Monday, 11 March 2013

Sewing Machine Rescue

Early last Sunday morning, I was standing at my kitchen window washing up, when I noticed my neighbour putting a sewing machine out onto the grass verge.  Our Council is great.  Each household is allowed 6 rubbish pick ups per year, either general household rubbish or vegetation - you simply need to phone them a week or so in advance.  So obviously she was putting out the machine as part of the household pick up she had ordered.

I called out to the hubby & pointed it out.  Bless him, he said "do you want me to go and get it?".  What a dumb question, of course I did!  So he ducked out and scuttled across the road to retrieve it.  It was a grim and showery day, and he had just got back to our side of the road, when it started to bucket down.  The poor machine would have been drowned if it had been left out.

My thinking was that if it was in working order, I would oil it, and clean it up and then offer it around to some of my quilting buddies.  If no-one wanted it, I was planning to sell it.  If it didn't work, I would offer it to my local sewing machine repair man as a spare parts machine.

So I set it up and pulled it apart to see what was what.  It turned out to be an electric Singer 533 Stylist Free Arm, made in England about 1980, and looked in terrific condition when I took the cover off.  BUT it wasn't working.  On investigation I found it was absolutely filthy under the stitch plate, and so in need of oil, poor thing.  It had obviously not been cleaned or oiled in a very, very long time. 

The bobbin shuttle was not moving, it was so choked up with lint.  I tried to search for a maintenance manual on the internet, but there were none for free download.  I wasn't prepared to pay for a manual, so just got on with the job of basic cleaning & oiling.  By the time I had done all that, I had the shuttle moving, when I moved it manually, but when the machine was operating the bobbin shuttle still did not move.  So that was how I left it as I had run out of time.

I mentioned the machine at Friday Quilters, and my lovely friend Di piped up that she would have it.  She gives sewing classes at the local Shelter, and said she needed an extra machine, as the numbers in her class were increasing.  I explained what it was doing and she said she would come around that night to investigate.

The two of us had great fun as we sat there with screw drivers and cleaning cloths, and pulled the base off the machine.  And there we had the answer.  There are three gears set up on the drive shaft from the motor to the bobbin shuttle, which is what makes the thing go round and round.  And on all three of the gears, which were plastic by the way, the teeth had been shorn off.

What a shame that they put plastic parts into an obviously well made solid metal machine!  But it does mean that it should be a relatively cheap repair, and all that will be needed is to buy 3 plastic gears and replace the worn ones.

Win, win all around.  The Shelter will have a good basic machine for the girls to work on, and it hasn't gone to landfill.  I am delighted I spotted that sitting on the grass verge.

Now where can I do a crash course on machine maintenance??

Til next time....... keep on stitching.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Leaders & enders

I am a complete miser when it comes to fabric, and I don't throw anything more than a 2" square away.   I have even been known to fish pieces of fabric others have thrown away out of the waste bin.  Mad?  Probably.  You can rest assured though, that what goes into my waste bin is definitely not useable!

As I am cutting fabric for projects, I cut the left over scrappy bits into whatever size fits the scrap - either as strips or squares.   Its quick and doesn't seem like a chore when I am cutting other things.   Sometimes I take my small cutting mat upstairs and sit in front of the TV at night chopping up scraps into useable pieces.   As a result I have bulging clip lock bags of every size square from 2" to 7" in half inch increments, and strips of every size from 2" to 3.5" in half inch increments.  

I use these as leader and ender projects, sewing the squares into pairs, then 4 patches, and when there is a whole bunch, I make up something, usually for Stitching Hearts.

So what is a leader & ender?  Most people use a scrap of fabric at the start and end of each seam when they are chain piecing to stabilise the seams, and they sew over and over this scrap until it is a mess.  Well instead of a scrap, I use 2 squares which I sew together.  Not much sewing at the time, and after only a very short while, you end up with a sizeable, useable stack of 4 patches.  You can do the same with triangles too.  The leader & ender queen is Bonnie Hunter.  She has done a magnificent tutorial here so I won't reinvent the wheel and put up a tutorial myself. 

Since I have read that tutorial, I do it to, and have put together several quilts for Stitching Hearts this way.  Layouts are endless.  Some examples are sashed 4-Patch; single or double row scrappy checkerboard borders; add a triangle to each side of the 4-Patch to make a square in a square; increase the size to a 16-Patch. 

For the larger squares you can simply sash them to make a very quick quilt (add the sashing on as a leader ender project as well).  Or you can use them for a scrappy border, or a disappearing 9-patch.  I like to use the 5.5" or 6" squares for that.

I have learnt that with scrappy quilts anything goes.  Just chuck it all in a pile and dip into it willy nilly.   I do try to pair a lighter value square with a darker value one though.  That gives the scrappy quilt depth and movement.   You just don't need to worry about matching the fabrics at all, it all seems to work out fine in the end.  And if you have an ugly fabric, just chop it up into small pieces and hide it in a scrap quilt.  As the saying goes "if you can still see the ugly fabric, you haven't chopped it up small enough".   So true.  LOL

Sometimes I will theme the scraps, so I will go through and pick out the florals for example, or the blues or purples or browns or greens.   Whatever I seem to have a lot of at the time.  I've done some scrappys for Aussie Heroes too, and then I pick out the more masculine fabrics out of the pile.  Doesn't do to send pretty florals to a big boofy 6 foot soldier!

My current leader ender project is to use up some of the 3.5" squares.  I am planning to put them together into square in a square blocks.  When I'm a bit further on with this, I'll post some pictures.

Hope this inspires you to try this.  It works a treat for me, is fun to do and it uses up those scraps!

Til next time ........ Keep on stitching