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 every 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”?).  These bags also assume you will carry everything baby needs to survive the zombie invasion all hidden into a million little pockets requiring a compass and map to find.

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 – https://www.ebay.com/itm/20-lbs-Plastic-Poly-Pellets-Cornhole-Bags-Filler-Shooting-Rest-Heavy-White-/322331471754?hash=item4b0c73ef8a
  • 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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Merging Patterns – Turtle Heyday

After completing several Wendy Gratz patterns, I’m really am enjoying the applique process. A coworker is expecting a baby and I wanted to use a reptile in the design. I wandered around on the web and found the Turtle Tale block in Animal Parade 2: Charming Applique Quilts for Babies by Cheri Leffler.  I love the turtles, but not the quilt design (LEFT). So, I wandered around until I found Hedgehog Heyday in Fun-Sized Quilts: 17 Popular Designers Play with Fat Quarters complied by Karen M. Burns.  I love this setting (RIGHT).

TurtleTale Lefflerhedgehogheyday

So, I bought both books and used EQ7 to work out the block design to merge these two patterns and increase the “fun size” quilt to 12″ (finished). I’m calling this Turtle Heyday and it will end up at 59 x 59 inches, if I keep the borders. I’ll use one of Cheri Leffler’s turtles in each turtle block. By adjusting some of the sizes in the HedgeHog Heyday, I can use those instructions on how to make the pinwheels and border triangle.


The colors here do not represent the real colors of my fabrics, but having a printout helps keep my straight on which fabrics to use where. I print a copy of this and write notes about the fabrics I will use. I often change my mind as I make each block.

I usually don’t bother to upload my actual fabrics as they are all from my stash and sheets. I just use this as a legend.

Here is my initial layout with just the 12.5 inch (12″ finished) blocks to look at the overall colors. My feline helper is “Cookie”. She kept bellycrawling over to sit on the quilt no matter how many times I shifted her off it.

I like the overall colors and look, but if you look at the bottom left, you can see that the green border around the diamond-block blends in with the corner block. I tested using that red fabric as an additional log in the log-cabin block, but thought it was too jarring. I ended up using white, two layers thick to avoid the green turning it grey.  I found the center of the block and used that to align the new logs to end up 1 1/2 wide.

turtleheyday_testing layout

I need to construct the final, triangle blocks to finish the setting.  I quilted each block individually.




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Fighting the Cold

I edited this on 7/15/2018 after a few questions…

As the Arctic blast hits New England, I realized that we did not have enough warm head wear for the crazy cold weather. So, I found a wonderful tutorial on Olive Leaf Journal (https://oliveleafjournal.com/2014/01/13/fleece-hood-and-balaclava/).  This is everything…a hood, a face shield and a scarf…with no long scarf tails to get tangled and lost and caught in everything.  The piece she calls scarf is the portion that will cover the face/nose.

I made the first hood to the measurements in the tutorial and it fits my 7-year old son very well. My head is 23 1/2 inches. So, I had to up-size the hood to fit me. So, I cut the pieces for my 23 1/2 inch head as:

  • HOOD: 17″ h, 16″ wide
  • SCARF/FACE COVER: 11″h, 16″ wide (single layer, hem 11″ side).
  • NECK COVER: 11″h, 16″. Hem 16″ side that you cut into a curve.

The tutorial is generously shared by the author and its her creative work. I’ve made a few edits to ease of creation to work for me. Once you make it, is pretty easy to follow. However, I thought it might be helpful to add a few extra details for the first-time sewer.

  1. Hem the piece labelled “Neck Cover” along the curved bottom. You only need a 1/2″ hem.
  2. Hem the hood with at least a 1″ hem. This will also provide a casing for a string to tighten the hood. If you are using thin fleece that does not keep its shape well, you can make a facing using a strip of 1 1/2″ fleece sew to the front and turned to the inside of the hood. This will add a bit of stiffness to the front of the hood.
  3. Add a grommet to either the facing or the turned hem of the hood 2″ front the bottom of the hood. The grommet should be placed so it faces the inside of the hood after hemming. By placing the grommet in this location, when you sew the three pieces together, you won’t block the string access.
  4. To assemble the three pieces together, I deviate from Olive Leaf Journal instructions only because I found this more logical for me to keep the fronts and backs clear. Assemble the hood, right-side out, as you would wear it. Then slip the SCARF/FACE COVER into the hood, just like you would wear it. So, the right side of the SCARF/FACE COVER is facing the lining of the hood. Overlap the hood bottom by about 1/2″. This creates the overlap at the bottom of the hood to avoid a gap. Then, place a bunch of pins to keep the layers from slipping and shifting.
  5. Turn the NECK COVER inside out and slide it over the other two pieces. Align so that the back seams match and the right side of the NECK COVER faces the right side of the hood. Move the pins from holding together the first two pieces to holding together all three pieces.
  6. I sewed it together with my machine on stitch length 2 and stitch wide 1.5 using my Viking 21, jersey needle and 100% polyester thread (Guterman). I used a small zigzag, not a straight stitch.
  7. Once fully assembled, flip the NECK COVER down and you are good.

Overlap described in step 4


Final Hood


Here you can see the second hood I made. I added a facing to add some stiffness to the hood (cut on the less stretchy direction in my fleece).

If you find the hood tend to flop over your head, you may like to make this with a three-part hood. You can use the pattern off CYA Tutorials (http://cyatutorials.blogspot.com/2009/12/scoodie.html). Just use the hood from this pattern and adjust the bottom to match the 16″ wide SCARF and NECK COVER.

This picture explains how hood shape is influenced by how you cut it.

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