Back to Reality

Pearl the Squirrel inspecting the perfectly still lake
Just returned from vacation (sniff, sniff)—nearly two weeks at our family cabin. Though it was much cooler than usual and we weren’t able to swim or even be out on the lake much, it proved perfect for sewing.
I hauled along my trusty Featherweight and finished up my Fabric Fusion quilt that I started after a workshop with Bill Kerr of ModernQuilt Studio. It was a lot of little pieces. But I really wanted to give Bill’s (and Week’s) concept of mixing Jo Morton and Anna Maria Horner fabrics a try. The “fabric smackdown” we did in the workshop was where this started and this Brandon Mabley fabric was my initial inspiration.
These oranges and greens and reds and pinks aren’t “my” colors, either, and that provided an additional challenge. But I’m quite pleased with the end result. I used something like 38 or 39 fabrics in the quilt—including a tiny scrap of this madras plaid in the center, which I found in my mother’s sewing room, a leftover from a summer top she made me when I was in elementary school! I purchased about ten new fabrics, but the rest were from my stash and some of them were truly just scraps: the Amy Butler fabric was from my first Birdie Sling and the orange batik (top right) was from my very first quilt.
I love the crispness the white sashing provides. A highly satisfying project!
We did manage to kayak across the lake on two occasions for blueberries. That, also, was highly satisfying. Two pies and two batches of blueberry pancakes made mornings and evenings quite pleasant. 
The swimming dock, too chilly for a swim until the last day
Driftwood in a quiet bay
A wobbly panorama from my kayak on our last, finally warm and sunny, day

Twofer: Baby Sewing Machines

So a few posts ago I mentioned being smitten with a collection of children’s sewing machines that I saw at a quilt show. Out of the blue, I had the chance to bid on one at an auction. There were actually two available, and because I was bidding remotely I decided to bid on both, in the event that I missed the first one I’d still have a chance at the second. Well, lo and behold, I am now the proud owner of  a pair of these cuties.

They came in sturdy cardboard boxes, one with the photo of an elf, the second in a plain box. It seems they were made in the USSR but sold in the Netherlands, as the language on the box and the instructions still with one of them are in Dutch, while the little gold plaque on the front reads (in English) “Made in USSR”. How they work is a mystery to me and I admit that it doesn’t really matter. I haven’t been able to learn anything about them either (except that they must have been made before 1991, when the USSR ceased to exist), but honestly I am just enjoying gazing at them in complete admiration. One will go in my sewing room and the second will be hanging around for just the right moment to either sell or gift it. What worries me is that this could be the start of a bad addiction!

Baby Sewing Machines

After delaying a trip to Minnesota due to the weather, I got brave and drove north to visit my aunt. She’s about to turn 87 and I wanted to wish her Happy Birthday in person. She’s an amazing person—still so enthusiastic about life and willing to try new things. 

She saw that the local guild was sponsoring a quilt show and off we went. There were some lovely quilts, but one of my favorite things was a sewing machine display. 
The woman who owned the machines had bunches of books identifying and dating the machines and enjoyed talking with people who came up to share stories of their own antique machines. 

I was especially taken by the toy machines. She told me that while many of them were created for children, they all actually sewed and were sometimes used by women when they traveled. I loved the decorative elements on the machines—one even had mother-of-pearl inlay. I’ve bid at auctions on a few small machines, but never been willing to shell out the big bucks for one…after seeing this display, I may change my mind.

Featherweight Follow-up

Colleen & Roger Hicks Featherweight table

My recent Etsy post on Featherweights was such a treat for me. First, it enabled me to learn more about these tiny, but mighty machines. Then—always one of my favorite parts of my work—it gave me the opportunity to get to talk to others about them. Roger and Colleen Hicks welcomed me into their home and showed me Colleen’s collection of nine Featherweights. I especially loved hearing about their search for new ones and about the time they found one of the rare Featherweight tables in a junk shop and bought it for a fantastic price.

I also really loved talking with The Bobbin Doctor, Steve Pauling. I found his name through a comment on a Featherweight post on someone else’s blog (ah, I love the sleuthing aspects of journalism!) and as I was on deadline, decided to try calling him. He had just come in from shoveling 14 inches of snow and was incredibly gracious and kind and we had a great conversation in which I learned he’s also a tailor extraordinaire. I’m hoping to follow up with him, so look for more about Steve in the future. (His partner has a fantastic, sewing-related Etsy shop, too.) Steve’s comments about the durability of well-made, older sewing machines were so interesting—stitchers’ love of these machines is so great that Steve’s turned fixing vintage machines into a full time second career.

Colleen’s Featherweights on display

Finally, I absolutely adored all the comments from Etsy readers. As someone who often feels that her job is mainly sending stuff out into the void, never really knowing if people read what she writes or if it means anything to them, getting close to 200 comments is like the nectar of the gods. Seriously. And the comments were so thoughtful and there were so many great stories…I still can’t get over the skill level of people who wrote that they made wedding dresses on their Featherweights, for example. And I loved all the memories people shared of watching their mothers and grandmothers stitch away on these machines. My favorite was from a woman who said that the first letters she learned as a young child were S-I-N-G-E-R because she’d spent so much time siting at her mother’s side while she sewed. There’s brand loyalty you just can’t buy!

So inspired was I by the post and Roger Hicks’ comments about how little there was that could go wrong with a Featherweight, that I decided to try and fix mine, which sadly went on the fritz during my October Lake Tahoe retreat. There was some tension issue I couldn’t resolve. So Paul and I spent a couple hours on Saturday checking the manual and Featherweight 221: The Perfect Portable and Its Stitches Across History by Nancy Johnson-Srbebro. We oiled every nook and cranny and tried all kinds of fixes, but alas, despite feeling so empowered by my own article, I ended up taking it in to a professional on Sunday. Sigh. But I really do know so much more about how a Featherweight works than I did. So there’s that.