Thursday, February 27, 2014

I'm in love with Ken (more)

Home from a vacation but there never seems to be a vacation from my sewing machine hobby/business. My girlfriend knew all about my sewing machine business and patiently listened to my monologues about vintage sewing machines and how I got started so she introduced me to someone after church on Saturday night who she heard liked to sew and fix sewing machines. Here was Jack, with his wife, who just loved old cars and sewing machines. We looked at each others photos on our phones and talked about what brands and models were our favorites (his were Kenmores and slant needle Singers). But almost the best part was his "million dollar shirt" made with fabric that had dollar bills printed all over it that he made himself. A collector and a sewer. We checked with my friend about who had whose email because he and I wanted to continue our discussion. What fun in an unexpected setting!

As Jack and I discussed our favorites I thought about his comment on Kenmore sewing machines: they are under appreciated. I find this to be more than true: under appreciated and under priced. You can get a good Kenmore much lower than many other brands yet still have an excellent sewing machine. My longest running sewing machine was a Kenmore:
After nearly 35 years with this Kenmore 158-17812, I'm not sure I can sell it. It might be desired by someone else but I think I should keep this one just for old times sake. It has sewn many dresses for my daughters, jeans for my husband, quilts, mending, and even a wedding dress. The buttonhole attachment works well, the variety of stitches is good enough with a scallop stitch (my favorite), and in general works well. So why did I look for a new machine? It didn't like to hem jeans. That was my biggest complaint but I also had a niggling thought that just maybe it was holding me back, that I had learned to work around its idiosyncrasies rather than become a better seamstress. Now that I have tried out so many sewing machines I think this might be true and I do know that having a variety of sewing machines gives me the choice of performing different tasks on the machine that does it best.

Here are a few of the Kenmores I have collected, some low end, and a few high end:

Appeals to a younger crowd.
Very basic but still stitches well.

Left centering needles and probably the heaviest!
This model 16 came fully loaded with cams and buttonholer. She's a dream but heavy.
What is not to like: free arm, drop in bobbin, special stitches.

Love this beauty! Has it all and never will wear out.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sing a song of Singer

I have a love/hate relationship with Singer sewing machines. I started out on a Singer when I was learning to sew and even had a Singer when I was first married. I have no idea which models I had and, of course, no photos. When I first started buying and selling sewing machines I did try a few of the 1960-1970 models and had problems. Problems. Problems.More research showed the truth that was beginning to dawn on me: Singer stopped making good sewing machines in the late sixties.
(Some of the following was reported in an earlier post so skip down to the 3rd photo!)
Here are a few of my duds (they worked but sounded loud or I didn't like the feel of them):
This one came in a cabinet that had been hacked to pieces to try and accommodate this machine. I had to give the cabinet away.
Quite an adventure with this one. I bought one at Salvation Army and got my first experience in replacing plastic gears. Ended up buying this one from ebay just to try and figure out how it worked. I did learn quite a lot and sold the ebay acquired sewing machine to a cute young woman who knew this was exactly the sewing machine she wanted. Are you sure?

Now that the unpleasantries are over, let's look at the wonderful Singers that were made before those plastic gears came into being. Other than some black 66's and 99's that I have loved, the first Singer to bowl me over was a 401A:

I know just a photo doesn't tell you what is so great about this gem. It's the feel of this machine while you sew. Powerful, precise, a workhorse in every sense of the word. She came out of a home that was probably going to be demolished, the owner going into a memory care facility. It was quite dirty and the extra parts were eventually found in another pile of stuff but I got the "tower of power" with extra feet, bobbins, cams, the works!

I have enjoyed this sewing machine so much I bought 2 more as they came on the market. I'm sure I will have no trouble selling them.

Since then I have bought 2 Singer 404's and three Singer 306's but they are stories unto themselves. The moral of this story is to know the background of a sewing machine and check others reviews, taking into account that even a good company can make a poor product. I do love the old Singers but will no longer even look at the Singer Stylist or Touch and Sew. I tried, I was defeated. I rest my case.

The Herd

It seems I have fallen into a hole, just like Alice in Wonderland, and I'm wondering if I should seek a way out or just enjoy the stay. I have collected 4 treadle sewing machines and it looks like I will go get another later this week. Five treadles? Five cabinets? All but one are really hefty and take up quite a bit of room but, once again, hubby is more than tolerant as he encourages me and helps in sizing and installing the treadle belts.

It all started when I contacted a seller about a gold colored sewing machine. It was beautiful and sewed like a dream. Everyone loved it and I sold it in December-January as a portable plus a cabinet. A quilter wanted to take it back and forth from home to cabin in the off season but needed a cabinet for when they were going to stay up north. She got a good deal and a beautiful machine:

While I was asking about the gold machine the seller mentioned in a text that she also had a treadle. I said sure, a package deal, and I took them both home. A very nice Singer 66 Red Eye that only needed to have the belt shortened has graced the spot next to the front door, a bit crowded but still can fit. How much fun we had when three of the oldest grandchildren, aged 4-6, learned to sew simple bags either feeding the fabric while I treadled or doing the treadling while I watched the needle. Look, Grandma, I'm sewing!

Next a free treadle came my way with a Minnesota A sewing machine in a very ornate cabinet in excellent shape. How can you say no to free? Then I saw the head and it was in terrible cosmetic condition.

As a vibrating shuttle it worked great so I hated to delegate it to the junkyard but it was pretty pathetic. The search was on for another Minnesota A but, to be honest, they are all so old or maybe poorly painted or used, that almost all of the A's were in the same shape.

Of course, I found one! Not a Minnesota A but an S in a parlor cabinet. More research! It seems the Minnesota's, possibly they are Davis clones, have mounting holes/pins that are a different size from the Singers so only a Minnesota would fit in a Minnesota cabinet. Now I had 2 cabinets that I could only use very specific models. The A for traded for the S and one ornate cabinet has a beautiful S, all functioning and living across the room from the first treadle.

Parlor cabinet? The ugly old A went into it and it sits in the kitchen hallway waiting for a good condition A. In case you are wondering what a parlor cabinet looks like, it's all folded up in the picture on the left and open on the right with the treadle inside. My guess is this made a nice piece of furniture without seeing any of the mechanism. My cat, Meg, is wondering what's in there. No mice.

Found a good condition Minnesota A but refuse to pay over $100 so will have to be patient. While I'm being patient, another treadle falls into my lap from an estate sale, only $20 but a good head, a Singer 27 with Tiffany decals. Cabinet is pretty well trashed so think I'm going to do a bit of a switch around.

Just heard back from the person with the 5th treadle and she said her mother-in-law wanted it so it was off the market. I will have to keep waiting and searching for a new cabinet for the Singer 27. Love those Tiffany decals!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Catching Up

There just is no excuse. I've been too busy buying, refurbishing, and selling sewing machines to write about them. It is still a serious addiction but my marriage is in tact so I think I'm on solid ground. Today I sold 2 machines within an hour of each other and have another one waiting for pick up tomorrow. So here's the Brother Riviera that left this afternoon:

A very nice 70's model, all metal, that sounded and stitched very nicely. The floral bag held the foot control and it all packed nicely into a suitcase. A young lady text me and it was sold in an hour. She told the story of her parents selling her Singer when she moved so now had to replace it. Good choice!

A couple expecting a baby came earlier and were looking at the Singer 306K:
I love this kind of sewing machine, so solid (translate: heavy), but you need to already be a seamstress to know how to use this type of machine. She was young and had a broken Shark model but this was too big of a step up for her so they went with a plastic Kenmore from the '90's. Lightweight, easy to use, similar to the Shark (off the record: I would never buy a Shark!), and just right for someone so young. She was happy and he suggested when she was ready they could buy a better sewing machine. That's right, come back next year.

Here's the beauty that is going to a new home tomorrow:
 She's like a beautiful old car, so sleek and retro, in cafe au lait colors. She came to me with paint specks (don't people use drop cloths when they paint?) and only one speed: race car. I ended up buying a new foot control and she now can speed but only when you want her to. I love the handle for putting her down into the cabinet below:

This cabinet got a new finish on the top inside and out. The drawers and sides were just fine so I left them but the top is now so sleek and clean. I'm especially proud of this one. After 3 weeks of "we're coming tomorrow" he says he is coming and I warned if it fell through I was going to the next person on the list as I've had 2 more interested parties, all three are men. Who knew there were so many men who like to sew?