Friday, August 31, 2012

Just Gotta Love Those Field Trips!

Calling all fiber fans! We are going on a field trip, arranged by friend Judy P. It's just another Thursday but what a Thursday! Our first stop................
Fancy Tiger Crafts, located at 59 Broadway, Denver.  This is a perfect starting point.

Step inside and be greeted by a colorful display of a pyramid quilt with surrounding books.

Off to the right are yarns!  lots of yarns!  Are you a knitter?  Then this is the place for you.  Fancy Tiger has many classes for knitters and quilters alike.

They have the latest books too.

And their 'yarn bombed' mascot graces the back wall.

Now, step into their sewing classroom--neat and well organzied.

Lots of space to spread out and create that perfect piece.

This is one of the wall hangings that decorate the classroom

And take a look at this cool quilt that Judy pulled out of her bag!  Isn't this grand?!!  At first, glance I thought she had pieced all those blocks, but no, it's a panel!  She needed the nifty border to give it a nice accent.

Our next stop--Wooden Spools what a great place to visit.  Here are just some of the quilts from classes that are being offered this fall.






Really hard to choose which one to take!

One of the interesting things about Wooden Spools--it is a resale shop for fabric!  Can you believe?  They buy fabric at X$ and resale for $5 yard--what a bargain!  And these are good fabrics too.  What a delightful field trip this was.  Next post, we'll talk about our visit to see an outstanding fashion exhibit.  Stay tuned

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Quilting Shop with a Friend

Not even a major traffic stale could keep me from meeting friend Judy when we want to do some fabric shopping! It was just a short delay in our major task for the day--hit three quilt shops and see if we could find the special fabrics we seek for our projects.
Our first meet up was Laughing Ladies Quilt Shop in Berthoud, CO.  This was their one year sale event.  Judy had already arrived and won a prize!  How exciting for her!


Their shop is well set up and the shop samples are hanging around each special area of fabrics.

Each sample boasts a special class offering.

"Wacky Stars" is featured in this area

"Carpenter's Star" in this area

Thirty's fabric has a nice featured quilt in the section with that fabric

Need a batik?  It's here!  Along with a good selection of hand dyed Perle cottons.

This shop featured numerous kits with the hanging sample to see

What a quaint town Berthoud is!  Painted murals on downtown buildings and this painting of family life in Berthoud.  A short walk down the street and around the corner, we had lunch at The Whistle Stop Tavern--a great time to visit and catch up on our activities since our last day out.

Southward we travel to our next shop, Tomorrow's Heirlooms.  This is a smaller shop with slight less selection of fabric but none the less, a great place to stop

Their classroom is ideal for the all the interesting workshops and classes they offer

What a great way to combine fabrics for an interesting pinwheel block

Just a short drive to The Quilt Store--sorry, didn't get photos inside this shop.  We found some sale fabric here--friendly staff and a fairly decent selection of fabric.  Judy found some fabrics for a t-shirt quilt she is doing.  It was a good day, but now it was time for us to part ways until our next adventure--see you then!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sewing Machines Through the Ages

Airports can also have interesting exhibits. This one in San Francisco International Airport terminal 3 was excellent. Upon our arrival in SF, I didn't take time to enjoy this, but upon our return, with plenty of time to spare for our flight, it was a slow walk down the aisle. Pardon the glare on the glass--so much light coming through the side windows.

The Florence Machine company, founded by Leander Langdon, filed the first patent in 1855 and the first machine was produced in 1860 in Florence, Massachusetts.  Their production continued for 20 years.

Isaac M. Singer's life is rags to riches story. He was son of German immigrant growing up in NYC poverty. His parents divorced when he was 12, so he left home. He tried different jobs in his young life before settling on inventions and entrepreneurship. First he invited a machine for drilling into rocks. Later he designed his own version of the sewing machine with a presser foot to easily feed fabric. His machine enabled continuous and curved stitching with an overhanging arm that held the needle bar over a horizontal table. It sewed approximately 900 stitches per minute vs. seamstress that sewed at 40 per minute. 


During the 1850's having laborsaving devices in the home was a new concept. Many were skeptical--could women actually operate such machinery? Singer set up installment plans but machines were expensive--some cost $125 in mid 1850's. The price decreased to around $50 for simplest models by 1860 but the cost still represented a significant portion of the annual family income of less than $500.

When inventors were first grappling with inventing a sewing machine in early 1800's, they made many unsuccessful attempts to design a machine that imitated hand sewing, where the needle requires a short length of thread that is forced in and out of the fabric in order to form a stitch. A machine could not do this, so the challenge was to create a new way for a continuous supply of thread to form stitches in fabric. Sewing machine inventor Elias Howe (1819-67) tried to devise a machine that mimicked hand sewing before he eventually fabricated a machine with an eye-pointed needle. He had a hard time convincing seamstress that they should use this laborsaving device. Even though the machine sewed faster than any seamstress, no one placed an order! Soon, though, all this changed.

Since 1890's, many large retailers and mail order houses began to sell their own brand of sewing machines.  They entered into contracts with established sewing machine manufactures who would supply standard models with their name rather than the manufacturer's named.  Sewing machines with the names of various newspapers on them were even offered as premiums with subscriptions during the 1900's.  The "Minnesota A" was a top of the line machine manufactured by Davis and sold as Sears, Roebuck & Co model in its mail order catalog.  next to Singer, Sears, Roebuck & Co. founded in 1893 was one of the most important suppliers of sewing machines in North America from1890-1950.  Did you have a Sears, Roebuck machine in your household?


In the early 1850's, the majority of machines were too heavy and cumbersome.  James Gibbs designed a relatively inexpensive, lightweight machine and together with James Willcox, the founded the Willcox and Gibbs Sewing Machine Company in 1857.  Their machines made a single thread chain stitch with the aid of a rotating hook.  Their chain stitch machine used one thread, without the aid of a bobbin; while most machines used two spools--a bobbin thread from below and a spool of thread from above to produce a lockstitch.  Problem?  Yes, chain stitches unravel if broken at any point and the number of stitches can't be altered from one stitch to the next.  Items such as feed sacks, which were taken apart and used as fabric for clothing or towels were ideal items to be sewn with this machine.  These machines were popular because they sold for less than Singer. 

Men's and boy's ready to wear garments were available by 1850's but female ready to wear clothing was not available in quantity until late 19th century and became more common in the first two decades of the 1900's.  Even after ready made clothes became increasingly available, many homemakers still preferred to save money by sewing at least some of their clothing at home.  To promote business, home sewing machine manufacturers encouraged women to save money by sewing their own garments. 

Around 1875, machines became streamlined and electrically powdered machines were introduced by Singer in 1889. 


Beginning in 1830's many pattern drafting systems aided professional dressmakers.  One such device, the McDowell Garment Drafting Machine, eliminated the need for dress forms and multiple fitting sessions.  Patented in 1879, the company revised the tool in response to changing fashions and in an effort to improve the mechanism.

Thomas Edison was among the first to advocate the use of electricity to power machinery for the home in order to reduce the time required of servants and housewives to complete their everyday chores.  Edison Electric advertised its 1917 electric sewing machine as having a "little motor that makes sewing easy".

And then came the toy machines to encourage little girls to learn to sew.  These machines were salesmen samples.

Of course, one must have an iron if sewing!  Blacksmiths started forging simple flat irons in the late Middle Ages (1300-1500).  Flat irons were also called sad (antiquated word meaning solid) irons or smoothing irons.  Hot metal handles were gripped with a thick rag, pad or well insulated glove.  Some irons had wooden handles.  In 1870 a model with a detachable wooden handle was patented.  Most homes did not have electricity so these type of irons were used--a hot, hard job.  There were many difficulties using this type of iron--it had to be kept clean, sanded and polished.  One had to learn how to keep a constant adequate temperature.  It couldn't be too hot or the fabric would be scorched.  In addition to sad irons, charcoal irons, in which glowing coals were placed inside the iron, continue to used in parts of Asia and Africa.  Electric irons became available in early 1900's.

Sewing needles made from bone, carved from wood, ivory, shell and metal have long been used by many cultures.  Before the Industrial Revolution and mass production, pins were not headed as there was no inexpensive method for heading pins.  These storage cases for pins and needles were known as pin-poppets.  Fashioned from ivory and other materials hung from women's belts as early as the 1600's.

These pin-poppets are carved from ivory.  Once pins and needles became mass produced in the 1800's, manufacturers created various designs to market their products.  By the 1840's pins and needles were sold in decorative cases.  During the late 1800's, needle books and embroidered fabric became popular.

Portable sewing cases, packed with essential sewing implements are still important for a seamstress even today.  This exhibition was made possible through a generous loan from the Museum of American Heritage, Palo Alto, CA, Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles, Berkeley, CA, and the Lace Museum, Sunnyvale, CA. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

My Weaver Friend, Sharon Crary

Recently we had the opportunity to reconnect with our friends from years past.  Their daughter was marrying and we were invited to the wedding.  What joy it was to see them again and celebrate this special occassion!  This is the front door--really welcoming isn't it?


Take a stroll up the walkway to the front door.





This friend, Sharon Crary, is a weaver! That is how we met in 1978 when I joined the local weavers' guild.  Sharon was & is an extra-ordinary weaver! She weaves tapestries on loom and off loom. Her work is outstanding! We had time, amongst all the wedding events, to visit in her studio for awhile. Here is her draft for the rug on her loom.

Can you see the movement of the tree according to her draft?  And her color choice is right on!

Sharon pulled out this rep weave table mat--great color combinations.

This off loom tapestry is proof that Sharon has mastered the craft.

A lovely towel!

And one in plain weave--the tracking adds texture to the overall effect.

This scarf is the beginning of crepe wear.  Once the scarf is tightly bound and washed, the creases should remain in to give an interesting look.  
If you are in Northern California during September, look Sharon up as she will be participating in the 24th Annual Napa Valley Open Studios with 72 artists and 48 locations.  Napa Valley Open Studios will be held September 17-18 and September 24-25  11 AM to 5 PM.  Tour information at Napa Valley Open Studios . Also find info on Facebook.  It was great fun to see an 'old' friend again.