Motor Replacement

One of the many wonderful things about vintage machines is that you can actually work on them. When my motor on my Necchi BU Mira was in trouble, we had two options. We could send it off to get re-built or replace the motor with a commercially available one. As I was in the middle of a project, a replacement was preferred since we could get it faster. So, we replaced the Mira motor with the motor below.  {I say “we”, but I really mean my husband. I don’t mess with electricity or wiring and he is very capable.}

When it arrived, the motor mounts were just a bit too narrow on my Mira. So, my lovely husband manually filed the motor mount holes on the Mira’s mount to accommodate the slightly wider motor. A little soldering and shrink-wrapping of wires and I’m back in business.

From Granger:


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Free Motion on a Domestic Machine

Like many people, I quilted on a domestic machine for a long time and the amount space under the harp is pretty typical for a home sewing machine at 7.5 inches (foot to riser) by 4 inches (bed to arm). Without all the electronics, the head of the machine is slimmer and I can see the sewing bed better than some modern machines. This helps when you are taller than average.

So, I thought I’d share how I make my workspace and machine work even when I’m the one moving the fabric, not my feed-dogs.

This works for me. It may not work for anyone else. But, I’d just like to encourage people to try and experiment until you find a better setup for you. Add and subtract stuff until it feels good. If your body is comfortable and you fight the quilt less, you will be more successful. Try, try, try.

Things to Play Around With.

  1. Height of your Sewing Surface – The height of my industrial table has been lowered (and I’m 6 feet tall!). I make sure that when I sew “normally” that I’m in a good ergonomic position with my arms at close to 90 degrees. For me, that places the top of my industrial table at 29″. That required us to add an additional set of holes in the table vertical supports to allow it to lower enough. The result of this is when I use my Sew Adjustable 18 table, I need to make my chair higher to keep in a good position since my machine adds another 2.5 inches. Don’t just live with a setup that is uncomfortable. Play, adjust, add and subtract height to your setup until you are comfortable.  I find that I like to FMQ lower than you might otherwise think.
  2.  Increasing Your Flat Working Surface –  The Sew Adjustable Table is key for me. It has adjustable feet to allow me to fit different machine outlines. I can adjust the extension table pieces until I like how they work. This table also comes in 12″ and 24″, but you’ll see why that won’t work for me. These are not inexpensive and are as much as some sewing machines. But, for me using the setup I like, the cost was worth it to make my FMQ flow better.  {}
  3. Slippery Surfaces are Good  – Super Slider. These help the quilt slide over your surface. I’ve read that for machines in wood tables, furniture polish can help slick up the surface. Some even use a silicone spray. I worry about residue on my quilts, but don’t let that stop you from trying. Keep in mind what else you may be sewing (e.g, silk) that you might not like to contact residue due to difficulty washing.
  4. Quilting Gloves (I like Grab-A-Roos). But, I tried at least 3 brands until I found what I liked. I started with simple cotton gloves. Try and try and try to get what works for you.
  5. Machine Position. While my machine is designed to sit in a table, it does not in my house. I like to switch between this and my Viking 21A. That turned out to be a good thing. I tried free motion in the traditional position with the machine parallel to my table. That was tough since the fabric pileup blocked my view and kept hitting the wall behind my machine. In my sewing setup, I have width not depth to work with. Turning it end on, made it impossible to see beyond my preferred FM foot (hovering darning foot). So, after some trial and error, I found that pushing the machine in a roughly 45 degree angle position worked well for me on this machine.  So, I thought I’d show that to help other envision this.

Here you can see that I’ve moved the rear of the machine away from me toward the back. But, its not perpendicular to the table.


In this setup, I could use more table, but the 24″ table would be too big and would hang off my table. If I had a typical extension table, I would not get enough table on the right and left.

Below, the photo on the left is what I’d see if looking perpendicular to the machine. The back of the foot blocks my view and the hand-wheel is nearly 2 feet away. I’m tall, but not that tall and this machine is all about that hand-wheel with no electronics to help with the foot and needle position. On the right, you can see what I see in the 45 degree position. I can see to area around the needle more clearly with the pesky back support piece out of the direct front-back view, I can reach the hand-wheel and the bulk of the quilt is heading over to all that space on my left.



It took a few hours of using this to get my brain to stop using the machine body as my reference. Once I got over that, I found the quilt just moved so much better.

If your machine is in a table and set parallel to the table, pop it out and play around. Before I got this Greer table, I used wood scraps and plywood to get the height I wanted to try out AND wrapped that in a flannel-backed table cloth. I like to experiment and experiment before I go invest in “the thing” (or ask my husband to make it for me).  Don’t just suffer if your setup does not work.

p.s. And BREATHE and relax. If you are tense, your stitching will be jagged and tight.







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Let There be Light

Like many vintage machine lovers, I love how they run — but not the tiny amount of light they offer and how hot those lights get. So, I though I’d show the difference a few changes make.

Built-In Light Only (LED)


I bought the LED replacement light on Etsy after burning myself the 100th time.

Built-In +LED light strip


This is the kit I used, but there are many on the market. Just measure the length you need the strip to cover for your machine. I covered from just under the head to the side near the stitch length width.

Built-In + LED light strip + Magnetic light


This magnetic light was actually a random item found on Ebay. It does leave a little residue on the finish of the machine. If that will bother you, you might prefer an adhesive system.

CORDS, cords and more cords.

With all these lights, you can have up to 4 cords travelling from your machine to the power. I just send them back to the peg-board and use a clip to hold them. Depending on your setup, you might need to get creative. Just keep them well-clear of the belt.

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Three Zippy Pouch Baby Organization

Baby Stuff Organization

If you have ever looked at baby bags, you will quickly see that they are really really “cute”.  There is a lot of pastels and baby animals (tell me why jungle animals say “baby”?).  Or, they are trying so had to be a “guy bag” that they are simply camo and brown and blah. These bags also assume you will carry everything baby needs to survive the zombie invasion — with all items cleverly hidden into a million little pockets requiring a compass and map to locate while holding a child with a dirty diaper and snotty nose.

With my son,  I knew I hated carrying things in my hands, was not into “cute” and was pretty active. So, I wanted a system that could easily move between different bags, and be visibly clear without labels or tags to try and read with a squalling kiddo in hand.

So, I created three zipper-bag system or, at least, I discovered it for myself. I’m sure I’m not really the inventor.

  • Bag 1 – Feeding
  • Bag 2 – Diaper changing
  • Bag 3 – Clothing

You just pack the necessary items into each bag. Then, you can grab the zippy-bag you need when you run into the bathroom for a diaper change or are needing to feed the baby. When you switch outer bags, you don’t have to worry about missing something in the 50,000 pockets inside a typical baby bag. The great thing about these is that they will continue to be useful well into primary school if you choose your fabric wisely.

Design wise, keep each bag clearly different looking. Avoid the temptation to overly coordinate them. Use durable fabric (e.g., cut up fabric painters/drop-cloth, canvas, upholstery fabric, sunbrella if you machine can handle, etc.). Here were my additional criteria:

  • Must be machine washable.
  • Slightly flare the bottom (not too wide or you can’t fix multiple in a bag).
  • Wide open at top.
  • Nothing that screams newborn.
  • Gender neutral.


There are a million tutorials out there. But, I like these two.  The great thing about this tutorial by Noodle-Head from 2012 and amended by Stitch Mischief in 2014 are that the inner and outer are attached at the bottom, so they don’t invert as easily.  This method takes a bit of focus to be sure you turn the various layers the correct way, so maybe not the best choice for a new mom at 2 am. But, I greatly prefer this construction and outcome over the more typical “boxed” bag for this use.


I changed the size overall and I changed the size of the boxed corner.

  • Finished Size: 12″ wide by 9″ tall finished
  • Cut fabric: Cut a lining and outer at 13″ by 9″
  • Cut square to box bottom corners: 1″ tall x 1.5″ wide (since this is cut as one large piece, you don’t need the seam allowance on the bottom; if cut as two separate outer and inner pieces than cut 1.5″ x 1.5″)
  • Seam allowance: 1/2″ (this is for the bag/body construction). Sew the zipper with a narrow zipper foot and a 1/4″ seam allowance.




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Super-sized 10-Minute Block

A super smart quilter thought up a great way to make a diamond in square block not require cutting and sewing triangle and facing bias. Suzanne McNeill is a genius. Go buy her book. She also has a 5-minute block book.

So, I bought her book several years ago. Then, I decided to watch a few videos and remind myself about the construction. I found this great video blogger who changed up the size of the center to make a more cathedral window look.

I decided to make my individual batik squares 10″ and the center 19″ {(10″ + 10″) – 1″}. I used all my random batiks with a blue or blue-green theme — with a bit of purple for some life.

As the center of each diamond would have a character fabric to represent my sister’s likes, I make the 19″ background/frame in white.


Here’s the basic layout I came up with sitting on my king sized bed.


Here are a few of the themed fabrics I gathered focused on cats, tea, and asian-inspired fabrics. I used my bed again after cutting these to fit into the center of each diamond. I found 11″ squares worked well. I used A LOT of spray-starch as many of these fabrics seemed to have a stretchy mind of their own.

I followed the instructions from the video to to sew the cathedral windows edging. Then, I cut batting bigger than the squares and quilted the center of each cathedral window with point to point swoops in matching thread to the background.


Then, I sewed each group of 4 squares into one large block. I sewed the blocks with batting directly together with no backing. I pressed the seams open over a wood dowel. Then, free motion quilted a flower and spiral theme avoiding all the white. So, this is my second round of quilting. Why? I have a machine with a smallish harp and I find it easier to quilt using smaller pieces. But…you said no backing fabric. Why? Because my tension is not always perfect or maybe I don’t want to see the stitching on the reverse. I’ll add a backing to each of the larger center pieces after they are quilted and then run a zigzag with with a tiny width (just past 0 on my machine) and 8 length over the white cathedral windows.


I decided that the quilt needed to be bigger, so I am adding a 5-minute block border. Each background batik is 10″, and the center white is a rectangle that is 19×10″ to get the center the same size as the other ones. I am only adding size to the sides with this method.

So, you take the 19″ white fabric and fold in half on the long side. Align the fold toward the side you want to have the point. Fold=point. Since I wanted my fabrics to continue to avoid matching the adjacent color, that meant I had to keep track of the pairs to make sure my point would be meet inward to the complete cathedral window points. So, you can see here that the raw edges are up and the pen-cap is pointing toward the fold in the white fabric. That fold becomes the “point”.


These will become half-cathedral windows.

More to come.



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Weighted Blanket Tips

So, my son has requested a weighted blanket. I was sure I could make one as it was infinitely easier than many other projects I’ve taken on.


  • Beads for Filling –
  • Fabric – Two, 100% twin sheets
  • Thread – 100% cotton, Aurafil 50 wt
  • Time – Estimated at 2 days, actually took weeks.

I spent some time reading tutorials and getting prepped.

My son wanted a full sized blanket to sleep with. That meant I needed to make something that would cover his whole body. I quickly eliminated the idea of constructing the blanket out of minky. Its way to stretchy and difficult to manage if I want anything like straight lines.  So, I decided to use sheets. I also felt that a 5″ block was too large and the beads would tend to fall too far away from body.  So, I reduced the block size to 3.5 inches. I followed the basic method to construct the blanket into columns that I can fill. The I did the math: (body weight * 10%) + 1 lb. I divided the total weight by the number of squares.

Don’t sew one end. Leave both the top and bottom of the column open. Sew a single center seam across the columns, sew twice. Then, fill from the center outward at each end. This is easier than trying to get the beads to travel the full column height. Again, work from the middle outward.

I carefully measured out 1 row of beads into 16 individual cups (the number of columns I had) and used a funnel to dump them into each spot. I created a “pin dam” to keep the beads in place. It kinda worked, but if a single bead escaped and got under my sewing foot…all progress stopped and I had to break the thread and deal with the escapee. So, it took too long. There had to be a better way. So, I stopped to see if I could come up with a better solution.

My mom is a machine embroiderer and she uses all kinds of stabilizers on the top, bottom and even sometimes within the piece. Some stay in the piece, some disappear with heat and some disappear after washing.   So, after a bit of searching online, I found a self-sticking but water soluble stabilizer.  I give you…Vilene Tacky. Here’s where I bought mine.

With each of my pockets being 3.5″, I found that I needed to cut my Vilene 3×5″.  I used a dull pin (yes! they have a purpose) to scratched the back. Then, I peeled off the backing. I gently folded it almost in half along the long edge and sealed the edge away from me (near my fingers). Then, I dumped the beads in and carefully finished sealing the packet. Its a lot like making wontons. I ended up having some unmatched edge that were still sticky. So, I used utility scissors to trim the Vilene to remove any sticky bits.



Then, I could just sit at my machine and dump each little packet into its pocket. I used a single pin to keep it from sliding out — although it was pretty easy to hold in place with my fingers. Then, I was able to stitch without the beads moving around and getting under my sewing foot. That was one less thing to manage with a very and increasingly heavy blanket trying to fall off my SewSteady table, sewing table, lap and chest. Yay.

I will say that I will never do this project again. It was so fiddly and frustrating.  I got so frustrated with it at one point that I had to set it aside for a bit. Honestly, managing a heavy blanket as it got filled and trying to sew was not worth it to my back. I enlisted my husband to help at multiple points.

Next time, I’ll just buy one. Specifically, these…

But, here’s the final project. I have not washed it yet, so it still has all my markings. I use Crayola washable marker.


For a child that will grow and get heavier, and thus need more weight over time, this pattern by (the incredible and very much missed) Nancy Zieman is brilliant. I made two of these for friends and we used sheets as weights. Much, much easier than these beads and the weight can be customized. You could even sew tubes of beads. Why did I forget about this when I took on the above method?

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Turtle Heyday, the Finish

Here is the finished quilt. Many of the blocks have handwork details added, while other are simply quilted. I love the finish and the baby boy who received this is now old enough to love to suck on all the shapes.



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