Thursday, July 17, 2014

I Joined the Club

Well, I know I always said I probably would never join the vintage sewing machine club many of you belong to because I already have several working sewing machines and so why on earth should I buy another? I just do not have the room to collect sewing machines. Yesterday, however,  that silly idea went flying out the window. 

Of COURSE I need a vintage sewing machine . . . . Who doesn't?

I always imagined that if I ever did cave I would splurge on a Featherweight first so I could join THAT exclusive club (Featherweights are smaller, lighter and much more collectible and quilters everywhere adore them, in case you're wondering. Plus, they're just so darn cute and sew like a dream, I hear.). But so many Featherweights that I have seen smell really bad and I was always afraid to take the chance. Okay, so the one you see here is not a Featherweight, but I still kinda like it. 

This little baby practically fell from the sky when I wasn't looking and just landed in my lap. I'm almost embarrassed to tell you how little I paid for it but it was next to nothing, so I told myself to go for it.  I couldn't carry it home myself because it's in a cabinet (a very, very beat up cabinet, I might add. It's no wonder no one opened it to look inside!). My husband offered to pick it up after work and when he went over to where I saw it in the afternoon the guy asked him if he wanted to make use of  the Senior discount  : )  He was not offended at all and just for having a little gray hair was given 20% off the already ridiculously low price,  LOL. Such a deal!

So my question to all of you vintage Singer collectors is - do I keep it? It seems to run smoothly but there is no foot pedal, although it's electric. Does this mean it's a hand crank too? There is no manual but now that I know the model number I will look online for one. Can I take it out of the cabinet and use it alone? Should I clean it? I once met a woman who damaged the scrollwork by cleaning hers so I didn't want to take that chance and just wiped it off with a cloth. It has some scratches but it looks good. Should I try to restore the cabinet? It's in pretty bad shape and I'm not fond of the style. Paint it, perhaps? It would have been much more fun to find one of those treadle cabinets like my mother had when I was really young. I love those.

Here's what I know: It's a Singer model 66 machine (thanks, Carol!). The Centennial edition, made in 1950 in NJ but labeled with a blue badge commemorating the 100th anniversary of the company in 1951. Thousands were probably made during this time so perhaps these are a dime a dozen and not anything special? I looked at some websites and did not see too many with the blue badge.

If I keep it, is it worth taking it in to have it repaired or serviced, parts replaced? There were no attachments or accessories included. They surely just wanted to get it out of grandma's basement along with her china as fast as they could . . . .

I'm having a lot of fun just looking at it today. The delicate filigree scrollwork is in pristine condition and really adds something to the appeal. My daughter said if nothing else I should keep it as a prop for my quilt photos. Let me know what you think or if you own one of these and have any tips for me.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Doll Beds

What is it about doll beds? Ever since I got my first Barbie doll bed as a child one Christmas - a white four-poster canopy bed with a pink and white ruffled bedspread - I've been hooked. 


My tastes have changed a bit since then but I never stopped loving doll beds and bought quite a few for my daughter to play with when she was young. This was what got me started making doll quilts for her, all those beds needing blankets of some sort. I now have a few wooden doll beds of my own and I use them to display some of the small quilts I've made.

Doll shown is the "Disney doll" made from a Gail Wilson pattern. She's one of my prized possessions. Recognize her?  She appears in my book Prairie Children & Their Quilts

Years ago, at an antique shop somewhere in Michigan or Wisconsin, my husband found a small antique pocket dictionary (measuring 2 1/4"  x  3 1/2" ) which I discovered happens to fit her perfectly. 

Yes, she reads it every night before bedtime and so she's very educated . . . .

Cradles count too, don't they?

This mini-cradle is too small for a quilt so it holds my scraps or sometimes I keep it on my sewing table and fill it with fabric for a new project I'm working on.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Get Thee to a Beach

Nothing soothes my soul like being around water. Especially on a beautiful day like yesterday. Believe it  or not, for an urban location, the Chicago area has some pretty decent beaches. There's one only a 15-minute drive away from us so I've been going out there for a walk in the morning or early evening. It was just what I needed yesterday to regroup after a busy weekend and another busy week coming up. 

Such a beautiful day - we had the beach all to ourselves.

Spending time out in nature and away from people (and computers) is extremely relaxing and for many of us it improves our well being in all sorts of ways. But sometimes I forget that.

There's a theory called Attention Restoration Theory (ART!) that explains why the human mind needs nature. Research points out two types of attention that the brain uses: directed and involuntary. We make use of directed attention when we're extremely focused or working on a computer, for example. This is often draining and demanding if you need to (or choose to) spend hours at it. Focused attention on our phones, tablets or laptops for long periods of time literally drains our brains. And we know this, right?

The best way to recharge yourself and also improve cognitive function is through involuntary attention where you can switch off that directed attention for a bit. Our brains perform differently when we spend time in natural settings, simply watching clouds pass in the sky or reflecting upon the sound of crunching leaves or running water over rocks, all effortless. When we do this, our brain's attention automatically changes to involuntary, allowing us to "decompress" in a sort of meditative way.

Studies also show that water is the environment we respond to best in terms of mood improvement and feelings of calmness. For years I knew this instinctively but could never explain it. 

We're not lucky enough to live near the ocean or mountains or even in a peaceful country setting but I'll take what I can get. Going to the beach and listening to the water was still so wonderfully restorative I could close my eyes and pretend it was the ocean. Good enough sometimes. Good enough.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Celebrate the Fourth of July

Happy 4th of July. I always try to look for a quilt or two to display around the house this time of year.  I often forget I've made so many small quilts in a red, off-white and blue theme. I'll bet many of you also have some if you look hard enough.

This year's favorite quilt is "Union Stars" from The Civil War Sewing Circle. I forgot to bring it out last year. I'm so spoiled - Isn't it nice to have made so many quilts you forget about some of them?? It's always fun to see and appreciate them again.

When I first began to think of quilting (it took me awhile to actually start), one of my favorite books was Little Quilts All Through the House by the Little Quilt  ladies - Alice Berg, Mary Ellen Von Holt and Sylvia Johnson. A few years after buying their book I did begin to quilt, and then wrote a pattern book of my own (who would have guessed THAT would happen?). My publisher was their publisher and when American Doll Quilts came out you can imagine what a thrill that was to see my book listed alongside their books. Me, a long-time fan.  Patriotic Little Quilts is another wonderful Little Quilts book and Martingale & Co., is having a blow-out Fourth of July sale  this weekend so here's your chance to buy it.

A few days after the tragic events of September 11, Little Quilts sent out a request to their fans for small quilts to mail to the families of  New York firefighters, police officers and emergency workers who were killed. Over 2300 little red, white and blue quilts were made and donated by quilters from all over and sent in by October of 2001. 

From Patriotic Little Quilts

The quilts they received were displayed in the parking lot. Look at all those little quilts! I wonder if any of you donated one? 

Celebrate Freedom!

So, while you're celebrating the holiday, step back and think about all of the freedoms we Americans enjoy and sometimes take for granted. Education is a big one for me. I think of schoolhouses - and how hard the early Americans (and my immigrant ancestors) worked to establish schools in America so their children could have the best opportunities. To me, education  IS freedom, in the strongest sense, particularly for so many in this country with limited economic prospects. My son teaches in a public school in an impoverished area of the city and I am so proud that he makes a difference in children's lives to help them have a better future.

"I believe in America because we have great dreams - and because we have the opportunity to make those dreams come true."   ~ Wendell Wilkie

 "The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”

~ Benjamin Franklin

One more reason for us to celebrate here today - it's my littlest girl's birthday! Happy birthday Ophelia! (Princess Lia to her friends and family.)  She will enjoy her freedom to play in the backyard and be cute all day . . . .

She's still bummed about the U.S. losing that World Cup game to Belgium . . . .

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Fantastic Fabric Pinwheels Tutorial

I find I'm happiest when I'm creating. But this summer has so far been way too busy for me to do much about that. Not that I'm unhappy exactly, but a little stressed because I'm so busy, you know the feeling? I can always feel a little something is missing when I'm not sewing. Cranky and irritable? Jittery? Too much caffeine to keep myself going and going and going? Or could it be quilting/crafting withdrawal symptoms? Who knows? When I've felt stressed and just had a little time here and there I've picked up a book to relax instead of my sewing because it's a lot easier than quilting for me and I'm also happy when I'm reading.

For this month's challenge in my Yahoo group, I chose this little pinwheels quilt. The prints I used to make it include scenes of children playing. Do you remember playing with pinwheels as a child? They remind me of summer and picnics and the Fourth of July.

 (Red, white and blue pinwheels doll quilt from American Doll Quilts)

Thinking about this quilt and summertime inspired me to try to make some three-dimensional pinwheels from fabric. (If you had told me as a child that I'd be making these as a GROWNUP I would have thought you were crazy, LOL.)  

Don't even ask me what I'll do with these. I showed them to my daughter and she said "Awww, Mom, they're so CUTE!" My husband: "Cute. What're you going to do with them??" Always the pragmatist. Instead of saying: no idea, I spent the day making these pinwheels just because I felt the urge to make something cute,  I smiled and said in my best pragmatic voice: "I hear you can utilize them in all sorts of ways - as decorations, to make banners, frig magnets, pins, hair bows, and even pinwheel wreaths." I said it to throw him off so he wouldn't guess I was making stuff  JUST TO MAKE STUFF, like a crazy person, instead of doing one of the six hundred chores on the list. After watching me make 150+ doll quilts over the years, you'd think he'd have it figured out by now and know enough not to ask "What're you going to do with them??" I may have to wear a pinwheel in my hair someday to prove a point, however.

Anyway, these were so easy to make and wouldn't you know -  they were just enough to satisfy my crafting urge. So go gather up some fabric. Here's what else you'll need:

Fabric Scraps
Fusible web (Wonder-Under, Steam-a-Seam, Heat 'n Bond, etc.)
Fabric marker or pencil
(Scissors, iron, ruler, thread, needle)

1.  Pick two pieces of contrasting fabric. For the larger pinwheels,  I cut each square 3 1/2"  x   3 1/2". Cut a piece of fusible web the same size.

2.  Press the web to the wrong side of one fabric square. Allow it to cool and then peel off  the paper backing. Line up your fused square with the remaining fabric square and iron the sticky fusible web side to the wrong side of that square. Press for about 10 seconds or follow directions for the product you are using.

IMPORTANT: Try not to get the sticky part on your iron. I use an old pressing cloth or the piece of paper the fusible web was attached to and place it on top of the second square of fabric when I'm pressing.

Now you should have fabric fused on both sides.

3.  Then, trim the edges of your square just a bit. If your fabric starts to fray, you could try dabbing a little Fray Check along the edges.

4.  Next, decide which print you want to use as the background (or inside) and place that side up. Draw 2 diagonal lines with a fabric marker or a pencil.

5.  Cut on each line and stop halfway to the center.

6.  Fold 4 corners of the pinwheel blades toward the center and stitch them down one at a time where the lines intersect.

7.  Sew a cute matching or contrasting button and that's it, you're done.

Could not decide on the button. Finally went with blue, LOL. 

If you intend to use these to decorate a vase or flower pot, buy a couple of thin wooden dowels at a craft store and then use some hot glue to stick them onto the back of each pinwheel. (If you're feeling particularly lazy you can also use a hot glue gun to attach the buttons. Or, perhaps some of you will even be tempted to try gluing the blades to the center as well. Let me know how it works. I felt better sewing them down.)

To make smaller pinwheels, cut your squares a little smaller. Likewise, larger squares make larger pinwheels. For my smaller pinwheels, I used 2 3/4" squares.

To me, the hardest part of this whole thing is finding just the right button for the center. It's fun to act like a child again and I had a good time playing around with fabric and digging in my old button jar. By the end of the day, my mood lifted and my stress disappeared. Just looking at these makes me smile and I'm definitely happier than I was a day ago. Just sayin'.

And, look, I'm finding lots to do with them already . . . .


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