Having a couple days off this week gave me an opportunity to work on several projects that I’ve wanted to complete. Last night I finished one project and started another. That’s when it happened . . . Strange stitching coming from my beloved Baby Lock machine!
What could it be? Do I need to have it serviced? (Yes, I do sew almost every day.) Calm down and evaluate the situation. What am I sewing? What thread am I using? Is something wrong?
Then I remembered. What needle am I using? I had just finished sewing a knit fabric and forgot to change my needle to sew on a woven fabric. As soon as I changed my needle, my stitching was beautiful.
Is the proper needle that important? ABSOLUTELY!! I use Schmetz needles. Schmetz manufactures needles for every sewing need. (Click here for a chart showing the different needles and the type of sewing each is designed for.)
If you need help picking the perfect needle for your sewing machine, just let us Ragtime Gals help you.
I’m confident you will be as happy as I am.
I enjoy yard sales. It's just fun to shop for bargains and to explore what others cast away. Last summer I found a true treasure.
It was late in the afternoon, always a good time to get the best
prices. A shabby rocking chair caught my eye. Someone’s favorite,
it had been used well, then stored for a long time. The back was
hanging in shreds, with no seat at all. It was impossible to
test its comfort, but I fell in love with the shape and the potential.
I also fell in love with the price: FREE!
I took it home, stripped it, and removed all the
tacks. It was very sturdy, no loose joints or
cracks in the wood. After some sanding and
three coats of polyurethane, it looked like
a chair again. Its age? It's a style that was
used over several decades.
The original seat as well as the back were underpinned with webbing which is lighter and less expensive than wood, but I opted to replace the webbing in the seat with a piece of cut-to-fit plywood. Plywood makes the chair heavier, but it won't sag. I topped the plywood with 3” thick foam, softened with a layer of batting, and the seat was ready for a cover. I used the traditional webbing for the back and topped that with 1.5” foam, also softened with some batting.
I realized that the chair would look good in many different fabrics – I had a lot of options. The fabric I chose was a bold choice, but it really caught my eye at Ragtime! I carried my chair into the store. Yeah, they probably thought I was nuts, but no one said a word. (I've always loved Ragtime! Great people!)
Assembly of the cover took only a couple of hours using an electric staple gun. I worked on the seat first. The plywood was separate from the chair. Once I had the fabric design centered, I fastened the front and back, working to keep the tension on the fabric even and to prevent pulling the design off center. Then I mitered the corners, worked the sides down, and put it back into the chair. Voila! It had a finished seat!
Next was the visible side of the chair’s back. I started with the design centered and wrapped the fabric over the top. The fabric was stapled across the rear of the top rail, low enough that those staples would be covered later. I wrapped the remaining edges around to the back and secured them with staples. It was a bit tricky to staple the areas where the arms joined the frame, and of course, through this whole process, I had to keep the chair from rocking. Some of my working poses weren't exactly graceful!
I always find it amazing the first time an upholstered piece finally takes on its finished appearance. I love it! But...there was still one more side to finish...the rear of the chair back.
I cut a rectangle of fabric large enough to cover the
back, again keeping the design centered. Then I
flipped the fabric and stapled it in place across
the top rail through a tack strip, a narrow lightweight
trip of cardboard, to form a straight edge. To soften
the back, I added a layer of batting. Then I folded the
sides and stapled everything in place. Done!
Well, almost. I should cover the underside with a dust cover. It's not visible so who knows...maybe I'll be
changing the fabric again before I get to that last step!
Some people know me as the friendly, outgoing saleslady from Ragtime. Some people know me as the former 4-H leader who had almost sixty 4-Her’s in her club. But most people don’t know that I have a secret passion.
I raise Quarter Horses. Over the years, several Quarter Horses. However, I haven’t had many as special as my newest addition.
Friends, meet Silas! This little guy entered the world on May 6.
Silas was the reason I was a little tired the next day at work. He decided to make his arrival at midnight!
The joy I feel watching every foal grow to a spectacular horse is like no other. My family shakes their heads when I walk outside and receive a choir of whinnies from the field. My equine friends just want to say, "Hi."
So, if you find me looking off into nowhere, when I should be more focused on cutting fabric or straightening shelves, this is where my mind is….
When you're hand sewing a button or a hem, it's so aggravating to find your thread looping over itself and forming slip knots. Sometimes multiple slip knots. And even the mildest jerk tightens them so that they're impossible to undo, and you have to start over. Grrrrrrr!
You may already know the beeswax tip.
Just run your thread over the beeswax to strengthen and stiffen it. This will reduce those pesky slip knots.
But not eliminate them entirely. To do that, run the thread over the wax in BOTH directions, then iron it to melt the wax into the thread.
Now your thread will behave itself!
~ Ragtime Staff
Button-sewing isn't at the top of most people's lists of sewing tasks they enjoy.
So take the time to make sure those little beasts stay put when they are attached the first time.
A dot of Fray Check on the threads will keep that
button from popping off prematurely. People used
to use clear nail polish, but this stuff is invisible
It's also a good idea to use it on the buttons of store-bought clothes. Those buttons are sometimes not sewn on very securely, but a dot of Fray Check on each one will make them stay attached a lot longer!
Another button hint? When you buy buttons for a garment,
buy an extra one and sew it to the inside seam allowance of
one side seam. If you ever lose a button, you won't have to go
searching through your button stash for a replacement or,
worse yet, have to replace all the buttons because you don't
have one that matches.
~ Ragtime Staff
Years ago, Debbie Stohlman remembers a girlfriend's seamstress mom who had so much fabric that it was stacked floor to ceiling at their house. At the time, she thought that was really weird!
Considering our current stashes, we had a good laugh over that one!
Newly retired from her CEO position with the Culpeper County Chamber of Commerce, Debbie's revved up her sewing big-time. Her seamstress mom and high school home ec classes got her sewing in her youth, but raising her daughter, pursuing her career, and living in various locations (New Orleans, Ohio, Hampton Roads, and D.C.) due to her husband's Coast Guard work limited her stitching time. Now, machine embroidery, sewing for others (especially grandkids Emma, 6, and Andrew, 10) and her newly discovered quilting passion are providing the creative satisfaction that is enriching her retirement life.
While struggling with a less than satisfactory sewing machine, Debbie discovered a YouTube series called Made Everyday in which the hostess Dana was using Baby Lock machines, a brand Debbie had never heard of. A dealer search led her to Ragtime Fabrics where Debbie found our friendly staff who welcomed her and answered her questions. Debbie is happy now with her Baby Lock Accord sewing/embroidery machine and her Imagine serger. She takes regular quilting classes with Shellie who has helped her ignite her quilting mojo!
Debbie and her husband decided to turn their mountain weekend-getaway on thirty-one Greene County acres (near Stanardsville) into their full-time retirement home. They love their peaceful cabin in the woods.
But Debbie also loves coming into Harrisonburg to visit her sewing family at Ragtime!
I've been sewing for years (ok...decades . . lol!), and it's always bugged me that the word for what we enjoy doing . . .
. . . looks like the word for a particularly nasty part of the city's plumbing system!
I remember my grandmother referring to herself as a seamstress. It seemed to fit her perfectly because (a) the garments she produced were intricate and beautifully finished to a height of sewing perfection I could never seem to achieve myself, and (b) it seemed like a charmingly old-fashioned term, like spinster. And she was old-fashioned. (Something I didn't want to be!)
According to Threads magazine, we might call ourselves sewists:
". . . a relatively new term, combining the words "sew" and "artist," to describe someone who creates sewn works of art, which can include clothing or other items made with sewn elements." (October 11, 2012)
I don't know about you, but very little of what I sew is what I'd consider a work of art! So sewist seems a bit pretentious. Or boastful. Plus, a made-up word like that just seems artificially forced and politically correct.
Somewhere I read that some people who sew call themselves makers. That term strikes me as unclear -- wouldn't you next have to explain what you make?
So I'm stuck. What's your preference? Do you care? Do you have a better term?
Did you know that Ragtime Fabrics is owned and managed by someone who doesn't know much about sewing? And isn't really much interested in sewing?
Belle is the first to admit that the higher end Baby Lock sewing machines . . . well, let's just say
she finds them somewhat challenging.
Whuuuuuut??? That's crazy, right?
Years ago, I ran into Belle when I was shopping at The Fabric Shop on Court Square here in Harrisonburg. Michael the owner was on the verge of retiring and I, along with his other customers, was wondering what we'd do without a local sewing store. When Belle told me she was thinking about taking over the business, I was startled.
"I didn't know you sewed!" I exclaimed with the same delight I always feel when I discover a friend shares one of my favorite hobbies.
"Oh, I don't," she breezily replied.
This is what Belle's day OFF looks like! Cleaning up behind the store.
Over the next few months, I felt so worried, sad and apprehensive for Belle. Such a nice person. Such a shame that she was going to fail spectacularly in just a few months with her crazy idea of running a fabric store as a non-sewer!
And, selfishly, I was dismayed that the new store -- obviously! -- would be entirely inadequate since she didn't know the first thing about sewers and what they want.
Boy, was I wrong! Fifteen years later, Ragtime Fabrics is going strong with Belle at the helm.
I've often mused to myself how ironic it is.
Putting fabric away in the stock room.
Back in the 1980's, I owned a yarn shop. I'm an avid knitter -- so what better business for me to run, right? Well, I nursed it along for four years before facing reality (not enough customers, not enough sales). I realize in retrospect that I had very opinionated ideas about the yarns I carried (and those that I refused to sell). I was way too emotionally invested in the hobby to objectively judge how to run the business successfully.
I think now that one of Belle's many strengths as a business owner is that she is NOT into sewing. She doesn't make judgments about what her customers should want to buy...she carries what her customers do want to find in their local fabric shop, whether it's the finest laces and pure linen yardage or a neon-colored, zig-zagged striped polyester!
It's a wonder Belle isn't bald by now!
Next time you're in Ragtime, ask Belle how to sew a French seam or insert a zipper into the side of a bodice. She'll cheerfully admit she hasn't a clue and will call over an employee who can explain. But if you want her to carry a certain sewing tool or special order some purple vinyl for you, she'll be all ears and will do her best to provide you with it.
I'm thinking that may be why she's still in business and I'm not...lol!
Here at Ragtime Fabrics, we've been playing with the idea of a blog for several months.
One of the things we all love about working here is the sense of community, both with each other and with our customers. We know that in this age of social media, one way to nurture a community of like-minded folks is to communicate online among ourselves.
Some of our Ragtime friends who took Pamela Leggett's Perfect T-Shirt class
at the 2018 Winter Retreat.
What do we want our blog to be? Informative and entertaining! We want to have fun writing it, and we want our friends to have fun reading it. Our plan is to include sewing tips and lessons, customer highlights, free patterns, and occasional glimpses at the running of a fabric store. But most of all, we want the blog to become a conversation among the members of the Ragtime family! *
Our second location in 15 years . . . 926 West Market Street, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Each of us on the Ragtime staff will be contributing to the blog . . . and we hope you will, too! Feel free to comment on any post. And if you'd like to be a guest contributor, just let us know! We'd love to have you!
~ Ragtime Staff
* What we don't want it to become is an advertising platform for the store. We'll save the sales ads, class schedules, and Baby Lock specials for our weekly emails. (If you're not already on the emailing list, just click here to sign up.)
Our Ragtime Staff