14 April 2017

Zirkel, Zirkel, Who's Tried a Zirkel?

I had been looking at Zirkels for some time, but I kept deciding that it was one, albeit small, expense that I did not need to follow through on. There are many less expensive options for magnetic pincushions. I had never considered buying one and I am unsure why, other than the fanning, the Zirkel caught my eye while the others didn't. Of course there is a caveat here....or it wouldn't be worth a post after so very long an absence.

I am working on a project that, like it or not, requires using a whole lotta pins...many, many more than I generally use ...which is usually as few as possible. I used my well loved wool felt pincushions until one day, as I sewed, I considered how much time I was spending taking the pins out ahead of my sewing and tucking them safely back in the pincushion. My mind turned to the Zirkel again. Would using one be any faster than using a wool felt pincushion? Keep in mind that I am most decidedly not a "quick, fun and fabulous" kind of sewer. In fact I usually won't even look at a book that has one of those words in the title. I tend go slow...but slowness and quickness are all relative to the person and the sewing situation.

It was also about time to replenish the supply of my favorite pins Clover Extra-Fine Patchwork Pins that are 0.4mm (the ones in the photo). Might it be the perfect time to hunt down a Zirkel and have fine new pins too? Simple pleasures for simple, retired income restricted, minds.

The pins were the easy part to locate. I did some searching for a good price in Zirkels with the all important "free shipping" option a bit less plentiful. They are offered in several colors. Lime, Blue (a very nice turquoise actually), red, purple and black. Of course I wanted the lime, but oddly enough it was the most expensive option on Amazon (yes, prime shipping is of prime importance to me). It was about $6. more than black or blue and several dollars more than the other colors! I chose the blue...thinking, from the photo, that was a blue that I was particularly not fond of, but a better alternative for me than the black. It was a lovely surprise to find that it is actually a lovely turquoise color that I like very much. A bit more potent and a tad more green than he above image indicates.

Yes, the Zirkle really does fan out the pins..if they are dropped onto the surface pointed tip down. It seems that there is a round magnet inside ...the circle on the top is blank underneath and, I suspect, that assists the fanning process. Of course in the thick of sewing and removing pins I am not always careful to "toss them on" tip down but it's easy to fix when the toils of the sewing day are done. Did it work to speed things up? I am not that certain really, but having this somewhat looser work flow does FEEL like it goes more smoothly and effortlessly.

The company that makes Zirkel states that they are safe for use near computerized home sewing machines, while the label says "strong magnetic field, use caution handling". My best guess on the both? Use common sense. I have had the Zirkel near my computerized machine and had no issues. That being said, I don't have it snugged up right next to the machine's sensitive motherboard. Likewise, this sort of pin cushion might not be a prudent choice for someone with a pacemaker...though I have no clue about how sensitive those monitors are.

At full price, I am not have sprung the "but me" button, but for the price I found it was well worth it for me. I like being able to know that pins are held securely to its surface. My incident with a "needle being caught in my beloved cats throat" of a few years ago has me hyper-vigilant about needles and much "sew" that when I hand sew in the living room I will only use a set number of pins in use so I can easily keep track of them. A tad OCD I know but I never want to go through that again!

So, in my opinion, while not a necessity, I think that the Zirkel is a handy tool to have. I am glad that I finally took the plunge and bought one. It does what I had hoped for and my new shiny, sharp pins look so perfectly displayed now too! Yes, it really is the little, "daily use" objects that make life just a bit more nice as well as colorful.

The blue in image above is too true blue...but you get the idea. I was happy to have turquoise instead!


19 December 2016

Santa Came Early! Why I Chose a Babylock

After several years of serger lust Santa came early - delivering my wish for a Babylock Imagine serger. A good friend gently seemed to suggest that I explain why I chose this brand and model. Babylock air threaded sergers dorank as the more expensive models and many brands offer excellent sergers at a much lower price point. So why Babylock and why an air threaded Imagine?

My first-and only- previous serger was a circa 1992 Pfaff Hobbylock 788. My sewing life went into an almost "quilts only" phase not long after making this purchase and making a few fleece garments (that I still use!). At this point having a serger that I liked using became a rather moot point.

However, after reading some influential books about "fast fashion" I became interested in making clothes again a couple of years ago though. Usiing a serger returned to the "front burner". The Pfaff is a solid machine; well built and sturdy. From the 'get-go' however, I had fits with the looper threading and tensioning issues were omnipresent. We never really connected.

I did finally drag out the Pfaff, determined that, in the absense of a new machine, I would make use of what I had. I wrote a post about my triumph here. I still had tension issues but had finally overcome my "looper-phobia". Oddly enough I found a you-tube video that FINALLY explained the part that had me flummoxed for all these years. The manual for the Pfaff was less than stellar and the video really clarified what the manual missed. Tensioning was still a seems to change with each stitch and I suppose I just did not have any left over patience to figure it all out. It was serviceable but not something that I enjoyed and I found myself shying away from trying patterns that called for knit fabrics.

No you don't HAVE to use a serger to sew knits but using one does make make the sewing easier and cleaner.

So, my Babylock lust simmered. I was tempted to buy a used model last year from Quality Sewing, but the yellowed plastic made me think twice and turn away. I looked at used Babylocks and various models on places like EBAY...but never really made that jump. It is a hassle to get from where I live to a repair shop and I feared buying someone's "not quite perfect" machine and having to get it to the mainland for tweaking. I decided that waiting to be able to buy a new one was a better bet. It is unlikely that I will buy another one in my I wanted the choice to be 'the right one' for me.

I think that sergers in general have become far more user friendly in the years since I bought the Pfaff, but until very recently, Babylock was the only one that offered:

  • air threading loopers and
  • auto tensioning
and yes, you do pay a premium for those features! Juki recently came out with the MO1000 model which runs about $400- 500 less that the Babylock Imagine and DOES now have air threading loopers, but does not offer the auto thread tensioning feature. I was VERY tempted by the JUKI, but was unable to try one out and I could not find many reviews of it.

I decided that the Babylock was still my top choice. By now (this model has a long success history) any necessary tweaks have been worked out with the Imagine, which is priced at the lower end of their air-threaded serger/coverlock line, but suits my needs perfectly.

It seemed rather selfish to want a serger that costs what a great, feature loaded, 'regular' sewing machine might cost, but I have to remember that I tend not to use machines that I don't work well with...and for the features I wanted the Babylock won hands down.

Why yes, of course, I did go and snatch up a long wanted piece of deep plum ponte from Emma One Sock and a luscious heatherd red knit from Sawyer Brook. I am really looking forward to stretching my sewing skills, learning new techniques, using fabrics that I have shied away from in the past and to becoming fast friends with my new machine. It was worth the wait!


28 October 2016

A Sappy Fall Tale & Lessons From Tilly

It's been a bit of a trying time for me. A week ago last Thursday I had a fall...tumbling backwards into a few immovable, hard objects. The pain was the worst I have experienced to date. Breath-taking...quite literally. The following day I decided that a trip to the doctors might be in order since the weekend was fast approaching and I worried about how I was going to mange if it got worse. DH carefully loaded me into the card and off we went. After a couple of hours and 15 x-rays I went home to wait for a call. The initial thought was that I had a broken hip and/or collarbone. When the call came there was good news and bad news. Good news that my hip and collarbone were fine, and, best of all, that the metal-works in my back were still in place. The bad news was that I had two spinal fractures (L4, L5...near where one of the fusions is).

I have been encamped in/on my "easy-chair" for a week. Sleeping in bed was much too painful and although sleeping in a chair is less than perfect- it has been easier and more comfortable. I sleep, watch the tube, gnash my teeth over the political insanity and have had time to think...oddly enough I had no wisp of a desire to stitch...until yesterday! Things must surely be looking up! I am quite distressed over this latest "back business" and wonder how quickly the bones will heal and I when I will be able to get back to normal. I worry about the future since I have have been living with daily pain for years now...will it be the same? Worse? Better maybe!? I am not a particularly patient patient, but I also accept that I have to play this one "by the rules". The blessing, and I think it is just that, is that this could have been much worse...much worse.

I have had lots of time to think...and Tilly and my relationship to 4 legged has been one of odd topics that has crossed my mind. I love creatures. They awe me and inspire me. I like dogs and they seem to like me well enough too, but it is cats that have been a life long love for me. I relate to them so much better than dogs. I have been privileged to be owned by many felines over the years, but Tilly, cat of my heart, has touched me in a way that few others have. She adopted me/us when she was three years old and DH and I have been spellbound by her ever since. She's a one in a million kind of girl- beautiful, funny and very smart.
As I pondered this deep, inter-species connection I began to think of the lessons that Tilly has already taught me:
  • Age is not an indicator of desirability. Just as non-kitten cats have a lot to offer, older humans have stories to tell and wisdom to share. Don't judge everyone only by what you think you know about them....we all have had fascinating lives before the moment we meet.
  • Don't judge a cat or human by it's "cover story". Some cats and people need safety and security to really blossom and the we may appear at first glance most likely isn't the real story.....sort of goes along with the lesson above.
  • Yes, of course I am worthy! Of great, unconditional love, good food, spoiling, tenderness and praise.
  • Love, acceptance, and kindness can coax out the deepest love of even the most tentaive, life-weary and fearful of us....both 4 and 2 legged.
  • Be joyful! Enjoy the simple blessings of pettings, kisses, food, warmth, routines and love. Roll around, act goofy and revel in life!
  • Go with the flow. Nap when you need to, eat what you like, toss your toys in the air if you want to. Enjoy kind attentions but don't be afraid to make it clear that you need time alone. Tomorrow is another day and when something not-so-good will pass. Things are always better after a nap.
  • Life can be a gamble. Sometimes the path you are on just does not work out, but finding a new way forward can bring unimagined blessings and love.

Tilly has brought so much into our lives. I first saw her as I was approaching my second back surgery in 2010. I wasn't looking to adopt or be adopted, but I do have "a thing" for white four-paws.There she was, ready and willing to take on the challenge of two humans who wanted nothing more than to smother her with love. In truth, she is the best gift that surgery brought and now she is a gift for healing.

The lessons come every day! So love your 4 pawed companions as deeply as you can and learn to see the lessons that you can learn from them!

Fall has arrived in our neck of the's the season when I miss my New England home the most...but even here in the most. Orthern place of the Pacific Northwest the colors are are saturated and beautiful!


08 October 2016

Aurifil's New 80wt Appliqué Thread

The changes that getting older bring can be amusing at times. When I was younger I eagerly awaited hearing about a new job or pay raises, what the weekend might bring, what art I hoped to make soon...those kind of life experience kind of things. Lately though, my 'awaiting moments' are far more simple.


Thread! Yes, I have been eagerly waiting to try Aurifil's new appliqué smooth, strong, 80wt cotton. It seems that my 'making' life has been dominated by hand sewing and hand appliqué lately. Therefore, anything that tends to make my stitches look smaller and blend better is on my radar. Over the years I have used a lot of varieties of appliqué thread. Who doesn't love stitching with silk thread?! It's soft, lustrous and blends so well! My issue with sewing with most silk threads was that it tended to break a lot. I tried to love Superior Threads Bottom Line poly and Wonderfil's Invisifil poly. The problem? I really tend to be old school and I prefer sewing with cotton thread. Superior Threads pre-filled bobbin rings of their many colored Masterpiece 50 wt cotton have been my go-to appliqué thread for quite some time now. The bobbin rings are so handy and the color range is large...what's not to love?! Masterpiece replaced my myriad small spools of Mettler 50wt that had been my appliqué staple for many years before the wonders of Masterpiece pulled me in. I have two Mettler thread carriers one with the warm side of the color wheel and the other filled with the cooler side. An investment for certain....and I still return to these stashes quite often for particular shades of blues, reds and purples especially. Money well spent back then.


Amid all of these options though I kept dreaming of something even more perfect. I wanted a thin, smooth, strong cotton! Recently I discovered that one my favorite thread purveyors, Aurifil, would be introducing a new, cotton, 80wt appliqué thread at Market this fall in Houston...and,ostensibly, it would be available at Festival too. Alas, my personal exchequer would not allow for me to go to Houston and so I started searching the 'net' .... and found The Fat Quarter Shop, the bountiful, wonderful, online purveyor of all things quilty had some sets of this wonderous new product but they were out-of-stock. Once again, patience off. Since I had requested re-stock notification I found out as soon as this set was available again and pressed the magic "buy-me" button. Voila! Today I received my set of "Essential Appliqué" colors and I may be in thread love heaven!

I find that most appliqué works very well using these "essential" colors and so I had to begin my Aurifil 80w collection with this set...oh my! another sewing addiction to add to my "I want more" list. This 80 stars cotton is veerrry smooth and amazingly strong. Later today I will play with it some more and hope to have some examples to show before long. If you are a hand appliqué/hand sewing fan I think that you need to give this amazing new thread a try. I think that Aurifil has a new winner in their "thread stable"!

I wish I had ALL weights of Aurifil for examples in black, but I don' I have used similar weight and the image above shows


  • SUPERIOR Threads POLYESTER Bottom Line in Raven (black)
  • AURIFIL new 80 weight COTTON appliqué thread in black
  • AURIFIL Mako 50wt cotton in color 1130 ( dark brown)
  • SUPERIOR Masterpiece 50 wt cotton in Raven (black)
  • WONDERFIL Konfetti 50wt cotton (an all time favorite of mine)
  • SULKY 12wt cotton in black (I am a big fan of Sulky 12 wt, but SUPERIOR thread has come out with a delectable line of 12wt thread called "Sew Sassy" I love to use 12 wt for top-stitching and "big stitch" quilting...more than perle cottons which tend to spread much more.

Threads have come such a long way since "the old days" when one brand dominated the market. I am so happy to have such an amazing and varied selection these days. The thread companies have really responded to consumer requests I think.

Do you have favorite threads and/or thread brands ?

So you use a favorite hand appliqué thread?

Do you use 'essential thread colors" for most hand appliqué or do tend to carefully match colors?

Have you tried a variety of thread brands? Which ones and why?

Now...back to my regularly scheduled hand sewing projects!


30 September 2016

A New Dress No.2

Lately, most of my time has been dedicated to the several large quilt projects that I have in progress. One these projects is quite fiddley and requires focus, attention to detail and commitment! Sometimes I just need some more or less instant gratification and lately that has meant making a new garment.

I love this simple dress/tunic from 100 Acts of Sewing. Called simply Dress No.2. One of my pet peeves seems to be untidy, unfinished seams and so this entire dress if French seamed. It looks so much nicer....better for this kind of of sew than even serger seams I think. Makes me pleased. I lengthened the sleeves and added a partial sleeve lining so that if I turn the cuff up it still looks nice.nect time I want to raise the front neckline just a bit and add a few other other details like in seam pockets.

The fabric is more hefty than I general use. It is from Lonni Rossi and her "Geishas and Ginkos line (not recent). It is a deep Chinese red and black - not the pinker color that some of the photos show. It has a nice feel for Fall and Winter and I know that it will soften up lusciously with more trips through the washer and dryer.

Can you see my disguised pocket below? I tried to match the pattern exactly.

My first "Worry Bird" tagged make.

Now back to regularly scheduled quilting projects. This dress was rejuvenating!