Saturday, February 19, 2011


After a lot of de-griming, I got my treadle up and running.  Like I posted before, she's a 1903 Singer 15, and according to the serial number she was made in Elizabeth, New Jersey, though, mysteriously, she came with a manual written in German.  After several rounds of cleaning and oiling, I replaced the belt, and she was ready to go.

I got all my technical information, including a facsimile version of the manual in English, off the web. There are YouTube videos on changing the belt and threading the bobbin.  If not for the Internet, I don't know that I could have gotten this machine working on my own.

After some false starts, I figured out that a small post was missing from the otherwise working bobbin winder, so I turned to yet another modern adaptation: the electric bobbin winder.  These are pretty useful, I don't know why I didn't get one sooner.  It easily solved my problem, and now the treadle is fully operational.  There's something sweet about the rhythms of sewing on a 108 year old treadle machine, and the modern adaptations don't subtract from it one whit. 

I'm reminded when sewing on the treadle of how easily I've adapted to the needle down setting, the automatic thread cutter,  and other handy innovations of my modern machine.  The old Singer is more temperamental and fiddly.  I have to be very precise with my technique, which isn't the case with newer machines.  I also have to pin a lot more than I've become used to due to that funny narrow foot.  Now I'm remembering vividly what it felt like to sew on the old family Singers when I was a girl: I have to approach this machine like a wild horse: cautiously and calmly.

But when the woman- machine relationship is in sync, some lovely things can come of it.  I've been making these big 9-patch blocks from 5" squares Debra sent me.  I'll sew them together when I get enough of them--either with or without sashing--and let her quilt it for donation. 

I also wound my Kool-Aid dyed yarn into balls:

I think I'm going to make a shawl with these coordinated colors.  I'll knit the body in the variegated yarn and do a lace edging in the solid color. 

The greenish yarn has already been cast on for a 28's Big Sister 77 shawlette, available on Ravelry.  The old lime green sweater is adapting to its new life as two completely different colored shawls quite nicely.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Playing Mad Scientist: Unraveling a Sweater and Kool-Aid Dyeing the Yarn

I saved this old sweater to harvest the yarn.  I wore this sweater a lot, but although the wool yarn was still good, the color had started to fade in spots, and it didn't fit me very well anymore.  

I unraveled it and wound the yarn into skeins. Here's my favorite tutorial on reclaiming yarn from knitted garments.   I got two big skeins: one from the back and one from the front, and two smaller skeins from the sleeves.  I soaked these for several hours until they were good and wet and then Koolaid dyed the yarn similar to the way I did before.

The small skeins got dyed with two colors of Koolaid:  purple and orange.  I just barely dipped part of the skeins in the purple, which resulted in an olive green.  The parts I left in longer dyed a dark brown, and the orange turned into a nice rust color.

Snazzy, huh?  These will make some nice fingerless gloves or a shawlette.  The yarn is fingering weight.

One of the big skeins got dipped in a pot of blue Koolaid, and then I pulled out one end, added more Koolaid to the pot, and let the other end get darker.

This is enough for a nice shawl.  Those light bands are the spots where I tied the skeins.  Next time I'll tie them more loosely, though I like the random light bits.

I ran out of Koolaid for the other skein, which I dyed an almost solid rust after a quick trip to the store for more orange. I've been accumulating  some shawl pattens on Ravelry, but I'll have to wait for the yarn to dry to cast on. 

I hope you're looking forward to a creative week.  I feel my schedule calming down into a more manageable pace, so I'm looking forward to some new projects.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

"Her Radiance" (11x17)

I've been even more MIA than usual, working on a big project at work, and not having a lot of spare time.  However, I've been working on this piece a bit at a time, using one of Flor Larios's fabric images.

I had the idea that I wanted to use prairie points as a textural feature, and some of my extensive collection of metal buttons.  After some initial clumsy construction errors, this piece came together very nicely.  Friday I came home late and buzzing with adrenaline, so I sat down to finish the machine sewing, and then on Saturday, I added the hand work.  There are times when I just need to sew for the sake of my soul, and I finished this piece in just that mood.

I embellished this Virgin of Guadalupe image with machine stitching and embroidery, which also acted as quilting.  Don't you love her blue eye shadow?  That's what drew me to this sweet image in the first place.  I remember shopping for a Virgin of Guadalupe statue in Tijuana and selecting from the ones whose makeup wasn't too heavy-handed and whose eyeshadow wasn't too obvious.

I used a variety of plain metal buttons.  You can see my free motion quilting on her dress, and the blue inner border was cut from a pillowcase my mother sent me.

I've continued to use vintage linens for small quilt backs.  I used half a doily for the rod pocket, and I cut the back from an embroidered dresser scarf.  

The title of this piece comes from the Nican Mopohua, the narrative of the apparitions of the Virgin of Guadalupe to Juan Diego, written in the 1500s.  On the label I've included a quote from the narrative in the original Nahuatl language and in English: Her radiance was like precious stones, it seemed like an exquisite bracelet.  This is what I wanted to capture with the prairie points and the buttons: a picture of the light radiating from her person. 

Have a creative week everyone. 

Sweater Genesis

  A few years ago I learned to harvest yarn from old wool sweaters.  I don't do it so much anymore, with the exception of if I find...