Friday, October 31, 2014

No Miracles

The lovely Singer 66 sewing machine with cabinet and stool/bench from my last post is just too nice to leave in the garage. Besides, it's no longer balmy out, getting downright cold in Minnesota, so as much comes inside as possible. The Singer 66 is all cleaned up, wired, and sewing perfectly so now the cabinet gets a spa treatment, too. As I look it over I can see the top certainly could be stripped of it's finish, stained, and given multiple coats of polyurethane. But maybe I won't have to do all of that this time. Even though it's in pretty rough shape, I think I can use a restoration product and get satisfactory results. Lately I have been using Howard's Restor-a-Finish to get fairly good results but each piece needs to be evaluated for the likelihood of those results. There is a caution on the can that says you cannot use polyurethane after using Howard's but I think that means right on top of it: I would strip off the finishes and sand down to bare wood but let's hope I don't have to go that far. Most refinishers would agree that products like this are for items that are not in too bad of shape, just needing a bit of cleaning and some scratch removal. If there is more extensive damage, with parts of the finish missing or bubbled up, it needs to be stripped to get good results. This product is like a very mild stripper, softening the surface for you to wipe it around to cover up scratches and other mild marks. First I apply a scratch remover, Old English in this case, that gives a bit of the stain back to those scratches. Then I use very fine steel wool, 0000, to apply the Howard's.

Step one: scratch remover then Howard's
The hard part is to wait for the chemical to soften the surface finish. I have to walk away, tidying up some other area of the basement or I will wreck it! Twenty to 30 minutes later I come back and work on the spots that are more problematic:

Step 2: moving the softened finish around
Not perfect but pretty good, using the steel wool quite hard in some spots in hopes of getting a smoother result. It works to some extend but there are no miracles:

Step 3: wipe down and let dry 30 minutes
Since I have to wait around I decide to look at the stool that I brought in later. Not too bad but it needs a finish of something to clean and restore it, too. After the 30 minute wait on the cabinet, I apply their Feed-N-Wax, which I secretly love. Okay, it's not a secret anymore, but you should try some of this stuff. It's like a waxy oil, kinda clumpy, but goes on nice. I let it also wait while I wipe down the stool legs, clean the leatherette seat cover, finally going back to polish off anything that didn't soak in. Here's the before and after:

Singer 66 cabinet before

Singer 66 cabinet after
Such nice details on this little cabinet with that front tip-out drawer and angled veneer for a special touch of craftsmanship. If you sat down and looked at it , not just at these photos, you can see it's not perfectly smooth but we also have to admit this is an old piece of furniture: maybe it doesn't have to look new!

Here's the inside with the same procedure:
Hard to see the "bald" spot

Looking good!

Note bald spot, now a bit less obvious
There was also a bit of a concern about getting the foot control and wires back through the hole but I took the male 3 prong plug attached to the machine, opened it up, pulled off the foot control wires, fed through the hole, reconnected everything: 5 minutes of work for this custom look:

Made for the wires to keep tidy?
Now it's done and ready for...sewing? sale? Who knows where she will end up but she was well taken care of in her last home and will be again in her new home.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Family Affair

Sewing machines come to me by the strangest routes. I don't mean that the person was strange or the sewing machine, but it just would never have occurred to me that some people think of me when they see an old sewing machine. But that's not true when I see friends on Facebook post sewing machines to my wall and ask "Do you know what this is?" to one of the more esoteric models. Today's story comes via my dear sister-in-law and her husband. He was driving near home and found this out at the curb:
Singer 66 cabinet with stool
How he knew it was a sewing machine...I'm going to have to ask him about that. When he gets home he makes his wife get off the phone so they can hurry back and maybe get this old sewing machine. He didn't trust his own gut on this one and if like most husbands he has brought other things home that didn't get met with approval. They both look it over and she gives a thumbs up and it comes home. When I get an email about a Singer from 1941 and would I like it my first thought is always "well, yeah" but there not much else for information and I hope it's not one of the ones I get a sinking feeling about. I arranged to pick up after work and here's what I find:

Singer 66 with filigree decals
She's beautiful and almost the best decals I've seen yet! The bobbin cover is missing (of course) and it's cobwebby underneath. but oh who cares? That I can clean up so she's comin' home. I almost didn't go to yoga, giving myself the excuse that I'm running a little, we better get to yoga. It's hard to relax and get refreshed from yoga when all I want to do is take a good look at my new friend.

Upon closer inspection I see that I'm not going to be plugging it in yet because the foot control has exposed wires. I take the motor and light off, inspecting and deciding I need to tape and put back since they are all quite good. I find another foot control and when I get the wiring done and look for the plug to connect to the outlet...wait a minute, I'm missing an essential part. There's no plug! No connection to the power source and that motor isn't going to run. Along with a new foot control set-up I have the plug end and I find a Singer 3-prong plug to go into the machine itself. I secretly love wiring these old gals so I'm pretty happy to make the wiring safer. Here she is, clean and safe:

Singer 66 still looking good!

Singer 66 all shined up
Isn't she beautiful? The needle plate is one of the black ones and wish I could get a black bobbin slide but that's asking too much. First stitches are perfect but I clean, oil, and putts around with it for awhile just to feel the joy. Sigh.

That cabinet is going to get a treatment with Howard's Restore-a-Finish so I, hopefully, won't have to strip it down to get it looking nice again. And did you see it even has the bench/stool? Wow, I'm excited all over again. It just goes to show you that sewing machines will come to you like a magnet to the refrigerator, even from family members who become more dear as the years go by. Thanks, David and Marie!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Serger Woes

As I continue to find more ways to use a serger, I also find the frustration in using these machines. There are random times when they won't stitch right and, of course, it is no fault of mine! Part of the problem seems to be when I move one into another spot: when I get back to it the setting might be just a bit off and that can give a poor stitch. The Bernette 004 was just such an example when the only problem was the differential feed had gotten changed. A suggestion I need to implement is to write down the settings for a specific job so when you go back to it you can check the settings.

The project this weekend was to get the Huskylock 440 working, reported not able to sew anything heavy. I'm not finding it able to sew knits very well, or so I thought. Here are the stitch samples I made to test this machine:

4 layers of cotton knit: not too happy
Let's try this out on another serger:

Rib knit with Bernette Funlock 004
I had to use a different knit because you would not be able to see the stitches with white on white but you can see it's just fine, even with the 4 layers. Taking one step at a time, I tried to get consistent chain stitching (that's the one that looks like regular straight sewing machine stitches). The more I stitched, the results were better even with no further adjustments. I could get decent stitches consistently:

Knit on left, woven cotton on right
but only using 2 layers of fabric. When I tried 4 layers of knit, thinking this would be the ultimate test:
4 layers but chain stitch isn't too great
it didn't like this. Okay, so I only sew 2 layers when using knits. I can live with that. Then I added the regular overlock stitch to see how it would handle it and it was pretty bad, like the first sample. Taking the chain stitch out of the testing, I could look only at the overlock and found out where the problem came from but no solution. It seems if I can get it all started and going right, don't change anything and it will stitch fine with a standard 2 layers:

Woven cotton left, knit on right
I've also considered that with knits I might need different needles and that could be tricky with needles that are already special. All of this made me turn to Craigslist to see what was up with sergers for sale and, lo and behold, there was a pretty nifty Elna for sale that I could afford! Thanks goodness it had already been spoken for because I came to my senses and said "you already have that same model" so I got it back out and worked with it again, finally dropping the chain stitch and going with just a 3 thread overlock. Perfect. Now I have all three sergers working, with some limitations.

I'm all excited to be going to the Sewing Expo in Minneapolis in November with my daughter, Kelly. Can you guess which class I signed up for? Serger 911. Let's hope I learn something that I'm clearly missing in all of these serger woes!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Cabinet Debate

There is no debate: we are going to get our cars back in the garage and sooner than later! We started out mid-summer with over a dozen cabinets in the garage, mostly on my side so only my car sat out until we started to have work done on the house. It was garage related so there was equipment and materials stored in the garage to begin with. Then there was work done in the basement so big bags of debris were stacked up on the other side of the garage. During all of this my car was in an accident and totaled (can you just hear the cash register ringing up the totals on all of this?). With a new car we would really like to get it in the garage, maybe just to see how it will fit!

In all of this I've had various progress reports about how many cabinets were in the garage and various stages of refinishing but now we are getting down to the wire: we could have snow any day here in Minnesota. I've worked hard to get sewing machines ready and into cabinets, posted on Craigslist, updating on CL, and it has finally paid off with three sold in the last ten days. Now I only have a Singer 306W in a fantastic cabinet that still need some work and the beloved Pfaff 130 that is getting repainted while the cabinet sits patiently waiting. I really, really don't want to bring any of those cabinets back inside but they cannot stay out in the cold garage over winter.

The Singer 306W is a fantastic sewing machine but it came from a rehabbed home in St. Paul that was occupied by a horder. A friend bought the house and cleared it out, finding three Singer sewing machines. The newest one, probably 40 years old, ended up with a rusted interior so it became a parts machine; the treadle head was kept but the base was given away since it was badly warped and rusted, so the 306W has all of my hopes pined on it. The art-deco cabinet was in fair shape with those wonderful curved front drawers but one was missing! It finally showed up, completing the desk/cabinet, but now I had to take it seriously.

There's a Singer 306W hiding in there
The top was in terrible shape but the inside was pretty good except for right where you would lay your hands to sew, along the front edge. While waiting for other projects one day (probably watching paint dry) I stripped to top surface but didn't get around to doing anything else until this week. The top surface took a stain and 3 coats of polyurethane quite well but that inside strip along the front edge? It took a small amount of sanding then a light stain and those three coats of sealer just like the top. It looks great! Yes, I know all of the wood doesn't "match" but this is an old piece with original finish and sometimes it just ages like this. The one lost drawer is the darker toned one; I have no answer to the darker wood in front of the sewing machine bed. It's a mystery!
Front edge doesn't look any different!
Now the bench needed to be finished and that has a happy ending, too. The veneer was peeling back so I got some wood glue in there and clamped over night, sanded down the leg edges, stain and only two coats of polyurethane have brought it into acceptable condition. There was no top seat cushion, no wood, no frame bracing for a seat, so I cut a piece of wood to fit, added a slab of foam, stapled it all down with a new piece of fabric, and it's very acceptable now. The whole thing got a wood furniture wipe down to look it's best.
Singer 306W art deco cabinet with bench

What about that sewing machine? I plugged her in and did some sample sewing with her and she's a bit slow but I think that could be due to being outside for several months. One cool thing about this set-up is the foot control is at the back of the cabinet, all built in:

Foot control on a stick: works quite well.

This Singer uses flat disks for cams to make the decorative stitches. Here's her nice selection of stitches from the six cams that are with this sewing machine:

And about that Pfaff 130? Tomorrow...

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Necchi in Black

In an effort to get the cabinets out of the garage, I finished another cabinet thinking I had a very specific sewing machine for it. Not so! Here's the Stratavario cabinet, before and after:

Now it's in good shape!
Before: woe is me!

This was too nice to let go so I stripped off the old finish and it sat for some time until I finally got it stained and polyurethaned this week. Didn't it turn out nice? There is a little tray inside the front door for supplies but it has nice lines and solid wood with a small footprint. Perfect for the Necchi BU in black so I pull it out and this is what I find on the back side of it:

Motor off of the Necchi BU
See the cracked wire? Even at the plug end the wire is split, somewhat of a crummy job. I admit, sometimes I haven't done the best of jobs as I've been learning but this one needs new wiring. I opened the motor up and see that it's quite good inside so I cut off that old wire outside of the casing and splice in a new wire and reattach the plug, making sure the wires are not split. As I look at the sewing machine laying down I see I must not have finished the cleaning job because she's a mess back there:

Back of hand wheel on Necchi BU
Many cotton balls later, she gets cleaned and polished with Tri3 Resin Glaze, a car product that works wonders. Here she is all ready to put in the cabinet:

Necchi BU back with new wire

She's beautiful in black!
Her finish is not the best, showing wear along the front and on the bed but she runs fine, if a little noisy. I can't figure out what is causing the slight thunk thunk but I'll keep trying to figure it out. When I go to put her in the refinished cabinet the pins/pegs on the cabinet don't fit! They are too fat, the lament of many of us when we try on something new. So which sewing machine is supposed to go in this standard opening cabinet? I try many of them and can't figure it out so end up with a Morse

that doesn't need this type of cabinet but it does fit and this is a great sewing machine. I might keep searching for the one I think should go in there but in the meantime the Morse can enjoy a bit of class for awhile.

Cabinets in the garage count: only 2! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Grandma's Sewing Machine

I continue to love those old Kenmore sewing machines so when someone at church asked if I would "just take my mom's sewing machine off my hands" I was delighted to find out it was a Kenmore. It was described as a sewing machine that her mom hadn't used in a long time and wasn't going to be using it either so maybe I would just take it away? I hoped it wasn't going to have to be put out of its misery! Several weeks later it came home with me and I knew from the start it was going to be just fine:

Kenmore 148-19370
Isn't she a beauty? All cleaned up, oiled, new bobbin case, minor adjustments, and she ran like a champ. It continued to sound less than smooth so I let it sit overnight, ran it again, oiled it some more, and she sounded even better. But there was a noise when the stitch was at maximum width. Listening carefully, the sound was isolated to the bobbin. Bobbin casing came out and the noise was gone. Since it was not the original bobbin casing, just one of my extras, maybe it wasn't the best choice:

Flip the lid on the bed and the bobbin
is inside its own door
Another one was used and the sound went away. I tested this bobbin for the quality of stitch and there were no adjustments necessary as it made a great straight stitch and zigzag.  This sewing machine also had a couple stretch stitches that worked quite well but the buttonhole setting wasn't too great. Maybe I needed a special foot? Instructions?

Three dials and reverse!
Although I could get the feed dog drop lever to work it didn't really drop the feed dogs unless you manipulated the mechanism below but this seemed like a small concession. Who was going to use this machine for free motion embroidery or even darning? Who was going to use this sewing machine?

I got back to my friend to tell her the machine was working great, just hadn't been used in the last decade (or more) but it was so nice wasn't there someone she could give it to? How about her sons who have moved out of the house into their own home? Two bachelors might need to mend something or even sew camping gear or hem jeans. She liked that idea and insisted on paying for the service so we agreed on an hourly rate and I would add any accessories that were needed. No? The manual and all of the extras were already there, just weren't passed on to me so now her sons are set with their grandma's old Kenmore sewing machine. Isn't that a nice end to the story of a Kenmore that will now live with grandsons? Might my own grandsons have one of my beloved sewing machines one day!

Friday, October 17, 2014

So, Sew Vintage

I can't resist a bargain, even if I don't know what I'm going to do with that prize! When I went to a few garage sales this summer I struck it "rich" at a few with old tablecloths, dresser scarves, pillowcases, and linen towels. All had either embroidery, crochet trim, or a beautiful faded print from an era gone by. When I finally had a big stack of these goodies I consulted my daughter, Kelly, whom I have a booth at craft fairs with, for her ideas. She is really gifted at visioning: she can take a look at an object and place it with other things to make each one work well together. She's great to shop with because she can look at items of clothing and say "Try this one on" and be right on the mark. The only complaint is that she finds she can't seem to do this for herself, only for others.

She suggested I look at ideas on Pinterest and that did help, but I corralled her on one visit to my house and she looked at each one and gave me ideas. I finally got some out and made up those that were easiest, for me, to make up. Now we have VINTAGE LINEN ON PARADE!

Linen calendar towels made into tote bags

Calendar towels on parade!
There were calendar towels made into tote bags; some were lined with vintage fabrics and some of the calendars were vintage, too. I had so much fun making these, using different decorative stitches, finally learning how to make them better by using a serger.

Toaster covers
In an earlier post I wrote about using vintage table cloths and tea towels to make toaster covers (and here they are again but the rose design has already been sold).

Tea bag holder
It's hard to know what to make with old table napkins but once I figured it out these tea bag holders are a nice way to show off all of that fancy stitching!

Tea anyone?
Dresser scarves made into tea cozies turned out pretty nice and were fun to make up. The embroidery has held up so well but the fabric has started to show stains so this was a nice use of the salvageable parts.

Here is the stack of linen I have left so you can see there are many more projects just waiting to be stitched up. What would you make with grandma's old linens?

For anyone who is a regular reader of Sewing Machine Mavin (you know who you are!) this is the 100th posting. Who knew there could be so much written about sewing machines? A big thank you to those who read SMM and have encouraged me!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Tale of Two Necchi's

I love those Italian made Necchi's so when my friend Ellen, with the women's project in Haiti, showed me one someone gave her, I gladly took it home to see if it could be made safe and workable. She also sent a great lavender colored Kenmore that needed a bit of work but was wonderful in the end so a small success gave me hope for the Necchi. But it had a hitch in its movements, kind of like having a bad hip. I set it aside for a week so I could think about what the problem might be. When I got back to it I also took out another Necchi, same model, to compare:

Necchi BU Supernova
They were not the exact same color but everything else looked the same. On the newest one I noticed the wiring had been reconfigured and this machine no longer had low gear or a light switch. The light was a Singer screwed onto the back. Weird, but workable. I rewired the connection on the motor and tried to change the belt from a stretchy one to a recommended v-belt. None would fit, not even the one from my BU Supernova. What? How could that be? Even with a too-short belt just held in place it would still drag in spots so I looked down in at the wheel:

Next to the wheel is where the belt goes
The photo above shows the belt removed but if you look closely you can see there is very little room for the belt and it would rub on the cast metal body. Here's a photo of my Supernova:

Note belt and size of wheel on the inside
Okay, even to the naked eye you can see the belt on mine has plenty of room but the first one is crowded. I took both wheels off to compare and the first one was much larger where the belt would rest. It had the wrong wheel! Along with the wrong wheel, the stretchy belt (puts strain on a motor), no low gear, wonky light and wiring (now fixed), I let Ellen know this Necchi was not going to Haiti. But I had a solution for her (and me). For the same price I would have charged for the repair, I suggested she could buy a working straight stitch Necchi in a cabinet. I would keep the first Necchi as a parts machine and she got a great one for Haiti. She took a look at Lelia and said yes!

Lelia 510
She got a great deal, I got a parts machine, and one more cabinet is leaving the garage!

Here's the countdown on the cabinets/machines in the garage: one empty cabinet sold this week, one sold to Ellen for Haiti, one is leaving this weekend, one is listed for sale and will get donated this week if no sale. That leaves:
  • Singer 401A in original Singer cabinet
  • Singer 306 in original cabinet
  • Kenmore in donated cabinet
  • Pfaff 130 cabinet (machine getting painted)
  • empty small footprint cabinet (will get donated)
  • empty but stripped cabinet, ready to stain (will come into the house)
Only 3 sewing machines but those six cabinets have to leave in the next couple of weeks. Oh boy, it's going to get busier around here!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Burlap Babies

What did I do with the burlap from Ellen (Project Haiti)? I discovered I can stencil letters on the burlap for a pretty cute effect.

Quilted toaster cover with burlap addition.
Pairing the right fabric with the burlap is the first hurtle but this leafy print was a natural. I printed out the words on my printer and then made the stencil by laying a piece of plastic over the letters and traced away. Cutting out the interior of the letters wasn't too hard but there were letters that needed part of their center: O, A, and R. The R got snipped out and I tried to paint it out but it just looked too bold so the next test I put a small piece of tape where the center of the R should be, painted, and removed the tape. Worked just fine and you can see the final results above. Any special kind of plastic for the stencil? I used a piece that originally had bacon on it so, you see, you don't need anything very specialized!

Sewing through that many layers was a challenge for the walking foot on the Pfaff 1222 so I had another idea: why not use the serger to sew the bind all in one on the inside with no bias tape edging. It wasn't very difficult but I did have trouble catching all of the edges so one side had to be resewn over 5 times! In the end, the burlap piece was 1/4 inch off, enough to be visible to the naked eye. There was no do-over so I hope its cuteness help in the sale!

I finished up pincushions with burlap, gluing to the jar lids and adding burlap or cluny lace. Here's a mock-up of the display for the craft fair:

Burlap pieced pincushions on jar lids
Only three weeks until the next craft fair so I feel the clock ticking. Progress on the repainting on the Pfaff 130: first coat of clearcoat is on and if it passes inspection decals are next. Yea!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Ode to a Featherweight

I like that title but I'm not going to construct verse for the Singer 221, also known as the Featherweight, but I am going to say goodbye to her:

Singer 221
It's time to sell her but I'll be sorry to see her go. No, I'm not sewing with her but somehow it was just nice to see her waiting on the shelf. Yes, I have too many sewing machines that I love but do not sew with and it's time to remember that I am trying to run a business. She is in used condition so has gentle scratches on the bed surface but only one place where the decals have worn off. All of the assessories are included and original, including the foot control in excellent shape.

Manual, bobbins, needles, keys!

So many feet plus screwdrivers

It all fits together so neat!
I have had fun with it, making pincushions and taking it into school when I mended the first set of choir robes. She is lightweight, as the name implies, but I also have other compact sewing machines (Kenmore 158-1030 and 1050) and I really, really love my little Singer 99 and prefer to sew on her in comparison to the Featherweight. So I have to say goodbye, I hope you go to a fine home where you are treasured and used on a daily (okay, maybe weekly) basis. She is in very good condition, not perfect but very good, so I have settled on a decent price, not to be greedy but to be fair to myself, too.

It was fun for awhile but now we have to part. I hope I don't regret this but writing about it has helped me let go.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Oh Baby

I typically don't buy the white plastic type of sewing machine for several reasons. First, they can rarely be fixed; they were meant to be used until they break, especially the low end models. A repair charge would be more than the purchase price! Second, they were not meant to be opened and maintained by the user. Screws are hidden, parts snap together, hence they don't "unsnap" easily, oil spots are not open as in a vintage sewing machine. About the most you can do is clean the outside and try to vacuum out any lint. But I'm a sucker for any machine I have not tried out yet so the following came home with me last week:

Babylock 2300
She is so cute and very basic so I plugged her in and she moved so I brought her home. It was seniors day at the thrift store so even a discount! I managed to sneak the straw of the oiler into a few of the moving parts to give it a nice lubrication and she sounded quieter, ran nice. I went to thread it all up and noticed this Baby has been in an accident. The spool pins on the back were gone, only two screw holes remained. One of the thread guides also looked like it had snapped off so Baby definitely took a tumble. Looking at my spare parts and donor sewing machines I found an old Kenmore double spool pin holder. The screw holes didn't match up but I could use one of the holes and my husband suggested using double stick tape for the mis-aligned holes:

Babylock 2300 with Kenmore spool pins
Looks okay and functions quite well so it's a win-win. The thread guide doesn't need to be replaced but I'll still look to see if I have something. I made up a stitch sample and although it stitches fine I don't think the satin stitch (close together zig zags) is all that even but that's to be expected from a low end machine: they are simply menders and sewing small simple projects.

Straight and zig zag stitch with a practice buttonhole
This seems like a nice machine for a young girl who wants to see if she's interested in sewing or just for travel so Baby will get added to my stock for a future sale.

Here's an update and photo for the Pfaff 130 repaint project:

Pfaff 130 with about 4 coats of black paint
I'm hoping another 1-2 coats will make her ready for the clearcoat and then the decals. It's so exciting to see how these take shape! I hope this post wasn't a case of whiplash, going from modern to vintage so quickly but that's what happens sometimes: old and new right next to each other. Stay tuned!