Monthly Archives: June 2009

Sewing Machine Meme

Sew Mama Sew is doing a series on sewing machines and started a meme.   Here’s mine….

What brand and model do you have?  Viking Husqvarna Emerald 183

How long have you had it?  2 months

How much does that machine cost (approximately)?  about $600

What types of things do you sew (i.e. quilting, clothing, handbags, home dec projects, etc.)?  I bought it to primarily sew clothing, but have made one quilt as well.

How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get?  I don’t sew as much as I’d like, I hope to get up to about 3-5 hours a week (but first have to get over my pattern intimidation feelings).  This is my primary machine (I also have a serger), but since I’m a beginner it’s not getting as much use as I’d like.

Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name?  I like my machine.  I haven’t used it enough to know if I love it yet.  I have not used all of it’s functions yet and have not made a complicated project yet, so it’s hard to know.  At first I was ambivalent, because I had not researched Vikings at all when I was shopping for a new machine, but so far it’s done great.  I love knowing that I don’t have to futz around every time I sit down to use it (like I had to each and every time I used my old Singer).  So my frustration level has been cut down to zero.  So far.  My machine does not have a name.  Maybe she will sometime down the road, but not now. 

What features does your machine have that work well for you?  I love the fluidity of the motion.  The stitches are even and the fabric just glides through.  So far I haven’t had any problems with feeding through thick or difficult fabrics, but I also bought a walking foot to avoid that.  I love the automatic threading feature.  Oh and let’s not forget that it comes with tons of feet.  Love that!

Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine?  Not really, but I haven’t really put it through it’s paces yet.  The only thing that I might mention is that it is not as quiet as I thought it would be and there is a high pitched whine when you wind the bobbin.  But that is a small complaint.

Do you have a great story to share about your machine (i.e., Found it under the Christmas tree? Dropped it on the kitchen floor? Sewed your fingernail to your zipper?, Got it from your Great Grandma?, etc.!)? We want to hear it!  No great stories yet, but I hope to have some to share in the future!

Would you recommend the machine to others? Why?  I would recommend it, but with the caveat that I haven’t used it a whole lot yet, so not sure if it’s a workhorse or not.

What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine?  I think it’s important to consider what things you will primarily make with the machine and then research which machines are great for that purpose.  I wanted great service, a workhorse, automatic up/down needle,  great fluidity, and a needle threader function.  And that’s what I got.  🙂 

Do you have a dream machine?  No, I don’t know enough yet to have a dream machine.

It’s official!

Ryan loves the quilt, I mean woobie!!!

How sweet is this picture???  His mommy sent it to me right away when they received the woobie.  He fell asleep immediately on it.  It must be fate!

I waited to post the picture until I had permission, but boy, is this a money shot or what?

Ryan + woobie = sleepy time love!

Ryan + woobie = sleepy time love!

Poll Results

At the end of May I talked about how much I dislike doing “all the little niggling details that will finish off a garment so that it can be worn comfortably and that makes it look nicer on the inside.”  I added a poll to see how other people felt about finishing off a garment. 

Here are the results:

I love french seams and hong kong finishes and line everything I sew!


I’m somewhere in the middle, not a perfectionist but not lacksadaisical either.  


I use pinking shears to finish my seams and am lucky if I remember to backstitch. 


 I voted “somewhere in the middle” because I really do want the finished look; I just hate doing it.  So I think most of the time I will actually do it since I do care.  However, I was surprised to see that a majority of the people who responded voted similarly.  I thought the outcome would have been a majority for the “I love French seams” option.  I find it oddly comforting that other sewists feel the same way as I do.  Now I won’t pressure myself or feel guilty if I am not perfect in my journey to learn how to sew. 

FYI:  I wore my 3 hour 20 minute skirt today to work, styled with a shrug and turquoise earrings and necklace.  I loved it.  It was extremely comfortable.  I felt great knowing I was wearing something I made and the entire outfit including shoes (but not including jewelry) cost $40.  How cool is that?!?!  My only note to self was the elastic is a little loose as I thought.  I can’t decide whether it bothers me enough to fix it or not though.  Hmmmm….

Tonight I hope to trace off Simplicity 2698.  It calls for interfacing the yoke, something I’ve never done before.  If I have enough energy, I might cut the navy cotton too, but that may be doubtful.  We’ll see.

Happy sewing!

Ruminations on the process of learning to sew

A humble beginner’s perspective

My three hour 20 minute skirt started me thinking about the process for learning to sew.  I noticed that Lindsay T is mentoring some teenagers, teaching them to sew.  This is amazing!  I think you learn best from a live teacher, well at least I do.  Seeing how something is done, being able to ask questions when you get stuck or don’t understand something cannot be substituted by a text book or a sewing pattern, no matter how good the directions are.   I also know that a great way is to learn from your own mistakes, but what if you’re making mistakes, but don’t know why they’re mistakes?  What then? 

Recently, I have been toying with the idea of looking up the sewist/teacher I found on Craig’s list 4 or 5 yrs ago when I wanted to make the stupid slipcover and see if she’d be willing to come over (she makes house calls!) and just be there while I make something more complicated than my recent skirt from start to finish.  She could give me tips, tell me what I’m doing wrong, point me in the right direction.  I could ask questions as I go. 

Advantages:  I wouldn’t make/have mistakes, I’d have a teacher one on one, mano a mano, and I’d end up with a garment I would definitely wear.  It would be cheaper than a class (no babysitting needed!).  I could make whatever I wanted, not be restricted to a class syllabus. 

Disadvantages:  I’d have to pay for that teaching (technically not a disadvantage, but free would be better, no?).  But, other than that I can’t think of any disadvantages. 

Do you think I’m crazy to do this?  Do you think this idea is nuts?  Is it like cheating death?  Do you think I should get over making mistakes and having potential wadders in the beginning?  In my defense, I am so obsessed excited about sewing, that I really want to be able to wear everything I make right away.  Wouldn’t you???

And further to the point that visual learning is essential to learning how to sew, I’ve even suggested on PatternReview that they do video classes.  What do you think?  I think that’s the next technology jump for learning how to sew.  I know there are some video tutorials out there, but they are few and far between and not all in one place or are hard to find.  I’ve taken a couple of the on line classes on PatternReview already, but they don’t have the video component which I think is so necessary for visual learners like me.  Deepika are you reading this?  😉  I’m not at all complaining about the classes.  I thought they were great and I learned a lot, but I thought they’d be soooooo much better with some video demos included. 

Hmmmm….  Lots to think about here. 

Happy sewing!

My 3 hour “20 minute” skirt

30 minute skirt 1

After the quilt, I needed a quick palate cleanser.  I saw a tutorial on Grosgrain for a 20 minute skirt.  I read through the directions and they seemed simple enough.  Then I went through my stash for a suitable fabric and selected this cotton beauty recently purchased from Kashi at Metro Textile.  I had 2.5 yds of this cotton print and had originally intended it to be a summer blouse, but decided to scrap that plan in favor of the skirt.  I pre-washed it along with the other cottons I recently bought and then I was ready to go.

The tutorial attracted me for several reasons:

  1. It was quick (supposedly)
  2. It only used 1 yd of fabric (I could have used a lot less – read on for dets)
  3. It was easy (it was!!!)

So why did it take 3 hours and why did I waste so much fabric?  Well brave reader, please continue reading…

Here’s my theory…  I’m a beginner.  I have no accumulated knowledge yet; I’m a tabula rasa.  When I am directed to sew a seam and finish the edges, immediately I come up with a torrent of questions:  Which do I do first and how?  Should I start at the bottom and end at the top?  Should I always backstitch?  If I use the serger to finish my SAs and sew the actual seam, how do the ends not fray?  What do you do with the serger tails?  Now multiply that by each direction and you can see how I might be flummoxed at every turn.  Let’s also factor in that I was trying to watch True Blood at the same time and was extremely tired by the early morning wakeup calls from Jack the last week straight (I’m talking 4:30 or 5am here folks!!!).  So following simple directions was a little challenging at times.  This is in NO way a criticism of the tutorial.  It was great!  Well written and with great pictures.  It’s just that I am a beginner who tends to second guess myself every step of the way.  I really need to keep taking classes and while they are readily available in NYC and not cost prohibitive themselves, I just can’t justify the cost of babysitting to take them as it triples the cost of the class.  But more on my thoughts about learning to sew in another post in the works…

Back to the skirt.  My fabric was 60″ wide, the fabric the tutorial used was 45″.  But I think that only affects the final length of the skirt not the width.  Grosgrain suggests using 3/4 yd to 1 yd.   Uh oh… I just redid my math…  I used an 18 inch ruler assuming it was 12 inches.  ARGHHHH! @#$(@#&*(@#$)  No wonder it was so ginormous.  DUH!

Let me back up.  After 9pm + True Blood + exhausted = can’t do simple math = DON”T MEASURE ANYTHING, DON”T SEW!!!!!  I might have to put some visual reminders up to remind me not to sew when it’s late or when I’m tired. 

Ok moving on…  The actual sewing of the skirt is very simple.  Two side seams, a channel for the elastic and a hem if you don’t have a cute selvedge.  Very simple.  I changed one thing.  I added edge stitching to the top of the channel for the waist.  I recently read on someone’s blog (sorry can’t remember who, there are so many that I read now) that an additional line of stitching at the top of the channel prevents the elastic from twisting inside.  I’ll let you know how that goes after I wear it for a whole day.  😉  I finished off my SAs on the serger, and therein is one of the time sucks for this project.  I had to rethread it, do some test runs, etc.  My attention wandered to True Blood again and again, etc.  I thought I would finish this on Sunday night, but then as I was serging the SA for the hem in preparation for hemming, my serger needle broke.  That’s when I took a big hint to quit for the night and take it up again the next day.  Wise, right?  Just a little too late to the realization is all.  Throughout, I kept trying on the skirt at each stage to see how it looked.  When it was 18 inches too wide, it looked hideous and I looked fat.  After I trimmed 16 inches of the width, it looked great.  In retrospect, I probably could have taken out maybe 2 or 4 more inches, but I like it as it is and I’m not going to rip out serged seams, thank you very much.  Also, I think I measured my elastic too large.  I will be more careful with this in the future too.  Right now, it’s pretty loose and a good tug from a certain toddler I know might bring about an embarrassing situation.   So I resolve to only wear good underwear underneath this skirt!  🙂

Ok, I didn’t mean to make this another long post,  but I did want to explain a beginner’s thought process and mistakes for any of the other aspiring sewists out there.  Here are some additional pics of the innards!

Skirt laying flat

Skirt laying flat

Elasticized waist and serged side seam

Elasticized waist and serged side seam

Hem with serged seam allowance
Hem with serged seam allowance

Next project on the docket?   A navy skirt with box pleats. It’s Simplicity, but I can’t remember the pattern number.  It has a new skill for me: interfaced waist band.  Can’t wait!

Happy sewing!

Sew much to write, sew little time…

Ahhhh, staycations.  They’re not all they’re cracked up to be.  I gotta tell you, my hat is off to anyone who can be a full time SAHM.  I don’t think I could do it.  I knew being a single parent would be hard, but being an old single parent is harder.  I just don’t have the energy for a toddler.  Wow!  Of course it would help if I went to bed at a decent hour.  Jack is going 240 from the time he wakes up to the time he goes to bed.  I know this is a cliche, but I wish I could have that energy bottled for myself.  Sheesh!  I was looking forward to going back to work today just to rest up.  😉

Anyway, I have so much to tell you and so many posts planned.  But first the exciting stuff (not that all of it isn’t exciting), I met up with Trena and Cidell (pic of all three of us on Trena’s blog) while they were in NYC last last Friday and met up with Karen last Wednesday.  It was so much fun to meet these women, whose blogs I have been reading for over a year now.  It was so cool to talk shop with them and ask them questions, get their opinions on fabric choices.  I have to admit that while shopping with them all, I went overboard with my purchases from the sheer excitement.  And then, Carolyn wrote about the Vera Wang fabric sale at and my stash has just doubled in the last two weeks.  Crazy!!! 

With Trena and Cidell, we met up for lunch first at an ok chinese place, Ginger, in the garment district.  Then we headed over to Kashi’s at Metro Textile.  I was pretty restrained there that day, but promised him I would come back the next Wednesday with Karen.  Funnily, I saw the sweater knit that I bought from Ann of Gorgeous Fabrics there.  And even more funny and unbeknownst to me at the time, I bought the same navy stretch cotton from Kashi that I bought from Ann.  Originally, I had bought yardage from Ann to make capris and shorts from my new sloper pattern (thanks to my moulage class with Kenneth King), and while I was shopping with T & C, I got the urge to make a navy skirt.  I didn’t realize they were one and the same fabrics until I went home and saw them together.  Very funny!  From Kashi’s we went to Spandex House; I’ve never shopped there previously.  I wasn’t in the market for their stuff right now, but at least now I know where they are and what they have.  Unfortunately, I had to bid T & C adieu after Spandex House.  I had a lot of errands to do on my day off before vacation.   

On Wednesday, I met Karen at Kashi’s and continued to buy more fabric.  Shocker!  I went a little crazy.  He had more new stuff than the previous Friday.  I promise I will show pics of my hauls altogether as soon as I receive the package.  From Metro Textiles we went to Pacific Trims and I was in ribbon and button heaven.  I had forgotten how much I loved my grandma’s button collection when I was little (where did that collection end up???).  I wanted to take them all home with me.  But instead, I had to settle for the cutest little round buttons made of coconut shell of all things.  I think I’ll use them on my navy capri pants.  Then Karen took me to a store where she had found batiste at a great pricepoint, H&M Fabrics; I bought 5 yds.  But, as Karen said, the best part of the day was seeing the Isabel Toledo exhibit at the FIT museum.  We weren’t allowed to take any pictures, but oh my was it delicious.  I wasn’t really aware of Ms. Toledo before the Obama Inauguration outfit, but all of her work is amazing.  I wouldn’t personally wear all of it, but they were one and all a marvel of sewing techniques and so well made.  Just stunning.  She even called herself a seamstress.  If any of you come to NYC in the next little while, I would definitely put this exhibit on your list of things to do.  It was just mind-blowing.  

While shopping, Trena mentioned she was looking for avocado colored silk jersey.  Well I saw some at a great price when I was H&M Fabrics with Karen.  I emailed Trena later that day asking her if she wanted me to pick some up for her when I was in the hood again.  She wrote back right away saying yes!  So, on Friday Jack and I power subwayed up to the garment district and back in under an hour!!!  I am mailing her fabric off today.

Since my fabric extravaganzas of late, I have been itching to sew clothes.  But first, I had to finish the quilt for Ryan.  And with my Mom’s help (she was in town last week), I did just that!  I am mailing it today too.  I am so excited to have completed this project.  It was way out of my comfort zone, but I learned a lot of new skills:

  • Used a walking foot (that foot is über-cool!)
  • Sampled and used decorative stitches on my new Emerald 183 (love the cute stars stitch!)
  • How to do sashiko embroidery (love it:  very relaxing + quick to do = very satisfying)
  • That I should use a longer stitch  and special quilting thread when machine quilting (who knew?)
  • How to bind a quilt (thank God I didn’t sew it by hand — I would be still stitching that thing while Ryan was in college)
  • how labor intensive and detail oriented quilt making is (and I didn’t even piece the top?!?!?!!!!)
  • I’m sure there’s more that I learned, but I can’t think of anything more right now

Will I do another quilt in the future?  I don’t know.  I won’t rule it out, but I definitely did not get the quilting bug from this project.  It’s a long process and I think I like getting results a lot quicker than that.  However, that being said, I did love doing the sashiko hand embroidery and I loved knowing that a special little baby boy would be lovingly placed in and on this quilt and that it would be used.  I hope they like it.

Wanna see the finished quilt?  Here are several views:

Finished Quilt full view

Binding with Emerald 183 star stitch

Binding with Emerald 183 star stitch

Do you see the baby's initials and birthdate on the rockets?

Do you see the baby's initials and birthdate on the rockets?

Quilt Backing

Quilt Backing

Closeup of shooting star

Closeup of shooting star


I know I still owe you the wrap up on the Kenneth King class.  I’m going to work on it tomorrow.  Tonight I want to finish my first project apres quilt, the 20 minute skirt (which is now on the 3rd hour of work).

Happy sewing!

On Staycation…

My little boy’s second birthday was last Friday and my parents are in town to celebrate.  I am making root beer cake (recipe from Joy the Baker) and we’re ordering bbq for lunch.  I can’t believe it’s been two years already.  He’s growing up so fast. 

Jack 1 week old

Jack 1 week old

Jack almost 2 yrs old (saying "cheese!")

Jack almost 2 yrs old (saying "cheese!")


I have been taking vacation around his birthday the last two years; I think it will become a tradition.  With my parents in town this week, I won’t have any time for blogging I expect.

So I will be seeing you in all the usual places next week. 

Happy sewing!

Quick quilt update

Now try to say that three times fast!  I am struggling with the last Kenneth King class write up, so please be patient with me while I try to figure out how to adequately explain what I learned.  In lieu of said post, I thought I’d show you the progress I’ve made with little Ryan’s quilt.

I’ve finished machine quilting, and a little over half of the hand quilting.  I sewed a diamond pattern with my sewing machine creating four full diamonds and 8 half diamonds around the four full ones.  I hand quilted two ringed planets and two rockets in the full diamonds so far.  Two nights ago, I designed a reasonable facsimile of a shooting star graphic for the outer edges of the quilt.  The shooting part of the star will cover two of the half diamonds in an arcing shape, crossing over one of the machine quilting lines separating the two half diamonds.  I asked my mom if it was never “done” (i.e., not allowed or against the rules) to hand quilt across the machine quilting and she said she had never heard that you couldn’t or shouldn’t.  So I just went with that idea and really like how it turned out.  I have no drawing skills whatsoever, but I think I was successful with creating a feeling of movement and I like how the star isn’t perfect.


shooting star

shooting star detail

I have three more shooting stars left to hand quilt on the other outer three quadrants and then it’s on to the binding.  I decided to go with the stars embroidery stitch that came with my Emerald 183 for the binding and Mom approved the choice.

I do have one question for you all and I’ll ask my Mom too:  I used one long thread to embroider the “shooting” part.  So that means there are long stitches on the back of the quilt.  I am concerned that a baby will get fingers or toes caught in these long stitches.  How should I handle this potential problem?  Should I tack down those long stitches with small ones that aren’t evident on the front of the quilt?  Any advice would be very welcome.

Happy sewing!

My creative space

Here I am, airing my dirty laundry for all to see giving you a tour of my creative space.  Since I live in a small NYC 1-bedroom apt, I ask that you stand in one spot and only turn to see the different parts of my creative space.  Be careful not to bump into any of the furniture or step on any of Jack’s toys please.  Ok, you ready?  Wait, I’m not sure you are; maybe I should prepare you for my disorganized chaos.  I wish my mom saw fit to pass on even a little of her organizational skills to me, but alas, none were.  Let’s just say that I could use a little help when it comes to getting organized and staying that way.  My friend Lisa keeps trying to help, but I think she’s losing the battle.  Chores are not my strong point.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not dirty or gross, just disorganized.  I think you’re well prepared now.  Deep breath.  Here goes…

Creative Space 1

In this first picture is my first attempt at organization, the metro shelving unit.  I have grand ideas of sewing a curtain for it using the fabric I originally bought for a couch slipcover project that never came to pass (fabric on the top shelf).  Also on the top shelf you can see my cutting mat, some felt, a roll of tracing paper, rulers and some yarn.  The second shelf from the top is some of my fabric stash and batting.  Note how nicely folded and stored my fabric is.  😉  Some of it is pre-treated, some not.  The third shelf down houses all of my knitting patterns, burda magazines, various sewing/knitting printouts, tutorials, etc.  There are also knitting and sewing reference books.  The big paper bag holds two knitting UFO’s (a big sweater for me and a pair of socks for me).  The smaller paper bag holds my embroidery supplies.  See!  There is some organization here!  The fourth shelf from the top holds my sewing patterns (behind the brown dotted fabric) and my cook books (no place in the kitchen for them unfortunately).  The lowest shelf holds the empty sewing machine boxes and box of wine.

Creative Space 2

This picture shows the Viking Husqvarna box, my son’s tricycle, some more fabric stash, my bolt of muslin and my now defunct Singer machine.  I can’t bring myself to put it away yet.  Not out of sentimentality, but rather because trying to get to it’s box would mean doing some organization — a no win situation.  😉

Creative Space 3

This third picture shows the left side of my dining room table sewing table.  Here you see the covered newly acquired Husqvarna, and behind that machine is my Brother Serger 1034D (covered by the pattern pieces of the infamous pregnant clown top).  The paper bag to the right of the serger is filled with sewing supplies and tools.  And that puddle of yarn is my in progress Whisper cardigan.  I am at a stage where I have to work on it at home so that I can work on it on the subway (picking up stitches).  Needless to say, until I finish the quilt, it will remain at this stage for some time.

Creative Space 4

Here is the right side of the “sewing table.”  Obviously just a shining example of my concerted organization.  And most of it has nothing whatsoever to do with sewing, knitting or creativity of any kind.

I should have added a picture of the couch as I do all my hand sewing there.  And maybe a shot of the tv would have been in order too, as I am watching the entire 5 year series of La Femme Nikita while I hand quilt.

I bet you’re wondering how I sew in this mess.   Well, the answer is, very carefully!  It actually works for me.  I have never been the neatest person.  My bedroom was notorious when I was growing up.  But my brother-in-law Todd defended me once saying, “I bet if you asked Elizabeth where anything was, she’d be able to hand it to you in 10 seconds.”  And that remains true to this day.  Well almost.

I will post tomorrow, hopefully, about the last Kenneth King class.  Stay tuned!

Happy sewing!


I know I owe you all the last class with Kenneth King debrief, but the end of last week was insanely busy and weekends with Jack just don’t allow for blogging really.  But I thought I’d check in and show you some pics of my niece Katie wearing her top.  It was a great success!  It fits her well and her mommy’s friends all complimented her on it; she wore it to a birthday party last week.

Here’s Katie modeling the top I made for her…





In my opinion, my niece makes the top!  Check out the invisible zipper insertion.  Not bad, huh?  But let’s ignore the lack of pattern matching.  I’m just not there yet in my skill set.  The actual sewing level, IMHO, is pretty good.  I’m quite pleased.  Now if I could only sew myself something decent now. 

Uh oh, Jack’s waking from his nap.  Gotta go. 

Happy sewing!