Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Anatomy of a Sewing Machine

I pulled out my sewing machine manual the other day to read up on its zipper foot and stumbled upon a few pages dedicated to maintenance. Apparently, you're supposed to remove lint and oil the machine on a regular basis, which certainly hasn't been happening since I came into possession of this machine. However, since I've decided to sew more often, I think it's time to learn this important process.

To clean and oil a sewing machine, you need the following items:

- The manual; this very important guide outlines the steps to clean and oil your particular machine
- A lint brush
- A Swiffer cloth if you haven't removed dust and lint in a while
- Sewing machine oil
- Sewing machine lubricant
- Screwdrivers
- Anything else outlined by your manual

The first step in machine maintenance is removing dust and lint, both on the surface and behind different plates. Your manual will tell you which plates to remove for dusting. I used my Swiffer cloth to get rid of the big dust bunnies and the lint brush to eliminate dust in small, delicate spaces. This type of maintenance should be done every week.

After dusting, it's onto routine oiling. For me, this consists of putting a drop of oil in the bobbin housing (above) and in several places on the top of the machine (below); the exact locations are detailed in the manual. Like dusting, oiling my machine needs to be done on a weekly basis.

My machine also requires oil and lubricant on a monthly basis in entirely different locations. Be careful not to mix oil and lubricant, as different parts of the machine should not be oiled. This process required me to tip everything over to expose and oil the underside of the machine (below), which was pretty cool.

The final step of maintenance is running some scrap fabric through the machine in case any oil leaks onto the stitching area. Overall, the dusting, oiling, and lubricating process took me just over 30 minutes; it should go faster in the future, now that I am familiar with the layout in my machine. I can already tell that my machine is running better and I hope that with regular care, my 40-year-old machine will run for another 40 years.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


I'm currently working on a new pattern and am deep in the editing process. This involves making the written pattern accurate and readable, as well as knitting up a second sample of the pattern. As I haven't written up a pattern in many months, I'm rather enjoying the process.

While I'm doing a lot of number crunching on on my end, I thought I would share a couple photos of the pattern with you:

Have you figured out what it is yet? Would another photo help?

Okay, so I totally admit to teasing you. I will say that the pattern is written for DK-weight yarn and that the prototype (the first photo) was done in buffalo yarn and the test knit (second photo) is being worked in handspun. These are going to be some very special handknits when all is said and done.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sew Lovely

I wasn't joking in last week's blog post when I said I've been bitten hard by the sewing bug. Though I started with a simple bag project, I've quickly moved onto clothing and I don't anticipate putting away my sewing machine anytime soon. Thankfully, I found a cute and easy pattern to help with the transition from a small bag to a wearable object.

I made this dress in the two days following my adventure with the box bag and I'm super pleased that it looks decent and actually fits! I was lucky to have the pattern (Vogue V8184) and the fabric (Betty Dear "Aqua Floral" cotton print by Robert Kaufman) already on hand, so I could easily satisfy my growing desire to sew. Too bad we just got about 5 inches of snow, so I won't actually be wearing this dress for a while.

Perhaps the best part about this project was the process, which refreshed my memory on how to cut pattern pieces, follow an easy-grade pattern, and insert a zipper (thankfully, I finally found my sewing machine's zipper foot but not until after I put this zipper in... oh well). I also learned how to insert boning (to support the bodice) and experimented with detailing on the seams (shown above). I'm now feeling more comfortable with the whole process and I'm ready to tackle a slightly more challenging sewing project.

I've already bought fabric for this next project (another dress) and have plans to do a lot more sewing in the future. Don't worry, I'm also working on an exciting knitting project which I'm looking forward to sharing with you soon. Just don't be surprised if you see more sewing projects along with knitting projects in future blog posts.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


I was bitten by the sewing bug this week. Sewing is something I've been thinking about for a good while now but I've never been motivated enough to actually dig out my machine. Two things changed this recently: (1) I cleaned out my crafting area which freed my sewing machine from behind a pile of books; and (2) I received this beautiful little sewing book, Everyday Handmade, from my mother-in-law for Christmas.

This book has a variety of cute projects in it, from a jackalope (on the cover) to a messenger bag to a Kindle cover. Many of the projects caught my eye, but I settled on making a box bag because it seemed very achievable for someone who hasn't done any serious sewing in years. And it turned out to be a very fun back-to-sewing project, even if my corners didn't end up completely square.

Part of the appeal of this project is how little fabric it required--only 2 fat quarters plus a little more for the zipper edging--allowing me to use up some anchor-themed fabric I've been hoarding since college. I even had some nautical fabric on hand for a perfect inner lining. Between the fabric, the red and blue thread, and all of the little details in the pattern, this project is a winner.

I've already followed up on the box bag with a second sewing project, but I will save that for a later post. Until then, I want to thank my mother-in-law for jump-starting my motivation to sew!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The Big Holiday Project Revealed

I'm finally back from all the holiday travels and have settle in enough to start thinking about knitting in the new year. But before I start blogging about knitting, I want to show off the big holiday gift that my husband, brother-in-law, and I made in December!

Husband found plans for this lamp in his woodworking magazine and somehow I got roped into doing my first attempts at stained glass in the week before Christmas. (Next year, I really need to get my husband to not wait until the last minute to make huge gifts.) Still, for a last-minute venture, I think this lamp and its partner turned out very well and I think my sister-in-law and her husband really like them.

As interesting as doing stained glass was, I'm excited to get back to knitting, especially now that I've cleaned off my craft desk and stored all of my yarn in its new home. I'm also hoping to do some sewing in 2012, so I look forward to blogging about lots of interesting projects in the future!