Sunday, November 24, 2013

So it Begins- Sewing Machine Restoration

I've been dreaming of learning how to tear down and repair old sewing machines. Ever since I got Mighty Tiny, my featherweight, (who has yet to get a proper name) and learned that I have to do some basic service on her myself, I've wanted a machine that I can tear down and really see how it works. I understand the basic mechanisms of the lock stitch but the gears and parts and springs and screws were endlessly fascinating yet still a mystery to me. I also adore vintage machines over the new plastic wonders that can't be generally serviced at home.

 So, what's a girl to do? Craigslist! I found a Singer 128 in bad shape for $30 and, after asking Sweetie for an early Christmas present, made the call to the sellers. I made an appointment to go see it on a Friday night. I more or less knew it would come home, the question was how fast and how much would I pay for it. The ad said that the machine worked when the balance wheel was turned but either the motor or cords were non-functioning. No biggie, I want to turn it into a hand-crank machine anyway so I thought this would be perfect!

 A word of advice. When you ask Karma for something, in my case a beater machine to refurb, be careful. You might get exactly that. When I got to the house of the seller I was shown the machine. The needle bar did not move and there was no light attached when there should have been. Because the cords were frayed I didn't get to plug it in to check the motor. Again, not huge since I didn't want a motorized machine anyway but it would have been nice to check. So the needle bar and feed dogs don't move, yet the balance wheel does. Hmmm. Not ideal because that means a gear is not engaging somewhere. I offer $25 and it's accepted and I carry the new girl out to the car.

 I lovingly set her in the backseat and I'm driving down I-35 when someone makes a quick lane change. Mary Jane (her new name, I've decided) goes ass over tit into the floorboard. At this point the impact has happened to the case and I figure there's not much more I can do so I drive her home, haul her out of the car and proceed to whack the case with a small rubber mallet until it comes off. That's as far as I got since I had to do some day-job work. Today Sweetie took her down to the basement work table where she'll get deconstructed, cleaned, oiled and reassembled but not before I snapped some "before" pics. I'm hoping the case can go to my dad's workshop for some TLC after Christmas. So, here's Mary Jane, the newest member of the family and I'm hoping she'll be right as rain very soon.


Head Plate

Motor with the cord cut off


A little dark but you can clearly see the
needlebar is completely down.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wedding Quilt #2

One of my best friends is getting married and I'm so happy for him! Robert has been one of those special people in my life since college and I will be forever grateful for his love and support over the years. So when I heard he'd found "the guy" to marry, I wanted to do something special for them both.

Robert and me, a long long time ago.
So I created their wedding quilt. I used a "disappearing 9-patch" pattern (D9P) in purples and black/charcoal.

I kicked this pattern around several times but in the end I'm pretty pleased with how it came out. Check below the jump for the full tutorial.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Wedding Quilt #1

My brother, Ryan married his fiancee wife last month in St. Joseph, Michigan. Needless to say, it was beautiful. Sweetie and I drove to Michigan the week before the wedding to have some vacation time. The little bro had rented a beach house for family so we didn't have to worry about accommodations, which was so nice!
The Beach House

We spent several days on Lake Michigan, which was just out our front door and did wine tasting, beach time and sight-seeing!

Silver Beach Lighthouse
For a wedding present, I created a quilt for the couple.
3 stripe rail fence quilt
A better view of the pattern

Using a "rail fence" pattern, i strip pieced 3 1/2" strips of white on black, eggplant purple and black on white. I cut 9 1/2" squares and set them in a zig-zag pattern down the quilt. I had 4 different black on whites so each zig-zag is one print. I added 5" borders in the purple.

I had 1/2 yard cuts of each white print. One print comprises each zig-zag.
The label was also a bit of a challenge. I originally wanted it embroidered but I don't have an embroidery machine and was quickly running out of time. I found an idea where you printed on fabric so I created a design and had sweetie print it on a piece of background fabric. The ink wasn't very dark so sweetie went over the printing with a fine tip fabric marker. Fortunately, my quilter ran out of bobbin thread with 6" in the corner left to quilt, giving me the perfect place for the label. I bordered the label in a bit of left over purple and sewed it into the corner of the quilt, then I bound the quilt using the black fabric in the fence rails.

I'm happy to say that my brother and new sister-in-law really liked their quilt and now it's getting good use in their new home. That's what makes it all worthwhile.

I have several weddings coming up so there will be more! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tragic (but tasty) Snickerdoodles

Snickerdoodle fail
First try in the back, second in front
I am a serious stickler when it comes to fats and oils. No, I don't substitute applesauce for all fats and I don't think that all butter has to come from cows who were hugged daily but I. Hate. Shortening. I grew up on the stuff and now that I know what's in it and how it's made, (lots of refining and crappy for you trans-fat) I avoid it like the plague. I use butter, lard and other oils instead of shortening as much as possible (which is not terribly often).

So here comes the problem. A co-worker asked if I'd make snickerdoodles for the monthly staff meeting. "This shouldn't be too hard," I thought. Wrong!

I went to the internet, found a recipe with a ton of reviews and read the reviews. The recipe used shortening. So I altered the recipe to sub butter for the shortening. It was glorious. The dough was creamy but stiff after I took it out of the fridge and rolled into little cookie balls nicely. I rolled the balls in cinnamon and sugar and flattened them down, per the most popular reviewer's method.

And disaster struck. These babies spread like warm jello. I suddenly didn't have snickerdoodle cookies, I had a very thin sheet of snickerdoodles all over my silpat. I had two trays to make so on the second tray I placed less cookies farther apart, thinking if they spread they wouldn't touch. I also didn't flatten them. I froze the dough so it would take longer to spread and I baked at 300 instead of 400, watching very very closely. Guess what? They spread again, just not running into each other this time. Sigh.

Sweetie liked the first batch of mess-ups better, saying they were more doughy. These are going to the staff meeting tomorrow night even though they're not lookers. They don't taste bad but they don't look like the pretty picture either. Any ideas for how to make them right without using shortening?

Friday, February 8, 2013

New Year, New Hobby, New Toys

2013 brings a lot of newness at our house. I got a new job (whohoo!) in a fabric store. I took up jogging with our dog Max. You can see pictures from those runs here. That's all good and well but the fun news this year, so far, has been the new antique sewing machine I picked up right before Christmas. I realize this means I bought her before 2013 but I had to have her serviced and didn't get it back until after the first of the year. I love her.

She is a post-WWII dressmaker that sweetheart found in a thrift store for $15! Sweetie called me over to meet her and at first I wasn't very impressed. An old machine that was a brand I'd never heard of didn't sound very appealing. Then I started riffling through the cabinet drawers and found the accessories box with 8 feet in it, including a darning foot, 2 rolled hem feet, a binding foot, several zipper feet and others! The bonus was the original manual since I had no clue how I was supposed to work the machine. Needless to say, we loaded it up and took it home and I had high hopes. Then I came to find out that she was so gummy with 60 years worth of oil that she'd need some major attention by someone with expertise. From there I found Mike at Antique Sewing Machines who got her retooled and purring like a kitten. I need to name her and I'm thinking Midge. I'm also thinking of having her powder-coated orange to contrast off the green walls of the sewing room, just for kicks. Did I mention she has 17 different stitches? I'm swooning now just thinking about it.

So I got a new machine and I'm in love. Also, I started a job in a fabric store. What's a girl to do? Why learn to quilt! I've never been especially great at sewing garments but I figured I could sew straight lines. There was more to it than I realized so I did what any novice would do. I asked the internet, made a pinterest board and joined a forum. The forum does a block of the month, which I thought could be a great way to start and ask questions all at the same time. So far, I've done two blocks, January and February. I'm hoping to do a rainbow color scheme and put it all together for the first of next year. Here are the blocks I've done so far.
January- Whirling Star 2
This one was interesting because it involved "Y" seams for the triangles and I spent some time with the seam ripper but it came out okay, I think.

I'm calling this "Blue Valentine"
This was my first paper pieced block and I had a heck of a time but it's done and I like the effect. It also gave me a chance to try out all Midge's decorative stitches. Did I mention I love her? What are you doing that's new in 2013?