Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I Meant What I Said . . .

Here is proof positive that I meant what I said on Saturday. Conquering the demon of Procrastination, I unsewed the defective four-patch.

Then I replaced it with a new one and closed up the wound I'd made in the already finished row of blocks. Whew! I feel so much better now, and I'm eager to assemble the remaining rows and get this quilt completed in time for cold weather. (Which, here in Southern California, will not be soon. We're having another heatwave; the high today was 111˚!

Speaking of cold weather, my son and his family have just moved to Ohio where the nights are already chilly. Having just come from Texas, they are seriously understocked with blankets. What an incentive for Grandmama to make more quilts! (Though at the rate I work they probably wouldn't be ready until next winter.)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Featherweight Memories

I love getting packages in the mail -- especially when the contents are quilt related!

Fillius Major (my oldest son) sent me a box of shirts he was weeding out of his wardrobe. He and his family are moving from Texas to Ohio for a new job. But in the midst of packing, preparing his house for sale, and getting ready to fly with five children, a wife, and two cats, he thought of his Aged Parent and her Make-a-Quilt-From-Seven Shirts project.

Fillius Major has always been a good quilter's son. When he was still a teen, he helped me find a Singer Featherweight. The whole family was in the car at the time, my husband at the wheel. I was slumped in the front seat, and though I can't remember the circumstances, I do recall that I was in a black mood.

"Uh, Mom . . ." Fillius M.'s voice broke through my emotional fog. "Do you still want one of those little black sewing machines?"


"That yard sale we just passed -- they had one." Yard sale? I'd been so sunk in gloom I hadn't even noticed it!

Without a word, my Excellent Husband executed a masterful U-turn, and we were back at the yard sale while I was still trying to collect my wits. And there it was: a Singer 221, a.k.a. The Perfect Portable. It had no carrying case or attachments, and the bobbin case was missing. But the foot pedal was still attached. The machine appeared to have been much used, but not abused.

Hesitantly, I approached the woman who appeared to be in charge of the sale. She looked like a burnt-out refugee from a hippie commune and spoke in a vague, disjointed manner. The Featherweight, she said, had belonged to an elderly relative. It was obvious that her descendant didn't know much about sewing machines. When I pointed out that the bobbin case was missing, she helpfully went indoors and brought out another one from a different brand of machine. Since she seemed determined to shove it in somehow, despite her lack of hand-eye coordination, I waved her away and offered to buy the machine "as is," hoping that she wouldn't ask more than I could afford.

She was firm about the price: $25.00.

I paid it gladly, even though I could not be sure that the little guy would even work when it was plugged in. Then I hustled my new baby into the car before she could change her mind.

My spirits were high as my husband deftly wove his way back into the late afternoon traffic. Thanks to the Internet, I was able to replace the missing bobbin case (though it cost me more than the machine itself). And the local quilt store was able to direct me to a good sewing machine tech who specialized in old Singers. Eventually, I even bought a stitch plate with seam markings to replace the unmarked original.

In a way, I guess that Fillius Major was my Featherweight's godparent. Perhaps, in his honor, I should stitch the Seven-Shirts-Quilt on the Featherweight.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Dang! Spiritual Battles in the Sewing Room

Okay, so I was sewing on the Bricks & Stepping Stones quilt, connecting the completed rows of block. And as I was pressing the seams to one side, I discovered that one of the small black squares had a hole in it. I have no idea how it got there. Itinerant moths? Most likely that tiny hole was already in my fabric strip when I cut it into squares. But the thought of having to rip that unit out of a quilt so near completion is disheartening. I just rolled it up and went off to procrastinate with my laptop.

I love quilting, but in every project I seem to reach a point where it's hard to go on. Either I've got to correct a mistake, or I've got to trudge through a boring stage of the project, or there's a "hard part" that I'll love having done, but I dread actually doing it. There's nothing for it but the virtue of perseverance, a virtue which is in short supply in my sewing room. (It's not something that you can stock up on when you've got a 50%-off coupon from Jo-Ann's.) I know I need to just pick up my seam ripper and have at it! But like St. Paul, I do neither what I want nor what I ought. Instead, I spent much of the evening just clicking around the Internet. What a waste!

I guess my spiritual muscles are as weak as my physical muscles -- and both from lack of exercise! Okay, tomorrow after Mass I will square my shoulders and march back to the sewing machine, invoking St. Michael as I pick up my seam ripper. I will think of it as a tiny little sword. Who knew that a quilter's sewing room might actually be a training ground for larger battles in the greater world?

Friday, September 17, 2010

I Dabble in Heirloom Sewing

The new stitch plate for the 1130 came in time for my heirloom sewing class today. And as it turned out, I needed those inch markings for the class, so I was glad it arrived in such a timely manner. (I'll also try using the new stitch plate on the B&SS quilt tomorrow to see if I can get the same seam allowance as the 1530 was giving me.)

Although I prefer quilt making to garment sewing, I adore learning new sewing techniques. So I had a lot of fun today at the Heirloom Technique workshop held at The Fabric Patch today. It's a prerequisite for the Heirloom Blouse class which I also intend to take. Both classes are taught by Donna Lasky, a fantastic teacher who really knew her stuff. (She was trained my Martha Pullen.) She kept us hard at it, but I enjoyed myself so much that, when we were done, I was surprised to find that we'd run two hours over the allotted class time.

As we worked through the different techniques, we assembled our samples into a notebook, recording our own customized sewing machine settings for each one. (BTW, the samples pictured above are still unfinished. I need to take the basting stitches out of the blue one and I still need to do entredeux stitches around the shaped lace circle.)

Some of the women in the class were wishing they had granddaughters to sew for. I have four granddaughters, and I love to sew for them. But I don't think I'd make them heirloom dresses. For one thing, I can remember how boring it was to wear fancy clothes when I was young -- dresses that were "too good" (and often too uncomfortable) to play in. I'd rather make them things they can have fun wearing. But for another, I'd rather sew them dresses that will not engender regret on my part no matter what happens to them.

For my darling granddaughters (A.K.A. "The Wild Girls") are probably not as docile and inhibited as I was about taking care of a Special Occasion dress though they do love wearing pretty dresses in which one can dance and twirl. But sometimes princesses just gotta climb trees!

When I was at Upland Vac & Sew, where I bought some supplies for this class, one of the staff told me about a customer who had made her granddaughter a very fancy heirloom dress for Easter which represented 100 hours of painstaking work. The little girl wore it on Easter morning while riding the brand new Big Wheel which her father had just given her. The skirt of the dress got caught and ripped, wrapping itself around the axle as she merrily continued to pedal. The child was not fazed in the least. "Don't worry. Grandma can fix it!" I find her confidence heartwarming, though I can't help wondering if Grandma's heart didn't stop for a moment.

But wouldn't it be fun to make a christening gown? Or a bridal nightgown? Or an old fashioned, romantic blouse? And I look forward to occasionally using some of these techniques to embellish fun-to-wear but relatively sturdy dresses for my beloved Wild Girls.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bernina Woe!

I was zipping through the Bricks & Stepping Stones quilt when I noticed something odd: the straight stitch on my Bernina 1530 had metamorphosed. It was still a straight stitch, but instead of the usual 12 stitches per inch, it was churning out about 24!

When I tested the other stitches, the machine behaved very erratically. Sometimes they were sewn out properly. Other times the machine attempted to sew them backwards. And frequently it stitches nothing but gibberish. Since it's a computerized machine, I assume it's a problem with the board. Woe!

When my beloved 1090 suffered a disaster two years ago, I could not afford to get it fixed. Now that the 1530 has Alzheimer's (which is sure to be a pricey repair), I've fallen back on the 1130 which my sister gave me when she was cleaning out her garage. I'm scheduled to take a class in heirloom sewing techniques this Friday, so I've been trying to familiarize myself with the 1130 and making sure that all the stitches work properly.

Unfortunately, the guide lines on the stitch plate seem to be metric so I can't get an accurate 1/4" seam.* Though I've discovered that by adjusting the needle position one click to the left, I can approximate a 5/8" seam. I called in an order for an American stitch plate (relatively inexpensive), but until it's delivered I'll have to content myself with garment sewing.

*Yes, I do have a #37 foot, but I get better results by using the guidelines on the stitch plate.