Friday, April 11, 2014

Linda's 3/4 National Treadle

In the last post I regretted the lack of photos of this machine.  I visited my formerly-imaginary-friend Linda (now a real one, I hope I can claim!) and had so much fun that I forgot to take enough pictures.  But she came to the rescue and sent me bunches of pictures of this interesting cabinet.

The "Before" Photos

Fascinating design, but when I saw it, it was fairly rugged looking

Linda thinks the side compartments look like saddle bags.  You will see the covers to these compartments in the "after" photos.

Amazingly the top did NOT have the usual plant pot water rings.

photo enhanced to show the way the finish had left the building.  did not look quite this bad in person

The "After" Photos

I have said it before, and I will say it again:  Howard's Restor-A-Finish is a miracle worker.  I think Linda agrees.  Especially after I told her I thought there was too much damage to this finish for Howard's to do the job.  I just love being wrong.  No, that's not a snarky comment, I really DO love being wrong.  It's pretty much the only way I learn things.

So take a look and see if you agree about the Howard's.  She also did some sanding, and my only concern now is that the Howard's might not be enough protection for the wood.  What do you think about this?  Inquiring minds want to know.

It is not easy to see, so use your imagination for this next bit.  Each of the saddle bags has a lid that follows the slope of the compartment.  But on top of each saddle bad lid is a handle (next to the yellow star in the photo) that is parallel to the top of the machine, so that when the machine is open, the machine cover rests on the saddle bag lid.  I just love interesting designs.

Oh My Gosh this is a beautiful machine

I tried to enlarge and photo enhance the bed decal, which looks better in person.  She has named him "Griff" after this griffin.

I always love a nice ruler on the front, don't you?  She was worried that the Howard's might take this off, but she was careful and it survived.

 Eh, voila, the finished product.

Way to go, Linda!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Sewing Machine Play Dates and Imaginary Friends

What do you call people whom you only know online?  I call them my imaginary friends.  This worried the DDs at first, but they are smart young women and catch on quickly.

I have had a few play dates recently with fellow onions Linda and Myra.  "Onions" is an affectionate term for treadleonians.  Linda was an imaginary friend before I drove down to meet her and her four incredibly awesome daughters.  I have known Myra for a couple of decades, long before she became an onion.

Here's Linda sewing on her National 3/4 size treadle.   And I really, really thought I had taken more pictures of it.  Cause I KNOW you want to see it.  She's working on the cabinet with Howard's now.  Hopefully there will be pictures later.

It was turning very freely, but the stitches were jamming up.  The problem and fix were simple: the feed dogs were set much too high.  At their highest they should be as high as the thickness of a dime.  A strong flashlight is all you need to follow them down from above to find the one screw that is holding them in place.  Loosen it, slide them to where you want them, and tighten it back down.  Five minutes to find the flashlight, 30 seconds to find the screw and find out that it is frozen in place, five minutes with the blow dryer to loosen the dried up oil.  Another minute, minute-and-a-half tops to re-set it.

Chinese sewing machine of the type known as a 15-clone

So:  Linda's husband was walking down a street in Afghanistan and saw a guy in a shop sitting on the floor, sewing with a hand crank sewing machine.  Husband inquired about where to get one, and the guy sold him one.  Brand new.  For $10.  And what did your significant other bring YOU from their last trip?

The machine is gorgeous in person, and although the base is kind of sketchy she will keep them together for obvious reasons.  It's the $10 for a brand new machine that boggles the mind.  Made in China, of course, but even the Chinese can't be producing cast iron sewing machines for $10 these days.  This could, of course, be the Chinese version of foreign aid.  If so, they are way smarter than we are.  No surprises there.


Myra scored a very nice Minnesota and had the fun of the detective work of trying to figure out what it was.  Apparently it is the earliest version of the Model A, made by Davis and designated by Davis as a Model E.  Or something like that.

It lives in a nice cabinet, but these photos were taken while we were working on it at my house.  Which explains the mess.

Notice the unnatural gleam on the bottom front of the pillar?  All of these pictures have been altered in PhotoScape (a free program).  I keep hitting the various auto-fix type buttons until the feature I am trying to show is as visible as possible).

As if this wasn't enough Minnesota awesomeness, a few weeks later Myra spotted an even prettier one on CraigsList, back in her hometown (a couple of hours from here).  This one was in a parlor cabinet.

Disclaimer:  I lightened these photos to show details.  the actual color of the cabinet is a rich and darker brown.  if I left it that color you would not see the beauty of the carvings, or the interesting interior details.

Myra has been haunting CraigsList and other local sales sites since coming down with an incurable case of VSMAD (Vintage Sewing Machine Acquisition Disorder).  She keeps asking me "do you think this one is worth what they are asking?"  to which my answer is always "it is worth whatever you are willing to pay".  There is no Blue Book value for old sewing machines.  On this one, however, my answer was "if you don't go get it, I will!"

Probably the best question to ask yourself when contemplating a sewing machine (at least for all you fellow VSMAD sufferers) is this:  how much will I regret it later if I don't get it now?

It is clearly labelled as a Model A.

The decals are beautiful, as you can see.  Not perfect, but still gorgeous.

And I love, love, love the cabinets that automatically raise and lower the machine head.  It's no fun for an old lady to haul 40 pounds of cast iron up and down.  My Davis NVF has this feature and it is my go-to treadle.

More details of the beautiful parlor cabinet:

The cabinet interior looks terrific too.  This is "after" and Myra and her husband are good with the wood stuff.  All I have done to my parlor cabinet is knock the spider webs out of it.

Notice the two drawers inside.  There really are two, but one was out when the photo was taken.  Yellow star shows its location.

This drawer is part of the outer cabinet door.  It swings out.  Why is this unbearably cute?  I love seeing unusual features.

I was going to tell you all the things we did to these two Minnesotas, but I have waited way too long to write up this blog post and memory fog has set in.  Here's what's remember-able through the mist:

We put belts on them.  The first one got my favorite plastic tubing, and the parlor cabinet one got the more traditional leather.

Many needles of several sizes came with one of them, so she is probably set for life on needles.

They take the same shuttle, bobbin, and needle.  One of the shuttles was corroded.  I took it apart (one extremely tiny screw), cleaned it, and used emery paper to polish out the corrosion.  In my experience at least half of the long shuttles need this type of maintenance and it is super quick and easy to do.

And we tinkered, but I don't remember what we did.  Then a week later she had a problem with one of them, but before we could get back together she figured it out for herself.  Just one more step along the path of VSMAD.

They are both sewing beautifully.  If only all those other people realized that these machines are not a quaint oddity, not just a nostalgic trip down memory lane, but living, functioning EXCELLENT machines that can sew rings around any modern machine.  As long as all you want to do is straight stitch.  All you need for quilting....just saying.

Oh well, I should really be happy that the vast majority of modern sewing people like modern sewing machines.  Because IF THEY ONLY KNEW what they were missing, the prices would go way up.  Like Featherweights.  Or beyond.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Bigfoot Sue Gets A Makeover

Every once in a while I succumb to the temptation to rescue a vintage quilt from a thrift shop.  Thrift shops do understand the value of vintage quilts, and price them accordingly.  So the only ones I ever buy are quilts with some serious issues, and therefore at an affordable price.

the big white spots are big holes

I'm not a huge fan of Sunbonnet Sue, and besides I have a treasured family Sue that came from my great aunt.  But this Sue has all of that embroidery on it and she was just too cute to pass up.

It had the usual vintage quilt problems.  The binding was all frayed.  Sue's dresses were worn and some of them had big holes in them as you can see above.

The seams between the blocks had originally been embroidered in a feather stitch, most of which was worn away.

When I got it home and studied it a bit, I was intrigued by Sue's feet.

They are the same color as her hat, but show the same type of embroidery as the hands.  The hand embroidery is obviously meant to indicate fingers.

If these are fingers, are the feet meant to indicate toes?  I named her "Bigfoot Sue".

I repaired the three most worn Sues, two of which had big holes.  The third was so faded that her dress was exactly the same color as the background muslin.

I carefully preserved Sue's little mitts, and in this case preserved the whole sleeve too.  I appliqued new dresses onto the Sues.  Repairing a vintage quilt full of lumpy cotton batting is more like upholstery than like quilting.  You are working in three dimensions rather than two.  

Working on Sue allowed me to study her feet more closely.  There are french knots on those stitches that I originally interpreted as toes.  So they are probably not toes, but high button shoes.  But I am still calling her Bigfoot Sue.

Brunhilde, my trusty Singer 316G, was up to the task

I picked out all of the feather stitching with tweezers.  Yes, really.  And it did take forever.  After a lot of thought and searching for just the right ribbon or fabric I decided to replace it with black rick rack.  It needed a LOT of rick rack, so I bought a spool of 108 yards.  One can never have too much rick rack on hand.

I replaced the binding and added rick rack around the edges.  

She's looking pretty good now, don't you think?

And now for something completely different.  I walked into the local Habitat Restore a couple of weeks ago, only to be confronted by these.

I wanted to buy them.  All of them.  And put them in my front yard.  But I didn't.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Snow Dyeing the Caves of Lascaux

It's freezing down here in North Carolina.  The natives are bearing it with their usual fortitude, as exhibited by frenzied attacks on the grocery stores for bread, milk, and toilet paper.  The transplanted Yankees are being snooty about how THEY know how to drive in the snow.  Same old, same old.  I'm from Ohio, myself, which makes me a Yankee in the South because the Southern definition of a Yankee is "not from the South".

Oh, and I DO know how to drive in the snow.  Just saying.

But rather than driving in the stuff, much better to be dyeing with the stuff.  DD came down from the mountains for a visit right before the snow hit.  We had a great time, hanging out, thrift store shopping (before the snow) and then playing in the studio with snow and dye and fabric.

This is not a tutorial.  No way am I going to take responsibility for the mess you will make!  Or if it goes horribly wrong!  See Dharma Trading Company's instructions for ice dyeing.  We used snow instead.

We piled pre-treated fabric on to rack in a plastic bin and piled snow up on it.

 then sprinkled dye powder on top.

and then more dye powder

This bin had blues and greens and a sprinkling of yellow.

The other bin had rose and henna and a sprinkling of yellow.

As it started to melt the snow shifted and left bare spots.  I didn't bother to fix it because by then it was obvious that I had piled the fabric way too thickly and the dye was not going to seep down through all of it.  There were enormous white patches visible underneath.

After the snow melted there was a large pool of coppery brown dye in the bottom of the bin.  I just threw all of this lot down in there and let it sit for a couple of hours as we did other things to the blue/green batch.

We followed the directions for getting the dye out.  My washing machine has a stainless steel tub, so I did all of that in the washing machine.  Stainless steel is not going to hold dye.  I do follow up all the dyeing with a load of something I don't really care about, like dog towels.

L to R:  white cotton curtain lining, white silk curtain material, ecru slubbed silk curtain material, Dharma silk
I would tell you who my original online dye teacher was, except that I did a lot of things that she does NOT recommend.  I agree with her that the best results come from using the right fabrics.  But I like to experiment.

BTW, she recommends a good quality unbleached muslin for cotton.  And I bought a whole bolt of it from her, which I have used with great results and am saving for when I am not experimenting.

Not Recommended Fabric #1:  white cotton curtain lining.

Dye is all about the chemical bonding between dye and fabric, and you don't want anything getting in the way.  Like the finish on most fabrics, including this one.  Or the residual effects of the bleaching necessary to make white-white.

But hey, it was $1/yard at the thrift shop.  And I got a LOT of it.  Probably a whole roll, but cut into 5 yard lengths.

And it worked well.  Best way I can described the difference between this and the 2010 snow dye experiments on the good unbleached muslin is that the colors are softer here and the patterns are fuzzier.  But it was also a slightly different dyeing technique.

Not Recommended Fabric #2:  white silk curtain material

I wanted some silk with a nice hand for scarves.  Silk is expensive.  I got this and the next piece for half price at a home dec fabric outlet.  See above about finishes and bleaching.

This is also pretty, but even softer and more faded looking than the curtain lining cotton.  But I like it.

Not Recommended Curtain Material #3:  ecru slubbed silk curtain material

This has an even heavier hand.  The results were, hmmm, interesting.  This one will probably get doctored further in the future with stamping or painting

So what IS a recommended fabric?  Well, anything sold by a dye purveyor as something intended to be dyed is probably a good bet.  I need to do more research on silks, but the freebie that Dharma threw in with my last dye order did take the dye beautifully.

It's a much lighter weight than what I want, but Dharma has LOTS of choices of silk yardage, as well as all kinds of dyeable wearables.  And I really, really wish they were paying me to say this.  Because I am drooling over the 50 different choices of silks they have.

Before we started DD popped out to the store to look for something dyeable.

The nightgown was cotton but the trim and embroidery were polyester and did not take the dye AT ALL.  A very pretty effect.

I took the leftover snow melt/dye mixture and used it to dye more white curtain lining.  Not going to tell you exactly how I did it.  The results were unmemorable, although it would make a decent sky fabric.  The dots of red could be cardinals flying through that sky.

The badly dyed rose/henna/yellow which soaked in the melted snow/dye mix came out a coppery color which I can't get to show up properly on the screen.  DD first said that it looked like oil stains on a mechanics rag, and I agreed.  But we also think it could serve as a surface on which to paint images from the Caves of Lascaux.

I was in Houston recently for a family event and the next-best thing to seeing all the Western cousins was seeing the The Cave Paintings of Lascaux exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

and oh, yes, there are some horses and bulls that will be painted here.  By me.  Probably badly.  But nothing much worse could happen to this fabric.

There was still snow on the ground the next day, and I was pleased enough with the results on the curtain silk to want to try making some larger scarves.

This time I was careful to keep each layer of fabric thinner, and I made two layers.

The color mix was purple and blues with sprinkles of fuschia.

L to R:  white curtain silk, another white curtain silk, ecru slubbed silk, white cotton curtain lining

The white curtain silks are very pale and pastel-y.
I am going to have to look at them by themselves and maybe I will like them better.

Some people actually do like pastels.

Or maybe I will overdye, stamp, or paint on them.
There are no failures, only ingredients for future projects.

The slubbed silk took the colors in this color family beautifully, and I managed to get better color saturation overall.

This shows only a portion of a long scarf, and on each of these scarves the colors and patterns vary quite a bit from end to end.  Is this a good thing?  Or not?  I'm not entirely sure.  But I like them.

The white cotton curtain lining also took the dye well and I really like it.

When I took the online courses, the largest pieces we dyed were half-yards.  I've been wondering about dyeing yardage.  So I got out one of those 5 yard pieces of white cotton curtain lining and used the snow/dye melt from the blue and purple mix, using techniques I learned in the online courses.  I added more blue dye because 5 yards is a lot of fabric.

I put some dye in the bottom of  a plastic laundry detergent container, then started cramming the yardage into it.  Added dye .  More cramming.  More dye.

The result was a lovely light purple.

The cool thing about scrunching fabric into a container with dye is the patterns that result.

The pattern and slight color variations are of a larger scale than I got with fat quarters and half yards scrunched into yogurt containers.  And although I like it, I'm not sure how I will use it.  Fortunately knowing how one will use something is not a necessity when it comes to fabric stash.

All of this made as big of a mess as you would expect.  In the summer time I move much of the dye process out onto the back patio.  But this is winter.  I did spill dye onto my cheap rug and I don't care.  Most of it blotted up.

A mishap with a bucket of washing soda solution left a white residue all over everything.  It wiped right up.  I don't give a hoot about my cheap rugs, but if I messed up my cutting mats I WOULD be upset.

I have been craving a session with the dye pots for a long time now, but wanted someone to enjoy it with me.  Yay!  Got my wish.  Thanks, DD.