Tuesday, August 29, 2017

My Great-Grandmother's Singer Treadle Machine

1915 Singer Treadle Sewing Machine in CabinetWhile I was in my hometown last week, my aunt and uncle passed my great-grandmother’s Singer treadle sewing machine down to me. It was manufactured in 1915, and I’m told that it was still in good working order the last time anyone used it. I’ve been spending a lot of time researching the correct way to clean the machine and cabinet; I’d hate to inadvertently ruin it while simply trying to maintain it.

Since taking these initial photos, I’ve wiped down the interior and exterior of the cabinet and the exterior of the sewing machine itself. I’m not sure that I’m ready for tinkering with the mechanics of the machine, although I’ve noticed that a rubber piece by the bobbin winder is cracked and the presser foot sticks. I was surprised by the dirtiness of the wood, and equally surprised by the cleanness of the cast iron.

Top View of 1915 Singer Treadle Sewing Machine

Base of 1915 Singer Treadle Sewing Machine

The drawers were still full from the last time the machine was used, and it has been fun to sort through everything. Thankfully, we had the presence of mind not to throw anything away as we emptied the drawers before transporting the machine and cabinet. Now that I’ve spent a little time with the machine, I recognize a couple of replacement parts — including a replacement for that cracked rubber piece I mentioned.

Tools and Parts Used with Singer Treadle Sewing Machine

The original instruction book is still intact, and it makes me wish I kept up on my Polish lessons. Between the diagrams and online translation programs, I should be able to pick up on some basic information.

1915 Singer Treadle Sewing Machine Instruction Book in Polish

I won’t attempt to use the array of threads that I discovered because they’re probably too weak by now, but with their wooden spools they might make a nice display. There was even a loaded tatting shuttle.

Vintage Thread, Sewing Machine Bobbins and Tatting Shuttle

Quite a few of the supplies are still in their original packaging. As a graphic designer by day, it’s a little extra fun for me to note the use of color, typography, and images in the package designs.

Vintage Sewing Machine Supplies in Original Packaging

We didn’t hesitate to throw away the unused Band-Aids and brittle rubber bands, but there were a few household items worth keeping. My mother thinks the two large keys on the right are from my great-grandmother’s house. The coins in the middle appear to be from Japan and Australia. The two red OPA tokens on the left date back to WWII.

Vintage Household Items

And the buttons! This photo shows only a portion of them. Most of them still had little bits of thread in the holes after being removed from old garments. They could use a good soak but, like the thread, I question whether they’ve become brittle with age. They may make a pretty collage of some sort.

A Pile of Colorful Vintage Buttons

According to my research, the next step in cleaning will be waxing the wood with a good furniture wax, then the cast iron and machine exterior with a good car wax. The wax will serve as a protective layer that will also enhance the shine. After that is done, I’ll put more consideration into cleaning the interior of the machine.

My husband may come home one day to find me polishing old straight pins. That's normal, isn't it?

Do you have any tips for cleaning and maintaining an antique sewing machine and cabinet?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Scrap Blanket Progress

My schedule is a bit off this week. I spent a few days out of town for a funeral, and such bittersweet days have a way of blending together.

As you might expect, I didn’t do much making this week.  Between the travel and the services, there wasn’t much time. I brought my spinning with me for a casual family get-together my last evening there, then remembered the dogs who live at that house. They lose their minds over a single falling leaf; I didn’t think anyone wanted to experience them watching a drop spindle!

Before I left, I had been knitting blocks onto one of my scrap blankets. My goal was to use up the leftovers from the Ripple Top, as well as some other scrap yarns.

Knitting Progress on Blanket Made from Assorted Scrap Yarns

I started the blanket in 2012, and it now measures about 84 inches wide by 21 inches long. Looking at the photo, I can see that I need to catch up on weaving in ends!

Blocks Knit Upside Down in Scrap Blanket

You might notice two blocks in the bottom row that seem to be upside-down. When I first started the blanket, I focused on yarn weights. Once I realized that most of my yarn scraps are wool blends, I decided that I wanted the entire blanket to be wool blends. Two of my initial blocks were made from other types of fiber; I replaced them by picking up the connecting stitches in the neighboring blocks, cutting out the old blocks, then knitting the new blocks.

Scraps of Various Wool Blend Yarns

While I was in town this week, my mom gave me some yarn to add to my scrap blankets. Some will go into the blanket that is made from sock yarn, and some will go into this heavier blanket.

What are your favorite ways to use up scrap yarn?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Ripple Top: Success

About three weeks ago I cast on to knit #06 Feather and Fan Dress from Vogue Knitting, Spring/Summer 2009. After a handful of false starts and one complete change of direction, the project — now a top instead of a dress — is complete.

Back of Colorful Knit Ripple Top in Feather and Fan Stitch

This has been a heck of a project. Most of the issues were of my own making and come back to trying to make the pattern work with a limited quantity of certain stash yarns. I think those types of challenges are often where the fun comes in; there isn’t any creativity involved in copying a pattern exactly as it’s written. As much as I enjoy putting my own spin on a pattern, however, this one took a lot out of me.

If you’ve been following the posts regarding this project, you already know most of the challenges. This week, I learned that there are some issues with the pattern itself. Before casting on, I saw a lot of knitters on Ravelry comment that the instructions for the shoulders are incorrect. I expected the errata to address that issue, but they don’t. My stitch counts, accurate up to that point, didn’t match the shoulder instructions and I had to make up those stitches to some extent as I went along.

As the top came off the needles, I could see that it was shorter than I previously thought. Thankfully, a good soak loosened up the fibers enough to add just the right amount of length. All of my concern that the top might end up too tight was unfounded; the fit is just right.

Front of Colorful Knit Ripple Top in Feather and Fan Stitch

Despite my struggles, I would recommend this pattern — but only to knitters who have enough experience to reconstruct the shoulders. It’s a shame, because the rest of the pattern is easy enough for most beginners and would be a lovely way to branch out from standard beginner projects.

As far as the stash yarn I was trying to use up, I knit through quite a bit of it. I’ll be able to quickly add a handful of squares to my ongoing scrap blanket with the remainder.

How have you been using up stash yarn recently?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Amazing in a Different Way

If you take one message away from reading this blog week after week, I want it to be that making is not necessarily a linear process — and that’s OK. Sometimes a project will come together perfectly and everything will go smoothly from beginning to end with results that are exactly as you envisioned. Other times certain variables come together differently than you anticipated, or your ideas evolve as you work. The results may be amazing in a different way than you originally planned, or they may lead you to new discoveries that are more about the process than the product.

Progress Knitting Ripple Top in Feather and Fan Stitch

The latter is what you are seeing today. A few weeks ago, I started knitting #06 Feather and Fan Dress from Vogue Knitting, Spring/Summer 2009. In recent blog posts, I’ve written about some of my ups and downs with the project. This past week, I decided it was time to start over again with some significant changes.

By the time I reached the top of the waist shaping for the dress, I came to the conclusion that the smaller size is definitely too small for me. The gauge was about right, so my knitting must have tightened up since I measured it on a previous version. I was also running out of some yarn colors. While I have enough total yardage to finish the dress in the smaller size, my color palette would have become increasingly limited until it ended in a solid block of color. After such colorful stripes at the beginning of the project, the difference would have been jarring.

For the newest version, I returned to my original idea of converting the dress to a top. I had discarded that plan early on because the pattern is knit from the bottom up; it would have been difficult to determine where to pick up the pattern. Before unraveling the 22 inches that I had already knit, I took the opportunity to measure my progress and count the number of pattern repeats that I could skip when I cast on again.

The instructions for the larger size call for using smaller needles in the waist, which would subtly narrow the circumference without further decreasing the stitch count. I decided to omit that detail because I think the waist will be narrow enough as it is.

Detail Photo of Ripple Top in Feather and Fan Stitch

Finally, I decided to make color changes after every two pattern repeats throughout the project. As much as I liked the playfulness of changing the colors more frequently, the dress became more overwhelming to look at as it grew.

I’m still not certain that this top will become what I envision. In the meantime, I am embracing the process and adapting with each new discovery.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Ripple Dress Progress

I recently started knitting #06 Feather and Fan Dress from Vogue Knitting, Spring/Summer 2009. In last week’s blog post, I described my struggles with the beginning of the dress. I’m happy to report that since then, the project has been moving along smoothly.


As I’ve been working my way closer the to waist shaping, the skirt has been narrowing. This speeds my progress with fewer stitches to knit in each round. It also eases my mind that I’ll have enough yarn to finish the dress because I’m using less yarn in each round.

At the same time, the rate of the decreases is making me wonder if I should have stayed with knitting the larger size. The dress is going to get narrower before it gets wider, but I’m not turning back now. I can gift it to someone smaller than me.


As I mentioned last week, I started with the green Moorland yarn at the hem of the dress because I have the most of it. I also intend to use it at the neckline to frame the dress as a whole.

I’ve been trying to maintain contrast between the colors, and the fact that I have roughly twice as many colors of Lustrous as I do of Moorland has a guided my yarn selection. I’m following a loose pattern of one color of Moorland followed by two colors of Lustrous.

To add to the visual interest of the dress — as if undulating stripes in 16 colors weren’t enough — I am knitting a double repeat of every fourth color to create wider stripes at regular intervals. I am also making a conscious effort not to repeat the order of the colors. Doing so ensures that it won’t be easily noticed if I run out of any particular color.


The dress is large enough now that I can’t easily knit it when I have a little downtime outside of the house. Instead, I’ve been taking spinning projects with me. I’ll write about them in a future post, but you can get a sneak peek by visiting my Instagram feed. I hope to see you over there!