Thursday, December 31, 2015

Goals for 2016

I make lists all the time.  I'm not at the point of having lists of lists, but probably not too far off. At every year end, I make a list of goals for the next year.  Last year I made eight sewing goals and accomplished three.  Most of them were business related and I pretty much tanked at working on my cutie pie & me stuff this year.  I did, however, update my entire back pattern catalog (goal #5) so that they are all uniform and all have digitized pattern pieces.  And honestly, that felt like making the patterns all over again.  And I got burned out and just wanted to quilt instead.  Also, when things aren't selling from my shop, I feel less motivated to make more.  Vicious cycle there.  Plus, many people seem to make and list doll clothing for pennies on the dollar compared to the time and materials put into them, so many customers aren't willing to pay the seamstress a living wage for her time.  I am unwilling to work for free or next to free.  That being said, I am going to try to be more proactive with my business this year.

We are planning to finish a sewing room in the basement this year.  As I've said before, all my stuff is spread through the house.  The main living space always looks messy because all my stuff is in it.  And we all know, even when sewing is picked up, it still tends to look cluttered.  So, once we get the room done, my next goal is to bust through my stash.  That may take a few years, but I am trying--hey, I finished three large quilts this year and used up my stash of nasty old polyester battings.

So my sewing goals for the year are:

1.  Be more proactive with business sewing.
2.  Finish more quilt tops.
3.  Use up stash.

I also made eight general goals and accomplished four.  Actually, I'm going to say 4-1/2, because I did learn a little bit of Photoshop but I'm sure I have a long ways to go.  I'm pretty proud of the general goals that I did accomplish, especially the gardening and exercising.  I do really want to finish the other general goals I set, so I will keep those the same for this year plus add a little more:

1.  Fill nail holes in trim (really, we've been in the house three years and this should be done already!).
2.  Refinish dressing table for my daughter.  She's at the age I think she needs it.
3.  The recipes.  I cannot figure out a good way to manage this.  I have tons of recipes torn from magazines.  I need to try more recipes and organize the chaos into a manageable system.
4.  Yard sale.
5.  Reorganize kitchen. 

I've been trying to be more organized this year.  I'm trying a planner; I'm trying to make prettier list systems and trying to take care of paperwork in a timely fashion.  I'm seriously hoping that having all the sewing mess contained in one room will help the upstairs look tidier and help the office space function better.  Hopefully it will help me with the stash busting too.  Easier to use it when you can actually see it!

Lest you think I am too down on myself this year, we also accomplished some things that I didn't have on lists here.  I did reorganize the upper cabinets of my kitchen.  My husband finally got my pantry table finished, so the pantry is almost done.  I think we need to add some upper cabinets to store a few more things behind closed doors.  I learned how to can pickles and relish of various types, some more successful than others.  I also canned a ton of applesauce again.  We cleaned and reorganized the garage, which was a huge and somewhat costly undertaking.  We finished our in-floor heat in the basement.  We added a huge garden to our front yard.  The deck got mostly finished.  You can plan all you want for how you think your year, day, life, etc. will go, but when you're actually living it, things change and you just have to go with the flow.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Fisher Price My Friend Becky Doll

My niece has been enjoying playing with her mother's My Friend Jenny doll, along with the doll's wardrobe that my great aunt sewed back in the early 80s.  She wanted more modern clothing for the doll, so I made a few mix and match pieces to give her along with a My Friend Becky doll.  I used the t shirt from McCall's Crafts 9167 from 1984  for the striped shirt, the top portion of the Fisher Price Tunic pattern 231 to make the dress, and created the legging pattern.  Surprisingly, the patterns that were marketed and created for the dolls didn't really fit all that well. 


Just for fun, below is a picture of me, my sister, and my neighbor playing with our dolls back in the early 80s.  I am in the center with my My Friend Mandy doll.  My sister is on the bottom right.  She hadn't received her doll yet.  You can see a lot of the outfits I had for Mandy.  One of my goals in the new year is to take photos of Mandy wearing each outfit my aunt sewed for me, along with those purchased from Fisher Price.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Dream Sewing Space?

I have decided that our next major house project will be finishing my sewing room in the basement (and a bathroom while we're at it).  I'm tired of having everything spread all over the house.  It makes the upstairs look messy no matter what.

I decided that the original space we planned is not going to be large enough, so I switched to the other, larger, but not as bright, space.  It will have a large closet attached, which will store not only my sewing stash, but holiday decorations and other random things as well.  Using the bigger space also gives me space for a design wall.  The smaller room would not have had space since two walls have large windows, one wall would be closet doors, and the remaining wall would have the door.

Losing the two large windows and great natural light is sad, but having enough space to spread out is great.  I'm trying to plan the space ahead of time to aid in light and outlet placement.  The problem I am having is that I can't find much in the way of inspiration on Pinterest.  Nothing looks quite like what I want, but I don't know exactly what I want either.

Some things I know I want:

  • separate ironing surface
  • cutting area
  • design wall
  • book shelf and cabinet with glass doors
  • space for the embroidery machine
  • sewing table of some sort to hold sewing machine and sergers
  • space to maneuver around the longarm
  • a clock
  • a soft chair for visitors or for me to look through books

What I can't decide is what type of sewing table setup I want.  I don't think I want to face the wall.  I'm not sure if I want three separate tables in the room.  I thought about an L-shape or perpendicular to the wall sewing table extension, but I don't want to feel locked in either.  If I have a separate sewing table, we (my husband) will have to build it because I don't like the look of commercially made tables versus the cost of them.  I know I want my machine to fit flush with the table, but I will probably need a lift for it because my bobbin case is underneath and I do occasionally need the free arm.  The bad thing about making a custom table is--what if something happens to my machine and I had to get a new one?  Chances are it would be a different shape.  Oh, the decisions!

Do you have a sewing setup that you love?  What would be in your dream space?  What other things should I consider?



Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Lone Starburst Quilt Class with Kimberly Einmo


In March I had the pleasure of taking a class with Kimberly Einmo at the Indiana Heritage Quilt Show.   She is a friendly, gracious teacher.  She willingly shares her sewing tricks and tips and answers any question, even when entirely redundant.  She guided those whose skill wasn't really up to the prerequisite so they could find success. Really, I thoroughly enjoyed my day with her.

The class I took was for her popular Lone Starburst quilt.  You needed a jelly roll or equivalent amount of strips and background fabric, along with her special ruler called the EZ Jelly Roll Ruler.  She mentioned that when she is drafting patterns for quilts, sometimes she just thinks, "Quilters will hate this," and then tries to work out an easier method.  I totally relate to this because I have thought the same thing while drafting some of my doll clothes patterns, particularly my Cold Shoulder shirt pattern.  Anyway, below is an image of my strip set lined up with Kimberly's ruler.  I used Kate Spain's Horizon fabric line by Moda for my quilt.

Once you build all the elements for each block, you can then rotate the pieces to determine color placement.  None of my pictures are lovely since they were taken in the harsh classroom light, but you can get the idea of what we did.  The next two pictures are the same block elements, just rotated.  Isn't it amazing how different the block looks?!

Again, the next two pictures are the same block elements with different placements.

You can find the Lone Starburst pattern in Kimberly's book Jelly Roll Quilt Magic.  Below is a picture of some of the different layouts you can create with the finished block elements.  The books were all gone by the time I arrived in class, but a classmate let me take a picture of her book while she was looking through.
While I haven't finished my top yet, I did complete all the block units and did a sample arrangement. I'm hoping to get back to this one after the holidays.

 Here is a picture of Kimberly's quilt displayed at the quilt show using the Lone Starburst pattern:
 And a close up of the quilting:
If you can't take a class with Kimberly in person, she does have several classes available on Craftsy.  She was featured in the February 2015 issue of American Patchwork and Quilting, which came out right before I took the class with her, so that was fun to talk about in class.  She is also being featured in American Quilter magazine this year with a row-by-row project.    Check it out!  The first time I heard of Kimberly was back in 2005 when she did a mystery quilt series for American Quilter.  (Yes, that one is still in progress too.)  Find out more about her on her website.

Reminder:  I receive no money/products/anything for my opinions.  I just share things I have experience with and like.
Wednesday, December 2, 2015

My Juki Journey

Update 7/21/16:  Currently I would not recommend purchasing the Juki TL2200QVP long arm.  It sewed perfectly from September through June.  Then it all went to h#$%.  I do not have a dealer to help me since I purchased it at a quilting show.  I contacted someone at Juki for help.  It's been over a month and they are not helping me, just telling me that I need to wait while they test new parts and then I can BUY(!!) a part to fix my machine that has a known defect.  Other people who own the same machine and have the same problems have received the part for free. The machine is also still under warranty.  I am generally pretty easy-going, but I have to say they have horrible customer service!!!!!  Unless you're a glutton for punishment, stay away from this machine.

Many quilters long for a long arm.  It's hard work to machine quilt a large quilt on a regular domestic sewing machine.  I greatly admire people who successfully do so.  I am not one of them.  When I started quilting in the 1990s, hand quilting was standard.  I have hand quilted two large, bed sized quilts along with some smaller ones.  My hand quilting is not lovely.  It takes forever too.  My machine quilting is also not lovely.  Thus the large backup of unfinished tops.

I have been drooling over long arms for probably five or six years.  I like going to large quilt shows where all the dealers are set up so that you can try lots of different machines (not just long arms, but regular and embroidery machines too).  I originally considered Tin Lizzie because the price was attractive.  I'll admit it's not the best reason, but it is a real consideration for many people.  It was still too much for us to spend and I didn't really have a place large enough for it either.  I ended up buying John Flynn's system for a home machine.  It works great for up to baby sized quilts, but gets pretty heavy for anything larger.  And you still need a fair amount of room to use it.  But for around $100, it gets the job done pretty well!

We attended a large quilt show in Ohio in 2013.  I tried many machines.  I found the Juki and Handi Quilter.  I really liked the Juki but it was new to the market.  I tried Handi Quilter and thought it stitched better than the Tin Lizzie although I felt like my arms were really vibrating a lot.  Various dealers told us it usually takes five years from initially looking at a longarm to actually buying one.  We did not buy one, but I kept thinking about the Juki.  Meanwhile, we were still working on the house.  Of course, here it is 2.5 years later and we are still working on the house.  I don't know if we'll ever be done working on the house. We like projects and we work slowly.  What can I say?

Anyway, this spring I got the bug to go to a large quilt show again.  Paducah is only a 4.5 hour drive.  And I was feeling sorry for myself because my husband was going to Hawaii for work and we couldn't go with him.  So we went to Paducah.  I tried a large variety of machines again.  And again I was between the Juki and the Handi Quilter.  And again I felt like I was vibrating while using the Handi Quilter.  Apparently whatever frequency its motor runs at is directly at odds with my body.  It's almost like getting shocked repeatedly.  And I still really loved the Juki and felt like the sales people were friendlier and more helpful.  We tried to buy the floor model but it had already been sold.  The Juki rep (Joe Kuehl!  Like Snoopy!) sold us a brand new one for the same price as the used one.   Plus, I could attend a free training class in Miami at their headquarters.

The machine was delivered in June.  We assembled it.  I was scared of it.  The machine is pretty daunting and the directions that come with the machine are not especially helpful.  There aren't a lot of YouTube videos out there either.  I tried to get into the training.  It was difficult to get any response but I kept at it because I knew I needed the training.  All scheduled sessions were full.  I finally got invited to attend a fall session.  I tried to use the machine a few weeks before I went to the training and I could not get the tension correct, so I gave up and waited for the training, which I attended in late September.

I was nervous because I was traveling on my own and I am also shy, which makes it scary to go into a room of strangers.  But I did it.  The training is held at the Juki Miami headquarters, fairly near the Miami International Airport.  I flew in to Fort Lauderdale and drove to Miami.  Lots of new experiences for me on this trip!  *As a side note, I drove to the American Girl Place Miami the first night and it was such a nice store.  The sales people were very nice and the store was large and not crowded at all.*

Anyway, we all got to tour the warehouse, which was really interesting.  I didn't think to take any pictures.  They do domestic and commercial machines there and some of the boxes were almost as big as cars!  The training session I attended was taught by Pat Alderman and Karen Pharr.  I opted for the two day session because the third day covered robotics, which is not something I am planning on having.  I learned so many things and took a ton of notes and a few videos.  

I cannot say enough good things about the training.  Karen and Pat went out of their way to help everyone and answer our questions and troubleshoot our individual problems.  We all received bags of goodies.  My laser clamp broke before I even turned on the machine.  Even though that is a Grace part, Karen got me a free replacement that day.  We learned who to call for help on various parts, how to maintain the machine, the all-important how to thread and wind bobbins correctly, all about threads, pantographs, ruler work, loading the quilt.  Just so much information.  I had a rental car, but if you didn't, Juki provided transportation from your hotel to the headquarters.  Generous lunches were provided daily, along with snacks and drinks.  The second night we were all treated to dinner at Texas de Brasil with Rich Gold, Pat and Karen, and some of the other Juki staff.

After the training I came home, rethreaded the machine, and was off and running.  I've completed three tops so far and have lots more ready to go.  I have sewn through denim and used cheap polyester batting with no issues.  I'm really happy with it so far.  I have only done pantographs so far.  I really need to move to the front of the machine, but I'm kind of intimidated by it.  I have so much more to learn.

It is challenging to find help and support locally and online for this machine.  There is a helpful Facebook group.  Many people post their problems on there, so it seems like there are more complaints than not, but don't be scared by that.  There are a lot of happy users.  Karen has made a series of brief videos for Juki that are helpful.  If you have this machine, really try to make the effort to take the class.  All you have to pay for is hotel and transportation.

I am happy to share my limited experience with you.  Feel free to contact me with any questions.