Tuesday, December 17, 2013

One Step Closer

Woohoo!  The main part of this top is finished.  Next, I'm working on the piano keys border.  Then, another border of the dark navy.

It won't be quilted before Christmas.  If I tried, I wouldn't enjoy the process because it would be so rushed.  Plus, it wouldn't look as nice.  I'm looking forward to this quilting!  Not too dense, but definitely custom.

After quilting, I might add a few jewels, but not too many.  Some of the faces don't have eyes yet.  I haven't decided if they'll be embroidered or jewels.  Probably perl cotton embroidery.  I guess I should do that before quilting.

Time to dash to work.  I'm running a bit late today.

I hope you are making time to enjoy this holiday season.  It can be hectic, but if you select what you'd like to do and what you would rather skip, it's not so overwhelming.  I caught a glimpse of my neighbor's white snowman tree last night.  Very adorable!

Enjoy your day!
- SeeingStars

Monday, December 9, 2013

Another Row Added and Just One More to Go

Rows 2 and 3 are on the wall.  (Row 1 is hiding behind Row 2 now)

I'm still slowly working on more blocks.  Although there are only 12 large blocks in this quilt, each large block is composed of lots of smaller ones.  It's fun to switch techniques from piecing, fusing with a satin stitch, and couching embroidery.  Plus, I'm getting to play with lots and lots of batik fabrics!

So the last row is in progress.  Here's how it looks this morning.
Row 3 blocks are done.  Row 4 in their present state.
I'll see how far I get piecing the remaining blocks tonight.  Then I'll switch to the fusing and couching.  Maybe by the end of this week, I'll have all the blocks complete.

For quilting, I've been trying to decide on a variegated thread or a clear one.  I picked up some Mono Poly clear thread last week while I was out of town.  It's not the smoky color, but the lighter one.  I might also stretch out some variegated threads across the blocks and see if they'll be too distracting from the overall design.  Any ideas?

Enjoy your day!
- SeeingStars

Sunday, November 17, 2013

On the Design Wall

Here's the top half of this quilt I'm making. Last night, after this photo, I began trimming and sewing some of these units together.  It's exciting to see this one coming together.  This is going to be one bright quilt! 

Those framing pieces are a dark navy.  I think this will help tame and unify this design.  There will be piano keys in various batiks for a border, then most likely, that same navy frame will surround the piano keys and also will bind.

The large blocks for the bottom rows are on my pantograph shelf of my Tin Lizzie.  Their smaller surrounding blocks aren't all finished, but I'll need to arrange them on this wall to see which set needs blocks. 

I'm not a methodical quiltmaker.  I have yet to cut out all the pieces of a quilt before beginning to sew.  The decide-as-you-go method works well for me.  I realize that some might cringe at this disregard for details, but it works for me.  That spare lizard block near the buffalo didn't behave, so it will be disregarded for now.  Maybe it will become a throw pillow.

I have a Bernina Artista 440QE, which dropped a broken spring last month.  It just fell on the fabrics I was sewing.  I need to take a little road trip to get it fixed and as a result, this machine is tucked away in its travel bag.  Instead, I've been using two of my vintage machines that I have shared in previous posts.  The Bernina 830 Record (from the 1970's) has been helping me with satin stitching the fusible applique blocks and also couching perl cotton in the embroidery blocks.  I've used the Necchi Supernova Automatica (from about 1955) for straight stitching.  The main reasons for these choices are the feet needed for each task.  It's nice to set up each machine and not constantly change the feet.

I'll share more progress soon and maybe some close-ups of the couching embroidery, a new-to-me technique.

Enjoy your day!
- SeeingStars

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Little Humor for a Common Task

I enjoy finding ways to add humor to life.  Just ask my kids.  They have endured my corny jokes for their entire lives.  I think my husband manages to laugh with me (or at me) most of the time.

So when I found a panel of Pickles cartoons, I knew I could put it to good use.  These are the comic strips involving her sewing and quilting hobby, of course.  It's difficult to cut them up because the panel isn't perfectly straight.  Also, there isn't much black around each strip, so the raw edges turned under are only about 1/8th inch wide.  I added a little bit of black at each end to make it the width of the towel.

At our quilt guild meetings, we give away a few door prizes.  So I made 2 dishtowels for a door prize from the comic panel by starting with inexpensive dish towels and using a thick satin stitch to secure the comics to the towel.  I only took photos of the first one though.  I hope the winner and her family will enjoy these comics when they dry their dishes.

Our deer are coming closer.  The bird feeder hook and barbed wire fence are quite close (3 and 20 feet) to my studio window.  It seems the herds are merging.  Instead of groups of 3 and 4, I've seen 11 deer in the field all at once.  And then the stately buck joined them.  What a show!  He stirs everyone up and there's lots of kicking, leaping and running around.

Although I've taken several photos of the buck, I haven't taken any good ones yet.  It's a challenge now.  It's fun to watch them when I'm starting my day or later, when I'm sewing.

Enjoy your day!
- SeeingStars

Thursday, October 24, 2013

On the Design Wall - Echos of the Past

I saw a quilt made with this pattern at a quilt show and I knew I just had to make this one.  With the scrappy batiks and bright colors and gorgeous quilting, it just shines.  I have a recipient in mind, so I can't wait to see this one emerge from the pile of fabrics.

The pattern's website doesn't show such bright colors, but you can find it here at Elizabeth Anne Designs.  I'm guessing this one is radiant in good lighting.
Elizabeth Anne's designs - Echos of the Past

I started by spreading batiks all over my sewing room.  Then I chose the 12 fabrics that I'll use behind the large block centers.  To get started, I made a few of the pieced blocks, but not all of them.

Horse block

Kokopelli Block

Although I'd love to have this one finished as a Christmas gift, I'd rather enjoy the process.  At this point, I don't think it will be ready in 2 months.  So, I'll relax a little bit.  There's a quilt retreat next weekend, which will be a fun time to work on it while I visit with friends.

All 12 "blocks" ... in progress

I've already learned that I like piecing much more than fusible applique.  This time, I'm trying Misty Fuse since it's extremely lightweight.  I am using a satin stitch for the applique with contrasting threads.  Most of these pieces still need the satin stitch.

 For the retreat, I made this 3 ft by 4 ft portable design wall using a 2 fold cardboard display stand, basting spray, batting and some tape.  I already had all the supplies, except for the cardboard which was less than $3 with a coupon.  That basting spray on cardboard and batting doesn't allow repositioning, so I get to live with a few wrinkles.  I think it will come in handy for this project at the retreat.

Yesterday, with a sick teen at home, I worked a little on tracing and ironing the fusible parts as I watched my quilting buddies.  There were seven of them grazing quietly before the buck arrived.  No one held still for my photo shoot!  I couldn't even count his points.

High tailing to the treeline.

Today, both teens and I visited their doctor.  The whole marching band (247 members) is sharing viral and bacterial infections.  We'll do our best to overcome with rest, fluids and some meds while preparing for another football game and competition this weekend.  Rest and band practices do not mix well.

Enjoy your day!
- SeeingStars

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Another Vintage Find

Dial & Sew 752
I bought this one with plans to gift to a friend in need.  It's almost ready now.  When I purchased this little beauty, the inside moving parts were really clean, but they needed oil.  I removed the cabinet hinges after I took this photo.  The light coat of car wax makes this one shine.

Mr. SeeingStars helped me with this one too.  The cord was too short to use as a foot pedal and wouldn't reach the floor.  I didn't think my friend would want to keep it in a cabinet with a knee pedal, so we rewired it with a longer cord.  A trip to the electronics store cost us less than a dollar to pick up a few replacement connectors.

It's working well now, except for a missing light bulb.  I think I'll take it with me to a sewing shop to see if I can find one that will fit.  I tested the light's wiring by plugging the motor into the light plug.  Works just fine, but I wouldn't want to do that permanently.  There's no speed control that way.  Yikes!

This machine was made in Japan and was badged with several different brand names.  From other blogs and a yahoo group, I've seen it listed as a Necchi 750, a Tacony 752 and a Dressmaker Mark II.  This one's badge says Dial & Sew and it's a model 752.

Things I like about this machine :
1.  The color!  I love the light aqua with the white and chrome plate.

2.  The simplicity.  Since this didn't come with a user's manual and I don't plan to purchase one online which would almost double the cost of my purchase, it's nice to see that this one just does the basics and does them well.  Many of the more generic zigzag online manuals cover the operation.

3.  No hesitation.  When I press the pedal, there's no hum first.  No need to get the hand wheel going a little bit.  This motor is ready to stitch.

4.  No extra cams.  The zig-zag and it's few decorative stitches are built-in.  That means none of these will get lost.

Decorative Stitches

When making a straight stitch, the needle goes to the left position.  I'm not sure why this is the design since my other machines allow the user to choose a left-middle-right needle position.  However, I think this will work well for quilting seams, so there's no worries.

Also, this bobbin is an end loader, like my Necchi.  That also dictates that the eye of the needle goes left to right, rather than front to back.  For me, this is much more challenging to thread the needle.  Now I see why there are so many gizmos on the market to assist with needle threading.

So for now, I'm going to resist the urge to collect and fix up vintage machines, but I must say that it's fascinating to see how well made these beauties are and there's a thrill to getting them purring again.  I've had a plan for each of the ones I've purchased so far to be gifted, so I'm not just accumulating them. 

Enjoy your day!
- SeeingStars

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

My Vintage Italian Necchi

This little machine was sold locally on Craig's List.  It's a Supernova Automatica, made around 1955 in Italy.  The cabinet was an original, but suffered tornado damage 2 years ago and was too much for me to try to repair.  Instead, I found an old cabinet, also on Craig's List that someone started to convert to an ice bucket.  They stopped mid-project after painting it this delightful Carribean Blue and got rid of it.

So it's been a work in progress for me.  It's not quite perfect now, but getting closer.  I cleaned the machine inside and out and oiled it until every moving part works beautifully.  I've even tried the decorative stitching using the cams and it's been amazing to see those stitches.  However, the feed dogs were broken and I've felt that I should replace them before sewing on this machine more regularly.

 You can see below the old feed dogs on the fabric and the new ones with both of the long pieces installed now.  It was tricky to remove because those older Italian flat head screws had really thin slots.  Mr. Seeing Stars stepped in to help me find a bit and a socket wrench to get in the small space under the harp to fix it.
There's a yahoo group for vintage Necchi machines with a service manual in pdf form in the Files section.  It's really helpful to have as a reference for any maintenance or repairs.

Although the light works, it's really dim.  I need an additional light source to sew with this machine.  I'm on the hunt for a new light bulb to see it I can find something a little brighter.  One of the spool pins is broken, but I can live with that for now.

I haven't tried to wind a bobbin yet.  I must admit that this older style method intimidates be a little bit.  There's an inner and outer part of the handwheel and you need to twist the inner while holding the outer still to set up a bobbin wind without engaging the needle up/down.  Since I have a Sidewinder, I've relied on that to get my bobbins wound.  The Necchi bobbins and Bernina bobbins are interchangeable.  That's really handy!  I also haven't adjusted the presser foot pressure, but I think it was set pretty high to make up for the broken feed dogs.

Overall, even though I've cleaned and cleaned, I think this machine needs more work with q-tips to get it looking a little better, inside and out.  After I cleaned it up and was so proud of my progress, I saw photos of other machines and realized there's still much more I should do to get it sparkling again.  But I've made terrific progress, even using a little car wax to shine it up. 

I'm looking forward to using the cams to add fancy stitches on my next quilt.  I share that work in progress soon.  I've played with quarter inch seams and found that I can use the feed dog slot on the right with the needle to the left and get a nice quarter inch seam.  Piecing several fabrics into a 4.5 inch block is working well for me, so I'm thrilled.  The stitch quality is terrific and I can appreciate the engineering on this machine so much more than many of the newer models.

One of my camera shy sewing buddies.  Taken before the field corn was cut.

This one came with all the accessories and the user's manual.  However, the user's manual (copyright 1955) is separating from the binding and the accessory box is broken (we'll blame this on the tornado).  I plan to take the manual to an office store to see what they recommend.  One problem is that a diagram is on one page, but the description of a function might be 2 pages later.  It's really distracting to keep flipping back and forth.  A user's manual makeover would be very helpful and not too difficult if I scan the original and just rework to align text and diagrams.

Mr. Seeing Stars is planning to help me with the cabinet again.  He cut a piece of wood which supports the weight of the machine at its front edge and I added hinges to hold it in place.  But that's not a good design, so we'll remove the hinges, fill in the holes and repaint, then go to Plan B.  I'll share more when we get that part finished.

Officially, this machine belongs to our younger teen.  However, since she'd rather disassemble the gears to build a robot, I'll keep possession of it until the time when it might be used for sewing.  I might even take it to a retreat at the end of the month.  Imagine my delight when I realized the ruler extension table for my Tin Lizzie fits beautifully on this machine when not in the cabinet.

More sewing buddies.  This trio comes by daily.  They don't run away when we're outside now talking and cooking on the grill, but their 4 friends are quite scared of us.

Tomorrow (or soon), I'll share another vintage find. These are my excuse for not having finished projects to share with you for the past month or so.

Enjoy your day!
- SeeingStars

Friday, September 13, 2013

Block Swap Reveal

Last night during our guild meeting, we all shared our quilts made with identical blocks in each quilt.  We had two color choices - a traditional red, or a neutral batik.  I chose the batik, so I made enough of my block pattern for each quilter in the batik group to receive one.

POND-ering  (I know, it's a corny name.)
We swapped blocks in May and each quilter came up with their own ideas for making them into a quilt.  The batik group had 21 participants, which is an odd number of blocks to use.  I made 2 more to make it an even 23.  Ok.  That's still a strange number of blocks, but it worked for this layout.

Lots of thread color changes in this top
The top left of each block was quilted with a neutral colored thread while the bottom right half used a thread color that matched the lower right frame.  It took a lot of work to change the colors.  However, the end result is so subtle, it goes unnoticed.  Maybe there's a lesson hidden in this experience.

The blocks are quilted with Heavy Metal designs which  Kim Stotsenberg at Sew-n-Sew Quilting created using wrought iron as an inspiration.  These were fun designs to quilt and the blocks dictated the design, so these didn't need to be marked ahead of time.  

Here's the back, which is also quite subtle (i.e. boring) with the thread color changes.

A closer look shows a little detail.

In retrospect, a very light solid would have been a better choice for this backing ... or less custom quilting.

I'll enjoy this quilt since I can see it up close.  It's a special one to me because of each quilt guild friend who made a block for it.  It will be a fond memory of this year I've spent as guild president.  The attendance and lively chatter last night was a good indicator of how excited we all were to see one another's quilts.

I'm hoping to whip the house into shape today just in time for my mom's arrival this evening.  She'll go to a high school football game with us to watch the marching band and then she's off to Virginia tomorrow morning to be with her sister.  My aunt's cancer returned and she's now under hospice care.  I posted about her in March/April of 2011 when she began chemo and I sent a string quilt to her.  She's had a difficult journey, but has faced it with faith in Christ, an expectation of heaven, humor and appreciation for all her blessings, especially her family.  What an amazing example to us all.

Enjoy your day!
- SeeingStars

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

In the Garden Mug Rugs

I joined an online group for a mug rug swap and made this one for my swap partner.  Our theme was In The Garden, so flowers and bugs came to mind.  One of my teens helped me make the dragonfly and ladybug.  It was too big to gracefully fit in a mailing envelope, so I've learned a lesson here - keep the size manageable.

After I mailed mine, I received this one :
Isn't he adorable?  As I took the photo, the camera responded with "Blink Detected" text on it's screen.  What?  I don't think so!  LOL!  Anyway, we've be privileged to see an owl in our yard near the garden at night.  He was helping to keep the field mouse population in check.

My swap partner patiently waited the arrival of her mug rug, but I finally gave up and made a new one for her.

This time, I made it to fit in the envelope.  Also, I had to make the bugs all by myself.  This time, I played with a whimsical flower and anchored all of them with grass.

One day after I mailed it, the first one came back to me.  I don't mind at all, since I like this cheerful theme.  Both the owl and my garden are hanging in my studio.  My challenge will be to find a better way to display them as my collection grows.

I'll soon have a real bloom to share with you.  As it came from a cutting of my sister's plant, it is lovingly referred to as "Tammy's Psycho Plant."  My first cutting managed to die, in keeping with my plant murderer reputation.  However, Donna has shamed me into actually watering my plants and even occasionally mixing up some plant food.  Golly!  This seems to actually work.  There's a little new growth on my Christmas cactus and my night blooming cereus is outgrowing it's pot.  I like it much better when the plants live outdoors. 

My guild block swap quilt is almost finished, which is good news as the reveal is tomorrow night.  Just a few more hand stitches to close up the binding.   I'm looking forward to seeing all the quilts made from identical blocks.  If technology smiles upon me, I might be able to share them here soon.

Enjoy your day!
- SeeingStars

Friday, August 30, 2013

On the Frame and Upside Down

Here's a glimpse of my batik block swap quilt.  I'm having fun quilting it using Kim Stotsenberg's Heavy Metal style.  Her blog is Sew N Sew Quilting and she has a few books for sale.  I'd love to take a class from her someday.

This is taken from under the frame looking upward.  I can't show the top until our next guild meeting when we have our Great Reveal.  But ... you can see some of the quilting and notice several thread colors in this row.  Can't wait to share a better view!

Mr. SeeingStars is on a plane heading home and we plan to go to the high school football game tonight to cheer on the band (and the team, of course).  It will be fun to enjoy another marching season here.  There's such a comforting feeling when everyone in the family is back home where we all belong.  How strange it will be when the teens leave for college.

I'm enjoying a day off from work and getting some chores done, as well as some quilting.  Hope you find lots to be thankful for today.

Enjoy your day!
- SeeingStars

Thursday, August 22, 2013

On and Off the Frame

This is a double slice layer cake quilt which I made this summer during rainy afternoons at the beach.  It's an instant gratification type of pattern and perfect for travel when you don't have access to your whole sewing studio with all those tools.

You can find the pattern as a video tutorial at Missouri Star Double Slice Layer Cake Tutorial

I haven't used a pantograph since the first month that I had my machine, so I decided to try this method again.  Admittedly, it would have been much wiser to choose a beginner type design, but I'm a bit of a rebel.  ... And this one won't ever be in a quilt show. 

I really like the paisley designs in this one.  It's by Urban Elementz and is called New Delhi.  It adds a nice texture to this quilt top.

Here's a view with the paper showing.  I had to re-learn how to adjust the laser light to fit the 10 inch row and to make it more of a pinpoint (painter's tape and a small hole made with a seam ripper to mask the edges of the spot).  I also had to re-learn how to set up the alignment for those nesting rows.  It was fun and a good way to quilt something this busy.  I would use this design again to get some of those UFOs completed.  It will give me a chance to improve.

Next, I'll be back to a simple custom quilting for my guild's Block Swap quilt.  The back is loaded and I need to either purchase a King sized batting or piece something together so I can start this next one.  Photos will be posted here after our guild meeting in September.

Enjoy your day!
- SeeingStars

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

For Mrs. Claus ...

Here's a little doll quilt I made from leftover pieces from a guild block swap top.  I can't show that top yet, but the doll quilt is on its way to Mrs. Claus and I can share it.

The doll quilts will be paired with a handmade cradle and given to children during the holidays.  What a fun project!

I was almost finished binding my Quilts of Valor quilt when my dad called to tell us that our Christmas visit was just too far away.  He and his wife popped in that weekend and I was thrilled to present his quilt to him earlier than planned.  Dad served as an aggressor pilot in the Air Force for 20 years.  I'm very proud of his service and his knack for excelling in whatever he decides to pursue.  His passion and drive lead him to give his all for as long as it takes.

Today is our 19th wedding anniversary.  Since Mr. SeeingStars is on work travel, we had to send text messages wishing each other a happy day.  But he'll be back soon and we'll have a belated celebration.  Our teens are going on a physics field trip this Saturday, so we'll even have a little time for just us. The weather forecast predicts a nice day for a hike.

Enjoy your day!
- SeeingStars

Friday, August 2, 2013

For the Birds ....

This donation quilt is for the birds.  Really, that's the name our guild has decided for it.
Photo #1 with leaves in front of the quilt
Isn't it just gorgeous?  Many quilters from our guild have worked on various stages of it.    It's a traditional log cabin pattern with hand applique and ruching (gathered vine, pronounced Rooshing).  The custom quilting really looks lovely.

Photo 2 No leaves in the foreground

The pattern is from the AccuQuilt Go website and is called Flying Home.  We increased the size to 90 by 90 inches because we thought bigger is better.

So which photo looks better, 1 or 2? Or should we start all over again with the camera?  We're planning to print a few photo postcards to help with ticket sales.

Here it is posing with an amazing log cabin which was disassembled and moved piece by piece to this location
It was a gorgeous day to play in the sunshine and show off the quilt.  Some gracious, new-to-me friends allowed us to use their yard.

This has been such a fun project for me.  I've learned how to applique and how to make ruching.  One of our guild members quilted it.  Now I'd like to make another just like this one for our family.  I'll add it to our ever growing to-do list!

I love the chickens in front of the porch.  Not the same kind of birds, but they're adorable.
 Enjoy your day!
- SeeingStars

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Block Swap Sneak Peek

Our guild is looking forward to our Big Reveal of quilts made from our Block Swap.  It's not until September, so I can only share a glimpse.

Doll Quilt top

This little doll quilt top was made from the scraps of my Block Swap top.  Once it's quilted, it will be tucked inside a new doll cradle and given to a child for Christmas.

I have a lot of work ahead before our Reveal just to finish joining the rows before my quilt top will be ready for quilting.  It's due in early September, so I think there's still plenty of time. 

Next on my to do list is to design a quilt for my mom.  This is a challenge because I really want her to like it, but I'm not quite sure what that will entail.  I think she is drawn to art quilts, but would rather use it on a bed since she doesn't have much wall space.  Art quilts won't hold up to the wear and tear of being used.  Hmmmm.  I'll keep dreaming up ideas.

Enjoy your day!
- SeeingStars

Friday, July 26, 2013

Off the frame - a Quilt of Valor

I'm doing the happy dance again.  So glad to have this one quilted and ready for binding.

Since some friends are on their way over this morning, I'm posting mostly photos rather than my usual long-winded words. 

Enjoy your day!
- SeeingStars

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Summer Travels

We've been on the road ... a lot.  So I haven't posted since it's probably not wise to tell the world wide web that the house is unattended.  We've left many footprints in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina.  Our teens are going whitewater rafting on Friday, which is one more trip to Tennessee.  Whew!

For the NC beach trips, I brought along a sewing machine.  We like to avoid the most intense sun rays during prime tanning hours.  Also, it's really nice to have a backup plan on rainy days.  With a set of 12 flannel fat quarters plus a piece of tan solid flannel, I made three baby quilt tops.  The first two used Missouri Star Quilt Company's tutorial for Serendipity quilts.

Both of these are small, so I plan to add a border to them before quilting.

I've not sewn with flannel before, but it was good quality and didn't stretch or misbehave at all.  I like the soft texture and the piecing wasn't any different than using quilting fabrics, except for perhaps a few more pins than I'd normally use.

The green triangles went fast and I didn't have a source for more, so I used the other blocks to form one more top sans green.  It's larger and I'll quilt it without borders.

Our camera batteries need replacements, so these photos are from my phone.  I guess there's enough dirt on the lens to act as a softening filter. 

Now that we're home, I'm looking forward to a few finishes.  First and of the highest priority is to finish the quilting for the Quilts of Valor quilt.  It's much closer to being complete, but still needs more attention.  Two more eagles, a few more feathers and the outer border on one side.  Plus those little touch up places that I find as I turn the quilt.

Time to go to work now, so  ....

Enjoy your day,
- SeeingStars

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Three More To Go

Here's the first eagle.

It was marked with the blue water soluble pen.  I'll soak the quilt in ice water when it's finished to be sure all those marks have a chance to go away.

Row 3 - Left side

Row 3 - Right side
I'll turn the quilt so each eagle is quilted right side up.  I think that will be easier than attempting to work upside down.

The next two rows will be the very center of the quilt.  Woo hoo!  Can't wait to reach the half-way mark.

Enjoy your Father's Day!  Our breakfast casserole will go in the oven in about a half hour.  It's a nice way to make Mr. SeeingStars feel honored.  We have a small goodie bag for him too.  (I think he'll like his repaired flip flops the best.)

- SeeingStars