Thursday, 28 February 2013

Crazy Patchwork Cushion

Crazy Patchwork Cushion cover on chair

Crazy Patchwork Cushion

This cushion case is made of scraps of shirts left over from my first quilting project and various other bits and bobs including a nice hunk of "ready for action" fabric by Alexander Henry.  Some of the first stitches I made with my Singer 201K treadle hold it together.  I was inspired to make it after reading "The Quilter's Bible" by Linda Clements.

I used a variation on Stitch and Flip but unlike the log-cabin blocks I didn't use a paper foundation for this crazy patchwork.  I pieced scraps and strips, stitching and flipping, until I had rough, out-sized, blocks.  I then used a six and a half inch square ruler and rotary cutter to 'square' the blocks.  When I had made nine of these I sewed them into what is essentially a large nine-patch unit.  I think it was best that I waited until I had all nine patches ready before sewing them together.  This gave me the chance to 'set' the blocks to my satisfaction.  I am happy that I managed to get a fairly even spread of colours here.

I sandwiched my block with poly batting left over from that same first quilt and white poly cotton I had left over from lining an apron I made for my sister.  I quilted the sandwich on my Singer 401G Slant-O-Matic simply because it came with a walking foot.  I choose a very boring regular grid pattern and variegated blue and white thread for the quilting.  I liked the way this contrasted with the 'scrappiness' of the quilt but somehow it didn't feel enough for me so I shadowed the grid with another line of stitching using the edge of the walking foot as a guide.

I completed the cushion cover on the Singer 201K.  I went for an envelope closure because that is the only type of cushion cover I have experience of and I was anxious to get the thing finished as a Valentine's day gift for The-Much-Beloved.  I used an adjustable hemmer and my trusty seam guide to help me get the job done as accurately and speedily as possible.

The cover finished at an approximate 17 inch square so an 18 inch duck down cushion form makes it pleasingly plump.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Piecing By Numbers with the Singer 28K

This is a technique I am trying to teach myself from instructions I found on the internet.  It's sometimes call Paper Foundation Piecing and I've also seen it referred to as Stitch and Flip.

I start each block with a paper foundation.  I designed this simple log cabin foundation using the table function which is part of word processing software.  If you look closely at the photograph you can see that each piece of the block has a number starting with 1 in the darkest square at the middle of the foundation.  The shading on my paper foundation is a nod to what I have read about the tonal values of traditional log-cabin blocks.

The next step (for my block) is to cut some fabric.  The blue is the left overs of some super smooth shirting I picked up online very reasonably and the white is from one of my shirts whose collar and cuffs were past their best.  I have started to cut one and a half inch strips half an inch longer than pieces on the foundation.  This gives me my quarter inch seam allowances.

Here I have flipped the paper foundation   and pinned my first piece of fabric over the back of the correct section.  I hold the paper up to the light to help me centre the fabric.  Notice that I have used red for the centre.  The story goes that the middle square of the log cabin block is supposed to represent the hearth of the cabin and so it is often red to indicate that fire that would have burned there.  I like a good story don't you?

Here I have layered the number two piece of the fabric on top of the first.  The next step is to flip the paper foundation back over and carefully carry it to the sewing machine without anything shifting.  Next time I will layer first and  then pin I think!

Singer 28, Singer 28K, threaded

My lovely 1899 Singer 28K

This is where I start and where I finish.  I aim for about a quarter of an inch before and after the outline on the foundation.

I then continue adding strips, pressing with a dry iron as I go, following the numbers and tonal value already printed on the paper foundation.  When finished the block looks like this:


The paper foundation stays with the completed block until I am ready to set the blocks and piece them into a quilt top. At the moment each block takes about an hour to piece (including cutting time) so I suppose I am some way off that.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Room for improvement?

Now that the Singer 15K80 is clean, lubricated and forming acceptable stitches my thoughts return to some of the things which make this machine feel a little odd to me.

The first is probably going to be the easiest to sort out.  Look at this:

Singer 15K80 spool pins, stitch length control, bobbin winder and balance wheel
Notice how slender and wonky the upper spool pin is?  I think that this is because it's not a spool pin at all!

A nail maybe?

The "spool pin" is loose and was easily lifted out of the top of the machine.  This is an impostor!  It's actually a pretty rough piece of steel standing in the place of a spool pin.  Oh well.  I guess it shouldn't be too difficult to pick up a genuine part like the nice stout straight one below the bobbin winder.  I think I will have to check out that well known on line auction site.

There's something else.  It's not so easily spotted and maybe something the machine and I will have to persevere with for the moment at least.  I will try and show you.

If you look closely at this overhead shot of the balance wheel and hand crank you may notice that the decals on the machine bed and pulley guard do not match those on the top of the hand crank.  In use it soon becomes apparent that the fit of crank in the spokes of the balance wheel isn't great either.  If anything it's rather loose.  I have the feeling that the crank is from an older machine a 27 maybe?

Well we all know that vintage machines get modified don't we?  So... I wonder did this machine start life as a hand crank and get separated from the original somehow?  Was this the result of conversion to an electric motor?  Perhaps this unit started life in a treadle?  Does anyone know if the answer to this mystery lies in serial number records?

When I first brought this machine home I had a vague idea that I might somehow use it for free-motion quilting.    There's a lot of chat on line about how great Singer 15s are at that kind of work.  I know that the 15K80 lacks dropping feed dogs but I have read that this isn't too much of a handicap if the stitch length is set to 0 stitches per inch.  However I would still need to loose the hand crank on this particular example or try growing a third arm!  I wonder if it would fit in the treadle cabinet that my 201K came in.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Scintillating Stitches

The 15k80 was clean and lubed so the time had come to see how it sews.

I mentioned yesterday that I am new to the 15 class but with the help of various down loads I have now educated myself as to how these machines should be threaded top and bottom.

Three bobbins came with the machine.  I used my smallest screwdriver to adjust the sloppy bobbin case.

I had disturbed the top tension earlier because I had taken the tension unit apart to check the face of the tension discs for lint, dirt and rust before threading and somehow the tension on the bobbin case seemed a bit "free" to me.  With these things in mind I was not expecting great stitches from this machine.

In my first attempt the top tension was too great and the bottom tension too little.  Result: little bumps of bobbin thread on the top of the goods and a wonky line of stitches.   I wasn't keen to muck about with the bobbin case at this stage so I backed off the tension for a few turns until the bumps nearly vanished.  I got to the stage where I couldn't feasibly back the top tension off any further so threw caution to the wind and tightened the screw on bobbin case a quarter turn.  A little more playing and these are the most recent results.

This is a piece of old shirt cuff left over from a quilting project.  So the machine is sewing through two layers of fine cotton and a layer of interfacing.  It may not be very easy to see but the stitches (approx 15 per 1 inch) are locking in the middle of the fabric sandwich and the row feels smooth to the touch on both sides.  By George I think we've got it!

Saturday, 23 February 2013

More of the Singer 15k80

Here is the Singer 15K80 after some light cleaning.

Front of Singer 15k80 after cleaning

I used sewing machine oil and cotton wool balls to clean and polish the black japanning and gold decals.  Just a little oil gently lifts the muck and imparts a little shine and I am careful not to rub the decals too hard.  The general condition of the finish is really quite good.  One or two chips on the leading edge of the machine bed but nothing I won't be happy to live with.

Sweet Bird of youth.   Sorry about the camera shake I am still learning.

I use the same technique on the bright metal.  The throat and slide plates are as new but the rim of the balance wheel is less than perfect.

Underneath wasn't too mucky but bone-dry.  When was the last time this one saw oil?  I took the throat and face plates off and cleaned the feed dogs and presser and needle bars with an old toothbrush.

At this point, clean but not yet oiled, the machine turned freely but did not resemble the the smooth, quiet running, machines other sewers have described on their blogs.  I am new to Singer 15s so I wasn't sure what to expect.  My 201k whispers along the seams and hems but this 15 clattered.  I have read comparisons of the 201 with a Rolls Royce.  If my 201 is a Rolls then this 15 is a Model T Ford.

Now I love sewing machine oil.  It's like Doctor Good for machines.  When I oil a bone dry machine like this one I feel like I am working a little miracle.  I go right over the machine from slide plate to hand crank and from spool pin to shuttle looking for any points at which metal bears against metal and apply no more than a drop or two of oil.  Then I have the pleasure of:
"run[ning] the machine rapidly for a few moments (with the presser foot up) to work the oil into the bearings"
That's one of my favourite bits.  Listening to the machine becoming quieter and actually feeling it become smoother in operation.  In a matter of seconds the clattering is more like clicking and hey presto this sewing machine is running like a sewing machine.  The 15 is not as quiet as the 201.  I don't think I would expect it to be.  The design of the 201 is about 50 years younger than that of the original 15 after all.  I would say that this machine is now maybe just a shade quieter than my 28k.  Any 15 aficionados who can confirm this as a sign of good health please drop me a line.

By the way anyone thinking of recommissioning a neglected machine should make this excellent video by Lizzie Lenard compulsory viewing.  One can learn a lot from that wise lady! 

Friday, 22 February 2013

New Arrival

Just look at what followed me home today.

Sewing machine in case

That's right dear reader.  It's a shabby blue box.  Or is it?  Take a closer look.

The lid is off the shabby blue box and we see a shabby black sewing machine.  A Singer 15k80 complete with dust (can you see the finger marks?) and hot pink thread (so not my colour).  Now this machine, like most of us over thirty, would appear to have a story to tell and as I look more closely at it I am starting to think that if this "Singer" could sing it would be hymns ancient and modern.  

My first impression of this machine: black enamel, gold "RAF" decals and thumb screw stitch length control (no back tack or dropped feed dogs here) make me think old.  Late 1930s or immediate post-war?  All right not that old in the world of sewing machines but a respectable vintage.

BUT just look at that case though!  This machine should be in a bentwood or a faux croc skin case shouldn't it?  Then again that blue case looks very non-Singer to me and I can imagine that this is some kind of replacement.  I think, however, that this machine may be more youthful than I first believed.  The striped face plate makes me think she is nearer sixty than seventy.  So what... 1950 maybe?  But look at this:

Note the plate with the model designation.  This looks more like the sort of thing one might find on a slant-o-matic or 185k.  I can wait no longer and look up the serial number.  The internet-o-graph tells me that the serial number was allocated in 1957!  WOW I never imagined that Singer would have been able to sell a machine like this as late as that.  Straight stitch and in one direction only.  Just think about what else was on offer at that time.  So this is a rock and roll stitcher rather than jazz or swing.  That might just explain the blue vinyl case.  I would be really glad to hear from anyone else who has experience of late 15ks and the kind of cases they can be found in.