Tuesday, September 19, 2017

TOGA Redeux

After waiting a whole year to have another River Rats TOGA, it has come and gone in a flash. I saved up a few sewing machines that had problems to see if I could get a satisfactory solution, brought a hand-crank sewing machine that I didn't get sewing last year back again, picked out items to bring to the raffle, and connected with friends ahead of time to see if they were going. All of this orchestration over the summer and then it finally was the day to drive down about 90 minutes to Lake City for my second River Rats TOGA. Old friends, new friends, so many treadle and hand-cranked sewing machines and nary a white plastic wonder in the place: it was heaven!

My first project was to get my hand-crank German made machine to work:
German hand-crank
It is a transverse shuttle model, very similar to a Singer 12, but I suspected its failure to sew was user error. Sure enough, I didn't know how to thread the boat-type shuttle and several people helped me since mine was just a tad different. I also needed a different needle but there were none any for sale at the time so I was encouraged to just set the needle lower to see if I could get it to work. Success! Now I will have to work on cleaning it up and figuring out how to fix the chipping paint on the bed. It's oh so smooth when it cranks so I'm happy for now.

The raffle was a hoot with only a few items up for individual raffle and most of it was "all in the pot" with everyone called just getting the pick of what was on the tables. There were many sewing machines, lots of fabric bundles, and a great deal of miscellaneous. My picks were bundles of fabric:
My raffle fabrics
some bags with books that are questionable (no more cross stitch!), but almost at the very end was a lonely Singer sewing machine that was meant just for me:
Singer 15-91 in green (it really is green!)
She's fairly green but this photo doesn't do her justice. What's so special about this one? It's a potted motor 15-91 and I don't think anyone recognized it as the beloved gear to gear sewing machine:
Singer 15-91: see the potted motor sticking out on the back?
What a gem! The power cord is missing and the wiring was disconnected but everything was there to put it back into shape. This is going to be one great machine once it's back together ...and it's green! After I sat down with it, Bill looked over and said "Do you know what you have there?" and I said "You bet I do!" and he confirmed that I had one of the best models and a rare green to boot.

Everyone had to clear the place out of their winnings so it could get set up for the turkey dinner to follow. Here's a few of the raffle winnings going out to their vehicles:
Part of the haul going out to trailers and hatchbacks
Before he said grace, pastor Dave brought out the stole he was presented with last year to show it off again and Cindy presented him with a huge collection of new pot holders for the church kitchen. I was proud of my contribution that I wrote about in a previous post, Free, as in Free-Motion.
Cindy Peters with Pastor Dave and his quilt square stole
At the end of this satisfying day we went home without the rain that was predicted, happy with our raffle winnings, new friends made, plenty of stories for future posts, and a little white Singer 221, the Featherweight. That's right, I have a white Featherweight! She is beyond cute so I'll have to tell you all about her next time so stay tuned to the adventures of Sewing Machine Mavin!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Free as in Free-Motion

We are having another busy weekend with continued home repairs during this mild weather but I have managed to spend some evening hours sewing and getting ready for the River Rat TOGA in Lake City. Cindy put out a request for new pot holders for the church kitchen and you would think I could whip them out in record time since I sell quilted pot holders but not so. I wanted to bring standard sized pot holders that anyone could grab and use for the oven and to set something hot on. My hot mitts are great but can cause some people to pause and ask how-do-these-work? While I was contemplating this I was also getting ready for another session with the quilt group in Cambridge, Friends First Quilters. I combined those activities by demonstrating free-motion sewing with making pot holders for a fruitful demonstration.

Friends First Quilters are a great group of women who love to quilt and set aside one Saturday morning each month to sew. They also have guest speakers and I've been privileged to talk to them about vintage sewing machines, sewing machine attachments, and specialty feet. This time I focused on free-motion sewing, bias tape binders, and circle stitchers. The free motion was the most fun and everyone who wanted to try it out could step up to the machine and give it a try. So many times we don't try things out because we don't have all of the equipment and don't know how to get started. I cut all of that out by having it all ready to go. What did we practice on? A pot holder, of course:
Free motion practice on a quilting sandwich
We started out on two layers of cotton but once they tried it we quickly graduated to something closer to the thickness you would use on a typical quilt.This one was two layers of cotton batting with an Insulbright layer between. It wasn't too bad for a first try, so I brought it home and added bias tape and made up another one:
Pot holders quilted with a free-motion technique
Next up was a circular stitcher I wrote about in Going in Circles. I finally got my flower stitcher and it has been fun to play around with:
Flower stitcher attachment with sample circles/flowers
I'm still practicing with this one and have to admit I need to read the instructions more carefully. We also looked at my set of 32 presser feet and tried out the bias tape binder and concluded it worked best when your edges were all neatly cut. I had a great time and even had a book give away for The Sewing Machine Accessory Bible, a great book with good instructions on how to use the various sewing machine attachments.

Just as the title says but it's not THE holy book
Now which sewing machine did I bring to try out all of these items? Why, a Kenmore, of course. One of my new ones, the Kenmore 158-1320, came to me running great and it's such a good basic machine:
Kenmore 158-1320
All of the attachments worked fine, taking into consideration user error (my error), and it was a standard low shank machine. It doesn't have a wide variety of stitches:
Kenmore 158-1320 stitch dial
but all of the basic utility stitches plus one stretch stitch. I really like these old Kenmore's and knew it would be reliable, too. It is also nice to demonstrate n a non-fancy sewing machine so there is no excuse for demoing on a high end model that can do everything but wash your dishes. There's more to tell about my trip to Cambridge but I'll save that for next time when I show you the Singer 401A and what's happening with it and if I decide to make it a parts machine or not. But that's for another day...

Thursday, September 7, 2017


With my last big buying spree in Windfall, I am working to bring many of them inside to avoid any problems with garage storage. It's getting cool at night and sewing machines need to be kept at a stable temperature so they are making their way inside. The first one I looked at is the Signature URR-988C:
Signature URR-988C
a nice looking machine that has been dropped. That's right, it was dropped or hit with enough force the presser foot tension knob was bent and broke off the housing. This housing is part of the cast framework of the sewing machine so it cannot be replaced, only repaired.
Presser foot tension knob
Broken part circled on left: see the cracks?
 Why go to all of the fuss for one machine? I took a good look at it and noticed there was a large flat disk on the top of it, the changeable cam for decorative stitches, and thought it looked familiar. Looking through my sets of cams I found this:
Complete set of accessories and cams for Signature URR-988
I found this set of accessories at a resale shop sometime in the past three years and picked it up, hoping I could use it one day. Today is that day! Except I need to get this broken piece fixed. I showed it to Roland who gave me a great suggestion to have the piece drilled for screws to keep it in place (I have a new knob already) so I will need to find a machinist who can and will do this for me. So for now the Signature URR-988C is waiting.

Next up is the New Home 108, a more modern sewing machine with a built in carrying handle and a nice variety of stitches. It just needed to be cleaned up and oiled, already stitching just fine. Just to do due diligence I took off the bottom covers and found something brown and dry flaking off the bottom covers. It hadn't dripped down the sides because there were no streaks, it wasn't oily or sticky, just a thin brown sheet of something that came off in flakes. Very weird but easily cleaned off and she's a great beginner's sewing machine now.
New Home 108
The tension was perfect and stitch quality was good:
Front of stitch sample

Bobbin side of stitch sample
There was a four step buttonhole that wasn't great but did make an adequate buttonhole, nothing fancy but slightly uneven. Maybe I should have looked in the manual that came with the machine to see if I should be using a special presser foot but for my first try it wasn't too bad. Yup, a nice beginner's sewing machine that I will sell with that in mind.

Wish I could have added the Kenmore I've been practicing free motion on but that's going to have to wait until next time so stay tuned for further reviews of the machines that came in a Windfall!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Treasure Chest

Keeping everything organized so you can find what you need when you need it is one of the pillars of time management. I don't know what the other pillars are since I just made that up but doesn't it sound logical? In my quest to stay organized, I've had various bins, shelves, and systems but each one has failed to hold enough and a few of them collapsed under the stress I've put on them. I started to look for more serious systems and found those mechanics tool chests to be about right for my needs. Then I checked on quality and price and had to take a step back. I couldn't afford Snap-On systems that resell at thousands of dollars:
Snap-on rolling cart
because I still needed one of the top compartments, too, for a full combination set. They also come in blue and black but couldn't get excited about them. I considered Ironton
Ironton tool chest
thinking I might be able to use a coupon and get a better price so this was my new hope. I checked out my local Craigslist but they were all either beat up or over a thousand dollars and then I found someone who was selling his Grizzly mechanics cabinet:
Now we were talking business! He had outgrown his ten year old cabinet so was selling at half price, still a good deal even with wear and tear on it. I got myself over to his shop where his wife and I got it into my Jeep. Even with all of the drawers out it was heavy but we managed to get it down into the basement and into place:
Grizzly rolling cabinet base with tool chest on top
Isn't it beautiful? I vacuumed it out and cleaned with a wood furniture cleaner and found few bumps and bruises. Even though it's only 26" wide it is tall but it took quite a while for me to figure out if everything was going to fit:
Grizzly cabinet stocked with my tools and supplies
Of course, not everything was going to get into this baby so a few executive decisions were made and I called it a day. Wow, oh wow: this was going to work! It's about 18 inches deep so takes up less space than the wire rack bins I had in that space and it actually looks more spacious now. I'm pretty happy with my purchase: fits in designated space, stores almost all supplies, more than functional it actually looks good.

Sometimes it's about the sewing machines and sometimes it's all about the items that keep this business going. Next up with be a post about those sewing machines I bought from Erin and what I'm doing with them (it's all good so far!). In the meantime, keep sewing and keep organized.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


This blog puts me in touch with so many different people and some write to me with questions about their machines, some who want to buy one of my sewing machines, but this tale is about Erin who wanted to sell some "extra" sewing machines. Extra? I'm not sure I know what that means in Sewing Machine Mavin's world. There are no extras, just multiples. But Erin had sewing machines she knew she wasn't going to keep for one reason or another and proposed a group purchase. It was too good to pass up but I tried to sweeten the deal by telling Erin if she drove all the way to my house, instead of meeting part way, I would give her a tour of my sewing machines. It was a deal so we set up a time and then the countdown began. Someone was going to come into my basement and see what a mess I work in? That wasn't going to happen so I got to work in cleaning and reorganizing my machines and bins of fabric. It didn't help that I stopped at a garage sale and picked up another bin of fabric the day before. I had that bin ... but then I had all of that fabric to find homes for. This is the season for sewing up new items for the coming craft fairs so my hope was to have some of the fabric sewn up but for now it needed a new home.

In the meantime, while packing up her car and rearranging the sewing machines, she found two more for me, no additional charge, so now I was almost tingly with anticipation: how broken were the broken cases? How rare or expensive were the missing parts? Who was getting the better deal? Let's just see what happened.

Because this was a week after the garage sale, we still had some tables set up so when Erin arrived we just put them out on sturdy tables. One Kenmore, another Brother, a few no-names, a New Home, several Singers: we stopped and counted several times to see if they were all out of her car. It reminded me of a dog giving  birth to a litter of puppies: is she done yet? Are there more in there? Finally all ten were accounted for and we went over each one and its possible problems. Here's what I got: Kenmore 158-1320, Brother 1241,  Signature URR-988C, Montgomery Wards URR-385A, New Home 108, Janome 325-BBS, Helvetica (Singer 15 clone), Singer 237, Singer Merritt 1872, and a Singer 401A. Only a few needed cases or tables and missing parts were nominal. I think I scored big, Erin is glad to claim part of her basement back so it was a win-win.

After seeing what was in the garage, Erin was delighted to see how I managed to put so many sewing machines into such a small space. We fired up the White Rotary in the Martha Washington cabinet, got the treadle going, admired the decals on my Singer 99 handcrank, and she even got to see the Necchi in its hide-away cabinet:
Necchi Mira
Necchi compact cabinet: front pulls out to reveal a chair and storage
We did go downstairs and maybe she was appalled but she was a gracious guest and admired my many machines and the fabric that was intended to sew on them. Since she is a quilter and not a garment sewer, her interest was in the straight stitch models but I'm always fascinated by the decorative stitches and the stitch quality of the different machines. She did spy the Kenmore 158-1040 in its rose embossed case so we got it out to admire. Erin is a great Kenmore fan and had never seen this cute 3/4 sized machine and was pretty entranced with it.
Kenmore 158-1040
We also got out the Elna Lotus models, another 3/4 sized machine, and marveled at the ingenuity of how it all fit together. Maybe this all comes as a balance to her long arm quilting machine, a pretty large operation, to see these 3/4 sized machines that can sew but on a much smaller scale.
Elna Lotus, a 3/4 sized sewing machine
An hour had gone by and she needed to get back on the road and I needed to get back to my job at hand so we parted with a final photograph of Erin with some of her sold sewing machines:
Erin with a final goodbye to her sewing machines (why does she look so happy?)
You just never know where these stories are going to take you, do you? I'm up for an adventure and this time Erin and her extra sewing machines provided me with a reason to clean up my act but to show off a little bit, too. Thanks, Erin, for the new batch of projects and the hope of future sewers.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Spartans

Lucky me, I had a Singer Spartan given to me and here's her story of restoration. So what is a Spartan sewing machine and why that name?  A definition of spartan is suggestive of the ancient Spartans; sternly disciplined and rigorously simple, frugal, or austere. That does define this little sewing machine with minimal decorations:
Singer Spartan 192K
It reminds me of a Singer 99 but it is actually a 192K, made in Great Britain. Bob and Jane found this machine and hoped it could be used by immigrants they were working with but it never seemed to come together and now they hoped I could get it in shape and find it a new home. Cosmetically it was great but there were other problems.

The black plastic base has spacers all around the edge that hold the machine in place but two of them were broken off. I tried using E6000 glue but the machine is just too heavy but they didn't break off, just sunk down, too low to support the machine on one end. After a few weeks on my work table I came up with a solution: cut a wood bloc the right size and put it in place on the low side. It was easy and worked great as you can see in the photo above there is no low end.

The tension was off as well as the movement of the feed dogs but I finally got everything all limbered up and running right. Then, out of the blue, one of the thread guides snapped off. Do you think I could find one in my parts box? Of course not, but there were others yet they all needed to be screwed on and the hole was not threaded. Out came a hand drill and I made the hole bigger to accept a very tiny screw for the guide. I'm not telling you which thread guide it is and hope you can't tell but it's holding so far.

I needed to test the machine out and couldn't think of a better way than to sew up a cover for it since it came without a plastic lid. Actually, it looks like there never was one since there are no latches on the base. Here's what the stitching looks like:
Stitches inside of the cover

Top stitching on the outside
I was pretty happy with the cover by the time I finished, adding the piping to give it more shape and definition around the bottom edge:
Robert Kaufman print of spools and needles: so cute!
The Spartans really are austere: no light either! Even the wiring is directly from the motor, no separate power cords. I put together some accessories and covered the box with a black marble print sticky paper:
Accessories needed for sewing machines: bobbins and needles
and will print out the manual that is only four pages. Four pages! Yes, that is spartan. It won't need to be bound but maybe I can add some basic sewing instructions to make it more substantial and not get lost or tossed.

A big thanks to Bob and Jane for their generous hearts in donating this little cutie. Also in their garage was a treadle cabinet that was missing drawers but was still possibly worth restoring. Not a Singer, but maybe a New Home so not impossible to find those drawers somewhere. There's always another project around the corner, isn't there? Here's one last look at the Spartan:

Spartan, Singer 192K

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Old Friends and New Friends

We are in the midst of a garage sale but I just had to quickly write this post in to keep you up-to-date. While we were getting ready and I'm picking out just a few of my machines to sell (two were only $30!) I'm still buying sewing machines. This is a very serious addiction. Anyway, here I am, picking up two Kenmore's that are just too good to be true. The Kenmore 158-1525 is just lovely, needing nothing but a light cleaning and some oil:
Kenmore 158-1525
As it turned out, a student at my school was selling it via Facebook Marketplace so imagine our mutual surprise when we were arranging time and place. The next day I stop over by the hospital to pick up a very nice Kenmore 385-162184 that was part of an estate sale. The seller told me someone else came to buy it and it skipped stitches so the buyer declared it needed to have the timing fixed and it wasn't worth that kind of a repair. The seller was just being upfront as she now saw it as a parts machine. As we talked on the phone I reassured her it probably wasn't the timing but more likely needed a new needle or some minor tweaking. Once home, rather than get things ready for the garage sale I just had to take a look: it was the wrong bobbin. There were clear plastic bobbins in the accessory box that were class 15 and one class 66. Yup, another class 66 was in the bobbin holder but Kenmore's are almost always class 15. Switched it out and it runs beautifully. I love the tapestry bag it came it, too, another plus:
Kenmore 385-162184 with tapestry bag
In a couple hours I had an appointment to sell some beginner sewing machines to Amy who is working with students who are learning to sew. This time I picked out a Singer 237 (classic), Elnita 220, and a J.C. Penny 7102. The stretch stitches sold her on the Elnita and Penny's sewing machines:
J.C. Penny 7102
Amy had asked if I could check out her "problem" machines so she dropped of a Janome that she said wasn't computerized. Well, it had an LCD display so that makes it computerized or at least electronic but I promise to take a look. Then there was a Riccar in an old suitcase type of carrier that she said was donated but I could just take it. Looks like it going to need some work on the tension dial since all of the parts aren't there. I'm excited to get a free machine that holds promise even though I have shelves full of the same. See, it's an addiction.
Riccar 8500
But before Amy came over, while the beginner's sewing machines were just getting set up, I get a call from Cheri, an old friend of sewing machine buying and selling. Do I have a Singer 404, she asks? As a matter of fact I do but she has to hurry since I have another appointment coming over. The Singer 404, a straight stitch only machine but gear driven, was just perfect for her friend and the price was perfect, too, since it was less than half the cost of a machine she had first looked at. They are nice machines but plentiful so no highway robbery is needed!
Singer 404 (same model, different case)
Cheri has more good news: remember the combination table with the Singer 99 in a bentwood case that fit down into the table?  I wrote about it in In a Line Up and now you are going to get a great follow-up to this little beauty. Cheri knew Bonnie Hunter, of Quiltville fame, would love it but figured it wasn't going to ship too well so she declared she would travel from Minnesota to North Carolina to bring it herself. In our get together this last week Cheri told me all about it and even sent me the link from Bonnie's blog about her Road Trip with the Minnesota Girl's! adventure. I loved reading about the joy this great little Singer 99 gave Bonnie and now hear she's gotten rid of her other 99's since this one was her best one! Here's one last photo of the Singer 99 and Combination Table No. 301:
Singer 99 in Combination table 301
Serious addiction or just another way to make friends while you love what you're doing? Who knows but I'm still havin' fun in the summertime here in Minnesota.