Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Swapping Out

I was given a very nice Kenmore 54 as part of a give away from Marilyn in Stormy Weather. Her daughter got a good Viking sewing machine and a serger and she sent back a Kenmore 54 and a Modern 139 ZigZag sewing machine just to get rid of them. Of course, I cleaned them all up and got them ready for their next home but the Kenmore was really made for a cabinet since it was so heavy and came with a knee control, not a foot control. I seem to be shy of the right foot controls just now so I decided I would see if I could get a cabinet/table for this hefty gal. This is easier said than done because Kenmore doesn't talk Singer: the cut-outs for their machines are usually sharp, squared cornered and Singers are rounded. They are not interchangeable at all! The hunt was on but I had to wait several weeks before I found one that not only would fit but was in my price range (cheap, cheap, cheap!). We took a Sunday drive and came home with:

Kenmore cabinet model #1173101 with set of drawers
Not only a nice table but a working sewing machine and set of drawers, too. Before I left the gentleman's home who was selling it, he removed the head of the Kenmore 117-591 and I slipped in the Kenmore 54 to find out it was going to be a good fit and it was perfect. Once we got home I could see the plug ends better and found out I could use the very nice set of controls that were already in the cabinet. This was turning out better and better! The table was in pretty good condition and was solid hardwood, possibly maple, and only needed to be cleaned up.
Kenmore 54 in place
The set of drawers was another matter but I'm thinking they should clean up pretty good, too, and would be a nice addition to this table but would work in any sewing space. There's a large bottom drawer with metal glides, middle drawer with four compartments, and the top drawer has spool pins in the front half:
But...the top needs some refinishing:
With flat surfaces it should be easy, though. Here's the top of the table next to the drawers:

But what about the Kenmore 117-591 that was pulled out of the table?
Kenmore 117-591
 It's never been one of my favorite sewing machines and this one has sat too long with the motor pulley in the same place so now it has a pretty good flat spot on it. I can replace it, I have the controls and power cords from the Kenmore 54 that aren't being used, so maybe someone would be interested in buying this one for very little investment? Now I feel guilty selling a sewing machine that isn't quite functional without a cabinet yet only has a knee control. Yup, I'm still looking for another Kenmore cabinet! Even though this turned out good for the Kenmore 54, I might just see if I can find an interested buyer for the 117-591. It came with all of the attachments and ven a printed manual. I think I should scan that before I let it leave my house. This is a nice dilemma to have but it's not getting me to the goal of fewer sewing machines is it?

Such is the life of this Sewing Machine Mavin.

Friday, July 14, 2017

More Brotherly Love

I'm just a sucker for the Brother Select-o-Matic sewing machine. I also have a soft spot for the compact cabinets that have a chair that fits into the cabinet so it looks like a large decorative box but hides not only a chair inside but a sewing machine, too. When those two worlds collide we have one very, very happy Sewing Machine Mavin. That's my story for today.

Once again, Goodwill Auction online had a vintage Brother sewing machine that looked a lot like the Select-o-Matic. It does, and it doesn't but it's probably close enough:
My newest Brother: no name
Brother Select-O-Matics
To make it even better, it came in a very cool cabinet so it was local pick-up only and TA DA it was in Minnesota where they know my name at the auction pick-up site. Nichole and I are practically friends I've been there so often. Yes, I won the bid for a disgustingly small price and went to pick it up last week. Beside a bit of cleaning, alright maybe a lot of cleaning, it stitched okay but not great. I had to employ one of my best techniques: walk away and come back later. It's surprising how well that works. Most of the time it just takes time for the oil to sink in and get things moving but it also can keep you from doing something foolish like turning a screw too hard and stripping it. This time overnight worked best as well as letting the machine run continuously for 5-10 minutes.
Brother stitch sample, mostly practice
 Finally ready to put the machine back in the cabinet, I went out to the garage to see what it needed: nothing! It was in great shape so only needed cleaning so I use a cabinet cleaner that gets off the dirt and leaves a nice clean surface with a touch of shine when you buff. Upon closer inspection I could see that the knee control had to have the wiring replaced but I knew I already had several controls with motor blocks that were made for cabinets. Why not just swap them out? That proved to be a good idea even if I did need to replace plugs and mount with new holes inside the cabinet. It looks great, much safer, and used a known product that I was just keeping for future use.
Brother in compact cabinet
Then I looked at the seat and noticed ... it didn't have a seat, just the chair without a top to sit on, cushioned or not. I'm going to have to make a seat myself and that's not easy for me since I'm a wood refinisher, not builder.  Taking a look at other cabinets I find I currently do not have another one to look at so will have to go from memory.
Pull-out chair but no seat (yet)
This isn't going to be cheap, either with a couple pieces of wood, edging, block of foam and then fabric. Okay, so maybe only $20 but that just goes to show you how expensive a bargain can be some times. It also needs a full set of accessories in a box plus a manual. I think I can use the same scanned Brother Select-o-Matic manual but it's not quite the same:
Brother No-Name
Brother Select-o-Matic


The knobs and dials all function the same but are labeled differently. All in all, it's still a very good vintage sewing machine that runs quietly and will be a gem in someone's collection. This is not a model for a newbie because of the whole dial set-up but it is very doable for someone who loves vintage and loves to sew. Be still my heart, I cannot have another one in my collection!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Revised Opinion

If you have been reading my past blog entries you know I have no love for Singer sewing machines made after about 1968. I have bought a few, sold a few, and had to junk too many so I don't go down that road anymore. If you have one and love it that's great but for me....no. As it turns out when I have a prejudice like this, something comes along to change my mind and that's what happened this past week.

So there I was on a long holiday weekend, checking out the Craigslist ads, posting ads for a few of my sewing machines when I find a Singer Quantum XL-6000 for sale. This is not just a 2004 sewing machine for sale, but a complete embroidery attachment with all the bells and whistles. It's hardly even for sale because at this price it's being given away. A quick email and then a text and I'm in the car because I was told it would be sold to the first one who gets there. So has anyone else said they were on the road yet I ask? Nope, I am the first so it's pedal to the metal and I'm there in 15 minutes. There was a brief statement in the ad about it needing service so I asked how it was performing and the older gentleman selling it said it made a clunking noise when sewing something heavy. He offered to plug it in but I said no, I would take it as is, hoping he wouldn't find out the might not be anything wrong after all. Here's the sewing machine set up for sewing only:
Singer Quantum XL-6000
It came with manuals, embroidery unit in it's own carrying case, software, converter box, thread exchanger, hoops, knee lever, and other parts I can only gaze at and wonder where they go and what they might do. I do a quick test because I'm needed elsewhere and it does sew but it's loud. Hummm. What's up with that? I get back to it a few days later only to find it has a honking big needle, size 18, so it runs like a tank with that big needle on two layers of cotton. I size the needle down and she sounds and runs just fine. I need to have the manual out because there's a touch screen with icons I'm not familiar with yet but things move right along. I'm ready to sew some aprons for a friend of mine and I start to think maybe I should see if I could add some of this fancy embroidery the machine is capable of. I talk myself into getting it all out and practice making one of the floral motifs but it's harder than I thought. I check out information online and decide to join a Yahoo group for this model to see what might be found for free. I'm all about free! After being accepted into the group I get a very nice email from the moderator who sends along a manual (already have) and a workbook along with encouragement. The workbook did the trick and I got it running. Here's my test:
First shot using the embroidery unit
Okay, I need to learn about color changing but I dive in, add iron-on interfacing to the back of the area I'm planning to add this to, and get stitching. It comes out much better this time with appropriate colors but still not as flat as I would like:
Second try with better colors and firmer fabric

Here's the apron all finished (the buttons and buttonholes are waiting until I have more to make).
Apron done with embroidery (buttons just for show at this point)
I text my friend and post it on Facebook and it's a GO on making another one in a larger size. Here's the fabric I've cut out to make the next one and while I'm at it I might as well make two more to sell.
Fabric for next aprons: the middle green print is a Waverly
There's a variety of ways I can finish these with piping or rick-rack but for now I'm just glad I got them cut out and ready to sew: sometimes that's the hardest part. What is my evaluation of the Singer Quantum XL-6000? So far it has been nice, performing more than adequately, but I've only made one item and haven't really put it to the test. There's much potential there so stay tuned as I continue to learn about it and see if I can get it to embroider without puckering (I know that's a skill I need to learn about stablizers and interfacing).  My revised opinion of later Singer models stands revised: if you buy a high end model (the XL-6000 was $3000 when new) you are probably getting a higher quality sewing machine. If you are buying used for way less, it's a GO!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Photos from You

I get letters, emails actually, with photos of what you have been making with your vintage sewing machines so this post is going to be a photo roundup of your sewing.

LeaRae bought a Kenmore sewing machine last summer, learning about my sewing machines from one of my neighbors. Imagine my surprise when I got the following photos in an email only days after she took her Kenmore home:
LeaRae's first quilt top in blocks

LeaRae's second quilt top with pieced pinwheels
I didn't recognize her name so I wrote back with who-are-you questions but I could hardly believe it was LeaRae since she had just bought the machine! She was a very busy lady and the work is just fine for a first quilt top, explaining she was going to add sashing to each one. Recently I got another email from LeaRae asking how often she needed to bring her sewing machine in for a tune up because her friend told her it needed to be done every year. Well, her friend might have a computerized sewing machine and it might need that kind of attention but not a vintage machine like hers. Just keep it clean, oil in all of the places where metal rubs metal, check your manual for instructions and you should be ready to sew. Yup, vintage can be easy to maintain, too.

Last December I got an email from Sara, a long time sewing machine friend who has been with me almost from the beginning. It all started with a green White sewing machine and there have been too many for me to remember accurately but here's her photo of some of her sewing projects:
Sara's family sewing with p'j's, mittens, and tea towels
Part of her email read:
Just wanted to thank you for all your help with sewing machines. I've had enough time lately to crank out some gifts on my serger, White 675, and the Kenmore free arm. It's so amazing having more than one machine to work with! Construction on the White, reinforcement on the serger, and topstitching on the Kenmore. My Christmas gifts this year include a pair of pajama pants for the husband, a robe for Mimi, pajamas for Ollie, mittens for my mom, and some hand embroidered pillowcases for my grandma.

Now, just to put all of this in perspective, Sara has two small children at home who like to "help Mommy" so finding time alone to sew is at a premium. Yea Sara!

A recent customer was Alex with a Viking 21, a very sweet machine that is rugged in its own way and manly enough to not be embarrassing when left out for your friends to see. Questions have flown back and forth via text and there was a recent problem that was hard to describe but let's just say it was a needle issue that has been resolved. I got a text within a week of his purchase to show me what he made on the Viking 21:
Alex with a new bow tie
That bow tie is pretty neat and he has much to be proud of. No, he doesn't work at Starbuck's but the apron is from his job at a home improvement store where he gets to wear a bow tie. Congratulations, Alex on putting your new skills to work!

There are more photos but I wanted to share these three because they were all from beginners who have really jumped in and learned to sew and are loving it. It's been fun to follow Sara as she grows her skill and practices on her family (little ones can outgrow our mistakes and we learn along the way), LeaRae has kept in touch over this past year (send me new project photos, LeaRae!), and I think I'm going to hear from Alex again, if only because I have more Viking bobbins for him. This is one reason why I love this business of vintage sewing machines: you make new friends as they learn to sew on these vintage treasures.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Read The Manual

While I was visiting last weekend in Illinois, I asked my sister, Mindy, if she would bring along the sewing machine that she was having trouble with since we were going to be together.  Her answer of "Which one?" stopped me in my tracks: which one? How many aren't working? "All of them" was her answer. Since I gave her one in November I asked her to bring that one since I was familiar with it, a White 1899. In a previous series of texts she said the same thing keeps happening to all of her sewing machines: the thread underneath is always big globs of loops and a real mess. I asked her to think about that for a minute: all were doing the same thing, new, old, computerized, manual? Yes. I couldn't help but ask if it was possible she was making the same mistake over and over again and she said sure, it was probably user error.
White 1899 (not my photo)

We sat down together with her White 1899, a manual sewing machine that was easy to use and pretty nice, actually. Loops on the bottom generally means a machine was threaded wrong so I followed the thread path to find it had missed the take up lever. It was one of those open loop types of lever, not one where you only have a hole and it cannot jump out of place. I asked if she had the print manual and she did so I suggested she needed to go back and read it to see how it should be threaded. Oh. Well, there was a reason, actually, because she got the machine with the walking foot attached and it just never worked and she thought it best to leave it alone. That is a good reason so you don't mess anything up. I checked things over, we both sewed on it to see how nice it could work, tried out two different walking feet and found one that worked much better. While we were at it, I checked out all of the different feet that came with the machine and told her what they were for and how she could use them. It was a mini-lesson like the one I've given the quilt group up north and have been asked to give again in September (yea!). She was fascinated with what could be done but I had to stop and remind her: all of this is in the print manual. Read the manual. We are all guilty of not using the resources right in front of us, myself included. When I told her about the chart I made up of the 32 different presser feet and how to use them with video clips she was interested in the chart and asked if it could be printed off. Well, no, because the strength was in the video clips and somehow those don't print off. But that has given me an idea of printing off the names of the feet and a brief how-to in only a photo or two. Until then, I have the chart that I will share with you again in case you haven't seen it yet.

Presser Feet Chart

While I was at it I checked to see if I could use the dropped feet dogs and try out a little free motion sewing. There was no darning presser foot so it was "bare needle" sewing and I am happy to report that it worked! Practice does make perfect, or at least better. It probably never was the sewing machine or the presser foot but my own lack of skill. Yup, I'm becoming a free motion fool:

Not the best of handwriting but it is legible!
It's never too late to teach an old dog new tricks.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

In The Swim

I love to sew and by this time in my life I'm finally getting good at it. In a previous post about making swim suits for Emma, Getting Prepared, I made up five little suits and last weekend I got to see one in action. We were all together for a family time with my sisters and those who were out-of-town stayed in a nearby hotel with a pool just for the kids or the young at heart. Emma wore her yellow suit and I could watch her in action to see if it really did fit (could be a little longer) and how it held up (the top decorative-only button fell off). There were her older brothers who enjoyed a game of catch with Grandpa Jim, but little Emma had two girl cousins from Michigan, Vivie and Frannie, who were just a tad younger and older so they were quite a three-some. How many times can you jump into the pool and in how many ways? There seemed to have no limit and they sure did have fun. When Emma's family drove home the next afternoon Vivie and Frannie didn't stay in the pool too long that evening because it just wasn't as much fun without their new friends.

Once we got home I found something I needed to mail to Beth, my niece and the mother of Vivie and Frannie, and decided I couldn't mail off just one item so decided matching swimsuits would be fun for the girls. Wouldn't you know it? I still had enough fabric to make two more suits that were the same yellow print as Emma's:
Kwiksew 3785 size small and X-Small
By this time I was on suit numbers six and seven with this KwikSew pattern 3785 so I was getting pretty good at the elastic sewing but each suit takes five loops and each loop gets sewn on twice: once to attach and then folded over and sewn again. That's ten times per suit! But I woke up early one morning and couldn't get back to sleep so I started in on the suits and they were done in no time. You know how much I love to sew on vintage sewing machines but I've been using my Viking Designer 1 and, oh my, there are some features that are really, really nice. For instance, needle up and needle down. Now, a lot of sewing machines have this but the D1 takes it a step further and when it's needle down and you stop, the presser foot raises up a half step, not all the way up, just halfway. This lets you reposition your fabric (and elastic) yet keep your place because the needle is still down in the fabric. Then there is the Fix feature that is automatic at the start of each new seam where it stitches in place for about five ups and downs to secure the stitch. I have this on earlier Vikings, the 1100, 1200 , and 1250, but you have to choose it. The D1 has it at the start by default and I'm not changing it! Finally, when you are done with a seam, select Fix again to lock the last stitch in place, and then you can select the scissor button. What does the scissor button do? It pulls the thread from the top down to the underside and clips both the needle thread and the bobbin thread. It works about 80% of the time but that's fine by me because it snips the thread!!!!!! I didn't know how much that bothered me until I no longer had to do it.
Viking Designer 1 function buttons on left side of the body
I was even feeling adventurous and sewed the buttons on with the sewing machine, something I rarely do, but was willing to try it again since Emma's button came off her swimsuit. This was also easy and no broken needles, either. Oh yea, I'm in love with the D1 right now.

As a post script, I did receive photos of my niece's daughters in their new swimsuits. You gotta admit, they are cuties!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Industrial Strength Singers - part 2

I wrote a month ago about a Singer 31-15 and now it is finally ready to be returned, getting picked up tonight. Sigh. It was so much fun while it lasted and I would encourage you to try an industrial sewing machine without the motor using only a treadle. At least for me, to have a strong motor is pretty scary and the treadle still does the job but not at top speed. In my last report on this sewing machine I hadn't figured out what really needed to be done beyond cleaning and further cleaning showed me the broken or wrong presser foot and feed dogs. I could easily get new ones and even cheaply, so I went ahead and ordered a new set along with the DBx1 needles in size 16 and 18. I was all excited when they arrived but that was before I figured out how to get the feed dogs off. Actually, I ended up not getting them off since I broke the feed dog bar. That's right, it just snapped and I thought "You did it now..." until I found one online for under $20. I had to eat that $20 since I hadn't gotten that approved first and it was my mistake but at least there was one to buy. Here's what it looked like:
Singer 31-15 feed dog bar broken with feed dogs attached and new bar on right
But how to get all of this apart? It turned out to be a bit tricky but not as bad as it could have been. Although there were several ways it might come apart, I ended up taking the whole plate, bobbin, and hook out several times to get it all fitting back together:
Singer 31-15 without feed dog bar in place
When all was said and done and I went to sew with it I found out I had reversed the feed dog timing: instead of the needle coming down into the fabric when the feed dogs were in the furthest back position, they were too far forward. There is a way to adjust it but that screw was not going to move so I walked away to think about it for a day. Or two. And in the end I went back and undid the work to get it together and held the feed dogs in the correct position, not just the easiest one. After some more adjustments to raise the feed dogs I finally got it to sew perfectly. Whew! That was a real learning experience and I don't have to own the machine to enjoy how it works.
Singer 31-15 with new needle plate, feed dogs, and presser foot.
Ellie came to pick it up and to find a place for it while they pack up another shipment for Haiti in September. She also asked for towels and soap for people who stop by the center. Most of the time they come right out of the fields and jungle and are in need of a shower, which they have, but towels and soap would be welcome. She asked the right person since I had recently bought new towels and the linen closet was too full. I also had small bars of soap from various hotels and samples along with new toothbrushes. Before Ellie drove off she commented that she almost put this machine out for a free pick-up since it came to her in such a poor state. I'm sure I wouldn't have recognized it if I hadn't seen Henry's back in January. There is so much to learn but I'm having fun in the meantime!
Singer 31-15 treadle bound for Haiti