lately.  Mostly due to Keren's influence, I should add.  I made quilts for my son and daughter.  So, with quilting on the brain, patchwork was a gimme.

Big idea number two:  Don't buy any new stuff!  I have plenty of everything and don't need to go out and buy anything new.  In fact, this really should have been my first big idea!

Third big idea:  A cool, as in tonal temperature, pallet.  This kind of goes hand-in-hand with my aforementioned quilting compunction.  Now stay with me and I'll tell ya why.  Gray.  Yes, the color!  Gray is popping up all over the world of design.  [That and citrine, which I didn't realize was a color.]  In the home decor realm you see it in everywhere from nurseries to dining rooms.  In the quilting realm, it's shoving cream out of the running for top neutral.  Here are a couple of my gray faves from my quilting pinterest board:

And there you have it.  Now you've seen the before, so let's move on to the during:

Quilters everywhere are cringing as they look at the fabric I chose to work with.  No 100% cotton quilt-weight fabrics for me.  For starters, I have a jersey and a stretch suiting in the mix.  Sewing stretchy to non-stretchy is not what savvy quilters do.  But I figured I'd give it a try because the colors were so great.  Hey, what's a challenge without some actual challenge?  Perhaps I was shooting myself in the foot, but I was feeling daring enough to risk it.  Another big quilting no-no is to mix weights of fabric.  My fabrics ranged from a wispy crepe to a heavy upholstery fabric.  But again, I saw the colors together and couldn't help myself.  
First step was to cut some strips and sew them together side-by-side.  Then, I cut the blocks into triangles, rearranged them, and sewed them back together again.  The pic above is what it looked like when I got to that point.  I then cut nine 5" squares out of it.  I added the gray sashing between the squares and the hardest part was over!  Did I run into some problems?  Well, yes I did.  My choice in fabric made it difficult to iron down the seam allowances and keep everything nice and flat.  There is some wonkiness and puckering as well.  Not enough went wrong for me to admit that I failed.  However, I do admit that I've learned my lesson, and will make more prudent fabric choices in the future!
The backs and sides were machine quilted in a pretty turquoise thread.  I wasn't sure I had enough thread to finish the all the quilting, and I didn't want to buy more.  Sticking to my don't-buy-anything guns, I used up all my half full bobbins  for the quilting.  So if you were to see the back side of the panel up there, you'd find orange, purple, black, and yellow bobbin thread.  It felt good to use it all up.  I wonder if you all save your unused bobbin thread.  Do you store them or empty them out after a sewing project?  I'm curious.
This part was pretty fun.  I got out all my square buttons and studs and coordinating embroidery flosses.  It took a lot of fiddling and second guessing, but eventually I narrowed it down to one color of floss and the studs.
And here is a nice view of the embellished front.
I found a scrap of vinyl to use for the bottom and some teal wooden handles.  

Phew!  This is turning out to be a long-winded post.  I'm going to just chill at this point and show you some pics of the finished tote.  Just leave a comment if you have any questions.

The easiest way to show the inside is to turn it inside out.

I used big ol' plastic buttons for feet.

That was a lot of pictures!  I hope it didn't take too long for it to load up.  Thanks for sticking with me!  November is the month to count your blessings and reflect on all the things you are thankful for.  I am so thankful for all my readers out there.  Thanks for taking the time to browse through my posts, for leaving lovely comments, and for telling others about me!  You rock!

Happy crafting and big hugs from Montana,

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Special Guest Post: Cupcake Tote Tutorial

A special treat for you today:  a guest post by Stephanie from Toastie Studio.  You all know how much I love sewing bags, so Stephanie's tutorial is a very welcome addition to this blog.  And just look at how adorable the tote is!  I'm going to try this with pink frosting and rainbow sprinkles!

Leave a comment so Stephanie knows how much you like this sweet (literally!) tote.  

Happy crafting and big hugs from Montana,
Rikka J.
a.k.a. Ricochet  :o)

Hi my name is Stephanie and I normally blog over at Toastie Studio but today I am visiting Ricochet and Away! to bring you a fun tutorial on how I made my cupcake tote entry for this months solids-only tote challenge.

 You will need:

For the tote
  • Heavy weight cotton canvas, or normal cotton with an added a layer of heavy interfacing to two of the cupcake pieces.
  • Cotton for the cupcake applique
  • Pattern (download hereThe pattern includes 1/4" seam allowance.
For the cherry brooch
  • 3inch/7cm diameter red felt circles x 2
  • Brooch pin
  • 15cm green ribbon
  • Small amount of poly-fill
Step 1 Print off the pattern and follow the instructions to stick the pieces together and cut out the required pieces of fabric.
Remember if you are using normal fabric for the tote, you will need to add a layer of interfacing to two of the cupcake pieces.

  Step 2 First we are going to make the handles. Take one of the rectangles strips and fold it in half lengthways and press. Unfold it then fold the edges into the the crease we made before and press again.
Then fold in half again and sew down both edges.
Step 3 Take one of the cupcake tote pieces and the cupcake bottom applique. Pin in place leaving about 1inch/3cm gap around the edge.
Sew around the edge of the applique. I went around it twice to give it a nice rustic look. Then using the pattern piece as a guide, add 5 stripes to make it look like a cupcake case (these can be very rough).
  Step 4 Lay the cupcake top applique on top of the tote piece and in in place, this time leave less of a gap along to top edge of the tote and applique.
Sew around the outside of the applique, then using the pattern as a guide add in the swirls of the cupcake icing. Again these can be very rough, or use a washable fabric pen if you prefer.
  Step 5 With the cupcake piece we just sewed, place it with the appliqued side facing up. Take one finished handle and using the pattern pin the ends into place, sticking about 1/2inch / 1cm over the edge. Then lay a blank cupcake piece on top and pin around the edges.
(silly me took a picture of two blanks together)
Sew all the way around the edge, leaving a 3inch / 7cm gap along the bottom for turning. Repeat for the other two cupcake blanks.
  Step 6 Turn the two cupcakes right way out and press so the edges are nice and flat.
Step 7 Align the two cupcakes together, with the applique facing inwards (and check your top edges match!) Pin around the edges. Measure from the bottom of the tote and mark 9inchs/22cm on each side. Sew around the edge of the tote from one mark to the other.
Turn the tote right way out and its finished! Except for the cherry on top!!!
  To make the cherry brooch
1. Sew the brooch bar onto the middle of one of the felt circles.
2. Fold the ribbon in half and pin it to the edge of the circle with the brooch side facing up.
3. Place the second circle on top of the first and sew around the edge, leaving a gap for turning.
4. Turn the cherry and stuff. Ladder stitch the opening shut and pin to your cupcake tote.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pattern Review: McCall's M6045

Today I'm showing off 3 purses, all from the same pattern, that I sewed earlier this year.  The pictures above show me modeling one of the purses.  Several months ago JoAnn's had a sale: $.99 for all McCall's patterns.  A great deal, right?  I couldn't pass it up.  This is McCall's M6045, and the price on the package is $18.95.  Woo-hoo, what a bargain!  Keep on reading and I'll tell you all about it.

For this purse I used some blue corduroy for the gusset and straps.  The peacock print is a regular light weight cotton, as is the butterfly print I used for the interior.  The orange hibiscus print came from a sarong I had lying around.  The fabric covered belt buckle was a first for me.  I found the DIY buckle kit at a thrift store and just followed the instructions.  It was very easy.  You might be able to see from the interior shots of these purses that the seams where the sides attach to the gusset are finished with bias tape.  This gives the bag a lot of its structure, allowing it to hold its lovely shape.  

This was actually the first purse I sewed with this pattern, a combination of 4 different prints.  The pattern asks you to use the same pleated pattern piece for the interior and exterior side panels.  I wasn't happy with all the pleats on the inside.  It made it difficult to customize interior pockets, and frankly was a waste of fabric.  For subsequent purses, I drafted a flat pattern piece to used for the lining.    I often use soda cans when taking photos for clients.  The size of a soda can is universal so it's easy to get a feel for the comparable size of something.  This purse easily holds 5 cans with lots of extra space between.  The antique buttons on the strap are a translucent smokey color.

I called this purse the Wasp.  The black of the gusset has a snake skin texture.  The side panels are a home decor canvas.  The rest is a lovely cotton blend print that I picked up at a garage sale.  I really love it and was happy to show it off in this purse.  Two more antique buttons finish off the straps.  In the bottom right photo you can see how straps connect to the base of the purse.  This is the trickiest part of the whole bag.  The strap is basically a tube in which you insert the top corner of the bag.  Then you sew through several layers (9, I think) of fabric to connect the them.  I had to do a lot of hand turning, and even some hand stitching to connect this.

Here's the picture from the front of the pattern envelope.
McCall's M6045
The Sylvia Sling
The pattern was designed by Kay Whitt of  Serendipity Studio.
I found the pattern on Serendipity's site where it's called  The Silvia Sling.

Sew Serendipity
You can find Kay Whitt's blog here.  FYI, no one asked to write this review, so of course I'm not being compensated in any way.  I just found something cool and wanted to share it with you.  Kay Whitt has an aesthetic that I feel is similar to Amy Butler's point of view, however the patterns are considerably cheaper:  $11 versus $16.  

Ms. Whitt has a new book out that I am dying to purchase.
I'm thinking this will be an early Christmas to myself!
You can order the book here

And this is Ms. Whitt's Madeline Maxi Dress.
(She's modeling it herself!)
Her version of the popular maxi dress features a
 structured design that would look so much better on me
than the typical maxis out there.  I mean, I could
wear a bra with it--a total must for me!
You can order this pattern here.

I'm following Kay Whitt's blog now, so I can keep apprised of her new designs and books.  I highly recommend the Silvia Sling pattern if you're ever looking for a cute but spacious shoulder bag.  

Since you're here, I have to remind you that we are in the midst of our Solids-Only Tote Challenge.  If you think you can finish a tote by the end of the month, I encourage you to join us!  You can find all the info you need to enter, plus profiles of all the participants, on the challenge homepage.  

Happy Crafting and big hugs form Montana,
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