Oh my gosh, my biggest pet peeve is a sewing machine filled with lint. I have seen many very expensive sewing machines being maintained with the respect of a used car. You put gas in the old clunker, so it should go when you want it to. I know someone who never changed the oil in her vehicle because no one told her to. Guess who had have the motor replaced? And my husband told me, a maintenance guy he worked with would change his car oil but not the filter. A maintenance guy, really!?!
Sewer can be the same way. They expect their sewing machines to be ready to use as soon as they sit down. They know how to wind the bobbin and how to thread it. What more is there? They use their sewing machines until they don’t work anymore, then go out and buy a new one. You all love your new sewing machines at first. They sew like a dream. Your new machine almost purrs as you sew. Then gradually the new sewing machine doesn’t purr anymore, it growls and groans. Your stitches are loopy, the thread knots up and keeps breaking. It gets louder and louder until one day it jerks to a stop.
I have a friend who loved her Bernina when it was new. Then over time it didn’t stitch the same so she bought a new Janome. Now I’m a big Bernina fan, so this didn’t make sense to me. I asked to look at her machine. The first thing I did was pop off the needle plate. She gasped! “What did you do? You broke it.” I hadn’t broke anything. There are no screws in the needle plate so she never thought it would come off. There was no surprise as to what I found under the plate in the feed dogs: lint that had been compacted into felt. After cleaning the feed dog area, I started on the bobbin area. She knew how to take the bobbin and bobbin case out so that area was not too bad. Then I unlatched the shuttle hook. She gasped again and more lint. Once all of the cleaning was finished I proceeded with my sewing machine oil. Now she was asking questions. “Is that where you are supposed to put the oil? I was never sure.” And surprise. The machine was running again with a slight purr. It still needed to go in for service and a thorough cleaning and have the timing reset, but it was sewing again quite nicely.
Now that I’m teaching more quilting and sewing classes, I’ve seen many brands and models of sewing machines. On every supply list with every class I teach, it says to clean and oil your machines before class. About half of the students look at that statement and scratch their heads. There is at least one student in each class who has that sewing machine I know hasn’t felt oil in over a year. And they all gasp when I get out the screw driver, brush and sewingmachineoil.
So here are my top tips for maintaining your sewing machines:
Read your sewing machine manual for how to clean and oil your machine.
Ask your sewing machine dealer to show you how to clean and oil your machine.
When I bought my first real sewing machine, the bobbins held less thread and the thread was linty. I would clean and oil my machine 1 time per bobbin of thread.
Bobbins are larger and hold more thread. We have more choices of weights of thread and some are very fine. Therefore bobbins can hold more thread than before. Now I sometimes clean and oil my machine 2 times per bobbin.
Just because I clean and oil my machine a lot does not mean I don’t have to take it in for service. If I’m sewing an average of 20-40 hours per week all year long, using a variety of specialty threads and doing a lot of machine quilting, I will take my machine in 2 times per year for service. Mostly I take my work horse machine (Maude – Bernina 440) in 1 time per year and my portable (Kermit – Bernina 230) every other year.
Bonus tip: Cut your thread up at the top of your machine near the spool. Then pull the thread out of your machine at the bottom near the needle. Lint and loose threads collect along the thread path. Pulling the thread from the bottom is like flossing your machine. Pulling it up backwards through the thread path will bring all the lint and garbage up to the tension dics at the top of the machine. Now your tension won’t work properly. This one was a hard lesson for me to learn. It cost me 2 trips to the dealer in one year. I won’t do that again.
*Tailings are the debris left over from mining for silver and gold, much like the scraps we acquire from making quilts.
I did a short demonstration at my quilt guild a couple of years ago on how to piece the Bow Tie Block. I don’t know why this simple Bow Tie Block captured my interest. Was it the possible color combinations, or the ease of piecing? Maybe it is the awakening of a love of scrap quilting. It’s like my love of popcorn. I can’t stop. I want to make Bow Tie Blocks in every color combination from my scraps. I’m not much of a traditional quilter so my scraps are very heavy with batiks and fabrics that read as solid. I have very little in the way of prints and multi colored fabrics. If I want the combination of blocks to sing, I would need more scraps.
I knew better than put the word out to all of my quilting friends that I needed scraps. If I did I would have more piles than I could fit into my car let alone my house. So I listened for opportunities to acquire the little gems I was looking for. My sister-in-law was the first to donate to my cause. She had a big plastic bag she wanted to give to our Community Service Committee. All of those little pieces would have been tossed aside because it would have taken too long to cut into usable units. Our Community Service Committee needed yardage to work from to create the kits they passed out to our members. Her bag of treasures was like a gold mine to me. It was filled with a variety of prints in lots of colors and many design styles. And most of it was already in even little stacks that allowed me to cut multiple squares at one time. Most of my scraps were single strips of end cuts, jumbled into a wad and shoved into small boxes.
The next bag of scrap jewels came from a new quilter. We were sharing our latest quilting projects when I told her I was working on a scrap project. She had only been quilting for a couple of years and she offered her growing collection to me. Her scraps were grouped into color groups and again mostly even little stacks. Before I could sort through this pile of reserves, she gave me a bucket of scraps from her sister. This recycled kitty litter container of scraps resembled the appearance of my left overs, a twisted pile of tailings that begged to be shifted through.
As I sorted and cut my 2 ½” and 1 ½” squares for my Bow Tie Blocks I noticed something about the size of everyone’s scraps. I found strips as narrow as 1 ½” and quite a few 2 ½” strips. There were a few stacks of right triangles. These were what I would expect to find in a scrap stash from a traditional quilter. What I wasn’t expecting was the large pieces of fabric. These pieces were the size of a fat quarter and larger. What made these quilters decide these pieces of fabric were now scrap? Were they just finished with the project and had overestimated the amount of fabric they would need? When I look at my fabric stash, I see individual crayons. As long as I can still hold the little stub of color and make a mark, I keep it in my stash. It has to get fairly tiny before I can relinquish it to the scrap pile or even the trash. My scrap pile would keep a miniature quilter happy for several life times. I am not a miniature quilt maker so maybe it’s time to pass my scraps on to the next person.
The call came at 11:58 pm the other night. “Mom, are you still up?” (I had a few quilts missing labels and late night movies held my interest.) “I’m engaged!” Seeing as they have been talking about marriage for the last couple years and the timing was finally right, my surprise was not the same as my daughter’s. I knew this was coming and had been holding off thoughts of her future marriage until the question had been asked. Now I can be excited. She will plan her own wedding while I hold her hand. My daughter has always been a planner with the focus of a microscope. My job has always been the one to hold her emotions while she works through her decisions. While she rides the emotional roller coaster, I’m there to see that her seat belt is on and securely fastened. So until the date is set I will refrain from asking her about the wedding quilt. That’s not to say I haven’t planned a quilt for her and her new husband-to-be. I have several designs I’ve been playing with. (The program on my old computer I was using to draft my quilts, was wiped off with the virus so all was lost.) My struggle is she likes simple modern designs in neutral colors with no accent color.
I love bold statements swimming in color. So I will wait until the conversation turns to joining their households to find a compromise. (Bonus – my new son-in-law-to-be has been raised by a Mom who quilts. The first time he came over he went straight to my design wall and commented on a wall quilt he liked.)
I also have a step-daughter who is getting married soon. Her wedding date has always been out there waiting for the right time. About a month ago they finally set the date for this spring. She lives out-of-state and I have not seen her in a long time so thank goodness for the internet. From the pictures I’ve seen, I know I can make her wedding quilt loud and bold. I started an Asymmetrical Hunters Star in black, gray and white with red accents over a year ago with this marriage in mind. I’ve got to work fast to get the top done and find a quilter who can fit it into their busy schedule. I have most of the pieces cut for the Hunters Star. Now I have to clear my design wall so I can get busy.
I have not Blogged in almost a year. I have had people poke me to remind me of this and ask for more. I have been prodded by others who ask me why I haven’t posted what’s going on in my quilting studio (aka kitchen, dining room, living room, my daughter’s old room, the rec-room, and garage – you know all of the places you can find my stash and quilting supplies). I have been sewing, quilting, volunteering in groups that sew and quilt, and have gone back to teaching sewing and quilting. I’ve had many ideas of what to share but have not sat down to capture those brilliant moments before they disappear.
Over the last couple of months a friend of mine has invited me to join her in several challenges. There have been three challenges cast out to me by her in less than a week. And each time I said “Yes”. So what’s going on in my brain that causes me to jump at a challenge and not a poke or prod? A poke is nice but not exciting. A prod makes me feel guilty and slows me down. But when I hear or see the word “challenge” the creative part of my brain gets over stimulated. This over stimulation turns off the logical part of my brain that holds my schedules and commitments. It also sends a surge of endorphins into my pleasure zone. It’s not until after I have committed and the endorphins have lost their spark, when the logical part of my brain kicks in. I have other commitments on the calendar, and now my integrity is at issue. My creative side will justify my “yes” to my logical side and I have to get creative with my time and schedules so every promise is met.
I have been challenging myself to post more on Facebook, real posts not just commenting on someone else’s posts. I’m better at reposting a post I find amusing. I am a member of several groups on Facebook and I post there from time to time. If I want others to know what I’m up to in my life I share with them face to face or over the phone. Social media feels like shouting into the wind.
Now that this has been said I am declaring a new challenge. I challenge myself to posting real stuff in my blog and on Facebook at least once per month. My creative and logical sides are in agreement. “Yes”.
Every journey starts with the first step. Not necessarily. I have had journeys start with standing in one spot not sure where to put that first step. I stand there thinking about the journey and where it will take me. I have even marched in place looking like I am on a journey and never getting anywhere. Regardless of when the journey starts for me, I am always on a journey even when I’m standing still.
Today this journey takes another route I’ve been planning for some time without realizing it. My daughter, Amanda loved stories when she was growing up. She was always asking someone to tell her “Once uponama time”. Soon after my Dad asked everyone to write him stories instead of buying him gifts. He wanted stories about our growing up. So for years I made up stories for Amanda and wrote stories from my memories for my Dad. Dad thinks I should write a book and my Mom thinks it should be a children’s book. Maybe later, now I want to sew, create and teach.
Because I am a story teller, everything I sew has a story. Quilters will tell you that a quilt isn’t finished until you put a label on it. I’m with the quilters who say it’s not done until the paperwork it done. I like to document the process so I can see where I am and where the quilt is going. I can also use the documented process to help teach others how they can do it themselves. So often my finished pieces find homes so fast, I have a hard time remembering what I made or how I made it. The joy of documenting the story of each project comes from hearing others tell the story again. It is here that I will tell the stories. I will show you what I’m working on and some how-to-do-it yourself. For those who don’t sew, you will hear the stories that each piece has to tell.