Monday, June 8, 2009

Sewing Machine Meme

These have been fun to read, so I thought I'd do my machine.

What brand and model do you have?
I have a Janome 6125 Quilter's Companion. I believe Janome still makes the QC series, but I have no idea if my model is still available.

How long have you had it?
I purchased it in the Spring of 2004, so it's 5 years old now. Wow.

How much does that machine cost (approximately)?
I really don't remember, though I know I have the receipt around here somewhere. I think it was in the $600 range. I wanted my first sewing machine to be one I would never outgrow, so I spent a little more than I originally intended to buy a better machine.

What types of things do you sew (i.e. quilting, clothing, handbags, home dec projects, etc.)?
Since this is my only sewing machine, I've used it for all my sewing projects - quilts, clothes, bags and pillows. Originally I wanted to learn to sew so I could make quilts, which is why I got a machine geared towards quilters.

How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get?
It really depends. I'm not sewing a lot right now, because my sewing table is a mess and I'm home with my children more since it's the Summer. I've used it a lot over the past 5 years with no issues. I've used it as little as an hour a week up to 5-6 hours a day when I'm trying to crank something out.

Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name?
I've liked this sewing machine a lot. I may love it, but as I've never sewed with another machine it is hard for me to definitively say that. I bought a Janome because my husband's aunt swears by them. She's been sewing for almost her entire life, has owned every brand of machine, and says Janomes are the best. My mother-in-law made my sister-in-law's wedding dress on a Janome Gem, and my sister-in-law makes lot of quilts and home decor projects with her Gem.

What features does your machine have that work well for you?
Like I said, I wanted to get a machine I would never outgrow. I like having so many stitches, though I mostly use the straight, stitch, zig-zag stitch, and the stitch I refer to as the fake serging stitch. It is electric (but not computerized), so the ease of use is great. It came with a lot of feet, including a walking and darning foot which I need for quilting; the feed dogs drop easily which is necessary for free motion quilting. I like the drop in bobbin case, the built-in needle threader, and built-in thread cutter a lot.

Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine?
Not really. My bobbin winder won't wind the bobbins completely full, but that started after I took my machine to be cleaned last year, so I think it is the fault of the repair place not the machine. Next time I need my machine cleaned or repaired, I'm going somewhere else. I would love to have a knee lift, and wish when I let up on the foot pedal the needle would stop in place instead of going up or down one more time. A wider throat area would be nice, because it's hard to maneuver larger quilts on the machine when quilting.

Do you have a great story to share about your machine (i.e., Found it under the Christmas tree? Dropped it on the kitchen floor? Sewed your fingernail to your zipper?, Got it from your Great Grandma?, etc.!)? We want to hear it!
Can't think of anything!

Would you recommend the machine to others? Why?
Sure. It's been great, and is easy to use with a lot of great features for all types of sewing.

What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine?
-All metal parts, as plastic parts will wear down.
-Features that make sewing fun and easy like an automatic button hole, zig-zag and other special stitches
-Needle up/down option - My needle stays in the down position almost all the time when I'm sewing
-Repair place that specializes in your machine that is fairly close to where you live
-Electric and mechanical vs computerized - computerized machines are great, but if the computer part breaks the repair is going to be a lot of $$$
-Don't pay for extra features you don't need - I have no desire to do machine embroidery so I would never need a fancier and more expensive machine with that feature
Do you have a dream machine?
I haven't thought about this a lot, but I kind of wish I had the Bernina Aurora with the BSR. I've never gotten good enough at free motion quilting to use it on an actual quilt, so I think the BSR would help me with this problem. I probably just need to practice more instead of blaming my machine! I plan on having my Janome for a long time, and hope I'm still using it when my children are my age.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Summer and the Garden

In the South, it looks and feels like Summer long before June 21. School gets out before Memorial Day and usually the pools are already open by then. I was trying to decide when I should change my mindset from Spring to Summer, and I decided I would when the temperature reaches 90 degrees. Well, that happened this week. It's Summer.

We planted our first vegetable garden in May. I've always grown herbs - basil and lemon verbena, and now mint, are necessities for me, but I've never had the desire to grow other edibles. For the past three years, I've been part of a CSA which I loved. I was a vegetarian for a long time and I try to avoid toxic stuff in my life for health reasons, so local organic produce is very important to me. Picking up a weekly share of fruit and vegetables changed the way I shopped, cooked, and ate. I realized I love kale and beets, and that the later strawberries and cantaloupes are sweeter than the earlier ones. However, I needed a break this year. I've been sort of overwhelmed lately, and didn't want to add another layer to that mix. I'm sad on Wednesdays when I don't go to pick up my box, but I'm happy not to be throwing rotting vegetables into the compost before we had a chance to eat them. Even though it takes a little more effort, it has been nice to go to the various farmer's markets around town, which is something I never needed to do in addition to my weekly share. It's also been nice supporting many local organic farms this year, instead of primarily just one.

Because someone else isn't growing all of our food, Will and I wanted to grow some ourselves. We decided to be wise and start small this year. We dug up a 4'x7' plot (small enough to reach everything from the edges because you are not supposed to walk on your garden as it compacts the soil), and planted 4 varieties of heirloom tomatoes and basil I got from a local, pesticide-free nursery and two different kinds of okra from seed. I also planted a pear tomato and some basil in front of the office. Basil loves that awful soil and ends up being the size of a large bush by mid-Summer, and I hope the tomato will do just as well. I wanted to make raised beds* for the garden, but we decided not to invest much money in the project this year and didn't have the time to come up with scrap material. We took our compost and spread a thick layer on top of the garden (even though we've never had a garden we've been composting for years to keep organic matter out of the garbage and landfill). Within a few days, we had some unknown sprouts come up out of the compost. We watched them get larger, and realized most of them were tiny mimosa trees. That tree was cut down four years ago, but somehow it still attempts to reproduce all over our yard. A few sprouts were pumpkins, and we left those alone with new dreams of homegrown pumpkin pies and jack-o-lanterns. Soon these pumpkins took over the garden and started to choke out the tomatoes and okra. We also realized they were most likely summer squash or zucchini (which no one really likes very much) instead of the desired pumpkins. We decided to keep the plants and move them to a special new squash-only area near the garden. Apparently, you can't move squash. Squash plants are prone to root disturbance, and need to be left where originally planted from seed. We, of course, found this out only after we replanted when the leaves immediately went limp and stayed that way for days. We gave the plants lots of water, and after a week they seem to have recovered from the shock and growing again in their new home.

(an auctioneer's garden - notice the T posts?)

Every night, the five of us (the dog must come too), go outside and check on the garden's progress. We pull up weeds, and look for new blooms on the tomato plants. Sometimes, we add a new row of twine to the Florida weave that supports the tomatoes. When most of the okra area remained bare, we put new seeds in the ground then hoped and watched for new dark green sprouts. When a cutworm severed my black zebra tomato plant at its base, I put the stalk in water to root and replanted it once the roots seemed long enough. Somehow new leaves grew out of the root end of the severed plant, so now we have two black zebras growing. I planted sunflowers and zinnias at the corners to help keep bad critters away. Taking care of the garden quickly become a lovely Spring and Summer ritual for the family, and we're already talking about next year's tilling, all the new plots we want, an asparagus patch, and brussels sprouts and blueberries and corn. I think the days of small are numbered.

*I attended a workshop on organic gardening in 2006, and I learned raised beds produce the healthiest plants and those plants yield a bigger harvest. Weeds are less and your soil quality is much better because you have more control over the growing environment. Besides the workshop, I relied on these resources for our little garden: Great Garden Companions by Sally Jean Cunningham and The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch. Great Garden Companions taught me how to lay out my garden, and gave me the idea of adding flowers on the edges. I love the ideas behind companion gardening and would like to do more with this next year. The Garden Primer taught us how to plant all our tomato plants, herbs, and various seeds, and I think one reason all our plants are doing well is that they got a great start because of this book.