Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas recap!

How was your Christmas? Mine was fantastic and I want to share pictures with you! Matt and I had originally planned to drive to Michigan to see snow and my family, but long story short, it didn't work out, so we drove a few hours north to good ol' Augusta. Matt's family is there, and we had a blast!

I spent three and a half year in Augusta, Matt around six. We moved seven months ago to Florida, so it's still a little odd to return, with that lingering feeling of home at certain spots of town. But so much has changed. I catch up with what friends I have time to, when I'm back in Augusta, but it's always a time crunch. 

Two and a half days there, it was such a great time cooking, laughing, eating, and enjoying each other's company. Matt's niece and nephew were a hoot, as they always are. It's fun to watch Zeus interact with small children, and he's a sneak at getting food from their tiny hands. It felt like Christmas, and that's what matters. Merry Christmas and happy new year, y'all. 

New Years Eve is tomorrow, and it's blowing my mind. I have wayyy too much to do before my shop relaunch later this week. 

Until next year!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sewing machine restoration project: my new vintage White

Meet Betty, Betty White. My newest addition to my sewing machine collection, a vintage White. Purchased for only $15, it was a steal. One problem: there are no cords, no foot pedal, no electrical plug. Time to start researching and brushing up on my electrical skills.

It's not terribly difficult from my understanding. With the motor on the outside of the machine, it's a matter of opening up the case, and using connectors to hardwire the new electrical. And with some turtle wax and elbow grease, it's going to shine like this similar machine.

It will be a fun project to restore it by rewiring all the electrical and polishing up the machine. Matt is in charge of the cabinet. Since a lot of it is wood veneer, he has to be careful not to sand it too much, and then stain it again, maybe a lighter color or even a color stain. I see a light blue stain being quite beautiful. I photographed it as is, as soon as I brought it home, dust and all.

Hopefully it will be functional when it's restored. The hand wheel turns with ease, which is a good thing, and there is no rust or cracks in the machine. It is missing the spool pins on the top, where the thread sits. I'm hoping I can find replacements for those parts.

I used to have about eight machines, and now I'm down to four, this White makes five, six including my serger. Even if I don't sew with this machine, it's a beautiful piece, and a great way for me to hone and improve my skills. And it's something fun for Matt and I to work on together. He loves to work in the garage on woodworking, as you can see by all the scrap wood in the background of the photos. We have a blast trashpicking scrap wood and making new things with it. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Repost: DIY Tacky Holiday Sweaters
Perfect for Fur families!


It's that time of year again -- tacky sweater time! Instead of rifling through thrift store rack in a hunt for the best vintage sweaters, Matt and I decided to make our sweaters this year. We made the best sweaters ever! Each of our sweaters had our animals in Santa hats, complete with jingle bells. And nothing makes the holidays more enjoyable than couples crafting activities!

The idea came to us when we were playing Scrabble on my coffee table on Monday night. It was like a giant light bulb when it came to us and I don't even remember which one of us spoke and said it first, but it was one of those mutual throughts and "ohmigosh" moments. I decided to put my cats, Clementine and Stella on my sweater, and Matt put his dog, Zeus, and cat, Mike, on his. 

To create a similar sweater with your animals on it, you will need:
  • Photo transfer paper, we used Avery Inkjet Light Fabric Transfer Paper.
  • White fabric, we used scrap banquet napkins
  • 1 large Santa hat, I bought mine at Salvation Army for $1
  • Red sweaters, I got mine at Salvation Army for $3.49 and Matt's for $1 at a locally owned thrift store.
  • Scissors
  • Iron
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • Jingle bells
  • Matching thread
  • Fray Check (optional)

Start with high resolution photos of your animals. I found it best to use photos where the animals face took up most of the photo. In photoshop, I used the "lasso" tool to take just the face from the photo, copy, and paste into a blank letter document in photoshop. This step is very important: FLIP THE IMAGE HORIZONTALLY! Because you are ironing on the transfer, it will be mirror image of what you print on the fabric. Had I not done this with Stella's face, she wouldn't look like herself.

Preview (also very important, because the paper is expensive and you don't want to make mistakes). Now print. Cut out the face from the paper and place face down on fabric. Follow the instructions that come with the paper. Be sure you DO NOT use steam. Allow fabric to cool completely and remove paper. What you peel off will resemble parchment paper.

Your animals face will be on the fabric! Cut out from the fabric, using fray check on the edges if desired. I left a tiny white edge to make their faces appear more bold against the sweaters. 

Position the faces where desired on the sweater and pin in a few places. Sew the faces to the sweater. This can be tricky for a novice seamstress, as the sweater will want to stretch and move and the transfer will not. The feed dogs (the metal grooves that feed your fabric through the machine) will push the sweater and the transfer will stick a little if not careful. Take your time with this step. You can release the tension on the presser foot. This knob should be at the very top of your machine, in line with the shaft and needle. This allows you to move the sweater with a little more ease.

Matt shows Zeus, Zeus.

Matt helped with the next step. Take your human sized Santa hat and cut out triangle for the hats. Fold over the long edges and sew. Matt was a quick learner on my sewing machine. I left him alone and he did so well. I was thoroughly impressed. My boyfriend has talent!

After sewing the raw edges of the hat, attach the white furry trim along the short side of the triangle. 

Position the hats on the sweater as desired and hand sew. I used clear nylon thread but I do not recommend it because it is SO hard to see and is very frustrating when sewing by hand. I switched to red and white thread by the time I got to hand sewing on my sweater.

Using a hot glue gun, glue the pompoms of the hat to the tips of the triangle. Place a piece of cardboard behind the part you are glueing or you will glue the back of the sweater to the front. Adorn with jingle bells, bows, trim, maybe even puff paint with animal names of a nice greeting. And you're done. Time to party!

With our friends at the "tacky sweater" party.

Matt and I. We looked so awesome together. I would be in conversation with a friend, then look down or at Matt's sweater and bust out laughing. It was so comical to me. And they were a huge hit amongst our friends. Not to mention the noise we made walking around. Jingling everywhere we went!

Love this picture of the two of use, or is it of the six of us. Hmmm..

Hope you all enjoyed my tutorial of these DIY holiday sweaters! They turned out so amazing I can't wait to wear mine again this week! If only I can convince Matt to wear his again... we'll see.

Matt and I are relaxing on our Sunday evening with a pot roast in the Crock Pot and the much anticipated Patriots/Broncos game on the big screen. Look at me, knowing NFL teams, Matt's rubbing off on me. Happy holidays! I'm finally getting in the Christmas spirit. I even bought Egg Nog today! 


Friday, December 13, 2013

Giving back during the holidays

This holiday season, while we are all getting wrapped up in buying things for friends and family, planning dinners and travel arrangements, and making lists of what we want for Christmas, why not take a step back and think, "what can I do to help someone this Christmas?" What skills and means do you have to help out someone?

I'm trying to do just that, using my skills for good, in collection sewing machines that aren't being used from friends and local people, service them, clean them up, and act as middle man, getting the machine to someone in need of one. Someone who is going through therapy where sewing helps motivate them and build back up their self worth, make their Christmas when their family can't afford to buy them a machine, and so on. In essence, I'm serving as the middle man, collecting funds, servicing machines that need attention, to get them ready to be used, etc. 

Back when I used to have 8 machines, I surprised a young reader who didn't have a functioning machine, and mailed her one of mine. She was over the moon grateful, and it made me so happy and warm inside, knowing that I unselfishly helped out another person. After purchasing a machine on Craigslist recently, I got to thinking. I then placed an ad on Craigslist for those wanting to get rid of a machine for a good cause, I could help that machine find a new home. 

Within a few days, I was contacted by the local women's center here in Jacksonville, and found a person in need. Without divulging details, this gorgeous barely used machine, pictured, was sent to me from a friend that didn't need it anymore, and I will hand it over next week. When I opened the box this morning, my heart swelled and I teared up a bit, overwhelmed by the generosity I've seen since starting this little cause.

Working with the local women's center, and by placing local classified ads, I'm going to continue to do my best to help out whomever I can. So, if you have a machine you'd like to donate, please email me at and we can work out the details. Want to donate cash to help pay to service old machines that are donated and in disrepair?, email me. If you are in need of a machine, email me. 

Happy holidays, friends

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

My Florida room and newfound green thumb

Welcome to my favorite place in my home: my Florida room. "A Florida room" is a closed in porch on the front of the house. Just a fancy name for a porch I guess, and I had never heard of one until I moved here and had one. It gets maximum sunlight so it is perfect for my new hobby or gardening and growing herbs. This room is where I love to spend my down time.

Never in a million years did I even think I could grow things and keep them alive! In Georgia, I had a pothos plant for a few years, but only because it required little light and I watered it every Sunday, the same day I did laundry. It was an easy reminder. Then I went out of town for a week, forgot to water it, and then messed up the schedule, next thing I know it's dead and I never came back from the black thumb. I'd kill mint. Yes. Mint. It's supposed to be impossible to kill mint but I've killed a few. 

When we found this house, I told myself this room would be the perfect excuse and push to get me to try again, and really try. My sister, Rachael, has been a huge help in cultivating my newfound green thumb. We started with a trip to a local nursery in August. I bought rosemary, parsley, and thyme. She brought me lavender and hibiscus. I killed the parsley (not enough drainage), the thyme (too much water), and the lavender is now outside and huge, the hibiscus needs to go in the ground. And the rosemary is doing great, but the leaves always curl under. I think it's too humid for it, and needs to remain outside.

Rachael comes over on most Fridays, when she doesn't have class and helps me repot plants, and gave me advice and inspiration. She is such a natural with growing things! Rachael has an apartment across town with a balcony full of plants, all strategically placed to get optimal sunlight. She even gave me a lime/lemon from her hybrid tree last week, and it was so delicious.

Rachael and I negotiated a temporary trade for the chaise, and she got a vintage rolling cart for her apartment. While Matt and I were going to build a day bed out of pallet wood and cushions, this made for a much easier, and probably more comfortable option. I'm soooo in love with it, and so are the cats hehe. Matt also built me the pallet shelf, above, for the poinsettias (they have to be off the ground since they're poisonous to the animals) and a table by the window. I love having a handy boyfriend. Next, I want a small bookshelf behind the headrest of the chaise for my books (hint hint, Matt, if you're reading this).

While the room isn't climate controlled, it makes for an even better atmosphere. It's nice and hot in the summer (I love the heat of summer). With all the windows open, a nice breeze rolls through that makes it perfect to just relax. It's especially lovely at night. And in the winter, it's cold but not too cold, and I can't wait to stay curled under a blanket on the chaise and read a good book with hot spiced cider.

We've lived in our home for about six months now, and it's finally looking like we live here. With Matt and I merging our two households a few years ago, and then moving to a new city and state, we're still in that phase of getting the right decor and accent pieces to make our house a home. Pillows here, a wall hanging there. I have a list as long as my arm of things I want to change and fix and make. I'm trying to go out of my comfort zone and try new things that aren't in my instinct as far as decor.

Next step: more holiday decorations! We're saving the majority of our Christmas lights for Shelby this weekend, for Holidazzle, then we're decorating the rest of the house. I can't wait! 

My plants! It's a miracle! I'm growing things from seed! We're laying out the plans for a large outdoor garden, and we're getting the plants ready. Matt bought 2x4s for a large box raised above the yard, in the side yard, away from Zeus' normal running zone. Thankfully our yard is huge, more room than we can handle. I can't wait to have food that I've actually grown! We're planting peppers, tomatoes (roma and beefeater), mint, carrots, basil, rosemary, cucumbers, broccoli, and more. Matt did some research to find what plants can grow in Florida during the winer, and they just happen to be the veggies we eat most! Talk about living in the perfect place.

I'm so thankful for this little addition to our home. Sometimes working from home really bogs down my brain, making me a crazy manic workoholic. This room is my down time. My unwind time, "Sally-time". I don't take work into this room. I just sit, look at the plants, read, snuggle with cats. It's peaceful.  Now time to go check on my seedlings and water them all. 

I hope you enjoyed this little peek into my 'home'. Do you have any gardening tips you'd like to share? I'm so new to this, and can't wait to learn more. Propagating is next on my list. I'm trying to cultivate new lavender plants from my giant bush, so far with little luck. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Navy Cami Collection

Debuting this past Saturday at Riverside Arts Market, my new mini-collection is here. And now it is available for purchase in my Etsy shop. This new line of purses I finished from just one pair of my sister's Navy uniform. A 12-piece collection of pouches, wristlets, and small, medium and large handbags. With $5 of every purchase going to the Wounded Warrior Project, it's even philanthropic!

About Petty Officer Rachael Keiser: 
Petty Officer Second Class Rachael Keiser served in the United States Navy for seven years from 2006-2013 as a CTT2, working in electronics intelligence Rachael served on two deployments to the gulf on the USS Enterprise and the USS Iwo Jima, aiding in Operation Enduring Freedom, and one Caribbean Surge, on the USS WASP. She finished her years in the Navy as an intelligence instructor at Correy Station in Pensacola, Florida. CID Unit at Correy Station named her Junior Sailor of the Year. Rachael is currently a student at the University of North Florida, studying business administration, while serving in the reserves.
My favorite part of this project and collection, HANDS DOWN, is connecting the customer to the veteran whose uniforms they belonged to, and also helping out a good cause. It's no secret that the veteran is my sister, but I think that is beside the point. It was just a matter of convenience to get my hands on her uniform since she now lives in Jacksonville after getting out of the Navy. I want to play with some green Marine camis and pair it with my burgundy faux leather. The wheels are turning! Check out some highlighted pieces below from the collection:

One of just two large bags, this one above, is my favorite. It has the front and back pockets from the right side of the pants, with the back right butt pocket having her name on them. Everyone has to have their name on their uniform, and on the navy pants, it's above the butt pocket.

One of two medium bags. The other medium bag features exterior pocket details from the left side of the pants, like the "KEISER" bag above.

One of two wristlets, with the hand strap detaching to make it just a nice simple pouch. The strap made from excess zipper.

I hope you are all enjoying your Mondays! I am working like a maniac on work, gardening, home decor, and with Matt doing video shoots. Have a great day, friends!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

DIY Belted Stool

Want to quickly reinvent some chair bottoms or stool tops? Round up a bunch of old leather belts and let's get started. It's so easy. We started with a dining room chair when we first moved into our new home, and have yet to finish our set of four, and we couldn't resist revamping this cute little stool I fould for $1!

You will need:
  • about 10 belts for a similar size stool
  • a corded drill with a phillips head bit
  • wood screws
  • tough scissors or a utility knife
  • a second person (preferably) to help stretch the belts and assist
This part was so fun. Ripping the bottom to shreds. The frame of the stool MUST be wood. You will use wood screws to drill through the belts into the frame. The screws are simply hid on the underside of the stool.

 Starting at one side, attach a belt. Because this stool was so small, we could use each belt for two strips of belt. We created a pattern, from the outside in. Space out the belts just right, so the width of the belts leave little or no gaps showing the frame. You can predrill to prevent the wood from splitting. We used 1" screws. Also, if you want to space them out more, you can stain or paint the frame, with the gaps in the belts showing a pop of color.

Now the more difficult part. Weave the cross-wise belts through the belts attached in step two. You will have to leave a small gap between each belt. 

Like step two, plan your belts before attaching too many, so that they are the right size. Attach remaining belts, and voila. Done!

Talk about a dramatic and quick transformation! I can't wait to experiment with different color combinations in the future on different chairs!

Questions? Comments! 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

My 'new' Singer Genie 354

My newest sewing machine, purchased this morning, is a real beauty. It is a Singer Genie 354, manufactured in 1974 in France. I was so lucky, it is in perfect condition. Absolutely perfect! And soooo pretty! 

After Riverside Arts Market yesterday, I came home to Matt watching college football. The Auburn/Alabama game was a must see game at the end, but when I got home, it wasn't all that exciting to me. With nothing else to do but also watch, and recover from the long day, I got on Craigslist mobile. Starting with the arts & crafts section, I immediately found a scroll saw for Matt for only $40, and texted the seller. I continued shopping and found this machine. As SOON as I saw it I was blown away by how beautiful it was. I can't believe I've never seen this machine.

I love browsing the vintage sewing machines, and as soon as I came across this baby, I knew I had to have it! I went to text the seller of this machine and immediately noticed it was the same seller as the scroll saw. Bonus! And both were still available. We set up a time bright and early this morning to go check out both items.

We woke up early this morning to drive across town, to a small trailer park tucked away off Highway One. The dude's yard was nuts! Cars everywhere, weird tools I couldn't identify, rotten card tables, toys, plastic dolls, even a hotdog stand, all covered by a canvas carport; it was honestly quite creepy and borderline hoarding territory. The man told us he is a flea market vender, so you name it, he's got it. 

After chatting for a while, plugging the machine in to test the circuitry, he told me the machine belonged to a woman in the neighborhood that had just passed away, and her daughter didn't know how to sew, with the machine ending up in his hands for resale.

As I usually do when I check out a used machine, I brought with me: a bobbin, a spool of thread, a machine needle, scrap fabric, and scissors. That way, I can check the timing and tension and see how well the machine works. Unfortunately, the machine uses a different size bobbin that is smaller than a standard bobbin, so I failed on that test. But upon plugging her in, and pressing on the petal, she purred like a kitten. A nice quiet hum, timing sounding just perfect, and I said "I'll take it!"

We brought her home after stopping for lunch in Riverside and a quick trip to an antique store. First thing I did was get out all my cleaning tools and sat down at the dining room table. After careful inspection and cleaning the machine, I don't think it was used much. Aside from beneath the top loading bobbin case, there was no lint from thread, no scratches, no real signs of wear and tear like my machines see. It had a bit of sun damage, as if it sat on a table for years as decoration. 

It's almost as if it was made to be the Singer Featherweight of the 70s, designed to be easy to take along. It's right around 18 pounds, pretty light for a portable machine. The cover slides on from the left side, and the pedal and cord store in that compartment, different from the usual machine, where you have to wrap the cord around the machine, and place the pedal near the presser foot. It was funny Googling this machine, and finding all the people that got a sweet deal because the sellers thought the pedal was missing. Silly, it's in the case!

When I buy a "new" vintage sewing machine, I always take the front panels off, clean and degrease all the old sewing machine oil, and oil it again. Using compressed air, I blow away all old dust, and then put it back together. This machine didn't need anything! It was so clean, and the grease was clear, appearing to still be the original factory grease when it was made. So I put it back together, and simply blew out the bobbin case.

This machine was advertised to be a "portable zig-zag sewing machine" with a "new stitch function" that could sew elastic easier than all previous machines. It has so many different zig zag stitches, I can't wait to try them all! Since it didn't come with a manual, I still have a bit more research to do.

And I love the way it disengages the machine to make a bobbin. Simply press the bobbin icon on the balance wheel and you're ready to make a bobbin, turn the wheel and it automatically resets to normal to get back to sewing.

First thing tomorrow on my agenda: the post office to ship off Etsy orders, and stop at a sewing and vacuum shop for size 66 bobbins. I can't wait to sew on this machine! 

What is your favorite sewing machine? Do you prefer vintage or new sewing machines?