Wednesday, November 27, 2013

the motor transplant--a love story

Now usually--as faithful readers of my blog will know--I write about dilemmas. Artistic questions--how do I design the quilt for the particular space, what is the color grey?  Or maybe I am going to a craft show. How do I arrange the display? You know the questions. Maybe by now you even know the answers.

This time though it is slightly different. Sure I am working on a big quilt for a customer which I want to get finished.

Yes, I am even getting ready for a show--CraftBoston this December 6-8 at the Hynes Auditorium in Boston.  For more info: There is even Moonlight Magic in Shelburne Falls this Friday. Parades. Candles. Music. I will be open until at least nine.

No this time I am writing a love story about my sewing machine. Now it is a Singer 281-3. A very standard industrial sewing machine. Apparently they made the same design from the 40's through the 80's. A few variations. Just enough so that those who really know sewing machines can date them.  Not me though. If I am told that my machine was made in the 60s I will believe them. After all I have had it since 1983. Bought it in West Springfield shortly after I decided to become a serious quilt maker. When the Kenmore I had purchased in high school for $20 finally gave up the ghost (or maybe it didn't since it was a metal machine but that is another story.)

And this machine has served me well. When I first got it, I was living by myself in a little house in the woods. Yes, I loaded it into my car and somehow or other managed to get it up the steps and into the house by myself. Oh I was so eager to try it out. But it sure was heavy even though it does come apart. You can remove the head easily though even that is heavy. I know. A couple of times I have had to take it down to West Springfield to get it fixed. There is an oil pan that comes off also.

It survived moving to my DH's house. Upstairs. Downstairs. It loved being in my darling studio in Shelburne Falls where I could sit and watch the Deerfield River flow by and the colors of the season move up and down Mount Massamont. 

And yes, it survived floating. Still has a few water spots on the throat plate where the water lapped at its edge. But one new starter switch and a flushed system later and the machine was good to go. Thanks Dick and Diane.

And yes, the machine survived ME. Sure I changed the oil every once in a while. Cleaned out the motor when I remembered. Even got a few new belts--the ones from the auto shop work just fine. Thank you.

Now of course there were a few things I didn't particularly like about it. I had it set at the slow speed of about 2000 stitches per minute. Fast enough usually but I sometimes wondered if I should switch pulleys and go at 3000. Never did though. And it was noisy. Turn it on and there is the sound of the motor. Always. I think it bothered my neighbors. The walls in my current studio are thin. Sorry.

But still I was not prepared to hear that ominous whirr in the motor Monday. The high pitch squeal that had never been there. The refusal of the engine to stop spinning long after I had shut off the power. Like the clutch in the clutch engine was gone. This could not be good. Argh!!! Had I tortured it to death by not cleaning the lint often enough? Was it the lasting effects of Irene? Who knew?

But there was no time for an analysis. Could I get it working again quickly?  I did not want to move the entire machine down to West Springfield to get it fixed. Ugh!!! I had far too much work to do. And it is HEAVY!!! Could I get a new motor and install it myself?  Time for some quick internet research. How lucky we are to have such a resource. Yes motors were available. Yes, they can be installed.  A quick decision. Contact my friends in West Springfield. Now they now sell a different engine. But yes, it could be delivered the next day. And yes, the holes are the same. Time to see if I can get my DH to help. What a sweetheart.

I removed the oil. We took off the head. And the oil pan.  My DH removed the bolts.

Removed the cords. Of course it was unplugged.

 Put on the new engine.  It is so tiny. Almost light weight by comparison.

The instructions were impossible. Translated Chinese is not my forte. A few diagrams that I really could not figure out. A few replacement parts that were beyond me. Adjusted the treadle. Realized that the included belt did not work but the old belt was just fine. How lucky I am that my DH is so good with such things. There he is adjusting the new motor.

And then to learn to use the new motor. This one is variable speed. I can dial fast or slow. That is the little blue dial you see there. This could actually be fun. Yes, I confess I made some potholders at my normal speed. Just to get the hang of it. And then I had to take it out for a full throttle test run. 3500. Unbelievably fast.  And unlike my old machine it does not run until I press the foot treadle. It is so quiet. How long will it take me to get used to this. But it works. Sweet. How great it feels to have a working machine again. How lost I felt without it.

For those in the area, I  hope you will drop by some time soon to see the new engine. Maybe even during Moonlight Magic. If I am not busy maybe I will run it for you. Full speed ahead. Just so you can see. And if you are not and have an industrial, do realize that the new--or well not 30 year old motors--are adjustable. But probably you knew that already. After all, I make quilts and only learn as much about sewing machines as I have to.

So what problems have you solved recently? What sewing machine do you use? And why do machines always challenge you when you were most busy?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

getting it done--another take on custom orders

Now some custom orders I do require that I rethink my color way or stretch the concept of my quilts to fit the space. As I wrote recently, these are challenging but I always feel like I gain so much in doing it.

Others though, like the one I am currently working on, are more subtle. An existing quilt is just perfect only it is the wrong size. The wrong shape for the given space. If only I can just shrink and stretch the quilt to size. And I confess it can take me a bit of time to get started. After all, this should be simple, I think in my famous last words.

That is the case with my quilt--colors of the rain. This quilt was 45x45 inches. I had made it once. The customers loved it--but they need a piece that is 60 inches wide by 36 inches tall. Lovely quilt, isn't it?

colors of the rain--45x45"--quilt--Ann Brauer
 Lovely quilt. Nice soft colors. And I confess I contemplate the quilt. Wishing that I could just copy this piece and mark off another order as "Done." But I know deep in my experience that it does not work that way.

Now for those who have been following my blog will know, I am building a new studio. Yeah!!! But what you may not know is that for the last few weeks little work has been done on this project. Where or where is the plumber? I keep asking. Don't they know how much I long to move into my new space? And yes, it is a drag on my psyche no matter how much I try not to think about it.

So I decide that the best course will be to get this quilt done. After all, I don't want to be a similar drag on someone else's psyche. Especially not a good customer. So I tell myself to make what I know.

And I cut the strips for one of the grey rows.

Of course no matter how much I have thought it out previously, it will not be the same. Some fabrics are used up. And changing one fabric changes all the others.

And I sew a length of the grey. Lovely colors aren't they? Isn't the texture fabulous?

OK only three more rows to do. And gradually I work on it. A bit ever day. After all there is only so much grey I can work on in November. But finally all four are done. I hang them up and try to absorb their colors.

I play with the order. Move the tan away from the mauve. Amazing how subtle but true the color gradations are. Finally I get it right. Figure out the math of the quilt. And carefully cut the pieces. Laying out the framework of the piece. 

Yes, someone comes in to the studio and asks if these are samples. Okay. I explain that it is my design board. I need to fill in the blanks.

But still there is progress. And as for my studio, well let's not go there just yet--although I promise you will be the first to know when I hear. Meanwhile send me a good thought about plumbers. Actually seeing them. And keeping my patience in the process.

So how do you do it?  What tricks do you have?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

chasing rainbows

Now as readers of my blog well know, I have a love-hate relationship with custom orders. On the one hand, I also worry if I am going to get the piece just right for the customer. After all, they are entrusting me to add a piece that meets their vision to their home. What a responsibility. I must examine the images of the room and try to absorb it before I create just the right quilt.

On the other hand, I find the finished quilt does stretch me in ways that I would not always venture. This is especially true of large quilts.

Of course the customer may want to know what the quilt looks like before I make it--this is only fair. Indeed it helps me refine my vision. But I am a self taught artist and while I may get the vision in my mind, frequently it is hard for me to convey the concept to the customer.

So sometimes I do what I do best--make a quilt. Think with the fabric. Make sure that my idea works.

This time, the order is for a large quilt similar to my quilt "rainbows of autumn."

rainbows of autumn--quilt--45x45"--Ann Brauer

But using the piecing techniques of "winter light". You may remember this quilt also. Large strips with colors that progress from light to dark. Of course this time, the inserts are not included.

winter light--99x99 inches--quilt--Ann Brauer

However the colors will be different. The teals and oranges of spring. Just a bit of fuschia. Some  browns and tans. Blues. I don't want a color progression but more the rolling colors of "rainbows of autumn". So I arrange and rearrange the fabrics.

And start to sew. Yes, this sample will be smaller--much smaller than the finished quilt so I can't use nearly as many fabric. But maybe it will give me an idea what it will look like and help me learn what the possibilities of this colorway are. What changes I need to make. Let me see.

Not bad. I am not sure about that yellow--is it too bright? And the one complex color running through may be more conceptual than actual. Hmmm.

A bit more of how it will look. Let me continue.

A little more rounded out with that brown on the bottom and a bit more blue on the top. It may be too orange. Where is the fuschia? And I do want the colors to roll just a bit more. But still a start.

Now it is getting to be fun. What a fun colorway. What do you think? Do you ever make small samples like this? What will the customer think?

To be continued.....