sustainable sewing

Posted on | August 6, 2010 | 21 Comments

I’ve been waiting all week to see if I had a tale of joy or a tale of woe to share.

Last Friday, I bought a 1951 Singer 15-91 from a guy off Craigslist.  Brought it home, read the manual thoroughly, gave it a good oiling and sewed happily for about two hours.  Then the machine started slowing down.

Our resident mechanic couldn’t figure out what was wrong, so I bought engine lubricant from the nicest man at Eastwood Sewing Center (I was SO happy I didn’t have to drive 30 minutes to a big box store for a $4 tube of lubricant!).  Anyway.   The lubricant didn’t work.  The machine would sew fine for about five inches, then gradually slow to a crawl.  I tried a few remedies from on-line sources but was afraid I’d blow the motor if I continued, so Monday I took it to the sewing center for servicing.  It came back to me a new machine.

This was SB’s view last night.

And this was mine.  I’m making a string quilt, using the paper piecing method from Film in the Fridge’s handy tutorial.

We go through a lot of paper at the office, and I’ve started saving paper that would normally be thrown away (I have TRIED to get them to adopt a recycling program – they’re not interested), and cut the paper down to 6″ squares which I then sew strips to.

This is an idea of what the squares will look like.  Tonight’s cutting night – I get to trim the edges of all the squares I made last night (close to a dozen, I bet, I was on a tear!) and cut more strips of fabric for sewing this weekend.

I can’t tell you how happy I am to have a working sewing machine.  A co-worker gave me a hand-me-down Brother that I couldn’t get to work (computer error code), which would cost $65 just to have someone LOOK at it, or $150 to buy a new one.  I returned it to her.  A good good friend offered his mom’s old Singer to me MONTHS ago and I reminded him of his offer, but he’s busy and hasn’t had time to dig the machine out from under a pile of stuff from his mom’s house.  I didn’t want to pressure him (he has all this stuff because his mom passed away and he may not be ready to deal with going through it) so I bought this one.  If her old Singer makes its way to me, I’ll take it and love it and one of them will go live with my daughter because I really believe that every home should have a sewing machine, and if it’s an antique, all the better.  These old machines don’t quit because of a computer error code.  You can figure out how they work – they’re brilliant in their simplicity.  They were made in a time when a sewing machine was as much of a household necessity as a refrigerator (excuse me – ice box), before the advent of the throw-away society.  I’d rather pay more money for something I know will last, rather than less money on something that’s manufactured with the idea that it won’t last more than a few years.  Call me crazy.

The happiest part of my “new” machine are the felt pads Mr. Eastwood Sewing Center put on the machine.  I had forgotten that the old machines had them and they make me happy just to look at them.  I learned to sew on an antique treadle Singer – so those red felt pads bring back a lot of good memories for me.

Never fear, fiber friends – I am still knitting!  I have NOT lost the love of the knit!  I’m 8 stitches away from finishing a pair of socks, I’m steadily working on the strips for my MIL’s blanket (although really, not very steadily), and I’ve cast on for Kaino!  I’ve also spun 2 ounces of the fiber I got from Miss Babs last week!  So, bear with me on this quilting kick and I promise fluffier fiber soon!  (although, it’s really all fiber, isn’t it?)  Have a great weekend!


21 Responses to “sustainable sewing”

  1. Cheryl S.
    August 6th, 2010 @ 9:38 am

    Congratulations on your lovely “new” machine! My sewing machine has decided it doesn’t like to zigzag any more. We need to try giving it a tune-up, but I keep forgetting. My SIL offered to give me her old one when I last visited her in LV, but we both forgot about it before I left.

  2. Paula
    August 6th, 2010 @ 10:46 am

    I learned to sew on a Singer Featherweight-which I told my mother was wrong-it was heavy to me! After years of Kenmores, I really appreciate my Bernina. Have fun!

  3. Jacey
    August 6th, 2010 @ 10:50 am

    I’ve been feeling the urge for a string quilt of my own. I love the colors you’ve chosen, and yay for a new(old) machine!

  4. Tonni
    August 6th, 2010 @ 10:59 am

    I love the new old machine … almost as much as the colors in your new quilt!! I’m going to have to look up “string quilts” – this one is going to be beautiful!

  5. mel
    August 6th, 2010 @ 11:17 am

    Wah!!! What a beautiful machine, and an awesome tale to go with it – so many people would have given up, what a payoff!! You just made me want to sew again (the desire surfaces every year or two… and fades!) Maybe I need to break out my grandmother’s machine and see if that does the trick (not nearly so pretty, a “modern” White – it’s a tank, I would love it to get some use!)

  6. Lynn in Tucson
    August 6th, 2010 @ 2:19 pm

    Those squares are beautiful! What fun!

    I learned to sew on my aunt’s c. 1964 Elna (a gift, one for each of them, to my mom and both aunts from my grandmother). It’s sitting at a friend’s house now but last I checked, it was still doing fine. And my mom still sews on hers. I’ve “upgraded” to a Pfaff (but NOT a computerized one); the old machine never gave me so much trouble.

  7. Rue
    August 6th, 2010 @ 6:24 pm

    Fabulous! Hopefully I’ll join you in this quilting binge and pull out my sewing machine this weekend.

  8. kmkat
    August 6th, 2010 @ 8:16 pm

    Your machine looks an awfully lot like the one my mother had and on which I learned to sew. There is NOTHING like an old Singer.

    I just bought myself a 1941 gear-driven Singer on eBay. Post coming soon — need to clean it and try it out.

  9. Bubblesknits
    August 6th, 2010 @ 11:06 pm

    Oooh! I love the way those squares look once they’re all trimmed! Very cool.

  10. Erica
    August 7th, 2010 @ 8:18 am

    I’m so glad it’s a tale of joy. I don’t know how I’d live without a sewing machine – even though I don’t use mine very often, when you need one, nothing else will do. The antique ones are so beautiful, too (as is the quilt you’re working on). Glad you got it working!

  11. Cookie
    August 7th, 2010 @ 12:22 pm

    Not at all crazy. Everyone needs a sewing machine and those old Singers are wonderful machines. Simple really is best at times.

    And I love your quilt squares!


  12. pdxknitterati/MicheleLB
    August 7th, 2010 @ 2:06 pm

    I love old Singers! Congratulations on your working machine. And keep knitting, too…

  13. j.
    August 7th, 2010 @ 4:07 pm

    LOOOOOVE the Singer! It’s so pretty. And sturdy. And classic. But most of all, I cannot WAIT to see more squares! I’m totally in love with your color combos so far – Love red, blue & black. I guess I know what you’ll be doing all weekend!

  14. Kathleen
    August 8th, 2010 @ 8:03 am

    Old Singers are so beautiful. My great grandmother’s treadle machine is awaiting transport from my parents’ basement to our Maine cottage. In the meantime I have a new, white, plastic Singer that I usually ignore in favor of knitting :)

  15. Becky
    August 8th, 2010 @ 8:48 am

    Congratulations on your “new” machine! I can’t imagine not having a sewing machine. Your new quilt is looking great! Can’t wait to see more squares. Has Mack been “helping?” Give him a kiss for me.

  16. Diane
    August 8th, 2010 @ 12:41 pm

    As always, I love your photos. Did your kitteh find the mouse that was teasing him through the bobbin hole or whatever the technical term is for that hole under the foot plate? Mu sewing skills are minimal and I’ve often thought I missed the opportunity take quilting classes before the local quilt shop closed. So many crafts to keep up with…..

  17. Tami
    August 9th, 2010 @ 4:45 pm

    I have knit related sewing projects floating around in my head. I just need to get them out of my head in sewn.

    Love your sewing machine! I also think its really cool that you’re recycling work paper. I’ve tried paper-piecing but don’t have the patience for it. LOL Yes, I wrote that when it’s the commonly heard thing about knitting.

    Have fun!

  18. Tina M.
    August 10th, 2010 @ 4:28 am

    It’s beautiful! I’m so glad that you were able to find someone to repair it, you’re going to use that machine until the day you die. Or, until you bequeath it to someone else.

    I love the colors on the quilt blocks, but they just so happen to be my favorites. :)

  19. Vicki
    August 10th, 2010 @ 11:08 am

    Oh! You’re making me want to sew! I’ve never heard of String Quilts before, so off to investigate!

  20. Kitten
    August 10th, 2010 @ 11:33 am

    That thing is gorgeous and the squares are lovely. I have Rick’s grandmother’s treadle and I need to fix it up. I mostly sew on my mother’s Kenmore, which is still a darn sight better than the new one Rick bought me years ago, that sounded all plasticky and was so light it skittered across the table from its own vibration. I gave that one to a SD and kept the heavy solid WORKING ones for me.

  21. Kai
    August 15th, 2010 @ 5:06 am

    I love the old Singer machines… I remember my Granny having one. Unfortunately I’ve never used one and I would so love one. My sewing though is absolutely terrible!! :D I do want to start a quilt though some time soon and I’m loving yours. The colours are gorgeous too!