Sunday, December 16, 2018

Crafting for Christmas

With Christmas approaching, I've been avoiding so many tasks in favor of sewing and crafting. I finally made myself decorate the tree and spend time setting out a few of the many nativity sets while I was putting away fall decorations and dusting around. Christmas cards are still waiting to be sent but I have been sewing as a way to escape tasks I should be doing. So what have I been making? First up is repairs.

A lovely ski sweater was in the by-the-pound bin at Goodwill Outlet and I just couldn't resist such a quality sweater. Although it washed up nice it was still several sizes too big with sleeves that hung down past my hands. Examination of the construction showed that I might be able to make those drop shoulders less of a drop to pull the sleeves closer to my size. The photo above shows my work on just one side but you can see there is a difference of three inches! It was more than just the shoulders but also the sides being taken in about four inches total. I thought I needed to leave the hem width intact but even the bottom edge needs to be taken in.  For this I used my Bernina 1100 serger as well as on trimming the excess from the shoulder. The actual set-in sleeve seam was sewn with a Bernina 217 and steamed with a wet pressing cloth (an old dinner napkin). I think it turned out pretty well so now will tackle the other side in hopes of wearing it in the cold weather to come. Yes, it's coming.
Left side original, right side shortened 3"
For crafts, I've been making trees and pine cones with tiny folded pieces of fabric. The trees came about when I discovered three foam cones that just begged to be covered.  Karen, from First Quilters in Cambridge, MN, showed us her idea of covering cones with folded fabric. Over Thanksgiving weekend we got to enjoy two granddaughters and I asked them if they wanted to make Christmas trees with fabric, no sewing, and they were game. It took way, way too long to get to the top of each tree but with a bit of help they finished before dinner and were happy to take them home:
Sarina and Alexandra showing off their trees
Sample tree
 I couldn't wait to try making pine cones with the same technique, using an egg shaped form and smaller squares of fabric. Although we didn't count the number of three inch squares needed for the trees, I did count how many were used on the pine cone: 65. That's a lot of cutting but rotary cutters make that part less laborious. I love the look of using all one fabric but have seen them with ribbon and folded paper. As you can imagine, I have more fabric than ribbon or paper:

Pine cone in process: folded 2" squares pinned with tiny pins
Although a bit tedious, I liked the end result:
pine cone with less fabric

Finished pine cone in a different fabric using 65 squares
I guess the granddaughters weren't the only ones who thought it was a long time to get to the end of this project.  Up next are the cobbler aprons in sizes XXL to XS. Only the buttons are left so today is the day! Oh, maybe I'll have to finish those Christmas cards first...naugh, sewing comes first!

Friday, December 7, 2018

More Hand Crank Sewing Machines

I continue to be enthralled with hand crank sewing machines  and had an opportunity to purchase two a few weeks ago in a package deal with a treadle and an electric sewing machine. It was a quadruple hit! My husband went with me for the drive on wet roads at night but we found the place easily enough and, of course, there was a story, too.

In Jeff's very clean garage we found the four machines all waiting for me, a bit dirty but I knew they had been stored in another garage for some length of time. The two hand cranks were original, a Singer 127 vibrating shuttle in a bentwood case:
Singer Vibrating Shuttle
Case and machine both responded well to a good cleaning plus my favorite Howards Feed & Wax for the wood parts. Using my new products of Go-Jo and metal polish, things are looking quite good:
Singer 127 bentwood case
Next up was a very sweet Pfaff hand crank that looks much like my other German hand crank:
Pfaff model B hand crank
The Pfaff has a letter "B" on the back of the arm but my research doesn't bring up too much so I'm in the dark about needle size, threading, as well as the general mysteries of a transverse shuttle sewing machine. Most of my time is spent trying to find a needle and getting it set into the holder. I can get it to stitch but not without skipping or the tension miserably off. Still, a very sweet machine.

The first machine I started to work on when we got home was a Singer 319W that was very dirty but in excellent condition. It came in a bentwood case that was falling apart but wood glue and Howard's will fix it right up. The wiring gave me pause but it ended being sound and the machine stitches just fine. A box of accessories was helpful so it seems to be ready to go but here's the big plus: it is an aluminum model so it is not a heavyweight like most 319 or 306's. This is wonderful news and makes those piano keys up on the top just sing out to be used!
Singer 319W
The final model was a treadle, a Franklin with a coffin top, that is in fairly decent condition. Jeff said this cabinet was kept in the front room of the original owner so it has been cared for and shows it.
Franklin treadle cabinet

Franklin treadle with fiddle base and transverse shuttle
 I swore I wasn't going to bring home another table model but it was a package deal and I think it might be worth it. Along with a few accessories it also had a print manual, something I will want to scan. It's also my first fiddle based sewing machine and I find it charming.

So who had these sewing machines? It was a previous sewing machine dealership who sold Pfaff but changed over to Janome and eventually retired as the shop is no longer in business.  Without asking outright, I suspect he had died or moved away since his garage was emptied out and these machines were the ones that were left. Always a bit sad to see things move out of a family's home but at least I know who might want them and I'm getting them ready for happy new homes.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Blonds Have More Fun

My blond haired daughter claims she does have more fun keeping her hair blond but this post is about mid-century modern blond wood/finish tables/desks/cabinets and my adventure in refinishing them. A few years back I totally stripped and refinished one of the Hollywood model cabinets but was not totally satisfied with the end product. In the past they used a type of white-wash paint with a hard finish over it and when you remove the finish the layer of white wash doesn't come off too easy. If it is left on it lends an odd finish that isn't exactly blond but not exactly a clear wood finish either. When I came across two cabinets with that same type of finish that needed some restoration, I really didn't know what to do so I went to the experts: Woodcrafters of Minnesota. They recommended a milk paint finish in a golden yellow color along with a polyurethane finish.
General Finishes: polyurethane and milk paint
Things never go as planned, do they? The first time I tried to apply the milk paint and wipe off I chose three small drawer fronts and they turned out pretty good. From there I went to the table top leaves of a different cabinet and it was terrible. Quickly wiping it off with a damp cloth got it back to where I started but what was I to do next? I came up with the idea of wiping the surface with a damp rag first and then applying the milk paint. It worked! On both table tops it worked well but when I got to the leaves they again resisted a decent finish. What worked in the end was to apply the milk paint with a damp rag and that was fairly successful:
Before: flaking finish
During: stripping process
After: New finish

Due to the colder weather it took longer for the first coats of polyurethane to dry and more coats than usual (5 total) but the end results were worth it:

Never perfect but quite good with a smooth surface so conducive to sewing. Which sewing machine to put in each cabinet?It seems I'm going to have to put a Pfaff 130 in the larger cabinet since no other machine fits. Singer's didn't fit, Brother's didn't fit, clones didn't fit but the Pfaff 130 was just right. Goldilocks sure needed a nap by the time the right one was found.

For the Brother cabinet, it seems I'm going to have to put a Brother back in it but I have three to choose from:
Brother Super Select-o-Matic in blue and cream
Classic Brother Select-O-Matic in teal

Another version of the Brother Select-O-Matic in pink and teal
Since these two blonds are about the last of the electric machines still in the garage, I need to get things in order and get them listed. I'm down to three treadles and two electrics left along with the huge mangle and the last industrial. Soon and very soon all will be set to rights: this last week saw one happy customer buying three cabinets! I almost kissed her when she came back to pick up a treadle and said she wanted to buy a machine for her sister-in-law. Does she have any other relatives or friends who sew because have I got a deal for her!
Brother cabinet

Top and drawers refinished: looks better in person!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Twenty-Nine Cent Wonder

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

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

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

Shuttle hook and race cover in place

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Moving On Out

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Craft Fair Hangover

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

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

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Bernina Industrial Investigation

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

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

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

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