I have never owned an electric sewing machine
And apart from about ten terrifying minutes at school in the 1960s, I have never used one. Therefore I make everything using vintage sewing machines. In recent years I have accumulated a few machines, and have done my best to put them to good use.
|1949 Singer 15K|
My newest machine (in both senses, being my my most recent purchase and the most recently manufactured) is a 1949 Singer 15K hand machine.
|1945 Singer 15K|
For free motion quilting I use my 1945 Singer 15K treadle, which features on miniature videos on blog posts and also on Youtube
|1936 Singer 201K|
When using attachments such as the ruffler or the buttonholer I like to use my 1936 201K treadle.
I want to show that old sewing machines are easy to clean up and use
In 2011 my husband and I set up a Youtube channel, starting with a couple of videos showing how to thread the machine that I had learnt to sew on, an 1897 Singer 28K. Our son said nobody would be interested. He now cheerfully acknowledges that he was well wide of the mark.
|Vesta Transverse Shuttle|
Just for fun, here is a video of my prettiest machine a Vesta Transverse Shuttle dating from about 1936, with music specially composed by our son. He recorded the sound of one of my machines stitching to use as the basic rhythm, and composed a theme around it.
I prefer to use natural fibres and fabrics
For clothes I like cotton poplin prints. For quilts, the more I do free motion quilting, the more I enjoy using the plain strong colours and shot cottons from Oakshott. I tend not to use prints that are up to the minute hot and trendy because they can date a piece of work to within five years or so.
Somehow I think that using vintage machines with carefully chosen fabric, the finished work can take on a timeless quality. At least, that's what I like to tell myself.
The way I work is firmly rooted in the past
To explain this, it is perhaps easier to list the things I lack or never use to highlight the limits within which I work:-
Using vintage machines with straight stitch only, I have no zigzag, no backstitching, no overlocking (or serging, as it is known to Americans).
I have no studio or design wall - I use the dining room table and clear things away afterwards when we need to eat. The settee doubles up as a design wall. I would use the floor, but it's too mucky.
The grandly named sewing room is in fact a corner of the dining room.
Lack of space means I have to use the quilt as you go method, doing all the stitching by machine.
I use no glue, spray cans (starch, glue etc), fabric markers, iron-on interfacing, non-woven interfacing, synthetic threads etc. etc - all the sort of products I see recommended in books and magazines, online, in shops and just about everywhere. My reasoning is that if people could make fabulous clothes and quilts, say, in the 1930s, with just straight stitch machines and plenty of practice and knowhow, then so can I.
Fortunately, I was well taught at school back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I learnt how to do French seams, felled seams, bound seams and other similar techniques, so it is second nature when making clothes to leave no raw edges in sight.
Quilting is a more recent adventure
Thanks to all the inspiration and information on the internet I have branched out from making clothes to making quilts as well.
To learn piecing techniques, I spent hours poring over Bonnie Hunter's free scrap quilt patterns on Quiltville. Bonnie, in turn, when she started piecing on a treadle, found one of my Youtube videos helpful and featured it on her blog.
After learning the basics of piecing, I decided to try appliqué.
Appliqué was a challenge, but I worked out how to do it using the sewing machine. First I make a paper stencil from the pattern, then with the machine I follow the lines of the stencil to stitch the material to be applied to the background material, and only at the end do I actually cut out the shape as I stitch around it by hand in blanket stitch. For want of a better name, I called this method Vintage Sewing Machine Appliqué, and if you click on the heading on the sidebar you will find posts showing how I add stitched decoration with the machine, and how I quilt around it.
My methods paid off when I entered my Queen's Diamond Jubilee Quilt into the quilt show at Malvern in 2013 and gained my first ever ribbon.
I was delighted at being awarded a Judges' Merit.
Since then I have been working hard at free motion quilting, having initially taken the cue to get started form Leah Day's videos, and this wonderful lady on Youtube.
My hope now is that by blogging and posting the occasional video on Youtube I can pass on ideas, techniques and inspiration.