Jul 31, 2016

move over Kate Spade... I'm sewing with leather

Turns out, dreams really can come true!

I made my 1st leather tote bag!

I've been dreaming of getting a second sewing machine specifically for leather for a couple of years. I plan to make purses, bags and other stuff. I see myself as the next Kate Spade! ... (Actually, I don't even know much about her... and I don't think she even owns the company anymore...) I picture Kate Spade as this eternally young woman, happily designing cute colorful purses, making stuff women want to buy. Then I insert myself into that picture! Haha. Hey, don't laugh.

After two years of making and selling tote bags (think Vera Bradley, only way cooler), I finally reached a point where I could justify the cost of a new machine and make the room - both in my studio and in my schedule.

My second machine is a serious, industrial workhorse... like a Mac Truck.

My first machine is a sewing computer. 

...a delicate dandelion ready to break apart with the wind.

My second machine is like JJ Watt (think Terminator, only real) - ready to roll over anything that stands in its way. This one - you turn it on - and it just sews! Forward and backward.

I bought my first machine about 4 years ago. Bernina --- the 820 Quilters Edition. It was International Quilt Festival time and my BFF and I had margaritas and Mexican food before 'Preview Night' of the show. Still happy from our happy hour(s), I found myself in the Bernina booth talking to this very nice lady who showed me this magical machine and its stitch regulator for free motion quilting. 

For 15 years, I hand quilted but always wanted to learn to do more. So the features of the 820 looked very appealing. I signed up! Called my BFF ... "Come to aisle 1600. I just bought a Bernina."

This time around, I did a LOT more research! Here's my first little leather coin purse.

In spite of my margarita-happy purchase, I do not regret my Bernina decision at all. Quite the contrary - I love the machine. The learning curve was very high though. I have to say it took me almost a year to figure out the machine --- and that's with attending all the classes my Bernina dealer offered.

My fancy dandelion sewing computer is awesome if you abide by my 2 rules. Number one, don't use the BSR (otherwise known as the Bernina Stitch Regulator). Yes, the gadget that was the most attractive to me at first turns out to be the least useful. 

Number two, oil the machine every hour or so. Yes! Every hour! Trust me. This solves all evils.

With these two rules, I rule my Bernina and I love it.

But with a second chance, I wanted to make sure I knew what I was getting.
What would Kate Spade do? I assume she would start with You Tube, I mean really. Who needs a staff or professional counsel when you can learn just about anything on You Tube? haha...

Seriously, there are tons of great videos on how to choose a leather sewing machine... how to thread it... how to sew with it... on and on. Its all right there if you invest the time to watch and learn. This time, I also talked to lots of people. I read blogs, studied the work of small leather studios, went to an industrial sewing shop, and I talked to many dealers on the phone.

I plan to make leather purses, tote bags and other small items. So I decided that I needed a machine with a cylinder arm. That raised the price quite a bit over the flat bed machines, but I knew it was a critical feature for rounded corners and other tight spaces in sewing bags. I also knew I needed the lock stitch, compound feed mechanism, and I wanted a stitch length of 6 mm. I would have loved to have the option for an even longer stitch length, but it turns out this is one of those dividing lines and the machines that do longer stitches are a lot more expensive. So 6 mm is good for me.

Next decision was the price and the brand. I started out preferring the Pfaff based on advice and reviews. But I learned from talking to experts that most of these industrial machines are pretty much made by the same manufacturers and they just stick different labels on the outside. I don't mean to discredit Pfaff or any other brand by saying that, I know there are quality differences.

Anyway, I was ready to accept an off-brand alternative. I found machines that mimic the features of the name brand machines, but for several thousand dollars less!
I finally decided to purchase a Typical GC 2603 from a dealer in Dallas, Texas - Sunny Sewing Machine. Their customer service has been incredible! I was nervous to purchase a machine over the phone that I had not sewn with... but they assured me I would be satisfied and they spent a lot of time talking to me about the features and what I needed to sew purses, bags, etc.

The price tag was $1,350 --- within my budget. Shipping was $165 (Dallas is only 4 hour drive from Houston). And I needed a couple extra gadgets added, which Sunny Sewing machine included AT NO EXTRA CHARGE!

And get this - I got the machine 2 days later! AND it came to me fully assembled and ready to sew. With industrial machines like this, there is a motor, belts and other stuff and the machine has to be firmly attached to the table. Sunny Sewing Machines did all this up front. Bolted the thing to a pallet and shipped it to me ready to go. All the other dealers sent the machines in parts and you have to install the motor, etc. Having it ready to go was very attractive!

Luckily "third floor quilts" has an elevator! And A Husband available to help!

Bernina's customer service was a completely different experience. I'm not saying it was bad - just different. First, it took 6 weeks to get my Bernina delivered. At the time - and even now - that seems crazy to me. Second, the machine did come with one set of needles, oil, small tools, and several feet amd a few other things. But it did not come with a 1/4 inch foot. I had to buy that foot extra. It wasn't that expensive, but it seems that a $6,000 machine desinged especially as a quilter's edition ought to come with a 1/4 inch foot. Small thing, I know. But it has stuck with me all these years. Bernina did fund about 6 full and half-day classes, which I took full advantage of. These were very helpful.

With my new leather machine, Sunny Sewing added an edge guide (which was not standard to this model) and 2 zipper feet attachments for free! They also sent needles and other goodies.

I'm so happy with my new Mac Truck... my new JJ Watt power!

Stay tuned Kate Spade. I'm on my way.

Jul 18, 2016

tote bags ... some recent finishes

Some recent finishes of my custom quilted tote bags for the needlepoint industry. I sell these types of bags through Chandail Needlework.

Jul 14, 2016

any quilters in Mauritius?

The Internet is a weird thing.

Every now and then, I check the 'stats' on my blog to see what's up. There's a ton of information there and its interesting to see how many people visit and what part of the world they're from. Usually, its pretty routine. But this week, I have more visitors from Mauritius than I do from the United States. Mauritius, seriously?

Wonder how many quilters are out there in Mauritius... in the middle of the Indian Ocean, next to well, nothing. Look it up... its a tiny speck of a place. Beautiful, but tiny.

What do they want with me and my little blog? Maybe there's a cruise ship near by and on it are a bunch of quilters, and all at once, the quilters and all their friends visited my blog? Hmmmm....

Or maybe I'll get one of those letters from Africa... only, this one will say...

"The Honorable Princess from Mauritius has been studying your blog. She is very impressed and she went to your site many times. Now, just for you, she has a special investment opportunity. No money is requried... just send fabric...The Honorable Princess wants to learn to sew!" Fun, huh?

That would be a great story, wouldn't it? A more likely story is trolls. But, given that the "page views" are coming from such a weird place, I can't help but picture trolls like these guys.

I am sure I had several of these same trolls in the '60s.

Well, Internet, after Mauritius is done with me, what's next?

Jul 4, 2016

new quilted purse with fabric from Japan

Just finished this cute little purse! Its about 8 inches high, 10 inches wide. Made from Yoko Saito fabric printed in Japan.

I made one lined pocket for the inside and also added a clip to hold keys. The yellow zipper matches this beautiful interior fabric, and it also adds an unexpected pop to the taupe colors on the outside top. The zipper pull is a button.
The handles are wood. I added the little hanging bird for just a touch of something special.

The size is perfect I think. Small enough to be modern, and big enough to hold my stuff!

I'm thinking of making more purses similar to this one and re-opening my Etsy shop (which I shuttered a while back.). I would love to know your thoughts on whether you think this would sell... and any other suggestions or comments about this purse.

Jul 1, 2016

book review: a Japanese history that reads like a thrilling novel

Every now and then, a book comes along that is truly unforgettable. 

"Midnight in Broad Daylight" by Pamela Rotner Sakamoto is one of those books.

This story has nothing to with quilts, of course, but I wanted to share this review because this story is so incredible, so beautifully written and so insightful into Japan's days before and after WWII. Once I started reading this, I simply could not put it down. And its all the more incredible because its a true story.

This is the story of one family who lived in two countries - Japan and the U.S. The story begins is a peaceful Hiroshima, and ends in a Hiroshima torn apart by years of war and finally the horror of the atomic bomb.

Two brothers end up fighting against each other during the War. After Pearl Harbor, the American brother had even been sent to the U.S. internment camps with his sister and her young child - taken from their homes and livelihoods. Joining the Army was actually a way out of the interment camp... which must have been an incredible emotional struggle.

The author spent 10 years researching and writing this book. Can you imagine dedicating 10 years of your life to one subject? Her dedication and meticulous research brought this story to life in a unforgettable way. 

I don't read fiction anymore. I'm an avid reader and I used to love fiction. These days I want to read something real and something that will teach me something I did not know. Most often that takes me to history, memoir or current events books.

But I am just as picky with my non-fiction choices as I was with choosing novels. I won't waste my time on boring or bad writing. If it puts me to sleep, then I move on to something else. Reading takes me away from making quilts! So it has to be worthwhile. This one is definitely worthwhile!

This is a story about struggle. It is the struggle of keeping a family living on two continents together. It is the very real struggle of the blurred lines between who is an enemy... and who is a friend. And most of all what it means to be an individual with ties to two countries --- when those two countries are at war.