Ace Makerspace recently received a generous donation of a PFAFF Mid-Arm Free Motion Sewing Machine— unlike a standard sewing machine, the mid-arm doesn’t have a feed dog (a mechanism that controls the movement of the fabric underneath the needle) this allows the sewer to move the fabric in any direction to create intricate designs. Here’s a sneak peek at our first test drive and the process we go through when we introduce new tools into our programs.
When we bring new tools into any of our programs we have a process in place to ensure that the tool is in good working order and that Ace Makers of all skill levels and identities have equitable access to both the tool and to learning opportunities. This work is often coordinated and/or performed by Stewardship Teams— Ace Community Members who volunteer to help lead their favorite Ace Programs— and involves testing the tool both for function and to determine what kind of training, user guides and resources need to be developed before it’s made available to the rest of the community. For this project, Textiles Stewardship Team Member, Liat (you may also know her from Hello Stitch) called in a couple of friends to help out.
After reading the manual they turned it on the machine to see if it worked. The sound it made was a little bit louder than they expected which can be a sign that it needs a little oiling. Since it this was a new machine for them, they debated the topic for the minute and decided to go for it.
Finally, it was time to thread the machine and try some free-motion sewing! (Liat made an extra tasty “quilt sandwich”— a quilt top, batting, and quilt bottom layered together—for practicing on).
It all started when Pixie’s college friend asked her to knit him a glamourous rainbow shawl for his wedding! They selected a pattern to serve as a starting point, planned the color story, did a little math to figure out how much yarn it would take, and found a dyer (Pook Yarns) to create a custom gradient. Then it was time to start knitting.
On 11/19/22 she officially cast on–a technique for creating the first row of stitches on the needle…
…6 months later she finished the last stitch and the shawl was ready for blocking!
Blocking describes a finishing process used by knitters and crocheters to even out their stitches and set the shape and size for their pieces. It involves wetting the fabric, stretching it until it’s just right, and allowing it to set as it dries.
Since Pixie improvised a little to extend the pattern as she knit, she wasn’t entirely sure what the final shape would look like. Though she started pinning the outer edge into sharp points, she decided to re-pin it with a scalloped edge to better showcase the lace details. She also wasn’t sure what shape the neckline would take and re-pinned it several times to get it just right.
Stretching is an art. You have to fiddle with it to see what happens -Pixie
Once she finished blocking she allowed it to dry overnight and then removed the pins.
We’ll never pass up an opportunity to frolic with giddy abandon at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics! It’s a magical place teaming with vibrant fabrics, notions, and specialty sewing supplies.
We went to stock up on fabrics for our beginner-friendly Tote Bag Project Kits, find inspiration for future textiles classes, and buy extra supplies for our first ever Visible Mending Workshop—inspired by Sashiko, a traditional style of Japanese embroidery used to preserve clothing.
Terry’s been sewing most of her life, but until last spring (2022) had never tried quilting. Now, one year later, she’s made 13 quilt tops and counting! When you ask what prompted her to start, she isn’t exactly sure apart from her “fabric hoarding” tendencies.
I’ve started thinking about my life as a maker life. Making things has always been my favorite part of every job I’ve ever had.
The inspiration for her quilts tends to come from the fabrics she’s collected over the years and her experiences both past and present. She made her first quilt at Ace from a stash of batik and paisley shirts she no longer wears but couldn’t bear to part with.
She uses a special notebook to sketch and plan the layout letting the basic shapes in the fabric dictate what “kind of quilt they want to be.”
While she really enjoys the process of making quilt tops, she tends to procrastinate on assembly admitting to a closet full of UFOs (unfinished objects).
Terry is getting really into playing with embroidery, applique, and geometric shapes. She’s also planning a Scrub Jay quilt inspired by the birds she and her partner hand feed in their neighborhood.
Terry’s Tips and Takeaways for New Quilters
“Don’t go it alone.” Find community whether its online, at Ace, or a local quilting guild.
Try a smaller project like quilted oven mitts or throw pillows to learn the mechanics.
It’s helpful to have a space to work away from the distractions at home (like Ace).