Wednesday, January 6, 2016

20 years with my Riccar RE 571 Sewing Machine

I got my Riccar RE 571 sewing machine about 20 years ago as a Christmas present from my parents.  A couple weeks ago it stopped working. I took it in to be serviced, at first it seemed like it just needed a deep cleaning and a tune up. But once it was really looked at, it turns out the motor is dead and the cost to repair it would be more than buying a new machine. I don't like that mentality, as I like to keep fixing things, but I decided it was time to say goodbye to an amazing machine.


It's a pretty simple machine, able to do basic straight and zigzag stitch variations and buttonholes. The body is metal, so it's got a nice weight to it, it feels and is very sturdy.


While this wasn't the machine that I learned to sew on it has enabled me to make tons of different things. I made my portfolio pieces that I submitted to the Fashion Institute of Technology where I went to college, studying both fashion and toy design. A lot of the sewing skills honed on this machine came in handy there plus I learned so many more new things.

This machine has moved with me to most of the states I've lived in up to this point: New Mexico, Illinois, California, Vermont, and a brief trip to Colorado. I didn't take it to school with me in New York because FIT has tons of sewing labs.



I didn't toss this machine around, the paint has worn off just from years of pushing fabric through it.


With this machine I've sewn hundreds of plush toys. It has both mended and sewn tons of custom clothes. It enabled me to start freelance designing by being able to make prototypes and up to this point just about every sewing project posted on this site was sewn with this machine.

For the couple of weeks when the Riccar was in the shop and I didn't know if it could be fixed, I borrowed by mom's sewing machine, a Necchi model BU. It just happens to be the sewing machine that I learned on when I was about 8 years old.  It weighs a ton and continues to works beautifully.


After a little bit of research, I ended up buying a Janome HD 3000 to replace the Riccar RE 571. I do pretty basic stitching, but I do a lot of it, so I was looking for a simple but tough home machine. This one has great reviews so I'm hoping it will last me through the next 20 years.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Quick Baby Quilts

I really like quilting but I don't always have the time. My step-sister had a baby boy this past September, so I made him a quick quilt with a super cute frog print in primary colors for Christmas. 

Instead of a time intensive patchwork quilt, this one is just a top layer with a print with the backing a solid yellow. Instead of batting, I put another layer of white flannel in the middle, so it's warm but not too thick. The backing is made about an inch longer on all sides so it can be folded over the top for the binding edge instead of making a separate bias binding strip.


I did a random quilting pattern once all the layers were assembled moving in between the frogs. I made sure to pre-wash all the cotton so it would shrink the same amount.


There are so many great flannel prints out there that I couldn't resist making another one for my soon to be here daughter with happy breakfast foods all over it.


With the repeated design, it was easy to create a quilting stitch pattern by just working between specific parts of the print.


Friday, December 25, 2015

Felted Wool Project


My mom had saved a bunch of baby clothes for me including a couple of wool sweaters that my Grandma had knitted for me and my brother when we were kids. Unfortunately the sweaters has been accidentally machine felted so they couldn't be worn anymore. I didn't want to waste my Grandma's hard work so I looked up some ideas on how to reuse felted wool. I was surprised at how many great projects I found. I decided to make a couple of ornamental balls that could be used in a couple of different ways.


The sweater looks alright here, but it's really thick and has lost all the stretch of the knit. I tried to cut out the ball shapes to incorporated some of the existing design from the sweater.

I put a jingle ball in each one, then filled them with polyester stuffing and added some extra felt shapes for fun. I made them with multiple uses in mind, they can be a pet toy, a tree ornament or a kid toy that is safe to throw around inside. You could also add potpourri to the inside if you wanted to make a sweet smelling ornament. Without you can wash it and it will continue to felt up more.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Vintage Print Pillows


I have many ongoing projects that won't be finished for a long time, so I took a break to spend a couple hours with a nice quick project: pillow covers. Several years ago I made some monster shaped pillow covers, but I got sick of them so I decided to try to find some fun fabrics in my pile to make new covers I would be excited about. Some of Alec's earliest memories are of this specific fabric because it made up the curtains in his room.  When his mom gave me a bunch of her leftover vintage fabrics a couple years ago this was included.


The big print with jungle animals seemed perfect to show off on some pillows and I had just enough to make two. I didn't want to buy any new fabric for this project. Luckily I had a lot of super soft, blue plush minky fabric for the back that complemented the orange in the print on the front.


I did include a zipper so they could be washed. I still don't know how well minky plush fabric holds up to repeated washings but I'll soon find out.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Baby Knits

The baby projects continue with some knitted items. I've made this sweater pattern, Gidday Baby before as presents for new babies, but this one will be for my baby. The nice thing about baby items is that they can use up some scrap yarn. I was able to use up several different jewel toned yarns that I had in my stash. I had two similarly colored peacock blue yarns that I alternated to make up the body because I didn't have enough of either to complete the sweater.



I also tried a new pattern from The Ultimate Book of Baby Knits by Debbie Bliss for baby booties. I made the booties on a separate occasion than the sweater. They both have the peacock blue yarn, but the booties have gray as the contrast color, so they don't quite match.


In a completely different color scheme, I made up the pattern for this cabled baby hat. This hat is smaller than the rest of the knits, hopefully it will fit newborn to 2 months or so, it does have some stretch. I had a bright pink yarn that matched the intensity of the blue yarn so I added a bow for fun.



Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Wizard Baby Shower invite


I've been super busy with various work projects which means that my personal projects have been baby related lately. This illustration is no exception, I made it for our baby shower invitation. We're having it around Halloween, so I figured a wizard theme would be fun. Our cat Webby is dressed as a vampire and helping add cool things to the baby brew. My bunnies Patty and Selma, who have passed away, are still helping out as little ghosts. It was fun thinking of different things to represent Alec and my interests that we would want to make sure our baby was into too.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Black & White Maternity Dress

I'm currently expecting my first child in January of 2016. I have just begun to outgrow my regular clothes and it's frustrating to not have much to wear. Luckily, I really like sewing so I was able to turn it into a fun challenge to design a dress that I can hopefully wear through the rest of my pregnancy. I've never tried to design something with a lot of size flexibility so I looked at a bunch of maternity sewing patterns from the 1950's and '60s for inspiration and ended up with this design.
I started with a basic tent shape sloper for the body of the dress to give it a lot of extra room. To make it adjustable, I added the ties on the sides that can let out more fabric as needed. All the buttons on the front panel work, so that if I really underestimated how large I'll be getting, I can make an even wider panel to replace it. I included some practical side seam pockets too. The black and white color scheme is intentionally plain so that I can accent it with different shirts and tights underneath as the weather gets colder.