Karen writes about life as a Quiltmaker in Austin, Texas; surviving in an empty nest, marriage, cooking, gardening and (did I say?) Quilting...

Monday, January 22, 2007

Work, Work, Work...

(1950s Singer undergoing "SPA" treatment)

Lest all good readers think the Karen is a woman of leisure, or perhaps retired... I must intrude upon our happy conversations about quilting with a bit of reality. You know, bill paying, grocery shopping, dog care, income production, well... life.
Though the nest is empty, life does indeed go on for woman. Last week I spent the week doing a bit of early "spring cleaning" of the computer, and my book keeping records, readying myself foir tax season (major UGH!), and re-opened the doors of what I fondly call my "SPA" for old sewing machines, er, excuse me, "vintage" sewing machines.
I have a fondness for old sewing machines, it probably started in my very early years. I was lucky enough to enjoy a childhood in which I was able to visit my maternal grandmother often. She long outlived a husband, and raised 8 children (losing one in childbirth), most of those years without the benefit of a husband (he was an alcoholic who,gratefully, left her when she was in her mid 40's). To make ends meet, all the home textile needs, and almost ALL clothing was sewn by her. She worked as a PBX operator (that's a private telephone system operator), nights at a hotel, so her days were free to care for her large household!
All her sewing, for her entire adult life, was done by way of a Singer model 127 treadle. (that's a machine that works with NO electricity gentle reader.... it is foot-powered by means of a pedal).
Despite the expense to her health of all those childbirths, she lived to be 95, and passed on in 1999. She used her machine (eshewing every effort to give or provide an electric machine), until she was well into her 80's. Some of my earliest memories of visits to her home involve watching her sew with great fascination. Eventually, I was allowed to use the machine, as she loved to teach all her grandkids how to use the fascinating machine. No hand made quilts for my grandmother, all were sewn as efficiently as possible, pieced from dressmaking scraps in simple squares on the machine. They were always tied, the batting a good bag of Mountain Mist from the F.W.Woolworths.
So, back to that fascination with sewing machines...

So, about 10 years ago, I began to relive my earlier fascination with machines, when I bought an old machine and decided to take it apart, and see if I could make it work again...(I've always been a bit of a geek/mechanic... tinkering - that came from my dad...more on that on another day). I was pretty proud of myself when I was indeed able to not only make it run, but found (in more recent years as I got involved in machine quilting) that the machine was a fabulous free motion quilter! The machine, an old Singer 15-91, has a wonderfully forgiving size 15 bobbin and oscillating shuttle mechanism (your Bernina most likely uses this same design!), that handles variation in thread, work thickness, and mishandling with ease. It has a good amount of arm space - even a queen sized quilt can be carefully worked under the harp.

Of course the bug bit me hard, and soon I found myself acquiring old machines, which of course mean't I needed to "restore" them... I liken the process to a "SPA" treatment - involving an oil soak, a serious buffing, and, ending with a nice polish!
Of course, given my recent decision to downsize and simplify my life, I decided to trade off some of my own growing machine collection, and, ended up with what has become a fairly active "trade" in machines.

On Sunday I delivered a lovely 1937 Singer 15-91, that I had restored to working order for my good friend Babs - who has a hankering to start doing some sewing. I also sold a lovel old 1936 Singer 221 Featherweight... one of my favorite models.
And later this week, I'm heading back over to Houston to attend a Sewing Machine repair course taught by nationally known OSMG (old sewing machine guy) Ray White! After 3 days with Ray, I expect to move my "meching" skills up a huge notch...
(Machines lined up awaiting SPA Treatment)
So, you ask, what has this to do with "work", well, along with my trade in vintage linens, the sewing machine restoration has become a rather prosperous little enterprise which I think I will continue to push along... as I also examine other means of enterprise that have to do with my other favored pastime: quilting! I much enjoy working for myself after so many years working for others, and hope I can keep this going...

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A New Years Quilting Resolution

Another year... Wow!

And so, it seems appropriate to make a New Year's resolution. Of course I could come up with a dozen issues that need improvement, or acts that need accomplishment in this year, but all would really be fairly predictible and mundane.
Weight to be lost, exercise to be increased, communication to be improved... Ho HUM!

But this year, I thought it might be interesting to up the ante on my interest and involvement in quilting by putting forwards some small challenge. Something to improve my skills, but also to contribute. Quilts for all!

Last month, I attended a fun Ami Simms workshop - the emphasis was on fast, easy strip quilting. Ami had a great saying to add impetus to the completion of the work:

"The Babies are Getting Cold..."

Doesn't that say it all! Those quilts need quiltin' cause somewhere out there, there are Babies that are Getting COLD!! They need covers!
And winter it is indeed.

SO, to that end, my challenge is to contribute at least ONE quilt to the Austin Area Quilt Guild's "Baby Bundle" project EACH MONTH. This is a great program in which donated handmande quilts are given to women in a number of charitable programs aimed at new mothers who need a hand dealing with an unexpected pregnancy, or have limited resources.
How hard can it be!? One small quilt each month - Can be simple, in any design. I am going to use this to try out some new patterns and techniques... should be fun!

Here are my first two quilts - turned in this week!


A simple purple stripe quilt, produced by another unknown guild member - Layered, machine quilted and bound by me!

And a flannel quilt made by me - machine quilted "in the ditch". The design is from Evelyn Sloppy's book "Sew One and Then Your Done". A GREAT book by the way - the idea is to make a single block pattern, in a large size to result in a child or lap size quilt.

Making these is a good way to decide if you want to make an entire quilt of multiple blocks in this pattern. The pattern is called :Porcelain Star.

Both are shown as presented at Monday's Guild meeting!!
I also attended (a last minute decision to take someone else's place) a WONDERFUL workshop by Laura Wasilowski, more on that in the next blog!
Happy New Year everyone!