Thursday, July 30, 2009

First Steps into Research

This is the first machine I've looked at in my sewing machine research. It's a Bernina 440QE. Marketed to quilters, it comes with a walking foot, BSR, patchwork foot, daring foot and embroidery foot (the last 2 look similar to me) in addition to 4 other feet. Price point is $3000.
Ok....I wasn't ready to sew with it, so I didn't. I'm too early in my research and frankly I was a bit overwhelmed. So I'm taking it slow - no impulse purchases allowed! I really liked the dealer and feel they would support me. I really liked that they didn't utilize any high pressure sales techniques. I can take the mastery classes as many times as I want. Who wants to bet I'd need to repeat at least one?

This machine can have the embroidery package added to it. In doing my online research, I'm not sure I'd do enough embroidery to justify the costs. I'm shelving the idea of embroidery for now. I can revisit this later if I need to.

I like how easy and quick the feet are to change. That's actually a big deal for me. I have big hands and getting both of them in a small space to change a foot with a screw is tough. And slow.

Questions Outstanding:
1: How big of a quilt could I actually quilt with this machine?
2: Is the BSR over rated? I've done some free motion quilting and I've read some reviews that the BSR is a bit slow. Do I really need the BSR?
3: I've gotten some feedback that this machine unthreads easily. Does anyone have any experience with that?
4: Is this a machine that I could take to classes? I'd want to be sure it would travel well in the proper travel case.

I'd love to hear from anyone who has anything to share about purchasing a new sewing machine!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

What Do I Need? What Do I Want?

Normally those are simple questions? Right now I'm not so sure I could answer either of them. This weekend I started my research for a future sewing machine purchase. My head is now whirling. I'm going to keep on with my research and hopefully some of these answers will become more clear. I'm also going to QuiltFest in September and will be testing everything I can get my hands on. I've spent time this weekend on Pattern Review and Sew Mama Sew. Loads of information there which contributes to the head whirl too!

What type of sewing will I be doing? I think I can answer this one at least partially.

Quilting and hopefully some garment sewing. I'd like to make knit tops for me and some cute dresses for my nieces. I'm trying to determine whether or not I'm interested in embroidery and if so, just how much I think I'd use this feature. I saw some cute dish towels that were embroidered and I think I could use this feature for the girls. Is this going to be enough to justify the expense? I'm not sure of that. I might also do some home dec.

What features do I like and must have? I'll give this one somewhat of a stab.

Needle up/Needle down - must have
Knee Lift - must have
I'd like to know if my bobbin was getting low but not a deal breaker.
Feet that easily change. My Pfaff has the screw in feet. I'd like something easier.
I want a machine that will accommodate me as I grow as a sewer/quilter.
Stretch stitches if I'm going to be sewing knits.

Questions for my blogging friends (I need all the help I can get; I'll even send my email address):
1. Has anyone bought a demo machine? Good experience? Bad?
2. Stitch - 5mm or 9mm? What would I use 9mm for?
3. Will embroidery software work well with Windows Vista? I saw something online that suggested otherwise.
4. Will I need/use a variable stitch width? What for?
5. Do you have an embroidery machine? How often do you use it? Do you feel you use it enough compared to the cost (including software upgrades, materials, etc)
6. What feature were you surprised about and now cannot live without?

I'll be posting more about my experiences as time goes on. Thank you all for any and all suggestions or personal experiences (whether they be positive or negative).

Today I bought some of this. Guess what for?
Not applique....but look, it was an advertised use on the box which I thought was awesome!
It even had applique directions on the back of the box. So unexpected!
But I digress....As I've mentioned before, this is my third quilt and quite a challenge for me. When I went to square up the blocks, some of them were a bit short in places. which would not give me a smooth edge. Wonky in, wonky out. I don't want wonky so these blocks have been sitting. This morning while cruising through the Quilters Knitting Forum on Ravelry, the author of the Knotty Knits blog mentioned that she learned a great deal from following the Mod Sampler Quilt A Long from Oh, Fransson! It's a beautifully presented blog, one I visit frequently. But I didn't catch the importance of this post when I saw it. In it, she shows you how to use freezer paper and give your block a nice sharp edge for piecing it to the next block. I've now squared up all 12 blocks and I'm ready to figure out how to add the frames to these and get them moving along!
I hate ironing. In Florida. In July.
Ok...I hate it anytime!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Being Tidy Isn't in the Cards!

I honestly do not know how anyone keeps a sewing space tidy. This week, I decided to give up! The pictures below are actually not bad. I'm hoping the mess is because I don't have a dedicated sewing space. C is moving out in September and I'll probably take his room over for my own space at some point. I hope that cures most of this organization issue - of course I'll have to get organized to begin with! Oh who am I kidding? It's going to be a challenge for me to stay organized anywhere. Frankly, I think I'm a messy quilter!
I'll have a small walk in closet in that room where most of this can go. I've been thinking about room setup but don't have any concrete ideas. There are so many lovely sewing spaces imore here and here) in blogland to inspire me. I could look at them for hours! There is carpet in the room which I'm not thrilled about. With the expense of buying some furniture and stuff (which will take some time as it is) the flooring isn't up for replacement.
Today's mail had some goodies for me! I won a $100 gift card from Amazon at work. I rarely buy books for me so I decided to blow it all on books. I'm going to spend a few hours curled up in bed with these!
Third attempt at my block with Y Seams. It's not perfect but I'm happy with the progress. The Y Seams were easier after some remedial instruction and the part of the block that lined up into the square came out better. This also was big enough to be cut down to the correct size. The last one was too small. Still to work on: those blasted points coming together in the middle! I realized later that the patterning on the fabric should have been mixed up. Overall, I feel like I conquered enough of this block to be satisfied.
Now I'm going to pick a book and crawl into bed with a pup or 2!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

It's a Blob!

My progress in the crafting arena is just eeking along. Here is the progress on my Dragon Melody Shawl. It's in Blob Stage, can you tell? It's looking much smaller than the sample I saw at Charlotte Yarn in April. I'm getting gauge so I'll just trust the process.
I spent a bit today working on the pieces of the block that has been giving me so much trouble that I've posted about previously. They're getting a bit easier though very slow going. I do need to get more precise about the pencil markings. Hopefully they'll easily wash out. I must admit that I hope that the whole Y Seam thing is not a technique that quilters use frequently or that will keep me away from some fabulous quilting patterns.
I had intended to do more, then my brother called and we chatted about his meeting with the tax assessor in his area tomorrow. He purchased his home at the peak of the housing market (2006). The county actually increased his assessed value this year to the point where it's assessed for more than he paid for it. He jokingly said that if he goes before committee he's going to schedule it for when I'm there in a couple weeks (I'm employed in a related field). I made some suggestions and hopefully all will be settled before then. I just didn't get back to my sewing machine after all that.

I'm thinking about starting my research on sewing machines. I don't intend on buying another machine for a while, but I'm a research kind of girl. I want to make an informed decision. Somehow, though, the idea of sitting down at one and testing it seems a bit dangerous! Any ideas on that?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Nice Surprise

I had a surprise this week! I won a contest on the Sunset Cat blog! What did I win, you ask?
Hand Crafted Stitch Markers!
Aren't they gorgeous?
And handmade notecards featuring yummy yarn!
Perfect for that special yarny friend!

Spend some time surfing her blog. She has some great links on the left. She also has a poll on blogging. I love polls on blogs! It's an interesting blog, one you can spend quite a bit of time visiting. Thank you Stephanie! I love both the stitch markers and the cards!

I'm happy that tomorrow is Friday. I have a midnight knit-in on Saturday and hopefully Sunday will see me spending a bit of time at my sewing machine. Not much going on this week, work has been crazy. But what else is new?!

Happy Stitches!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I'm Determined

As I've posted previously (here and here) Y seams have not been my friend. I had accepted that the 2nd attempt at my Turkey Tracks block would be my last. I went to cut it to size when I realized that it was too small! Today my LQS The Olde Green Cupboard had something called "The Doctor's Are In The House" where you could go in and get some help on any project you were stuck on. So off I went! Boy did I ever benefit from the specialized help today! Part of the problem was a cutting issue on my part. It was my first time using templates. As a result, my dots that were marked on the fabric were in the wrong place. Also, Faye showed me her technique for Y Seams (which are the same ones in the book but I just couldn't get it) and it made SO much more sense! Here is the partial block I worked on. Faye did one side, I did the other. I feel so much more comfortable and as a result, a third attempt is in progress! I'm determined to master this block! It was a fun few hours. Everyone had different needs and it was fun to be in a quilting classroom again. Of course, I spent more time chatting and looking at everyone else's projects than I did working on my own things.
I decided to take BOTH quilt classes I mentioned in my prior post! I saw this sample quilt and fell in love with the fabric. (Bubblegum Basics) I bought what my LQS had and then ordered a bit more (including the backing) online. I'm going to use this for the Jack and Jill quilt - I'm doing the Jill version. It will be much scrappier and brighter than the sample. I'm going to make it a lap quilt and give it to a special little girl.
This sample quilt at my LQS inspired me to buy the fabric!

There's not much knitting progress. I'm still working on the shawl I showed you in my prior post. It's still in the boring stage and will be for some time. I'm also working on the Christmas gift I can't show you. Actually, the first one is finished and I'm working on a 2nd one for someone else. I'm purposely not casting on for something else as the Dragon Melody Shawl is a big project and I'm taking a lace shawl class at the beginning of August. That project is so big that the yarn will come on a cone!

I weighed in yesterday at WW and I only have 1.2 pounds of my vacation weight left to take off. I didn't hit the gym at all the weekend as I bailed out yesterday (now I wished I hadn't) and was plagued with stomach issues all last night and a portion of today. This is my third weekend of sticking to program 100%. During the week it has never been a problem but I had started having lunch Saturday off plan. Then Saturday night. Then it ended up being the whole weekend! It's very easy to backslide.

I hope you all had happy stitches this weekend!

Monday, July 6, 2009

What Class to Take?

Here is the beginning of the Dragon Melody Shawl I'm making with the yarn I showed you in a prior post. It doesn't look like much. It's a big project for me and I'm a slow knitter. So this one won't be finished any time soon. I'm also at the really Plain Jane part but here it is:
I've also been pondering over which classes to take at my LQS this "semester". I know I want to take at least one. This is the sample quilt for a class that one of my favorite instructors will be teaching. I'd be learning some new skills for sure. There is a variation on this pattern where flowers replace the boats. I think it would be perfect for one of my nieces!
I'm also drawn to this quilt - the pattern but not the colors shown here. The good thing about this class is that it's a one nighter...which is also a bad thing about this class if you know what I mean! As a new quilter, it might be better to take a class that gets me almost to finished flimsy stage.
I'm also taking a zipper class. It will teach me (hopefully) how to sew in 4 different kinds of zippers. I think this would be a great place for me to learn how to sew in zippers without frustration. The instructor is also a teacher who teaches sewing in a high school so I know her tolerance level must be high. She should be able to handle all my newbie sewing issues!

While my weight loss has been self stalled, I took my measurements for the first time since January and I'm pleased to see that I lost 1.5 inches in my waist and .75 inches in my hips. As I'm fond of saying, I don't care what number the scale gives me as long as my rear is getting smaller! I'm on week 2 of being back to the gym after my blister from vacation and while I don't love it, I also don't hate it. Maybe one day I'll get to the point where I do love it. I'm having a really good week food wise and hopefully the combo of exercise and good food choices get my head back in the game so to speak.

Enjoy your stitches!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Not Thrilled....

I'm not thrilled with the way this is going. I'm going to finish it. In the future I'm going to plan a bit more and be a bit more thoughtful about what I'm doing. At the time I started this, I just wanted to sew something. Nothing lines up. What was I thinking? Oh well, tomorrow is another day (thank goodness)!