Diary of a SubUrban Housewife

April 19, 2006

Safety First

Filed under: Quilting — Beth @ 11:59 am

This weekend is the annual Gala for Zoe’s school. Part of the festivities include a silent auction, with projects from each class figuring prominently. The 5th grade project for this year is a quilt, which I am working on with them.

Part of the syllabus this year is immigration, and so I had the kids draw pictures that represent them. Some of the kids were quite literal and drew pictures of their families or things related to their ancestry or culture. Others interpreted the project to be about them and the things that they enjoy and make them who they are. All in all it was quite fun, and I’m putting in the process of finishing up the quilt…it’s only Wednesday and the gala isn’t until Saturday.

Here’s a thing about making a quilt. After the top is all put together, you make a quilt “sandwich” which is the top, the batting, and then the backing. There are several ways to keep all three layers together to sew them. I am partial to quilt basting spray, which is basically some kind of toxic adhesive that I believe to be a relative to super glue. You spray it on each layer and everything sticks together. More traditionally, everything is sort of taped into place and you can hand baste it before putting it on the machine, but probably most common is to safety pin the layers together and then sew everything.

But alas, I cannot find my safety pins.

I do have some basting spray, but experience has taught me that the spray alone is not enough and I knew I’d be better off spraying and then using several strategically-placed pins until I can get a few foundation rows of quilting in.

Somewhere around 12:30 this morning I decided that using straight pins would work.

I’m here to tell you that while they do work, using them has turned the mild-mannered hobby of quilting into a blood sport.

June 12, 2005

Sew Happy

Filed under: Photos,Quilting — Beth @ 12:24 am

When I last talked about quilting I was in the midst of all manner of drama getting started, killing two sewing machines, and having my favorite machine held hostage by the repairman.

I’m pleased to report that the machine made it home, exorcised, cleaned, and otherwise repaired for the measley sum of $164.

In the meantime, because I really now think that all the sewing machine problems had to do with the fabric that I originally bought for Jill’s quilt because every time I got close to that project and fabric something else went wrong, I decided that was not the best choice for a baby and went out and bought all new fabric and started the quilt all over again.

So yeah, I bought all new fabric and started the project all over again. This time I went with bright colors based on a piece of really cute blue fabric with planets and stars on it. I went with orange, green, aqua and yellow–cheerful happy baby colors. And I found a deliciously soft flannel with little baby turtles on it for the backing.

Zip zip zip, the quilt went together in a flash because it was strip pieced. I’m telling you, a crib sized quilt went together in about three hours.

But ha…things are never that simple.

I have this theory. Things take a certain amount of time to do. Traffic for example. Your commute to work is typically, umm…let’s say…an hour (OK, I live in Los Angeles–it’s all relative). Then one day by some miracle you get to work in…umm…let’s say…15 minutes. You think you scored, right? I can absolutely, positively guarantee you that one day later in the very same week it’s going to take you an hour and 45 minutes to get to work. That’s because your drive is an hour. End of discussion. So you may save some time one day, but you’re going to have to make up for it.

The same thing goes for making a quilt. It’s going to take X amount of time. If it takes you Y time to complete one portion of the quilt you’re going to pay for it.

And that was the case with this little zippy three hour quilt. Because, you see, you cannot make a quilt (or at least I cannot) in three hours.

The pattern called for a ruffle around it which involved a whole other level of drama because I do not have a ruffle foot (yet) for my sewing machine, so it involved stripping together enormously long lengths of fabric, basting it and gathering it and then pinning it to the quilt top and sewing it on.

So I finally get the ruffle sewed onto the quilt top and get the batting, backing, and quilt top sandwiched together. Zip zip zip.

I do the quilting (versus the piecing which is actually is the process of making the quilt top; the quilting is what you do when you have the top, middle, and back all put together–it’s the sewing design). The quilting goes quickly becuase it’s very simple in the ditch. (OK, you can go here and read all about these different things if you want to learn more about quilting.)

So quilt top done. Quilt put together and quilted. Zip zip zip. I’ve invested maybe 6 1/2 hours now. But we’re still at the Y amount of time. Because apparently I cannot finish an entire quilt in 6 1/2 hours.

You see, at every single intersection of squares, the pattern called for a bow. A bow made out of ribbon that’s about 1/8 of an inch wide. You cut the ribbon about 4 1/2 inches long and then make it into a little bow and sew it on.

There were 126 little intersections where bows needed to be sewn onto this quilt. Yes.


Virtually every night this week I’d come home and create these itty bitty little bows and then sew them onto the quilt. And when you’re eyes, like the rest of you, are 45 years old, sitting there doing itty bitty close up work takes a bit longer than it used to–when your eyes weren’t quite so old.

I finished the quilt, finally, late Friday night, with plenty of time to give it a final wash and dry before the baby shower at 2 this afternoon.

In case you care (OK, I’m making you care), here’s a picture of the finished product:

Jilly's quilt

And because there were 126 little bows on the quilt, you must have a moment with the bows:


May 27, 2005

Pins and Needles

Filed under: Quilting — Beth @ 9:41 pm

I quilt.

Or, more accurately, I used to quilt. A lot. I loved it. I loved it so much that I went and bought a fancy-delancy quilters sewing machine. A Bernina. It’s a beautiful machine. It’s the BMW 7 series (or luxury car of your choice) of the sewing machine world.

Then I stopped quilting. Probably three years ago. I made one quilt for a friend about a year and a half ago, but that’s the only sewing I’ve done.

And my sewing area got to be a bit of a nightmare, along with the rest of my office. Fabric and notions were everywhere. Papers, pens, pencils, and other assorted detritus were starting to overtake me.

About three weeks ago I decided it was time to clean up in here. I bought a new shredder and some fabulous new plastic storage bins for the occasion. I started at one end and slowly made my way through the piles. It’s a far cry from perfect but it’s much better.

And in the process of cleaning I saw my sewing machine sitting there. And something called to me. OK, maybe it was just my friend Kelly calling to talk to me about our other friend Jill’s baby shower. But I heard ringing. And somewhere in the middle of the conversation it occured to me, “What better baby gift than a home-made quilt?”

So I decided to start sewing again.

I sat down with all my quilt books and scoured for the perfect pattern. I found it. I went and bought my fabric.

Here’s the thing…when you’re a quilter (or I guess any person who loves sewing and fabric), when you are out and about and see some fabric that you like you buy it. Maybe just a 1/4 yard, or maybe a yard or two–depending on the fabric and how much you love it. Because when you see that fabric, you know that one day it will be the perfect fabric for that particular quilt you’re going to make. So you add it to the other piles of fabric you have acquired in that way and you have what’s called your “stash”. I have a ton of fabric in my stash and I love it all. Yet, for some really really sick reason, I am reluctant to use it in any of my quilts. I love it and know it would be beautiful but some sickness prevents me from actually cutting into it. So when I want to make a quilt, despite how ever much fabric I may have in my office/sewing room, I have to go out and buy more.

So I went and bought more fabric for Jill’s quilt. She’s having a boy baby so I bought a beautiful bunch of blues, lavenders, and teals. I could barely wait to get home from the fabric store and start cutting into it and sewing it.

I dusted off the old Bernina and started sewing.

And then I remembered why I stopped sewing. You see, it seems my sewing machine is posessed. I would step on the treadle and it would sew the way it’s supposed to. Then, despite still pressing it would stop sewing. Then I would take my foot off the treadle to examine what was going on and it would start sewing. All by itself. And the only way to stop the sewing is to turn the entire sewing machine off.

For those of you who are not familiar with sewing machines–like a car, they are not supposed to go unless you press the treadle (think gas pedal).

So I side-lined that machine and took out my trusty old Singer (think 64 VW bug to keep with the car methaphor I started earlier). It’s not pretty. It does not glide across the fabric. But when I step on the treadle it goes and when I take my foot off it stops.

I vow to take the Bernina in to the shop but it pains me as I know it’s going to cost me a minimum of $300 to get it fixed. And the Singer is doing just fine.

Then I run out of thread on my bobbin.

I go to wind a new bobbin and for some reason the Singer is not enjoying this very much. I have everything loaded the way it should be, and when I step on the treadle I hear the motor going, but the bobbin is not turning.

So I go back to the Bernina. Because even though it’s not working the way it’s supposed to, it does not matter if the machine runs uncontrollably when threading a bobbin. And about half way through the bobbin the Bernina decides it does not like this and refuses to work.

So now I have half a bobbin, one sewing machine that is totally on the fritz, and my old cluncker that’s getting clunkier by the minute.

The very next day I take the Bernina into the shop. That was a week ago Tuesday. I explained that my machine was possessed and that I wanted it exorcised and just generally cleaned and serviced as soon as humanly possible. He assured me a week ago Tuesday that the machine would be ready on Thursday at the latest. In a flash I used up the measley little half bobbin I managed to cobble together before blowing out my machine for good.

Well, now it’s been 10 days that my machine has been in the shop and it’s not going to be home until next Thursday at the earliest. Because in addition to the gears that needed replacing, and the various and sundry other things that were apparently wrong, it also needs a new treadle and that is on backorder from someplace in Colorado.

I’m absolutely on pins and needles. A long holiday weekend perfect for finishing Jill’s project and starting the next one I’ve already got the fabric cut for. No angel music here.