Sunday, August 21, 2016

An Unglamorous Life

When you are new in an interest, hobby, or obsession, those who are farther down the road seem a bit awesome. They are now where you want to be and how can you get there the fastest way possible you might be asking yourself. I was in that place only a few years ago and marveled at how much they knew, how generous and patient they were with all of my questions, and how glamorous their lives seemed to be. Wow...to have all of those sewing machines to play with! That must be heaven! And now I know better.

This weekend I spent many hours in my garage, getting cabinets ready for sewing machines that are languishing right now. Yup, it's the Sewing Machine Garage Sale again. I had full cabinets to get ready but also quite a few that only needed tops refinished so that was my big goal this weekend. Friday night I stripped off the old finish, Saturday found me sanding, preconditioning the wood, and staining over four hours. Then on Sunday morning at 7 am I put on the first coat of water-based polyurethane, either semi-gloss or satin, depending on the rest of the table. After church I gave them all a light sanding, reattached the tops to their respective tables, and applied coat two:


Looking towards the back of the garage
Looking towards the front of the garage
See what I mean? It's very unglamorous. It's hours and hours of slow work and sore muscles. Between coats two and three I did get to mow the lawn (it's been so rainy I was actually glad to find a time to mow), have dinner and a Dairy Queen (this was my husband's idea!).
All done with their third coat on
I'm also working on a bentwood case for a Singer 201 that is getting sold next weekend but I'll have to write a separate post about that one. So all of this took my entire weekend! I never even went off our property all day Saturday but worked on these babies. And now they are done. So am I. It will be great to get machines back in them and work at getting them in a final state for sale. I can't leave everything to the end so some will get finished now and marked as ready as I see what else I'll have time for.

Big news flash! I'm going to the River Rats TOGA in September! I'm so excited because I thought I was going to have to pass this one up (again) due to no-room-at-the-inn but a lovely woman volunteered to share her large motor home with two of us and I responded fast enough to get in. We have all sent emails back and forth and I can't wait to go now and meet these nice people and enjoy the weekend. So what is a TOGA? It's a Treadle On Gathering and Academy, a weekend where those who love people powered sewing machines, and just sewing machines in general, gather to exchange ideas, tips, and general fun. After the TOGA in the middle of the month, I'll get ready for the big garage sale at the end of September so I better get planning. No, I better rest up!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

100 Years and Counting

It was my privilege to find a one-owner sewing machine that was gently used and treasured according to the fine state I found it in. Whenever I answer Craigslist ads, I never know what I'm going to find. Sometimes it is a gross over-simplification: "Still works" might mean the hand wheel turns but don't plug it in because there are exposed wires. "Hasn't been used in 20 years" sounds dire but for some machines that's not a problem. So when I answered an ad for a Necchi sewing machine I could tell they were desperate to move this thing out of the house. The house was sold and needed to be cleaned out. I offered to come that very day but a delay in answering and my work schedule prevented me from following through but I still could come the next day and wasn't $50 less than the asking price better than leaving it for the new owners (who would put it at the curb)? Deal.
Cabinet 407 The Coronet
As I drive through the quaint older neighborhoods on my way over, wishing I could have afforded to live in one of these homes when I was moving to Minnesota, I drive up to a picturesque older home that looks like it's been well taken care of. The owners son, Joe, takes me inside the garage where I find the Necchi Mira awaits. That's right: she has been waiting for someone to use her again and I have answered that call. She is beautiful, so clean, no chips, in army green coloring that is easy on the eyes. 
Necchi Mira
Then I get the back story that was hoping would be shared with me. The home was built by Joe's father in the early 50's, putting the basement in one year and erecting the frame and next, surely a labor of love. The home had beautiful hardwood floors and arched doorways, a small footprint but with an added breezeway that had been enclosed. His dad died eight years ago and his mother continued to live in their home until last winter when she went to a nursing home at the age of 100. There were industrial sewing machines that got picked up the day before and it seems Joe's dad liked to upholster all kinds of things: car seats, furniture, even the seat on the sewing machine I'm going to buy. He built this house and uses industrial sewing machines for fun? I love hearing this kind of stuff! Such a rich history in this house and now I understand more about the Necchi I'm going to bring home.

It comes apart easily: sewing machine head (heaviest part), table, drawer under seat, seat. Now that it's in four parts, none of it is too heavy to carry down the somewhat steep driveway. So much for the part in the ad that advised to bring two people to load this very heavy item. I think Joe was more than surprised to see me take it apart and carry it away. "Guess you've done this before?" comments always make me smile. Yes, a few hundred times, but this one was easy.
Not only is the chair hidden but the big box for storage is, too
When I get it all unloaded at home, I can go through the accessories that come with it, comparing it to the original manual, and see that everything was there with the exception of the buttonhole chisels and an oil tube. There are drapery hooks so maybe she made their own drapes at one time. Then I find it: a warranty from the Necchi dealership right in St. Paul, dated 1953. Yes, it was a one owner sewing machine in what I believe is a Necchi cabinet, too. What really attracted me, beside the cabinet with the integrated chair, is the attached Wonder Wheel. I haven't been able to purchase one yet but this was my lucky day. Would it still work? Would the rubber tire have hardened or disintegrated? Beside a small amount of dust that is easily whisked away with a Q-tip, everything runs so quietly, smoothly, I can tell it had been carefully tended to. I'm so glad all of the manuals were included because the Wonder Wheel is not at all intuitive. Not only are there cams to be installed but there are rods. Rods? I look through the accessories and, sure enough, there are two long rods and one plate #22 that need to be installed. I read the instructions but there are few pictures and much referring to parts on the two line drawings. I manage to get them all in place and tentatively step on the gas (well, push the knee lever at least). It runs, it runs great, and with a little adjusting of the stitch length it will even do a good job:

Looks like I need to adjust the tensions and use better thread, but I think it is so much fun to watch the Wonder Wheel turning and controlling the stitch width on the outside of the sewing machine. I clean up the marks on the cabinet and it comes out better than expected but I might have to resort to refinishing the top for it to be a really nice piece of furniture. When I move the cabinets around in the garage to make room for the newest Necchi, I see that I have four others that needed to have just the tops refinished. I think I know what I'm going to be doing this weekend!

Now Mira lives in my garage and I will probably put her in the garage sale. Yet, if she doesn't sell, I won't mind bringing her inside to live with me awhile, still sewing after all these years.

On my way home the next day, I try to avoid traffic by snaking through neighborhoods and find myself at a garage sale. And there sits a sewing machine table with a $5 tag on it. For that low of a price it must be only a table and no machine but I lift the lid to find another Necchi Mira, BF model so it's just straight stitch. I tell them I'll take it but does it have a box of attachments? Sure, aren't they in the basement? While the man of the house and I get it all in the back of my vehicle, the box of attachments are found and I drive away happy. They warn me that it might not work but I don't care! When I get a chance to look it over I see it doesn't have brushes in the motor so I scout around to find some and sure enough it works great!
Necchi BF Mira series
I am amazed: two Necchi's just days apart and they both work plus are in decent cabinets/tables. Not much known history on this one but I don't always need a story. Sometimes it just counts to have a working sewing machine.  E Buono, right?   

Monday, August 15, 2016

End of a Vacation

It's all over now and I'm heading back to work today. Vacation was fun with many unexpected happenings but they were the most fun. Here's my list of what I had hoped to accomplish:
  • Rewire Singer 201-2
  • Photograph and post many more sewing machines for sale
  • Sew up the little girl dresses already planned
  • Sew a dress for myself (already cut out)
  • Attend 3 big sales
  • Check out motors on 3 machines with husbands help
  • Refinish more cabinets in the garage
  • Check out gas grill and either clean and fix or sell
  • and many, many phone calls I've been meaning to make
As I read over this list I can see that I only went to the 3 big sales but none of the other things on the list! But, here's what I did do:
  • Mowed the lawn twice
  • Talked on the phone with my mom (something I don't do enough of)
  • Sold 5 sewing machines, one more to be picked up later this month
  • Bought 4 sewing machines (please tell me that I'm one down, not 4 up)
  • Enjoyed carry out dinners twice, plus all those wonderful leftovers
  • Spent lots and lots of time with my husband (so this is what retirement might look like?)
 The weather was pretty much hot and rainy so that kept me out of the garage and all of those projects but I basically did what I felt like doing and that just felt good. On Sunday afternoon we took a drive heading east for me to pick up a Viking Platinum 730 sewing machine:
Viking Husqvarna Platinum 730
 I know, I know, this is hardly vintage but I'm such a sucker for those Viking sewing machines. It doesn't do much more than my ancient Viking 1100 but it's oh so pretty! White plastic is pretty? Probably not but once in awhile you have to give in to modern technology. This model is about 10-15 years old and retailed much more than I spent so I think it should last many more years. As I say, there's a machine for everyone and this one might just hit someone as the love-of-their-sewing-life when I have my sewing machine garage sale in September.
Central control
It's pretty easy to figure out the buttons and if you don't have your paper manual (there are 2 of them) you can flip up the top and see all of the second set of stitches that are hiding under a simple button to change it to the second menu of stitches:
Manual needle threader is included and it does make threading the pesky eye of the needle easier, plus it has needle up or down by tapping your foot on the foot control. Sweet. The only drawback was it came with only one bobbin. What? Guess I can provide those but it was an oversight on my part.

It's back to work for me, no sewing, no furniture refinishing, but it should be a welcome relief for my hands that will ache if I push them too hard. Rest little hands, another vacation is far away.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Vacation Day 6

Saturday arrived sunny, no rain, no big heat so a friend and I decided to take a trip to Faribault, MN for a tour of their famous woolen mill. They are located right next to a river as manufacturing back at their start in 1865 needed a waterway for power and/or transportation. It's a pretty large factory by now and even though they closed and changed owners in recent years they are back in business with over 100 employees. We couldn't wait to see what was inside.

They start you out in their factory store where you get to see the end product but also some of their sewing machines that are retired:
Double needle Singer

Singer 29 with hand carnk
I'm not too familiar with industrial sewing machines but they looked vaguely familiar. Here's one that many of us have in our homes:
It didn't have a belt so no sewing on this one but the handwheel did move freely. What would we find on the tour? Lots and lots of fiber and huge machines!
Wool fiber that has gone through many steps just to get to this stage, ready for a loom
 
Note cones of fiber on top now much smaller

Getting towards the end, another sample of their work
Each square of the border of this sign is a sample of their work in the last 150 years
For an hour long tour, I'm not going to be able to recreate all of the steps that go into making wool into blankets but of the 22 steps it's safe to say they know what they are doing and it gives you new respect for the fine woolen products they sell. Here's a sewing machine that was found is several places, I think I saw at least 5 of them:

I believe they were foot powered with foot shaped pedals. Some were used to sew leaders onto the beginning of a new section of wool to feed into a machine. Even though it is a working factory, on Saturday all was clean and quiet. They also have tours on Friday where you get to see everything working so I would like to go back for one of those tours next time.

Once I got home I started to tackle the cases for the Singer 99 repaint and a bentwood case for the Singer 201 that is getting picked up in two weeks. I hoped to just restore the bentwood case but there were many large spots where the finish was gone so I bit the bullet and just stripped it all off, using about 5 steel wool pads and about 45 minutes of work:
Larger size bentwood case for a Singer 201 (or other full sized sewing machine)
This not only takes off the finish but the decals come off, too, so I will be ordering a new one from Keeler Sales. This case will look so perfect when it is done it's really worth the effort. Now the box top for the Singer 99 is all ready for the next step of filling in the stitch holes on the top. That's right, they actually stitch the leather like cover through the wood!
Covering removed and wood sanded smooth
I decided to paint it black and gold like the machine, plus this wood is not meant to be shown. Even with scrubbing the glue off it has stained the wood. I'm happy with the progress so far.

Our day ended with ordering out for pizza but, after all, I am still on vacation. So you might be wondering if I bought any wool at the Faribault Woolen Mill. Actually, my friend bought some wool as per a daughter's request but I did not, not knowing how I would use it. If you looked at my huge stash of fabric you would wonder how I could say that since I don't have firm plans for all of my fabric but I can always go back if I get an idea. Besides, I told my husband, because I didn't buy any fabric why not spend that money on a pizza? Yea, he liked that idea, too.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Vacation Day 5

This feels like my last day of my vacation since the weekend is usually off-of-work but I managed to fill it to capacity. The Singer 201 rewire has me a bit anxious so I've started to keep an eagle eye out for another one. I also know how popular they are and my secret love so the search has intensified! None are listed locally at a price point I can afford but every hour brings new hope. Garage sales in my neighborhood get my attention but only after I sell the Singer 328. That's right, I get a call from Vince asking about it so we set up a time on Friday morning. When I answer the door it's not Vince but his mom who comes in to try out this sewing machine with Vince trailing behind. Mom's sewing machine broke when they tried to use it for some outdoor type of repair and their research showed this model as sturdy enough. They both like it, take some heavy duty size 16 needles home with it, and head on out with my husband and I right behind them to check out those garage sales.

The second house we go to has a very chatty owner talking with her neighbor as we are looking over her treasures for sale. I say "treasures" because there in the back of the garage is a Singer 201-2. I kid you not, it was open with cord draped over it, and a price tag I could live with. Did it work? Of course, and they even had it running for someone earlier who was coming back with her son but they asked too many questions she couldn't answer because she really didn't know how to use it. There was no bobbin in the bobbin case, she pointed out and I showed her it was missing the spool holder plate, a much more difficult item to replace. Oh well, I'll see if I can find one but the cords don't look too good so I suggest we not plug it in. She looked shocked: "You mean it's not safe? I already plugged it in and ran it for the other lady!" but when we get it home I see there are bare wires at the opening of the foot control. We get it out of the table and loaded into my vehicle in two parts when she asks "You are going to use it, right? I mean, you aren't one of those people who is going to turn around and sell it for $175 or something because I could sell it on Ebay, you know." Yes, she could have but didn't and once I buy it I can do whatever I would like with it. This comes home to roost later in the day.
Singer 201-2
Another garage sale had boxes of fabric all measured and priced at about $1 per yard. I have to control myself and even had to put some of it back but managed to find quite a few pieces of Berber fleece for Natalie who makes beautiful mittens. I found some embroidered flour-sack dishtowels with fun saying on them:
Makes drying dishes even fun!
We get everything home and I take time to look over my newest 201 to find it's a Centennial, marking 100 years Singer was in business at the time it was made in 1951.  I haven't had any of the Centennial's before so I'm pretty excited about it. I work with the power cord but finally give up when I chip another piece of the Bakelite plug: I would rather buy a new one that is safe! The bare wires on the foot control are taken care of but when I get it all back together it doesn't work. The light comes on but not the motor. I go over the wiring again and again, discuss this with my husband who says I should consider reversing the wires from the foot control. I'm sure he's wrong but try it anyway. Well, he wasn't wrong since it now runs!

After taking care of the rest of our treasures from the garage sales, I mow the lawn while rain starts to fall, getting it done before it comes down in earnest. When I come inside and check Craigslist, hoping to find another great sewing machine, when I spot one of my own that I sold a couple of years ago. What? She is selling that beauty? It's in a uniquely covered case so I know it was mine but I can't find it on my database. It's listed as a Singer 99 but I check and it's really a full sized Singer 66 plus she's selling it for $50 more than my price. What? I send a text message and point out I'm the one who sold it to her and it's a Singer 66, not a 99 and she might want to correct her ad. Now, she can sell it for whatever she wants and that takes me back to the sale of the Singer 201: I could do whatever I wanted with it once I bought it. Just as well, the Singer 66 owner could also sell it for whatever price she thinks she can get. She did say it was in excellent shape and very nice. Yes, indeed.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Vacation Day 4

This vacation has been more fun staying-at-home than I could have imagined, even with hot, sticky weather. That has kept me from working on cabinets and tables out in the garage but it has gotten me sewing and working on sewing machines. Day 4 of my vacation found me tackling a wiring job for a Singer 15-90 that came to me with wire nuts as connectors. That's not necessarily bad but they should not be exposed so I decided to connect the ends with solder and shrink tubing. It turned out great after cleaning up:
Singer 15-90 with great decals on bed
but to solder without someone helping me to hold those tiny wires while I used the soldering tool was a bit difficult. Then I remembered something I could use called "Helping Hands" designed to be an extra pair of hands. During our errand running, we stopped at Harbor Freight and managed to find this little gizmo for only $5:
Helping Hands (it's actually called that!)
I set it up with an example of how it can be used for the photo shoot but I haven't actually used it yet. I can't wait to try it out! If this is set up on the wood board I used for soldering it will truly leave my hands free to hold the rosin and soldering tool which get very hot.

The little Singer 99 repaint has been sitting on the floor of my sun room and is just begging to be finished up. There was a nice case in the garage I wanted to use but upon further inspection I could smell it across the room: mildew! The covering got stripped off and the wood box was scrubbed up in the utility sink since most of the surface was left with dried glue. The bottom of the case had those black spots of mildew so I even applied household bleach and did it come out clean! Here it is with the repainted body in the base:
Singer 99 repainted with hammered finish in gold
This looks so nice I almost don't want to paint it but I can see this wood wasn't meant as a final finish so black paint will give it a great end result. See the lid behind it in the photo above? That's how the original looks and it's not in bad shape so now I have to decide how badly I want to strip all of it off. Please tell me it will be worth the effort!

As for actually sewing, I came across this pattern at a garage sale:
and I think I might just have to make this groovy dress. My sisters and I wore these little numbers in the 60's and here we are, now in our 60's and they are back in style. It really would be cute but I have to decide if I would also look cute wearing it or if it would look like I just dragged it out of the back of my closet. It's a fine line so I think I'll have to consult with my fashionista daughter, Kelly, who can dress others to perfection so will be able to suggest the right fabric, too. When did this reversal of roles happen? Well, I'm glad I have a fashion consultant in the family.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Vacation Day 3

Here it is mid-week of my vacation and I'm already making great headway into projects and plans but today we went shopping. If you are a regular reader you probably have guessed it: today was senior day at Goodwill Outlet and with vacation  days I didn't need to cut my time short. But first things first.

I needed to pick up a sewing machine from their online auction so we headed there first, right next door to the outlet. It was an Elna 1010 and I'm sorry if I outbid someone who is reading this blog post. Actually, I'm not so much sorry that you didn't get the final bid, I'm sorry you don't get to use this nicely made mechanical sewing machine. It even came in the box from a shop in Rochester, Minnesota! It's as clean as a whistle and runs like a champ:
Elna 1010
We all know Elna hasn't been making sewing machines in Switzerland for a long time so now they have "Swiss by Design" printed on the sewing machines. It's a pretty basic machine with utility stitches and their stretch companion stitches:
Elna 1010 stitch sample
This model was missing extra presser feet but I have sets of snap-on feet to add to this but it did come with a reproduced manual that is pretty good. This would make a very nice first sewing machine that could really go the distance.

After picking up the auction goodies, we went next door to the outlet and met up with a friend who was introduced to this outlet a few months ago and we planned to meet up again. This kind of outlet shopping is a bit more fun with a friend who can point out an item and ask your opinion. My husband was the big winner this trip as we can get hunting and camouflage wear with amazing regularity. I think he got three pairs of pants and another four shirts while I only got a pair of jeans and some fabric. Here's the fun part: when we got up to pay and they weigh it all out, they check your senior status by your phone number and our bill went from $21 down to $16 and we had three bags full! You just gotta love it.

We brought it all home and laundered everything, checking it over for anything we might have missed (that's what pre-treating laundry aids are for) and then I did some minor sewing so everything would be ready when hunting season begins. Apparently, with a crossbow the season starts in September so now we have months and months of hunting. But he's happy so I compare it to my sewing machine madness and figure he's pretty patient with me, too.

I did get an interesting black formal dress by Jones New York that has a few of the beads missing. Once home I try it on to find out it fits great so what can I do about those missing beads (front and back):
Front of Jones New York dress
I think I can simply remove the last row of beads, maybe just from the back, to fill in for the missing beads. Have I ever done this before? Not really but there was a bridesmaid dress some years ago with pretty fancy beads that needed re-positioning so maybe I can recall how I did that one or simply learn-as-I go. After all, isn't that how all of this sewing machine business started?