Saturday, July 6, 2013

Judy the Featherweight and the Quarter-Inch Seam: Jingle BOM Pieced Blocks 3 and 4

Jingle BOM Pieced Block No. 3

I finally sewed something with the 1951 Singer Featherweight 221 sewing machine that I purchased a couple of months ago!  I had two pieced blocks to catch up on for Erin Russek's Jingle Block of the Month quilt, and I decided it was the perfect first project for the Featherweight -- especially since my 'Nina 750 QE is all set up for free-motion quilting and I wanted to leave her that way because I've got some quilting planned for the imminent future.

The outer border of that block was very difficult to piece, with all those bias triangle edges, but I love it now that it's finished.  Very Christmasy!  You know, late last night when I finished that block, I thought I had finally gotten it perfect, but looking at the photo now I see a sloppy seam intersection right at the top, where my white triangle does not have a sharp point on the left.  I have to fix that or it will drive me crazy! 

UPDATED 7/9/2013: Guess what?  I didn't have to resew that seam after all.  The bulk of the seam allowance was "eating" my triangle point.  All I did was press that seam in the other direction, and voila -- pretty darned perfect (or rather, no longer imperfect enough to warrant ripping that triangle border apart yet again):

"Fixed" by Pressing Seam Allowance in the Opposite Direction

I also completed Pieced Block No. 4 -- TWICE.  Here is the first one:

Jingle Pieced Block No. 4, First Version

Lovely, isn't it?  I thought so, too -- until I put it up on my design wall next to the others:

Hmmm...  I cut everything twice but it's still too small!  ;-)  What happened is that, since I'm using Kaye England's Cut For the Cure specialty rulers, I disregard the pattern instructions and cut all of my squares, triangles, or whatever from the same width fabric strips.  The width of those fabric strips is determined by the size of the finished block and the grid of the block pattern.  The previous pieced blocks for this quilt have all been based on a 3 x 3 grid, so I've been cutting my HSTs (half-square triangles) and QSTs (quarter-square triangles) from 2" strips of fabric.  Unfortunately, I did not notice that the Dutchman's Puzzle block is based on a 2 x 2 grid before I started cutting.  I was so absorbed with fabric selection and then with getting comfortable with the Featherweight and learning how to get my perfect 1/4" seam on that machine, that I didn't notice this block was too small until it was completely finished -- and measured exactly 6 1/2" x 6 1/2" instead of 9 1/2" x 9 1/2".  Ah, well -- another "oops" for the FMQ practice pile!

Since I had to redo this block anyway, I decided to switch out some of the fabrics to get more contrast and to make it a bit livelier.  It needed more red!  This is the final version that will be going in my quilt:

Jingle Pieced Block No. 4, 9 1/2" x 9 1/2"

The Featherweight was fun to use, once I got used to it.  The biggest issues I had were the challenges of inadequate machine lighting (by today's standards) and figuring out how to get an accurate 1/4" patchwork seam.  I have ordered a replacement LED bulb from Amazon (affiliate link) that is supposed to fit the Featherweight, although it has mixed reviews on the Internet, and that may help.  Meanwhile, I set up a desktop Ott light to shine in front of the machine, and that improved visibility a lot without creating too much glare.

Since my Featherweight's original stitch plate (sans markings, which were a later innovation) had a significant amount of chrome worn away around the needle hole, I bought an after-market replacement stitch plate that does have markings for various seam widths, but the lines are very difficult to see.  I tried out four different after-market 1/4" patchwork feet that other quilters recommended for the Featherweight, but I finally realized that my presser bar is not set perfectly straight in my machine, causing the presser foot to angle  ever so slightly to the right.  For that reason, I can't use the front edge of any foot as a seam guide.  I'm sure that a tech, or even my Handy Husband, for that matter, could easily turn that presser bar so that the presser foot would be perfectly straight, but I didn't want to wait for that.  I also thought that all of the after-market presser feet seemed pretty flimsy and lightweight, with too much side-to-side play for my taste.  I went back to the original Singer foot that came on the machine, and I think it feeds the patchwork more smoothly and glides across the bulky seam intersections more easily and with less distortion than those other, wider feet.  I aligned a piece of low-tack, neon pink tape (sold for temporarily marking lines on acrylic rulers) to the 1/4" line on my stitch plate, and used that as a visual guide for my fabric edges.  I also found that the fabric pieces fed more consistently, without flagging at the beginning or end, if I positioned my left hand just to the left of the presser foot and watched the edge of the fabric at the tape line right next to the needle instead of watching where the fabric lined up with the tape in front of the presser foot:

Getting a Perfect 1/4" Seam on My Featherweight

(Yes, I know...  Time for a manicure!)  I was using a 70/10 Microtex needle with Aurifil 50/2 cotton thread and got a lovely stitch with my tension set just below the 3 mark on my tension dial.  I did notice a couple of times that the stitches weren't looking good on the backside, and both times my tension dial had somehow moved down to 2 instead of 3.  I'm not sure whether I bumped the dial by mistake when I was sewing or if it is loose and moves by itself -- not good!  I'll have to watch for that next time and get that tightened up if necessary.

Meanwhile, here's what my design wall looks like today, with all of the Jingle blocks I have completed so far.  I'll be switching gears back to hand applique next.  There's been one more applique block released that I need to get caught up with, and I still need to do the large center medallion applique for this quilt as well.  The finished quilt is going to have a total of 16 blocks, 8 pieced and 8 appliqued, so I'm almost at a halfway point.  I'm really glad I decided to do this project.  It's a lot of fun and I'm learning a lot along the way!

Have a wonderful weekend!


Bethany said...

LOVE your blocks and the fabric you've chosen. I haven't had a chance to find fabric for this pattern and still working on her peacock quilt from a couple of years ago.

Glad you got your block finished and love the red.

Rebecca Grace said...

Thanks, Bethany... Peacock quilt? I LOVE peacocks! Now I have to go find that pattern on Erin’s blog! Thanks for stopping by.

Sherri said...

The peacock quilt she talks about is the "My Tweets" pattern. I am almost halfway done with the borders for mine.
You are using the EXACT tape I was thinking of when I suggested you try using tape for a guide. I am SO glad it worked for you!
Love your fabric choices too!

Rebecca Grace said...

Thanks, Sherri, for all of your help!! The tape started coming loose in front by the end of the second block I was working on. Now I’m considering using an extra-fine point Sharpie or paint pen on the ¼” groove on my stitch plate so I can see it better. It’s not the original stitch plate and it wasn’t expensive... What do you think?

Sherri said...

I emailed you but will add here, take the plate and loosen it. Then put the edge of the tape over and under the front of the plate and screw the plate back down. That will hold the tape on better. You can also get 1/4" masking tape at quilt stores, JoAnns, Hancocks, etc, that might stick a little better.

You CAN use a marker, but I wouldn't...just cuz. NO is just because I (personally) wouldn't want to take the chance that I might mark something that I might not be able to remove.

Jenny K. Lyon said...

I am loving the way this is turning out! Great fabric choices and the combo of applique and piecing is divine!

Ivory Spring said...

That gray/red fabric made me swoon!!

Lane said...

Love the blocks!!! Adjusting the presser foot bar should be easy. It's held in by a single screw, behind the faceplate. That screw attaches it to the presser foot lift handle. Other than that, I don't think it's attached anywhere except it has to stay within it's guides so it can lift and drop. I've turned several as they tend to get out of alignment over time and disuse. Let us know how the new bulb works. I might be interested to try that. Hope your tension knob isn't loose. that can be much more trying to fix. I generally use several layers of masking tape as a seam guide. I make two cuts, about a sixteenth of an inch deep and about an inch and a half apart in the roll and then peel that section out and stick it to the machine bed. Good luck and enjoy the FW. Lane