Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The M-I-L Quilt

Last month, I finally finished a quilt for my mother-in-law. Mind you, this quilt has been in the works for quite some time. I purchased the fabric three years ago this past Spring, with the intention of making and of giving the quilt to her for Christmas that year. Needless to say, that didn't happen.

Back in March, I pulled the fabric out of my storage bin and began working on this quilt to present to her for Mother's Day. One week beforehand, the top was mostly finished, and after cutting the final pieces per the written instructions, I discovered I was 3.5" x 13" too short to complete the quilt top. Damn!

This particular quilt top was designed to use just three (3) yards of fabric, to minimize waste and facilitate the ease of constructing it. I had followed the instructions to the letter, cut each fabric as described and yet I was still short of fabric. Why you ask? Well, I quickly discovered that the designer had intended the long vertical pieces to be stitched together butted up against one another, right side to right side, one on top of the other. And if I had joined those strips in that manner, I would not have had any shortages.  But, I have been taught that to strengthen such long, narrow pieces, one should stitch them on a diagonal or miter to help minimize wear and stress on those seams.

So, what to do? There was no way to find the exact same fabric three years later. I had to scramble and find a close match, and rip out and re-sew the entire outside border, and then use that same fabric for the binding. To the average person, they will never see the difference. To me, and I'm certain to other quilters, it will be noticed. (That's Michel peeking out, like Wilson from "Home Improvement".)

I haven't mastered free-motion quilting, so
it's all straight line for now.
But alas, it is finished, and it looks pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. And it is the first quilt top I've made where ALL of the corners aligned properly and squarely. I attribute that to the machine - a 1947 Singer 201K that I picked up in the Spring. The entire quilt was pieced, quilted, and partially bound on this machine (I plan on featuring it in a post, just give me time). Even though the quilt design is simple, I am truly proud of the finished product and enjoyed making it, fabric shortage notwithstanding. I certainly hope MIL enjoys it as well. She lives on the Florida coast, and tends to be a bit cold natured in the wintertime. This should suit her nicely.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Going Foreign, or How a Swiss-Made Bernina Joined Our Home

Thursday morning, shortly after I arrived at work, my boss' wife came into my office area to show me a classified ad for a local estate sale listing various "sewing machines and items".  My boss' wife is my second biggest enabler, with Michel being the other.  So, as soon as someone else was in the office, she and I headed out to the sale.

For the most part, the sale was a bust. I wouldn't classify the items they had as "junk", as there were some good items. But those good items were priced at nearly full retail, which to me, defeats the purpose of garage/estate sales - to move things out quickly while making a buck or two. In the garage area, I found the sewing items mentioned in the ad. One was a modern plastic Singer. That one I immediately passed on.

The next machine caught my eye. I knew it wasn't a vintage Singer, but I wasn't certain what it was until closer inspection. It was a vintage Bernina Record 730. I looked it over and other than being filthy, it appeared in good shape with lots of accessories, original manual, case and there was even a sewing table that appeared made for it (sold separately, of course).

1969 Bernina Record 730

I will be the first to admit that I know nothing about Bernina sewing machines, other than they are Swiss made (or were) and that they are considered Top-of the-Line sewing machines and have been for a long time.  My only experience with Bernina has been with the recent acquisition of a Bernette serger; an excellent stitching, excellently well built serger and which has forced my Kenmore serger into retirement (or at least storage).

I also know that they are very expensive sewing machines and most are generally out of my comfortable price range. The price listed for this estate sale Bernina 730 didn't appear off base, but it was more than I've paid for any machine at an estate/garage sale. I decided to pass on it - too much of a personal unknown for my comfort.

I went back to the office, but something about the Bernina kept tugging at the back of my mind. I began doing some research and decided that I should have bought it. Regret set in and by the end of the day, I knew someone else had probably purchased the machine. I told Michel about it when he got home, and he convinced me to go back to the sale on Friday morning and get the machine if it were still there. I slept on it and Friday morning I had decided to hold to my guns and let the Bernina go; I just didn't know enough about Bernina's, even vintage ones.

But Saturday morning, Michel wanted to go antique shopping and while we were going to be out, he convinced me to go back to the estate sale. (Like I had a choice, he was driving after all.) So, we drove out to the sale and the machine was still there, and priced half off. At that price, I had to buy it. I figured from the research I had done, at the very least I could part the machine out and get my money back. I packed it all, paid for it, loaded it into the car.

When we got home later Saturday evening, I set out to start cleaning up the Bernina. Taking the load off the motor, I plugged it up and tested it. The motor spun right up, no issue there. I re-engaged the stop motion clutch and turned the machine over by hand. Tight. SUPER tight. I pulled out the manual and began oiling in all the proper locations. With the manual, there was a service tag where the machine had been serviced by the local store (still in business) back in 1986. Yes, this machine is going to need some TLC.
Mostly cleaned up - It has a 75 Jahre badge on it. Does this
make it special?
I let the oil begin to do its job and I continued on to cleaning up the machine. It's amazing what a rag with warm water will wash away. After the first round of cleaning, I tried turning the machine by hand again. Much easier and smoother until it hit one spot. I assumed it needed more oil so I began looking for the sticky spot. I moved the stitch selection lever through its paces, tried the zigzag....no left-to-right needle movement. But I could move it manually. I scanned through the operator's manual on how to set the machine; nope, still no zigzag. I dug in deeper...and there it was - a cracked and busted cam gear. Damn, not what I wanted to see.
When this section of the cam gear meets the lower worm gear,
the machine becomes extremely tight and nearly impossible
to turn by hand. It will need to be replaced.
I quickly googled 'Bernina cam stack gear' and learned it was not uncommon for this particular gear to crack or break. It is made of nylon, and as I know from 1960s and 1970s model Singers, nylon gears wear out over the years. Decision time. After researching the price of the gear, and what it would take to replace it, and looking at the prices and praises of fully functional Record 730 machines, I have decided the machine is worth repairing.

While I am at it, I will replace the drive belts. They are still intact and functional, but they are dry and brittle and in time, they will break. Once the gear and the belts arrive, I will chronicle replacing the cam stack gear. This will be a challenge for me on two fronts: one, I know vintage Singers, not vintage Berninas; two, I generally work on straight stitch machines, not zigzags. The few Singer zigzag machines I have serviced have never needed repair in their internal ZZ mechanisms, so this Bernina will present me with several new firsts. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Bright Spot to the Day

On the way home from the grocery store yesterday, I passed a young girl who was selling lemonade from her front yard 'stand'. I gave a cursory glance, smiled and drove on by. About three blocks down the road, I turned around. In fact, I turned around in a church parking lot - the same church were I always see some of the most uplifting Bible quotes and verses on a placard out front (they are always filled with Hope, never Fire & Brimstone). I turned the car around, and went back to the young girl's lemonade stand, and bought a lemonade. I don't know why, but I did. She was maybe 12 or 13 and the most polite young lady I've met in a while. I felt good afterwards and the lemonade was freshly squeezed and quite delicious! I thanked her and went home and charged through a clarinet lesson, beaming from the inside out.

I've been in a great mood since; I woke up on time and in a good mood. If she's there again today on my way home, I'll stop and buy another lemonade; and as long as she's out voluntarily working in the late afternoon heat, and still smiling about it, I'll crack open my penny jar to support her enterprise. I don't know if my single dollar made any difference to her, but that young lady certainly made a difference in my day, or better yet, in my week. Young people such as her remind me that not all is lost in America.

So, if you see a kid with lemonade stand - my advice to you: don't drive on by, but rather stop. It could just be what you 'really' thirst for.