Sunday, February 18, 2018

A Pig in a Poke

I try to tell people they need to do their own research before buying a sewing machine to make sure they know the pros and cons of the model they are eyeing. Sometimes I need to take my own advice but I got carried away with the offer of forty spools of serger thread and a thread rack with a serger. It all seemed so easy, maybe too easy?, and I was the owner of a modern Singer serger. Singer? Really? They are not my favorite but I do have a Singer embroidery and sewing machine that is wonderful so maybe this would be an exception, too:
Singer 14CG754 serger
I bring it home in a large tub that holds all of those spools of thread and rack and can't wait to sew with it. First off, the plug end into the machine is wobbly and keeps it from working some of the time so I might have to replace that. It runs but it's fairly loud but then I see it needs a good cleaning and probably has never been oiled. That all helps and it does run much better but it's still loud. I manage to perform a three and four thread stitch without any incident, tension is fair, but not as consistent as I might like. Rolled hem? There are several different types but all are just so-so, not the quality I would want on a napkin or hem. Flatlock? I cannot get it to flatten out no matter how much I adjust the tensions. So we are back to the three and four thread stitches but that's all I ever do with my other sergers so I think it will make a fine beginners serger. Threading the lower looper is a real chore but that can be true with any serger and you do get used to the idiosyncrasies when it is your own.

It needed a dust cover or carrying case like I've picked up for free and have used with other sergers. This time I wanted to make my own and put the serger to use. Measuring out another one as my pattern I gave this one an upholstery type striped fabric cover with a print lining, serging the seams and encasing in bias tape. Adding the zipper was easy but figuring out the straps after it was assembled wasn't quite the right order but I got it done anyway:
Singer serger bag
Serger bag inside
Really, it was so easy I now want to make more! As far as using a sewing machine, the Viking Designer 1 did a nice job on the bias tape but would not sew over the heavier fabric when it came to the zipper ends. With so many machines to choose from, which one did I use for the heavier work? The Singer 66 red eye in the parlor cabinet, of course:
Singer 66 in bird's eye maple treadle cabinet
It was a joy to sew with the treadle again and it put me in a good mood. An ice storm is coming in so we might have to stay home for a bit but that's okay when there is much sewing to be done!

As a bit of a P.S. I forgot to tell you about another serger cover I made out of those free bag that are sent with every charitiable donation these days. You know those bags?
My aunt had a garage full of them with recycling so we brought them home, recycled the paper, and kept the bags in hopes of putting them to a better use. On a Saturday morning I looked at a bag with a Monet print on the front and knew that was the one I would use to make a cover for my own serger, a Bernina 1100DA. There wasn't enough for the sides but I used another bag made out of a mesh type of fabric, sewed it all together for this end product:

My Bernina 1100 serger under its new cover
I left the zipper compartment in the front so now I have the manual right with it. I thought I was pretty clever until I went to move it: no opening for the handle! That was an oversight but I reassure myself that it will stay cleaner this way. Apparently, I'm on a roll with covers and bags these days but it does keep the machines free of dust.

Two more sewing machines left the house this weekend with a Bernina 1006 with a full set of accessories going to Marilyn's sister and the Automatic Deluxe 107 going to a repeat customer who fell in love with it's old car look:
It was sold in a plastic case but was sturdy and with a new motor block and foot control. It was love at first sight!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Going Out On Their Own

The set of Bernina 1006-1008's that I acquired in November and wrote about in Triplets and Speed Demons and Slow Pokes have finally been put together enough to list for sale. At least two of them have good cords and foot controls and one has an accessory box and extra feet. That will make one a very nice machine and the other one a good buy! The third one is going to have to wait on the shelf until more parts come along to be set-to-rights. Here's what happened to the Bernina 1008 that is oh so complete.

As written about earlier, these machines came to me a cast-offs from a school and needed some TLC and did they get it. All cleaned up, tuned up, and ready to run, they still were missing the accessory box, extension table, and a nice set of feet. There are not many accessory boxes out there for sale and I needed to be sure they would fit the models I had. Over the past six weeks there have been three or four on Ebay and included fairly large sets of feet but they also came with large price tags, out of my reach. I finally did find one and managed to outbid everyone and it came in the mail in great shape:

Bernina 1000-1008 accessory box

Bernina accessory box on back of the machine extends the work space
and it fit! Quite impressed, I now needed to add some of the Bernina presser feet but that proved to be a bit of a challenge, too. There is a whole evolution of presser feet from Bernina and this style was considered the "old style" in contrast to the "new style" but are not the "old, old style" that I had so many extras lying around. Here's the difference:
Old version on left with small prongs, old-old version on right with thicker prongs
The newer feet had narrow prongs/fittings; that means they can be used on the older sewing machines but the old, old style cannot be used on this newer model because they are too thick. Pretty tricky on their part, huh? As with so many of these items for sale, there are more of the old, old style and not so many of the old style so they seem to sell at a higher cost. I even found some large sets but they had mixed up the different types and had old, old with old. Yes, I could buy them all and save those I didn't need yet but it's still fairly expensive! A small set finally did come my way:
Three came together and I found a fourth in my stash
and they will go to the 1008. Feeling a bit successful yet still knowing these sewing machines were incomplete, I decided to pursue the larger, more expensive sets. I wrote to the seller asking if I could get a deal if I bought two of them. Yes, not a huge deal but $20 less for each one so I took the offer. They were delivered in record time and, boy, was I excited: they were not only perfect but complete:
Wow: does it get any more complete than a rack of feet AND accessories?

Top of box opens for easy access
Although they cost more I ended up getting so much more. I feel confident when selling these lovely Bernina sewing machines that the new owner will have everything they need. In fact, I'm even going to purchase a new foot control and power cord so they are all working perfectly because they are worth it. What's the big deal about this particular sewing machine? It is not only excellent quality, they are easy to use, have a better quality of stitches, portable, and good for a beginner as well as someone wanting/needing to upgrade their beginner sewing machine.

While waiting for all of these different parts to arrive and Super Bowl LII to start (and in Minnesota it was a pretty big deal, even if we weren't playing) I made up another sewing machine cover with those quilt blocks from my sister. This time I tried out my own designs for the free motion work on the front and sides:
Pin cushion motif

Scissor outline
discovering you do have to pad the work with batting so it will have the dimension necessary to show it off.  The sewing machine outline had to be done twice so not that great but I was very happy with the pincushion, something I simply drew put and stitched. Sometimes simple is better.
Sewing machine outline before stitching (no padding)
All sewn together, I like how it turned out. I would try the free motion again but I'm not into the quilt piecing as much as I would like and it just isn't necessary when making a sewing machine cover. But who ever said it was about necessity?
Quilt block sewing machine cover with free motion embellishment

Friday, February 2, 2018

Lots of Blocks

When my sister Mindy came to visit in November we finished her quilt tops, sorted through bins of fabric and clothes, and just had fun together. In the end I took several of her "extra" sewing machines, quilt blocks, and cut squares of fabric from one of the quilt tops. I fully planned on donating them to the Textile Center Garage Sale in April but when I needed something to sew on to test out the Singer 66 with lotus decals, I thought about the extra blocks and what I could do with them. It seems I always need sewing machine covers and tote bags so I laid out some of the blocks to see what I could come up with:
Block arrangement: what's up, Meg?
Okay, something was wrong with this and even my cat, Meg, knew it, but my husband got into the act and here's a better arrangement:
This looks better and ready for quilting
Just like a tote bag, the wasn't going to be seen as a whole like you would see it as a quilt, so I wasn't too concerned with the lights and darks of the fabrics. After basting the top, batting, and bottom layers together, I only stitched it in a few places over the plaids so it would hold it in place but not show. Then I had the dilemma of what to do with those large beige centers. I kept coming back to free motion embroidery so I found a pattern and traced it in one of the centers with old fashioned dressmakers tracing paper. Boy, this was harder than I thought but the results are okay if you don't look too close:
Next up, I tried a wash out pen that I could see better but it still was a lot of tiny stitches:
For the final one I used a pen that would fade over time and it still was not as smooth stitching or longer length.: this is going to take much more practice!
As I said, don't look too close but over all a nice first try:
Now I had to figure out how to actually get this to fit over the machine but that turned out to be easy by making a large box as I have done with tote bags except the opening faces down, not up. All of the inside seams were bound in bias tape, boxed at the top and bound, with the same binding around the bottom edge. Since this was to fit over a Bernina 730, I used one of their decorative stitches along the bottom edge, too:

Front (or is that the back? I can't tell!)

Top: this I'm sure of!
When I put it all back together I decided it needed a bag for the accessories so I got out some of the cut squares and made up a lined bag and put a zipper in the top so nothing is going to go sailing out:
Zippered bag for the accessories
It was a nice way to use up those really nice blocks, practice a new skill of free motion embroidery, and get another very nice sewing machine ready to be sold:
Bernina Record 730 ready for its new cover
A classic cover for a classic Bernina Record 730 sewing machine, complete with knee control, Bernina bobbins, and a nice set of feet. Thank you, Mindy, for your donation of the quilt squares now put to use. There's that old saying "Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without" and I think this project hit on almost all of those, don't you?

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Love You Like a Brother

Maybe this post is not so much about how I love the Brother 1241 sewing machine but my general love of the older Brother models. It started out simply trying to get the excess noise out of the machine only to figure out it had a broken part, several parts it turned out.

Most of the noise was coming from the hook race and I could see there was too much play. After trying out substitute parts I finally discovered there was a broken flange that acted like a tension spring to keep things in place:

Broken part on left to be replaced with donor part on right

Hook with part removed

New part screwed into place with race added on right side
I kept looking for a replacement part that was similar to the one I needed only to find out it was broken on both ends and was pretty generic. Those screws were pretty tiny but not too bad to get into place and then everything was so nice and quiet! I thought I was done and then I noticed it didn't zigzag. And then I noticed the zigzag gear was missing the actual gear:
Zigzag gear with broken section
I had one in stock and it was all metal so quite the win-win to be replaced with a better part but it's never as easy as I might hope. There was just too much play in the needle bar and I could see there was just something missing.
Zigzag part the was too loose
I checked other sewing machines, a Brother Select-o-Matic was similar, but what and where was the part? There it was, resting on part of the casting inside of the machine:
And where it should fit:
And now in place:
From the side view:
No more excess play in the needle bar! Now I'll need to get the swing of the zigzag timed correctly but that's another story. Both of the parts that were broken or missing were so small as to not be noticed but made a significant difference. In the end I'm confident it's going to work and work well. Whew! I'll keep you posted when it's finally done and add a photo at the end. Nice sewing machine that should work for another 50 years? Let's hope so!

Sunday, January 21, 2018


One of the more beautiful sewing machines is the Necchi Lydia, designed in Italy, an oh so sleek and appealing:
Necchi Lydia 544
Many of us have fallen prey to its beauty only to be lured into a relationship that wasn't going to be. In an earlier post, Vacation in Paradise, I tell how I bought a Lydia MK2 only to find its fatal flaw early on: a cracked camstack. It sits on a high shelf with other parts machines and I can say I enjoy looking at it but I buy sewing machines for practical use, not beauty. How did I let this happen again?
I found a Necchi Lydia 544 at a resell shop for a price I couldn't resist and the camstack wasn't crumbling so it came home with me. It did have a broken hook gear and I looked into purchasing a new one for about $50 but then reason took over. In the meantime, I bid and won another Lydia 544 and this one did come with a cracked camstack but also a nice set of hook gears. Perfect! But now I've been working for weeks to get this machine to actually form a stitch. Here's a bit of the saga of how this proceeded.

Here's the set of gears that needed replacing:

Hook drive gears in black
Of course, it's never just replacing the gears but also adjusting the feed dogs and their timing:
Feed dog mechanism (see hook gears on bottom)
But the Lydia has their angled hook gear with many, many adjustments:
Bobbin case on hook (doesn't look angled!)
There's depth, angle, and other little bits that can bee too close or too far apart:
Bobbin case (very angled)
As I said, after a few weeks of working on it, I now need the workspace so I reluctantly put it back together and set it aside. This feels like failure but I know it can be helpful to keep thinking about it and looking at it later with fresh eyes. All right, it is failure but I need to move on.

The big warning that is given with replacing gears on the Lydia is the progression of deterioration. You might replace the hook gear(s) only to find the gear that drives the camstack needs replacing, then the motor pulley, then the camstack itself... you can see this is a slippery slope when the same material is used in these gears and they are all aging out. Although I understand this I'm still drawn to its beauty and the hope of getting it running again.

As I made space available I got out a serger and put it to use refashioning an item of clothing. I bought this large pair of lounging type pants in hope of making them over into leggings. Here's how they looked half way done:
Flowing pants to leggings
Those were one wide pair of pants! I needed to take in the waist more and they are super long but very soft fabric and not too bad when they were finished. This lead to tackling the pile of mending that is about halfway done but it's game day in Minnesota and we have the Vikings in the playoffs. To say we are optimistic is a bit of an understatement as we are completely nuts over the prospect of our home team playing in the Super Bowl let alone on home turf. So what an I doing about this? Why, making Viking hot mitts, of course. Later, gator...
Hot mitts ready to sew (they really are purple!)

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Let's Get Cranky

I've had a hand crank sewing machine listed recently and it has brought about a fair amount of interest. Looking back over my posts about hand cranks I see I really don't have much documented so now is the time to write up what I know about hand crank sewing machines and converting to hand crank.

Why would someone want to sew by that laborious method of cranking the wheel by hand? Doesn't that give you just one hand to guide the fabric? How would this ever be an advantage? It seems to me you would want to go with a slow pace when you are quilting and looking for precision that only comes with carefully preceding slowly that you can only get with a hand crank. I don't know of an electric machine that would let you go that slow, even with a speed reducer as some of the machines boast. Needle down is perfect as you land on the intersection of corners while piecing fabric for a quilt square. It's true that you only have one hand to guide but when you are going slow that is less of an issue. When I treadle I have more trouble stopping-on-a-dime and that does not occur when using a hand crank machine.

I've also used and sold hand crank sewing machines for use with children and this prevents them from "wild sewing" where they like to think they can race to the end but find out you can't sew straight when you go too fast and fingers get mixed up when you are speeding. A hand crank sewing machine slows everything down and the curious start to wonder how this is actually working. Curiosity might just fuel a budding engineer to ask questions and investigate and isn't that how many of us got started in our love for vintage sewing machines?

How do you convert an old sewing machine to a hand crank version? Maybe you can but maybe you can't and the Treadleon people know all about it. On their page about converting to hand cranks, they show options you might want to consider. I keep it simple by choosing Singer 99 or 66's, adding a spoked wheel if they don't already have one, and adding the hand crank mechanism via the motor boss. What is a motor boss? It's a place on the side of the machine under the hand wheel where you can screw in that crank mechanism:
Motor boss in casting with threaded opening
It makes sense in the end but sounds confusing when you are starting out but think of it like this: when the motor is removed and you add the hand crank how are you going to get it to stay on the machine? You need to anchor it onto the side and using a threaded slot gives it stability.
Motor attached to the motor boss
Can't we just add a "knob" onto the side of a hand wheel? Take a look at an original hand crank sewing machine and you will see it is not quite that easy:
German hand crank: pretty complex mechanism
Treadleon does give ideas of how to make a solid hand wheel work with a reproduction crank but I haven't tried any of them so I can only direct you to their website. With my repainted Singer 99 that I added the hand crank, I have now been asked to add a motor back so it can be used either way. I dug up a motor, light, and foot control set and got it all working again.

Singer 99 repaint with motor
As with many of the Singer 99's that are converted to hand cranks, you cannot adjust the bobbin winding mechanism enough for the winding wheel to touch the handwheel. I've added plastic tubing in the past but this time I came up with a set of black rubber belts that would fit over the part of the hand wheel that isn't qite fat enough to touch the bobbin winding tire. I wish I could show you but the photos are black on black and you cannot see it clearly so you are just going to have to trust me on this one! In the end, this little repaint is going to a good home where there are children who are sewing light leather projects. It's cute, solid, and portable so I hope it fits the bill for them:
Singer 99 repaint as a hand crank
Happy sewing!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018


In the midst of a warm-up this week, I put away the outdoor Christmas decoration and removed the items hanging on the windows of the porch. This gave me time to really look at the Christmas stockings we had and to see how we could improve upon the situation. There were stockings with names, half without names, some small, some ridiculously large, and one baby girl stocking. I remember much confusion this past Christmas eve when my husband, who is in charge of the stockings, couldn't remember whose was whose if they didn't have names on them. So we looked over the lot, decided on the keepers, and figured out who we were missing: all of the young men who have married into the family. It was too late to get this item at the stores since they were long gone in the after Christmas sales, so I looked to see if I could find some online. Yes, for about $24-45. Are you kidding? Next I looked up ideas for Christmas stockings for men and came up with an idea that I thought might just work: gray wool with white trim. I dug out my gray wool, matched it up with a nice wool plaid, then went to work on how to make them special for these young men in our lives.

Machine embroidery! I've been wanting to get back into it and this was the perfect excuse. We discussed various images that the guys would find representative of their interests and came up with deer hunting, fishing, and ... well, the last one is too new so we settled on a Christmas tree. Although there are free designs available, I ended up buying a package of ten images for fishing to get the right one. Using my Viking Designer 1 and SewWhat Pro software, I started out with the deer hunting image first but ended up with several tries:
Three tries
The first image was too small but it gave me an idea about the colors I could use. The second one was the right size but I discovered you actually do need to use stabilizer on each and every project, plus gold thread was not the best of choices. By the third time I was satisfied with the end result so we are keeping that one.
Final deer stocking
As for the fisherman, it was a silhouette so only black thread was needed: easy!
Fisherman stocking
There was a bit of a snafu on the Christmas tree stitching so I had to stop, pull out threads, and start over with a darker color. It's a pretty subtle effect but looks fine in the end.
Christmas tree stocking
As for piping around the edge, one got cream, one a wired red twisted cord, and one was self-made. The printed ribbon was made into piping with the aid of a zipper foot and was applied to the stocking with this foot. For the first stage of the project, I was pleased with the results. Now for the wool plaid "cuff" around the top: I wanted to add their name on each one but I'm not up to using machine embroidery this time. I decided to hand embroider their names using a font from a MS Word printout, traced with waxy tailors marking square, and stitched with light gray wool.They got assembled last night and had their photo shoot this morning:
Son-in-laws Christmas stockings
I'm pleased with the result and now have a plan for adding names to the other stockings by using the Word printout to trace names and stitch up, maybe not with wool but with floss since they look a bit more elegant in their tapestry fabric. I'm going to be so happy next Christmas when those stockings come out, all ready to go, with everyone accounted for. What about those additions to the family? We have an extra stocking for the grandkids and I set aside the a set of wool and plaid for another son-in-law that just might join the family in the future. Here we come, 2018!