Monday, June 27, 2011

A New Old Toy

A few years ago, during a play at Holy Family in Nazareth, I sat next a woman named Joan. Joan and I had a mutual friend, Deb, (whose daughter was in the play) who suggested we sit together. Joan discovered I had made the costumes (with much help from parents) and was praising my work. She asked me what my dream machine would be, suggesting a factory machine. I said I had always wanted a treadle machine. She told me to stop by her house the next day, and showed me a cabinet, and then put it in my car, after I promised to repair it and get it working, and not to sell it. It was a gift. I gave her a shawl to thank her.

So, I went about finding information about this unusual cabinet. Yes, it was a treadle machine, but... A cabinet? Yes. This is a rare Parlor Cabinet sewing machine, made for Mongomery Ward in the early 1900s. The Minnesota was one of many machines they sold, trying to copy Singer's success. I did some research, and had the exact info, (can't remember the exact year) but it was old. It was missing parts (the bobbin, bobbin case, and bobbin cover, among other things) and the cabinet was damaged. There was an awful stain on the top, it wasn't square, the door latch was broken (and what was with that knob??) and ... Quite a project, but I had the internet, and prior knowledge on refinishing furniture. Sooo...
treadle machine 2

treadle machine 1

I found the parts I needed at a sewing machine store on Long Island, where I had previously bought a machine. It was a little surprising, considering I did a US search and found it locally. I cleaned and polished the machine. I was surprised by the decals hidden by the years of gunk. I got it working. The next job was to tackle the cabinet. There was a built in tape measure in front of the machine, and I figured any chemicals may damage it, so I asked for help at Home Depot. They recommended I restore the finish there, but would need to strip the top because no one could figure out what caused the stain, let alone what to do about it. I was able to get off that weird white stain next to the machine, and the rest of the cabinet seemed to glow with a little elbow grease and product.


Um, yeah, that looks bad. They had tried a number of things on it before I took the picture. I've used a spray-on chemical stripper before, so I got that ready, put on my grungiest clothes, got plastic scrapers, rubber gloves, lots of paper towels, a drop cloth, water, and sand paper and got to work. The stain wasn't into the wood, so I was able to get it ready to restain after one try. I did strip the top and bottom, since I figured I would need to do it if I got any drips (knowing me, yep,)

After some stain and some polyurethane, here is the finished result. I am pretty proud of it. It isn't perfect, but what would be after 100 years? I didn't want it to look new, but good for its age. And, it works. I do need to do some adjustments, but if I lose power, I can still sew! I replaced the weird wood knob with a cool vintage looking dark silver knob.



That is the cover, where the stain was. Look at that beautiful grain!! I love being able to discover something like that with some good chemicals and some hard work.




Hazel approves, and says it's time to play with her instead of the machine. DSC02477

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The making of a quilt

Hi. I thought I would post a few things about how I made my last quilt. There are quite a few things that go into the whole quilt, including 7 bobbins of thread. Yes, that's right. I used 7 bobbins of thread in this one.

First, a challenge was given for this Race Day quilt. You take a Jelly Roll, which is 40 strips of fabric at least 40 inches long, and cut 2 1/2 inches wide, and sew them end to end (on a 45* angle) so it becomes 1600 inches of fabric, 2 1/2 inches wide. I tried to plan the colors a certain way, but it didn't work as planned. I love what did happen, though. Once you have it all sewn, you press the seams in one direction. Yep, lots of pressing. Hot steamy pressing. Then you cut 18 inches off one end, and match the two ends, so you end up with a strip that is about 800 inches long and 4 1/2 inche wide. Fold it in half again, and sew again, and end up with 400 inches that is 9 1/2 inches wide. Oh, yeah, make sure it isn't twisted anywhere. Make sure your edges meet. Make sure you stay at 1/4 inch seam allowance. Taks a drink of water in there somewhere. And Hazel needs to go outside for a little walk.

Back to sewing. Do it again and again until you end up with something that resembles a quilt size top. Add 7 strips of 6 1/2 inch wide fabric for borders, checking to make sure they are square and flat. Press the whole thing nice and flat, and fix any missed areas. (Yep, I had one where the edges weren't even, and the strip looked bad, so ripped out the bad stitches, and fixed it.) Now, decide on the backing. If needed sew that together. This used 3 1/2 yards of fabric. In addition to the 3 yards for the strips and 1 3/8 yards for the borders. Oh, and about 5/8 yard more for binding. Are you adding? About 8 1/2 yards of fabric. Not including the batting.

Lay out your backing, batting and the quilt top on a nice large flat surface. Pin the layers together, with pins about every 8 inches or so. Pick out the thread for quilting. Clean out the bobbin case and bottom of the machine, put in a new needle, and wind some bobbins. Maybe 5, since you used 2 just in the piecing of the top. Play with a pencil, doing some scribbles to see what kind of stipple design you may want to try. Or pick a stencil (this has stipple, which is like doodling with thread instead of a pencil). Begin in the center of the quilt. Relax your shoulders, and play. Make waves and swirls, but keep the speed steady and movements as steady as possible, so your stitches are sort of even. Take a break. Finish the quilting, and decide on the border treatment. Finish that. Make your binding. Cut 7 strips 2 1/2 inches wide, sew them end to end, press them, trim one end, change your machine to a walking foot, and stitch the binding on, mitering the corners. Press the binding, pin and clip it in place, and stitch again.

Luckily I pay a great price for my basic thread, so making the top and winding the bobbins wasn't expensive. Maybe about $1. Fabric is now costing about $10 a yard, and more for batiks. The jelly roll was a gift from a sweet friend, and I got the backing and borders wholesale, so that cost about $30, rather than $80. Add in the batting. Again, I got it on sale. I use Warm & Natural, which is a wonderful 100% cotton. Maybe about $13. Hours? About 2 for the top, another for the borders, and about 9 in quilting and binding. And the nice rainbow quilting thread? $9. Then you have to wash the quilt and use Shout Color Catchers just in case the colors bleed.

What did I end up with?

Sunset Strips 30001

Sunset Strips 20001

Sunset Strips 10001

Is it worth the time? Absolutely. I hope it sells, and that someone enjoys snuggling with it. It is a bargain listed on my Etsy store for $225,