Sewing Room Essentials

Thanks to all who answered the sewing room essentials question.  I loved reading your answers!  My original question was because someone just starting to quilt was asking but in this post, I’ll include the things most important to me.  Remember that most all I do is a straight stitch and I do absolutely no quilting on my sewing machine.

Many mentioned the ergonomic chair, and that’s a great idea but not something I would have thought to include.  I find that when I’m sewing, I’m sitting right on the edge of the seat, mostly hunkered down over my sewing machine but I never seem to sew more than a few minutes at a time.  I’m up to press or up to trim or, up to check something on the computer.  If I sat longer at the machine, or if I had back/shoulder issues,  I would see the benefit of an ergonomic chair.  A good chair is a really good thing to have!

1.  Topping my list of important quilting room items is the sewing machine! Oh, how I love my sewing machine.

I sew on a Singer 301 from the 50′s that I bought at Goodwill for $35, and that included the cabinet and a chair.  I have newer machines, I have three Bernina machines.  The Bernina that I used the most is a 1230 that I bought in 1989.  Don’t do what I do but I never once took that machine to the shop for anything until a light switch went out and that was just a couple of years ago.  When I took it to the shop, I ended up buying another Bernina (and I don’t even remember what number it is — 430 maybe . . it’s packed in a box).  You see why I never go to the Bernina shop?  :)

I bought the new machine because I love using the Bernina walking foot to attach the binding to the quilts.  I have a walking foot for the Singer 301 but I don’t love it so much.  I figured the 1230 wasn’t going to last forever and the 430 (if that’s the right number) was one of the last Swiss made Berninas so I bought it.

Why do I love the old Singers?  They are all mechanical.  The 301 has no belts — all gear driven.  Anything that goes wrong, Vince can fix.  It makes a perfect stitch.  Did I say how much I love that machine?  Even when I have used the Bernina 1230 for a while, and I like that machine a lot, when I get back to the 301, I’m amazed at what a fantastic machine it is.

It does not have needle up/down but almost subconsciously, I know about how to hit the foot so that the needle stops up almost every time.  If not, I just turn the hand wheel and never notice that it’s a problem.

2.  Quarter inch foot – I love the several feet that I use that result in a perfect 1/4″ seam.  There are several ways to get a perfect 1/4″ seam without using a special foot but I find using a foot with a side blade works best for me.

3.  Ironing surface – When I’m sewing in the house, I use a regular ironing board and yes, it works but I love my big ironing table.

I use a cheap (as in about $20) pine bookcase unit that I bought at Lowe’s about 10 years ago.  I couldn’t see wasting all that space underneath the ironing table so I love having the shelves.  I had a sheet of plywood cut (in half maybe) and Vince drilled some holes in the wood and in the top of the shelf unit so the plywood screws on.  I covered it with several layers of Warm & Natural batting and then cover it with whatever I can find. I have ticking stripe on it now.  When we move, the top has to come off so I change out the cover when we move. I pull the fabric over the board and use a staple gun to attach it.

4.  Good lighting – I’m not sure I could ever install the perfect lighting for every situation.  When I’m piecing, I seem to need the light shining on a different spot than when I’m binding.  I like having good lighting over my cutting table but for sewing, I count on having good lights around the sewing machine.  I have Ott floor lamps and Ott desk lamps but my current favorite is a bendable light.  It’s an Ikea product but I ordered mine from Amazon.

5.  Cutting tables – I have two cutting tables.  One is the one I bought when I got my Bernina in 1989.

It’s 72″ x 40″ and is about 35″ tall.  I use it mostly for cutting large pieces of fabric, border work, and trimming the quilts for binding.  Even though it folds and can be configured to be smaller, I had a long, narrow space in MO where I had to stick the cutting table so I ended up buying a workbench from Sam’s Club and using it for my cutting table.

It’s about 72″ x 20″ and is almost 38″ tall.  I love it for trimming and for marking quilts.  I’m glad I have enough room to keep both of these tables set up.

6.  Design wall – mine is nothing fancy.  I tacked a piece of fluffy poly batting on the wall and pinned flannel over that.  It makes such a difference being able to see things from this angle vs. looking at them on the floor or on the bed.

7.  Pegboard!  I am so happy to have a sheet of pegboard.

It’s so easy to keep my rulers organized and know where they are.  There’s probably a whole lot more things I should get hung up on that board and just haven’t done it yet.

Other things that matter to me:

  • Lots of trash cans.  I have 7 or 8 tall kitchen cans around the room.  If there’s a trash can within reach, I’m a whole lot more likely to drop trash into them.
  • Inexpensive vacuum cleaner.  I’ve never used my good vacuum cleaners in the sewing room.  Too many pins and threads on the floor.  I think my current sewing room vac was less than $40 at Wal-Mart.  It works and when it no longer works, it goes into the trash and I buy another one.
  • Music.  I have Sirius satellite radio in the sewing room.  Every now and then it’s on some talk radio channel but mostly it’s on old country (Willie’s Place) or old gospel (Enlighten).
  • Electric Quilt.  I’m not sure what I would do without it.  I’m so dependent on it for my quilting.
  • Rulers, mats and rotary cutter.  I love the Creative Grids rulers.  It’s important to keep good, sharp blades in the cutter.  I don’t change mine often (maybe not even once a year) but when it begins to get dull, it’s nice to have a fresh blade.  Mats can get cut up and even the self-healing mats need replacing from time to time.
  • Good company!

Speck is especially happy when he finds a little patch of sunshine!  :)

And my last piece of advice, especially for a new quilter . . don’t go hog wild buying fabric til you know what you truly love.  In the beginning, I bought lots of everything and soon learned that I mostly like tone on tone fabrics and some fabric textures I don’t like using.  Having a big stash is great but it’s better to have a stash of fabrics that you love to use and not just a lot of this and a lot of that which may not be your favorites.

Dwindling Dominiques

The remaining Dominiques have lost their freedom. They are back behind bars in the fence.

These have to be the most worthless chickens in the entire world!  There are three hens and they don’t lay worth a darned.  They had been laying in the egg boxes and then while I was in MO last month, they decided to start laying on the floor of the coop.  I’d find an egg every day or so.  I quit checking the egg boxes and yesterday I happened to open the box lid and there were 7 eggs in there.  I had no idea how long they had been there so I tossed them all.  One of the hens decided to go out in the woods and set out there.  I figured something would get her but no . . nothing did!  She would come home every morning and every evening and get food and water.  After about 10 days, she began staying home longer and longer and then last week, she decided to just stay home.

There were three roosters.  Albert decided to get his morning exercise by chasing me when I let them out.  He’s in the freezer now.  A couple of weeks later, Wilbur decided that his goal for the day was to kill Roscoe.  Poor little Roscoe doesn’t bother anyone but he was constantly on the lookout for Wilbur.  Saturday I told Vince if he didn’t butcher Wilbur, I was going in the house to get my pistol and kill him myself.  Wilbur is now in the freezer.

Harold lived to see another day because he took off and ran into the woods.  Vince though he would never come back but . . he did.  I was having to wash my front porch down two or three times a day and when the temps dropped down below freezing, I had no intention of getting out there and hosing down the porch, so the Dominiques are back in their pen and as far as I’m concerned, they can all end up in the freezer and I will not complain!

Thanksgiving Menu

One year an online friend from NY was visiting her sister in KY for Thanksgiving.  They drove over to visit us (we were living in KY at the time) and she brought a dish of leftover sausage stuffing. I loved it and tried over and over to duplicate it.  Even with her instructions, mine never tasted like Sue’s.  I still think about it every Thanksgiving. Just to prove that . . I blogged about it in 2009 . . I really do think about it every Thanksgiving.

I had always used a spiced up salt water brine but in 2010, I used a dry rub brine and it was the best turkey ever.  I’m going to do that again this year.  Thursday I’ll take the big bird out of the freezer and let her thaw in the fridge and then Monday I’ll rub her down and stick her in an ice chest, and let her brine til time to bake on Thursday.  That reminds me . . Vince needs to get the old oven hooked up. The front panel fell off of the oven when Vince was messing with it and he needs to get that back on but it’s going to be so nice to have this oven out in the shop and I can use it for overflow baking.

I heard on the news the other day that the average Thanksgiving dinner for 10 costs right at $50 so that’s a bit less than $5 per person.  I’ve been thinking about that and I just can’t quite reconcile that with what we fix.  Maybe they have 10 light eaters and we have 4 pretty heavy eaters at our house.  Mom and dad are coming for Thanksgiving.  They’ll get here Tuesday so I dug out little red folder with my Thanksgiving menu and recipes and then found the picture I had taken last time mom and dad were here for Thanksgiving, printed off the menu again and I’m all ready to start baking and cooking.

What do you fix for Thanksgiving?  We have the same think every year.  I don’t have rolls on the list but here’s our menu.