Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Too Much On My Plate

Once again, my eyes are bigger than my stomach: I have way too much to do for the upcoming craft fair! I planned on making a mountain of hot mitts, pillow cases, some cobbler aprons, refresh other stock, etc, All I have done is make 64 hot mitts:
Hot mitts finished and ready to go!
That's a lot for me so no moaning and groaning but that is all I have done. Except. I did take that Power Tools for Women class, cycled through most the ten sewing machines I got from Erin (see below), and even managed to get the green Singer 15-91 in good shape.
Singer 15-91 (yes, it is green)
Then there was the New Home Memory Craft 6000 that I couldn't resist:
New Home Memory Craft 6000
It came without a power cord, a pricey item, but I managed to get one reasonably priced, and it came last night. The machine only hums. I've tried everything but know it's electronics this time and I'm in over my head. A sewing machine tech owes me a favor so I'm calling it in on this one. Everyone says this is a fabulous sewing machine and it sure looks like it so it's worth paying to have it fixed, I believe. You know I don't want to pay to have someone else do my job but I know when I'm out-skilled. I just love these New Home models with the accessories under a flip up top:
New Home MC 600 accessories "under the hood"
As promised, I've been working through the ten sewing machines from Erin and have two more that are ready to go. Both needed cleaning and tension tune-up but are stitching fine now. The Singer 237 is such a classic sewing machine but I have no portable case, only a table if it is necessary. Of course, it will need accessories, too. The Singer Merritt 1872 runs pretty well but it has a belt system for the feed dogs and I've never been a big fan of this system. This particular model has a clinking sound when it is at maximum stitch length but I'm going to not spend any more time on it and just give the buyer a warning about this anomaly.

Moving things around in the garage, I decide I need to toss the box the New Home MC 6000 came in and guess what I found? The foot control. That's right, it's the same one I just bought. I'm just a bit chagrined but glad I didn't pay top dollar. I checked back in the ad but the foot controller was not shown and only referred to as "powers on from source" so I figured that was geek speak for "borrowed cords" but I was wrong. Well, it still needs to be sent in and I hope to sell that foot control/power cord set.

We have a button maker at work so I made up three different styles of buttons for a give-away at the craft fairs:
Yes, it's all about sewing
They were fun to make and I hope a bit of low cost advertising. I better get going and finish up the pillow cases that are all cut out and ready to be sewn, a new item that was fun in the design process. Hope they turn out as cute in real-time as they are in my head:
Pillow cases: a few done but most just to show combinations of fabrics and colors

Monday, October 9, 2017

Willing To Learn

Some of my blog posts aren't about sewing machines and this is one of them so if you want to read about vintage sewing machines...take a pass on this post. It is about learning and that whole "lifelong learner" stuff we read about and sometimes roll our eyes when we hear about it but it is true: we need to keep learning to be relevant, interesting, and interested in the world around us. My foray into new learning was "Power Tools for Women", a class I have wanted to take for a long time but always worked on the evenings it was offered. A change in schedule last spring has opened up my schedule to now be able to take this community ed. offer and was it ever fun! Here's how it looked on the first night of class:
Squaring up the frames with the help of our instructor
With only two classes of 2.5 hours we needed to get right into it so our instructor showed us the power tools we were going to use, basic instructions, and we were off and running! Well, no running in the middle school industrial tool shop, but working hard and helping each other. There were ten of us in a broad spectrum of ages with different purposes in mind, but we all wanted to learn how to use these powerful and scary machines with safety and purpose.
Busy in the wood shop on the first night of class
 The first night we made a picture frame out of an eight foot board of clear pine. I learned how to use a miter saw, router, pocket hole jig, impact drill, and cordless drill. Since I had previously used drills, the last three on the list were no problem but it was the power saws that terrified me. They were all table models so that provided stability and along with instruction and encouragement from the teacher and other women I learned to conquer my fear. Everyone pitched in to clean up and we were ready to leave ahead of the class ending time. Here's what I made:
My first frame: 16 by 16 in pine, before routed outside edge
If we wanted to put a routed edge on the frame, just bring it back to the second class session and we would add that nice feature. I brought mine back, as did everyone else, for the nice scoop edge. We spent this second class session on making a small step stool using power table saws, drills, jigsaws, and a few different sanders.
Instructions on making the step stool: we are all attentive!
 It was even more fun and everyone showed confidence in using the tools. We talked with each other about why we wanted to learn to use power tools and most said they already had tools but no one to teach them. One woman wanted to replace her deck next summer so needed to know how to use the tools of the trade. I thought that was ambitious but I think she can do it! Here we are with our finished projects:
Fall 2017 Power Tools for Women Class
There is a second class, Power Tools for Women Advanced, where they make a 24" tall side table in oak that many of the women signed up for but I have a conflict so will not be taking it this fall. It is possible I will not be taking it at all because the instructor is going to open his own shop in the spring and thought he would have open Saturday's. That would mean for a small fee we could work in his shop where he would be in attendance and we could make anything we had the skills to accomplish. Can we spell s-e-w-i-n-g  m-a-c-h-i-n-e  b-o-x-e-s? YES! I learned a new skill(s) and can put them to use relatively soon so this is a win-win for me and I think everyone in the class. Here's a look at the basic step stool I made, the current pride of my heart:
Ain't she sweet? My very own step stool!
You never know if you can do it until you try so go out there and try something new, something you have been toying with in your mind. It's time to put your hopes into action!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Twin Sergers Give Life With Transplant

Many months ago Natalie gave me her serger that a shop said they could not fix, there were no parts to be found. She was hoping I could somehow find the part and resurrect her serger and I was hoping I could, too. Taking it all apart, I found the broken part, tried to bond it back together without success so I started on a search for a donor machine. Come to find out, her Singer QuantumLock 5, model 14U595, was the same as a Pfaff 4870 with only minor changes to the exteriors. The Singer serger was a bit of a rare bird but I could find Pfaff 4870's, just needing to be patient for one at the right price. It paid off when one came up for parts, I made an offer, it was accepted and she arrived:
Singer 14U595 and Pfaff 4870
In my heart of hearts, I was hoping the Pfaff really wasn't broken, that it just needed some adjustment and cords.Opening her up, there was a whole lot of cleaning that needed to be done:
Maybe this was holding up the works?

and then there was more, more, more
I could see the part I needed was there but the arm that supported it was not attached. This had me worried so I took the Singer apart, compared the damage, and decided it might just be best to use the Pfaff for parts as intended. As it turned out, there were two parts that were needed so I went to work. Natalie's Singer QuantumLock 5 had been sitting around since January, moving several times in my workroom, finally getting downsized to a smaller box and then up to a donor machine shelf. I knew I hadn't put it all back together right but I didn't hold out much hope for a part. Shame on me! Now I had hours of trying to figure it all out but the Pfaff really helped me see how it would all work.

I didn't have the lower looper threader back in correctly and I couldn't figure it out so when checking back with the Pfaff I could see there was a plastic part that swiveled with a pin that receded. The Singer's pin didn't push back in enough even though they were both set in springs, so the part didn't swivel. Comparing pins and settings, I could see I was going to have to shorten it so I got out a file and went to work.
Small pin in center was too long (photo is upside down!)

They should have been the same size...
Trial and error, I did get it to work but it's an imperfect system and sometimes the thread would catch on the looper, sometimes not. Without that bit of assistance it's nearly impossible to thread so I'm hoping Natalie knows the trick to this. Now I was ready to try it again but I got an error message that the door wasn't closed. Well, in an old serger you didn't always have to even close the door but as a safety measure they now have sensors. I checked all over that machine and couldn't figure it out so I walked away and came back the next day. With a fresh start at it I could see there was a little flap on the door that I didn't have in the correct position so I took it out and re-positioned the door and flap: no error message. Now I could finally stitch: crummy, crummy, crummy. All of my usual adjustments weren't working and I had other things to attend to so I walked away, again, until I could face it.

Then I remembered a lesson from Ray White: adjust a serger so it will sew with Maxi-Lock thread. Off came the other brands and on went the Maxi-Lock, a different color in each spot, and it stitched perfectly. I let Natalie know and she's happy to have her original serger coming home again. I am, too.
Singer Quantum Lock5, 14U595

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Riders On The Storm

Sometimes I think we must be crazy. Last night we were a bit crazy as we tried to out ride a storm coming in. Why would we be out in a vehicle with a shelf cloud looming to the west and large drops of rain started to fall? To pick up a sewing machine, of course.

It all started with a mid-afternoon appointment that was long-awaited as Anna got in touch with me much earlier in the week to come on Sunday afternoon. She came to pick up the Viking 21, a real beauty in a unique cabinet that only had one owner that I wrote about in Generosity of Strangers. She was getting a gem and she knew it having done her research before she got in touch with me and continuing during her time to wait it out. It was fun to meet Anna and her dad, to demonstrate the machine, and show how it all fit back together.

After they left I finally had time to check local ads "just to see what was out there" and I spied a nice Singer 66 with decent decals, case, spoked wheel, and close to home. Cool. The owner sent me some more information and we tried to set up a mutual time for me to pick it up. We were doing all of this while I had garden vegetables roasting in the oven and I couldn't leave until they came out but that storm was rolling in. What's a body to do? We said we could be there in 40 minutes, 20 minutes for the veggies to finish and 20 minutes of driving time. Yes, we drove like the wind but hardly had any rain on the road and when we turned around and headed back home there had been rainfall, just not on us. We pulled it off! So what did I come home with? Here she is:
Singer 66 with lotus decals
A thorough cleaning was needed and she had a musty odor, but it was noted the wiring needed to be replaced but I had hopes of using her as a hand crank model. First a cleaning and here's what I found:
Box base with moldy yuck.
No wonder there was a musty smell! What is that? There were pieces of it in the needle bar area, too but I got it all out. A wipe down with Lily White Sewing Machine Oil (no need to waste the good stuff on mere cleaning) helped with the musty odor, too, but it was going to take some airing out to get her sweet smelling again.

Let's take a look at the wiring. The cord coming out of the motor, not original since this one has a spoked hand wheel so was probably a treadle originally, was quite good and the light cord was also good. Then I took a look at the motor block, the part screwed into the carrying case base that have outlets for the light and motor as well as cords to the foot control and the wall outlet. One end was badly frayed as it connected to the outlet screwed into the box base. Taking a look at the foot control shows it also had a bit of surgery so I removed it and found a decent substitute. This all looked much safer so I plugged it in and turned on the light: we had a glow! It needed a new belt and I had to laugh as I saw the one it was sporting was a common blue rubberband. It seemed to work so I might have to keep that in mind some time. Clean, safe, and ready to sew with a new needle....and she sounded terrible. I checked the feed dogs and cleaned out a layer of packed down lint and still she sounded too loud. I poked around in the bobbin area, added a bit more oil, and found another glob of lint but I couldn't pull it up and it simply fell through. I started her up again and now she sounded happy, or at least the beginning of happy.

How about those stitches? Not so hot either and she's from 1906 so does not have numbers on the tension dial. This takes much experimentation before the thread stops breaking and now I think the bobbin is a big part of the problem. I pull on the bobbin thread and notice it pulls out in jerks, not smoothly, so I take a look at how it is wound: very unevenly! I rewind the thread onto an empty bobbin so it is a decently wound bobbin but now it's way too tight as I pull on the thread inserted into the drop-in bobbin case. I reverse the way I have inserted it (you don't expect me to remember which direction it is supposed to go, do you?) and it seems even worse.It takes quite a bit of turning to get the bobbin tension screw to loosen up but I finally get it at a setting so the upper thread tension also works well. We have a stitch! A decent stitch! It is now sounding quiet, cleaned up, and stitching well so I can call it a day.
1906 Singer 66 all spiffed up
What about making it into a hand cranked sewing machine? Much to my disappointment, when I check to see how to attach the hand crank I see there is no motor boss, that threaded hole under the hand wheel where either a bracket for a motor or hand crank can be screwed into.
There is a hole but not for a screw to hold a motor or hand crank!
 Oh, that's right, this machine dates to 1906, before motorized sewing machines so there was no provision for a motor. This is a disappointment but it does work well and the case is pretty decent so there are many positives to outweigh this one negative. It's a back clamp foot style and I have more than one set of attachments and that is nice, too.  I hope to find a good home for her, even if she is around 110 years old. When you pass 80 years old you get to tell everyone how old you are and even get to brag about it. I'm bragging for this lovely Singer 66 with the lotus decals. Sew on!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Parts Machines

It's always a judgement call when deciding if you should invest more into something or surrender it to just parts. I'm in such a conundrum now over a Singer 401A, an excellent sewing machine but with too many missing parts to make it profitable. A new foot control and power cord will come to about $35-40, a new bobbin slide plate another $10, a presser foot tension screw:
Singer 401A waiting for a decision
There are a few pluses, though, such as the base plate and decent rubber feet:
Underneath with a nice cover plate
And, of course, it's a Singer 401, one of the really good models Singer made with all metal gear drive so there is very little that can go wrong if it is cleaned and used regularly. Yet, here's my issue: I already have a Singer 401A that needs a set of cords and bobbin slide plate. It also could use the base plate that is on the one pictured above. How to decide? Condition: the one above has a compromised finish right behind the needle plate with the finish chipped.
Bad bubble of paint
 This doesn't look good and fabric might even catch in this uneven finish. So here's the breakdown:
  • Original Singer 401A: needs new bobbin cover slide plate, power cord and foot control, spool pins.
  • New Singer 401A: needs pressure screw for foot, bobbin cover slide plate, power cord and foot control.
I'm afraid that bubble in the paint, because it's nearly unfixable, is the deciding factor. I spent almost three hours stripping down this model but I ended up with a motor and light with switches, hook and bobbin case, feed dogs, one gear, front plates and dials, tension mechanism, hand wheel with gear, and a whole lot of screws. Taking a look at the machine I'm going to save, I noticed it did not need that bottom plate but it could use those rubber feet. The left nose (swinging door that covers the needle bar) was scratched so I switched those parts, and I put new spool pins in and a bobbin slide plate.
Singer 401A on left is a keeper but on right is a carcass of a 401
It still needs that foot control and power cord and I might have to break down and buy them but a decent Singer 401A is an excellent sewing machine. I should have a box of accessories that includes the basic cams but I do not have a carrying case, a minor flaw as not everyone even wants a case. Maybe I should make a dust cover out of Singer fabric? That would be a nice and an unusual touch! Now I remember I even have a buttonhole attachment for this model, another plus.

At the end of the day I think I'm still ahead of the game except for the three hours it took to strip the machine down. Maybe I'm a bit slow but I was looking to see how it all fit together and that's part of the education I'm getting when I do things like this. Oh no, does this mean I'm a life-long learner?

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...