Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Introducing Sunny, the Robot Girl

Free Moda Bake Shop pattern Wiggly Whimsy.
Back in the spring I bought a mid-arm sewing machine, the Sunshine 16, from Pennywinkle Valley Ranch.   These machines are built by Nancy in Tennessee and her small American workforce.  Not by underpaid minions of transnational corporations in other countries.

I already had a Pennywinkle frame, bought years ago at a local charity shop.    I used a variety of domestic machines on it with varying luck.  I have written about it before here.  My best experience with a domestic machine on the frame was with a Pfaff 1221, which had a 9" harp and was in general a totally awesome machine.  Sold now, probably a mistake but there are SO MANY sewing machines in the world.  And in my house.

The logo on the side is not lighted, but still it glows.
The Sunshine 16 has, surprise surprise, a 16" harp and will allow me to quilt wider paths and therefore be more productive.  That's the plan anyway.  I named her Sunny.  Yes, that IS totally lame.  And although not all of my sewing machines have names (or genders) sometimes they just DO.  She's a girl.  But not a human girl.  She's a robot girl.  Just look at her.  I'm not going to try to explain or defend it.

Hello there.  My name is Sunny.

I learned a poem when I was a tiny tot:

there was a little girl
and she had a little curl
right in the middle of her forehead
and when she was good, she was very, very good
and when she was bad she was horrid.

That pretty much sums up my first two days with Sunny.  When she was performing well, she was a dream to drive.  Other times, I spent hours pulling my hair out trying to figure out what was going wrong.  Most of it was "operator stupidity".  Here's what I have learned so far:
  • If you move the machine around too quickly or change direction suddenly, the thread breaks.
  • If you don't have the needle set perfectly, the thread breaks.  It takes an industrial needle which has a round shank.  No flat side like a domestic needle has.  So it is quite easy to get the needle in there with the eye ever-so-slightly off to one side rather than dead center.  
  • If you use it late at night when you are tired, the thread breaks.  I assume I have poorer fine motor skills late at night.  No beer, wine or other substances were involved, sadly.  But if there were, they would probably cause the thread to break also.
Baby quilt loaded
Then my friends Jo and Janet came over to check her out.  I removed the quilt I had been working on to load up a baby quilt with a long leader for them to practice on.  Removing the first quilt was a quick and easy job because I have long zippers on the frame, so the quilt just zips in and out.

There are three rollers and three zippers: the bottom layer gets zipped at the beginning and end.  The top layer gets zipped at the end only and pinned to the bottom layer at the beginning.  Once pinned, the whole thing can be zipped out.
I was going to have Jo and Janet work on the actual baby quilt, but they were satisfied with working on the long leader.  They both did very well, too.  Yes, the thread did break, but they both got some good quilting in between thread breaks.

Janet drives while Jo supervises
Jo gets her turn too
Here's the funny thing:  when I went back to quilting the next day, suddenly I was MUCH better at it, and rarely broke the thread.  Thus proving that old adage:  if you want to learn how to do something, teach it.

Almost finished!
Too short

And it turns out that I would have had to take the original quilt out anyway.  Both the batting and the backing were too short.  All fixed now, and waiting to go back on the frame.  But in the meantime I got hugely distracted by another project.  It's SHINY.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Family Treasure

1917 Singer Model 66 in unrestored condition
Cousin Beverly called last week with a sewing related question.  Then she mentioned that she needed to buy a sewing machine.  But before I could shout down the line "DON'T DO THAT!"*  she went on to say that she had an old machine but could not get anyone to come out and look at it.  Her house is way out in the country on the family farm land.  I guess my fame as a sewing machine repair person has not spread all the way out there.  So I told her that working on old machines is what I do for fun.

*friends don't let friends buy crappy new plastic sewing machines

I told her that I would expect her to sit with me while I worked on it so that she would know how to maintain it, and she was enthusiastic about that.  The girl is into vintage, like all right-thinking people are.

She inherited it from Aunt Beulah, a legendary sewing-person and quilt maker.  Beverly's mom has several of Aunt Beulah's quilts and Beverly is plotting to acquire some of them.  I can tell you that because her mom is not a computer person and not online in any way.  And I don't really think she means to break into the house in the middle of the night and steal them, just talk her into parting with some of them.

Aunt Beulah definitely knew how to keep a machine maintained.  When we sat down everything was turning, but stiffly.  A few drops of oil and she was spinning like a top.  But the real reason I know it was maintained well is that the screws on the needle plate came out easily.  This needs to be done from time to time to clear the lint out.  Most old machines I work on have lint packed in there like dense felt, and the screws are frozen with dried up sewing machine oil.

The drawers were full of treasures:  all kinds of attachments, the original manual, and a replacement leather belt in a cardboard case marked 80 cents.

A happy Beverly!  Treadling away like a champion.

We got it sewing in an acceptable manner, although the tension is a bit off and refused to be reset.  Ditto for the stitch length.  But it is making a strong seam and the stitch length is fine for almost anything.  I promised her a full spa treatment for the machine, irons, and cabinet some time next year.  Right now I am in the middle of an all-out restoration project on another treasured family machine which I will write about later on.

The hardest part of the job was connecting the plastic tubing with the tiny connector thingy.  I prefer this to leather as a treadle belt because it won't stretch and need to be redone.  I did give Beverly a choice since it does not look traditional, but she plans to use this machine.  And her granddaughter Kailah whom you have seen before in this blog here will be using it too.

Kailah using a Singer Spartan hand crank
In fact, Kailah spent a day with me earlier this summer and made a dress in ONE DAY, start to finish.  It was a longish day, and I took a nap in the middle of it, but we still finished it.  We shared the work, but she definitely did her half of everything, from laying the pattern out on the fabric, pinning, cutting, sewing, drawing the elastic through the casings, everything.

 She chose a poly-blend fabric from my stash and a pattern that I used often back in the 1960's and early 70's.

She wore it to vacation Bible school the next night.

if she was not destined to be a scientist, she could easily be a model.  but scientist is way better.

Pretty impressive for a ten-year old person, right?

So have you guessed what the family treasure referred to in the title is?  Is it Aunt Beulah's Singer treadle?  No, silly, it is young Kailah.