Friday, October 24, 2014

Singer Featherweight Model 221

A 1938 Singer Featherweight is one of the sewing machines I inherited from my mother. She got it at a yard sale for $25 because "It's a pretty small machine..." The guy was asking $50! They sell for $350 and more today.
Yes...it IS a small machine!

She really enjoyed taking this to classes and even sewing on it at home...among her many other machines. That collection included some treadles, hand-cranks, toy and electric models. I took the electric ones and the rest were sold to other collectors. They should be with people who appreciate and use them...plus it was my husband's nightmare that I would bring home all the machines!
(Mom had already given me a nice treadle...)

So after these almost 11 years, I decided I should take care of this baby. The local quilt shop was having a class about how to maintain your Featherweight, conducted by  The Old Sewing Machine Man, Johnny Johnson. He and wife Debbie are experts in old sewing machines, attachments and supplies. They travel to quilt shows and other events, sharing their love of everything pre-computer and providing lots of help to others. I always enjoy seeing them and admiring the machines they bring for sale.
Johnny started off with a history of the Singer Featherweight and how the original machine (made as the Standard SewHandy) was not well thought of by the sales people...so they didn't show it to anyone! But at the World's Fair in 1933 it was on display and everyone who could sew wanted one. They weigh 11 lbs. Have you ever picked up a regular sewing machine? Back in the day, those things clocked in at about 35 lbs!
Having the original case is a nice touch:
I kept Mom's ID tag...you don't want your machine to be mistaken for the others!
The most important thing here is DO NOT let those catches snap open! The spring inside will eventually break, and they are expensive to replace. Everyone likes to let them snap open, but you should hold a hand over the latch so it doesn't fly up.
A supply tray sits on top of the machine...it also has the original book!

After that, step by step we went through the 42 places that need oil!
Modern machines are sealed up and even boast of not needing oil (some take a bit in the bobbin area). You only use a tiny drop, but some of the places to oil are almost invisible. Maybe Singer wanted you to take it to a repairman. However, these old machines are wonderful because you can do a lot of your own work on them.

The only thing I couldn't finish in class was putting in a new felt pad. It goes inside on the bottom, and acts to absorb all the oil (and grease...yes, there is that, too!) that can drip off. The felt on my machine was fused to the bottom plate, so I had to get the new part, then scrape off the felt when I got home. It had soaked up a lot of gunk since 1938.
You should be glad you can't really see what it looked like. That's the new felt on the right.
The serial number will tell what year the machine was made. Some were made until 1964, and some were made in Canada, Scotland and other places. A few versions were made in green or ivory color, but by far most are black. Some of the refurbished ones have been painted in fun colors, since the old finishes and decals may have been worn away.

I was happy to see several people I know also were taking the class! One had a newly maintained machine, but was learning for herself. Another had two machines with her...and another still at home! We had fun finding small differences in models from over the years. Most had the original foot control, which was used by Singer for most of their machines well into the 1960s:


The oldest ones have some metal parts, but the same design
I never have been able to figure out what the designer was going for with this. It is about 6" long, and the actual power comes from the button on the right. But I am positive (after so many years of teaching and seeing so many machines) that this is responsible for the many people who learned to sew barefooted, and continue to this day. 

Mom liked to give things names, like "SuzyBelle", but I cannot remember if she had one for this machine. Maybe if I sew on it for awhile I will think of one.
My quilt guild retreat is in November, and I think I'll take this along. Maybe I'll invite the other Featherweight owners to bring theirs, too...it would be fun to see a bunch of these little guys purring along together!
They only make a straight stitch, but they do it oh-so-well! And that's all a quilter really needs.

Visit The Old Sewing Machine Man's website: www.theoldsewingmachineman.com

Learn more about Featherweights:
http://planetpatchwork.com/fweight.htm
(scroll down for the chart that matches serial numbers with the year they were made).

Read the book:

Featherweight 221 - The Perfect Portable: And Its Stitches Across History ...

 By Nancy Johnson-Srebro (this includes a re-print of the original manual that came with the machines)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Making Scraps...and some progress!

I have a dream.
It is to get the commercial prints (i.e."stash" or 20th/ 21st Century Fabric Collection) off the shelves in my studio. Then I will put my batiks in there!
Have you tried some of the many "stash reduction" ideas around on the Internet? I do have to say, the idea of cutting it ALL UP and enjoying a wealth of pre-cut strips and such is a lovely idea!
However, some of these fabric s have been with me longer than my son. I know I have used bits, as the ends are cut up funny (from back in the day of templates! yes, I am really showing my age now!).
I have to trick myself into it. I have to make some "rules" or guidelines or something...but then my heart takes over and I just can't cut it all up. Do I still think I will need for "that perfect project"...the one that has not come along in over 30 years???
Yes. Yes, I actually do.
Well, now that is something to deal with! So my latest rule/guideline is if it's half yard-ish or smaller it must be all cut up. But it's OK to cut one 6.6" strip and one 5" strip first....just in case I need something wider than a strip! And I should do this as I am looking in the stash for anything else.
I needed an interior border for a scrap quilt, and found these pieces today:
I have had that dark stripey one for about 33 years!
The neutrals were what I was looking for, but I am proud to say I gave a stack of green a sort-through, and that pink just showed up! One stack at a time, I may get there...

The best way to follow through on a plan is to tell someone about it, so I shared my idea with Cherry-Cherry at lunch yesterday. She has the ability to show both support and doubt all at the same time.
It's because she knows me really well!
I did it!

This means I need yet another plastic box for those wide strips! But I really am enjoying the big box of 2.5" strips (see below), and I also like 1.5" strips, hence the little pile on the left of the pic above. All this is going to come in handy in a month when it is time to go on the guild's Retreat...I see hours of lovely, brainless sewing resulting in Log Cabins, Nine-Patches and who knows what else!

Oh...that box:

This was after making 58 scrap blocks!
I can't show the scrap quilts (3) I made with the blocks because they are for the Mystery Quilt class in February!
But the real mystery to me was that I got thinking:I  used up almost all the scraps in my scrap container...but I was sure I had more scraps!!! Where did they go?
And then I remembered. I gave a load of scraps & fabric to the guild's yard sale:
I actually gave all of this away!
Instead of feeling discouraged, I am just feeling amused, and will continue to enjoy the process.
There could be a lot of scrappy quilt tops to sell at QuiltFest next year and for  charity quilts. I know I will never be able to do the quilting on all of them!

Oh, by the way...(and this is really why there is NO END to all this)...here is a pic of my scrap container, which has some new contributions, plus my latest new scrap collection in the bag: stringy odd ends for a string quilt!
At least I have not been saving all those for 30 years!
A moment in time when you can actually see the studio floor!



Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Year of the Scraps Begins!

Now the the big quilt show is over, it's time to get back to making quilts!
In fact, there a brief respite between Judging and Hanging that allowed me to make this:
Another dark bordered quilt on a navy blue sofa...sorry!
Very easy and fun!
I don't know where I got the idea, and it certainly looks like something that several people come up with at the same time. The strips used were all 2.5". My thought was how to use 4-patches and 9-Patches in the same quilt, from the same size strips.
This is one you could play with the colors and value placements for a long time and enjoy different results.
Pat-on-the-back: I even finished making a binding for it today! Now how long before it gets quilted???

October is here, and it feels like this should be the New Year, instead of waiting for January to roll around. So I am declaring this The Year of the Scraps (for me...but you are welcome to join in!).
I've made a good portion of my stash into strips, and I want to continue that trend. I like to consider and use pre-cuts as scraps!

There are many interesting blogs about scraps. Bonnie Hunter has one that is chock-full of patterns and ideas. Joan Ford is another. They have some advice for how to cut up your stash, as does the Craftsy class with Nancy Martin, "Strip Your Stash!".

Just cutting a 2.5" strip (soooo popular!) from every fabric you own would be a great start. You might even get brave enough to cut up an entire piece of fabric and be done with it!
Just remember, if there's just an odd bit left over, yes...it is a new scrap!
And if it's a wobbly shaped strip, then you can use it in a String Quilt!

If you want to check in on my Year of the Scraps, use the "SEARCH" box over on the top of the sidebar. I'll label all these posts as SCRAPS.

Friday, September 26, 2014

QUILTFEST 2014

It's showtime, friends!
QuiltFest is on through 5:00 pm tomorrow (Saturday Sept. 27), and the quilts are beautiful! There are 480 in the judged part of the show.
I'm giving a short talk in the demo area today at 12:30: "How to Look at a Quilt...and Then Talk About It!"
The next post will be a brief re-cap of that.
Meanwhile, here's a picture of the All-Stars' lovely table...who will win that raffle quilt tomorrow afternoon?
"Summer Solstice" won the Honorable Mention!
Looking ahead: Get ready for a load of SCRAP QUILTING!

Friday, September 19, 2014

New Toys: Open-Toe Accufeed Foot & a Needle Inserter

I love to get something new, and recently I got two new toys for my Janome 7700 sewing machine.
The first is the Open-Toe Accufeed foot:

Perfect for in-the-ditch!

I have had several sewing machines, and on every one my favorite foot is an Open-Toe Foot. It's possible to see exactly where the needle is going. While the fabric is in good contact with the feed dogs, I can still move it just a bit, which makes this the perfect foot for in-the-ditch quilting.

My Janome machine has an Accufeed system to help with multiple layers. The feet are specially designed to work with a an extra set of feed dogs that come down from behind the foot and integrate with it. This is especially nice for things like binding and, of course, quilting!
I also have a 1/4" Accufeed foot, as well as the standard one that comes with the machine.

My other new toy is amazing...because it is soooooo handy, and also cheap!
It's the Dritz Needle Inserter with Brush:
Brush for cleaning, needle holder for inserting!
I think this cost less than $2, and you can get it almost anywhere. There is a similar fancier thing that has the needle inserter and a threader.
Why I did not already have one is a total mystery!
Maybe it was easier to change needles on my other machines, but this makes it a breeze...and yes, it is just a 3" piece of plastic with a hole in one end!

I have many brushes, as I'm a firm believer in swabbing out the bobbin area as often as possible. That is the #1 repair job the shops do, so why not save yourself $89 or whatever the going rate is? OK, it's a good idea to have the whole machine cleaned occasionally, but you can avoid an annual cleaning if you do a little maintenance yourself.
The brush is a nice little stiff one, which allows you to stab into the linty areas and pull away quite a large bit. First you stab and pull out, then you brush with a wiping motion.
I never thought I'd be writing about how to get rid of lint.
And I bet you never imagined you'd be reading it!

Quilt Show Season is upon us, and I have just been through 3 days of assisting with the judging of 480 quilts for QuiltFest (Sept. 24-7).  It takes a lot of people to handle all those quilts properly! Our judge Jane Hall (NQA certified) was the best.
Next week we hang the show. I have been assigned as Team Captain for the Small Art Quilts! So look for some reporting from the show.

After that, it's time to go into a very Scrappy State of Mind as I gear up the guild for a Mystery Quilt class next February. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Making Scraps!

I am working on a Mystery Quilt class for my guild...one that will use scraps, as they requested.
This would seem to be a good way to actually reduce the contents of my own scrap container. 
I dumped it out and sorted by values (all that will be covered here soon!), then proceeded to cut it all up. OK, except for the solid black and solid white fabrics that I didn't want to include. And there were some too-small pieces...all that went back into the container.
I even decided to do a scrap background, and that took up quite a bit of the light colored fabrics.
After sewing almost everything I cut....which I can't show you, because it's for a Mystery Quilt...I was within 10 blocks of having enough for 2 quilts! So I raided my stash, because, after all, it's just like a big scrap container! And I am trying to get all the commercial print fabrics out of the studio cupboard so I can replace them with my BATIKS!
Here's the sad-but-true thing about scrap quilts: you cannot use up all the scraps. In fact, you will probably make more scraps...which is what I did:
Scraps of scraps!
The 1/4 full container is now back to almost full, and I also got some nice little pieces for the Mile-A-Minute box (on the right).
It reminds me of a favorite poem, by Lewis Carroll, "The Walrus and the Carpenter" from Through the Looking Glass.
This part:

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
"If this were only cleared away,"
They said, "it would be grand!"

"If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose," the Walrus said,
"That they could get it clear?"
"I doubt it," said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.


But they are different scraps than the ones I started with, so no tears are being shed!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

How to Price Your Quilt

74" x 53" quilt for sale
You'd like to sell a quilt you made, so how much should you charge?
Follow along with me as we consider all the things that go into setting a price. There are some formulas in this post, which can help you explain your price to a buyer. But only you can set the price to ask.

Let's get one thing out the way first...
Your Quilt's Value = PRICELESS
That's right, nobody else could have made that quilt in the way you did. It is priceless, and should only be given as a cherished gift. There is no amount of money that could possibly be equal to the materials, time and loving creativity you put into it.
That said, let's look at what really has gone into your quilt. We are talking about a quilt to use, not an art quilt for the wall.
I will keep the math as simple as possible!


FABRIC
There are so many variables, what we are looking for here is some ballpark figures to guide our final pricing decision. Please feel free to round up those decimals!
You may have receipts for the fabric you bought, and that could help. But chances are that you used some new and some from your stash. It doesn't matter where the fabric came from or when you bought it, the money you'd have to spend today to replace it is how to figure it's worth.
Quilts, Inc.reported in 2010 the average cost of a yard of fabric used by quilters was $9.90 (the 2014 survey of the quilting industry will come out in the Fall). A quilt appraiser will value the fabric today at $11 --13 per yard, more for batiks.
If you have the pattern, add up the yardage required and multiply by an average cost per yard.
Or take the measurements of the quilt and figure the square yardage in it:
Side A" x Side B" = Square Inches 
Divide Square Inches by 144 (Square Inches in a Sq. Foot) = Square Feet 
Divide by 10.7 (SF in a Square Yard_ = Square Yardage of the top...but...
that's just the part you see. Add another 1/3 for the seam allowances (more if you have lots of seams).
Here's the quilt above:
74 x 53 = 3922 sq. inches...  Divided by 144 = 27.23 sq. feet...Divided by 10.7 = 2.54 sq. yards 
(or divide the Square Inches by 1512, which is Sq. Inches in a yard...this is what calculators were made for!).
Add 1/3 more for the seam allowances (in this case 2.54 divided by.84) and we have 3.38, which I am rounding up to 3.5 so my head won't hurt so much. 
Keeping it simple, double that amount to include the backing, and add 1/2 yard for binding, so we have 2 x 3.5 = 7 1/2 yards.
That's $75 in just fabric...for a lap size quilt.

OTHER MATERIALS
This quilt is right between a Queen size and a Crib, so we need a Twin Batt about 72" x 90".  I just averaged the cost of 5 batts at JoAnn (cotton, poly and mixed) and got $20 (range was $11.99 to $27.99).
How about thread? First you piece or applique, then you sew the top together, then you quilt. Whew!
Aiming at ballpark averages again, let's say $4 a spool...Coats & Clark is cheaper, top quality is higher, bobbin thread (60 wt.) is different, and the quilting thread could be higher, too.
But let's say you use 2 spools to piece the top (including bobbin) and then another 4 spools for the quilting.
That's a very conservative $24 of thread, for a minimal amount of quilting, as in our example. You could easily use 8 spools for quilting.
If you pay a long arm quilter, that entire fee needs to be added to your costs. I did the one above, but it could have cost between $60 and $225 (and worth every penny, as the long arm quilting relieves you of the basting, too!)
So at this point we have $119 in materials, if you do it all yourself. That does not include the thread/basting spray ($6.50) and needles used, not to mention the electricity for the sewing machine...or wear & tear on that machine, rotary cutter (you used up a $5 blade, too), scissors, pins, etc etc etc! Those would be valid business expenses, but for our purposes we will chalk that all up to doing this because we like it. Always remember that a "hobby" is not free, and being an amateur means you do it "for love", not that you are no good at it.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING...or nothing
So that's our big sticking point: we did it for love, so how can we charge for that?
But maybe you hated making this quilt (that's why it's for sale), or you've run out of room for more quilts, or you really DO want to make some money (even if it is for more fabric!).
How long does it take to make a quilt?
Unless you've punched a time clock, that is hard to answer! It goes from "X years (your lifetime of experience)" to 20 hours for a small simple quilt to 4 hours for a printed panel you bordered and cross hatch quilted for a baby quilt. 
You chose a pattern, shopped for fabric, cut, sewed, quilted and put on the binding (which, BTW would cost about 35 cents per inch for someone else to do...about $88 for our example!).
So ask yourself: would I work a job for minimum wage? That runs between $5.15/hour in Georgia to $9.50 in Washington, DC, with some cities even higher. In this state (FL) it's $7.93.
Or maybe how much do you pay a babysitter? Probably $10/ hour. How about house cleaning? Angie's List says that averages $25--35 per hour.
Even a "beginner quilter" is not unskilled labor... how easy is it to find "someone who will make a quilt for you"? (see The BUYER below!)
So the minimum cost of labor would be a cheap $100 for that 4 hour job...but you certainly have more than 20 hours put in, a value of $500 at $25/hr. But even at $10 it's $250.
This is why quilts are truly PRICELESS.
So if you are selling, don't just give it away.

FORMULAS for PRICING
Yes, at this point we are quite confused. Too many variables! So let's fall back on a simple formula that has been used with some success:
Cost of materials x 3
That's 1 for the materials, 1 for your labor, and 1 for everything else, which includes your PROFIT...something we haven't even begun to discuss!
Some people will say "x 2" but that means you have left one of those things out...no doubt your profit.
Now for the example quilt (fairly easy and not a lot of quilting) we are talking about a price of $357.
One of the best work-arounds I found was a lady who charges $350 to make the quilt, and the buyer goes shopping with her for the materials, and pays for them! 

THE BUYER
And now we come to the other side of this issue. 
Most reasonable people will talk about "fair market value", which means " the amount a willing buyer may pay a willing seller assuming they both have equal knowledge of the item".
Those are my italics, because here's the Big Problem: the buyers do not have equal knowledge. Oh, they are sure they would never be able to make a quilt themselves! But they are also bombarded with  stores selling King Size Heirloom Quilts for $35! Or maybe they have ordered a quilt from a better store online and paid as much as $300... for the very same King Size Heirloom Quilt! The ads love to say "heirloom" but unless you are the grandchild of someone in a Chinese labor camp or a sweatshop in India, these are not your heirlooms. What they are is imported quilts that are made with cheap materials by cheap labor...how much do you think a person is being paid for all their work when an item is selling for $35?
Now that very inexpensive bed-covering may be exactly what somebody wants, especially if they don't mind replacing it in just a few years and never, ever being able to clean it.
But the quilt you made will last a long time and will probably survive cleaning, even in a washing machine.
The kids might "use it up" over time, but chances are also good that the quilt can be passed down through many years...and that would make it an heirloom!

SETTING A PRICE
You may have been asked to make a quilt and received a shocked reaction when you just started by saying how much the fabric would cost. You may have tried to sell a quilt and been told the price was "TOO HIGH!" 
The example quilt here was for sale last year...and remained unsold at a price of $125. It may be that nobody liked it. It may be that the other same-size quilts for sale were being "given away" for $70. Maybe those quilters were happy to get $70 and don't care about all the rest. Some quilts are priced low because "that's what they go for around here".
Everyone has a right to ask what they want for their quilt, but...
We have to help the buyers understand what they are getting. Even if you sell for a bargain price, they need to know what an incredible deal they are getting. 
Our work will never be valued even near the proper amount of we fall into the trap of believing buyers who think it's the same as the "store bought" ones.
Your quilt is made with better quality materials, with colors and patterns carefully chosen by someone who was personally invested in the making. It is not a mass-produce item.
If someone is offended because the price is too high, then maybe they just can't afford it, or they are unwilling to pay. It is not because you are wrong. 

A HANDMADE QUILT
You bet your quilt is a handmade quilt...even if you used a sewing machine! Handmade that means made with the hands, and that the hand of the maker is evident in the item. Your hands are used for cutting and are on that quilt through every step. It is not a factory product.
I have never been able to set a stack of fabric beside my sewing machine and come back later to find a finished quilt.
It may not be hand- quilted (which actually would put premium on the price), but you have put an awful lot of handwork into the process! Even if it's been long-arm quilted (which is another entire skill set...for another post!). 
Plenty of handmade furniture has been produced with power tools, and a home-baked pie still requires an oven.

BOTTOM LINE
When you sell a quilt, tell about all that went into it. The person who's buying it is getting something special...it is the only one there is!...and they need to understand that, even if you ask only a fraction of it's worth.

There are so many other issues connected with this topic, I hope you leave some comments so we can talk some more!