Tag Archive for 'Sewing'

Vintage Singer(s)




I’m adding my 2 cents to the great sewing machine debate. Here is my response to the Sewing Machine Meme from Sew Mama Sew.

What brand and model do you have?
I have two machines, both 1950′s Singers. The first is a mocha colored Singer 301 and the second is a black featherweight (221). The 301 weighs in at 16lbs and the featherweight weighs in at 11lbs. The 301 has the same bobbin case as the featherweight but uses a slant-shank instead of a low shank. It is often called the “big-sister” of the featherweight and mine came in a portable case that looks like an old suitcase.



How long have you had it?
I have had the 301 for 4 years and the featherweight for 2 years.

How much does that machine cost (approximately)?
I recieved the 301 for free from a woman on craigslist (see below). Vintage machines don’t have very regular pricing, but you could probably find a 301 for between $100 and $200. You may find one for much less.

I purchased the featherweight from craigslist for $100 but they more typically cost $200-$400.



What types of things do you sew (i.e. quilting, clothing, handbags, home dec projects, etc.)?
I sew anything and everything. I have made quilts, clothes, bags, curtians, pillows – you name it. In addition to sewing light-weight cotton and machine quilting I have sewn canvas, heavy vinyl, seatbelt webbing, bike innertube, and sailcloth on both machines. They are troopers.



How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get?
I sew at least a few times a month and sometimes every day. I ask a lot from my machines as far as sewing heavy duty and unusual materials but they don’t show much wear. Both of them had clearly been used by previous owners but are still going strong.



Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name?
I love both of my machines but they do drive me crazy occasionally (see below).



What features does your machine have that work well for you?
My machines only do straight stitch (both forward and backward). I have external accessories for zig-zag stitches, buttonholes and a walking foot. Both machines came with a variety of feet, I have only used the zipper foot and rolled-hem foot regularly. The featherweight is not large enough to fit a bed-sized quilt for machine quilting, but the 301 is.



Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine?
Sometimes the tension can be disagreeable. I will get frustrated and stop for the day and often when I come back later and try again everything works fine. I also have problems with skipping stitches on the 301. I have tried to troubleshoot why it skips stitches (changing needles, matching thread and needle, checking bobbin tension) but tends to be rather mysterious.



Do you have a great story to share about your machine (i.e., Found it under the Christmas tree? Dropped it on the kitchen floor? Sewed your fingernail to your zipper?, Got it from your Great Grandma?, etc.!)? We want to hear it!
I posted a want-ad on craigslist for a Singer 301 and was contacted by a woman who had two and gave me one. Thats right, a really nice woman I met on craigslist GAVE me the machine in return for me working to “save the earth from the ill effects of humanity” (which is really what I do already, right?).

I had always wanted a featherweight. I have a nostalgic attachment to the machine I learned to sew on – my mom’s featherweight was her 16th birthday present. My featherweight was another craigslist find – the machine was not listed as a featherweight but I recognized it from the photo and drove down to adopt it from the son of the original owner. His mom ended up calling me later to give me an additional box of accessories she found. I was happy to get a machine that had seen a lot of use but was still in great working order. I have put plenty of hours on it since then as well!



Would you recommend the machine to others? Why?
If you have a little patience and a love for vintage machinery I highly recommend getting one of these two machines. They are simple enough to understand and troubleshoot. I don’t know much about other vintage models, but these two both sew an excellent looking straight stitch. They use standard shank styles so you can buy new feet if necessary and featherweights are dearly loved by the quilting community so there are reproduction replacement parts. Along the way I picked up a second 301 that does not run and I’ve been keeping it stored away for spare parts when I need them. A vintage machine is not for everyone though, you have to love the quirks and personality. They sure do look cute sitting on your sewing table though!



What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine?
I would consider strongly what it is you want to sew and what your temperament is in relation to machinery. Do you need to use a lot of different stitches? Do you want to machine quilt large things? Do you like knowing how your machines work and tinkering with them when things aren’t quite right or do you prefer to treat it like a black box? Knowing some of these answers ahead of time will save you some frustration later on.



Do you have a dream machine?
I had always wanted a featherweight but now I have one! The next machine I want is an industrial machine so I can sew even more ridiculous materials. My apartment can’t handle that now, but someday!

coming together




Remember that quilt I was planning a while back? Yeah, I forgot about it too… Back when we found out they were getting married N and I decided to sew a wedding quilt for his brother and his wife. I got as far as cutting out the pieces before the wedding took place, but work and sewing wallets and bags took precedence so I haven’t touched it since September. I left the rest of the block piecing to n while I worked on other things. I won’t say he was diligent, but he did eventually get through them and the quilt squares are all finished.

Last night I laid them all out on the floor. There is a bit of a tighter fit in our apartment now (compared to the last time I did this) but I made enough space to lay out the design.



I didn’t follow the pattern I made on the computer when I was originally planning the quilt (or even look at it), but just having the constraints of distributing color and block type around made the layout similar to the original design:



N took things a step further and wrote a computer program to search for the optimal quilt layout based on edge color, center color, block type and highlight color. With 42 blocks there are 1×10^51 combinations possible. His program was still searching, but we took the best result so far and laid out the design.



Since the colors are fairly well distributed within the blocks, all of the desings look similar to me. I haven’t picked one yet, but since I picked up all of the blocks off the floor (If I don’t, the cat makes a mess of it) when I put them back down again I will surely make a new pattern. Who knows, maybe after another day of optimizing N’s program will give us the best result of all!

p.s.
Last weekend, while visiting the grand opening of the A Verb For Keeping Warm Workshop, I met some folks who suggested I take my bags over to a gallery space nearby. I did, and now there are a few bags and wallets for sale (in public!) should anyone happen to stumble upon them. The gallery is called blankspace and carries lots of cute handmade items, many of which I recognized from other local etsy sellers. I hope it goes well, but I’m not getting too excited this time.

losing the sun (traveling part 2)




I’ve been on a marathon for about a month and a half now. Only a few more days before I can really relax..

What have I been up to this whole time? Well, I’m glad you asked. First I went with N to his brother’s wedding in MD (but I mentioned that already…).

Next was the Color Fiber Festival. I actually missed about half of the festival because I had to go to my office and finish up my poster for the next branch of my adventure. Here we are setting up the Girl On The Rocks booth.


I got several really nice things at Color but I haven’t gotten a chance to spin any of them yet.



I think I am most excited about the drafted lamb’s fleece (Tanner, from Flynn Creek Churros). It is a lovely shade of chocolate brown and quite soft.



I also scored a gorgeous roving from Krista at Pigeonroof Studios. I kept looking through all of the selections and pulling the same one out, so I knew it was the right color for me!



Yak from A verb for keeping warm.



California Variegated Mutant (love the name!) from Tactile fiber arts.

The next morning I flew several thousand miles in the opposite direction to Hawaii for a conference and a few days of exploring. I made a best effort to spend as many sunsets at the beach as possible. I think I did pretty well.



I discovered a few things about traveling alone in a tropical locale. For one, it is difficult to put sunscreen on your own back. In response to this realization one person said that it would be an excellent opportunity to make friends on the beach. I chose to wear a shirt instead.

For lack of motivation to do much driving on my own I spent one entire day sitting on this beach:



It was time well spent.

When I returned home it was all of a sudden winter, and I was just in time for the election and a few days of intense work and a little sewing.



More sewing you might ask? Yes (!), more sewing. I’m frantically trying to prepare for the Bazaar Bizarre! I’ve been trying my best to cram a little sewing into all the cracks in my life. I’m going to make it (the show is this Sunday!) but I might not want to look at a vinyl banner or my sewing machine for a while afterward. If you are in the area please stop by! I’ll be at a booth with Girl On The Rocks – just follow your nose to the table of moustaches and recycled vinyl. Expect another post about the event soon…

travels




N’s grandmother’s kitchen wallpaper. One word: fantastic.




N’s brother got married last weekend. The weather could not have been more perfect.



I couldn’t get enough of uniform + bubbles.




I’ve been sewing in all of the spare seconds I can find. I’m trying to get ready for Color Fiber Festival and the SF Bazaar Bizarre. Color happens tomorrow (!) so if you are in the Berkeley area and want to check out some local fiber artists and socialize with fellow fiber enthusiasts you should stop by the Pacific School of Religion. The hours are 10am to 5pm – see you there?

apron

I’ve been working on this little number for wearing while crafting and also for when I help Karrie at the Bazaare Bizarre on Dec 15th.

The apron features the infamous rainbow canvas which I love so dearly as well as twill tape ties and vintage polka dotted double fold bias tape. I have made multiple variations on this theme but I’m really in love with this one – the “miniskirt” version. In fact, I like it so much I have a hard time taking it off when I leave the house…..