New Orleans House Project

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Hand Cranking Through the Strings

Since today's weather was not conducive to outdoor activities (it was raining to hard to even jump in the car and go antiquing!), I decided to pull out one of my long-term quilt projects.  I keep this project at the camp and work on it when there's inclement weather or I need a project to keep my hands busy while watching a movie or sporting event.

Here is my secret for sewing while watching TV - a nice, quiet, hand-cranked sewing machine!  This model happens to be a Singer Model 99.  It uses "modern" round bobbins, takes regular thread (I'm using Masterpiece 100% cotton thread here, but cotton-covered poly thread works fine, too), and sews a beautiful straight stitch.  I have the machine set on the coffee table in the great room at our camp.  It's not a great ergonomic set-up, but it works well when I want to sew and still watch TV with my DH.

The hand crank mechanism attaches to the sewing machine flywheel.  It has a short finger that fits between the spokes of the wheel and drives the wheel as the crank is turned.  You can see the finger at about 3 o'clock in this picture.  It's not a machine for pedal-to-the-metal speed sewing, but it is good for all-round accurate piecing.  And for string piecing!

My rainy day project is based on Bonnie Hunter's Spiderweb quilt.  I have accumulated a huge stash of purple and gold scraps (OK, I have scraps and yardage!) thanks to a couple of Louisiana State University scrap quilts I made.  My goal is to put a dent in the scraps by making spiderweb string blocks.  As you can see, I'm using Bonnie's technique of piecing on old phone book pages.  You'll also notice I traded out the standard Singer sewing foot for a quarter inch piecing foot.  Quarter inch seams are not entirely necessary for string quilts, but I wanted to show that it's possible to find quarter inch feet that will fit these vintage machines.

Since the iron is in the other room and I'm lazy, I just finger-press the strings as I go.  

String block with all the floppy pieces, read for pressing.

Over to the cutting board for trimming.

One of four finished units for the Spiderweb block.

I managed to crank out 8 blocks during the LSU-Stony Brook baseball game.

And here's a batch of 16 blocks to show a complete spiderweb.


  1. This is so lovely! Your fabrics are wonderful and that sewing machine is really amazing...hand cranking...I didn't know this existed...good for you!

  2. The blocks look terrific, and your vintage sewing machine is a beauty! It's nice that there's a 1/4-inch foot available for it. I have one hand-crank machine but haven't given it a try. Maybe now I should! Thanks for the inspiration today.

  3. Love your string blocks, and love your Singer 99 HC. I've made a spiderweb quilt, and I also own a Singer Spartan HC (along with a few other hand cranks). Great colors.

  4. I have several hand cranks, but my 99 'born' handcrank is my favorite. (Some of the others I converted from electric) It is so smooth I just love to crank it. It looks just like yours. Happy sewing!