Under the Maple Canopy

Singing Union Songs Since 2009


In which I inadvertently become a collector…

…of sorts.

I’ve been sewing for awhile on a Brother Innovis-40 – mostly practical sorts of sewing projects. A purse. A bag. Some pot holders. Simple stuff. I’ve fixed more than a few items of clothing. Snow pants. My son’s winter jacket because, dear reader, he’s a growing boy and it’s almost the end of the season. Please, child of mine, be more careful when taking your coat out of your locker!

If it doesn’t require a great deal of accuracy my Brother works just fine. For quilting, though, one requires some accuracy at least some of the time. The alternative, your standard (and bulky) walking foot, didn’t really appeal to me. Not to mention there’s only 40 stitches and no low bobbin warning. I’ve made it to the end of a row of quilting only to discover that I was out of bobbin thread for most of it more than a time or two.

That wasn’t what did it, though. I bought my machine from a local dealer and wanted to take it in for your average tune-up/cleaning sort of thing. When I called I was told that I would have to leave it with them for five weeks. I might get it back sooner than that, but it’s really hard to say. When I balked at the length of time (I may have said that it was “unacceptable”), the lady on the other end of the phone laughed and said, “I know.”

Reader, this is not something I took into account when buying my machine. You buy it, they service it. It can’t be all that different from a car, right? I mean, I can make an appointment with my dealership, sometimes you might have to wait for a part, but generally speaking they can plan for this sort of thing. Not so with this particular place and the nearest Brother dealer is 40-ish minutes or more away.

Rule number one when shopping for a sewing machine? Ask the store about their turnaround time on repairs.

I decided to go with a different machine after a bit of coaxing from the husband (I believe he threatened to buy one on his own if I didn’t). I went with a different local sewing machine dealer with a very reasonable repair time frame. My mom took her Pfaff (1475 CD) there to have them give it a once over and had a very positive experience. She loves her Pfaff. I love her Pfaff. Perhaps it’s time to get a Pfaff of my own?

Enter Herbert Pfaff.

Why call the machine Herbert? Because the machine reminds me a crotchety old man. Temperamental. Fussy. Easily confused. Touchy. Whereas my Brother had no personality (and no name), Herbert Pfaff reminds me of my grandmother. He’s got personality oozing out of every gear.

It’s bittersweet, really. There’s so much I like about the machine (IDT, automatic tie-off, plenty of stitches, more than one light, bigger harp space, a free arm) and a few things I’m not too thrilled with, but can accept (the bobbin winder, the bobbin thread path, pushing reverse does not automatically reverse like my Brother did, tie off button requires that you actively be sewing while pushing the button which means forecasting where the machine will end up in time). The other things I’m hoping are just user error.

For instance, why ,when I ask him to always end needle down, does he sometimes end with the needle up even though the light is lit on the button? If I push the button again the light stays lit and the needle goes down. I’ve been using this to my advantage, but it’s puzzling to me. Is this a feature or a flaw?

Why is he prone to getting all tangled up on the bottom of the fabric? I have re-threaded both ends, switched bobbins, tried longer tails and shorter tails, used a startie/stopie and yet he still persists. He does so less often than he did at first, but why does he keep doing this?

How come when I ask him to automatically tie off at the end of a seam, he can never figure out where that is? End of seam, no tie off. Hit the button. No tie off. Sometimes I get the feeling that he interprets this like I’m asking him to rub his belly and pat his head at the same time.

Why is the cover so darn difficult to get on the machine?

Still, he’s accurate and the IDT is pretty freaking fantastic. I’m hopeful that a lesson or two with the dealer might help us work together better, but please Herbert, don’t make me regret buying you. The last machine that I regretted buying, Selma Singer (and I was a great deal more fond of her at first), found a second life as an end table, but you’re far too pricey for that sort of thing.

Not to mention completely the wrong shape.


Thank goodness for Petunia Decker. She’s the recent purchase that I don’t regret in the slightest. I’ve been using a Panasonic iron my other grandmother gave me when I graduated from high school. It works great for clothing and most sewing projects, but not so much for quilting – it didn’t get near as hot as my mom’s Rowenta, there was no steam pulse, and you could never really shut the steam off all the way. I had been eyeing up this iron for several months. It’s reasonably priced, well rated on Amazon, and then the Snarky Quilter wrote about hers awhile back. It seemed like the best value for the cost. The husband’s been working more overtime than I care to really think about so why not?

Petunia made her way home yesterday afternoon. After opening the box, I immediately put her through her paces. In short? She’s perfect – ample heat, ginormous water reservoir, auto shut-off, self-cleaning, steam pulse, water spray, and steam that shuts off completely. Simply lovely.

*sigh* I guess you can’t win them all.


WIP Wednesday – Mostly Linen

Most of the surfaces in my kitchen seem to have a fine layer of flour sitting on them, even though I’ve tried my best to wipe everything down.  It’s probably not a surprise then that I’ve been doing quite a bit of this:

IMG_1351(from Ken Forkish’s “Flour Water Salt Yeast“)

And not so much of this:

That’s not to say that I haven’t accomplished anything, it’s just been quite a bit slower than usual.  Most of my “to do list” remains in tact, but I did get a few choice (and very exciting) projects finished.


First up is my very own Pleated Beauty Bag from “Bend the Rules Sewing” by Amy Karol.  I started it last week and finished it up this last weekend.  I realize that I’m probably a less than unbiased judge of the bag, but in my most humble opinion, if it’s not squee-worthy then I don’t know what is.  No, seriously, with all due respect to last week’s composition book cover, this is hands down my most favorite project ever.


rsz_img_1306close up of the stitching and pleat

IMG_1309lining and pocket on the inside of the bag

Did I mention it was an economical project to boot?  Here’s the cost breakdown:

2/3 yard of 100% linen from JoAnn Fabrics – $7.10
1 yard quilting cotton from JoAnn Fabrics Saturday after Thanksgiving sale – $2.10
Incidentals from my stash (thread, fusible interfacing, fabric for purse bottom pocket, purse bottom) – $5

Grand total?  $14.20

The only change I made to the pattern was swapping out the flannel used in the lining for a light weight fusible interfacing that I already had on hand. I have no idea which one it was as I suspect I bought the interfacing in 2009-ish.  I was a bit short on the fabric needed to make the pillow for the rigid interfacing in the bottom so I just used some Kona Coal from my stash.  The rigid interfacing was the same one I bought for the crowns I made the kids this past Halloween.  I’m also planning on picking up a magnetic closure to put on the inside because it feels to me like it needs it.

I love the box bottom on this bag and was a bit uneasy about making it since I’ve found the process a bit frustrating in the past.  A quick search online to see if there was another way to do it netted this tutorial from Lazy Girl Designs that fit the bill perfectly (also pinned on my Sewing and Quilting Tutorials board).

If I made another one (which I’m definitely open to), I would either swap out the inside pocket for a zipper one or I would have stitched a few lines in it to make it a bit more useful and a lot less floppy.

IMG_1327My only other finish this week was a linen bread bag of my very own.  This one’s a bit on the small side since I didn’t have very much linen left.  I predict another trip to the fabric store is in order as we’re definitely going to need another much bigger one!

Quick Finishes (or the “finish it already!!” group):


  • Shattered – needs quilting and binding
  • fleece quilt (pictured here) – need to finish sewing nine patch blocks, need to finish sewing together rows and then needs some sort of binding to help keep it square-ish – but mostly waiting on inspiration.

In Progress:

Time Sensitive/Need to Get Started ASAP:

  • red/gold bunting for Imbloc/Chinese New year (need to purchase fabric)

The Great Big Wish/To Do List:


From “Sewing in No Time” by Emma Hardy:

  • fireplace screen
  • drawstring toy bags
  • fabric covered storage box
  • floor pillows
  • floral pillow with ties

From “Quilt Revival” by Nancy Mahoney:

  • 30′s Shadow Star

From “Oliver+S Little Things to Sew by Liesl Gibson:

  • tutu (x2)
  • reversible bucket hat (x3)
  • travel quilt (?)

From “Handmade Home” by Amanda Blake Soule:

  • beach blanket

From Oliver+S:

From “Little Stitches” by Aneela Hoey:

  • Empire State Building Needle Case
  • Rain, Rain Go Away Hanging Hoop

From “Liberty Book of Home Sewing” by Liberty of London:

  • Sugar Bag Doorstop
  • Toiletry Bag
  • Bean Bag
  • Keepsake Board
  • Lampshade

Seeing Squares (small) from Empty Bobbin

Batik Squares quilt (my own design)



How does that song go again? Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug.

Or maybe it’s sometimes you have clean clothes to wear and sometimes you have none?

I’m pretty sure it was PalMD over at White Coat Underground  who talked about the “default parent” and that always seemed particularly apt to me.  I’m the default parent.  There’s never any question about who will do…whatever for the children because nine times out of ten that’s going to fall to me.

You could also call me the default home runner person.  I always struggle with what to call myself because I’m not a homemaker, even if that’s what anyone who has a form wants to call me.  I don’t make a home because you can’t really make a home.  It’s intangible.  Conceptual.  A feeling.  A state of mind.  You can’t force it, it just is.

As for the rest of the titles?  They’re kind of silly.  Domestic Engineer?  Please, that’s like folks who pull out a thesaurus when they’re sitting down to write their resume.

Default parent, though?  That’s what I am because someone has to.  At least someone has to when the other’s work schedule is unpredictable.  When the job is demanding and you don’t want to have to scramble in order to figure out who is going to pick up the kids tonight.

Who’s going to do the dishes?  Who will feed the kids?  Who’s going to get Groceries up so that he’s at school on time?  Default setting like the default setting on my dishwasher.  All you have to do is hit the start button and it goes on washing dishes merrily without anyone having to think through the different settings.

And laundry.  Who’s going to take the laundry downstairs?  Sort it?  Put it in and take it out of each machine?  Fold it?  Put it away?

On account of everything else I have going on, puppy, I may not get everything done around here because while I am the default parent, I am not a machine.  I will not keep plugging away at things just because I’m the default.  Sometimes even mama needs a break.

At the moment that means that often, by the time I’m finished with the laundry from last week, the laundry from this week is ready for me to start the process with all over again.  We’re not even going to talk about socks and underwear.  That, my friends is a free-for-all basket and best of luck to you there.  Hmm…nor will we talk about the two baskets full of folded miscellany that still needs to be put away.

I suppose it’s just another side of the evil and dastardly thing called feminism.  You know, that thing that says that I’m valuable beyond my role as default parent even when the laundry doesn’t always get put away.  I don’t have to be a machine in my role.  All of which is just the very sort of thing that certain conservatives and fundagelicals blame for any ill in society they can’t control.

And the husband?  He helps when he can and generally keeps his mouth shut because he agrees that I’m more than a machine.  He married me for more than my role as default parent.  But mostly?  It’s because his arms aren’t broken and he can put things away too.


Done This Week

When we last left my grey and yellow quilt, I was contemplating what to do with it.  Cut it up?  Move forward?  Because, really, what do you do when you spend all that time making something and end up hating it?  I went the cut it up route.  I have made some progress, but have let it sit over the last couple of weeks.  Being an inch deep, mile wide sort of person, this is typical for me.

In the meantime, I had a much more urgent project to get done.  The other week, when we were getting read to go to our Family Dharma class, my youngest, Miss Boo, realized for the first time that she was the only one of the three who did not have a scarf of her own to wear.  In my defense, up until this point she didn’t really need one.  She wasn’t old enough just yet to require such a cold weather accessory.

I promised her that I would make her a “darf” of her very own.  I took her to my favorite yarn store, The Dragonfly Yarn Shop, and let her pick out her own Malabrigo Merino Worsted.  She went with the Kettle Dyed #148, Hollyhock.  Just slightly over one evening later, she was the proud owner of her very own “Gentle Waves” scarf.

I haven’t crocheted since last year around this time, so it felt good to work with a hook and yummy yarn!


Three Things for Today

1 – The book I got from Paperback Swap arrived today and stinks like cigarette smoke.  Lovely.  By the time I get the smell out of the book I’ll already be finished with the copy I got from the library which sort of defeats the purpose of buying it.  Yes it only cost me $2.25 and it is a hardcover, but that’s what requestor conditions are for people!

2 –  Who am I making dinner for, dearest child?  Chang-o who lives on the moon, of course.  Who else would I be making dinner for?

3 – Somewhere along the way I fell out of fashion.  No seriously, the stuff they sell at the places I can shop is h  i  d  e  o  u  s.  Colored jeans?  Ugh.  Skinny jeans?  Not since I flat-rolled the bottom cuff of my jeans have I been interested the style.  This was one trend that I was glad to see go along with the bangs teased up a foot above one’s head.  What is it with shirts that require one wear sunglasses in order to not be blinded by colors or patterns?  Is there no one out there making timeless classics for women of all shapes and sizes?  You know, stuff that I can wear for more than one season and not look back on the pictures wondering what on earth I was thinking by wearing them?  No?

Today’s lesson, even if I can find something I don’t hate, it’ll likely cost a small fortune.  This is why mama hates shopping.


Not Doing What I Should

I should be working on the writing assignment for my writing workshop, but I’m not.  Why?  For starters, Hubby’s at work, the little one is napping, and the other two are playing outside.  That sounds like the perfect time to work on them, right?  Hmm, I suppose so, but every time I’ve tried it in the past I’ve been interrupted.  I’m supposed to write for 15 minutes and I end up being lucky to get five.  There’s just something about it that sends out this signal to my children, “Bug Mom, now!”  So today I’m refusing to do it and figuring that Baby M will stay asleep and the other two will continue playing nicely with each other.  I’ll be frustrated because I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity and “wasted” the time.  *sigh*

Instead I’m reading my email, posting here, and Google-ing up a storm.  So far I’ve Googled “how to repair a small hole in a t-shirt” and come up with a satisfactory response.  It’s a good thing since said hole is in the middle of my brand new shirt.  This is the second time I’ve worn it and it already has a small hole in it – don’t ask me how.  It’s a cute top with a wide band on the v-neck and just a hint of ruching along the band (had to Google “ruching” to see if I spelled it right).  It wasn’t necessarily cheap at $19.95, but I very rarely buy myself clothing and after three children in 5 years I think I deserve a few shirts that fit.  The fact that it fits my standard style v-neck shirt and jeans is an added bonus.

I’ve also Googled “sewing pattern children shorts” and come up less than thrilled with the results so far (did find a couple of patterns for me, but that’s beside the point).  My older two need shorts for the summer.  L has three pairs right now and J has one.  With how dirty my kids get playing outside I figure they each need at least 7, but preferably 9 so I have a little leeway in the laundry department.  I have some denim fabric on hand that would work well.  It won’t make enough for both kids, but I figure it’s a start.  What I really want is a unisex pattern for a fairly simple pair with an elastic waist.  No pockets and no fly.  I’ve seen the tutorials out there for tracing an existing pair onto a t-shirt, but I’d really like a thicker fabric than that.  Clearly those that use the pattern have kids that are far gentler on their clothing.  Those shorts would never last – heck my own shirt didn’t last more than a week before I snagged it somehow.  I’m thinking I need to search for a pattern for boy’s shorts instead (have you seen how short the shorts are in the stores for toddlers/girls?).

Thankfully I have a little bit of time to find a pattern and get them constructed.  Note to self:  80 degree weather in April is not normal and will not last!  I can’t put it off too much, though or this project will only end up in the UFO pile.

Oh, and for the record Baby M is still sleeping and I only had to head L of at the pass once.  I kept her out of the front yard, but didn’t keep her from bending the latch on the gate to the fence.  There’s one more thing to add to Hubby’s “Honey Please Do” list.

Warm and Fuzzy

I’m becoming more miserable every day – I know *every* pregnant woman says this at the end of pregnancy. I suppose it’s part of the design so one wants to go through the labor and birthing process. I know I certainly felt it at the end of my pregnancy with J an L.

This time around the sensation is a bit more acute – what started as a little bit of sciatica has turned into a literal pain in the rear. At this point I’m finding it difficult to sit – even after switching out most chairs for the yoga/birth ball. My sewing plans have been halted because it’s too painful to sit and push on the sewing machine pedal. I know that they’ll wait and all…and that hopefully the pain will go away after the baby’s born and there’s no longer a head down so low.

I did, out of desperation this morning, call the one local chiropractor I had a recommendation for. I knew it was a long shot given the fact that it’s so close to Thanksgiving and all. They were closing early today and then will be closed tomorrow and Friday. The next time they could get me an appointment? *Next* Friday. I chuckled and told them thanks, but I’m hoping I won’t be pregnant by then. The receptionist still wanted me to make an appointment. I told her if I was still pregnant then I’d call them back.

I haven’t given up hope quite yet as I’ve heard that reflexology can help. There’s a local lady who has also been connected with our local LLL group. Of course, there’s no guarantee that she’ll be around on Friday or anytime soon, but I at least made a call to see. Here’s hoping!

In the meantime I got the little bean an outfit. It’s kind of tough given the lack of decent gender neutral clothing at our local Target, but I thought this one would be appropriate:

It’s a soft and fuzzy fleece which would make a great first outfit to keep the little one warm in our otherwise fairly cool house. I did get a new onesie for the little one earlier this year, but haven’t taken pictures of that yet.

My mom also got some onesies for the baby. One set for a girl and one for a boy. She says she’s sure that Maya will look adorable in the pink onesies. She’s convinced it’s a girl. Hubby thinks it’s a boy and said so. My mom replied…”Someone’s going to be disappointed, but it’s not going to be me!” It’s been funny to watch the back and forth as everyone anxiously awaits the new arrival.

As for me…I don’t care either way, but I am tired and probably a bit too emotional for my own good. Thank goodness for my Hubby. For the most part he’s been very sensitive (he has his moments when he forgets that I’m a bit less than enthused with his good natured teasing – something that would have made me laugh and play back before is enough to bring tears now). He’s even volunteered to do a fair bit of the pre-Thanksgiving cooking and have me be the “straw boss.” Sounds good to me!

In the meantime, the kids and I have been reading a book by Fran Manushkin called “Baby, Come Out!” which my midwife gave us to read at my last appointment. Along with “Welcome with Love” by Jenni Overend (which is very sadly out of print and ridiculously overpriced by online sellers) it’s one of our new favorite books to read while waiting for baby to be born.

Scrap Pants

I had some leftover flannel from making the Laundry Bag so I made some pants for L using this tutorial. SouleMama also talks about this in her book – although she suggests recycling an old t-shirt. I ended up making mine lined so that I wouldn’t have to worry about what to do to keep the seam allowances from unraveling. As an extra bonus, they’re reversible!

I’m a little bit worried about whether or not they’ll fit her. The flannel isn’t as stretch as a t-shirt so the jury’s still out.

I fixed the shoes!

Remember this? I finally came up with a solution I *think* will work – and the time to head on over to Nana’s house for the button holes. I ended up going with corduroy for both the lining and the outside of the front of the shoe *plus* some fusible interfacing on the lining. I got it all put back together again today and on L’s feet. So far, so good.

It was definitely much easier putting the shoe together this time. I’m actually much more pleased with the shoe this go around. Here’s hoping we make it more than a week!