Monthly Archives: May 2013


Ok, so I have a new hobby!  Fixing sewing machines.

This all started by my obsessively stalking craigslist looking for sewing machines.  All that ever comes up are “vintage” or “broken” machines.  At the same time I was blowing about $125 at the sewing machine repair shop for a tune up. Just the regular yearly tune up that we are supposed to have for these machines.  I’m a woman who changes the oil in the car herself. I’ve replaced brake pads. I’ve replaced a radiator, fuel pump, and much much more.  All to avoid taking the car to the service station where I’m certain they will rip me off because I’m a woman and they think I’ve got “Gullible” written across my ovaries.

Dad Fixing Pfaff

You could easily look to my dad to see where I get my desire to take things apart:





I started looking around the internet and found dozens of videos on how to repair your own sewing machine.  I started picking up sewing machines cheap on craigslist with the intention of “learning” to fix them up by troubleshooting the issue and (hopefully) implementing the repair.  Well. You know. Six months later I hadn’t touched the machine I bought. It sat and sat and sat.  It was a steal for what? 10 bucks?  A Singer Stylist 514, circa 1960s or 70s.  That’s it on the right.  Feed dogs don’t move consistently. But it has all the parts and accessories and otherwise runs fine (or so I was told).

Well, finally I got off my behind and took the bottom off to have a look. It was blatantly obvious what the problem was:

So I began hunting for the parts to replace the disintegrating gear, which I quickly found (and ordered) off ebay (ETA: They arrived today!). But in my googling, I found all kinds of resources on learning to service your own sewing machines.  I decided to buy another machine simply for the purposes of (once again) learning to tune and repair my sewing machine, but something I could work on right away since my learner was out of commission until the new gears arrived.  $35 later, I had a Kenmore 158 sitting in my living room.  Armed with canned air, tweezers, a screwdriver set, and sewing machine oil, I started following the YouTube videos.  When I was done, I ran a couple practice seams, prepared for it to still not work, and wouldn’t you know, it ran like a beauty.  Purred like a kitten! 

I’m not sure if there was anything wrong with the tension to begin with, or if it just needed a cleaning.  I probably should have tried it out before cleaning it, but the instructional videos said that if it’s been in storage for awhile, clean it first, then sew.  The cabinet needs a bit of stain and poly, and it’ll be a nice machine for someone.

I have another Kenmore, this one is a 148. I’m searching for the foot control for it (on ebay – where else).  Let me know if you find a two prong foot control!  I can’t seem to find one :(.  BTW it also purrs like a kitten, even without the foot control:

I’ve already asked my friends if I can “borrow” their machines to test on.  Cleaning a machine and checking the timing takes less than an hour.  I figure with my 9 machines I’ll save enough to pay for the couple books I bought on the subject as well.  And if one day I open a shop, well…you’ll be able to say “You knew me back when I was just starting out!” 😀

Other Craft Projects:


I had rather emotional experience recently; I thought I’d share.

I gave my daughter a quilt kit which I had kicking around for years un-started.  It’s an Eric Carle “Very Hungry Caterpillar” quilt kit, purchased at QBee Quilts in Charlotte, N.C.  .  The kit was a printed center with borders, and small four-patches in the corners.


She held onto it for a couple of months with no real idea where to start.  Then one day my mom, my sister-in-law, and I were sitting around discussing the fact that we didn’t throw my daughter a baby shower (long story – she did get a shower, just not from me), and we still wanted to throw her a party.  So we came up with the idea of a “Pregnancy Pamper Party,” with just the girls and with a focus on MOM, not BABY.  Not that we aren’t super excited to meet the baby, but we just wanted to pamper mom! That’s all there is to it!




My Tribe!

With the idea in place we set about trying to figure out what to DO at this party.  My great friend Sheri suggested crafts, rather than games, which was an idea we all loved!  Emmie, my daughter, had vetoed games at the previous shower, so I wasn’t even going to try!  Suddenly it dawned on me that the craft we should do was the quilt kit.  None of my friends or family are quilters, so this would be a great time to share my hobby with not only my daughter, but also my friends and family. I was extremely excited.

We got together a couple of weeks ago and all took turns sewing the strips on the quilt, and after just a short couple of hours, my tribe of friends and family had created with Emmie the quilt top for her son.

The next weekend we headed over to Mary Jo’s in Gastonia and got MATCHING fabric for the background. Talk about luck! We then headed over to my mom’s house and took over her dining room.  We set up my Handi Quilter and Pfaff Grand Quilter, and proceeded to load the quilt onto the poles.  Unfortunately, I got things mixed up, but it’s still working, so don’t look too closely at the pictures.  Have I mentioned recently how the whole point of this blog is that you can make wonderful, nearly perfect things without having to beat yourself to death with perfectionism? Well, yeah, so there’s that. Don’t.


My Daughter and My Mom Piecing the First Border

Tina and Mom piecing


Finished Quilt Top

Where was I? Oh yes. So Here’s the quilt ready to be quilted on the Handi Quilter.

LOVE the handi quilter

And here’s a close up (sorry about the blurriness, the machine was going), of the stipple quilting she is doing on the white part.

We are about 60% done, yet I’m blogging this because I’ve been slack and haven’t blogged anything in a log time. And I’m so proud of my daughter who has done 99% of the quilting herself.  She’s really gained a lot of confidence since her first tentative stitches to now, where she just flies along, painting with thread.  It’s a beautiful thing to see.

In fact, after one session I just broke down crying on my drive home.  Had to pull over to regroup.  It just hit me that we are all moving up a generation and I’ll be the grandmother that quilts.  I’ve always been the Youngster who quilts (started at 15 years old), and now I was teaching my daughter, who was working on a quilt for her son.  It was all very circle of life.  And I feel like this quilting is bringing me closer to her. Something we are working on together which gives us time together, we talk and laugh, and she’s becoming confident in her talent.  It’s just a really beautiful thing to watch and be a part of.  Sniff!

Ok, so I’ll post pictures (when we are done) of the finished quilt.


Other Craft Projects:

UPDATE: The birthing gown in use here.

Have I mentioned that I’m going to be a grandmother? My daughter is about to give birth to my first (hopefully of many) grandson in a few short weeks.

Wanting to do something nice for HER (cause the baby already has more than he needs and he’s not even here yet), I asked her if she would like a birthing gown instead of using those dull hospital gowns.

She was keenly interested, so off we trekked to Mary Jo’s Cloth Store in Gastonia, N.C.  Mary Jo’s is also known as the Mecca of fabric stores (no offense).  It’s massive and has such a dizzying variety of fabrics.

While there she picked up an adorable butterfly print, and we got some deep pink fabric for the trim.  I eagerly took my purchases home, washed them immediately, then ironed them all into perfect piles of glorious fabric!

And then it sat.

And sat.

And sat.

For MONTHS. Until finally it dawned on me that the baby was due in a couple of weeks, her hospital bag was already packed and in her car…GASP!…without my birthing gown. She would have to give birth in a boring old hospital gown. Her pictures immediately after the birth would have her in a drab gown worn by who knows how many people before her!  This COULD NOT STAND!

So I got busy and in less than a day (really about 6 hours of pedal to the metal), I had finished the gown.

Let me share some of the pictures.  I wish I had taken more during the gown’s creation, but this will have to do.

First I got the pattern for the hospital gown from here, Thank you Lazy Girl Designs!

Second, I completely changed the pattern around.  I made the front the back, so that her gown will open in the front.  There were two reasons for this. One, she could use the gown as a robe before and after and two, she can breastfeed more easily without having to undo her entire gown.  The pattern is printed out onto like 11 sheets of paper, and then you have to tape them all together.  To make the back, I folded the pattern along the “front” line, and put it on the edge of the fold of my fabric.  To make the fronts, not only did I use the “back left and back right” patterns, but I extended the cutting line out from the neck line, made a nice arch to accommodate a baby bump, and came down to an extended line from the bottom of the gown’s hem line.  As a note, the hemline is high unless, like me, you give it some extra length with a contrasting trim.  I added two inches in trim, and that is a good length.

I sewed the pattern together as the directions dictated, except that instead of Velcro on the shoulders, I actually sewed the shoulders together.  Because she’s going to a birthing center and again, the gown opens in the front, I didn’t think she needed quick access like a normal gown would.

With the shoulders I did French seams, which turned out lovely.  I couldn’t figure out how to do French seams on the sides as well, so I serged the sides, then sewed the seam allowance down to avoid annoying itchy seams (didn’t want any distractions during labor).

Fold Lengthwise and Press


At that point I started on the bias tape.  I lied. I didn’t make bias tape.  There’s a very good reason, though. I lent my mat and rotary cutter to my daughter, and wasn’t about to try to make bias tape without those invaluable tools.  So my “bias” tape is really straight strips of 4” and 3” fabric. So sue me.

That’s when I decided to start taking pictures, too.

Fold over Edges Again and Press




Sewing two strips to make one long strip





Bias tape is pretty simple, really.  You (normally) cut on a 45 degree angle, making strips that run diagonal from the direction the threads run.  This allows the “give” in bias tape that makes it so nice around curves.  Then you iron the strip in half length-wise.  This gives you single fold bias tape.  I wanted the “tri fold” or quilt binding type. So I proceeded to iron down the length in quarters on the two flaps.


Sewing the trim on really made this whole gown come together.  I put some smaller pieces of trim on the inside under one armpit, on the outside under the other arm pit, and then on the flaps of the front of the gown.  It looked good, but I wanted something to gather that extra fabric I cut out for the baby bump over the top of the baby bump, so it would “poof” out just so.  I used about 6” of elastic on both flaps of the robe, pulling and gathering the fabric up perfectly, just between the bottom of her chest and the top of the baby bump.  Perfect!

Finished Gown

I should have taken a picture with her wearing the gown, but she promises there will be lots of pics forthcoming. I’ll add them up here after.


Other Craft Projects: