Monday, August 27, 2007

1886 Treadle Sewing Machine

I made a purchase this weekend : an antique treadle sewing machine in a 5-drawer cabinet. Nostalgia got the best of me. I've been thinking about Great Gramma's old machine that was around when I was a kid, but has since disappeared. That machine was the neatest thing to me as a kid :
* The treasures in the drawers (including Juicy Fruit Gum)
* Various and very strange feet
* The Treadle, moving parts
* The machine appearing and disappearing into the cabinet--like MAGIC

I'm not the only one fascinated with the mechanisms of this machinery : Oliver has also taken an interest in helping me oil and polish it. He also thinks it's pretty cool to open the lid and see that machine appear and retreat--not to mention working the treadle!

Sue Breier (The It's-a-Wrap Lady) is in my Quilt Guild. She just bought a Featherwight. She happened to mention to me that one of the local antique stores had an old treadle machine ... So I went to take a look, went home and slept on it, tried to figure out where I'd put it in our packed house. I went back the next day to purchase it. Sometimes, you just have to ask yourself, "Would I feel bad about letting this get away?" Yes, I decided ... I wanted to have a treadle in my life again.

I don't expect to actually use this old machine. I've got it too good with the modern sewing machines with auto tension, etc. I suspect, I'd be pretty frustrated with this puppy as a working sewing machine (Yeah--ask me about it when the lights go out!) It does need a drive belt, but other than that, the parts seem to be in decent working order, running smoothly. Maybe I'll try a small project--just to say that I did it!

At first, I thought it might be a Singer (They were everywhere, right?), but I need to do a little more research on the make and model. Although it had most of a manual, it was missing a few pages. Though it has beautiful decals, there doesn't seem to be a manuafacturer on it where the "Singer" always sits across the top ... Is this a copy of the Singer VS#2?

Nice decals around the base ... This is the view from the top

It's a beauty! Anybody know what I've got?
Here's what I know so far (testament to watching Antiques Road Show and History Detectives on PBS) :
National Sewing Company used to make generic machines that anyone could slap a brand onto (Sears, Montgomery Ward, etc.) That might explain why there is a noticeable LACK of a label or decal across the top.

The removable bobbin plate cover says "Patented November 30, 1886" but it doesn't say by who ...
Under the bobbin plate is what may be a serial number : 1287755
It seems to be a vibrating shuttle #2 type of machine. It has a long bobbin.

If you know anything about this machine, please leave a comment ...

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Northern Lights Post Card 2

This is the second Northern Lights Postcard.

I used 2 types of ribbon. It's a little too shiny, so I don't think I'll pursue these materials in the large block to come ... I'll keep experimenting. Stay tuned!

What Sticks ...

I've been meaning to do a post on what sticks with me after hearing several of the great lectures at Guild meetings the last few months. So here it goes ...

In March, Joen Wolfrom was the speaker at Darting Needles. Here's what's memorable from her talk :
* Do what you want, not what you should. Unfinished projects are okay.
* It's important to clear stuff out periodically. Give away those old unfinished projects that you never intend to return to.

This has been LIBERATING advice! Now I don't have to keep all those unfinished projects that didn't seem to work out, or that just lost interest for me ... I have more than enough to do with the things I DO want to finish!

In March, Mickey Dupre spoke at Lakeside Quilt Guild (She's an art quilter from Chicago) :
* When you need to jump-start your creativity, do a few small quilts (8"x10") to get unstuck.
* Scan your patterns and sketches into your computer to get the date-stamp on it for copyright protection.
* Use Dura-Pellon as a stabilizer for wallhangings (It's normally sold for pillows.)

In May, Harriet Hargrave did a lecture on batting for DNQG. You wouldn't think that would be at all interesting, but it was absolutely fascinating! Her philosophy is that it's the batting that makes the quilt. Choose the batting that is most appropriate for the person receiving the quilt (silk, wool, cotton, poly, etc). Who knew there were so many choices!

Last week, local quilter Laura MaGee did a bed-turning where people brought in their antique quilts, and Laura talked about their history and even aged the quilts by the fabirics, blocks and techniques used. What sticks :
* Don't use polyester batting if you want the quilt to be an heirloom. The poly fibers are stronger than cotton, and the poly batting will rub away and damage the cotton top (We saw some of these on dispaly). Stick with natural fibers for batting.
Other tips on preservation quilting :
*Don't store quilts in contact with wood (shelves, or cedar chests, etc.) Oils from the wood can migrate to your quilt and can stain it. These are permanent. [Just when I was thinking about making the cedar chest a blanket box!]
* Don't hang quilts where they may be light damaged. Sunlight will cause the colors to fade.

Straight Talk About Quilt Care
is a great source that can help with textile preservation questions. It is used in teaching venues and museums and in the quilt world. This is what the professionals do ...

Monday, August 13, 2007

PD Resources

If you want to know how I did the Potato Dextrin Resist Projects below, here are several resources.

Potato & Corn Dextrin for Surface Design - Instructions for Use - Dharma Trading Co.

Potato & Corn Dextrin Resist - Directions - ProChemical

Beware, the sources below come from good old-fashioned books, so visit your local public library. If they don't have 'em, they should be able to borrow them from other libraries.

Color by Design - Ann Johnston copyright 2001
Chapter 7 : Water-Soluble Resists starting on Page 93
ISBN : 0965677613
Find it at WorldCat or Find it at

Complex Cloth - Jane Dunnewold copyright 1996
Water-Based Resists starting Page 93
ISBN : 1564771490
Find it at WorldCat or Find it at

I can also highly recommend Marjie McWilliam's Dye classes at Quilt University. 3 Unconventional Ways to Dye is taught only once a year, so you'll have to wait for it, but it's very worthwhile! Marjie also gives a recipe for using a plain old potato and or potato flakes (which is what I used).

Monday, August 06, 2007

Potato Dextrin Resist

This summer I've been taking another Quilt University class with Marjie McWilliams : 3 Unusual Ways to Dye. One of the "unusual ways" is with potato dextrin. I've had the stuff and books and explanations for about 2 years now, but I haven't been able to bring myself to make this kind of a mess without a class with deadlines and schedules, and someone to help troubleshoot any problems that may come up. So here it is :

Above, mashed potato spread on fabric in a circle. Pretty homely, huh? The goal is to get the cracks and crevices to give the dye a place to penetrate. Where the potato resist stays, there will be no dye--at least that's the theory. I think I spread it on a little too thick here. It was even starting to get a little moldy with our unusually cool August weather this past weekend. I even tried putting it in a warm oven to help drive out the moisture.

Here is the same piece after dye has been applied, in this case with spray bottles.

Here is the final piece. I like it!

Wouldn't this look good with some trapunto to puff up the "sun"?

Below, this is a fat quarter on which the potato dextrin has been spread. The top darker section with deeper cracks and crevices is real potato. The lower 2/3 has been slathered with prepared mashed potato flakes. Since the potato flakes start with such a fine powder, the crackling is much finer as well. The flakes also don't seem to discolor as a real potato does.

Dried Potato Dextrin

Fabric with dried PD plus dye.
Dye was applied with a sponge applicator to get the dye into the cracks. I was conscious of not slathering on too much so that the PD melted.

Here's the reverse side, still with PD on the other side.

Here is the final Fab :

Not bad!

Here's the last assignment in this Lesson.
It's the same thing (mashed potato on top 1/3 ; Potato flake mixture on lower 2/3) except this time it's on a fat quarter that has been pre-dyed blue. I also took it upon myself to crunch and crackle up the dried potato a little more by distressing the fabric.

Dried Potato Dextrin

Dried PD with Dye.

Here's the reverse side with PD still intact.
This view can give you a good idea if you've got enough, too much, or just enough dye. Marjie's right : This step takes some practice to get right.

Here's the final product. Not too big of a mess, though it kind of smelled like stinky feet.
Other notes:
I was a little concerned about insects coming to eat the PD while it dried those few days. I didn't really have any problems with critters until I went outside to take pictures and had to go back into the house for fresh batteries. When I came back out 30 seconds later, Maggie, our big black 2nd-hand Newfie, was laying on 2 of the PD-and-dyed pieces. She was trying to lick off the dried and dyed potato--as if we never feed her!

Fabric Post Cards

I spent my Sunday afternoon working up some fabric post cards (And does it ever feel good to FINISH a few small projects like this!) :

I know, it needs some seeds. But I'll have to wait until we get another live one to eat so I can study the orientation of the black seeds in the pink sweet flesh. But wait--It's pretty hard to find a watermelon WITH seeds anymore. I think it's done : seedless watermelon.

Wire Whisk,
or Ode ot Egg Nog,
or Inspiration from the Bathroom Floor
(Why do we have a wire whisk on the bathroom floor, you ask? It is a most useful and necessary tool for keeping bubble bath bubbly and frothy for my kid.)
For the first attempt, I tried to couch down some fat gray yarn, but that didn't work out very well, so I ripped it all out and tried again by couching down Glamour Silver thread. Much better!

Northern Lights
This is just the first of a Northern Lights series ...

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Inspiration : Botany Photo of the Day

June 15, 2007 : Erythrina stricta var. suberosa

One of my favorite blogs/websites is UBC Botanical Garden's Botany Photo of the Day. It offers beautiful pics of plants and flowers, and occasionally landscapes. The close-ups are absolutely luscious and sensual!

Just as interesting to me are the blurry and out-of-focus backgrounds that would be / are great inspirations for hand dye and fabric painting : mottled with enough interest and color to make it worthwhile.

July 24, 2007 : Dierama galpinii

Many of the pics seem to be by regular people, on Flickr, not by professional photographers. What a REVOLUTION digital cameras have become for the regular person in the everyday world around us! The everyday photographers always get credit on BPOD. To me, this means they'd probably be easier to contact and more likely to grant permission to use their photos as models for picture quilts.

Take a look - you won't think about plants in quite the same way afterwards.