Thursday, February 13, 2014

Sing-out for the Old Singer

With my main sewing machine still in the shop for repairs, nothing could be done on the free-motion garrison quilt this week. So it was the perfect time to concentrate on making the back for the pieced quilt top I finished last week:


I had already decided to quilt it on my late mother-in-law's beloved Singer 503 Slant-o-matic. This machine needs to work hard and often, or she gets depressed and lapses into sluggish behavior.

The 503's streamlined design is interrupted here by the masking tape I used to attach extra thread guides (safety pins).
This is a workhorse, an all-metal, industrial-strength home machine built in 1962 and housed in its own cabinet. It pounds through multiple layers of seamed denim like they were butter, as demonstrated by a YouTube video I ran across recently. (When I first took this machine in for service, the technician's eyes lit up, and after giving a low whistle, he called out for his assistant to come 'look what we have here.') Deservedly, this machine was highly respected in its heyday, and apparently still is by those who know their stuff. If you find one of these available to buy, and it operates really (really) fast and smooth, jump on it. They run like formula race cars. It's almost scary.

This also happens to be the machine on which I learned to sew, in 1976. My mother-in-law was a kind and patient teacher (imagine entrusting your one-and-only, very expensive and much treasured sewing machine to a 22-year-old novice), and I hope I thanked her for those invaluable lessons, because sewing and quilting have brought immense satisfaction to my life.

However, to use the 503 for this quilt, rearrangement and innovation were necessary. So the machine went from its normal position against the wall (photo at left)...

to this position:

All it took was 3 storage containers, 2 old card tables and books, 1 vinyl-covered ironing board~~and a partridge in a pear tree~~. (Actually, those birds on the back of the quilt just might be partridges, who knows? :) Across from this setup, one leaf of the cutting table, which usually stays fully extended, had to be dropped just for the sake of passage. This is a long but narrow room.

Also, a bit of designing has been done on that gorgeous piece of Hoffman fabric pictured in last week's post:

I'll keep adding elements as the inspiration strikes. This usually happens when I get tired of working on the pieced quilt. It also gets me up out of the chair and provides a nice break for my brain.

Before signing off, I just have to give a 'proud mom' shout-out to my son, Alex, aka music artist Nmesh. His music opened the Lacoste Fall/Winter 2014-15 runway show (update 3/6/15--this link is no longer working, sorry to say) during New York Fashion Week this week. This is the fifth runway fashion show in the last few months to feature his music, and the first to open with it. Way to go, Alex!

Linking in to Sarah Craig's Whoop Whoop Friday post, where she has finished a lovely quilt to give to a couple whose baby has a heart defect. Perfect for Valentine's Day.

Hope everyone's weather is looking better this weekend. Just as our snow is finally beginning to melt after many days below freezing, we find out that we're in for another possible 3 to 4 inches tomorrow! But then it's back to some rain and temps in the 50s. Yay!



  1. Seeing that Singer Slant-o-matic brought back so many memories. It was the machine I learned to sew on when I was 11 and eventually became mine as the years progressed and my mom stopped sewing... probably because she couldn't get me off of it long enough to sew! I can't tell you how many items of clothing I made on that machine. And buttonholes??? It did the very best buttonholes, I've ever been able to make. So fun to see it again... thanks for sharing it.

    1. Oh wow, a fellow 503 afficionado! Weren't we lucky, learning on such an amazing machine? I haven't tried buttonholes on it. I'll have to do that. It's running just a little rough but still very fast. I guess eventually it will reach the end of its lifespan. I will sure miss it when it does!

  2. Hello Linda,
    Wonderful sewing machine. Very modern and streamlined. It looks as though it is about to take off. And a lovely big sewing room - I'd have it in chaos in no time.
    This week's picture tip - do a Google search for "Porthleven Storms 2014" You will be glad you aren't here now.

    1. Muv, funny you should say it looks as though it's about to take off---the model just before that one was called the (500) Rocketeer!

      The video... OH MY GOSH. Forgive me for saying I find this almost as romantic as it is frightening. Then again, I have always dreamed of living on cliffs over the ocean, and my favorite novels are Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre (I know, no sea cliffs, just moors, but still...wild and free). While I don't envy you the wind and rain, I must admit that I have already watched the video twice for its sheer majesty.

  3. isn't that machine modern looking, Jetsons! I have one almost the same vintage, and sewed on it, including free motion for long enough the cursing caused DH to buy me another machine!! THAT machine is now almost obsolete crying big tears. Hope I don't have to go back to the singer!!
    Thank you so much for your lovely comments on my blog

    1. It is, very Jetsons, perfect description! I was just telling Muv, the model before this one was the 500 Rocketeer--and it looked almost identical to this one. Oh, I feel for you regarding the old machines, because this one's days are numbered, too. I can tell from the occasional slow-down it does right in the middle of a seam, and a sort of loose-ball-bearing-rattle sound it makes while it's sewing recently. I was also very sad to let go of my awsome Husqvarna Viking Optima 630 (closed, self-lubricating system and 22 years with not a single repair or service check!!!). I'm not sure they make them like these anymore!

  4. Linda your Singer is a Sweetie -- and born just a year after me -- So I need to be on the lookout for one born in 1961. Glad you have that oldie but goodie backup machine. Also your landscape quilt is amazing -- you are so very talented. Lastly -- congrats to your Son!! You both must be so excited! Karen

    1. Karen, thank you so much, and my son thanks you too. We still can't quite believe it!


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