Quilt "finishing"

>> Friday, August 29, 2008

The update on my quilt is that I've finally finished hand quilting the entire thing, but now I'm planning to add double the number of rows. There are diagonal lines of stitching through each full square, but I'm going to add extra rows so that each full square has an "X" in it.

In the meantime I decided to bind the edges so that while I'm working on it there's no risk of the quilt top pulling apart at the seams. Also it's satisfying to see it looking more finished.
So I have a tip for a binding without bias tape or anything else. I'm not sure how to reference this, but basically I just saw some quilters on tv doing this on their historical quilts. The only difference is that their quilts were much loftier, and their borders were bigger.

This is the view of the underside - there's no seam!

So what you do is use the bottom panel of fabric for the binding. Fold it up and over the top and hem it in place with mitred corners. Mine is about 3/8" wide. I decided to stitch it in place by hand as I knew I would never be happy with a machine-sewn finish and besides I had already gone to the trouble of hand quilting. I knew it might pucker or something and I'd just spend more time picking it out.

Of course you only need to stitch the top side, I used an invisible stitch.

Here's a close-up of one of the mitred corners:While I was trying to figure out how to hand quilt I found this helpful tutorial on youtube. I love that people take the time to make these movies to explain things.

And while I was at youtube I found these wonderful vintage Singer commercials: She Caught on Quick, Three Smart Daughters and this one from 1956-8. My favourite line: "Of course I want a Singer, who doesn't?"


Shiny old sewing machine

>> Thursday, August 28, 2008

I've finished cleaning up the 15-91 Singer that was inside the little sewing table. It was such a mess when I first saw it, but I had rubbed a little spot on the back metal plate with my finger and got the impression that it was mostly just a thick layer of greasy old dust that would clean off nicely.
This was my first glimpse of the sewing machine. Yuck!

Some close-ups of the state it was in:But now it looks like this:I use mineral oil (ie. baby oil) to clean the outside, which is safe and doesn't rub off any of the gold paint. It turned out the condition of the machine underneath the dust was very good with very little wear to the decorative gold paint and just a few light pin scratches which you'd expect from any sewing machine that's been used at all.

I also opened up areas of the machine and cleaned them with a Q-tip and some more baby oil. It's mostly just dust that collects inside the machine. Then I used sewing machine oil to oil all the points indicated in the manual, on the top and underneath the machine. I found the manual on this sewing blog. Very friendly emails and the manual arrived in no time!

Here's the back:
And a detail of the front:This is a lovely machine. It can basically do everything you need apart from built in zig-zag stitches. Ie. a nice quality stitch, adjustable stitch length, numbered tension, reverse stitching (which not all old Singers have), and it uses regular needles and round bobbins. And it has a nice elegant shape with a spacious gap in the middle (called the harp) which means you have room for sewing big items like curtains.

I've used it already and despite all the neglect there doesn't seem to be thing wrong with it. These old Singers certainly aren't very fussy, just a little bit of attention and they're ready to get back to work.


Singer Cabinet No. 40 project - reveal

>> Monday, August 25, 2008

Today I finished the last step of refinishing the sewing cabinet. It felt slightly rough after the first coat of polyurethane dried, so I sanded it all over with 220 sandpaper and brushed on another coat. This is what it had suggested on the can.

And it worked really well. Sanding created a bit of a whitish dusty look (which I wiped clean with barely damp paper towel) but it felt much smoother and after the 2nd coat of polyurethane dried the surfaces felt very smooth and nicely finished. I've varnished things before and never bothered to do the "sand between coats" step but I admit now that it really does make all the difference.

So now the cabinet is done and I can show it off. It really doesn't seem like that much work when you look back, it was just sort of frustrating at the time doing the stripping but I think I have the hang of it now. But it's a reminder that I wouldn't really want to try anything more ornate, or too big to rinse in the sink!

As I mentioned luckily it was really only the top that was damaged so the rest is still the original finish and in nice shape. This is the back view:It's funny because in the craiglist picture it really looked worse than it was. Also, the sides were up in the photo and one panel seemed to be sagging. I thought the hinges might need replacing and even had a quick look on ebay and found some listed. But when we picked up the table and moved it, a metal rod swung out and it turns out there's a support for the larger side panel that tucks into the table when it's not in use. And the hinges are in great shape and look practically new.

This support swings right out - there's a felt pad on the top

I used a cream-with-tan-stripes upholstery cotton (a sample square from the Textile Museum sale) to re-upholster the bench. I chose the light colours because it just lightens up the whole set which is a bit dark. Also it matches my new/vintage Bernina sewing machine - but that's a topic for another post. Here's a glimpse of the inside of the bench:
This is the table with the sides out and the drawer open. I didn't refinish the inside of the two side panels so they're not perfect but the polish with mineral oil spruced them up quite well. I did refinish the little panel in front of the sewing machine, so you can see what a nice match the stain was to the original finish.
I'm so glad that the cabinet turn out so well. As I mentioned it would have been less trouble to wait for one in great condition to turn up, but then again it's very satisfying to take something that's been a bit neglected and bring it back to life. Also it was a bargain at $55.

And don't forget that includes the sewing machine inside. That's been brought back to life too, I'll show that next post. Thank you for the comments!


Singer Cabinet No. 40 project - part 3

>> Sunday, August 24, 2008

This is how the pieces looked after scrubbing off the Remover and letting it dry. So the next step was to sand a little bit and get them smooth and completely bare. I used a medium sandpaper then finished with 220 - which is very fine.

This is how they looked when I finished the sanding.
I couldn't find my tack cloth so I just barely misted some paper towels with water to wipe off the dust - since they would be drying overnight anyway. These are the boards ready to stain this morning:
I used Benjamin Moore stain in a colour recommended by the local shop. I just took in one of the small boards and he picked the colour: Royal Mahogany. He had a leaflet of sample stains but I decided to just skip agonizing over the exact colour and trust him.
This stage is fun and easy, I used an old sock and some of those white latex gloves to protect my hands. And it's very gratifying to see the pale dry wood suddenly take on a rich colour.
I was worried it was a little too dark - and of course when it dries it looks a little dull. Here are the boards with their stain and ready for varnish:
So the final step of course is the varnish. I used some polyurethane I already had handy in the shed.
And it made all the difference. It brings out the grain which seemed dulled by the stain, and the glossiness makes the colours glow a bit more and look so much better. The best part is it turned out to be a perfect match to the original finish on the rest of the cabinet!

It's drying now and tomorrow I'm going to do another sand and coat of varnish, then I can show the finished cabinet. I also recovered the bench with new fabric... that was the easiest bit.


Singer Cabinet No. 40 project - part 2

The first stage of the sewing cabinet refinishing was stripping off the old varnish. This is the step I dread doing, and rarely do, mainly because it came end up in a big mess. Also there's a lot of different tips and warnings when you look it up online and it can be confusing.

close-up of the flaking varnish with bare wood showing

I don't want to recommend my way because every project is different, but I thought it might be helpful to show what I did. I would have liked to see more pictures before embarking on this step.

First of all, I have to say that this was probably the easiest kind of stripping job as it was only three flat panels. They unscrewed from the table and could be laid flat. But it was still a really yucky chore and I think it's natural to have a few moments when you wonder why you're bothering and wishing you'd just been patient and found a table in better condition to begin with. I was relieved that the rest of the cabinet was in good condition once I realized how hard it would have been to strip all the legs and little details.

I also accidentally found out that mineral oil (just baby oil available at any drugstore) does a surprisingly good job of covering up tons of scratches and marks, so I was able to restore the inner top of the table to the point where refinishing no longer seemed necessary. I just rubbed some oil on with a paper towel and it suddenly looked scratch-free and glossy.

I used rubber dishwashing gloves and an old paint brush. I took the small local shop's recommendation and used Circa 1850 Heavy Body Paint & Varnish Remover. This kind has a jelly consistency and clings in place so it doesn't make a runny mess. Definitely a good thing. It has a smell but it's not that bad at all - I think you need to work outdoors though.
You brush it on quite thickly, otherwise it will quickly dry out and not work very well. I waited 15 minutes, then used a scraper - gently so as not to gouge the wood.

I used this scraper, and wiped the gunk on a paper towel in a glass bowl. I had also poured the Paint & Varnish Remover into the glass bowl as glass can be cleaned up and will not get damaged by the chemicals.
After the first scrape

There was some varnish left over so I repeated this step.
After this there was still some varnish remnants (especially around the curved edges which are hard to get at with a flat scraper), which is when I realized I really did need the steel wool recommended to remove the last of the residue.
afterwards - the scrubbie washed clean

I think the one Bradley found for me is metal, but unlike steel wool it held it's shape and didn't compress and shred. Also it rinsed nicely and could be reused.

So the man in the store recommended washing after the stripping stage with soap and water to removed the chemicals left on the wood. And that's the part I don't recommend only because there are lots of online warnings about washing wood with water being a bad idea. And in some cases it could cause damage. But I just went ahead and did it, using the scrubbie at the same time to scrape off the last of the residue under hot water. I didn't use soap but the hot water and scrubbing seemed to be enough. Afterwards I quickly dried the pieces with paper towel and laid them to fully dry.

Luckily I ended up with some nice smooth panels of stripped wood. Ready for the next step!


Singer Cabinet No. 40 project

My weekend project is this little sewing table that I picked up last weekend just before we went camping for a few days. It's one of those things that I didn't know existed until recently but turns out is a perfect design for our small living/dining/studio/crafts room. When I did some research I discovered it's the 1940s No. 40 Singer cabinet, designed for machines such as the lovely Singer 15-91 sewing machine which is what is tucked in there right now.

The great thing about the design is that the two leaves open and the sewing machine is lifted up and settled in the top. Then you have the two leaves as extra table space while you work. But when it's shut up it's quite small. The front panel is a funny drawer that is hinged at the bottom only and has small compartments inside.
It also has a matching bench that tucks underneath. The bench has a lid that lifts up with storage underneath for sewing accessories.

Also the style is similar to other furniture we've collected for the room, a 1940s side table, an Edwardian cabinet (to be shown later) and a Duncan Phyfe dining table. It's also mahogany which matches the cabinet. All craigslist finds! In this case it's going to be a labour of love because as you can see the finish is in very bad shape. It's mainly the top, the rest seems to be in quite good condition. The good news is that it's basically the varnish that has scraped off but underneath the wood is fine. So I've been working on refinishing that and I can show you my progress in the next couple of posts...


Stash-eating granny square crochet blanket

>> Tuesday, August 05, 2008

I've had this project stashed away in a closet for some time, but decided over the weekend to get started on my granny square blanket. It will hopefully use up tons of wee leftover balls of yarn, and turn them into something useful and charming.
Here's a detail of my squares, I've pinned them in place to see how the finished blanket will look.

The original inspiration came for a vintage granny square blanket I saw in flea market style by Chalmers & Hanan. It had a white border which was my favourite part, as it offset the cheerful collection of colours in the squares. I looked carefully though and it's not just a mish-mash of colours.
So I chose mainly blues and greens, with some random bits of red, orange, pink and grey. I bought a little blue planter at the Sunday Market, and I'm already using it to store the yarn I'm using right now for the blanket.
But the truth is, as with so many of my crafts projects, it's sort of taken over the room, with more yarn in the drawers of the box I just painted, and more on the dining table. Including the elegant new glass and mercury glass vase I bought recently, which is now crammed with yarn. Oh well! I like having the cheerful colours around.


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