Five a Day

2 04 2014

These adorable Needle Keepers were made from the pattern Fruit Salad by Wooden Spool Designs.  The ones in this first picture were my samples for the Monthly Wool Projects group I lead.  The covers for the apple and watermelon were made from hand dyed wool and pretty much everything else is from National Nonwovens Wool Felt.


Cathy decided to take these along with the pattern to the Quilt and Stitch Expo of Pueblo this weekend.  She decided to only take the Wool Felt and I said I’d make new samples for the watermelon and apple.  Now because I work best under pressure (insert a touch of sarcasm), I waited until this morning to start on them (they are packing up for the show tomorrow morning — hey I still had more than 24 hours).


I ran into the store this morning on my way somewhere else and grabbed the buttons.  I got a little bigger this time and I think I’m going to need to change out the one on the watermelon, but that can wait for later.

These needle keepers have several layers for storing your pins and needles.


I told my group these are fast and easy (not everyone agreed).  I made the first five in just one evening.


Vintage Friday — Singer Pinker

14 03 2014

Guy and I went antiquing in Florence, Colorado last month right before my birthday.  We found a few fun items.  Today I thought I’d share the Singer ball bearing hand operated Pinker.  I’d at seen them online before (and possibly in antique stores).  The timing on this expedition made me more open to spending the money (thinking a big milestone birthday here).

We found this one with the box, instructions, clamp and pinker.  The box is a little beat up, but the “machine” is in fantastic shape.


It just clamps onto a table and then there is an adjustable guide to set for how far away from the edge you want to pink your fabric.  While the machine came with a pinking blade, the directions  say there was an optional Strip Cutter and Trimmer available at any Singer Shop. That blade looks very much like a precursor to rotary cutters.

The box says it is for pinking cloth, felt, oilcloth, leather, etc.  The directions  say it shouldn’t be used on metal.


Since I was taking pictures for you, I thought I’d give it a whirl.

pinker-3It works like a charm!

I don’t know the exact age of this particular machine, but the copyright on the directions is 1933, 1934 and 1935 so sometime after that.

My Very Own Transformer

13 03 2014

My boys have outgrown their transformer toys, and it has been awhile since I saw one of the movies.  But I’m here to tell you, I now have my very own “transformer.”

Looks like it could be a purse . . .


but open up one side and you can see it holds an iron.


Open it all the way and you have a portable ironing surface.  When you are finished tuck the iron back in (while it is still hot, because that is heat-resistant fabric) fold the bag up and you are ready to go.


The Caddy Pad pattern is from Sisters Common Thread and includes the heat-resistant fabric for one pad.  If you are a local reader, the pattern is available at Ruth’s Stitchery.



Tuesday’s Triangle — Half Square Triangles with a Ruler

16 08 2011

Once again this week, I’m showing another way to make half square triangles.  This time I’m using a ruler made specifically for this purpose.

Start by cutting two strips of fabric 1/2 inch larger than the desired finished size of the block.  I chose to cut two strips right side together at one time.  That way the triangles are ready to stitch as soon as they are cut.  Cut off the selvedges on one end so there is a clean straight edge. 


Omnigrid makes the triangle rulers that I use the most.  They come in two sizes, one will make up to a 6 inch finished block and the other up to an 8 inch finished block.  If you are searching for them their names are R96 and R96L respectively. (There is also a metric version called the R915)

A close-up of a portion of the ruler shows a circle and arrows which show the proper direction of the fabric grain line when cutting half square triangles.  The numbers on the lines refer to the finished size of the half square triangle not the cut width of the strip.  There are also a lines across the 45 degree angle tips.  This line is to be lined up with one side of the strip.

There are other manufacturers of rulers that follow the same concept.  I have one from  EZ Quilting called Easy Angle. (Have I mentioned I’m the Queen of Gadgets?  The right tool for the job and all that.)  The main difference on that ruler is the numbers refer to the cut size of the strip rather than the finished size.

 Fons & Porter also have a ruler that will do the same thing it is called Half and Quarter, it makes both half square triangles and quarter square triangles.  (Omnigrid has a separate ruler for quarter square triangles.)

To cut triangles, line up one straight edge of the ruler with the clean-cut end of the strip and line up the appropriately numbered line with the long cut edge of the fabric strip.  The line at the tip of the ruler should line up with the other long cut edge.  For my example, I’m making a 2 inch finished half square triangle.   With the Omnigrid ruler I line up the line labeled 2 and with the Easy Angle I would line up the 2-1/2.  Cut along the angled edge of the ruler.


Flip the ruler over and line up the angled edge with the last angled cut, again lining up the appropriately numbered line and tip. Cut along the straight edge.


Continue cutting until you have the necessary number of triangle units or have finished the strip.  With right sides together, line up the long angled edge (the only bias edge) with the edge of a quarter-inch presser foot and stitch.  Chain multiple triangle units together.

Press the triangle units flat to set the stitches.

Press the seam toward the darker fabric.

And ta-dah — a finished half square triangle!

This is my favorite method for making half square triangles.  Probably because there is no fussing with marking, or cutting after stitching.  It’s just cut, sew, press DONE!  That doesn’t mean it is the best method for every application.  It works great when making blocks that have squares as well as half square triangles — i.e. a nine patch — because one size strip makes both the squares and the half square triangles.

Pick of the Week — The Gypsy Cutting Gizmo

8 08 2011

I worked today, and when I wasn’t busy with customers, I spent time putting inventory away as it was checked in.

The Gypsy Cutting Gizmo was a new product to the store (and to me).


It is a device to sit next to the sewing machine when one is chain piecing blocks. It is a quick way to cut the connecting threads between the blocks.

With a large school bill looming later this week (1st month’s tuition and registration fees) it didn’t come home with me — yet. I can see the benefit for someone who does a lot of chain piecing. Especially if a person had trouble with their hands.

(Sorry for the glare — the picture was taken under flourescent lights with my phone.  Also the frame is not part of the product, I was playing with the Camera+ App on the phone.)

Tool Time — Fasturn

17 07 2011

Some tools become such standbys that one forgets not everyone is familiar with them.  I was reminded of that fact while on our little quilt retreat a week and a half ago.  Andrea was making an apron and was using a safety pin to turn the tubes that would become the ties.  There’s nothing wrong with using a safety pin or a bodkin, but there is an easier way.

I purchased my Fasturn set while living in Virginia before my boys were born.  Which means I’ve had it at least 18 years.  The funny thing is I’d never seen them before that time, but they are manufactured less than a mile from where I went to elementary school in Oregon.  I don’t believe the tools come in a box like this any longer, and the handles have changed.

The set is composed of brass tubes of various sizes and wires that are inserted into those tubes.  How do they work?  Let me show you.  To start, sew a tube whatever dimensions your pattern instructs.  The tube can be sewn shut on the end(s) (if both ends are sewn shut leave a hole elsewhere for turning), or can be open on both ends.  Clip corners as needed. Next choose the Fasturn tube that best fits the fabric tube and a wire the appropriate length  to go with it.

Insert the brass tube into the fabric tube all the way to the sewn end.  If the end is not sewn, leave a little fabric to overlap the end of the Fast Turn tube.

The wire portion of the Fasturn system has a pig tail at the end, and the tip is sharp.

Insert the wire through the brass tube.

Twist the wire clockwise (to the right) so it pierces the fabric.  It will look like this.  If the end of your tube is not sewn shut, hold a portion of the end of the stitched tube taut over the brass tube and twist the wire in exactly the same manner.

Now start pulling the wire along with the fabric tube through the Fasturn tube.  You can ease the fabric off the end of the brass tube.  Here’s how it looks as it just starts to turn.

Keep pulling, once the wire emerges from the end of the tube you can just pull on the fabric if you like.  You can turn very long tubes — as long as you can scrunch the fabric onto the metal tube, you can turn it.  Here’s a picture when the tube is almost completely turned.

And voila a completely turned tube ready to be pressed.

Jesse timed me, and when I wasn’t stopping to take pictures, it took under 9 seconds from start to turned!  Try to do that with a safety pin.  Also if you look at the set there are some very small tubes.  It would be almost impossible to turn that size tube with a safety pin.

I use the Fasturn most often for turning tubes, but it can also be used to turn and fill a tube with cording (or batting) all in one step.  I’m going to show you pictures of the process, but this is a case of do as I say, not as I did.    I had stitched Quilter’s Dream Supreme cotton batting to the wrong side of the tubes.  Not only is it difficult to cut two layers at once, but I almost broke my wire while turning the tube.  If you want batting to pad a tube in addiction to cording, I would recommend a thinner loft!  The manufacturer recommends cutting the fabric tubes on the bias when filling them with cording.  Also when filling a fabric tube, the fabric tube should fit fairly snug onto the Fasturn tube.  There are cutting recommendations for various tube sizes in the instructions that come with the tools.

To start, stitch a tube as described in the last part.  As I mentioned, my tube includes a layer of batting.  Insert the Fast Turn tube into the fabric tube, and insert the wire as described above for turning a tube.

Start to turn the tube, pulling about 1/2″ inch of the fabric tube into the metal tube.  Then insert the end of the cording into the fabric tube and the Fasturn tube.

Now simply continue to pull the wire.  The fabric tube will turn and cover the cording as it goes.  Here’s a picture when the tube is almost completely turned.

And finally the filled tube.

If you cannot find the Fasturn system locally, it is available through Nancy’s Notions.

Vintage Friday — Jones Family C.S. Handcrank Sewing Machin

8 07 2011

Today I’m showing you another of my sewing machines.  I found this one in a California antique store on my birthday several years ago.  It is my only hand crank sewing machine.  This was basically the way to make a treadle machine portable.  I believe it could be removed from its coffin top base and placed into a treadle stand.

Let’s start first with the coffin top case (what an awful name but it does indeed resemble a coffin).

Inside is this machine.

The machine was made in Great Britain.   I thought I found, based on its serial number it was made around 1912.  However, recent research on the web suggests it could be more like 1914.

Like the last machine I showed, this one uses a shuttle.  In fact that is what the “C.S.” refers to — cylindrical shuttle.

On the right of the base there is a compartment with a sliding lid and inside are multiple attachments for the machine.

The machine works great.  I took it to school when the boys were in Kindergarten, and the kids loved it.  I think I turned the crank while the ran fabric under the presser foot. 

Brother eventually bought out the Jones sewing machine company.