Saturday, 19 August 2017

Basic Patch Quilt Blanket

My daughter received a gift of a quilted blanket before her birth, and she loves it to this day. I didn't sew back then (2002) and since learning to sew had it in the back of my mind to learn this art form.
Well, first one finished this morning.
Here are the steps:

  1. Select fabric.
  2. Decide how big your squares will be and how many you'll need.
  3. Add seam allowance, then cut out the number you need.
  4. Lay them out to see how it will look.
  5. Sew them together in strips.
  6. Sew strips together.
  7. Select and cut a backing, same size as sewn front.
  8. Cut wadding, slightly bigger than the backing.
  9. Sandwich the wadding between front and back.
  10. Pin the centre of it together.
  11. Push from the centre outwards a little at a time and pin as you go.
  12. Either free motion sew from the centre outwards, or fit a walking foot to your machine and just follow the same lines of stitching as the top. 
  13. Cut binding in long strips (not on the bias) then diagonally join into a single long strip.
  14. Stitch this strip onto the back of the quilt.
  15. Fold over, then blind stitch to the front.

Here is a little more detail:
Selection of fabric is okay if you have an eye for it, but make sure you lay it out on a flat surface first. Choose similar weights of fabric or the result will feel a bit strange.
Make sure your calculations are all good. A lot of work goes into this, so screwing it up isn't desirable.
I selected an old wool blanket as my wadding. It's 100% natural, warm and recycled. Obviously, you need to wash it if you choose this option.
old wool blanket, with finished quilted top

It's really important to cut squares accurately, so use a rotary cutter, self-healing mat and metal ruler.
It's important to be accurate sewing the squares together and even more important joining the strips together. Inaccuracy looks like a dog's breakfast.
Fit a good walking foot to your machine, unless you have a Pfaff with IDT (built-in walking foot). I was surprised that my Singer 201 didn't feed the layers well at all until I put a Janome walking foot on it. The WF was made in Japan. I wouldn't recommend using a cheap one.
Sandwich the layers and pin the centres. As you sew, the layers will want to move against each other. A lot of quilters use a spray on glue to hold them still, but I didn't have any, nor am I inclined to put glue on my work. I used a whole box of quilting pins instead, which held it reasonably well. Flatten the quilt outwards as you pin toward the outside.
An alternative to what I did (stitching along the grid lines) is to free motion quilt. This involves the use of a hopping foot, whose only task is to prevent the work from moving when the needle is in the fabric. The feed dog should be dropped (or set to no motion if your machine doesn't allow dropping) and the best machines for this have a vertical bobbin. Drop-in bobbin machines have trouble with tension when doing free motion work. Free motion quilting allows you to put beautiful swirly thread designs on your quilt. Since this was my first one, I kept it simple.
The binding needs to be folded in half, then the raw edges gets sewn to the backing side. The corners need to be handled in a specific way, so I recommend these videos from McCall's quilting.
Fold it over and blind stitch the other side by hand. Ensure the thread travels along the edge only inside fabric, so it is always hidden.
Back of finished blanket

The front. Not perfect, but not bad.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Which way does my needle go in? Which way do I thread it?

If you're something of a vintage sewing machine aficionado (hoarder) you may occasionally experience some confusion when you go to change the needle or just thread it.

Luckily there are two rules that are always true with sewing machines, but you have to look closely to check the first one.

Simple rule #1: The flat side is nearest the hook.

This one requires you to look at which side of the needle the hook is on. In Singer 66 and 99 the hook race is very large, and the hook actually passes the needle on the outside. That is, the hook is to the right of the needle. Following simple rule #1, that means we have the flat on the right.

Models 66 and 99, the hook is to the right,
so the flat is too.

Model 201, smaller race means the hook
is on the left, so the flat is too.

Simple rule #2: Thread also goes toward the hook

That means the thread always exits the needle on the hook side.

Vertical bobbin machines are a bit harder to see, but as soon as you see the hook, you know how to put in the needle and how to thread it. This will maybe save you a lot of time looking for manuals.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Peerless buttonholer

The Peerless company were (I believe) the first to come up with an attachment for straight stitch sewing machines which would enable the machine to make a buttonhole.  They did this in the 1880s, and I bought one of these first ones a couple of years ago. Today, I disassembled it, cleaned it, reassembled it and eventually got everything working. There was some rust, for which I can forgive the almost 130-year-old attachment.
Peerless "Singer V.S.." on late '50s 201K treadle
They're ingenious devices, and have adjustments for stitch width, stitch length and distance between the two lines of stitches.
After getting it to work I quickly got out the video camera and made a video. A tweak here and there would have been more sensible, as the resulting work was a bit sub-standard.
The video is here.
Afterwards, I set the machine up properly. The feed cover is essential even though the 201 can drop the feed dog. I removed it to see what would happen and it wasn't good.
Following are the pictures of a 'good' one, but still a bit lacking. The mechanism is a little loose, likely through wear, and this would make it just about impossible to get a perfectly straight line of stitching. Still, they're very rare and it works after all this time.

Top of buttonhole
Underneath of buttonhole