New Orleans House Project

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Trade Card Tuesday: A Toast with St. Nicholas

I have not seen many Victorian trade cards that feature Santa Claus (or St. Nicholas) and sewing machines.  There may be a few cards or postcards with pictures of Santa and toy sewing machines, but I just haven't seen any cards with the Jolly Old Elf and a regular machine.  Santa does show up in late 20th century ads for sewing machines - I guess we can thank Madison Avenue for convincing our loved ones we'd like appliances as Christmas gifts!

Sewing and blogging time will be almost non-existent for me over the next several days, so I'll leave you with my Christmas greeting - St. Nicholas and my namesake sharing a moment of repose over a glass of bubbly.

The card is framed, and I can't remember if there is actual advertising copy on the reverse, but I love the image!  My DH collects Santa Claus figures and images, so this card speaks to us on several levels.  If you look closely at the angel, you'll see he is holding a scythe (an image often associated with Father Time) and an hourglass is near his feet.  Perhaps the image is meant to symbolize the week of good cheer between Christmas and New Year's.  

Wishing everyone a Joyous Christmas and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Trade Card Tuesday: Domestic Sewing Machines Vol. I

The Domestic Sewing Machine Company was a fairly early entrant in the sewing machine manufacturing game.  The company started in 1864 in Ohio.  Their original machines used the vibrating shuttle mechanism, which was newer technology than Singer's transverse shuttle.  This new technology was the basis for Domestic's advertising for many years.

This card is actually a small booklet.  The outside sends greetings to all lovers of Antiquities.  The inside contains the illustration above.  On the left, the sharp-dressed man exclaims, "Yes, my father was a great antiquarian."  The caption on the right reads, "Where he studied antiquity."  

The card can be interpreted two ways.  One is the obvious - many early sewing machines were of poor quality and didn't hold up to the rigors of every day sewing.  It wasn't long before they were worn out antiquities.  Domestic machines however, would not succumb to that fate!

The second interpretation is a sly reference to the thought held by many that Elias Howe did not dream up his sewing machine on his own, but heavily borrowed (stole!) ideas from an earlier inventor named Walter Hunt.  Hunt invented a sewing machine in 1834 but failed to patent it.  Howe's machine was very similar to Hunt's, including the same features that made Hunt's machine impractical for serious sewing.  BTW, Walter Hunt also invented that gadget indispensable to modern machine-quilters:  the safety pin.

Here's a variation on a puzzle card - there are hidden faces in the different continents on the globe.

When opened, one learns the Domestic is The Star That Leads Them All.

The characters on this card may seem a little strange to our eyes, but in their time they were some of the most popular and beloved fictional characters around.  These little guys are inspired by Palmer Cox's Brownies, cartoon characters from the last century. The Brownies had all kinds of adventures which were shared in popular books and later became pitchmen for all kinds of products.  In keeping with Domestic's assertion their machines lasted longer than any others - check out the sewing machine cemetery in the background!

Three women engaged in sewing with a Domestic machine.  Is the tea-tray carrying maid in the background meant to be a pun on the name Domestic?  The sewing patterns in use here were also created and sold by Domestic; the pattern numbers are listed on the reverse of the card.  

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Slow Sunday with a Finish!

It was a disappointing afternoon for New Orleans Saints football fans, but I managed to Keep Calm and Carry On with my hand stitching despite my team's embarrassing loss.  The binding on the Exotic Star quilt is now finished.  I guess I can call this my first "blended" quilt.  I still love the fabric despite my aggravation with piecing the pattern.  

Next up, another memory quilt is in the binding queue.  The quilt needs to be squared up and the binding still needs to be made, but maybe I can make time for that this week.  We'll see - I have a lot on my plate work-wise and family-wise this week, so my next hand-stitching project may get delayed for awhile.

I hope everyone is having a piece-ful Sunday.  Do stop by Kathy's blog to see what other Slow Sunday hand-stitchers are up to!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Little Progress

My "Sew Sixty" inspiration did not help me accomplish much sewing this week.  Too much time was taken up with work, family events and social activities.  I enjoyed the family events and social activities, so all was not lost! <g>

Some progress has been made on sashing the Granny Squares and here's a quick and sloppy iPad photo to prove it.  I am debating machine quilting this myself or sending it to my local longarm quilter.  I'm strictly a straight-line gal when it comes to machine quilting - utilitarian and fairly quick.  On the other hand, I do think this design would look good with a swirly type design, which would mean longarm quilting.  We'll see what the quilt tells me when it's finished.

I'm off to share this with the Rainbow Scrap quilters at Soscrappy's blog and then I think I need a bit of a nap to recover from my Geocaching adventures this morning!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Grandmother's Choice: Universal Suffrage & Bride's Knot

Exercising my Sew Sixty strategy for the past week has helped me catch up on Grandmother's Choice blocks from Barbara Brackman's BOW project.

My version of block #13:  Universal Suffrage

And #14 Bride's Knot

These were relatively simple blocks, unlike Block #4 - Kansas Sunflower - the block I'm still procrastinating over!  I'm going to join up with Deb from VT Quilter and challenge myself to finish that ol' sunflower by Christmas.  

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sew Sixty

Thanks to my Dear Husband and Dear Sons we watch a lot of American football at our house.  In self-defense, I became a football fan too.  To be honest, it's hard not to be at least a casual football fan in New Orleans, because it's almost a sin to not be a New Orleans Saints fan!

As a result of watching all this football, I've developed my new personal motivational strategy for quilting.  I call it Sew Sixty.  I stole the name from the National Football League's fitness campaign aimed at kids (and adults).  Called Play 60, the program aims to get kids playing for at least 60 minutes a day, promoting an active and healthy lifestyle.

My program is aimed at getting me to sew at least 60 minutes a day.  We all know how difficult it can be at times to get motivated to sew: we're tired, we're stressed, we're distracted, we feel guilty for taking time for ourselves.  You name the excuse - we've all been there!  But it's so simple to just go sit down and start sewing.  Whether sewing by hand or stitching at the machine, it just takes that simple step of getting started.  Before you know it, you've accomplished one step in a project and are ready for another.  And the satisfaction of making that effort and having something concrete to show for it makes it all worthwhile.

So now in the evening (sometimes even in the morning before work) I head for my sewing room mentally chanting my new mantra: "Sew Sixty!  Sew Sixty!"

I finished my multi-colored Granny Square blocks this week.  These round out my Rainbow Scrap Challenge Granny Square quilt.

All the squares waiting for sashing.

Sashing and cornerstones for the Granny Square quilt.

A few more leader-ender spools in black.  I love that reproduction fabric with the mauve flowers.  Wish I had more - those were the last scraps!

And some seasonal green and red leader-enders.

A few other projects also got attention this week, but I'll hold off on sharing until there's a little more pizzaz to show.  I'm looking forward to another week of challenging myself to Sew Sixty - won't you join me?!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Grandmother's Choice: Boy's Breeches

I'm supposed to be menu-planning and making a grocery list, but I thought I'd do some hand-stitching while I enjoy my weekly cup of coffee.

Due to the dreaded Y-seams, I decided to hand-piece the week 12 block of Barbara Brackman's BOW Grandmother's Choice.  The block is known as boy's breeches and Barbara chose it as a reference to how women's clothing has evolved over the past century.  My color interpretation is rather literal, as I chose "washday" (scroll to the bottom to read about washday clothing) indigo for the breeches.  

Once I finish the breeches, it's on to hand-stitching the binding on the Exotic Star quilt.  IF I can get Moxie to give up her new favorite spot!

Linking up with Kathy's Slow Sunday Stitching today - check out what other hand-stitchers are creating this week.  BTW, check out Kathy's clever interpretation of Boy's Breeches!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Trade Card Tuesday: A Puzzlement

Victorian trade cards often used puzzles to help peddle their wares.  The cards below are examples of rebus puzzles - word play using pictures, letters and words to illustrate a common phrase or saying.

These cards are all from the Standard Sewing Machine Company of Cleveland, Ohio.  The company formed in the late 1880s and was bought out by Singer in the 1930s.

The last card is a little different from the first 3, and a little harder to figure out.
Let me know via the comments if you need a hint!

If you enjoy rebus puzzles, here's a link to a nice collection.  If you need some hints, scroll to the bottom of the page for a link to the answers!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday Stitchin' - Gone to the Dogs - and Cat!

I made some time this week to prep some hand-stitching projects so I could put my feet up on Sunday and relax with some of my favorite pastimes.

Today's main project involves stitching down the binding on the Exotic Star quilt.  It's the perfect activity for keeping my hands occupied while watching the New Orleans Saints play football this afternoon.  Apparently our cat Moxie thought it was also a purrfect activity, as she uncharacteristically jumped in my lap and napped there for almost an hour!

The dogs were also into the mellow vibe - at least for awhile.  Our youngest son came home for Thanksgiving and brought his dog, Jozy.  Jozy is from the same litter as McKenzie (he's her brother) and the two of them  had lots of puppy wrestling all weekend.  All the kids took a break for a few minutes to snooze outside my sewing room while I did some machine sewing earlier today.  From back to front:  Bailey (5 year old lab mix), McKenzie and Jozy.  

It's been delightful to have some slow hand-stitching today.  I'm going to link up with Kathy's Slow Sunday Stitching - so go check out what other hand-stitching has been going on in blogland today!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Saturday Sew Far

I'd like to list all the things I've already accomplished on a Saturday morning, but most of the things checked off my "to do" list involve never-ending household chores.  At least those things are taken care of and I can look ahead to sewing!

Today's major sewing focus is assembling Rainbow Scrap Challenge Granny Squares into a quilt top.  

I plan to sash the blocks with this multi-colored dot print, and use different colored cornerstone blocks in the sashing.

In order to get the layout square, I need to make four more Granny Square blocks.  I've decided to use some multi-colored prints for these last few blocks.  

I've also been working on leader-ender spool blocks a la Bonnie Hunter.  Even though these are small, they're a very satisfying way to use up scraps!  I'll definitely be carrying this project over to next year's Rainbow Scrap Challenge.

So I think I might need a slice of Pecan Pie to invigorate me for all that sewing.  I've got plenty left over from Thanksgiving, so please have a virtual slice with me!  While we're enjoying our pie we can stop by Soscrappy's blog and see what all the other Rainbow Challengers have been creating this week.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Grandmother's Choice: Schoolhouse

I exercised my right to choose a different block for this entry in Barbara Brackman's BOW.  Despite my best efforts, I could not get the pdf for the Schoolhouse block to print at the correct size.  So, I went searching through my quilt book library for a suitable substitute.

I found a happy 8" block in Marsha McCloskey's Christmas Quilts.

The book is out of print, but it appears copies are still available through  Besides the Schoolhouse block, there are a number of patterns for traditional blocks and plenty of red and green quilt eye candy.

I used Grid Grip for my schoolhouse roof.  Note:  because the grid templates are ironed to the wrong side of the fabric, be sure to cut the roof parallelogram piece in reverse.

Grandmother's Choice blocks to date.  I still need to make the Kansas Sunflower block, I just haven't made the time to cut and prep for the hand sewing.  Next up:  Little Boy's Britches.  Looks like more hand sewing on the horizon!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Patchwork Saturday

Sewing plans for today involved working on or wrapping up a number of different projects.

To wrap up my nine patch blocks for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge, I looked high and low all week for some specific black scraps from a Halloween quilt I made several years ago.  

I finally found the fabric and promptly stitched up two additional black nine patch blocks.

My next goal was to put some borders on the chocolate nine patch and snowball quilt.  I experimented a little with creating a pieced border using half square triangles left over from the snowballs, but I wasn't happy with the results.  I decided to just put plain fabric borders on the quilt and be done with it. But after I saw Deb's pinwheel border this morning I decided to go back and attempt a pieced pinwheel border of my own.  Unfortunately the half square triangles are at home and I'm at the camp, so this quilt top won't be finished this weekend.

Next project to wrap up:  decorative rag balls.

I found this glass jar at an estate sale last spring.  I thought the jar would be perfect for a stash of decorative rag balls.  

I used styrofoam balls for the foundation and wrapped torn strips of fabric until the foam was covered.

Finished project - a great way to use up more scraps!

I'm not planning on doing any other gray/black blocks for this month's RSC color, but there is lots of inspiration from the other scrappers over at Soscrappy's blog today.  I really need to start putting my challenge quilts together, so that will be my focus for the next several weeks.  It's going to be fun to see all the creative rainbow scrappy challenge blocks come together into quilts!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tips for Happy Treadling

It's been fun watching the uptick of interest in sewing on treadle sewing machines spread out across the quilting blogosphere.  Anything that inspires the rescue and re-use of these fantastic old machines is a Good Thing in my book.

The internet has been a fantastic way for treadle enthusiasts to share their knowledge with others.  I have mentioned the Treadle On website a number of times as a great resource for treadle (and other people-powered) machines.  But Treadle On isn't the only site with plenty of info; all it takes is a quick Google search to find illustrations, manuals, videos and all manner of helpful instruction.

I thought I would add to the body of knowledge by sharing some tips to make your treadling experience just a little bit smoother.  These are based on my personal experience with my machines; your experience and machine(s) may be just a little bit different.  Whatever - don't be afraid to jump in and give your treadle a whirl - you'll be glad you did!

One of the first things you may want to try is to align the balance between the treadle wheel and the needle position.  First, manually turn the sewing machine balance wheel so the needle is in the highest raised position.  Now look at the wheel on the treadle mechanism - there should be a small weight on the outside of the wheel somewhere.  I've circled it in red in the picture above.  Manually adjust the treadle wheel (move the wheel while holding the belt in place) so the weight is at the lowest point in it's circle.   Now as you treadle, when the weight is at the bottom of the cycle, your needle will be in the highest raised position. This may help avoid that pesky tendency of the machine wanting to want to sew in reverse when you want to go forward.

This gadget is the belt shifter.  Use it to take the belt out of the treadle wheel groove when you need to move the sewing machine head.  Slowly treadle and move the handle on the shifter until the belt comes out of the groove.  You'll want to take the belt out of the treadle wheel if you're lifting the machine head up to oil underneath, or if you're folding the machine head down into the cabinet.

Treadle belts come equipped with a large staple to hold the belt ends together.  I prefer to sew my ends together.  After cutting the belt to the right length and making holes in either end of the belt, I thread up a big ol' tapestry needle with several thicknesses of upholstery thread.  I pass the needle through the holes several times so there are multiple layers of thread holding things together.  Then I make sure the ends are snuggled up and tie the thread tightly.  I don't have to worry about the staple rusting or breaking and the thread makes for quieter treadling.  The thread does eventually wear out and break, but a spool of upholstery thread lasts a long time!  

Sewing machine oil is a treadle sewing machine's best friend.  Buy sewing machine oil.  Using any other oil or lubricating product will make your machine unhappy in the long run.   A manual with oiling instructions can be helpful, but isn't required.  The machine needs oil on any place where two metal parts work together.  Most old machines have small holes located strategically around the machine head - these holes are for oil.  On the rear of the machine pillar there is often a disc that can be opened; this is also to allow access for oiling.  Once you've oiled the upper part of the machine, remove the treadle belt from the treadle wheel and carefully tip the machine head back so you can oil all the vulnerable spots under the machine as well.

An adage to remember about oiling the machine:  "Just a drop, not a lot."

While you have the oil out, don't forget to put a drop on all the working parts of the treadle mechanism, too!

A straight-back, stationary chair is a must for happy treadling.  Find a chair with the right height so you can sew in an ergonomic position, but you're not bumping your knees on the underside of the cabinet.  Having your treadle machine on a smooth floor is a big plus, but it's possible to treadle on carpet, too.  You may need to put runners under the treadle legs to create enough clearance for the treadle pedal to move properly, but that's not a difficult fix.  Furniture casters may do the trick - just experiment to see what works.  

I've got more suggestions, but I'll save them for another post.  In the meantime, if you have questions about treadling or treadle machines, leave them as a comment and I will do my best to answer.  Happy treadling!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Getting a Grip on Paper Piecing: Grandmother's Choice Block 8

One of my goals for this weekend was to get caught up on Grandmother's Choice blocks.  All my recent non-quilting activities caused me to neglect making the weekly blocks in this quilt-along.

My neglect of GMC blocks goes back to week 8 - Rocky Road to Kansas.  This block was essentially a repeat of one of the first blocks in the series - Amethyst.  The difference in the two blocks is that RRtK is traditionally made with string piecing.  I didn't feel any love for string-piecing on such a small scale (4" sections), so I decided to use a stripe fabric instead.

I hand-pieced the Amethyst block, but decided to try something different this time around.  I've had success with a paper-piecing technique I learned in a class with quilter Eileen Sullivan many years ago. She was a big fan of a product called Grid Grip - essentially freezer paper with quarter inch grid printed on it.

I still had a package of Grid Grip from a previous project, but I wanted to make sure it was still available before I started blogging about how wonderful it is.  I found it for sale on the Prym website, but I'm sure it is available through other vendors.

The beauty of Grid Grip is you get the accuracy of paper piecing without having to rip off the paper after stitching through it!  I thought I would share how I made my Rocky Road to Kansas block using this technique.

First I drafted the block directly on to the paper side of the Grid Grip.  In this case, I drafted each quarter of the Rocky Road block (I drew 4 of these blocks).  When using this technique, draft the finished size of the block - seam allowance will be added when cutting the fabric.  Then carefully cut out each piece of the block to create templates.

Iron the templates (grid side up, shiny side down) to the wrong side of your fabric.  You can use a ruler and rotary cutter to cut out the template shapes, or you can just eyeball a quarter-inch seam and cut with scissors.  I prefer to use a ruler as it makes sewing the pieces together just a little easier.

The block components - with the paper templates still attached, laid out next to the sewing machine ready for stitching.

Pin the pieces together using the edge of the paper template as a seam guide - similar to pinning pieces together for hand piecing.  Use the edge of the paper as the stitching line.

Using your stiletto may help guide the pieces accurately.

Block pieces stitched together and pressed.  I leave the paper templates on the blocks until I'm finished piecing the entire quilt.  It helps the blocks keep their shape and provides an accurate seam line for joining all the blocks together.

Block sections from the "right" side.

Two sections joined together.  I pressed the seams open to decrease bulk.

I'm pretty happy with the final result, at least in terms of accuracy.  My stripes could be a little more obvious; maybe I'll make another block with a different striped fabric, or maybe I'll get ambitious and string-piece those little 4" cones!  

I enjoyed re-visiting this technique - it's been some time since I've used it.  Not only is it good for paper-piecing, it's great for getting really accurate pieced borders.  I hope you'll try it and add it to your quilting arsenal!