Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Treadling Away

Many years ago, my mom became the caretaker for my grandmother's treadle sewing machine. She invested in refinishing the cabinet, and as a piece of furniture, it makes a beautiful show piece. Somewhere along the way, my mom decided that it would become mine and it could go ahead and move to my house.

Recently, I became more interested in this machine. We had always said that it would work great if it just had a belt installed. I wanted to know if a belt really was all that it needed. We had a new belt, and Duane installed it fairly easily. Then it sat for a little while longer, because it was going to take some effort to figure out how to wind a bobbin and thread the machine.

A few YouTube videos later, the bobbin was wound, and the machine was successfully threaded. It was time to sew. One of the things I was worried about is how I would look using this machine. My hand-eye coordination isn't the greatest, so I had this fear of my head bobbing like a chicken while my feet went up and down on the treadle. No, I did not record myself sewing on it, and I'm fairly certain that it wasn't an overly embarrassing experience.

The really exciting thing is that it sews a fairly good stitch. For a machine that hasn't been sewn on in probably thirty or more years, it works great. I've got to figure out a good way to mark a 1/4" seam allowance. This machine is going to get used.

I love the contrast of the old machine with the modern thread. This machine deserves all the tender loving care it can get, and Aurifil thread will help keep it going long and strong.

With the excitement of being able to sew on this machine, I decided to see if I could find out more about its history. A quick search for the serial number shows that this machine was manufactured in 1911. Wow, 102 years old and still sewing strong. They just don't make them like they used to.

My grandmother was born in 1915. She and her husband raised a family of three daughters in McDonough, Georgia. They were a farming family, which meant it was often a challenge just to meet basic day to day needs. This machine was purchased as a used machine from a newly married couple in the community that had fallen on hard times and needed money more than they needed this sewing machine. My grandmother told me that she remembers how sad the new bride was when they picked up the machine from her home.

My mom told me that she used this machine often growing up and that she could make it go a hundred miles an hour. I can't wait to see her give it a try next time she visits.

Check out the decal detail. A winged sphinx on a Singer sewing machine. An interesting combination. I'm going to do some research to see how to clean this machine up. It has a good bit of rust that I want to try to clean off, but certainly don't want to cause any further damage. I'm also going to figure out a project to make exclusively on this machine. It will be something small that can sit in a basket next to it so that I can work on it a little along. It's fun to think that I am sewing on the same machine as my mother, my aunts, my grandmother, and maybe even my great grandmother.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Lovely Year of Finishes: February Finish

I'm a "to do" list kind of girl. Nothing gives me more pleasure than marking something off my list as DONE. Maybe that's why I'm enjoying participating in a Lovely Year of Finishes so much. This is only my first month in, and I'm pleased to report that my project for February is complete. Here's where this project started at the beginning of the month: a "finished" quilt without one stitch of quilting on it.

How can that be?

It's bright enough, pretty enough, but no texture at all. It's just ho-hum.

The actual quilting of any project is an intense process for me. I think that's because it's the step where I feel the most insecure. That's one great thing about the Lovely Year of Finishes; once I commit, it's a done deal. So, for this quilt, it was fairly easy to decide what to do with the centers...flowers...flowers like I learned to make in the Craftsy Quilting Negative Spaces class.

Because this project doesn't really have negative space, the flower adds more texture than floral appeal. It shows up best on the darker hexagons. I used a lime variegated thread for all of the flowers. They just sort of blend in on the rest of the hexagons.

The header of the quilt is quilted in pebbles. I'm becoming a big fan of pebble quilting. It's fun and fast.

The hardest part was deciding what to do in the borders around each hexagon. At first, I thought I'd just make each flower bigger and have it flow into the border. I tried it on one and decided against that very quickly. It was not a cohesive or pretty look. No, not straight lines, not pebbles, not flowers...finally I settled on a loop design, that probably has an official name, but I don't know what it is called. It makes me think of fish bones.

First, I quilted all the blue borders because the design shows there the least and I needed all the practice I could get. Then I did the orange, then the green. It wasn't until they were all done that I started feeling okay about the whole thing. Maybe I lack the vision to see the finished quilt, but it never looks good to me in the half way stage. That doesn't slow me down, though.

Once I have decided what I'm going to do, that's when the intense part kicks into high gear. It has to be done, and it has to be done NOW. Which is, of course, the same moment my younger children decide that we haven't had enough family time and everyone should pick their favorite game or activity so we can spend the whole day together. On the outside I smile and say, "That's a great idea!" On the inside I'm saying, "Can't you hear that quilt calling me? I can't just leave it up there like that!" My sanity compromise was to add that we would take breaks between each activity, you know, so we wouldn't all get worn out too quickly. I stitched like a mad woman on every break, so the quilt got done, and the family stayed happily intact. Whew.

I'm already poking around my unfinished projects to see what might be a good choice for March. Thanks, Lovely Year of Finishes, for the motivation and camaraderie.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Whale and dolphin tote bag

My daughter, Erica, is a sometimes sewer. Sometimes she'll get an idea for a project and have to sew it up right away and sometimes she sews out of need, especially when it comes to making cute gifts for her friends.

This time, her friend Jacqueline is heading off for an internship in Hawaii to study dolphins and whales (how's that for an awesome internship!). It's also Jacqueline's birthday this month.

I just happened to have an old fabric panel that had a square of whales, dolphins, turtles, and manatees. The whales and dolphins were the perfect thing for the front and back of a basic tote bag. Erica was a little bit worried that it wasn't going to be young enough or hip enough with the panels. We spent a good bit of time digging through my fabric stash looking for something to add a modern touch. Once we found these dots, she knew it was going to work out just fine. She quilted the panels by outlining the major lines in each picture and adding some wavy lines.

The orange dot forms a pocket on each side of the bag. The original pocket was way too deep for a hand to fit in, so a quick line of stitching to shorten it up took care of it. The pocket is just right for a phone or sunglasses.

The inside is lined with a Kaffe Fassett paperweight print in a light color so it's easier to see the contents inside the bag. There's a bright yellow divided pocket on one side.

Erica doesn't have quite the passion for sewing that I do, but she certainly "gets it" and is super supportive of everything I do. It's fun to have a partner in crime from time to time, and fun to watch another creative mind turn out a fabulous project. I think Jacqueline is going to love it.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

How Many Dragonflies Home Tour


It's no secret that I love dragonflies. This little tour of the dragonflies around my home offers plenty of confirmation of that fact. After I finished taking all these pictures, we had a little contest at home. How many dragonflies are there around our house? The votes look like this:
Duane - 21
Erica - 25
Thomas - 20
Adam - 23 (revising that from his original answer of 15)
Let's take the tour, then I'll reveal the answer!

Our front porch welcomes you with a dragonfly welcome sign and wind chimes.

The room closest to the front door is the dining room turned office. There's a lamp, light switch, and decorative tile. The tile is really intended as an outdoor decoration; the dragonfly on it glows in the dark. 

There is also some pottery in the office. Two of the pieces feature dragonflies. I love pottery, especially "happy" pottery that has lots of color and whimsical designs.

The kitchen is next to the office and seems to be a little short in the dragonfly department. There's a refrigerator magnet, a perpetual calendar, and the hanger that holds the calendar.

The living room more than makes up for the shortage in the kitchen. They are all over the place in there. That's where my youngest son was when he started asking, "Does the one on top of the bottle count?"
"Does the one on the mug count?"
"Can I change my number?"

 More from the living room. These are all sitting on a bookshelf.

Off the living room is a hall with lots of doors and not much wall space. But where there is wall space, there are dragonflies!

The master bedroom and bath are off that hall. There are just a few in those rooms. The rest are in my sewing room upstairs.

It only makes sense that the room where I spend the most time would be well populated with dragonflies.

The fun thing is that most of these were gifted to me over the years. I enjoy thinking about the kind and generous friends who gave these to me. So, how many are there? There are 34 dragonflies...so far. It will be fun to watch the collection continue to grow. There can never be too many dragonflies!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Tutorial - Put A Letter On It

Anytime I share a project that includes words or letters, the first question I am asked is, "Where did you get those letters?"

There are lots of great sources for fonts and letters, but often, the answer is even easier than that. For the sewing machine cover I recently made,
I knew I wanted clean, simple letters. Basic word processing software often has the answer. I use Microsoft Word and have a decent number of fonts to choose from within that program. I chose the Arial font for the letters s-e-w. To experiment with the size of the letters, choose different font sizes. This example page shows the Arial font in 12, 36, 72, 150, and 300. The pull down menu in Microsoft Word for the font size only goes up to 72, but you can also enter a number bigger than that to make them even larger. Once there are some good test sizes on the page, print it.
And it's okay to go so big that only one letter fits on a page. They are going to be cut apart anyway. Now, it's time to play. You can cut the letters apart and pin or lay them on your project. Once you're happy with the size of the letters, then it's time to transfer them to your fabric.

What if you want something a little fancier than the fonts available on your word processor? Then it's time to go exploring. My favorite site for fonts is dafont.com. It offers a huge selection of fonts and most of them are free. I also like that it tells you what you are allowed to do with the font once it is downloaded. Most of them are free for personal use, which is perfect for anything you are making for yourself or as a gift. If you are making something that might later be sold or developed into a commercial pattern, make sure that the font is free for commercial use. I am a strong believer in respecting the copyright of all creative things, including fonts.
Not all fonts translate well to fabric so make sure that the letters are thick enough to hold up on fabric, like this
or this
This next one is too fine and would be a huge challenge to cut out of fabric. It would be great to trace in pen or paint, but would not work for fabric on fabric.
With a little interpretation, this one could be really cute...
Can you tell I have Valentine's Day on the brain? Plenty of love for all, even fonts.

Once the font is selected and the size is chosen, it's time to put it on fabric.

To do this, you need two-sided fusible webbing. There are many different brands out there, some good, some not so good. Your local quilt shop can help you make a good choice. In my experience, whatever product you use to learn this technique, it is the one that becomes a favorite. My favorite product is Steam-A-Seam 2. It comes in two weights, and while both work just fine for this application, I prefer the Light version. It comes in packages and by the yard from a roll.

Because the fusible goes on the back of the fabric, the letters must be traced in reverse. To do that, turn the printed page of letters over and use a sharpie to trace the letters. This makes them easier to see when they are traced onto the fusible web. I only traced around one of the letter Os because I can reuse the first one as I'm tracing.

Next, decide which side of the fusible web to write on. To do this, pull apart a corner of your fusible. One paper will pull away clean and one will pull away with sticky stuff on it. Don't pull the paper all the way off yet. This is just a way to figure out which side to write on. Write on the paper that has the sticky stuff.

Now, trace your letters. I use a mechanical pencil for this. The lead is fine and it's easy to correct any mistakes. The letters can be traced close together. They don't have to be spaced as they will be on your project.

Once everything is traced, pull the papers apart. The blank page should pull away clean and can be thrown away. Place the sticky part on the wrong side of your fabric and press it according to the manufacturers instructions for your product.

Since this is a two layered font, I also need to trace, fuse, and cut out hearts.

Before committing to ironing everything down on your project, it's a good idea to do a dry run. In this example I left the paper on the back of each piece, but if I had lots of little pieces, I would pull the paper off and position it on the background. It isn't going to permanently stick until it is ironed.

Once it all looks good, press it down, again following the instructions that come with your fusible product.

At this point, there are several options for finishing. Some of that decision depends on how the finished product will be used. Here are some choices:
  • Stitch around all the edges using a zig-zag, blanket, or other decorative stitch. This choice will keep your raw edges from getting ragged, especially if the project will be washed regularly
  • Straight stitch just inside the raw edge of each fused piece. This option will hold everything in place for projects that will be washed but may result in the edges getting a little ragged over time. Sometimes that is the desired result.
  • Let the quilting serve as the stitches to anchor the pieces. If the pieces are going to be quilted over anyway, this can be enough to secure the letters
  • Do not add any stitching. This works for projects that are decorative and won't be handled or washed.

This project is going to become a decorative pillow in my studio so no additional stitching will be added to the fused pieces. Of course, the two-sided fusible web can be used for anything you want to raw edge applique on a project. Just keep in mind...if your project needs to say something, put a letter on it!
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