Thursday, September 16, 2010

More Joy

Look what Jan found at the Habitat store!  and since she does not sew, it is now MINE, MNE, ALL MINE, mwahahahahah!

We were in there together, and I ALWAYS look at all the sewing machines, because I have had such good luck in there before.  But this one was tucked away on the building supplies side of the store (maybe hidden over there by someone who meant to come back and claim it?).  Anyhow, I totally missed it.  We were back in the car and on the way to Torero's when she said "you saw the Singer, didn't you?"  After a few questions (was it a new one?  no, looked like 1950's.  what color was it?  beige) we did a U-turn on 15-501 and went back for it.

Reading the vintage sewing machine bulletin boards over the last several months has alerted me to the desirable models to look for, and they don't get much more desirable than a Singer 301. 

This has its fair share of grunge, but everything works.  Once I get some gear lubricant I will give it a good clean, oil and lube job and get her on the road.  There is no carrying case or any attachments, but it does have the straight stitch presser foot, the bobbin case and one bobbin.  I'll only use it for quilting, so I really don't  need anything other than that one foot, and a few extra bobbins.  The truly awesome manual was available online for free, so we are good to go.

Thanks, Jan!  It's great to have a friend who "gets it" (my SMAD, Sewing Machine Acquisition Disorder*) and who is willing to humor me!

*I think it was Carma Sue on the treadleon bulletin board who came up with this diagnosis.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

O! The Joy! The Joy!

Why the exultation?  Because I have finally conquered the basics of quilting on a frame with a sewing machine.

There are 3 ways to quilt (quilting attaches the 3 layers of quilt top, batting/stuffing inside, and back of the quilt)
  • by hand.  been there, done that, takes me YEARS to finish one quilt.
  • by sewing machine.  the machine sits on the table and you shove the quilt through it.  Big quilt + little sewing machine = massive pain in the tukhus. Takes me WEEKS to finish a quilt.  been there, done that, never going back again.
  • by sewing machine on a frame.  You pin the quilt top and back to rollers, the sewing machine sits on a platform on wheels.  You push the sewing machine around on the quilt, rather than pushing the quilt through a sewing machine.  Takes a few DAYS to finish a quilt.
So it's that last one I have recently conquered.  By halfway through the quilt I had worked out all the technical kinks and was able to quilt without stopping every couple of minutes to re-thread the machine, or to replace a broken sewing machine needle.

Will It Go Round In Circles?
I found the frame years ago at the Habitat for Humanity store in Burlington, NC.  Luck played a big role here.  I visit that store no more than once a month.  The frame had arrived the day before and had just been put out in the store.  It's a Pennywinkle frame designed for use with a home sewing machine (there ARE bigger frames and bigger machines available and if I ever see such at a thrift shop I'll be all over it.)

It sat in my studio for years while my so-called career sputtered and finally died.  THEN and only then I had time to play with it.  I quilted a small practice quilt on it, then Greg and Amber's "will it go round in circles" quilt, then Patty and Len's Stargate quilt, and finally three baby quilts.  The system was cantankerous.  It worked, but very slowly as I had to pause often to replace broken threads or needles. The last baby quilt almost broke my spirit.  I had to walk away from it and take a fairly long break after that, but kept on reading about the process on sewing and quilting blogs and boards.

Last week I fired 'er up again.  I had pieced a twin bargello top on my 1922 Singer treadle, and I loaded it on the frame.  Here's what is different this time:
  • all Pfaff bobbins are not created equal.  the ones with the groove work.  the others do not.  I discovered that a warped bobbin was probably the sole cause of anguish over the last baby quilt.
  • cotton batting instead of polyester
  • polyester thread, top and bobbin, instead of cotton machine quilting thread.  Cotton has very little "give" to it, poly has a bit of stretch.  I used Gutermann's basic poly all purpose thread, and will try Coats & Clarks Dual Duty Plus the next time.
  • a bigger (size 16) needle.  No more broken needles, amazing.  Size really DOES matter after all. 
Among all that reading and learning I was also considering whether to get a new machine to go on the frame.  In short, no.  I have a Pfaff 1221, which was a top of the line machine back in the early 1970's and decades ahead of its time.  I love this machine, and it would be my basic go-to machine IF I hadn't splurged on a new Janome when I retired and IF this one wasn't perfect for frame quilting.  Why, you ask, is it perfect?
  • it has a vertical rather than horizontal bobbin.  the advice on the boards is that this works better.
  • it has an 8" harp, which is the opening between the needle and the vertical arm of the machine.  The bigger the harp, the more quilt you can shove around.  My other machines have 6" harps.
The Pfaff was also a Habitat find, this one from their Durham store.  It cost $15, and is a better machine than a modern one costing 100X as much, which is NOT an exaggeration.  It was frozen in thread tangles when I bought it, and not running, which explains the price.  I de-tangled and oiled it and it runs like a champ.  It came with the carrying case, the manual, an extension table and ALL of the original feet.  This machine regularly sells on eBay in the $300-$400 range. 

The down side to using a regular sewing machine on a frame is that you can only quilt a very narrow path at a time.  I can quilt about a 4" wide path.  If I were willing to spend thousands of dollars I could get a midarm or even longarm machine (with much bigger harps) and a bigger frame to carry it, and quilt much wider paths.  Since this is not an option I have decided to be happy about my system which cost $240 total (the frame was $225).

And there is something cool about exploring all that you can within limitations (the 4" quilting path).  Now that the system is working for me I can build my skills and design quilting patterns that will work within that narrow path. And believe me, there is PLENTY of room for skill building.  Being able to do it and being able to do it well are entirely different.

I think I should stop at two double entendres and call it a day!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Introducing the girls

You met Sophie in the last post.  It took me a year of watching on eBay to find the right sized wire dress form at a reasonable price.  If you are thinking about a dress form to use, rather than just to for display or decoration, think wire.  It conforms perfectly to your body, which in my case means one shoulder a couple of inches lower than the other.  Any dress form that didn't follow my exact lines would be useless as a fit model.

On the other hand, there she stands, a mute yet irrefutable testament to my true and exact shape.  The fact that she is transparent helps, but not much.

I'm not usually one to give names to inanimate objects.  None of my sewing machines have names.  Sophie named herself.  Don't ask me to explain this, you either get it or you don't.  I thought I could come up with a better name for her, and I tried to think of one.  She stubbornly remained Sophie.  Eventually I just quit thinking about it.  Sophie she is.

Scissor Girl was the first to join Sophie.  She organizes the work-a-day scissors, including
  • Some awesome 14 inch shears that I found at Harbor Freight
  • Tiny double curved scissors for cutting embroidery threads in the hoop
  • Cheap aluminum scissors for cutting paper
  • Cheap titanium scissors for everyday fabric cutting  (the Ginghers are in a case in a drawer)
  • Two pairs of small scissors that I use as thread snips.  I would probably like thread snips if I could ever remember to buy some.

The Pin Girls arrived next.  One of them hosts flower-headed pins and T-pins, and another has glass-headed silk pins.  One is just hanging around waiting to be given some work to do.

Wire Girl was pretty adorable just the way she came in the door, but she has to work for a living just like the other girls do.

Colorful sharpies form the front of her skirt.  Her back holds black sharpies of all sizes, mechanical pencils, ballpoint and gel pens, chalk pen, and a clip on led light.

She lives on the giant lazy susan/rotating cutting mat, so all the pens are right at hand.  And I can just pull the a sharpie off of
Wire Girl, leaving the top attached and then just shove the pen back in the same spot.  This works for me.