Machine Quilting Set-Up: More Adjustments

This is my new Gidget II  sewing table; it’s very cool in that it’s light and portable, and it has a drop in the middle so the sewing machine sits at table height, instead of on-top-of-table-height.

An acrylic template cut the same size of the sewing machine keeps the machine flush with the tabletop; these templates are all made special order from the local Bernina shop that sells the Gidget:

While setting up my new ergonomic sewing/quilting area in my studio, I solved the very annoying problem I’ve had with my new Juki 2010TLQ: the machine quilting feet sold with the machine are TERRIBLE.

Here’s one of the quilting feet that came with my machine; as you can see, the giant clunking thing attaches to the machine with a screw through a fixed hole in the foot. This means the foot is stuck in one vertical position; and the default position is very close to the machine top, almost touching, which means that any quilt under this particular quilting foot gets tightly squashed, making quilting impossible.

I was so annoyed when I tried to do any free motion quilting. When I called the store where I got my Juki, Ed Raichert’s, (see my enthusiastic post here), and told Jason I thought my machine wasn’t working because I couldn’t machine quilt, he was of very little help. I was surprised he didn’t know he was selling a machine that couldn’t quilt right out of the box; not because the machine is bad–quite the contrary, it’s amazing–but because the accessories are awful.  Call me crazy, but I actually expected my machine to come with a functioning machine quilting foot. I was very disappointed in the service.

I did some searching online, and I remembered that Sharon Schamber has a machine quilting foot she sells, it looks like this–and check it out, it’s about 1/5 the size of the foot that came with the machine:

I borrowed a Sharon Schamber machine quilting foot from a friend from my quilt group. I really like it and it WORKS. Unlike the other foot, this one has a U-shaped area where you attach it to the machine, letting you customize the height of the foot for quilting!

I should mention that I also borrowed a Leah Day quilting foot, and I didn’t like it as much; that said, someone else might find it useful, and her website is full of great advice, especially this bit on different machine quilting feet.

Being not very smart at times, it took me a while to figure out why my old Riccar, along with it’s custom-cut acrylic insert–didn’t fit in the new table; see how it seems kind of warped?

I actually went back to the store to ask why. I was told I needed to adjust the height of the drop, which can be done by removing the screw attached to the chain on either side–see below–of the drop, and either shortening or lengthening the chain.

So that’s my new project tomorrow, to adjust the drop so my Riccar can sit flush with it’s insert. I’ll probably cut a few layers of cardboard to put in my drop to raise my Juki when I sew with that, so it won’t be too low.

I’m very excited about my new ergonomic set up!

Arizona Spring Training Trip

Today I took the day off and went up to Suprise, Arizona, where the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers share a spring-training facility; I went with my friend Abe, with whom I work. He’s a walking baseball dictionary. I know a fraction of a percent of what he knows about baseball. We had great seats along the first base line.  Here we are at the ballpark, in the middle of a game between Kansas City and the visiting California Angels. Or Anaheim Angels. Or Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles or whatever it is they are now.

This season California will be a big contender in the AL West with their celebrated acquisition last year of superstars Albert Pujols, shown here at bat….

…and C.J. Wilson from Texas, who pitched 6 innings today and was really hot. Wow. I can see what the fuss is about.  I guess I was expecting more of a relaxed vibe from the players, but the game was actually played really well and the pitching was excellent: I don’t really have a chance to see that sort of thing up close that often so what a treat!

Surprise Stadium is very comfortable. I look forward to the regular season starting soon, Opening Day is just around the corner.

BICAS Build A Bike Class

I took a great class the last 9 weeks, every Monday night, called Build A Bike and taught at BICAS, a local bicycle non-profit that offers a wide selection of bike-related services:  a huge basement full of salvaged bike parts, access to tools and mechanics to help with your own bike repairs, classes, parts and of course, bicycles to buy. It’s a very creative, hip space.

I am a complete klutz with tools or mechanical things, so this class was a challenge for me conceptually, but once I got going and thought about it I was able to complete all the bike tasks.  We split up into pairs, were given an old wreck of a bike, and spent 9 weeks taking it apart and fixing it up.

This is a lovely old Campagnolo road bike, probably 30–40 years old; it’s all Italian, super-light and very classy. This is how it looked today in it’s bike repair stand, waiting for the last minor repair: replacing the tire on the rear wheel.

I think I had the best partner in our class, this is me and 12 year old Preston, the only kid in our class; he was really smart with tools, friendly and not driven by ego, as some adults are when it comes to bikes. Here we are with our finished, rebuilt Campagnolo road bike:

I was wearing my work clogs, but still was able to barely hop on this bike and ride it down the street; it was so light, slim, narrow: compared to my big get-around-town bike, this one was light as a breeze.

On my way out of class tonight, I had a flashback when I saw this pair of 1973 Schwinn 3-speeds propped in a corner and ready for sale; the ladies’ 3-speed looked like the one I rode when I was 7, which was in 1974. My mom had a purple Schwinn 3 speed, it was the first grown-up bike I could ride (I was tall for my age) and the first bike in which I completely crashed and had to get stitches, also when I was 7. These bikes tonight looked kind of small, but I remember the Ladies Schwinn 3-speed as very large and representing the grown-up world.

It was funny to see that bike again. Only somewhere like BICAS!

Backyard Then and Now

Six years ago, my backyard looked like this: and, I should say, this is a huge improvement over what it looked like 7 years ago: then, it was a pit. The notable features then were a huge rusting broken down shed and scattered shotgun casings on the ground. My house was basically such a wreck the first year I owned it that I couldn’t take a single photograph.

This is how things in this part of the yard look now:

This is the view through the not-yet-covered-in-tombstone-rose arbor:

Every year I try and rehabilitate another small piece of the yard by planting mostly native plants that will produce shade one day and reduce weeds; this is a small bed of  perennials, all of which are largely buried under annual wildflowers, an ornamental kale and hollyhocks:

It’s hard to believe this will all be largely shrunken and brown come June!

Odds and Ends

Bearbear and I watched Annie (on the right) this weekend; she belongs to a colleague, and her photo has appeared on this blog before: she’s 14 1/2 and is very friendly with Bearbear. In fact, when I got my dog from a rescue group, he didn’t know how to play or chew bones and Annie showed him how to do these dog-type things.

The rest of the day was spent on household chores. I decided to try and make cheese danish on my own, after I made them with my mom for the first time last month. I made the dough last night, then rolled it out this morning; the dough acted quite well, and here are my fledgling danish:

And now they’re shaped and ready to raise:

The 2 danish on the left (below) are the ones I cobbled together from leftover dough, so they’re a bit sloppy; the one on the right is how most of them turned out, quite well! I also made some bread, which also is very yummy; it’s whole wheat, spelt, polenta and oat bread. A little lecithin, olive oil and honey makes it supper soft and keeps it together nicely.

I also worked in my yard today. It’s blooming with zillions of wildflowers; here’s an up close shot of some desert bluebells:

And of course some poppies; don’t you just love these shapes?

It’s hard to believe that in 90 days we’ll have scorching hot temperatures all day, every day. I have raised beds for veggies, which you can see below; now, these beds have kale, lettuce, parsnips, beets and carrots–but in the summer, raised beds loose water too quickly, and it’s impossible to garden in them. I’ve tried.

So, behind the raised beds, in the corner of the yard, is my tangelo tree; I’m building a small perma-culture-type bed under the tree for my tomato plants; this bed will be slightly below ground level, with a small berm around it and a soaker-hose inside with plenty of compost on top. Below, you can see the tomato plants, which I started from seed in January; these are San Marzano romas, a variety of tomato which is supposed to be highly disease resistant; also, smaller tomatoes do better in the heat, they’re less likely to split. And they’re supposed to be vigorous, indeterminate vines that grown tall, so the stakes are a good 6 feet above ground level.

I hope the partial shade from the tree will be enough once the temperatures hit a hundred day after day! I’m also hoping that combining water use for tomatoes and the citrus trees (there’s also a small orange tree and lemon tree) will benefit all plants and trees. I’ll keep you posted.

Dye Painting Experiment

There’s a traditional quilt block I’ve always loved called “Memory”, and I made a few of these 12″ blocks for my first ever “sampler” quilt, which I made 16 years ago. I liked how the blocks, when placed together, created very different shapes:

I like the idea of using this block in my new project. Obviously, the name of the block–memory–is something that makes sense in the context of an art quilt about the January 8 shooting.

Rather than piece together fabric to make the quilt block, I drew the shapes on fabric using a disappearing fabric pen with the intention of painting the shapes with thickened dye. Instead of a 12″ quilt block, my version is about a 5″ square; I drafted multiple versions of it. So as to avoid confusion when I painted on the dye, I took a color-by-number approach and made sure each shape had a number so I’d paint it the right color:

This was a project I could do inside on a weeknight. I added dye powder to some print mix and started filling in the shapes. I waited for the dye to dry and then painted some more. I should add that I treated the fabric with a coat of Jacquard’s No-Flo first, which prevents colors from bleeding when painting dye on fabric:

Here’s the finished piece; it’s always brighter before you wash out the colors:

And here it is after I washed it:

One thing I’m not keen about is that the brush strokes are visible. In fact, I don’t like this at all. I’m already coming up with a different plan to get this design on fabric with dye with no brush strokes. I think I’ll have to use screen printing, and I’ll have to mask out the shapes with masking tape.

Family Eats

My sister Roberta and her husband Greg and almost 2 year old son Luke were in Sonoita this weekend, visiting from Portland OR, and they stopped by my house today for a late lunch; my mom’s brother Thomas, his wife Anne and their son John Paul came over, too, as did my brother Eric.

So of course I spent most of last night and this morning baking and childproofing the house!

Here’s Luke and Bearbear:

This is a great shot of Eric and Bert:

I’m always happy to put aside what I’m working on and put together a meal for family; bringing folks together to talk and share food is generally a worthwhile endeavor. Here’s to the next yummy meal!