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A to Z: Sewing Machine Coloring Book

I've always enjoyed drawing with colored pencils and markers, but I hadn't illustrated anything of any significance for about eight years before I recently decided to try my hand at sewing machines.

In a moment, I'm going to ask for your suggestions, but first some background as to how we got here...

I'd been spending so much time working on sewing machines over the past couple of years professionally that I realized I wasn't having as much pure fun with them as I'd once enjoyed. I absolutely love working on vintage machines, especially painting them, but there is nonetheless a difference between a professional task and one intended purely for enjoyment. The former is a responsibility to a client, while the latter is a responsibility only to myself.

This Capri Royal was suggested by Kathie Williams Ingald and will be included in the coloring book.

My five-year-old son, Sagan, loves to make his own books by stapling white pages together, then drawing and coloring planets and writing facts about them. It's kind of astonishing really, because he's named after Carl Sagan, and my wife Brenda and I did nothing directly to inspire his interest in astronomy, but planets - and drawing planets - is now an absolute obsession. If he's not drawing them, he's often talking about what he will draw next, even as his mother drives him home from preschool each day. Long ago he abandoned an interest in Mario video games and now spends any screen time watching YouTube videos about the solar system. It might be a phase, but it's certainly a healthy one.

Sagan with his version of the BelAir 620.

We join him frequently while he draws and colors, and we have dutifully followed his instructions when he has wanted us to likewise "write a book" about a particular planet. Not long ago, I was tasked with Saturn, for example. As I drew Saturn, it's rings, and it's moons, I was expected to Google facts on my phone and include them in the text.

A page from one of Sagan's "books."

But while Sagan can focus on our galaxy for hours, literally, Daddy's attention span is better suited for sewing machines.

Sagan takes a brief break from coloring planets to work with Daddy on the BelAir 620.

First, I drew a fictional Omega, stylized with an unrealistic swoop to the arm and a fanciful spool of thread that reminded me of a top hat. I liked it, but it wasn't really what I originally had in mind. I'm nostalgic for the educational cartoons of the 1970s, School House Rock and the like, and I was going for a particular image style that would marry a touch of realism to whimsy. The Omega, with a fictional logo and it's exaggerated contour, was just a first attempt.

My fictional Omega with no needle plate. 😉

A few years ago my mother painted a popular image of a Featherweight and we published prints to sell. It has been popular, obviously due to it being a beloved and coveted model machine. I figured if I was going to draw a sewing machine, I might as well choose a model that friends and enthusiasts would enjoy - if not as much as the Featherweight, at least perhaps more so than other more common machines. Color is our emphasis at Still Stitching, and the iconic pink Atlas seemed ideal.

Featherweight, acrylic on canvas, by Carole Wolfensberger. Prints available.

I didn't expect that the topic of a coloring book would almost immediately follow among a few friends and Facebook acquaintances, and while I was aware that adult coloring books exist, I thought they were one of those cleverly presented items purchased in the checkout aisle at the supermarket or craft store, taken home with good intentions, placed on a shelf and rarely touched again.

The pink Atlas was the first machine illustrated in the manner I intended.

Available on Amazon. Really.
I had no idea that so many adults liked to color as much as I do, and Brenda enlightened me to the fact that adult coloring books are wildly popular. I did a little Googling on the topic and found that the craze kicked off around 2016 and was largely attributed to Scottish author Johanna Basford, whose 2013 book, Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book was an immense success. It has a 4.5 star rating and more than 4,300 reviews on Amazon. Basford's book helped ignite a sensation of adult coloring books that includes some strangely creative volumes such as the People of Walmart Adult Coloring Book, itself with a 4.5 star rating and nearly 400 reviews.

When the Chicago Tribune reported on the adult coloring book craze, Barnes and Noble's chief merchandising officer explained the trend succinctly: "It's nostalgic, and it's a bit old school. It reminds people of their childhood."

Let's make an "A to Z" coloring book!

Well, I'm convinced. It became clear to me that I could have fun illustrating machines in the evenings alongside Sagan while he focuses on dwarf planets of late, and I can perhaps bring some pleasure to others as well. I decided I'd do one machine for each letter of the alphabet, given that I already had my "A" machine, the Atlas.The coveted red Bel-Air 620 became an obvious machine for letter "B."

The Bel-Air 620.

Color the BelAir 620

The potential fun of coloring sewing machines is to reimagine their color schemes. My wife colored a BelAir in green. What color would you choose? I've uploaded a PDF copy of the BelAir for you to download and print if you would like to color it yourself. Download the image.

Brenda prefers a green BelAir.

Now I need your help!

The one classic black machine that I'm certain to include will be the Featherweight for letter "F." Otherwise, I want to focus on colorful machines which means I'll mostly be illustrating Japanese manufactured models and perhaps a few European machines as well. I want them to be distinctive machines with interesting features.

I'm seeking suggestions, and I would prefer that if you nominate a model, that you either own that machine or have some personal connection to it - perhaps a relative owned one, or you recall the machine from childhood... whatever your experience might be. I'd prefer to work from photographs provided that aren't just from Google image searches, and I'd love it if there is a little personal insight or story to accompany your suggestion.

Read more about submitting suggestions in the article Suggest a VSM For Our Coloring Book and Win a Free Copy.

Please reach me at the following email address if you have suggestions. If your machine is used, you will get a free copy of the coloring book when it is finished. You can also use our contact form, and we'll reply with a request for photos of your machine.


Rose Orr said...

Oh James: What good timing! I just returned from a quilt retreat and I'd brought along the blue 15 clone that says Precision on the top. You know which one I mean. After spending the first two days free motion quilting on my Bernina I switched over to the blue one. Don't laugh, I only sewed a couple of seams on some Quilts of Valor log cabin blocks I'd brought along. Yes it sews a nice stitch, but it was so loud and vibrated the whole table I didn't want to drive the rest of the room nuts with all the sounds coming from my corner. That was a heavy lug around to only sew 2 seams...

Still Stitching said...

Uh oh! Rare for those clones to rattle and fuss... she needs a tune-up?

CWBarnes said...

Now I have to start digging thru my photo archives. Ive owned and restrest so many ...

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