Friday, April 10, 2015

Link|Love: 4 Entertaining Podcasts

Ever since I discovered Serial, I've been hooked on podcasts.  Here are some that I really enjoy right now!

Elise Gets Crafty - I binge on the archives of Elise's podcast while I'm working because her guests' stories are so inspirational and motivating.

She Percolates - This one is new to me, and I'm really liking the content, which is all about successful creative ladies.

Playtime (BBC) - Okay, so this one is more for my son when he's hanging out in the studio, but he loves it and it engages him so well.

The Leviathan Chronicles - I'm digging this drama, and I'm not even into sci-fi.  It's like watching a movie, without using your eyes.

I use Podcast Addict on  my Android phone to play subscribe to and stream or download episodes.  It has a playlist feature which is nice, but I haven't been able to figure out how to go directly from the player to anyone's show notes, if that's even possible.

What are you listening to?

Friday, April 3, 2015

Janome Horizon Memory Craft 8900 QCP Sewing Machine

Janome Horizon Memory Craft 8900 QCP
Meet my new machine!  I've named her Rose, named after Eleanor Roosevelt, because I am a history nerd and I really admire her.  Rose is a Janome Horizon Memory Craft 8900 QCP.  That's a mouthful, and most of the time I just refer to her as a Janome 8900.

I purchased my Janome from Sew Vac City of College Station, TX at QuiltCon this year.  I'll admit it was mostly an impulse buy.  They were running a great special, and because I had been considering a new machine since Fall Quilt Market, I just went for it.

Janome Horizon Memory Craft 8900 QCP

I'm not going to go into all the specs because that's available all over the internet.  But I do want to compare it to my previous machine, a starter Brother XR-9000 (which I believe is now called Brother XR-9500PRW - Project Runway edition).  Which I still totally recommend to anyone that asks me what machine they should get for their first one.  Seriously, that machine is a workhorse.  Had I not wanted to work on my free motion quilting skills and start making large quilts, I probably never would have upgraded.

Janome Horizon Memory Craft 8900 QCP

I was always hesitant to get a "fancy" machine because they seemed very complicated to me, like a rocket ship.  I think this Janome is a good blend of the features I wanted in a fancy machine, and the simplicity I loved with my starter machine.

Janome Horizon Memory Craft 8900 QCP

After using Rose for about a month, I'm ready to share my preliminary list of things I like about this machine:
  • I like that the bobbin is just a drop in plastic bobbin.  No intimidating metal bobbin case.  Yes, those intimidate me!  
  • Although I haven't quilted anything very large yet, I really like the large harp space.  This thing boasts 11 inches.  That's huge!
  • I like the automatic thread cutter.  I am finally starting to get used to the motion of pushing the little scissors instead of picking up my snips to cut thread.
  • I love the Start/Stop button alternative to the foot pedal.  I am finally teaching my 4 year old son to sew and he's loving it.  I am too.
  • I'm obsessed with all the storage.  Like embarrassingly obsessed.  What can I say, I love organization!
Janome Horizon Memory Craft 8900 QCP

In this past month, I've found some things that I'm not sure of yet.  It might be a feature I am not impressed with or just an area where I need more practice with a more complicated machine:
  • I have a lot of trouble winding bobbins.  I waste a lot of thread trying to get it right.  I follow all the steps in the manual, but I'm still getting loosely wound bobbins that sometimes get pretty tangled up.  I'll eventually get a bobbin wound that works, but it's a little frustrating.
  • I cannot chain piece without breaking thread.  This is by far the most frustrating thing I'm trying to figure out with this machine.  Every single time I try to feed fabric under the foot while chain-piecing, the top thread breaks.  I've figured out that it happens when the edge of the fabric grazes the needle while it's still down.  So I to combat the problem, I have to slow down and make sure the needle is all the way up before the fabric gets near it.  I didn't have to do anything like this with my Brother, so I am just at a loss.
  • I'm not sold on the knee bar thing.  It's not positioned right to be useful for me.  It's like I can't reach it or something.  I do have really short legs so maybe it's just not for me.  I've tried it a few times but I just don't get it.  I'm not mad at it though.
  • It's really super heavy.  The table I sew on is also my desk.  I keep the machine on an oldrotary mat so I can easily slide it back to fit my laptop down for work.  In my old house, I sewed on the dining table where we ate dinner every night.  This machine would not be practical for having to move it every time I wanted to sew before dinner the way my little Brother was.
So far I'm happy with my purchase, despite my current issues.  I would definitely purchase again if I could go back in time.  But I'd love to be able to figure the things I'm having trouble with.  I'm certain most are due to user-error, because I'm so used to using a lower-end machine.

Do you have any tips for me to help me where I'm struggling with this machine?  Please tell me!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

While She Naps Chick + Egg Inside Out Toy Pattern Review

I was looking around the While She Naps pdf pattern soft toy shop the other day and my son immediately zeroed in on this little Chick and Egg Inside Out Toy.  Of all the other adorable toys pictured, he could not stop talking about this one.  I'm so glad I bought it and made it!  It really is the cutest thing ever.  Plus it would make a great addition to Easter baskets!

Chick & Egg Reversible Toy
I liked that this pattern was very  straight-forward.  I've sewn a couple of dolls before and they were a little fiddly.  I thought this toy would also be fiddly because of the inside out feature, but I went for it anyways.  Well, it wasn't fiddly!  It came together pretty quickly actually.

Chick & Egg Reversible Toy
This little guy starts as an egg as chickens tend to do...

Chick & Egg Reversible Toy
...and then we can help him hatch...

Chick & Egg Reversible Toy
...and we're greeted by a sweet baby chick!

Chick & Egg Reversible Toy
His happy face is so simple but very cheerful.

Chick & Egg Reversible Toy
His little fluffy hair is pretty cute too.

Chick & Egg Reversible Toy
I think my favorite part might be these adorable little chicken feet.

Chick & Egg Reversible Toy
Simple, tiny wings with just enough detail to make them stand out.

Chick & Egg Reversible Toy

The only thing I struggled with was due to user error.  I haven't really sewn a lot with fleece, and when my (almost dried out) disappearing ink marker wouldn't mark on the fabric, I erroneously used a highlighter.  Big mistake, because it doesn't soak into the fleece.  My shears, sewing machine, and fingers were covered in neon pink ink.  It's a wonder I didn't get it all over the white egg fabric.  This is not the pattern's fault, as it clearly states that I could have used chalk.  It was my fault, but I'm telling you so you don't make my silly mistake.

As usual, here are some of my notes:

I used the cheap microfleece from Jo-Ann, regularly priced at $5.99/yd.  If you only want to make one or two, check the remnants section first.  I purchased a quarter yard each of white, yellow, and orange.  Now I have enough fleece to make half a dozen or more.  That's really great considering my fabric cost less than $5.

The pattern is priced at $9 for an instant PDF download.  It consists of 9 pages with full color photos to walk you through the steps.  I only printed the last 2 pages with the pattern pieces and consulted the pattern steps from my PDF reader on my laptop.  I received a discount code from a previous purchase (one of Abby's e-books) that I used towards this purchase.

Abby generously allows toys to be sold from her pattern, provided you follow her guidelines, which she lists conveniently on the pattern.  This is wonderful considering how many toys you can make from the yardage purchased and the fact that it only took me about 30 minutes to sew after cutting the pattern pieces.

I definitely recommend this Chick & Egg Inside Out Toy Pattern.  My son loves playing with it and takes it to bed with him.  He's really into toys that he can transform and manipulate, so this has been a huge hit.  He also likes to use it like a puppet.

Now that I've made this one, I am really itching to make another.  I might make a few others for his friends because I think they'd make the perfect little Easter gift.  Abby also offers a Caterpillar and Butterfly Inside Out Toy that is great for spring, as well as teaching about metamorphosis (one of my son's favorite words!).  I really like these animal neck pillows for an upcoming road trip and this octopus would make a great gift for someone I know.

Do you like to sew toys?  Do the kids like to play with them as much as mine does?  Tell me about your favorite soft toy pattern in the comments!

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