New Orleans House Project

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Treadling Toward Retirement?

Several years ago my DH decided we could never afford to retire, so he wished to begin enjoying his retirement now, "one weekend at a time".  We searched for almost two years to find just the right place to escape the stresses of work and urban life, preferably on or very near the water.  We finally found just the right place and have been enjoying One Weekend At A Time whenever the opportunity presents itself.
My Dear Husband created this sign to announce his retirement policy.
Although I enjoy all the outdoor activities our weekend home has to offer, I can't escape from the stresses of work without some quilting, too!  To that end, I duly installed one of my favorite sewing machines at the camp:
This beauty is a Singer Model 15 treadle.  Collectors call the decals on this machine "Sphinx" or "Memphis".  I can't say exactly how old this machine is, but I don't think she was heavily used, as her decals are in beautiful condition.  Yes, I know it is possible to assign a date to Singer machines based on their serial number.  However, those numbers are only a guide to the general timeframe a machine was manufactured, and should only be used as a guide.  Besides, the machine is at the camp and I'm at home - I don't have the serial number written down anywhere.

The Singer Model 15 is a terrific workhorse sewing machine.  It sews a fantastic straight stitch and has a huge bobbin capacity.  These old machines were made to last and since they don't have plastic parts and electronics, they are simple to maintain.  My particular model only has a knob for stitch length adjustment, but later models have a stitch length adjustment lever and can also sew in reverse.  
The most distinctive characteristic of the Model 15 is the placement of the tension adjustment knob on the back of the machine.  If you find a machine with this type of tension adjustment, chances are it is a Model 15 or a Japanese copy of a Model 15.  Between Singer's manufacture and all the Japanese clones that appeared after WWII, the Model 15 was in production for a long time.  If you are looking for a reliable straight-stitch machine without investing an arm and a leg, you won't go wrong with a Model 15 or a clone.
Using a treadle sewing machine is pretty simple.  It might take a little practice to get the hang of it, but the treadle motion quickly becomes second nature.  The added exercise is a nice plus, too.  Living on the Gulf Coast - where power failures can happen with even a mild thunderstorm - it's also very convenient to have an electricity-free sewing machine! 

The Age of the Interwebs has made it easy to find antique and vintage sewing machine resources.  If you are interested in using a people-powered sewing machine, I recommend the Treadle On website as a great starting point.  It's a down-to-earth website loaded with practical information presented in a straightforward, but fond and often humorous way.  Treadle On!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Memory Quilts

Today is the second anniversary of my dad's passing.  Although he's been on my mind a great deal in the past few days, I didn't realize until just a little while ago that today was the actual anniversary.  I guess I've been honoring him in my own way though, because I've been working on memory quilts made from my dad's shirts.

When Dad died, Mom wasn't sure what to do with his closet FULL of plaid and striped shirts.  I eventually brought home two trash bags full of shirts and began cutting them up for quilts.  Inspired by Bonnie Hunter's Scraps & Shirttails (and her other books as well), I pieced two quilt tops made almost entirely of shirting fabrics.

The first top completed was inspired by Bonnie's Star Struck pattern (the pattern is called Star Gazing in the book and includes sashing, cornerstones and a pieced border).  I added some greens and neutrals I pulled from my stash.  In some cases, the light vs dark values of the shirting fabric don't provide a lot of contrast, so you may have to squint a little to see the stars!
Among other things, my dad was an avid fisherman.  
Arlan Bowen, late 1960s
I found some great novelty fish prints for the back of the Star Struck quilt.
And Cindy Braiwick, my long-arm quilting collaborator, added wonderful quilted fish and other sealife to the quilt top.

For the next quilt, I was determined to use only shirting fabrics, as the pile of fabric seemed to be growing instead of shrinking. I chose Blue Ridge Beauty from Adventures in Leaders and Enders for my inspiration.
I've tweaked the colors here to try to give a truer representation, but it's hard to get dark blues to show up properly.  The outer border is a navy blue Quilter's Linen from Robert Kaufman Fabrics.
The pattern is made up from four-patches and half-square triangles set in a barn-raising formation.
Dad playing guitar at the Sopchoppy (FL) Senior Center, 2009.  His buddy, Roger Walton, is playing banjo.
My dad was also a musician; largely self-taught and not a professional, but he loved to play the guitar and sing.  After retirement, he found a group of like-minded individuals, and they played together every Friday morning at the local senior center.
I thought this Michael Miller "Jam Session" fabric would make a great back for this particular quilt.  It is now with Cindy Braiwick; I can't wait to see what magic she creates with her quilting!

After making those two memory quilts, I needed a little break from all that plaid fabric!  I focused on some other projects and finished up several other UFOs.  But about a week ago, the plaid started talking to me again and yesterday I started playing with design arrangements.  I need to make at least five (!) more quilts so all the children and grandchildren can have their own.  That's a lot of memories to share!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pieces of the Past: Double Wedding Ring

Here's another one of my Family Mystery Quilts: no one seems to know if the quilt was made by my maternal great-grandmother (Bertha Julianna Hoffmann Sommerfield) or maternal grandmother (Norma Gerke Sommerfield).  It doesn't really matter who made the quilt, I just love having a wonderful, tangible connection to my past!
Bailey, my Lab mix quilting buddy, is admiring the quilt from the corner of the pic!
When my mom gave me this quilt, I was a little dismayed by the bright yellow background fabric.  I don't think the quilt had ever been used, let alone washed, and the yellow background was very vivid!
On the other hand, the backing fabric was fabulous!
I gave in to temptation and washed the quilt.  The yellow color softened perceptibly and didn't clash quite so much with the pink borders.  The quilt now has pride of place on the guest bed.
The rings have bubblegum pink and green centers.

All those little pieces make a great fabric catalog.  Most of the fabrics are typical 1930s and 1940s prints.  

Several of the pieces are double pinks and indigo prints, fabric styles which have remained popular for generations!
The quilt measures approximately 78" x 94".  It is hand-pieced and hand-quilted.  I'm really not sure when the quilt was made; the fabrics give a clue, but I don't have any information on the date they were actually assembled into a quilt.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Rainbow Scrap Saturday

I have been looking forward to the Rainbow Scrap Challenge update all week!  I just finished browsing through this week's entries and I loved seeing all the creativity.

Last week I finished three 16-patch blocks using red scraps.

My plan is to add hourglass (quarter square triangle) blocks in between the 16-patch blocks to add some additional color and movement to the quilt.

This week I made one more scrappy red 16-patch and cut some quarter square triangles so I could play with the hourglass blocks.
I tried using all reds for the QSTs, but it just didn't "pop" like the white.  

I can't wait for next month's color assignment so I can continue playing with my scraps!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Pieces of the Past: New Home Sewing Machine Co. III

The last examples of New Home Sewing Machine Co. trade cards are not truly trade cards, but they do represent Victorian-style advertising and foreshadow the demise of trade cards in favor of postcards.  I posted some of the images in a larger size so you could see the details in the illustrations - please be patient while everything loads.
A true trade card - no advertising on the reverse, just kids and cats playing with the sewing machine.
This image is not a true trade card.  It is larger than a typical trade card and printed on heavier stock.  It's also cut to follow the printed image.  This may have been done by a collector or it may have been originally issued this way.  Perhaps it was used as an in-store advertisement or maybe part of a calendar.  Regardless, it has typical imagery from the period: this time a pug dog is even included!
Another example of advertising that is not a true trade card.  Again, a much larger size and printed on heavy card stock.  The smaller image in the upper right had corner appears to be pasted in place.  I can't quite figure out what is happening in the scene - was the little girl sewing something for dolly when Mother caught her in the act?
At first glance, this piece appears to be a bookmark.  It's actually a cut-out, which becomes a three-dimensional house when assembled. 
As the popularity of Victorian trade cards waned, advertisers introduced variations on a theme.  Paper dolls were used for advertising a multitude of products, including sewing machines.  This image was also meant to be cut and assembled.

The last four cards in the New Home collection are actually postcards.  By the end of the nineteenth century, trade cards were being replaced in popularity by postcards.  Prior to 1898, only the US Postal Service could issue postcards.  After that date regulations were changed and postcards became an increasingly popular medium for images of all sorts, as well as for sending messages!
These two postcards are typical images that were repeated in various forms for years:  beautiful, well-groomed women posed with sewing machines.  Do a search on eBay for postcard + sewing machine and  you'll likely get a crop of photo postcards with similar illustrations.
This amusing image may have been New Home's response to Singer's Costumes of All Nations cards.  If you've ever moved a treadle sewing machine (they were made of cast iron), you can image what this camel is feeling!
Another common sewing machine image: sewing/repairing a garment while the wearer is occupying it.  This postcard may be a reproduction.  Note the greyhound dog near the top of the card - the "light-running" greyhound was New Home advertising logo.

That wraps up the New Home Sewing Machine Company cards in my collection.  I'm not sure which company I'll focus on next; if you have any requests please leave them in the Comments section!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Rainbow Scrap Challenge 2012: January

Soscrappy's Rainbow Scrap Challenge for 2012 grabbed my attention a few weeks ago.  What's not to like?  I love scrap quilts and I love color.  I just needed to decide on what type of blocks I wanted to make.  I wanted to be able to use some of my Scrap-Users pre-cut scrap strips and I wanted an easy block so I could resort to mindless sewing on weeknights when I was too tired for finicky cutting and piecing.

One quilt pattern that has been on my "to do" list for awhile is 16-patch blocks set with hourglass blocks.  This is a great scrap-using pattern and the hourglass blocks add interest by creating secondary square within square blocks around the 16-patches.
This quilt from several years ago illustrates the secondary design.  This time around I'll be using 16-patches and multiple colors.

I used my 2" scrap strip collection and pulled as many reds as I could find.  I needed to cut a few strips from my red stash in order to get at least a little light vs dark balance going.  It didn't take long to have 3 blocks completed.
I haven't cut the hourglass blocks yet.  I envision using all the rainbow colors for those as well, with white and off-white fabrics as the neutral.  The arrangement of the colors in the hourglass will coordinate with the colors of the adjacent blocks.  So the hourglass blocks will likely include two different colors plus the neutral.  Perhaps this week I will cut some quarter-square triangles and play with hourglass block set-ups.

The 16-patch blocks were so much fun I'm trying to decide just how many I should make in each colorway!

Saturdays are link sharing days for Soscrappy's Rainbow Challenge, so check out the link to all kinds of scrappy red creativity!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Civil War Tribute BOM block 3

It feels a little strange to be posting about this BOM series, since it is now several years old and other Civil War BOMs have been published in the meantime.  OTOH, I'm really dedicated to keeping up with the block-a-month progress and blogging about my progress is a good incentive.  Without further ado, I give you block #3:  Twinkling Star.
This block is meant to memorialize the Battle of Shiloh, which occurred in April of 1862.  Shiloh was the bloodiest battle of the war up to that point, with almost 24,000 casualties.  One of the major outcomes of the battle was the realization, North & South, that the war would not be over quickly and without great loss of life.

I was not overly familiar with the Battle of Shiloh until I read Tony Horowitz' Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Confederates in the Attic.  His account of a memorial pilgrimage to Shiloh inspired me to want to visit the battlefield myself.  Haven't made it there yet, but I'm hopeful for this April.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Pieces of the Past: New Home Sewing Machine Co. II

Continuing to delve into my scrapbook of sewing machine Victorian trade cards, here are some more advertising images for New Home sewing machines.  (New Home Sewing Machine Co. I)

Another common Victorian trade card theme was to depict the item being advertised being used as a completely different object.  In this card, the sewing machine is incorporated into a high-wheeled bicycle.
The Light-Running 
New Home Sewing Machine
Johnson, Clark & Co.
Orange, Mass.

An interesting historical note - bicycles were all the rage during the last quarter of the 19th century, and the first bicycle factory was started by a fellow who gave up sewing machine production to manufacture bicycles.

New Home sewing machine being used for ice skating!
Chariot a la New Home sewing machine.

Yet another strategy employed by Victorian trade cards involved a blissful or idyllic lifestyle associated with the product being advertised.
Doesn't every young girl dream of a New Home sewing machine?
La Maquina de Coser New Home De Movimiento
Suave Y Ligera.
A common English language card, I happened to also find this one in Spanish.  Roughly translated it says the New Home sewing machine is smooth and light-running.

These two cards have copyright dates from the early 1880s.  Don't you love the idealized version of life suggested when one owns a New Home sewing machine?
One could probably write volumes analyzing the images on these cards.  I enjoy the history, the art work and the glimpses of everyday life from over a century ago!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Funny How Time Slips Away!

Oh - hello - and happy New Year!  I had no intention of taking such a lengthly break from blogging, but time has just slipped away the past few weeks.  Not to mention very little quilting has been done!

My life is finally starting to return to its normal pace.  Or at least the "new" normal, as DH and I have promised ourselves to expend extra effort on eating less and moving around more (ELMAM).  I don't mind the moving around more, but it does require some juggling of priorities - like quilting and blogging.  I think I will have to add "sleep less" to the ELMAM strategy!
Since New Orleans is in the grip of college football fever, I thought it would be fun to share some of my LSU (Geaux Tigers!) quilt efforts.

My youngest son asked me to make an LSU quilt for him several years ago - I think it was during his freshman year at LSU.  When your child actually sketches out a quilt design and asks you to make it, how can you say no?  His original design was a little more like a flag or banner, so I added some pieced quilt blocks to make it more quilt-like.  My vintage sewing machine friend Annie Kusilek did some wonderful free-motion swirls and other effects to really bring the quilt to life.  
David with his LSU football quilt
I'll have to devote another blog entry to what the entire quilt looks like, but it's essentially an hommage to LSU football and records all the SEC and Championship titles accrued by the team.  David and I have had some minor discussion on what to do about the outcome of the 2011-2012 football season, but we don't want to jinx anything by making serious plans yet!

Being as David's LSU quilt was very scrappy, I wound up with a huge collection of purple and gold fabric when the quilt was finished.  I created another scrappy quilt for a dear friend of his, but the purple and gold scrap pile was barely dented.
This is the completed quilt before quilting.  The border fabric is a wonderful tiger print by Robert Kaufman from their "Portraits of the Wild" collection.  I was inspired by a quilt in one of the Better Homes & Garden quilt magazines - a combo of nine-patches and hour-glass blocks.  The quilt was gifted several years ago and I no longer have access to it for more pictures.
Now I'm using the purple and gold scraps to piece some string blocks.  The center fabric is a very pale yellow batik.  I usually prefer to piece my string quilts onto fabric, but I didn't have enough of the yellow batik to use it as a foundation fabric.  I put a size 14 needle into the sewing machine and shortened the stitch length, so removing the paper foundations has been pretty easy.  
I haven't decided yet just how these blocks will go together; I may do the traditional spiderweb quilt setting or I may add some other blocks.  For now, it's just comforting piecing that keeps my hands occupied while I'm watching football!