Category Archives: This and that

Making space

Pretty soon I’ll be adding two more machines to my herd: a Singer 143W (with which I’ll be able to zigzag on leather using 138 thread!) and a Singer 112W (double-needle, needle-feed machine for leather). If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time you know space is getting pretty tight in the second sewing room! I already measured and discovered that my two file cabinets (where I store extra patterns) will fit into the walk-in closet of my exercise room so that’ll leave room for one new machine. Then, when I was unpacking my boots (which are stored in Jess’ old closet) I got the idea to move my little Merrow into the left side of closet. I cut the table down years ago so it’s small and there’s an outlet and light in the closet. The Merrow only does a perle edge so it’s one of those machines I’ll use every few months for 20 minutes or so and that’s it. I think she looks rather at home, don’t you?


And now I have space for a 2nd machine next to the window in the sewing room. I’m happy.




Filed under Sewing Machines, This and that

Dyeing MOP Buttons

When I wanted to try dyeing MOP buttons for my silk blouse the first person I called was my friend Sharon. Sharon is very experienced with dyes and paints and dyed a bunch of plastic buttons a couple of years ago – yes, you can dye some plastic buttons too! She recommended I use Rit dye and experiment first with one button to check the color and time.

I used one cup of water with four capfuls of liquid dye in a small Corningware dish. I prefer to use a glass dish because it’s non-reactive. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Thread the button(s) on a string (I used some topstitching thread) and put into the mixture. I looped the thread around one of the dish’s handles so it wouldn’t completely fall into the liquid. I checked my button every 5 minutes. After 20 minutes I realized that this was going to take a very long time! But, by then I could already see that the color was going to work, I just needed to simmer it for a long time to get the saturation I wanted. I strung up the rest of my buttons (make sure you dye a few spares!) and simmered them for three hours. I turned off the stove and left them overnight when I went to bed.

The next morning, I decided to try to get them a bit darker so I started with a fresh batch of undiluted dye. After a couple of hours they finally looked good to me so I rinsed and hung them to dry. I can’t imagine that they will fade but we’ll see. Due to all of the gathers on my blouse I will probably dry clean it so I’ll let you all know how they hold up to those chemicals. Hopefully, they’ll be fine because I have a ton of men’s MOP shirt buttons and plans to make a few more silk blouses.

Because MOP buttons require such a long cooking time, I really recommend you use a dish with a lid. Not only does this prevent all of your liquid from evaporating, it also prevents the dye from getting into the air. It’s not just a little stinky, it can’t be too good to breathe in either. If you are going to be standing over the pot a lot I’d recommend a mask of some sort too. Most of my dying consists of quick jobs like lingerie elastic (which dyes in mere minutes) so it’s not been a problem before. I just wanted to mention it to you so that you can be prepared.

PS: Don’t forget that anything you use for dyeing should never be used for food again. I’m you already knew that but it bears repeating.


Filed under This and that, Tutorials

Light Table

This is – or used to be – a sign that hung in my friend’s shop window advertising a brand of machine that he sells. He said this one hummed when it was on and so he was sent a replacement. He mentioned that these signs make great light tables once the cellophane is removed and asked if I wanted it. I didn’t hesitate! I have always wanted a light table but they are expensive and I wasn’t willing to spend a lot on something I need so rarely. I can’t even imagine what you’d pay for one this size – it’s 24″ square. UPDATE: A light table like this one in an 18″ x 24″ size is $399 at Dick Blick – yikes!


Yes, it does hum after it’s been on for a few minutes but I can live with that – or I can just replace the ballast.

I’m off to get my nails done and then I’ll be chaining myself to my sewing machine for the rest of the day! My honey says I have a break in my sprinkler line under the black olive tree out back. He is going to come over and take care of that for me but promises he will not interrupt my sewing or ask for tuna melts. 🙂 He’s so sweet – I’ll just make the tuna ahead of time.

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Filed under This and that

Yep, I’m still here!

The last couple of weeks have been very busy so I just haven’t had the energy to write – or even do much to write about!

The green silk tunic is nearly done. I’m looking for some beads so that I can bead the edges to give the crinkled silk some weight.

I also finished the Layer Cake Quilt – photos of that later. Today I cut out all of the pieces for a large Drunkard’s Path quilt. It will be made entirely out of batik fabrics, 20 prints in all. Interestingly, the instructions (and every quilter and website out there) say to stitch with the convex piece on top. Hmm, as a garment sewer that makes no sense to me whatsoever! When I sew a Princess seam I always stitch with the concave section on top and curve it around the side panel. This is a real piece of cake when you’re working with a 1/4″ seam allowance! Am I missing something? There is even a foot marketed to quilters to help stitch these curved seams. I don’t get it so I will just sew the blocks my way – no pins, no marking.





Filed under misc., Quilting, This and that

Bad sewing

I was really looking forward to finishing the Kimono Dress today but ended up hemming a big pile of pants for the coaches of my alma mater’s football team instead. How did this happen, you ask? Well, a couple of months ago The Boyfriend called me from school and said they wanted to order some pants from Nike that were only available unhemmed. Since the pants would not arrive until the week before their game in Cincinnati (the Herbstreit Classic if you follow high school football) next Saturday they were wondering if I’d be willing and able to hem them all. No small job with a 17-man coaching staff! Of course I couldn’t say no, with the exception of The Boyfriend most of these coaches have been there since I was a student more years ago than I care to admit. All I can say is thank goodness I have the blindstitch machine!



Filed under This and that

Silk Jersey Top – Finished!

Warning, a lot of F-bombs were dropped in the making of this top. Not to worry, no one heard me. I know what you’re thinking: that silk jersey was a bear to work with, right? Actually, the silk jersey was a joy to sew. It was the !/?#**! stretch satin that I used for the (uncorded) piping that caused me so much grief! I decided that the main print needed some sort of “border” to set it off so I started searching through my stash for a suitable black fabric. In my binding bin I found an 1/8 of a yard of black polyester stretch satin, obviously bought specifically for this purpose.

Sure, it looked innocent enough but it was horrible to work with necessitating a lot of reverse sewing. In my frustration I decided to handbaste (shocking, isn’t it?) the piping because surely this would result in perfection, right? Wrong! It seemed that no amount of pressing or basting could tame this beast. I spent so much time ripping and resewing the sleeve piping on what should have been a quick project. There are still a couple of areas on the underside that look a little wonky but I decided that enough was enough. No one is going to notice! Shoot, I probably won’t even notice. Funny enough, the neckline facing went smoothly. If I had anymore of this awful stuff I would promptly toss it in the trash!

So, finally, here it is. Once I get over my trauma I know I will love this and wear it often. I think the fabric really makes it.


Neckline detail. I cut the facings on the bias for interest.


I used the Coats & Clark Fine thread on this project. You can see how fine it is here.


I did enjoy watching the first season of The Tudors while I was sewing. I picked it up on a whim a few months ago and just started watching it this week. I am hooked! I can’t wait until Season 2 comes out on DVD (October 2008 ) so I can catch up before Season 3 starts.



Filed under Fabric, This and that

Button magnets

I’m not into crafts (rather be sewing!) but today I made magnets out of vintage Patrick Kelly buttons! You see, I bought a magnetic bulletin board at my friend Bonnie’s garage sale last year. I finally hung it next to my desk a couple of weeks ago but had no magnets for it. I was going to make these great magnets from Not Martha but they were just too involved for me. Then I came across a bag of these buttons that I’d purchased on Ebay a couple of years ago and voila! in less than 5 minutes I had some cute sewing-themed magnets. You can buy magnetic discs at Michael’s. I used the 1/2″ ones and some E-6000 glue to attach the buttons.


If you want to hang cards or larger photos I’d recommend the 3/4″ discs as they are stronger than the 1/2″ ones.


Filed under This and that

Tada! The new sewing studio!

Well, I have a few paint touch ups and have to rehang the manilla paper on another wall since I changed my mind about the layout but here it is! I know there’s a lot going on in all the pictures but, what can I say?, I have a lot of stuff.

Here is the view from the door:


The two machines on the right side are my Singer 20U (zigzag) and my Consew 206RB (a walking foot machine). I had the two plain stands leftover from my embroidery shop – they were used as work tables and for hooping. Since I often work on really large projects on these two machines I put a plain stand behind each one to hold all the extra fabric. I really could have used this when I made the cover for my pool table!


On the left are my two coverstitch machines, back to back. I know I would have had more space in the center of the room had I put them against the wall but there is a method to my madness! Now that I live alone I wanted to be able to pull the attic ladder down without having to move any machines by myself – the coverstitch machines are especially heavy! I still have plenty of space to move around the cutting tables. Speaking of which, these are the cheapos you can purchase at JoAnn’s. I originally wanted the much more expensive Horn tables with the drawer but I’ve had these for a number of years and they are great! Of course, with the money you save you must buy the matching rotary mat.


I won’t be doing any construction pressing in this room (I have a Naomoto gravity feed in my other sewing room) but I’m thrilled to have the space to keep the ironing board up! I usually turn on the iron and press things as they come out of the dryer. Now I won’t have to set up in the kitchen!

Straight ahead is my 12-needle embroidery machine. I have pretty much decided to sell it as I don’t see myself using it all that much. After 10 years in business, the bloom is off the embroidered rose.

From the other side:




The Merrow machine sits in the corner to the left of the window since it’s not used very often. My manila paper roll will hang on the wall above it. That wall is concrete so I need to get the proper anchors before I can take care of that. To the right is the Jiffy steamer and on the table is the heat press (that’s the water heater enclosure next to it). Everyone is surprised that I didn’t sell the press when I closed my business. Are they nuts? With a 16×20 surface area I can fuse interfacing quickly and easily! Those paper dispensers on the hot water cabinet used to hold embroidery stabilizer, now they hold examining table paper.

Oh, and I just love my new floor! It’s epoxy garage floor paint and I sprinkled colored paint chips onto it while it was wet. The chips really help hide any imperfections and it was so easy! Since I couldn’t move everything out of the room I had to paint in two sections so the entire thing took nearly 10 days before I could move the machines back in. I had to let the concrete patch and then the bonding primer dry completely before I could even begin painting. The bonding primer drove me crazy because it stays tacky after it’s dry and my shoes kept sticking to it. I ended up wearing old socks instead which worked great.

The paint then requires 72 hours dry time before furniture can be moved back in. Of course, that is when The Boyfriend mentioned that the walls would look really nice painted a light tan (they were cold, stark white and looking a little dingy)… That set me back a few more days but it was so worth it! It drove me nuts to have my living room and bedroom piled with machines and stuff but now that it’s done it looks great! I can’t wait to get back to sewing. Unfortunately, I’m having oral surgery tomorrow and then going away for the weekend (provided I don’t swell up like a chipmunk!) so I’ll have to sit tight for a few more days.


Filed under Sewing Machines, Sewing Studio, This and that

Almost there!

I am finishing up the painting in my new studio today and then The Boyfriend is coming over later to help me move the machines back. My son hates, hates, hates moving machines with me because he says he always stubs his toes on the stand (true, it happens to me too). I am giddy with anticipation!

Here’s a pic from Animal Kingdom – me with the wonderful man in my life. It rained all day and we were soaked to the skin before we broke down and bought those stylish ponchos. I’m so glad I thought to bring my lucky Red Sox hat so I didn’t have to walk around with really bad hair all day. Take a good look, you’ll probably never see me this dressed down again. 😉


Speaking of my son, he closed on his house this past Thursday and is moving out on Monday. When he first told me he was buying a house (and leaving me!) I was very upset. Now? Well, I’m very ashamed to say that I’m looking forward to not having to clean up after him, not having any comings and goings at all hours of the night and not having my son and his friends drink all of my beer and liquor. Because when a girl wants a martini she doesn’t want to have to go out to the liquor store to replace the bottle she bought three days ago! Yes, I do feel like a terrible mother and very guilty but I guess that comes with the territory. I’ll wait a few days before I do the Happy Dance.


Filed under This and that

DIY Paper Dispenser

After two years I thought it was finally time to get my roll of manilla pattern paper out of it’s box on the floor and into a dispenser. I looked online and the least expensive single-roll wall-mounted dispenser I could find was around $100, the most expensive around $200. Thrift is certainly not one of my strong suits but I had a problem paying that kind of money for something to hold a roll of paper.

On Sunday, I headed to Home Depot with the hope that I would find something that I could repurpose. My original thought was a pair of curtain rod brackets with a metal plumbing pipe but they were not deep enough for the roll of paper. Then I found the perfect thing: closet brackets designed to hold a rod and shelf! The metal closet rod was available in 4′, 6′ and 8′ lengths. Since my paper is 48″ wide, my boyfriend cut the 6′ rod down to 5′ for me – it is perfect! Although the brackets are rated for 125 pounds (my paper roll weighs 67 lbs) I opted to double them up and tie-wrap them together for extra stability. The brackets on the right are attached to a stud. On the left I used four 75lb EZ-Anchors.



Supplies needed:

* 6′ Rod $9.79
* 4 Brackets $13.16
* End caps $1.79

Grand total: $24.74. And it looks nice! Now I am getting ready to paint my garage floor with epoxy paint, ugh. I was going to lay a nice floor down but now that my son is buying a house and moving out next month (!) I’m thinking I’ll probably sell as soon as the market improves and don’t want to invest in anything expensive. While I certainly can fill up a 4/3 house with sewing stuff, the maintenance is just too much for one person. I’d rather spend my free time sewing! Let’s hope I can find a large enough town- or patio home to house all of my sewing equipment…


Filed under Sewing Studio, This and that