Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Probably Final Finish

This will probably be the last finish of 2011 unless I happen to run across something else that needs only a little bit of work.

This is Ted E. Baer, Napping. This little quilt is just 24 inches square.

It's a single block that I made about 30 years ago to try out an idea for a red and brown quilted wall hanging that I later entered in the Smoky Mountain Guild show.

I ran across this block yesterday and decided it would be a great doll-quilt for my great niece.  My nephew assures me she plays with dolls only about 90% of the day.
 The border quilt is a Hoffman print from the early 90's that I used in another quilt. The rest of the fabrics are those that were available to us back in the 80's.
 I quilted snoring hearts before I worked on the block and the border.

 I free-motion quilt and seldom mark anything before I quilt.

 I like to maintain a certain character in the quilting designs, but I want them to have little variations rather than consistently repeating the same design.

 On this quilt, that meant there were variations on each border and in each corner.

This one is machine-bound, with the binding applied to the back, then turned to the front and sewn down with Fil-Tec Glide in a small zigzag that steps on and off the quilt binding. Years ago even doll quilts had hand stitched bindings, but those days seem to be far behind me. The patchwork block was hand pieced and hand appliqued and embroidered as a carry-along project, and is now quilted mostly with a Madeira embroidery thread, a thread that my other machines didn't like, but which works fine in the vintage Necchi I'm treadling.  The border was quilted in Fil-Tec Glide in a light lavender.

Now I want to get back to Audrey's little brother's John Deere quilt.  His preference for tractors runs second to trains, but I don't think I have any train fabric at all right now. I started piecing his quilt months ago.

I have a larger napping-sized quilt pieced for Audrey but I haven't decided if it really suits her, so for the time being she'll have a doll quilt. Since she's tiny, she may manage to nap under the doll quilt anyway.

I wish all my family and friends a very joyous and prosperous 2012.

Happy quiltmaking.....

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Learning About and Using Vintage Machines

I was asked how [and why] I learned about vintage sewing machines.  I tried to blog that but it was just way too long.  So here's a condensed version.

I first discovered Singer Featherweights while teaching in the S.E. United States (Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama).  I'd seen just one on the Today Show back in the 1970's in a segment on setting in sleeves--I can't even imagine a morning news show covering such a topic these days!  I didn't see one until someone brought one to my classes in the 1980's. A friend paid $15 for one at a yard sale, had it serviced, and mailed it to me in the late 1980's. Despite the fact that it was merely packed loose, surrounded by polystyrene peanuts, it arrived safely.  We  joked that the heavy coating of nicotine held it together. (Seriously, anyone shipping a machine needs to learn to do so correctly--layers of bubble wrap, double boxing, and more.)

Since during my childhood the piece of equipment I used most often was this, I decided I could learn to maintain a sewing machine.

As it turned out, the Featherweight was designed to be maintained by its owner, as were many sewing machines in those days.

A couple of years ago, after months of searching, I purchased a 1919 (Redhead) Singer 66 treadle.
 I did quite a bit of piecing on it--although the upper tensions was very "fiddly"--I'm not sure I ever quilted on it since the 66 bobbins are much smaller than class 15 bobbins.

The next acquisition was this 99, the "little sister" to the 66.  I converted it to hand crank, and take it with me when I'm piecing where electrical outlets are at a premium.  It too has "fiddly" tension.
 The photo below compares "1/2 size" Featherweight to the full size 66.  (The 99 is considered 3/4 size.)
 A few months later I was able to get my full size Singer 15-88.  I'd wanted that one because of the large capacity of the bobbins, great for quilting. 
 Somewhere along the way my dear friend gave me a Singer 15-91, thinking I could convert it to treadle.  Since it has a "potted motor," which means the motor directly drives the gears, it was wiser to leave it as an electric and use it with its motor; it's great for heavier duty sewing, although I have pieced and quilted on it both at home and when I'm somewhere too inconvenient to take a treadle.

Then last summer, after thinking about it for several months, a Treadle-On member sold me an extra Necchi so I could use it for things like buttonholes (haven't tried that yet), blind hems, etc. as well as quiltmaking.  I dearly love this machine, as well as the fact that it fits in both my treadle tables.

People interested in sewing on old machines should feel confident that there is plenty of on-line help available.  There are a few antique and vintage machines that challenge their owners to find the correct needles, but with a little (or a lot) of oil and a new belt, most vintage and antique machines can challenge any of the new ones on the market since they were built of metal and intended to be around for several generations of sewists.  In fact, today I heard of a costumer in Santa Fe who just purchased a Necchi because a car can be purchased for less than many of the heavily advertised sewing machines.

I'm very grateful to the very helpful members on the sewing lists I belong to who have helped me get my machines working and who are available if I have surprise problems with them.  Almost every brand of vintage and antique sewing machine has a group of supporters who share information and help each other with their machines.  While I don't think I have any working machines that are true antiques (over 100 years old), I'm on lists with people who regularly use theirs.

In my own quilting arena, I'm trying to finish up some more quilts; that list in my sidebar is the smallest it's been at year's end in a long time!

The quilt below, Flight Lessons, is only 24" square and has been waiting for binding for several years.  I'm happy to say it's finally complete.  I used the Necchi and variegated thread to give the binding an attractive finish--I knew it wouldn't get done if I had to hand stitch it!
This little quilt later became  a donation to raise money for my church's African mission project.  (The mission used the funds to buy their first truck to haul produce to market--as well as other things, I'm sure.)

Happy quiltmaking.....

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Wishes

May your Christmas be filled with peace and the joy of family and friends.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Christmas Eve

Happy Christmas Eve...May your preparations be exceedingly smooth...May your evening be peaceful and full of blessings....

Friday, December 23, 2011

Necchi Is Treadling & More Snow

 New snow has arrived.  I-40 was closed overnight.  According to the state website, it's now open near us, although dangerous.  However, in the absence of the sounds from the interstate (a little over a mile away), most people, including truckers, are opting for safety.

 We've been out to shovel twice.
 I grew up on a farm near El Paso, Illinois, and as I was sweeping snow out of our portico today, I recalled that my Grandpa took to leaving a huge grain shovel inside the enclosed back porch in case he had to shovel his way out of the house!
 We're enjoying seeing stars--from the wintering morning glories.
 Not a lot of visibility here--and it's been snowing hard in the couple of hours since these photos were snapped.  We are trying to keep up with the snow since it's light when it first falls and much heavier later.  One of my friends posted on Facebook that cleaning house with children present is like shoveling snow before it's done falling.  Fact is, if we didn't work on it periodically while it's falling, we probably would be stuck here for a really long time!
 Thanks to a couple of sharp-eyed friends on the Necchi sewing list, the stitch width is now correctly set to zero and functioning well. Here's a practice piece made with a couple of scrap fabrics and a scrap piece of a Mountain Mist Lily batting.
I did discover that this particular machine does not like Superior Threads Rainbows although it works well in my other machines, and I like it because of the rapid color changes--and it may work well in this machine once it gets used to working again. The thread I'm using on this practice piece is a variegated Thread Art on the top and Fil-Tec Glide from in the bobbin. (My favorite quilting thread is Fil-Tec Glide 80137 because it looks great on a wide range of fabrics and always says "This is a very special quilt.")

Since we don't have to go anywhere and our house is nice and cozy,  I'm headed back to the treadle, where I can watch the falling snow and the wide variety of birds at my neighbor's feeder.

Happy quilting.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Vintage Necchi

Yesterday I installed this old Necchi in one of my two treadle tables. I've been oiling it and working to get it unfrozen off and on for several months.

This machine had been sitting in someone's dusty garage for several years. It belonged to her grandmother, and she wasn't quite sure how it had come into her possession. She herself had purchased one of those very, very expensive Berninas, but she knew these Necchis had great reputations. They certainly do. In fact, they are such great machines that they should never have the misadventures this poor machine has experienced.

However, this very fine piece of post WWII Italian engineering was stripped from its cabinet. The foot control was lost. The bobbin case was lost. The control into which the light and the motor is plugged was lost. The broken needle was left in the machine, however; no idea why, since so much else had been stripped.

Over the months since it was carried into my home, I oiled, and oiled, and got the parts moving. Thanks to others who appreciate Necchi machines, I was able to get it loosened, and even got the zig-zag mechanism moving.

Last weekend I borrowed an electric drill so I could ream the mounting holes on the machine to 9/32" so they would fit into a Singer treadle cabinet. (Broke one drill bit, no idea how, and had to wait until I could get to Albuquerque to buy another bit--the local hardware store was closed for the weekend.) I also had to purchase a new-used bobbin case and a treadle belt. Usually each machine needs its own belt since, more often than not, each machine has its own distance to the treadle wheel.

After more fiddling than usual, it was in its temporary treadle home so for the first time I could check it out with real sewing. Unfortunately, I can not get it to stitch with true zero stitch width. I'm hoping some of the members of the Necchi Sewing Club, who possess much greater knowledge than I, can help me get the stitch width back to doing what it says it should do. I'll also need to adjust upper thread tension, as well as tension on the used bobbin case purchased from Ryan.

I really need to get to some quilting and binding today--another storm moving in with maybe only 6-12" this time. [It's true that we are all now scoffing at our gullibility when we were assured that a La Nina year would mean very little precipitation!]  I've decided to take my other Necchi BU out of the 1919 treadle and put it in the 1936 treadle--and shift the 1936 Singer 15-88 to the 1919 irons and use it for piecing so I can quilt with the Necchi BU that works in irons that work more smoothly.  Of course, the downside is that these machines are very heavy.

The upside is that I have countless quilts I want to work on.

Happy quilting.  Happy Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Fog Has Lifted

      Sunday afternoon:
The fog rolled in.

5:00 a.m. Monday: a phone call from Sweet Teen's school saying school would be delayed two hours.
She finished finals last week, and last Friday was my last school day before Christmas break, so other than our sleep-in morning being disturbed, it was okay.

 At 7:45 the local district cancelled school (that meant another phone call from them, but we were settling in by then.

Fortunately, I recognized that it would be a good idea to keep the snow shoveled.  I set the timer for one hour--and lost track of how many times I went outside.  Several times more frequently than once an hour, sometimes less.  I was so grateful that I didn't have to go somewhere.
Back in the 60's, my mom was in the hospital 20 miles from home, and my dad fell while working with some of the livestock--and the ambulance had a hard time reaching him because the driveway and barnyard hadn't yet been plowed.
With all the snow shifting, I didn't get to any sewing, but we did enjoy our mantle brightened by a gift from my assistant, Susan.  She purchased a glass block from one of the big box building centers, drilled a hole in the back, and decorated it with a ribbon.  She felt bad because she'd been in an accident and hadn't had time to go purchase a string of 50 lights.  I already had a string of 100 lights but she said that would be too many.  So I stuffed 50 inside and strung the rest out along the mantle.  Then I didn't like that effect so I took them all out again, and we just piled them behind the glass block.  Every bit as lovely!
Yesterday a little after 3 o'clock, I-40 was closed from uptown Albuquerque to Amarillo.  According to the state roads website, it's still closed.  However, since it's only a little over a mile away, we can hear the traffic when the clouds or fog holds the sound down.  Sounds like it's open now.  Here's what things looked like a few minutes ago--the fog is lifting.

The snowplow hasn't ventured down our street yet, but when it does, we should be able to make it to the post office and grocery store.  There's already a pot of beef vegetable soup on the stove.  Maybe I'll get to some sewing today.

I am so very, very grateful to be safe in a warm house with all that we need--and for the freedom to enjoy the beauty this storm brought.

Update:  The fog lifted only briefly and then returned.  The City snowplow arrived and did a fantastic job, even making sure that everyone would be able to get out of their driveways.  (I kind of hope it won't be necessary, because under all those inches of snow is at least an inch of ice!  It will not get warm enough to melt that today! Probably won't even make it up to 30-degrees-F.)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Quilted All Day

Last Friday there were multiple accidents on I-40, but even bailing off I-40 and then Old 66, it took me two and half hours to get home.  Saturday morning we were greeted by some lovely sights, including sunshine.
We'd planned to be gone all day, but we had to cancel out of everything because under that beautiful snow was a sheet of ice.  I managed not to fall while shoveling the driveway. However, you will notice that in the above photo, the mountains are obscured.

Since we were "stuck" at home, I began looking for something in the pantry and ended up reorganizing it--something that's been needed for a long time.  Since the roads were too dreadful to venture to a grocery store, it was lovely to find all kinds of very usable food that had gotten stuck in inconvenient places.  (I did have to throw out two cans that were old and bulging slightly.)  However, I also took out this little fellow, who has been shut in the closet for several years!
He's been helping me drink Celestial Seasons Candy Cane Lane herbal tea--one of the best things about this season.
Sunday the roads were horrible, so I did some rearranging in my sewing room.  I moved some things around and put my Singer 15-88 treadle in front of a window.
This morning my daughter's school was cancelled at 5:00 a.m., and while I was checking NM Roads, I received a call that my school was delayed by two hours.  The highway situation was pretty scary, and I was glad when my district cancelled.  For much of the day I-40 was closed, but I was happily treadling away--and now have the Foggy Morning quilt finished except for two little red triangles and the binding (which isn't even cut yet).
I don't think I would have chosen the hunting print, and it took me a couple of years to decide how to use it, but it brought back a lot of happy memories in the process.
I used a little bit of Fil-Tec Glide thread, but most of the thread was variegated thread from Threadart.
Threadart specializes in embroidery thread but sells a variety of other products (including bling), and they too give very fast service.  In fact, right now they have grab bags of twenty 1000-yard cones of rayon embroidery thread [I use it for quilting sometimes] for $20.00.  My old electric machines got a bit fussy about the Threadart thread, but my treadles love it.
When I was first told that it would be easy to treadle a well functioning set of irons all day, I was skeptical.  No more.  Treadling all day was a whole lot easier than my daily commute to work and back.  (Two hour delay for me Tuesday, so I'm praying the roads will be much better!)
Happy quilting......
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