Saturday, December 31, 2011

Not Much here...

We had a lovely Hannukah. My kids are the best. Mr Wooly bought me 50 rotary cutter blades, which I need for quilting. it is a lovely gift. Otherwise, just the same old stuff. Better post later....but isn't Muggs the cutest ever? he is a sweet dog.
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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In case you thought I had given up sewing...

Here's an orphan block quilt made out of a bunch of blocks and mini tops given to me by another quilter. I just put them together.

And quilted them. This leafy vine is very relaxing. Just back and forth, back and forth. This one went to the shelter for women with mental illness.

This cat and mouse block was shown on Deb Rowden's blog. I used light colored plus red as my design rule. The design floor is it's usual chaotic self. I guess that's a big advantage to a design wall, no one stacks things on it!

Here is what I am doing as my string piecing. I am cutting whatever block i feel like making so that one dimension is 10 inches. Then i sew it onto the roll. At some point i will make a strippy quilt. I add each block to the end as soon as I finish it.

See why I decided on 10 inches? becaus it is rolled on a paper towel roll! It started to give in from the weight of the fabric, so i stuffed it ( with paper towels, of course) to keep it from collapsing.

Here is part of the sewing area. The Davis VF is hostin a Singer 239 in a tiffany blue base. The Morse is the blue and tan, made in the Toyota company factory in the 1960's. All old machines are heavy, but this one is HEAVY. It weighs about twice what a Singer of it's size would- maybe 45 pounds? I can barely lift it. Behind it is a Singer 403 that I just finished with that I will likely sell, after I sew on it for a little while to make sure it really is a happy camper. It is really pretty.

Here is my quilt inspector, Muggles. To his right is the 401 with a few, ok, a lot of cosmetic issues. Not sure what I will do about it. I may repaint it, I may strip it of parts. Don't know yet. Isn't running yet, so it will depend on how difficult it is, likely.

Here's another shot of the 239. The friend who gave it to me said it looked like a machine that Audry hepburn would sew on, so when I made the base, I painted it tiffany blue. I plan on doing some more to the base in silver paint, but not sure what, yet. it was made in France, a straight stitch only, and very cute!
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Saturday, December 10, 2011


These are the bunnies I made for a good friend's neighbor's kids. The neighbor was picking my friend up from the airport, and I always have fun giving presents to kids, so i thought my friend might like it, too. The kids- all between 1 and 4 years, like them! Yay!

The hand crank machine behind them is really nice for sewing little fussy things like this. If I go on another doll making spree, it will be with a hand crank machine. Every stitch can be put down just so, in exactly the spot I want. Perfect for all those little curves.
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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Willcox and Gibbs Chain stitcher

Wow.  Blogger went and changed.  I suppose it is a free site, so they can do what they want, but so far I am not a fan  I'm getting old.  The music is getting too loud, I find I am deeply offended by phone calls after 9PM, and those teenage girls at the high school need to go hame and put some more clothes on before they come outside again.  And I don't like blogger changing.  hmph.

The machine pictured above is a chain stitcher, which means no bobbin, so no bobbin winding.  BUT it means that if the seam is cut, or breaks, the whole thing can come raveling out, just like the stitching on the dog food, or bird seed, bag.  On the other hand, chain stitches are more flexible.  I use this machine for making muslins, or first drafts, of garments.  If I need to change a seam, ZIP it is out.  It also makes a pretty faux embroidery.  This machine was a splurge for me, I think I paid $100.  It is missing it's case.  It came in an old suitcase that did mot fit it, and smelled really musty. Since the case is basically a wooden box, I might make one someday.  I have all of the attachments, and i feel very lucky to have it!

Breaking up is hard to do...

This is The Elna Supermatic.  For it's time, it was an absolute revolution.  It used cams to make fancy stitches.  The folded up silver bit is the knee lever, instead of a foot pedal.
This was the Transforma.  The short of cash woman would buy this straight stitch model, and then save her pennies. When she was ready, she took her machine in and they added the cam mechanism. At that point, it became a Supermatic.

These were the first vintage machines I bought.  They have a friction drive mechanism that can go bad, and the repair is simple.  Actually, I have repaired both of them.  But, like an idiot, I forgot to use them in the last few years, and so the drive wheel has gone flat again.  I'm taking it as a sign.  I have (gasp) too many machines.  These are for sale, along with another Supermatic, as a herd.  I miss them already!  So green, so cute! So Swiss made.  I have to not think about it too much, or I'll buy them from myself!  ( I wonder if I would give myself a good deal?)

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Singer 66 before and After

Remember this?

It is now this.  I am quite pleased with myself.  The box was painted with red acrylic paint that I thinned with water.  The details were done with paint markers.  I have to paint stuff I built, because my carpentry skills...well, lets just say they are still under development.  You know the saying: A little putty and a little paint, makes a carpenter what she ain't.  Instead of the more usual storage area to the right, under the crank, I chose to make a bed extension to the left.  I think I will add some brass handles on the sides, to make it easier to carry.

Even through there are wobbles and goofs, the overall effect is pretty.  Reminds me of a painted caravan from one of Kaffe Fassets books. Below is a detail of the machine's decals that served as the inspiration for the design.  (NB:I would not do this type of decoration on an original base or box.  It that case, I think it is more timeless to restore it to it's intended appearance.  But if I build it, I get to play however I want.  The people at my future estate sale can talk about me all they want!)

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Sunday, November 06, 2011

Hand Crank Expert

My ten year old son. My 127 year old sewing machine.

Selected from mom's precut square drawer. The final arrangement.  It made a very nice pillow.

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

last minute Halloween craft

Since I am nothing if not a last minute gal, here is something I made this week.  I had hoped to lure the kids into making one, too, having this fantasy of making a big collection of them.  However, they thought it was cool, but cool for me to have done, not for them.  Perhaps your children are less feral?

This was the genesis of the idea- a nightlight cord set all wired up and ready to go at the craft store.  It was about three bucks.

Here is the how to section- find a box, cut it to look like this, sort of, unless you have better ideas, which you surely might!  As you can see by the cat below, no level of ineptitude is too great.  After this I spray painted it black and then glued in yellow copy paper to cover the windows and doors.  Then I hacked a hole in the back the size of the night light bulb, ad there you have it! Happy Halloween!

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Poor, rescued orphan machine

UPDATE! This machine has found a home! This is a treadle machine that came from a house that looked like an episode of hoarders.  The lady's family was doing a not entirely congenial clearing out of her house, as it had become a bit of a fire code violation

Anyway, it was on the pickup truck ready for the dump when she called me.  I think that I had bought a sewing machine from her last year, so it was kind of random.  I live one exit from the dump, so her dad pulled up, said, "want it or not? I have to get three more loads in today" I took it.  She cried.  I also offered to find homes for any other sewing things, but NOT for fabric. I didn't take before pictures, but I should have.  The irons were rusted and frozen, and the veneer was splintered and peeling.

You can see that I just took the top layer of veneer off the center section- too far gone and too much missing.  I stained it to match the remaining veneer.  It's important to finish cleaning up the remaining veneer before you chose a stain color.  This didn't lighten up as much as I wanted, but it did lighten considerably.  If I had stained before cleaning, it would not match.
Below you see the machine itself.  I had what is called "pin rash" from someone wrapping a rag around the machine to use as a pin cushion.  I put a rust treatment on it that turns the metal black, and than waxed the machine with caranuba wax.  There is a resin cleaner called, I think TR3 that can be used on old machines.  However, my experience with it has been mixed.  It seem to me if the machine is in really rough shape and the lacquer is gone, the poly resin removes the decals.  This machine was pretty far gone, a lot of rust, and visibly peeling  lacquer, and so I used oil to clean with, then rust treatment to darken the bare metal, and then wax.

It is sitting in our pantry/coat closet and I DO NOT have room for it.  I just bought a belt for it from Cindy at her ebay store, Stitches in Time.  I'm certain it will sew well, as it has loosened up nicely. Then I have to find a home for it.  I already have a nice Singer 66 with these decals (called red eye informally), and I have enough treadles!  So, if any one in Northern CA would like it for the cost of the parts I've used, and you want it  let me know! I think it would be a fun machine for a home schooling family or a kid or a first treadle, or someone who just wanted a people powered machine!


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Friday, October 14, 2011

Tips for winding a VS bobbin

VS stands for vibrating shuttle.  This is the type of sewing machine that has a long bobbin.  An essential part of the mechanism is the silver, bullet shapped shuttle.  It hold the bobbin, and tensions the bobbin thread.  In the past, shuttles were sold anywhere that sewing supplies were.  When a machine started behaving baddly, skipping stitches or such, a new shuttle was bought for a nominal sum and the machine ran like new again.

The old Singers were designed to be maintained by the household that owned them.  All the oiling points were clearly marked in the instructions, the shuttle  was replaceable, and the machines could run forever. I wonder if the move for women's rights was not in some small part helped along by the widespread use of the sewing machine.

The machine came with screwdrivers and an oil can- things I think most women didn't normally use.  The directions in the manuals, when a hand is shown holding a part, that hand is clearly a woman's.  It was, I think the first machine that was run by and maintained by women.  It must have been very empowering.

ANyway, back to sewing.  Many people struggle with winding the long narrow bobbins used in a VS machine.  The top photo shows a bit of blue painters tape.  That tape is holding the end of the thread.  I do this because it is hard to start the bobbin winding.  Painters tape leaves no sticky behind. You will note that the thread guide is in the center of the bobbin.  That's where I like to start it, so I treadle the machine until the thread guide is in that position.

After the thread has wound around a few times, I stop treadling grasp the bobbin overhand, like the picture, and ease the tape out of  place it was sandwiched. I just tip it slightly to the right, letting the edge of the bobbin keep the spring for closing all the way. The end of the thread generally stays attache to the tape.  As soon as I have the tape thread end out, I lower the bobbin back into the winder.  I cut the end as close to the bobbin as I can, and continue winding.  This winder does not stop when it is full- you have to keep an eye on it.  I have less trouble with the sewing if the bobbin is not completely full.

I don't know if this is anything like the correct way, but it works for me and thought it might be helpful to someone else.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Before and After

Here is a Singer 66, made in 1915, before I cleaned it with Goop hand cleaner (pumice free version), Maas metal polish, and sewing machine oil.  Sewing machine oil does not damage decals, so the Goop was the first wave, then finishing up with oil.  I use little scraps of cotton quilt batting to clean with.

Here it is, after.  This of course, is the opposite side, but I assure you the filth was spread uniformly.  There was also a wee fossilized mouse in the pillar of the machine.

Here is my Little Plastic Bricks quilt, before.

Here it is after.  It really needed a fourth column of blocks, but I had just re- folded everything and was loathe to start cutting again.  Strips were 2.5 inches, chopped into bricks, sewn back together and then that long strip sewn to itself.  I used the mechanical randomizer, AKA the clothes dryer, to mix the bricks after they were cut.  Thanks to John G. for that term!

Below is a close up with the little prairie points I added because it seemed dull over there.  Have to wait a while to quilt it- I'm broke and I need batting, so that slows things down. Maybe next month.

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Sunday, October 09, 2011

Sick again

One of the bummers about having a chronic disease like rheumatoid arthritis, is that getting sick is a bigger deal.  To start with, the drug I takes knock my immune system down a little, so that while it is not attacking me, it is also a bit slack about attacking germs. So, I get sicker sooner and stay sicker longer than the rest of the house. I also have less strength and reserve than someone without RA, and while a large part of that is my long standing dislike of exercise, it is also part of the disease.

So I've been moping around with a bronchitis/pneumonia type thing, missing work.  My boss is a troll, and has already been borderline harassing me and making my co workers very uncomfortable. Because of the little ray of sunshine that he is (not), I know all the rules about sick time, have contacted my union, etc.  But what a waste of effort. My previous boss said things like "don't worry about us" and "take care of yourself, honey". He chooses to be a different kind of manager.  I believe the type that Jenny, The Blogess, calls a douche canoe. (Don't go to the blogess if you are at work or don't like swearing.  She is very, very funny, I think, but she does have potty mouth.)

So, yeah, lots to whine about.

I have been up as much as possible, and have been sewing on my LEGO quilt.  I was inspired by this one.  Shockingly, I did not follow the tutorial directions.  I am using 2.5 inch strips mostly solid, that I cut.  After I cut them, I chopped them into semi random bricks and bits, and sewed them all back together into a very long strip.  Then I proceeded as though it were a jelly roll racer quilt, sewing the strip to itself until it was more that 12 " wide.   It turned out to be slightly more that 15" wide, so I am cutting blocks from it 14.5 inches wide, and sewing them together.I needed this project to be really, really simple because I am laying down a lot in between sewing.  I'll take some picture later. It seems like too much effort right now, so that's my cue to lay down again.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Sew, What did I Buy?

I saw this treadle table on crag's list a few weeks ago. They wanted some real money for it. In the back ground were several other tables, that I was more interested in. So I called the guy, and it turned out that the others had been sold (sniff) but he wanted this one gone. I said something along the lines of "well, if you'll take $20 and deliver it to the town I live in, I'll buy it" I figured that would end it. He did it, and so I bought it. Question is, what is it?

I actually had to hose it off, it was so filthy. Then I wiped it down with mineral spirits, wire brushed the metal, wiped that with mineral spirits, and hit the whole thing up with some wax. I use a shoe polish brush for buffing the iron work after waxing. On first glance, I thought the top was warped. But when I looked closer, there had been a piece glued on that was ripped off. Looks like hide glue, so I should be able to get it off by wetting the glue ( hide glue is water soluble, which is why it is used in making musical instruments. Things can be taken apart non destructively for repair.) The holes for the treadle belt are there, I'm guessing the two grooves perpendicular to the front edge secured the dust cover/ coffin top of the machine. The cut out is really small, though.

Nice little detail on the iron work. Here's the after shot. You can see how tiny the flywheel is, and that the original wooden pit man rod is still there. Little drawer in front, too. Notice how the treadle is off center to the left. This assured that the machine operator sat directly in front of the needle, and was early ergonomics, preventing a twist in the back while working.

I'm not sure where it will even fit in the house. O suppose I could sit the hand crank on top of it, but something will have to go to make room for it. I'd rather find a home for it with someone who has an orphan machine head that it goes with.
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