Today's Blocks

Yesterday I had to stop sewing early because of a muscle spasm in my back.  It bothered me all day.  I took a muscle relaxant when I went to bed, and that had the added bonus of helping me get a good night's sleep.  When I got up this morning, it was still threatening, but much improved.  If you've ever had back problems, then you know what I mean when I say "threatening".  It's as if your body is talking to you in the most menacing of ways saying, "One. . . False . . . Move . . . and you'll be very sorry!"  You don't have to tell me twice.  I took some Aleve when I got up this morning, and then I was careful how I moved and what I did all day.  As I write this, at the end of the day, my back feels fine.  Maybe I dodged the bullet.  This time.

Anyway, I was able to finish up all but one of my monthly swap blocks today.  I made this Martha Washington star for my partner in the Block Swap Adventure:

My partner gave me a choice between two blocks.  The other was paper-pieced, and I'm sworn off paper-piecing for the time being.  I chose the traditionally pieced star.  She also asked for a white background with red and/or blue, but she didn't want a patriotic block.  She suggested I think about "sailboat flags".  I took that to mean a light blue rather than a navy blue.  I hope this is what she had in mind.

In the process of making this star, I learned a new no-waste method for making flying geese.  I had taken pictures of my process of doing it, but then discovered there was a tutorial right on the internet that explained it perfectly.  Click here to see how it's done.  I like this method and will use it again in the future.

Then I moved on to the block for the We Bee Learning block bee.  This month's block was a wonky log cabin.  She asked for brights, but wanted us to avoid reds and pinks.  Also, she wanted us to avoid novelty prints with pictures of things that were man made.  Other novelty prints were okay.  The center block was to be fussy cut.  This is what I came up with:

This is the first time I've made a wonky block like this.  I've never had the desire to make one because I kind of like the challenge of traditional piecing.  I like how it turned out, and this is a great way to use scraps, for sure.

With those two blocks done, I decided to sew the borders onto the Vintage Miniature Sewing Machine block I finished embroidering recently.  The kit for this month arrived yesterday with the border fabrics included.  When they weren't included with the first kit, I had selected fabrics from my stash to use for the rest of the quilt.  I liked what I had selected, but waited to see what would come.  When it arrived, I decided I liked what I had picked out, and just put the pieces provided in with the rest of my stash.  These are the fabrics I selected:

And here is how the border fabrics look on my block.  The lighter-colored fabric is a slightly pink silk that was provided.  I decided there was enough pink in the embroidery to go ahead and use the silk.  Also, if you look at the fabric above, the outer border will be made with the fabric in the lower left corner.  It also has some pink in it.  I like the sheen of the silk, and I also like the way the fabrics on the borders are mixed.

Here's how the block will look with the other two fabrics I've chosen.  The green is for the sashing between the blocks, and you can see the outer border fabric on the left side of the image.

This vintage miniature sewing machine is the Muller 15.  There was some interesting sewing machine history included with the kit.  Here are a few of the most interesting points about the Muller 15:

  • The Muller 15 was produced in considerable numbers during the first quarter of the 20th Century.
  • The Muller factory was founded by Friedrich Wilhelm Muller in 1868 and continued producing until the 1970s when it was closed because of its inability to compete with the mounting flow of cheap toy machines flooding the world's markets from factories in Japan.  Along with Casige they were the larges manufacturers of small sewing machines in the world.

Regarding the sewing machine, here are a few interesting tidbits about it:
  • The sewing machine ranks high on every list of great inventions and has freed women from drudgery as perhaps no other mechanical device in history.  Before the sewing machine appeared, making clothing was the chief occupation of half the human population.  Because it had to be done by hand, it was time-consuming and eye-straining.
  • History books have long credited Elias Howe, Jr., for the invention of the sewing machine, patented in 1846, utilizing an eye-pointed needle and shuttle.  The machine for which he achieved fame was hardly practical and many of the principles which it embodied had been in the inventions of others years earlier.  It sewed only straight seams and only a few inches at a time.
  • By 1829, Barthelemy Thimmomier, a French tailor, produced a workable machine made of wood and capable of making a chain stitch by means of a crochet or barbed needle in which the loops lay on the upper surface of the material being stitched.  He was issued a patent by the French government in 1820.  By 1841, eighty of his machines were making uniforms for the French Army.  Unfortunately, an angry mob of tailors fell upon his machines and smashed them to pieces.  In 1848, his second invention of the sewing machine, which was capable of making 200 stitches per minute, also was destroyed by a mob.  Nevertheless, Thimmonier had perfected the first sewing machine capable of commercial use, but financially, he reaped no reward for his genius.
  • At about the same time, Walter Hunt, a 39-year-old Quaker, created a machine that used an eye-pointed needle moved by a vibrating arm, and working in combination with a shuttle that carried a second thread.  It made an interlocked stitch comparable to the machines we use today.  Hunt started to manufacture his machine, but abandoned the project at the urging of his 15-year-old daughter who convinced him that it would throw seamstresses out of work.
  • Isaac Singer is a rags to riches story.  He ran away from home at the age of 12 and survived working at anything he could find.  He was asked by his landlord, a sewing machine manufacturer by the name of Phelps, to repair sewing machines.  In so doing, Singer began to see that none of the machines of the day sewed very well, and his inventive mind came up with some improvements.  
  • Singer was granted patents in 1851 when he invented the first sewing machine that sewed continuously.  He and his lawyer also initiated the first hire purchase scheme whereby everyday people who could not afford the price of a sewing machine could pay $3 per month for their sewing machines.  The "never-never was born."  This plan was copied by all over sewing machine makers in the world.  There was also a plan to trade-in old machines for the new ones at a ridiculously high rate of $40 per trade.  All the old machines were quickly destroyed to stop them from being resold.  This policy continued into the 1960s and many Singer shops had 7 ton presses in their back storerooms to crush old machines.  Singer machines were the first mass-marketed domestic appliance in the world.
I only had a few minutes left in my sewing day after sewing the borders on that block, and I decided to use them to make the next stitchery in this vintage miniature sewing machine BOM.  I complained last month that I didn't have very good luck with the embroidery transfer.  Several of you suggested that I give it plenty of heat and go slowly when I made the transfer, and so that is what I did.  I held the iron and counted slowly, giving it what seemed like a perilous amount of time in each area, and then going back over it twice more.  I'm happy to say that it transferred successfully this time.

This machine is a French machine called "La Favourite".  Here is a photograph of the same machine.

The information that came with the kit states that there isn't a lot of information about this toy sewing machine, which was made by the Lakner company in Franch.  They produced this little miniature between 1870 and 1920.  Earlier versions show a dolphin bracing the framework of the machine with fine gold gilding highlighting it.  You can see it in this image, although you have to use your imagination some.  The holes in the base on the right and left side were for table clamps.  The length of the base was seven inches.

Fun, huh?  I've had some frustration with getting the materials for the kit, but this is still turning out to be a worthwhile project.  I won't start on this block until later on in the month, but now it's ready to go . . . and I didn't have to trace it!

6 comments from clever and witty friends:

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

I love your blocks! The wonky one is so cute with the little fussy cut center.

Diane Wild said...

Reading about your back makes me think that's what's going on with mine. I've felt good for two straight weeks. Glad you were still able to finish up some blocks if nothing else. I love those sewing machines.

Teresa in Music City said...

So glad your back is better! That's one of those things that can last a day or forever. Good thing you were smart and took care to not aggravate it :*) I love your star - that blue is a heavenly color! And the border on your antique machine is a nice treatment, different and arresting. I agree that the pink silk is a must, I can see it's shine even in the picture!

Snoodles said...

Hope your plan continues to stave off the back trouble. :) I like all of your blocks, especially the Martha W star. Really interesting notes on machines...that is going to be a wonderful quilt when all the blocks are done!
Is the weather better, so you can go out and scout for crocodiles and pythons?

Mrs.Pickles said...

lovely work! I hope your back cooperates!

tubakk said...

What a wonderful wonky log cabin block! You can do it!