DIY Woes


Today is my lovely Momma’s 75th birthday!  This Spring, she sold her house in my hometown (about 120 miles from where I live)  and moved into a retirement town home community in a suburb of Des Moines (yay!).  Having her living locally, close to her three youngest children, and five of grandchildren, is wonderful.  She babysits when needed for my brother and sister (happily and willingly!), attends soccer and football games and practices, joins them for a quick trip out for ice cream; even joined me on Friday for her first AQS experience!  When she needed new eyeglasses, I just took a long lunch to go help her pick out a new pair.  Yesterday, she drove over and took my little sister out for lunch for HER birthday.  Mom has been very happy she made the move, despite missing her old friends, and we’re happy to say she’s made new friends fast.


(Click on the photo to go to the designer’s site–love her Cake Walk pattern!)  My sweetie and I fixed up a new sewing table for Mom’s Elna sewing machine as a birthday present.  She sews with an Elna 6003, but she’s never had a drop-in table for it.  It must have been six years ago that she and I bought a nice unfinished wood shelf/tabletop at Menards with the plan that I would help her turn her old treadle sewing machine base into a custom made drop-in table for the Elna.  Well, best laid plans…

After her move in June, my sweetie and I took some measurements, drew up a plan, realized that the treadle sewing machine base wasn’t wide enough to accomodate her sewing machine, but thought we might have a table base in the garage that would work… so we hauled the wood tabletop home with us.

I dusted off my old jigsaw, and cut the hole out for her machine and the plexiglas extension base she had, borrowed my little brother’s router, and my sweetie routed out a nice shallow lip for the plexi to rest on.  The table base that we had fit perfectly.  It came from a little drop-leaf kitchen table that I found at an estate sale and had started to strip the paint off but gave up after we found another small table that needed no work and fit our space perfectly–and it was only $25 (with chairs).  Sweetie wanted to throw the little half-stripped table away, but I wouldn’t let him.  “It’s a perfectly good table, and someone will be able to use it.  It doesn’t need to be in the landfill”.  Yep, I’m that girl.

So, the table base was attached to the bottom of the new custom-cut table top, and a rectangular base for the sewing machine to sit on was suspended from the bottom of the tabletop:

We used an enamel spray paint for the base and legs, and bought a quart of the worst.oil.based.enamel.paint.ever.made. to paint the top a nice smooth, glossy finish.  I’m telling you, this project would have been complete in July if not for this horrible paint.  It went on like glue (and stated very plainly on the label that IT WAS NOT TO BE THINNED).  Not only that, it didn’t really dry, either.  My sweetie is far more patient that I; if I had been the one working on painting this, I would have stripped the first layer off after waiting a week for it to dry completely, and immediately thinned the paint and recoated it a few times–project complete.  But– he was determined not to be defeated by this can of paint (although he threatened about three weeks ago to go throw the entire table away and start over).  I’m pretty sure you know what my answer to that was.

Last week, when he was out of town for work, and we had some warm weather days, I went out to the garage to re-coat it.  He had painted a coat on Saturday morning, and this was Tuesday evening and it was still tacky.  I picked up a scraper and started scraping the edges down, so he could re-sand it, and maybe buy new paint and get the crazy thing done before her birthday.  When he saw what I did, he scraped it the rest of the way, sanded like crazy, thinned the paint and painted a new base coat.  The next day, he painted a second coat on it.  Third day, he did a little touch up, and this weekend we were able to declare this never-ending-project completely done.  Lesson learned: next time, just go buy different brand of paint.  Here is the table sans sewing machine and plexi (I’ll post a pretty pic complete with her set-up after we make the delivery tonight!):

Given the hours we invested in this project, we would have been much further ahead if we had just gone here and purchased a new table for her (but, don’t tell my sweetie I said that).

**UPDATE:  Table has been delivered, it’s a perfect fit and Mom can get back to sewing!  Here is a shot showing the groove we cut out for the plexiglas extension bed, and the whole set-to with her Elna Quilters Dream 6003 machine in place:

Now, if I could just get that table runner made for her that I promised her over two months ago…

Sewing Studio Up-Do

(originally posted August 23, 2011)
It’s not really a redo, that was done last year, but this month, it got a definite up-do, or upgrade, anyway, with two great projects!

Today: Project #1, Making a Recessed Sewing Table (a Project ANYONE could do!)

I started with this, my Ikea bookcase and table that I’ve used for sewing for almost two years.

A shot of my studio in June 2010

But when I needed to do any quilting, especially free-motion quilting, I would pull out a little drop center table from JoAnn’s to put my machine in.  However, the Janome was too large to fit into the table from JoAnn’s.  And quilting with the machine too high was just too hard on my neck and shoulders to quilt for very long.  So… I traced the footprint of my Janome onto the table top, and my sweetie got a jigsaw and drill out,

and cut a big hole in the table.  We figured the worse that could happen is that we would ruin a $55 Ikea table, and have to replace it.  The core of the table was a paper cardboard honeycomb core, with two 1x3s running lengthwise for added support…

Sweetie added some more 1×3 strips to enclose the exposed core, added wood filler, sanded, primed, painted and eventually we added this shelf, attached with 4″ L-brackets to the table.  Here it is without the machine sitting in it:

and voila– A recessed sewing table, custom fit for my Janome Horizon! As you can see, there is extra space to the right of machine, that I allowed for access to the power cord, feed dog switch and power switch.  Remember to take that into consideration when determining the footprint of your own machine:

I removed the feet from the plexiglas table that came with my machine and made sure the machine would sit just high enough above the surface of the Ikea table to accommodate it–a perfect fit! If your machine doesn’t have a plexiglas insert, you can have one custom cut at a local hardware store, or glass shop.  Just make sure they have a very accuratetracing of the bed of your machine.

We finished this project on Saturday afternoon, and I spent much of Sunday sewing, it was such a pleasure to have the machine at the correct height for a change!  I think I could sew an entire day without feeling any strain in my shoulders.  A very nice UPGRADE, indeed.

Of course, once we finished I needed to clean the shelves and rearrange everything (sawdust everywhere!) but they needed cleaning and reorganizing anyway.

DIY Tutorials for the other parts of my sewing studio:

Project #2; a sassy new cutting table with storage!

DIY Design Wall anyone can make!

Big Board Ironing Board Tutorial

Fabric Storage (Stash Management)

Pillow Talk

Our Modern Quilt Guild Chapter just completed a pillow swap, based on the format and rules of the Pillow Talk Swap. We had two months to make our pillow, after being assigned a member, given a list of their likes and dislikes (fabrics, colors, etc.), and having a mosaic they created to use as inspiration.

I’ve been trying to sew more with scraps of late, so I started with my box of white/beige/cream scraps and made a bunch oh wonky four-patches…Pieced them together randomly, adding strips to fill in where needed…Until I ended up with a 17″ square, which I added an envelope back to, sewed it into a 14″ pillow size, with an outer flange, quilted, and then added a fabric ruffle flower to for interest:Emma, the member I made this for really likes fabric flowers, as a matter of fact, she presented a program to our guild in January about how to make origami style fabric flowers.

The flower is made from scraps of bindings leftover from other quilt projects, sewed into one long strip, ruffled, sewed to the pillow in a circle with a quilted, trapunto style flower center appliqued on:I made the entire pillow on my Featherweight, including the quilting (because my Janome is set up with a quilt that is partially free-motion quilted and I didn’t want to change the settings):Quilting on a Featherweight…it’s possible! Actually, it worked quite well for this small project.

The pillow Jill made for me was SPOT ON as far as my likes/dislikes, my colors, and my studio decor (where the pillow will live)…I practically jumped up and down when I found out this was mine!

If you’d like to see the rest of the pillows that were swapped Thursday night, visit our flickr swap group. And go tell Jill how fabulous her/my pillow is!

Blogtoberfest Day XXV–A Ghastlie Night, Indeed

October has been a busy month in the Threads household, daily blogging for Blogtoberfest

Tutorials, projects and giveaways Galore for my own Halloween Party…

Custom costume creations for some special little people…

And Today?  A stop on the Ghastlies Blog Hop… with Portrait Placemats of the entire brood.

Have you met the Ghastlie Family?  I had the opportunity to visit Ghastlie Manor a few weeks ago, and met the entire clan.  Uncle Rufus Ghastlie, (he fancies himself a vampire… really, he’s just an unfulfilled accountant who prefers wearing capes to suit coats), is such a dear.  he gave me a tour of the grounds and introduced to me to the entire clan.  There is a very handsome framed portrait of him on the mantle in the parlor…

There are some rather good group portraits of the family as well…  Though a troublesome bunch, this one, taken in the Dining Room of the manor, turned out quite well; except for Sebastian sprawling himself out on the table just before the camera flashed.  Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Mathilda, the matriarch of the family is that pale creature at the far left, and next to her is Cousin Cornelius (I wouldn’t cross him, if I were you…),  Mathilde’s sister Druscilla is next (everyone calls her Aunt Cill), at the head of the table is, Albert, with his son, Alphonse.  I’m not sure why Aunt Gertrude is standing there shaking her finger at the camera… although she “despises that filthy cat–who apparently has the run of the house” (and table, in this case).  Aunt Tilly, on the corner there, is such a gentle soul, but she photographs poorly… and Prudence…  And Dear Uncle Rufus, always so dapper and dashing….

Now, I tried my best to avoid Roderick, he is the doctor in the family, though not a Ghastlie by birth…

Roderick married Aunt Gertrude, (on the chaise) and they have one daughter, Prudence.  Dreadful child.  {shudder}…  Truly, they are quite an unpleasant little family.  Oh, and the spinster aunts, madly knitting away in the corner…. they didn’t want to bothered with introductions!

These portraits were framed, quite lavishly, in this Haunted Mansion moulding by Sanae (Moda), the spiders add such an elegant touch, don’t you think?


I hope you enjoyed meeting the family.  What’s that?  No, I’m not pictured here (I’m typically behind the camera…) and that’s just fine by me.  Until next time, my dears…

Please visit the other blogs on today’s schedule:

Leave a comment for each of us for a chance to win a grand prize on Mde Samm Ghastlie’s Blog at the end of the day… 

And, come back tomorrow for a tutorial on how to make your own Portrait Placemats and a chance at this week’s Giveaway!

Have a Ghastlie Day!

September? Already?!

Today is Fresh Sewing Day over at Lynne’s. Lynne and Gayle are hosting a Hex-A-Long, loosely based on the Candied Hexagon Quilt.  My quilt IS the Candied Hexagon pattern… and this month I made a dozen more blocks:


I’m planning to have this one constructed and quilted by Spring!  (I’d say it’s about time, I first blogged about this quilt in June 2009!)  But, in my defense, I only started cutting the quilt in June 2010!  Every one of those hexagons is hand-pieced… so hand-quilting might be in order for this one…

I finished the top of my Art Gallery Spanish Tiles quilt, which is now quilted and will get bound this weekend:

and most exciting…my studio makeover is now complete!  Recessed sewing table and new worktable projects are done!  You can see the details here and here.

Click here to go visit the other blogs for Fresh Sewing Day.

Sewing Studio Up-Do, Part II

Today’s Studio Upgrade: A New (Inexpensive, Custom) Cutting Table with Storage

I’m known for screeching to a halt to pick up someone’s “trash” from the curb, because I firmly believe that one man’s trash is another (wo)man’s treasure.  (Don’t worry, I’m NOT a hoarder, I either finish the project I envisioned within a year or two, or I find a new home for what I hauled home).

In May, the University I work for was trashing a bunch of old oak cabinets and slate counter tops as  they installed the new chemistry lab.  I happened to drive by that side of campus, the day they were carrying everything out to the curb and setting it near a big sign that said “Free”.  I immediately stopped, pulled two cabinets and some shelves aside with a sign on them that they were claimed and would be picked up later.  I then called my sweetie and arranged for him to swing by on his way home from work that afternoon to retrieve them.  We reluctantly passed on the “too large” slate counter tops.  I brought these home:

My sweetie and I got to work removing vinyl toe kicks, adhesive, sticky messes, etc., then washing,  sanding, priming and painting MANY layers of white paint on these, in addition to cutting new shelves and making minor wood filler repairs.  It’s been an all summer job out in the garage–which sweetie stuck to through our terrible heat and humidity!  (I wimped out once the heat index went over 95 degrees, I was willing to wait until Autumn for my “new” cabinets).

A few weeks later, this old counter top was slated for the trash at the building I work in.  Naturally, I hauled that home, too.  It happened to be just the size I needed to top off the oak cabinets. (Lucky, huh?)

I wasn’t crazy about the 1980s country blue formica, so when I was at Grubers in July, I picked up some fabulous laminated cotton to cover it (Oil Cloth would have been a little more durable, since it’s heavier, but I adored this bicycle/tricycle print by Michael Miller, and since I am the primary user of this tabletop, I know it will be used carefully).  If you are making a similar table covering that will be used by kids, or multiple family members, I’d recommend oilcloth.

How to cover a tabletop:

1.  Cut your oilcloth/laminated cotton larger enough to allow for folding over all four sides, with an overlap to the bottom side of your plywood or tabletop, and extra fold under of raw edge–in this case, about 5-6 inches on all sides.  It doesn’t show in this pic, but I trimmed a triangle  (about a 3″ triangle) off all four corners to make easing your corners in in step #5 go smoothly.

2.  Starting at the center of long sides of board, wrap fabric tightly around back, tucking about 1/2″ of raw edge under and securing with a staple gun.  I usually do the center, and about 3″ on each side of center spot along one side, then move to opposite side of the board and repeat by pulling fabric tightly around the back at the center of that side, turning under 1/2″ raw edge again, and securing it with a staple gun.  

3.  Proceed outward along sides of your board, alternating from side to side every so often, until you  reach the end at all four corners. 

4.  Moving to center of your short ends, repeat step #2, until you get to this point:

5.  This is where the fact that you trimmed a triangle of bulk out of your corners in step #1 becomes important.  Fold your long side excess length in closely to the edge of the table top, and fold the end side excess in over the top of it, just like you would if you were wrapping a gift with paper (sometimes it helps to have an extra set of hands at this point-one to wrap and hold, the other person to staple):

6.  Once you have it where your want it, laying nice and flat, secure it with your staple gun.  Add extra staples to bottom side fabric edges as needed.  You can use this same method to re-upholster chair seat covers, ottoman covers, you name it.

We installed the cabinets and the tabletop in my sewing studio just before we went on vacation…

There is an open area under the table that is exactly the width I need for storing my vintage Bernina 830 Record.  The door on the left cabinet hides a multitude of WIP sins… and the open shelves on the smaller cabinet provide storage for books and tools facing the door to the studio…

We also added that nifty towel rod and buckets from Ikea for holding rotary cutters, scissors, seam rippers, pencils, etc.  All at the ready, all off my work surface.  The drawer on the cabinet to the left still needs the drawer facing and pull added to it (This weekend’s project),  but it’s completely functional at this point.  And it’s a HUGE drawer-great storage!

Total Cost for My New Custom Cutting Table/Work Station:

Cabinets & shelving    $0
Formica Tabletop                $0
Laminated Cotton               $17.99 (It took less than a yard so I have pieces left over!)
Primer                                 $10 (we’re giving the rest of the gallon to someone for a second project)
Woodfiller                           $5
Paint                                    $12
TOTAL                              $44.99

I’ve used the cutting top once so far, and it is already worth it’s weight in gold.  A shot of the entire sewing set-up:

Add the ironing board off the left side of the photo there and I have myself a great work-triangle!