Archive for the ‘Do It Yourself’ Category

Smooth Quilting

I have since the beginning liked my quilt frame. It is the Gracie king model from the Grace company. I made my purchase based on price without much experience with a machine quilting frame. Finding a dealer anywhere local here in rural central Virginia to actually do a hands on comparison of a quilting machine much less a frame is like looking for that needle in a hay stack. For now I have this frame and it is the one I have to use and sometimes I get so frustrated I am even liable to tell you that I am ‘stuck with it’ until I can save up, sell this one, and get something else.

Well, that may have just changed. I am finding that suddenly the Gracie frame is not as evil as it had become in the past. The main problem with it beyond the constant need to tighten screws and work with the temperature and humidity to keep it level is those awful black plastic tracks that come with the frame. It is clear from the moment you begin putting the frame together that something is going to go downhill sooner or later and you can pretty much count on it being sooner. The plastic tracks are the rails that the steel carriage wheels roll on when you move the long arm during the quilting process. Plastic rails under the pressure of the weight of a machine moving back and forth over it tells you almost instantly that the steel carriage wheels are going to chew into that plastic and wear it down quicker than you expect.

On my frame I have a Tin Lizzie 18×8 manual model long arm machine. The weight of the machine is about 50 pounds. It is the highest weight recommended for the Grace wooden frame. Somewhere in process of quilting a 10th or 11th king size quilt I began feeling the slightest little bumps and dips which throws the quilting off into wibbles and not so smooth sewing lines. Running your fingers over the plastic the places where the steel wheels have chewed into the plastic is readily noticeable. Cleaning the plastic rails with renaissance wax the soft cloth always ended up covered with black dust which is a clear indication of the carriage wearing away the rails bit by bit.

The only way to fix it is to go online at the Grace website and order a new set of plastic tracks. The tracks for the king length cost $28.00. Then you get a bit of a shock because the company charges nearly $25 for the ‘shipping and handling’. When the flat box comes in the mail feeling lighter than air you begin to question the validity of the shipping charges. When you go through this same scenario three times in one year you start to get angry. Not only do the plastic tracks wear down but you are rolling along just fine and suddenly they split right down the length and you can’t quilt another thing until you replace the tracks. Fortunately you always keep an extra set on hand for such an event but after a couple years it becomes more than just frustrating it makes you hate your quilt frame and the company that makes it.

Let me tell you something else. Getting someone from the Grace Company to actually reply to an email or to contact them by phone is like sitting in the middle of the ocean with a cane pole waiting to catch fish. Chances are, it ain’t happening. They have an 800 number but I have NEVER spoken to a real person on the other end of the line. This, as much as the plastic tracks has made me not want to ever use another Grace product. There has to be a better way of dealing with a company and of keeping the long arm moving with having to constantly spend money. Quilting is an expensive hobby. Buying a long arm is expensive. The constant upkeep and repairs of broken plastic pieces and parts is like watching your money run through a sieve. The frustration really builds and the joy of quilting becomes tedious and no longer a joy.

Unless you figure out another way.

The resolution to the problem was so inexpensive and simple it almost seems like it was too good to be true. I had been reading on a couple quilting groups where a few women had said their husband had replaced the tracks on their frames with steel rods. A million questions later from people who did not give up details or their secrets too easily I finally had what I hoped would be the solution to my problems.

I called the local machine and welding shop. I asked if they had cold one-quarter inch stainless steel rods 132 inches long. The nice gentle man said it was a standard item in a welding shop, it comes cold rolled (meaning very smooth) or hot rolled (meaning unsmooth) and quoted me a price of forty cents per foot. To replace both tracks with steel rods would cost $8.80. You read that correctly. Eight dollars and eight cents plus tax. To also replace the two short lengths of plastic on the carriage itself was $1.77. I spent the total of $11.19 to replace the plastic tracks that were costing me $52.70 every few months because they cracked too easily.

This baby rides on these rails smoothly and evenly. The machine glides like a dream!

If you are having the same problems I did try replacing those black plastic tracks with the proper length of cold rolled stainless steel 1/4 inch rods easily found in the shop of your local machine and welding company. Double measure or even take one of the black tracks with you. You want the rods to be long enough that you have to bend them just a bit to slip them into the grooves on either end of the frame and lay flat in the lip of the raised aluminum frame track beds to be held securely in place. Same for the rods on the carriage. They need to be long enough that they sit securely under each end cap on the machine carriage.

It took me 15 minutes to move the machine, remove the tracks, slip in the rods, put the machine back in place. I cleaned and polished everything with renaissance wax and this baby corners like she is a high speed train on rails.

I am now, once again, in love with my quilting frame.

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Emergency Candles

During bad weather and winter storms there is always a chance the power will go out. It is a certainty for us living in a rural area. At some point we will be without electricity. When that happens and darkness falls it is easy to just go to bed and sleep through it but … but … we don’t always do that. Sometimes we are sitting up in a dark room huddled around a tiny light trying to read or the kids playing board games. Eventually flashlights have to be turned off, lamps are blown out, and the candles snuffed.

Last year’s storms got me to thinking about how most people don’t keep candles on hand for any other purpose than to make a room smell nice. The days of keeping a supply of candles on hand for actually lighting a room has slipped by without much notice by a large majority of people. The price of those decorative candles is outrageous. Maybe I am just a cheapskate but I can’t see putting $8 to $25 in a single candle.

I got busy a few weeks ago and stocked up on candles for emergency purposes. It was fun! And it saved tons of money.

I am a saver jars and most especially when a canning jar gets a nick or a chip in the rim I refuse to throw it out and simply repurpose it. I decided my jar stash would be my candle jars this time. It used up a lot of them and I no longer have to keep a separate box of chipped jars. All gone! No mistakes waiting to happen in the canning kitchen.

I purchased ten pounds of soy wax and a bag of 50 wicks from Amazon. One day when I was in town I took a quick trip through the dollar store and picked up a box of 50 match books for $1.00 and a package of 30 sheets of sandpaper for $1.50. I swung by the junk store in search of a pot to melt the wax in because I don’t have a pot I am will sacrifice for the job and handling a hot coffee can isn’t something I want to do either. I found a stainless steel teflon coated pot for $1.

I melted the wax.

Poured it into pint jars. Ten pounds of wax filled 12 pint jars perfectly.

I put the wicks in and used these plastic knives to prop them into position.

In about 3 hours the wax had cool and the candles were perfect.

I trimmed the wicks and in to every jar I placed 2 books of matches and a small piece of sandpaper – just in case there will always be a striker for the matches.

I saved old lids from jars I opened and applied a lid and ring.

The candles and matches are perfectly safe from moisture and ready to go when needed. The soy wax is silky almost like oil and burns away clean without smoking. I am considering making another dozen it was so fun and easy. This time I might add some essential oils to make those smelly, delicious ‘decorative’ candles. Now I understand why so many soap makers become candle makers too!

While I was at the junk store I ran up on this box of devotional candles for the low price of $3. This box contained 192 candles. I put them into wide mouth jars and also added matches to those jars. These candles cost me 1 cent each and the matches were 2 cents. Another great preparedness item found for almost no cost at all!

Price breakdown

12 jars $00.00
Wax and Wicks = $31.78
Matches (x2) = $00.04
Sandpaper = $00.01
pot = $ 1.00

Total = $33.83

$2.81 per 16 ounce candle

Do you have a stash of candles on hand for emergency purposes?

Self Watering Plant Starters

I admit, as much as I love gardening, I have been known to forget to water some plants. I have even been guilty of over watering plants, especially starts, and drowning my seeds and newly sprouted garden plants.

This year I have been collecting 2 liter bottles from anyone who will give them to me and saving everyone that comes through my own house. Some I have used to line my greenhouse to help retain warmth but also now I have been saving them self watering plant pots.

It took about half an hour to make all of these.

The process is simple. Cut the bottle in half. Drill a hole in the lid. Thread a string or yarn through the hole in the lid and knot both ends. This works as a wick to bring water from the bottom reservoir up to the soil so the plants roots can drink.


I left some coke in this one so you could see inside.

These are earmarked for tomato seeds later this week. I am way behind starting my seeds. I also do not have spring fever this year. Crazy! I always have spring fever. Maybe it is because of the mild weather. Whatever the reason I am moving at a snails pace with my gardening this year.

Have you started your seeds?

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Thank you for your generous donations to the rescue fund for Jack and Diana. Both of these wonderful Percheron horses were saved from the kill pens of slaughter auctions.



Jack is recovering from a severe leg injury and has many more months to go before his wounds are healed.



Diana could barely walk on her broken hooves. With extensive and expensive farrier work she is now standing tall and without pain.



She has at least a year ahead of her before her broken hooves will grow out to become healthy new feet to stand on. Her treatment will require ongoing farrier work expected to total into the thousands of dollars.

Jack and Diana both need a few hundred pounds on their bodies to be back in good health.

Through your generous donations and support Jack and Diana can expect a full return to their good health and sound footing.

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