Monday, February 1, 2016

A Trusty, Dusty Machine

'Tis the time of year for horses to wear their blankets and recently, a blanket came in looking like this.  The part that ripped had a piece of the strap to keep the blanket on, and no strap = a useless blanket.

Horse blankets cost anywhere from $100 to crazy amounts I can't even type, so if a blanket rips, you really don't want to run out and buy a new one.

For someone who sews, the idea of throwing away a blanket because of a tear is heart breaking, but the idea of bringing a very dirty horse blanket near my sewing room and Lady Bernina was impossible to process.  I'm still twitching at the idea of horse sweat gliding through her Lady parts!  The only way I'd consider it would be if the blanket was washed first, but washing it might make things worse because the batting might fall out and really make a mess.

Back when I first discovered, I ended up with this very old Kenmore.  I got it for a
friend who decided she wanted to sew and since it was free, I figured it was worth cleaning up and testing out.  And it worked just fine.  Straight stitches, no nonsense.  Can you imagine stitching on a machine that can only do a straight stitch???

My friend was highly unimpressed with this behemoth and quickly found a more modern machine that weighed about half of this one and looked a lot more modern and pretty.   I don't blame her. It's like driving your great grandfather's jalopy.  It's big, it's noisy, it feels ancient and it has some rust and dirty spots.  It does not inspire sewing things like lace or baby blankets.

It makes you feel like you need to be sewing seat covers and industrial strength straps on things.

For years, maybe close to a decade, it has sat in her garage, never touched again.  I figured this might be a good machine to use to do some barn tack repairs because :   it's already given a lifetime of use so if it dies, it's no big deal.  It's pretty heavy duty and seemed like it could power through thicker materials.  I wouldn't mind if it got dirty.

Where to set it up  became the next question.  It's winter and cold outside, and at the barn, the only place with heat is the bathroom.  I didn't really want to haul it in to the barn but I also didn't want to set it up in my kitchen, though that seemed  like the best idea because I could clean that room best if I got dirt and horse grime all over the place.

It turned out to be a very mild weather, so I set it up out in the unheated garage and got to work.  What should have been a very simple set up quickly became a big fight with the thread and just as I was about to give up on the whole idea, I changed threads and it was like a whole new day.

I needed a lot of space to spread out both the ripped blanket and the blanket that I was going to use to get the new leg strap.  There's something wrong with the plaid one, aside from no horse wanting to be caught dead in plaid, so she told me to go ahead and cut whatever I needed off of it.

In my experience, all of the blankets I've used have the same leg strap and buckling system.  Not only would this work because the buckle was the same, but the angle it was sewn on the plaid blanket was the same as the navy one, so everything was set to come together like it's supposed to.

I did some math and actually got a tape measure to make sure I was placing the strap at the same place as it was on the old blanket.  Good thing I did because on the plaid blanket, there was more space between the strap and the back of the blanket binding, so I had to make some on the spot decisions. One of those decisions was how to attach the binding.  Since the binding of the navy blanket was still in one piece (how this all was torn is kind of unfathomable because the material is completely gone but the binding is still intact... what horses can accomplish in the ways of destruction is really mind boggling), I didn't want to cut it and create a bulky join.

I decided to rip out the top stitching on the binding so I could open it and slide the new piece in and restitch.  Two rows of stitching and a very old seam ripper and a lazy seamstress who didn't want to go in her house to get her better seam ripper made for a lengthy process but it was eventually all ripped out and ready to sew.

I sewed the binding on first because I was most concerned about that.  I figured I could fudge the attachment of the rest of the new piece as long as the binding properly encased the new piece.

Once I figured out my thread issue, that machine sailed right through!

The plaid had some nice lines that I actually followed for folding and sewing but I needed to pin it all in place.  This material is thick ripstop nylon and there is a nylon lining inside.  Most of what I needed to sew didn't involved batting but there was one area that was slightly thicker with some batting in it.  It's all pretty slippery and I thought maybe some spray on glue would be good next time to help hold it in place.

Getting pins through the waterproof layers was tricky and my fingers are pretty sore.

If the old blanket had been navy this would have been even better but it's totally functional and saved a ton of money!  Plus, when someone isn't familiar with every horse in the field, she can say "the one with the little piece of plaid on the blanket" and everyone will know who she means!

I'd like to offer to do this more often for people, but set up is a pain.  I have nowhere to leave this old machine set up and it's so heavy I'm not sure where I even want to store it.  At the moment, it's riding around in my car but that has to stop.  There's a problem with the presser foot, so if I were to do more repairs, I'd need to find a replacement.  I think it's bent and the needle kept hitting it, so I ended up using the only other foot I could find which was a rolled hem foot.  It did the job but wasn't ideal.

I'm pretty sure this machine is from the 1950s, so to use it in 2016 is a pretty impressive feat!

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