Saturday, 15 September 2018

Not Another Hobbby!


No that isn't a bag I've made (it's the teacher's) but it's like one I've started to make. 

Oh yes, I've taken up quilting, well learning to quilt anyway. It's not exactly a new hobby as I've sewn for as long as I can remember, my Nanna & my Mam taught me when I was little so it's just another branch of that really. However it does need more stuff. Lots more stuff like cutting mats, rotary cutter, plastic rulers & shapes galore!

I found a really great quilting group at Beamish Museum and I joined before Christmas. I was very wary as sometimes you join these groups and the people are not always very welcoming. You feel a bit of an outsider but this group of women were lovely. I went along with a friend just before Christmas and we had a great time chatting, learning to cut fabric with a rotary cutter and making a nine patch square. We saw the great quilted bags most of the group had made to carry all their sewing things to the class. The photo above is of the one belonging to the teacher.

Oh yes we did a lot of eating too as it was their Christmas meeting so there was a lot of chatting & laughing. 

I was really looking forward to our next meeting which was yesterday and it was another successful day. We start at 10am break at about 12.30 for lunch & we all gather around a big table to chat then we work until 4pm. It's a great day with no interruptions to make meals, answer the phone or the door. Bliss!

Here's another lovely bright bag I liked. Pink's not my colour but the red & green really lifted it.

I'll let you know how mine turns out!

Saturday, 8 September 2018

A Little Frister & Rossmann Cub 4

Well here it is! A lovely little vintage sewing machine, a Frister & Rossmann Cub 4. It seems a bit like a toy one standing beside the Singer but it isn't. They were made in Japan in the 'seventies.

It's a 3/4 size machine which despite being an all metal machine only weighs about 15 pounds compared to my lovely old Singer which weighs in at 27 pounds. 

I love the case it came in, you can just see it behind the sewing machine. It's is very lightweight compared to my wooden Singer box. The whole thing looks quite modern despite being made in the 'seventies, looks a bit retro with those cream & brown colours & the little band of orange logos around the case.

It didn't come with any attachments other than it's foot control & the zig zag foot. That's not a problem as all my Singer attachments fit it. 

There was a little box missing from the front (you can use it to hold accessories) as you can see from the photo below.

However that wasn't a problem as I got one really cheap on eBay so it's complete now. The box lid unfolds to extend the sewing area & there's a dinky little shelf that lifts up on the left side. 

It's all really sweet & a clever design.

The only thing I really don't like is the bobbin loading. It doesn't load as easily as the Singers do with their top loading drop in bobbins. With this you have to take the little box out from the front and poke about to remove the metal casing which holds the bobbin. 

I find I have to tilt the machine backwards & lie it down to see what I'm doing. Another problem is that you have no idea how much thread is on the bobbin when you're sewing as it's completely hidden inside the casing & under the machine. What a pain! Never mind I'll get used to it, quite a lot of the more modern machines have this too.

It sews a lovely straight stitch but it doesn't do any zig zag stitches. No idea why as it's been oiled and all the bits move except the needle bar. Maybe something is jammed in which case it may unjam as I use it. However it's very clean inside so it's more likely something has broken off somewhere inside. I've taken the base off & all that dropped out was a pin. I suspect that's why I got the machine cheap.

I've looked inside but compared to the Singer the gubbins are packed in there tight & you can't see much, unlike my Singer where you can see all the parts. Also with Singer because they cornered the market with sales many people collect & repair these vintage machines & kindly share their knowledge by making videos & posting on blogs which help you to sort any problems out. 

Not so with the little Frister but I don't mind as I really only need a lightweight machine to take to the quilting group & to do a decent straight stitch. Any of the fancy stuff like zig zag & a few embroidery stitches can be done on my old Singer at home. I also really don't need the bells & whistles that come with a new plastic machine so will see how things go.

There was a bit of a feelgood factor about this purchase. I bought the machine on eBay from a hospice so apart from being environmentally friendly & giving a lovely old machine a new home, the money was going to a good cause.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Another Sewing Machine!

Well I've given in and bought another sewing machine, not a new one, another vintage one.  I needed one I could carry more easily to the quilting group as my Singer 338 is a tad heavy. I can carry it OK but lifting it into the car & then onto the table is getting problematic. 

I thought about getting a new lighter one and looked at lots with all the frills bells & whistles, but lots of reports I read about them indicates they are not built to last. The computers go wrong & they are difficult & expensive to repair, if they can be repaired.  You have to go to the really expensive ones to get a decent build & I just don't feel the need to spend that sort of cash. 

I took some advice from an experienced quilter & she advised to avoid the "throwaway plastic rubbish" & go for a vintage Frister & Rossman Cub or an Elna Lotus. Neither of which I had ever heard of so what followed was hours of looking up information about these machines. 

I made an interesting discovery that none of these machines had the online information providing support, parts available & maintenance to help you look after your machine like you can with Singer. I suppose that's because Singer captured the market, their machines were the undoubtedly the best in those days and people still love them. There are so many resources to help you maintain your Singer that for most people it's their choice of machine. However the only lightweight vintage Singers are the Featherweights (mind you they're not that light) but the prices are now extortionate so I counted that model out.

I couldn't find much out about these machines, how to maintain or repair them, nothing on Youtube other than a woman sewing rows of various stitches on the Frister & Rossmann Cub 4 & a few people on various fora saying they loved theirs. 

I took a bit of a risk tonight & bought the Cub 4 on ebay. It was very cheap as the accessories box that fits into the front of the machine is missing. Well it doesn't bother me as I won't have any accessories to put into it, they don't come with the machine. Must be still in the accessories box somewhere in somebodies loft probably. It does have the manual, the foot pedal & a decent looking case. 

I only want it to take to the classes so it doesn't have to look the business. I'll be happy enough if it sews OK & I can lift it. It's supposed to in good working condition & I only paid £24 for it. If it's rubbish I'll just think of it as a donation to the hospice selling it. Just hope my husband is out when it's delivered, not sure how I can explain buying another "old" machine.

Just before I bid for the machine I saw a lovely Singer 99K available locally so I can go & look at it if I want to. I don't really want to be a collector of Vintage machines but I think I'm getting addicted.

Watch this space!

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Joe The Quilter

Joe the Quilter's Cottage, Beamish

Quilting has long been a traditional craft in the North East of England with the famous Durham or North Country Quilting.

I have a Durham quilt which I inherited from my mother in law after she died. Sadly I know nothing about who made it or when as she never showed it to me. I'll do a post about it once I manage to take some decent photographs of it. It's so large I haven't found a way to take them.

Beamish Museum has a lot of quilts and recently a new cottage has been built or rather re created honouring Joe the Quilter, a famous quilter in the North who was murdered in 1826.

Joe the Quilter's cottage was in Warden near Hexham in Northumberland and the team from Beamish researched the site and recreated the cottage in Beamish. 

I had a half an hour to spare last week when we were doing our quilting at Beamish so dashed across to take a look at the cottage. Apologies for the quality of the photographs. I hadn't realised that we would be visiting the cottage so didn't take my camera. I must get to grips with the camera on my phone one of these days. 

Musicians playing outside the cottage. Note the little puppet the fiddler was keeping going while he played. Multi tasking!

The interior was bigger than I expected but just a single room for living in!

Behind that wattle & daub wall was where Joe kept his chickens! 

Wonder where Joe kept his quilting frame as it would have been pretty big.

There was a small sample of Durham quilting in the window area. Main problem was getting a photo with all the other people doing the same thing. Tourists!

Outside the cottage was a notice letting people know they could take part in an investigation into the murder!

We took a quick look into the church (another building taken down & built up in Beamish). There were some quilts and some boards showing activities relating to the cottage & quilting.

Small pieces of blue & white pottery were found when the archaeological dig was done and they were copied here by a local textile designer and artist.

She then designed a lovely cotton fabric using her water colour print.

Also in the church was a locally created new quilt. Couldn't get the whole thing into a single photo.

 I particularly like this square of the little town of Alnmouth.

This isn't a very comprehensive representation of what it's really like at the cottage as I only had about 30 minutes to see it. 

There's a lovely video telling the whole story of Joe the Quilter's cottage here.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Durham Miners' Gala

North & South West Towers of Durham Cathedral

It's many years since I went to the Miners' Gala or rather the Big Meeting as we called it. I was just little and I remember my sister got lost amongst hundreds of people on the racecourse, she was 3 years old & I'm not sure we ever went back. However I do remember the procession leaving the the Miners' Institute with the brass band & the miners' banner every year and then going to watch them returning home with crowds following the band & the banner.

The event was a huge one in the life of the communities around the Durham coalfield celebrating their mining heritage and the miners' unions.  The colliery bands marched from the villages early in the morning arriving in the city where the streets were closed to traffic. They paraded in their thousands to the old racecourse where political speeches were made. Afterwards new banners were taken to the Cathedral to be blessed in a special service.

Today I went along as I was working at the Cathedral, it was the 134th Big Meeting and the atmosphere was amazing. The weather was fantastic and it was great listening to the brass bands playing as they waited to go down the the old racecourse to hear the political speeches. 
Sorry my photos are not brilliant had to take them with a phone on the hoof as I wound my way through the crowds on the paths up to the Cathedral. They were taken at 9.30am as the banners and bands were assembling with the banners and waiting to march to the old racecourse.

 Unison (my union)

Thousands more came to the old racecourse there despite the fact that there are now no deep mines in Durham due to closure by the Thatcher government in the 'eighties. There's no racecourse now either but that wasn't her fault!

You can guess there were lots of things on the agenda today when Jeremy Corbyn the Labour leader spoke, education, the NHS, the importance of trade unions and yes Trump! I'm not a great Corbyn fan but I agree with what he said today, he reminded people that nobody gave us the right to vote or to be discriminated against. We had to fight for these things and the unions played a big part. 
It's a hundred years since women (over 30) were given the right to vote!
Politics over!!!

I was on duty at the Cathedral this morning for tours of the North West Tower which you can see here in the photo above. Note the colour of the grass, yellow in contrast to the older photo at the top as we have had no rain for weeks now. It looks like sand.

The flowers are struggling to survive too in this heat.

After the tours were over I decided to stay for the service for the first time and it was wonderful. There were five new banners being blessed by the Bishop of Durham and were brought in with their local bands. Four were brass bands with lots of children in them and the fifth was a pipe band (which I'm not a great fan of) however it was great. The sound totally filled the Cathedral and the acoustics were absolutely wonderful.

The Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler gave a wonderful sermon reminding us that the days of terrible conditions working in mines are still with us. Apparently in the Democratic Republic of Congo child labour is used to mine cobalt, the mineral used in our mobile phone, laptop & electric batteries in cars. You can see more here in this CNN report. What a nightmare for these children & all for our lifestyle!

It was quite an emotional service as many present remembered their husbands, fathers, grandfathers, uncles and brothers who had worked in the mines. All my male relations worked at Dawdon Pit a huge mine which had a massive output of coal. Both my granddad's & my husband's dad died due to pneumoconiosis. My Dad, all my uncles & my brother worked there as there were no other jobs to have in the town. Once the mines closed the effects were terrible, whole communities were devastated as there were so few jobs available.

It was great to see that community spirit is still thriving in these places and thousands turned up today to celebrate the Big Meeting. The atmosphere as I said was great as I walked back down from the Cathedral into the city the brass bands were still playing around the streets and some people were dancing to Is This the Way to Amarillo?   Such fun!!!!!

The police were in great humour too chatting to everybody & apparently there were only two arrests of local men who were drunk & disorderly! 

Roll on 2019 & the 135th Big Meeting.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Happy Birthday NHS!

Have to say Happy Birthday to the NHS which is 70 today.

I must admit that I think the NHS is the best thing any government ever did for its people. To be able to receive treatment without having to worry about the cost was so vital after the war. I can remember my Mam talking about how hard it was to pay for to see a doctor. Like lots of families we were quite poor, my Dad became a miner after the war when he left the Royal Navy & there was no money to spare. The NHS was a godsend to people like us.

What a fantastic & brave government that was giving people the right to health & social care benefits and despite many problems, thankfully we still have it today. Many people take it for granted especially the younger ones who don't know what life was like for people before the NHS.

If anyone is a fan of "Call the Midwife" they'll know what a difference it made to people's lives.

There's a lovely picture timeline here on the BBC.

Nice one NHS, hope you have many more birthdays to come.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

My Singer 338!

Well here it is my very first sewing machine, the one I got for my 21st birthday in 1966! I know it cost my Mam a lot to buy it for me & she traded in her Jones treadle to buy it. I wish I had offered to pay for to keep it but I suppose that's the thoughtlessness of youth.

I learned to sew from about 5 years old with my Nana's Jones treadle, my Mam had learned to sew on it too & so did my sister. In the days before telly we spent hours sewing & knitting together. I remembered watching with horror the time my Mam got the sewing machine needle through her finger nail! Don't know how it didn't put me off.

I decided I didn't want a gold watch for my 21st as most people did I preferred a sewing machine. I loved it! Such a gorgeous colour and my how it stitched! It could zig zag & embroider and it has made hundreds of things from my mini dresses, wedding & bridesmaids' dresses in the sixties, curtains, cushions, dresses & trousers for me & my children in the seventies & in the eighties I did a City & Guilds Fashion & Design 3 year course. My the machine got some hammer during that course.  

Apart from when the electric foot control broke the machine never flackered until I got it out about a year ago & discovered there was a screw missing from the stitch lever. Just a tiny screw but it stopped the stitch setting working properly although you could still sew with it.

Well I started a quilting class a couple of months ago & wondered whether I should treat myself to a new lightweight machine to carry to the classes as mine is quite heavy with the case on it.

Next I spent hours looking at reviews on the Internet (as you do) & it looked as though most of the cheaper ones weren't worth the money. I didn't want to spend too much on one so I looked into getting the part for the machine. Well that was another hunt that took hours! Although the machine was made in Scotland it's hard to find replacement parts in the UK. I found one on a website in the US but it was going to cost a heck of a lot just for a tiny part so I gave up. I thought about buying an old 338 just to get the part but they all looked in poor condition on ebay & they weren't cheap either. So I was back to square one.

I started looking at vintage sewing machine websites, by this time I was hooked on them, finding out more about them & how they were built to last unlike the pastic stuff being sold now. Well I found one UK website, it belongs to Helen Howes, a lady who is really into restoring these fabulous machines. Well she has some beauties which she has lovingly restored for sale here & I drooled over the Jones treadle machine I learned to sew on as well a most of the others here

So I started browsing the rest of the site & found she also has parts for sale. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the exact part I needed for the princely sum of £1! I rang her, she posted it to me & last night I fitted it & voila! It restored the machine to working order perfectly, now the stitch lever works like a dream. Hard to believe I could be so delighted, more delighted than if I had won the lottery. 

Can you believe a machine doesn't work properly, all for the sake of a tiny screw you can see here.

So now I can start quilting properly! The sewing saga continues & I think it will have to go into the box with me when I go. Hard to believe you can get so attached to something mechanical but I am, I love it probably because I know it cost my Mam a lot to buy it for me back then. Then I think of all the things I have made or repaired with it, such memories. I hope Mam knows it was been worth every penny!

Not Another Hobbby!

                         No that isn't a bag I've made (it's the teacher's) but it's like one I've started to...