Saturday, February 25, 2012

Musical Sewing Machines: When the music stops, who is in the cabinet?

 My husband's grandmother's 1922 Singer Red Eye 66-1 treadle has gone to live at DD Aurora's.  The MIL and I are thrilled that she wants it.  Aurora says it is an art object.  I say that she should know how to operate all of the devices in her house.  This argument is designed to appeal to the engineer in her.  Let you know how that goes...

cleaned up well, don't you think?

Naturally I have to have another treadle.  Last Easter I bought one with a pretty rough cabinet and a gunked up Singer 127 Sphinx inside.  I bought it for the treadle because I already had a Sphinx.  Then DD Emily extravagantly admired my Sphinx and its hand crank (she loves the rhythm of the vibrating shuttle).  I cleaned the gunky Sphinx and gave it to her for Christmas.

So I had an empty treadle but like I said it was cosmetically rough.  It does have drawers, this photo shows it in prep for cleaning. 

I watch CraigsList daily, and although there are a lot of truly delusional sellers out there, there are also good machines going for reasonable prices. 

Before restoration


Eventually it all came together:  a CraigsList posting for a nice looking treadle with a Singer 66 Lotus inside.  I've been yearning for a Lotus as an art object.  I wouldn't turn down another Red Eye either.  They are both beautiful, beautiful machines, but a pain in the neck to treadle, IMHO.  You'll see the Lotus later after a good cleaning, and with a hand crank.  Maybe that won't turn backwards and break the thread EVERY SINGLE TIME I pause for a moment.

Studio student Heather likes the people powered machines and will be taking the funky treadle home with a Riccar 108 zig-zag machine inside, a post-WWII Japanese vintage beauty. 

Riccar 108, near-mint all metal powerhouse
So what is going into the newly acquired 7-drawer treadle?   A Singer 115 with Tiffany decals.  The 115 has the reputation of being a good treadler, and I am looking forward to the test drive.  The irons have been restored and the cabinet is almost finished, so it will be soon.

Singer 115 after about 20 hours of cleaning and polishing

In other studio news, it's amazing how much can get done while baby is sleeping.

Raven checked out a Singer 185, but prefers the 99.

Her second project is a teddy bear.  She tried out the incredibly cute tiny clothes pins that I found in the office supplies section at Walmart.  Much less intimidating than sharp pins and they worked out well.

She finished sewing the bear and took it home to stuff it.

Is 5 months too young to start sewing lessons, do you think?  He really wants to get his hands on this machine.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sewing Karma's Gonna Get You

Lucky me.  I met a young woman who wanted to learn to sew and she asked me what I would charge for lessons.  I told her, but also told her that I was open to the idea of bartering.

She then uttered magical words that were music to my ears:
"I am a massage therapist."

So now I am getting a weekly massage from a professional massage therapist (Heather James at Hillsborough Yoga and Healing Arts) and she and her daughter are getting weekly sewing lessons.  This will remain a health-issue-free blog, but trust me when I say that I do have issues for which massage provides the perfect therapy and relief.

Not only is the massage wonderful, but having people come over to play with me in my studio is just as wonderful.  Not only that, but one of them is a 9 year old girl who is very interested in sewing.  Not only that, but a 5 month old baby comes along for the ride.  This may or may not be YOUR idea of heaven, but it is mine. 

On her first lesson, Heather completed a pair of pants for baby Gryphon from a recycled sweater. 

Adorable, don't you think?  Heather went home and made another pair, too.

On lesson 2 Raven came along with her mom.  Here you see her using a Singer 99 with hand crank to add rick rack to a strap.

By the end of that session she had the straps sewed on to the tote.

She came back with me on Saturday after my massage and while her mom was still working and finished up her roomy tote bag.  She did an excellent job.  Just look at how straight those straps are.  First class.

The bag is made from upholstery fabric with a coating on the inside, the straps are the serious kind I use on luggage, and there is rick rack.  The Singer 99 crunched its way through two layers of all that on the bottom seam, powered by Raven.  

I gave Heather and Raven the 15 minute tour that I call "The History of America From The Late-1800's To Now Through Sewing Machines."  (leaf tensioners, vibrating shuttles, 66 in a treadle, 115, 15-91, 15 clones, 15-125, 306, a Kenmore 89 cam stack machine, and my modern Janome with 500 decorative stitches.  It's a selection designed to tell a story, not the complete herd.  mwahahahahahaha.)

They like the people powered machines and on the next lesson they can try sewing on the 66 treadle and Heather can check out a vintage Japanese zigzag machine that I adapted to hand crank.

Someday I will outline the DragonPoodle economic philosophy, but for now I will just say that casting your bread upon the waters can come up trumps.  How's your sewing karma? 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Seduced by Color. AGAIN. (and some sewing machines)

Another post about crocheting (and the last one, I promise!)

National Paveway, 3/4 size, weighs a mere 16.5 pounds.

But first, photos of my latest restorations (so that my vintage-sewing-machine buddies don't get bored and wander away! )

Regular readers met this little machine last spring.  Here she is "before".

You can read the earlier post about her here if you like.

And here is the "after".  Not bad, eh?

Thanks to Wes Cook at Dual Supply in Hillsborough, NC, it now has a lovely "hand knob" a la Laura.  Wes is the owner of the kind of hardware store that has everything, and he knows where it all is, too.  He spent a LOT of time helping me with this and with another one and claimed to have enjoyed the experience.  The total charge by the end was $1.17 (I brought the glass knob with me).

The big news on this one is that I came home yesterday with a 3/4 size Free Westinghouse and this machine fits in that cabinet.  Sort of.  It won't fold down.  The Free Westinghouse is brown crinkle and you may see it after its spa treatment.

Singer 347, basic zig-zag all-metal machine
Twin Singer 338's.  Take Singer flat cams
By the way,  for the total novice sewing-machine-repair-person-wannabe, there is NOTHING like having two identical machines on the bench.  Unless maybe it is THREE.

Three Singer 401's.  Two have found new homes by now.

Now for the crocheting. 
It seems I just can't catch a break.

I was determined to crochet a moebius scarf to match my purple suede jacket and keep me toasty warm in case we ever get around to having a winter here in NC this year.  On the first go-round I fell for some beautifully colored acrylic.  A few days after that fiasco I was driving through beautiful downtown Mebane, NC, and noticed The Twisted Knitter yarn shop.

Kim Pate of Twisted Knitter sat down with me at a table in a sunny corner of the shop and pulled out several skeins of different yarns so that we could see what went with the jacket.  I left with Noro's Silk Garden in similar colors to my first scarf.  The level of service was what I always feel entitled to when I go in a small specialty shop, but rarely receive.  I spent 5 times as much as I had spent on the acrylic, and SHOULD have been treated like a queen.  And was.

And although I was impressed with Kim and her shop, I have to say that I just don't "get" the Noro Silk Garden.
  • First, you would think that a yarn that is 45% silk, 45% Kid Mohair, and 10% lambswool would be soft.  NOT.  Scratchy, in fact.  
  • Next, you would think that an expensive yarn would be produced to high quality standards.  NOT.  The thickness of the yarn varied from color to color (It's a variegated yarn) with giant slubs in spots, NOT in a pleasant thick-and-thin yarn kind of way, but much more like a beginning, and very unskilled, hand spinner had done it. 
  • Finally, you would think that skeins with the same color number and dye lot would be the same color,  REALLY, you WOULD think that!  NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!  When I went back to get more, Kim had to go in the back and get out a whole box and we had to pick through them to find skeins with the same colors in them.  And I am not talking about variations in shades, but skeins that had some completely different colors in them.
In short, I am totally bewildered by the Noro yarn.

I more-or-less solved the thickness problem by using a double strand of it to crochet my scarf, figuring that the thick colors and the thinner colors would play nicely together and they did blend well.

And I am done for the year.  No more moebius scarves.  No more expensive trips to yarn shops.  Sadly, no lovely cuddly soft warm beautifully-colored moebius scarf for me as I had envisioned.   It is warm and I like the color but hate the scratchiness.

I did have a wonderful time in The Twisted Knitter, though.  How about you?  Are you treated well in expensive specialty shops (like quilt shops)?  Or are you totally ignored?  I've had more than one bad experience in the closest quilt shop to me and refuse to give them my money.  I once took my SIL Mary there but they were way too busy schmoozing with the regulars to even speak to us, let alone wait on us or take our money for the things we wanted to buy.  Now, Mary and I both bathe regularly and don't look like derelicts.  That was the very last time I crossed their threshold.  I was embarrassed to have taken Mary in there and subjected her to that.

And speaking of SIL Mary, I'm hoping she didn't read my last post in which I trashed acrylic yarn.  I have a beautiful afghan that she crocheted for me decades ago.  Still looks as great as it did when new, and it has been washed several times.  It has not pilled, twisted, or stretched out of shape.   It must have been a superior species of acrylic.  Just like everything else, they probably don't make it as well these days.  Twenty years ago I think that Noro would have been laughed off the stage.

BIG news in the studio!  I'll tell you all about it next time.  This post has already become a novelette.