Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Twenty-Nine Cent Wonder

I buy a lot of sewing machines. I have many donated to me. And sometimes I get a bargain basement deal that turns out ... surprising.

This past week I went to our Goodwill E-Commerce building to pick up an Elna SU62 I won on their auction. It was a super deal and I could pick up locally so I planned it for a Wednesday morning when I could go into work late (because I worked the early evening shift) and take advantage of the senior discount. That's a whopping 25% off when shopping at their outlet store right next door. I found a few things but the two sewing machines they had set aside for $5.99 each were not stellar models so I just kept shopping. Along the way I spied two sewing machines that were in with all of the usual stuff but had no foot controls and were both somewhat stripped down. I kept shopping until I checked the pricing sign: electronics were 29 cents each. Really? I went back and picked up a Kenmore 158-1340 that was in so-so shape and possibly could still be useful. At the check out I confirmed that it would only be 29 cents and the young woman got a big smile when I got excited about my deal-of-the-day.

Once home I got to checking it over and couldn't figure out why the needle bar wouldn't go up or down and only moved a little bit. There wasn't anything in the way in the bobbin area and parts were missing from that area anyway so less to get jammed. The presser foot pressure dial was missing but I had more of those, and the tension unit was missing parts. As I picked it up to better see, I heard a clinking sound and found one of the missing tension disks was inside the machine near the needle bar, preventing it from moving up or down. Once removed the needle bar move just fine. A little cleaning, oiling, adding those missing pieces, including a power cord and foot control, and we were in business. Here's what I added:
Tension assembly
Shuttle hook
Race Cover
Bobbin case, bobbins
Pressure regulator
Light bulb
Power cord and foot control
New tension assembly in place and presser foot pressure thingy

Shuttle hook and race cover in place

All were pretty standard and I thought I might even have the extension table but I didn't find it with all of the others so chances look slim. I did have to try out a couple different tension assemblies to find one that was compatible but with some testing and adjustments it stitched just fine. Not every machine is worth rescuing but these old Kenmore's are sturdy, basic, and easy to use. Did I mention it was only 29 cents? That was a big win-win and someone will get a good no-frills sewing machine that's a nice bargain, too.
Kenmore 158-1340: a ready to go
Next up was the Elna SU62, the purpose for my visit to the outlet. It came in the blue metal carrying case, complete with foot control and power cords but sans any accessories. At first the stitching would only jam things up so I took off the needle plate to find thread caught up in the bobbin area plus a ton of linty stuff. Even after cleaning out the fluff it wouldn't stitch but the thread kept getting caught. Once I took the drop-in bobbin case out, held in with only two screws, I could see a large piece of thread caught in it. In the end I had to take most of it apart to get that thread out but now it was super clean and ready to sew again.

Elna SU62 feed dogs and bobbin area exposed (after cleaning)
It stitched very nicely and needed very few adjustments. I already have a set of accessories for an Elna SU, including many of the coveted cams for decorative stitches, so she will be ready to go to a new home very soon. That blue metal case was in excellent condition and I used my new Gojo to clean off the dust and give it a bit of a shine.
Elna cams and accessories

Very portable with accessories neatly tucked under the free arm
Elna SU62 ready for a new owner
A trip to Goodwill to pick up an auction item can sometimes turn out to have a bonus: a 29 cent machine discounted to less than a quarter of a dollar. Sweet.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Moving On Out

No, I'm not moving anytime soon but I do have sewing machines that have to move out of the garage because we are having an early winter. That's right, it's winter here in Minnesota already. Shiesh, how did this happen so soon? Just a week ago I was sewing out in the garage and now you need gloves on just to walk out there. I looked over the situation and called in the troops: my strong son-in-law Josh:
Josh, my strong son-in-law
I know, he looks like just a regular guy but he's been lifting weights and working out so comes to us as the "strength of many" or at least a couple of us combined. He came forewarned of all I wanted to do but he had even more ideas.

Since I wanted to bring the Bernina 217 industrial inside, something had to move on out. That turned out to be the Kenmore  158-1813 in a very nice refinished cabinet:
White cabinet but with a Kenmore inside

Kenmore 158-1813
I love the cabinet but found I wasn't using the sewing machine so it was going out and the industrial was coming in. Even with the head out of the tables both were pretty heavy but Josh picked them up and carried both up or down with relative ease. Only because the industrial table was 48" long did I have to hold up one end while he could get further down the steps. All was in place and hooked back up and I'm back in business:
Industrial Bernina 217 in her new home
While I had his muscle rented out three of the treadles came inside plus I'm going to have to bring in the heads of the electrics in cabinets but it just has to be done. With everything cleared out we could now put some pulleys up so I could get the lawn furniture up into the garage attic without calling on friends to help every year. Not only did Josh do a nice job of it, he also brought in all of the furniture and we practiced getting all of it up and in place. That was a huge deal for me and now it has been made much easier.

Looking over the situation, Josh and I talked about our new-to-us snow blower and how we needed it closer to the front of the garage but also needed an outlet for the electric start.  With a light switch nearby he said "Let's move the shelves back, the snowblower forward, and change the light switch to an outlet and switch." So with Jim's help and a call to a friend for clarification on wires, they got it all done:
Snowblower ready for business
I got to stay in the house and talk with my daughter Alison and play with two of my grandchildren so it was a big win-win! Later on I went back out and rearranged some of the attic items and cleaned up even more with the vacuum cleaner and now the garage is ready for winter. Not quite: I still need to get my car in the garage but we are so much closer and more ready for this cold weather. It's gonna happen, trust me!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Craft Fair Hangover

Yes, it has been quite awhile since I last posted and I apologize for my lack of industry in getting my latest activities posted but it has been a bit crazy around here. Along with three craft fairs three weekends in a row, my husband had another set of kidney stones which landed him in the hospital. Along with stents, lithotripsy, and pain meds he has weathered the storm again but it also meant he was out of the picture for the craft fairs. Since my daughter Kelly is the one who comes along with us, this time she was relied on quite heavily to hold up her end with additional product. We had double booths at all of the fairs so we could really spread out! Here's what one of the displays looked like:
Karen at Blaine High School craft fair
and here are Kelly's burp cloths and memory wire bracelets:
Salem Covenant Church craft Fair display
All in all we did great at each one! Blaine High School Swim & Dive Club has an efficient set-up and take down routine with lots of help so we were glad to go back for our second year. The Minnesota Viking hot mitts sold out so I went home and made up twenty more and ended up with about eight left over at the end of all three sales. Who knew?
Our meager sports display at Salem
Our first time at St. John's Lutheran Church in St. Paul gave us a bit of a surprise when we found ourselves in a line-up of tables but we made do and paired down our offerings:
Kelly watching our goods over two tables
Our sales were fine but I ended up spend way more than I usually would because they had a bake sale and a rummage sale. Who could resist? During the last hour there was even a $5 bag sale and I went back for more. We went home happy and I only had to sew up a few more Green Bay Packers hot mitts and a few more towels.

One of the best parts of having sales back to back was in leaving the car all packed up. After the first sale we just added Kelly's tables to mine and it all still fit in the Jeep. The second sale already had tables and chairs for us so only the bins came out. By the last sale, where I usually need the wheeled cart, I could park right next to the door to unload so no cart was needed. It also helped that I thought it started at 9 am so we were both there at 7:30, just like the past two Saturdays, only to find out it didn't start until 10. What? We couldn't help but wonder where everyone was at 8:30 when we were nearly done setting up and some of the booths were empty! Next time we will have to review the details ahead of time.
Display at Salem Covenant Church
Will we do this again? I hesitate to return to the smaller church sale and three weekends in a row was exhausting, but Kelly and I did have a great time together as mother and daughter. Make that mother, daughter, and granddaughter: she announced she is having her first baby April 30, 2019! Of course, I cried, we got all excited together, and then could spend time between customers talking about babies, her new favorite topic. There will be so much sewing and knitting going on for babies now: I can't wait!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Bernina Industrial Investigation

I continue to be busy selling cabinet and desk model sewing machines and getting the garage clear for the coming cold and snow season but for every two steps forward I take one backwards. This week I sold the Viking 21 in the compact cabinet to a young family for their two daughters to sew with and later that same evening I had an industrial sewing machine delivered. WHAT? I need to empty the garage, not fill it back up! But this was a good deal and something I didn't even know I needed.

Bernina 217 industrial
While looking at sewing machines on Craigslist I spied a Bernina 217 industrial at what seems like a fair price so I start asking questions. In the meantime I also find one on Facebook Marketplace and ask for the model number and more photos. Come to find out, the Bernina 217 was not made for very long since their model 850 came along and was more popular but the 217 has something special. Some models have a "box" installed on the back for decorative stitches with cams. Of course, the cams are no longer available but I understand someone makes plastic substitutes, probably from a 3D printer, so there is hope. While involved in this little foray into industrials another one comes up at an even better price and this one comes with the cam box. I kid you not, so I go over to see what was up.

It wasn't working. That's not exactly true, it needed to be retimed so the owner and I had a nice talk and he was going to either fix it or send in to have it fixed. Since this was not an emergency I could wait for the repair. To make a long story short, he did not have the money for the repair and did need the money from the sale so we settled on an agreeable amount and he delivered the monster to me. That was certainly worth something since those machines are so heavy and the clutch motors are just as heavy. But here she is in my garage:
Bernina 217 in her temporary garage home: it's cold out there!

What happened? Oh, now I'm going to see if I can retime the machine and know I can also send it out if I find it is too complex for me. This one is different with the bobbin facing the back of the machine so it's a little trickier to work on. It came with one cam on the back, a great table, decent lamp (previous owner was a lighting guy), and a ton of cones of thread. There are a dozen bobbins and many packages of needles, too, although the numbering has me wondering if they are the correct ones. I tell myself if I can get this running again without sending it to another repair shop I will spring for a servo motor, about the same cost as the repair. Am I going to like this model? You just never know until you sew with it, but it has a decent reputation, can sew heavy to light weight fabrics, a wide zigzag stitch, reverse, and known for the best stitch quality as all of the other Bernina's. Yes, my hopes are high. Take a look at Ashley's review of the Bernina 217 and you might want one yourself!
Cam box on the back with one cam attached
a few days later:
I got it timed! The widest of zigzags still might be quite right but I got it to stitch and it did so beautifully. Then it started to break thread so I'm back trying to figure out what's going on. Even with a clutch motor it isn't very loud so I might have to think again about adding a servo motor.
Bernina 217
 a few more days later:
I've had a chance to sew on the Bernina 217 and find it's just a bit fussy about thread, that was all. It sews like a dream, sewing through 2 layers of cotton and then thick layers of toweling as I make up hand towel with handles. There was no hesitation at all, just smooth and straight. There was a knee lever for lifting the presser foot that I got adjusted and working again, too. I went ahead and ordered the servo motor and can't wait to see how nice it is to work with when it's very quiet. A little confession here: I measured the space in the sewing room and she's gonna fit! Some other things are going to have to go but that's okay: she's a keeper!

Monday, October 8, 2018

Continuing to Learn How to Sew

It was another big sewing weekend with First Quilters on Saturday morning and our granddaughter Sarina staying overnight for a sewing marathon. What fun! Let's do this in chronological order:

I was invited to come back to make a presentation about how to clean your sewing machine and they said I should bring my sewing machines, too. That's a bit of a loaded invitation since I have way too many to bring so I selected about six to show off and possibly interest someone in a sale:
So many models and all for sale
There was quite a bit of interest in a fun Viking 21 model in a compact cabinet:
Viking compact cabinet
but it came home with me. I love those compact tables that fold up so nicely and this one is really nice because you do not have to bolt the machine in but just put it down on a lower shelf.
On lower shelf for storage

On upper shelf for sewing
It's still very portable but with the machine lifted out the cabinet is lightweight enough to move around.

There was a nice group of women in a semi-circle of chairs who looked on while I explained how to clean the interior, exterior, oil, and maintain a sewing machine. I had a nice Kenmore that I used for demonstration but asked if someone had one they wanted me to demo with and Cathy said she also had a used Kenmore she would love to have cleaned. She was a very good sport when I revealed the packed link under the needle plate. Everyone admitted their machine probably also needed cleaning like that so she was in good company until she asked if we could remove the bottom plate. Under the bobbin area we removed the free arm cover to reveal a whole mess of lint. At this point everyone gasped and someone even got up to throw out the linty globs that had fallen through. I reassured Cathy that what we were seeing was not at all unusual and most machines even look worse that this. Nevertheless, she was quite embarrassed until she remembered she was not the original owner but it was bought at a garage sale and just maybe this was from the previous owner. I liked that idea, too, and Cathy stayed on and continued to clean it out and we put it all back together again. The next morning I sent her a pdf of the manual so she could figure out anything she hadn't already discovered on her own:
Cleaning up the Kenmore 385-18630890
The afternoon was spent with family at Skylar's 6th birthday party and afterwards we asked if Sarina could come home with us so we could spend more time sewing together. Boy, did we sew! She wanted to make a top for her shorts made in August but we couldn't find an easy pattern so we switched things up. How about using knits and a serger? Yes, we bit off more than we could chew but it was still fun and it turned out well:
Sarina in her raglan sleeved shirt she made
Finding a free raglan shirt pattern, she chose two different fabrics. It was quick and easy to put together mostly by herself once she got the speed on the serger down to a slower pace. Then I added the neckline band and wrecked it! So as a way to disguise my mess we added the flower trim and she liked it even better. I made up leggings but we had to do the elastic on the waistband over again to get them to fit better. It wasn't too hard and I can adjust the pattern for the next pair. That's right, there's another pair coming up:
Sarina's extra pair of leggings
Since all of this was done without her Brother sewing machine we got it out to make her own hot mitt. She did all of the sewing up to putting the bias trim on. For that we went out to the industrial Singer 78 in the garage and I sewed through all of the 11 layers. It went home with her to finish hand sewing the bias edge but we all knew how much her mom would love it. It was a great weekend even if I didn't sell any sewing machines or get any of my own sewing done: it was grandkids time!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Treadle Madness

I get these crazy calls from people wanting to know if I would like/take their family treadle sewing machine. The answer is usually "NO" but I made an exception when friends from church said after their move into a house they couldn't fit this item in. Since they would deliver it I figured I could find a way to sell it for them. They want the proceeds to go back to our church but that also means I'm willing to donate my time: I'm up to 3 hours already and it is not done yet. But I'm having fun so here's what it did and does look like:
Treadle base before cleaning, missing drawer knob.
Singer 66 Red Eye before cleaning

Singer 66 Red Eye before cleaning, obviously!
These photos don't give it justice but take it from me, it had been stored in a garage for many years. As I started to clean with Go-Jo, a new method I saw demonstrated at the TOGA ten days ago, it was in good shape with decals somewhat intact, no pin rash from a rag tied around the arm, nothing broken and all parts represented. Even though I have way too much to do, including mowing the lawn, I just can't resist looking at it and seeing how much work is ahead of me.
Metal parts with rust
Before the day is over I have used Howard's Restore-a-Finish on the top exposed parts of the wood. It doesn't get much better but I know it is not worth stripping down. After it dries I go ahead and use Howard's Feed & Wax over all of the wood parts and it does start to glow a bit. Inside of the head I can see there are some very dirty and possibly some rust on parts so I go ahead and clean up with sewing machine oil and give it a nice oiling. Things move but not too enthusiastically so more parts come off to find the bobbin case like this:
How many years of compacted lint?
Even with a big clean-up job it still wasn't moving too fast and I know these machines should move with a touch of your finger. I get out the spray can of TriFlow and give the underneath parts and behind the round plate on the backside of the head a spray and leave it overnight. In the morning it was moving much smoother so I attached the original belt (just needed a new hole cut for the cleat) and she moved like the wind.

Now I'm down to the metal parts and the bobbin winder. That bobbin winder looked good from the front but I know it's a mess deep inside so I need to give it some serious time with cotton swabs, sewing machine oil, and metal polish. It's really looking good:
Cleaned up bobbin winder and replaced Singer nameplate
It was missing the Singer nameplate but I had an extra that I glued into place. Sorry that isn't too authentic but it worked! More cleaning, buffing, and just keeping at it comes down to this:
Singer 66 Red Eye ready to go back in her treadle stand

Singer 66 Red Eye backside (replaced plate with a different one)

Much better
And now for the stitching: things weren't going too well. Taking the whole tension mechanism apart showed it had been put together wrong and there were missing parts. Digging in my jungle of parts I found what I needed and with some tweaking of the bobbin tension it now sews like this:
Singer 66 Red Eye after adjusting tensions
A nice clean bobbin area didn't hurt so compare to the photo above to see how it is now glowing:
Clean, clean, clean bobbin case
And how did the cabinet turn out? Meah. It's not horrible because there are no chips in the veneer but it's not great either:
Classic 5 drawer cabinet for a Singer treadle
Since these are a dime a dozen I'm trying to talk myself out of stripping down the top for a really nice finish. I hope I can resist! It does work well as it is and is fine when set up, just not much of a display piece. That's where the stripping of the old finish comes in. Let's see how long I can hold out but it will also depend on the weather since we had our first hard frost last night. Days to work out in the garage are numbered and I have 2 more projects to finish up first besides the craft fair items that still are not ready! It will get done, it will get done, all in due time.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Vinyl Sewing

I've been up to my eyeballs with cabinet sewing machines and trying to get them sold but what am I doing to see that it gets done? I'm sewing, of course! Nothing like avoiding the task at hand, I've taken a little bit of time to get some small tasks done, like make a new lunch bag. Okay, it all started when I got an email with new ideas for making small items that I thought would be nice dollar sales at the craft fairs. As a credit card holder, they suggested using leather or vinyl, anything that would not fray. I dug out my stash of vinyl and leather and found my pattern for a lunch bag made a few years ago. I made up a few of the card holders:
Card holders in vinyl: cute, huh?
and then took a look at the lunch bag pattern. Hummm... I think it would look cute with denim and lined with a checked laminated cloth for easy wiping off:
Lunch bag with top rolled down to show inside.
Lunch bag with flap over the front
I like a lunch bag with a nice squared bottom, large flap to cover the top even when it might be bulging, and a single sturdy handle. I made two the last time and only one has survived but it was time for a refresh. Since it was only laminated cloth, not a true vinyl, it was easy to sew up on my Viking Designer 1, but not so with a true vinyl. Here's some I cut out for the card holders:
Cut and matched pockets ready to sew
There is a larger inner pocket that is sewn up on three sides and then the outer pocked folds over it and is also stitched on both open sides and across the bottom just like the inner pocket. Problem was when my Designer 1 would not stitch the 2 thin layers of vinyl and kept catching the top edges under. Before I wrecked any more I took them to a Brother Super Select-O-Matic where they were stitched with ease. That's where I'll be stitching the remaining pockets I cut out. I did try a rolled hem on a serger but it also didn't like to feed the vinyl so I was back to the regular mechanical sewing machine.

There's a machine for each job and it's not often one machine can do everything. I think I'm kinda glad about that!