Friday, January 31, 2014

Miriam’s Quilt (Great Granny Along)

This is Miriam’s quilt.  She is a wonderful woman who runs an in-home daycare and has watched my children since we moved back to my hometown.  Sam absolutely adores her, as does Will, and as do I.  It was such a change from the commercial daycare we had used back in Blacksburg, but it was fantastic.  The kids have so much fun, they are able to run and play when the weather was nice, and when checking daycares she was one of two in-home daycares that the commercial ones would recommend.  She is a gem.  Her family is wonderful as well, and they cared not just about our kids but about our family.  So it’s easy to see why she deserves a quilt. 

But why did I make her a quilt now?  Well, she and her family are moving – they received a mission call to run an orphanage/foster home, and they felt they needed to do that.  It totally and utterly stinks for us (yes, I am selfish about it), but I know that they will provide something special to the children they’ll work with. 
I made plans for the quilt, got it cut out, and started working on it back in the summer.  But it got pushed aside some and is just now getting finished (I had to finish those Christmas presents first).  I loved the Great Granny Along that was going around (or had it already gone around – I always seem to be behind on the hot quilts), and I had a roll of solids that was sitting around.  Since they are Mennonite I tried to keep to solids and small prints as a nod to the Amish/Mennonite heritage, although there are some bright colors in the quilt.  (Different Amish and Mennonite congregations have different rules about the use of certain colors, printed fabric, home décor, clothing, and all other kinds of things.  I am curious about that kind of stuff anyways, so I just asked her one day about her church rules and of course noted what I saw in their house from time to time so I could follow any restrictions.)  I made the quilt throw size (and trimmed the blocks too small by accident), using this tutorial from Lori Holt of Bee in My Bonnet.
The kids started a new daycare at the beginning of the year.  It’s a commercial one.  It’s fine and a good place and they are doing well there, but nothing will ever be the same as Mimi’s house.

Even though we paid her, I could never thank her enough for the love she gave my babies while I was working each week.  A quilt is one way I can try.  

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Meet Marge

She is large and in charge. 

She’s my new sewing machine – a Juki TL 2010Q. 

Sadly, the Viking could not be fixed.  It needs parts that they don’t make anymore.  I could have tracked down vintage parts, but from what I found online it would cost about $250 plus mechanic’s fees.  I love the old girl, and she definitely has sentimental value to me, but if I had to spend that much money I would rather put it towards a new machine with a bigger throat for quilting. 

When we were cleaning up the study after the fire, my Mom and I found the receipt and warranty for the Viking.  I can’t remember the exact cost (around $400?) in 1983, but the warranty was pretty awesome – 25 years.  Not.even. joking.  That’s laughable today.  She was only 5 years out of date.  
**We saved the papers, but those are all getting cleaned/stored in a warehouse right now, so I’ll find it later when they’re moved back in and get a picture of it.**

Back to my story - I started hunting.  I was going to get a Viking since I had all the feet and bobbins and whatnot and loved the quality of my old machine.  But all their machines are computerized and have a gazillion stitches and auto tension and tons of bells and whistles.  And were $2,000 on sale for $1,799.  *Gulp*  The current lineup is nothing like my simple, mechanical old girl.  I didn’t need all the bells and whistles.  I needed a workhorse that can sew denim and diapers and quilt like a mo-fo.  And my husband pretty much drew the line on the price.  Which I kind of agreed on. 

So I kept looking and reading quilting blogs.  And I kept coming back to Juki.  I had thought about them before but written them off because there was no local dealer and no way to try it out before purchasing (the closest dealers are in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, about 5 hours away).  But the lack of local reps seemed to be the norm, and most of the ladies said it was never a problem and their local repairmen could service theirs with no problem since it was a mechanical machine.  And they all LOVED it. 

These were the pros that kept coming up in blog after blog after blog review:
  • mechanical (no computer) and metal
  • great tension
  • large throat space
  • could sew through anything (and in one case sewed through a finger – eek!)
  • fantastic for free motion quilting
Here is my list of needs:
  • can sew through anything – diapers, denim, home décor fabric
  • quilts awesome
  • big throat space
  • good tension
  • mechanical (less is more – I didn’t need 300+ stitches) and metal – not lightweight plastic
It was a pretty good match.  The only drawback was the straight stitch only, but I have my Brother CS6000i that does zig zags and buttonholes and fancy stitches.  Ultimately, I wanted a machine that could handle quilting.  And the Juki did that. 

I went for the Juki TL 98Q, but it was out of stock (it was the older model, which I chose for the lower price).  I did get $100 off the purchase of the newer model, the Juki TL 2010Q, which was a good thing.  And the package I found included 100 needles, 20 extra bobbins, plus some feet and cleaning supplies and such that usually come with it.  And a $50 gift card to the store.  All in all, I spent $950 on the machine, and I’m hoping she lasts just like my mom’s Viking did. 

So far, I’ve used Marge on my mother-in-law’s quilt and a quilt for my babysitter.  And lots of piecing.  I have to say, the extra couple of inches of throat space make a huge difference.  And the auto-thread cutter, needle down function, and speed control are pretty awesome.

Here she is next to my Brother CS6000i.  Marge is a beast.  The Brother looks like a toy.  :)

I also want to say, I was very disappointed with my local Viking dealer.  I was telling them that I really wanted a mechanical machine, something simple but strong, metal, etc. and that I wished they made one like the Juki because I loved my Viking and all the accessory feet and that they were fairly local but what I really wanted was something metal and heavy and simple.  They said I just needed to try a computerized machine and that the people who gave bad reviews online just hadn’t taken the classes for their machine.  ?!?!?!?!?!
Whoa Nelly.  I consider myself a fairly experienced sewist – I’ve put in a lot of hours growing up and over the last few years especially, so I shouldn’t need to take a class to run a sewing machine.  In fact, that is the exact opposite of what I wanted.  Yes, I know classes are beneficial to learn tricks, but you shouldn’t have to take one to operate the darn thing.  And the way they said it was kind of insulting to me.  Like I was stupid and just must not know better because I’d had a 30 year old machine.  It made me sad, because I did LOVE my old Viking so much and really wanted to stay loyal to the brand.  But after that conversation I was so glad to get my Juki. 

**Viking people, if you ever stumble across this – some of us want a simple, heavy machine like the Juki.  Make one!**

I ordered my machine from Sewing Machines Plus online.  The lady I spoke with on the phone was very nice, and my machine was here pretty quick.  The only hangup was picking it up, and it's more funny because it's an example of my crazy inner dialogue.  I had to sign for the machine but wasn’t at home so I scheduled to pick it up at my local UPS distribution center.  The lady couldn’t find it (yikes!) but I kept thinking it was the big box *right there, RIGHT THERE.*  Then when she found it (yes, that box!), she kicked it over to me – the box was 40 lbs.  As she was kicking and shoving it across the floor, I was mentally screaming “There’s a thousand dollar sewing machine in there!”  I was ready to kick her in the lady bits for kicking my machine.  Man was I glad to get my package out of there before my mouth said what my mind was thinking. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Quilt for Susan

This is the last quilt I completed – and really I guess the only quilt I’ve completed since my Scrappy Trip-Along quilt in May.  Gosh.  That’s sad.  But I’ve got a bunch in the works now, that’s for sure. 

Anyways, back to my original topic.  I knew my mother-in-law would like a quilt from me, and I figured what better than a quilt (something I love to do) made with fabric from my stash (that I need to use).  The pattern is Canyon Trails in the June 2012 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting (with the finished size adjusted).  It is a traditional and simple pattern, but putting the blocks on point and alternating the lights and darks make it a bit more lively. 

To make it even better, I pulled fabrics that would go with her home and that I no longer loved (not that they are ugly per se, they’re just not my style anymore).  So it was a win-win in that respect.  I got a few of the fabrics worked down to the scrap basket!  The back is pieced from leftover green yardage (green is her favorite color).

I pulled the fabrics way back, started cutting out the quilt in October(?), and then it sat.  I made a few blocks, and it sat some more.  I just didn’t get much sewing done with a young infant.  But then it got down to the wire.  I needed to finish this quilt – it was a week before Christmas!  I really thought I’d have to give my mother-in-law a quilt top with an IOU on the quilting.  But somehow – somehow – I not only finished the quilt top, but was able to quilt it, bind it, and wash it to give her on Christmas morning.  I kid you not; I pulled it out of the dryer Christmas morning after the kids saw their Santa presents, wrapped it up, and hit the road to give it to her. 

It is quilted with Baptist fans.  This was a new design for me.   And it was the first attempt at quilting on my new sewing machine (blog post coming, I promise).  I was nervous about trying a new design and not marking it and such, but it actually wasn’t hard, and I got pretty good at it.  

It was also my first attempt at machine binding (remember this was Christmas Eve night after the kiddos had gone to bed, so I was in a time crunch).  That didn’t turn out so great.  I had to fix several places, and I’ll readily admit it’s not my best work and is the one thing I wish I could change.  At some point I might offer to rip it all out and hand bind it for her, but I guess if it doesn’t bother her I won’t worry about it.  

She really loved the quilt and admitted she had wanted me to make one for her.  So I can check that off my list. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Mending Bibs

The life of a farm wife is glamorous.  Especially when the perfectly comfortable and broken in bibs get rips.  And my husband wants them fixed, like now. 

At least they are clean. 
But I'm not sure the Brother is quite up to the task. 
I hate to even mention the words "new machine" right now (spoiler alert - I got a new one for Christmas), but when it comes time to replace her, I think I need something with bigger throat space. 
There was much tugging and pulling, but I managed to get all the holes patched.  This isn't the first time either (old in gold stitching and new in gray).
Methinks next time we get a new pair. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Christmas Gifts

Just so I have a record, here are some of the Christmas gifts I sewed for 2013.  American Girl doll clothes.

and a Wiksten Tova top for my sister

She so didn't want to model.  But she likes the top!

I have a quilt and some boy clothes, but they'll get their own posts, coming soon.  And then I'll be somewhat caught up and hopefully be ready to show my first finish for 2014.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Finally Ready - A New Year

It's been so long.  Things have been so interesting the last several weeks. *I'll intersperse some random pictures because this bad boy has gotten wordy.*

Of course I am still working on the new normal - life with two children, working full time, being a farm wife, plus all the projects I want to do to improve our house and all the sewing projects I have spinning 'round in my head.  I have been able to get some things done, but I haven't posted.  Because really, when you've gotten everyone off to work and daycare, put in a day at work in front of a computer, made supper, bathed and gotten babies to sleep, and have an hour or so before bedtime, are you really going to sit down at another computer and blog, or are you going to sew?  I sew.  It's my therapy, my calm.  It literally makes me calm and happy.  If I'm mad at my husband, I go down to my sewing room - better to cut some fabric than to (figuratively) cut him. 

Anyways, on to the last few weeks.  On December 11 (two weeks before Christmas) my parents had a chimney fire.  I was scheduled to have my wisdom tooth (just one) pulled, so I was off work.  The actual pulling wasn't that big a deal, but I was humming Christmas carols through it just to keep my mind off the fact that he was pulling a tooth from my mouth!  On the way home, my husband called.  Luckily, none of their important belongings were damaged.  However, between the smoke smell and restoration work, it's not really livable right now (it affected the main living spaces), so they've been living with us.

I have a guest bedroom and bathroom and a family room and den, so it's not a horrible setup.  They miss their own space and all their things, and we miss our privacy, but all in all it was very lucky that everything happened just the way it did.  I will tell you, there are some little projects and things that Mom and I had planned but didn't get to because we were lazy, and that ended up being a blessing.  God is so good, and you never know why things do or don't happen until you look back later. 

Between the fire and Christmas, everything got sideways.  Our Christmas was kind of bedraggled and not quite as festive as normal, but we still enjoyed it.  Then it was New Year's and the kids started a new daycare (another story and post).  Along with all that, we've had illness.  First, I had my wisdom tooth recovery, got worn down from cleaning out the smoky house for two days, caught a 24hr stomach bug (luckily a very mild case), was healthy for a few days, then got pinkeye right after Christmas (along with Sam and Mike and my sister-in-law).  Got over that and got another cold not two days later.  I'm dealing with it now. 

So that's life these days.  Never a dull moment around here. 

And we just started lambing season, so I'll be dragging the kids to the barn to help out with the baby lambs here soon.


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