Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Quilting 101: Machine Maintenance

When I bought my first sewing machine years ago, I had no idea what I needed to do to take care of it. It had a 90-day warranty for any problem whatsoever. After about two months it started acting up. I took it back to the store, and they checked it out. It seems I failed to ever clean my machine. I didn't even know I needed to or how to do it. Growing up I sewed on my mom's machine, and she did all the maintenance. I never paid attention. The clerk showed me basic tips on how to take care of my machine, and I can say I've done a much better job since that time.

Here are a few tips on taking care of your machine. Remember that each machine is different. Check the manual or check with the shop before doing maintenance on your own machine.

General Tips:
  • Change the needle regularly and use a needle appropriate for the fabric.
  • Clean the lint out regularly. I clean mine before and after I FMQ or work on any large project. I also clean it whenever it starts acting up, or when I know it's simply been a while.
  • Cover the machine when not in use. (This tip is a bit pointless for me since I sew nearly every day, but for those who aren't as crazy as me, keep it covered. That keeps out the excess dust.)
  • Learn which threads work in your machine and which don't. If you have frequent breakage with a particular thread, throw it out. Even if another quilter raves about a certain thread brand, but your machine hates it, don't use it. 

Here is my bobbin case after it's been a while. It's not terrible, but definitely ready for a cleaning.

These are my tools for cleaning my machine.

First lift out all visible lint while vacuuming with a small vacuum. Don't blow into the machine as this simply blows the dust and lint in deeper.

I use canned air to blow out the thread track. Notice how the nozzle is pointing down. I only want to blow the dust out, not inside the machine. When I'm doing a very thorough cleaning, I will take the side cover off to remove even more dust.

Oil the machine (if recommended for your model). I bought this bottle approximately 10 years ago. I oil my machine regularly and have only used this small amount. Use 1-2 drops. No more.

For my machine the oil goes in that metal ring to lubricate the bobbin mechanism. Before adding more oil, I always wipe that area with a microfiber, lint-free cloth to remove any sticky fibers or old oil.

After wiping the needle stem, I also add one drop at the very top and move the needle up and down a few times with the hand wheel.

Put everything back together, and you're good to go!

Make sure to discard of needles and broken pins appropriately. Don't simply throw them in the garbage. Years ago, I got into the habit of sticking them in an old baby food jar. This is my collection over the years. One of these days I'll discard this and begin a new collection.

Have a great day!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Botanics and AMH Sew Together Bags

This is the last post for my Sew Together Bag marathon. I've made six total. Now I'm very done.

This first bag uses some Anna Maria Horner fabrics I received in my swag bag at Sew South. I had 1/2 yards of a few prints. This was the perfect project for them. I love the outer print. I had enough of these fabrics to make a second identical bag (not pictured).

I'm still on a Botanics kick and loved using my FQ bundle of this line. I really like how this particular bag turned out. I think it's my favorite so far.

I still love my new labels!

A couple more tips I've learned from making this bag five times now:

  • Mark the fold lines on the side panels very carefully and accurately. 
  • Don't sew over the metal on the zipper. 
  • Shape flex works nicely as interfacing for the side panel, and I still love home decor bond (Pellon 809) interfacing for the bag body. 
  • Interfacing details: For the bag body (outer, visible fabric) I prefer to cut the interfacing the full size of the pattern piece. For the the four interior (bag lining) pieces I prefer trim the interfacing 1/4" short each side to account for seam allowances, but I still have the interfacing extend the full height of the pattern piece (extending completely to the raw edges that attach to the zippers). I do not interface the three zipper pocket linings. 
  • I keep thinking there has to be a better way to stitch the side base all together. It's quite a wrestling match to do that step as well as adding the binding on the base of the side panels. If anyone has figured out an easier way, I'd love to hear it. That is my biggest frustration with this bag design. It's cumbersome and difficult to get straight.
  • When sewing the bindings, I found it easier to sew with my quilting table snapped onto my machine. I liked having a solid, flat surface and found that easier. 
  • Pins and wonder clips are your friends. Don't hesitate to use them. A lot.
  • Don't sew over your finger when using the zipper foot. Okay, so I didn't learn this the hard way, but I'm always terrified I'll sew over my finger when stitching zippers. 
  • Always baste zippers first. I cannot sandwich the bag, lining, and zipper with pins and get a nice straight seam. I always baste my zipper to one section first and then sew everything together. It takes an extra minute, but always turns out much better for me. 
  • When stitching the binding to the long zipper on the top of the bag, stitch with the binding on the bottom. My machine tends to feed better with fabric on the bottom rather than the zipper. That sounds like a no-brainer, but it didn't stop me from sewing with the zipper on the bottom the first time around.
Finally, this Sew Along saved me when making this bag: Quilt Barn Sew Together Bag Sew Along

The pattern can be purchased from Sew Demented.

Whew! Now back to quilting! I can do bags and other projects for a while, but quilting is still my favorite.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Blogger's Quilt Festival: The Whirlpool Quilt


I'm coming in on the end of things with the Blogger's Quilt Festival this time. I've decided to enter my Whirlpool Quilt. If you are a regular reader, you've already seen this one, but since it's my favorite quilt I've created in a while, I thought I'd share it again. I'm entering this quilt in the Small Quilts category.

This quilt is machine pieced and quilted on my standard machine. It is about 35" x 40". To say I love it is an understatement. In fact, I'm getting ready to create Whirlpool v2. This kind of quilting is so fun and satisfying for me. 

I quilted each segment with matching thread. I love the way it looks on the back. 

The story behind creating this guy is such a great example of finding inspiration anywhere. While on lunch break from a professional conference, I was walking through the mall and came across this display at Anthropologie. It stopped me in my tracks. I loved design and colors (no surprise). I snapped a photo with my phone. When I made it back to the afternoon session of my conference, I started sketching. 

This is my favorite sketch of the several I made that afternoon while sitting in my conference (I promise I was still listening). That evening after the kiddos were in bed, I immediately went to work. I already had these fabrics pulled for another project, but knew they would be perfect for this one. 

The whole process was an experiment. I didn't know if it would work out in the end. This type of project is the best. I love not knowing the ultimate outcome. 

Random Side Note: My husband calls this quilt "Nemo in the Blender". I like Whirlpool a lot little better so that's what we're going with!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Flea Market Fancy Sew Together Bags

These two bags were Mother's Day gifts for our moms. I think they both liked them!

I have two more bags to share tomorrow. Then I'm about done with these for a while. I admit I'm sick of them. Five is a few too many. I love how they turn out, but they do take a lot of time.

Edit: The Sew Together Bag can be found in the Sew Demented Shop.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

New Quilt Labels!

I finally decided to order nicer, woven labels! They arrived in just under a month and are exactly what I was hoping for! I was so excited when this little box arrived yesterday afternoon.

And I opened it to find 350 labels.

The weaving inside the label.

 Front and back.

I ordered from World Wide Labels on Etsy. As I researched I looked into a few options. There are a several reasons why I ultimately went with this company: cost, ability to order small quantities (I didn't need 1000 labels), and the ability to design my own label rather than just using text. I wanted the design to use my logo, colors and font. I also wanted the label on the fold rather than a flat design. I like to tuck my labels into the binding of my quilts or into the seam of a bag. I created my own label design in Photoshop and sent that to World Wide Labels. They generally work in Pantone colors (which I don't have access to), but they were able to perfectly match the colors from the image. I ordered my labels using this option.

I'm very excited to start adding these to projects. In fact I've already started! I've finished a few more Sew Together Bags. More on those tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Fox Quilt

It's baby season around here. I have another friend having a baby boy, and I decided she needed a quilt for him. This fox fabric was a total impulse purchase when I was ordering some other more necessary items. I really love it, and had to make something from it. I used the same design as my original App Quilt, only using a smaller block this time.

Fussy cutting the foxes wasn't exactly the best use of fabric. I only got (12) 5" charms from a 1/2 yard, but it was totally worth fussy cutting these guys.

I backed the quilt with flannel, but did not use batting. I was really worried how it might turn out, but with the linen sashing, the quilt is already heavier than normal. For a summer baby quilt, this worked great.

My only problem with the lack of batting was some funky shrinkage after washing. I made the mistake of not prewashing my linen. I'm fully aware that linen shrinks at a different rate than cotton, but this has always been mitigated in the past by the additional shrinkage of the batting. Without the batting and using prewashed flannel on the back, it didn't shrink as evenly as I would like. Lessons learned. I will always prewash my linen blends in the future.

Off to a new home!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Wee Wander Star Quilt

I love baby quilts. They are such a fun, quick, satisfying finish. This little quilt is for a friend expecting her first baby next month. I fell in love with the Wee Wander fabric, but had no ideas to use it until I found out my friend was having a girl.

I used the Designer Star pattern from May Chappell. I carefully pieced each HST to make sure the directional prints were oriented correctly. It took longer than normal, but was so worth it. This quilt would drive me nuts if all the prints were going crazy directions.

This is my last printed blue chair tag. I recently ordered woven tags and am so excited for them to arrive. Unfortunately, they are coming from Hong Kong which means I'll likely see them sometime in June.

I used smaller cuts of my favorite prints from the line for the backing. The other half of that border print will be showing up in another post in the near future-- as soon as I can get my daughter to model the dress I made for her from it.

I added the skinny 1/2" finished border of pink because I felt the design needed a little something extra. I love how it sets off the star. The final border is about 2 1/2" because that's all I had left of the background print. I love buying fabric, but I love using it up just as much.

The final size on this quilt is about 38" square. It's now with it's new owner. I hope she gets lots of use from it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Sew Together Bag

I finally joined the crowd and made a Sew Together Bag (pattern by Sew Demented).

This was my test run. I'm currently working on five more for teacher gifts for the end of the month.

Several people had these bags at Sew South. This was a great chance to see how they looked in person. It was also nice to see how the bags felt with different interfacings. The pattern isn't specific as to the type of interfacing to use. I chose to use Pellon 809 Décor-Bond. I wanted my bag to be fairly stiff, but thin. Because the bag itself is reasonably small, I felt adding batting or fusible fleece would add too much bulk, reducing the usable space. The Décor-Bond is stiff, but thin--perfect for this project.

Overall, I love it! It's a fun, unique bag that is also handy to use. I'm excited to give them as teacher gifts in a couple weeks. I'll share the other versions once they are finished.

The pattern isn't as descriptive in some areas as I needed. I followed the hints on the Quilt Barn Sew-Along. That made all the difference for me. I would have been frustrated without those extra posts and pictures.

This PDF pattern is available from Sew Demented.