The Embroidered Quilt & The Ancient Sewing Machine

I want to talk today about a cute quilt that I am creating out of old-timey looking machine-embroidered blocks that spell out the story of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

My friend has a new embroidery machine and she was trying it out by creating this set of Christmas patterns. I think her initial idea was also to make them into a quilt, but she didn’t care for how they came out. I am not sure why, since they really look very nice. Knowing that I would most likely enjoy them, and as well being aware of my reputation as the Queen of Upcycling and Discards, she let me have them, to see if I could make something out of them.


The rough cotton in itself was fairly easy to quilt with, and all I had to do to prepare them was to trim the blocks to a uniform size and add the black border, and after that it was just a matter of putting a solid colour border around the black border encasing the squares themselves. At first I though something more patterned would work, but I was wanting to stay away from anything too floral so that I would not typecast it as too ‘feminine’ if ever I were wanting to gift this to one of my nephews or some other male relative.

The really fun part about this process for me was that I got to use my old sewing machine on it!! 
This uber classic Federal steel black sewing machine came at me from the past where it no doubt warmed the garrett of some early 20th century seamstress for years and years and, in the way of things of the past, is as good as new a good 100 years later.

Well, it came at me the worse for wear, but at an $8 price tag at a random yard sale, it was still a remarkable deal. I and a useful, handy sewing machine technician did need to address a few issues though 
  • belt was broken
  • motor needed replaced
  • light needed fixing or replaced
  • rust spots different places had to be addressed
The machine, even in its broken state, was a wonderful find. And now, after fixing and even having the rust, mechanical, and aesthetic problems addressed, it works like a charm, sews marvelously, and is in general just remarkable how stable and heavy duty this Federal sewing machine is. It can withstand a lot of hard fabric, and is a lot more forgiving than the regular prissy machines of today. It really makes you think what we have lost in terms of basic craftsmanship and development in the past 100 years. I would challenge any consumer market sewing machine produced nowadays, no matter now elite and pricey, to be even half as functional as this ‘broken’ one was, 40 years from now, let alone 100.

One reason for the durability and timelessness of these older machines is precisely the fact that their age precedes much of the electronic and computer-age components that inevitably make a machine both more fragile and more difficult for a layperson to service. For instance, the Bernina I have is good and everything but it has electronic parts which are delicate, and since this one is all mechanical and it’s like a work horse. As long as there’s some sort of power outlet and I’ve enough needles and thread, I can imagine I can keep quilting right up to the end of times.

And this does not even begin to mention the pure aesthetic joy of working on such a vintage machine! I find it especially romantic to work on these almost Victorian-looking blocks with this sewing machine straight out of the Nutcracker ballet. 
I hope to work on a great many more quilts on this machine in the future.

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