Friday, December 7, 2018

Fanny Featherweight has worked so hard, she deserves something for herself!

Up until recently, I had been using Fanny Featherweight as my primary machine since right before Christmas last year.  Since that time, she successfully pieced the tops for both Bonnie Hunter's "Ringo Lake" and "En Provence" mysteries.

When the mysteries were done and after giving her a little over due TLC, it was now time that I finally got around to doing a little something special just for her.  When I originally got the machine fourteen years ago it didn't come with a case.  Since I had hopes for this to one day be my travel sewing machine, I wanted to get or make a carry bag for her.  Actual Featherweight cases can be bought but new ones can be expensive and you have to worry about old ones being musty.

There are also generic carry bags around.  Rebecca over at the Cheeky Cognoscenti blog wrote about the case she got and showed you how to give it a wonderful personalized spin with a custom embroidered monogram.  I also want to point out that she wrote an absolutely fabulous post about her *two* Featherweights and some history of the machines and how to use them --- check that out here

When I put my machine back in working condition in 2016,  I began to look around for a bag in earnest.  Fortunately in this internet age, whatever you can think of is usually already out there!  I found Jeni Baker's post about how she created her Sew Portable Travel Set for her Featherweight.  I love that it not only provides a bag for the machine but one for the foot controller and a cover for the extension bed.  The pattern is available on her website or from the Singer Featherweight Shop.  You can see her tutorial for constructing it here and see it made up in fabrics from the Singer Featherweight line from Robert Kaufman here.

I was lucky enough to get the pattern and some fabrics in a clearance kit from Connecting Threads.  When I pulled out the kit, I decided it needed something so I too decided to add a little of the Singer Featherweight fabrics to it!  It was perfect timing because right at that time they were on sale at The Singer Featherweight Shop.   Eventually, I also purchased some webbing for the handles (there are two sizes in the picture because while shopping I wasn't sure which I preferred) and then finally got started on it at the end of the Summer.

I had to make changes to some of the supplies --- the pattern called for using canvas and interfacing inside the bag to provide stability.  Of course, wanting to get right to work on it, I didn't have either.  But I did have some Pellon Peltex (701 single-sided fusible) that I thought would make a great substitute.  I tested it out....

Top:  Exterior fabric, Batting and Peltex, Bottom: Fabric and Peltex only
... and found I like the combination of the batting and Peltex on the exterior and batting quilted to the interior so that there was both padding on the outside and next to the machine plus a bit of stiffness to the bag exterior.  During the testing I got to try out doing free motion quilting on my Featherweight although I actually ended up quilting the bag parts in straight lines with a walking foot which also went fine.  I had purchased a few special quilting feet for her awhile back so this was my chance to finally try them out.  The Peltex is so stiff  that when I cut out the pieces that would make up the bag exterior, I cut them an inch smaller to leave the required half inch seam allowance (per the pattern) exposed all around.

However, after that I got stuck!  The first problem was that I didn't read the directions through and carefully enough.  When I read further down in the directions, it turned out that the body pieces were actually cut oversize and supposed to be trimmed down after quilting!  Yikes!!  So now I was concerned about having the stiff Peltex in the seam allowances if I did cut it down or if I didn't cut it down, that the bag wouldn't be a snug as it looked in the pattern.  I rolled around ideas in my head for about a week on how to make that work.

When I thought I had one,  I tried moving forward to the next step which is to join the ends of the webbing cut for the straps to connect them.  Uh oh!  The pattern called for something normally very simple:  zigzagging the ends together with the join and the whole strap to be covered later with a strip of a coordinating print.  Yeah, simple unless you are working on a straight-stitch only machine and both of your other zigzag machines need repair!  Unfortunately this just shut me down completely as this project was really the thing I wanted to get done.  I did try moving on to making a runner for Halloween but ran into some issues with that too and then just seemed to walk away from the studio for too long a while.

But with the year winding down and realizing that so many things I had wanted to get done for the year were sitting idle, I really had to push myself back into the game.  Added to that there was talk of a potential trip go to visit a friend and I wanted to be able to bring this machine so once again this bag became a priority project.  But how to move forward?  Well, I could go fix my electronic machines but I admit, I have been reluctant to do that.  Looking at Fanny, I began to think about the possibility of buying another vintage machine, one that could stitch zig zag but was old enough where I could maintain it myself like I have been able to do with her.  After doing some research I found what I was looking for in my new Singer 401A.

She hasn't been named yet (I'm still rolling around a couple of options), but she has already been tested and put to work.  I was able to use her to join those strap ends...

....and  to cover the strap with the decorative trim fabric and attach it to the  exterior.  In the end, I did cut down the exterior pieces as per the pattern, cutting away as much of the Peltex from the seam allowance as I could.  However, suddenly the 401 seemed to not like stitching on or even next to the Peltex!  Everything I had read about the 401 said it was a workhorse and was good at sewing through heavy materials.  I was getting really frustrated (frequent thread breakage and uneven tension) and thought I was going to have to throw in the towel on this project.  But as a last shot,  I pulled Fanny back down and she came to the rescue!  She had no problem stitching through or around the layers and I was able to finally get the bag body done!  Whew!!

Concerned that the 401 had now developed operating problems, when I went to construct the remaining accessories, I went back to her to see if she'd stitch.  Would you believe it  -- this time, no problems at all!  So I used her to quilt (once again trying both free motion for the interior and walking foot for the exterior with slant shank feet purchased just for this machine) and sew up the extension bed cover and the drawstring bag that will carry the foot pedal and cord.  So here they finally are in all their glory!

The 401A is only four years younger than my Featherweight so how cool is that little Sis got to help finish making a comfy travel home for her older Sister!  This also notches my first finish for the year.  Hopefully it won't be the only one!

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