It was love at first stitch.
I took a beginner’s quilting class in my hometown during my first year of college. Everything about quilting was lovely: choosing the fabrics, creating patterns, stitching pieces together into a finished product. I had such a feeling of creativity and accomplishment during those sewing times. I remember getting a coffee from the local coffee shop and hiding away in my stepfather’s spare room during snow storms to sew. I’d listen to the local NPR station and stitch into oblivion.
Sewing became a great hobby, but my first project is still unfinished.
That first quilt sits safely somewhere at my father’s house. At the time, what came next for that big project (it was a full-size quilt if I remember correctly) was too much to tackle. I didn’t know how to baste, how to do binding, or how to quilt it. I learned how to quilt by hand in my beginner’s class, but to hand stitch this quilt was too much to ask – especially while working at the local restaurant 30+ hours a week and also taking a full load of undergraduate classes.
Over time, some of the same has occurred in terms of not finishing: I’ve gotten derailed with the small annoyances that accompany projects. With the machines in my past, needles have broken in thick material, bobbins ran out mid stitch, and uneven stitches were sewn because of incorrect tension. Each issue requires stopping the project, fixing the problem and then mustering up the momentum to keep going even though the threat of repeat issues still loomed.
Completion depends upon what’s happening in our lives.
I’ve finished gift quilts and crayon rolls just before birthday parties or holidays, and I completed three keepsake quilts the week that we moved out of our townhouse and on to our Catalina 36. Those three were made out of a father’s shirts, and the quilts were gifts for his children that Christmas. He had passed away earlier that year.
Living aboard also limits the sewing that can be done.
Unlike in our former home, the boat doesn’t allow for a consistent space to keep a sewing machine open and ready for business. Additionally, the space for cutting, piecing, and ironing doesn’t exist either. Projects must be done one step at a time, pulling out and plugging in the machine only when it’s ready to be used. Add in issues along the way that will inevitably happen, it makes starting a task just as daunting as completing it.
My sewing machine ended up taking up permanent space in my car’s trunk.
After three needles were broken within the layers of my daughter’s baby clothes quilt, I had had it. When making a quilt out of clothes, it’s a good idea to iron on interfacing to the backs so that the material is stronger and less stretchy. Yet this also adds a stubborn thickness to the already thick layer of batting and backing material. (In this instance, it was flannel.) I tried to finish her quilt prior to her first birthday, the breaking of needles broke my patience and I gave up. The top was sewn but I didn’t have the strength to try the binding (another layer of fabric).
It took sailing our boat to Maine to finish this quilt.
Once we grabbed the mooring ball in Belfast, the unfinished pink quilt was one of the things we gathered to take ashore to our friends’ home in Winterport. There lived a Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1 machine. This machine is designed to sew through the materials that outfit boats – canvas, vinyl, leather, line, etc. The LSZ-1 is a powerhouse and can tackle big projects like cushions, a mainsail repair, or a little girl’s baby clothes quilt.
Once the machine was threaded, I sat in a glass patio room surrounded outside by Maine woods and warm summer sunshine. I relaxed into the uniform stitching that adhered pink binding around the onesies, shirts, and blankets that once held the little baby body that was now long gone. Instead of anticipating issues to come, I instead fondly remembered moments as they passed by me and through the machine.
The LSZ-1 made sewing enjoyable again!
In minutes, my daughter’s quilt was complete and we moved on to sewing something else. While underway, the baby crib we used had encountered a small rip where part of the screen met the zipper. This little rip became a bigger issue when our boat baby learned that she could push through it and escape. This fix was tackled by replacing the front with a stronger screen and securing with strong stitches. This past summer (2018), our friend did the same fix to our main hatch cover and now it’s good for years.
With Caprica in need of some covers and some sewing repairs, we took the plunge and bought an LSZ-1 for ourselves.
It lives in our third berth most days, but with neighbors away they offered up their houseboat space so I could spread out and learn the machine.
With two grandbabies due soon to some work friends of ours, I have started two small baby quilts this weekend to give as gifts. I’m learning the ins and outs of the new machine on projects that are familiar to me. I enjoyed testing and setting the tension for the fabrics that I was using, and so far I’ve been thrilled with the stitching. Every line is evenly spaced and just perfect.
Now our boat’s fabric future is bright.
Knowing that I now have a machine that can do its part to make the tasks easy, I’m eager to finish everything that I’m starting. It feels good to be sew in love again.