Friday, November 28, 2014

Facebook Friends

Social media can be a wonderful thing when it functions as it should. It can help us find friends, those with shared interests, find lost classmates, connect with people from our distant past, even find relatives we didn't know we had. We can also embarrass ourselves on a public scale by using the wrong word (auto correct OFF), or say more than we intended due to temporary loss of sound judgement. There's been more than one time when I typed in a comment only to delete before hitting enter. What was I thinking of? But lately I have connected with several women for our mutual benefit.

In a post about Viking sewing machines, Judy wrote that she was in need of an extension table for her Viking 6030 sewing machine that she was getting ready for a young girl to use. As it turned out, I had an extra extension table that came with a donor Viking 6010 so I replied that maybe I could help her out. We took our conversation over to messages where you can now even have correspondence with someone not on your friends list. After photos back and forth we settled on me sending her one of the extension tables and a set of Viking feet (sorry, no extra cams) that looked like this:
Extension tables to fit up to free-arm models

Collection of Viking snap-on feet

I sent Judy the package all the way to Wyoming and then waited. After about a week I got a check in the mail and Judy sent a message via Facebook that the extension table fit perfectly and the feet were fine, too. Then I heard the rest of the story:

The manager of the [thrift] store was telling me about a 12-yr. old girl that sews by hand. A kind soul had given her a new Brother sewing machine but it had broken already. I took her a straight stitch Singer to use until I could find the right machine and found the Viking/Husqvarna just recently. We will be taking another load of things up there soon and I just need to do a little more cleaning and it will be ready for her. Thanks for your help with this project! 

Now that's a great social connection!  There was another post yesterday where someone wanted an Elna  62C SU for her granddaughters to learn to sew on. I love that sewing machine, too, but I thought it was a bit too difficult to learn on so we took our conversation to messenger where we discussed alternatives and the reasons for a simpler sewing machine. She lives a few hours from me so I wouldn't have to ship a sewing machine yet one of us would have to do some traveling but with the holidays coming there are many opportunities for travel to take you far from home. She decided to think some more about it and I suggested trying to locate a good, solid Kenmore as a starter sewing machine. If she's on the look out, one will find her!

Today I was reading several posts about Elna's because I had just picked up an Elna Plana that came without cams or accessories. Wouldn't you know it, Cindy had a set of Elna accessories with cams that she no longer needed so we figured out a price and how to send, a real win-win! I can't wait for the cams to come so I can try them out in my new-to-me Elna.

Elna cams and accessories
 I ordered a new friction wheel, the cause of the thump/thump/thump because it has a flat spot, but it will take awhile to come since the supplier confesses to not getting to his mail right away. But that's okay because I have plenty to keep me busy. I think I better get to work on one of those sewing machines that will only run backwards since I have quite a few and no one else is going to tackle them. As always, stay tuned for the further adventures of Sewing Machine Mavin!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

It's Raining Men

The Weather Girls song about the availability of men always makes me laugh but it's true that I do sell a lot of sewing machines to men and this past weekend was proof. I had a nice call on Wednesday from Greg who wanted to take a look at my Singer 306W in the art deco desk and I couldn't have been happier. We were going to get it in from the garage anyway and this just hastened the day. Our neighbor Steve came over to help me and we got it all set up in the living room, right inside the door so it would be so easy to take out to his car.
Art Deco Cabinet with Singer 306W
Then an email from Ken came a few days later and we wanted to see the Dressmaker sewing machine in the refinished cabinet and I could hardly believe it. Two cabinets in one weekend? I started to count down how many cabinets we would have left in the house and I was so hopeful.

Sunday afternoon Greg came over and he sure did like the cabinet but wasn't so sure about the Singer 306W. His wife already has a Singer 401A and what he really wanted was the Dressmaker sitting right next to the Singer but it was promised to Ken.

Singer 306W
 Once he explained what he was trying to do and the other sewing machines he owned, including his wife's and daughter's, all he really wanted was a good solid straight stitch and a zigzag for bar tacking. I started to bring machines up from the basement but finally had to give in and invite Greg down into the warehouse. At his quiet gasp I wasn't sure if it was admiration or horrified shock at how many sewing machines I really did have. We looked at about five or six, listening to each and then I spied the Necchi BU, a real nice sewing machine but in need of a cabinet... Greg loved it, had plans to maybe replace the motor and  rewire the set-up that was in the art deco cabinet, and couldn't wait to get it out the door. I think he was afraid I would change my mind but I was happy to match the right machine to the right person for the job they were trying to do.

Necchi BU
Ken came about an hour later after I managed to tidy up the showroom and basement. He watched me sew on the Dressmaker and tried it out for himself but wasn't totally sure this was the model he wanted. You guessed it, I took him into the basement where he also gasped quietly (Minnesotans are polite but not shock proof) and I showed him a Singer 15-91 and a 201. Both had wonderful potted motors, sewed great, had the piercing power he was looking for, but neither was exactly ready for sale. He asked the million dollar question "Which one would you buy?" but that's silly because I had already bought both of them. But for him I recommended the Singer 201. It really is an excellent sewing machine and he didn't care that the bed of the sewing machine was pretty well worn didn't have all of the decals anymore. It needed a new needle plate and slide so I wasn't ready to sell it just yet but Ken said he could wait. I quoted a fair price, considering condition and value, so we were both happy.
Singer 201

Did I clear my living room of those three cabinets? No, that was just a dream because I still have three having only made room for the art deco cabinet for the weekend. I could have sold the Dressmaker to Greg had I known Ken wasn't going to buy it but I would still have had the cabinet. Now I have a Singer 306 without a cabinet and the Dressmaker is still waiting to be sold along with the White 31 Embossed that is getting a new hand wheel. Then there is the Elgin that I so dearly love but need to sell. The next day what do I find at my local Good Will? That's right, another cabinet but this time it has an Elna Plana Supermatic. It just had to come home with me in it's blond wood cabinet that's in good shape.So I might sell almost as many sewing machines to men as to women and it might seem like it's raining men, but it's definitely raining cabinets.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Low, Medium, High

It seems most brands make their top-of-the-line products, some in the middle somewhere, and then a low end just so you can say you have their brand. This really shows up in sewing machines with Kenmore and Brother taking advantage of this the most. Of course, this is just my opinion, but I've had high and low with many brands and today you are going to see a low end model for Pfaff. Originally made in Germany, their long history states they are still making their machines in their homeland but...the last two I have obtained conveniently have no labels on them. Here's latest one I brought home:

Pfaff Hobby 4240
This was the lowest of this series which included 4250 and 4260, each with more stitches and features. But this is not a bad sewing machine at all. When I went to look at it the gentleman confessed it had been sitting in the garage for about 15 years! The hand wheel moved some but the presser foot barely moved so I wasn't sure what was going on. I took it anyway, hoping the Pfaff good name wasn't going to be sullied too much with this model.

It's been exceptionally cold here in Minnesota so I hated leaving it in the car but then I remembered it sat out in the cold garage for most of it's life. I finally got it inside and warmed up, cleaned the outside, but the inside was in really good shape so I think it had hardly been used. The bobbin area looked suspicious so I pulled everything out that I could, cleaned, lightly oiled, and put back together. It made the awfullest noise but it was working. Once again, the bobbin area was making the racket so I took it apart again, and again, until I finally gave it quite a bit more sewing machine oil, making sure all parts were lightly lubricated. Bingo! It started to purr. Now let's look at the presser foot:

Doesn't that look too low? It is and it isn't. It works just fine and there is space under the foot to place your fabric so I hate to start adjusting  it but upon closer inspection I see there is a light layer of rust on the top of the rod and the bottom: everywhere it might have been exposed to the elements, like in a garage. I can clean rust off of the metal but the area is so small on top that I have to get inventive but it does come off and moves freely. There aren't too many stitches to choose from and the the zigzag only comes in two widths but for a "hobby" model, that might be just fine:

Selection of stitches
Stitch length dial
I can see it has stretch stitches as shown by the black bars underneath the orange bars with labels E-I. But how do I engage them? I remember another Pfaff I fixed for a friend and how the stitch length dial  had a section for stretch stitches and, sure enough, after 1-4 is a black square for stretch stitches. It doesn't lock in but gives you some freedom to move it to adjust so that is good.

Now to test the stitches. The bobbin casing was missing so I got one from my inventory (doesn't that sound so official? I now have inventory!) and tried out the stitch selections. No big problems but the bobbin case started to act odd and finally would not stay in so I had to try out another one. This one needed adjustment with the tension for the stretch stitches to come out decent but it finally worked. Here's the front and back of the samples I made:

Front: final stitches on left
Back: final stitches on left

Once adjusted they really do look nice. That four step buttonhole? I tried it three times and the final one, with last bobbin casing, looks really, really good. So in the end this is a good, solid sewing machine (with a free manual online) but just doesn't have a lot of features. Although the casing of the machine is plastic, the main part of the body is metal and it's not a lightweight. It has a slip on cover that has no bottom so it's just to protect it from dust. After 15 years in the garage I guess it could have been worse.

So what's the big deal about high and low end on sewing machines? One of the best features that Pfaff has on almost all of its models is the built-in walking foot, the IDT. Nope, she doesn't have one, never did, and the only way to get one is to purchase the typical attachment foot. They are not the same as the IDT so now I see one of the big ways they cut back but since this is a "hobby" model, that's probably okay. Someone will find this a very nice sewing machine with a somewhat modern look (no black metal!) that does sew nicely. See, there's something for every budget in their line up of models. I'm just glad I don't have to sew on low end models on a daily basis.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Let's Take a Walk

I'm getting craft items ready for this last craft fair coming up next weekend. That got me thinking about some of the items I'm sewing and how I might make this whole project better. I have been using a Pfaff 1222 with the IDT, a really cool built-in walking foot system they have. I've been more than satisfied with the results but there are some strange noises coming out of the Pfaff this last week and I fear I might be working it just a bit too hard with all of the layers. Since I've said I need to sew on the Bernina Record 730 more, I went ahead and attached the walking foot and let her prove herself:

Walking foot is the white plastic protrusion behind the needle
It worked really well, keeping all of the layers together since the walking foot moves at the same pace as the regular feed dogs, not less as a regular presser foot would. The results were quite good!

Front and back with walking foot

 Now for the next test: sewing all ten (10!) layers when attaching the bias binding. I used 4 different machines, one potholder on each: Bernina Record 730, Singer 201, Singer 15-91, and Bernette Funlock 004 serger. All three of the regular sewing machines could sew all those layers but the Bernina did more pausing and needed assistance from the handwheel. The Singer 15-91 probably worked the best, yet the Singer 201 had absolutely no problem but I had a heavier needle so it wasn't exactly apples to apples.

Bottom right was serged
It's the serged sample that was the most unsatisfactory. I love how it binds the edge and cuts the fabric all at the same time but look at the edge:

Serged edge with 10 layers
Stitches are skipped, missing areas, just a terrible example! I had to stitch the entire inner edge again so it would be strong enough. This serger is not happy with 10 layers but who would be? That's an extreme that I probably shouldn't be doing anyway. Since I liked the Singer 15 and 201 better, that might be the direction I need to go in. I already was using two sewing machines to make the potholders but maybe now it will be the Bernina with a walking foot and the Singer 15-91 for the binding. Here's the finished product:

Two hot mitts with coordinating towel
It's fun to experiment but sad when it doesn't go the way you predict but I think this will give me a better product and not overtax some very nice sewing machines. Should I tell the Pfaff 1222 and the Bernette Funlock 004 that they are still needed but I'm going to choose projects that are just a bit easier? Nah: I think they already know.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Bye Bye Bernina

I sold my first Bernina Record 730, almost as traumatic as selling the Singer Featherweight. There are some sewing machines that you really like and can appreciate why they are valuable and even collectible. The Singer 221, know at the Featherweight, was just such an experience for me: it was a smooth run, lightweight, adorable sewing machine, and had the fun-factor, too. I understand why people like to use them and, partly due to their small size, are collectible. Now to the Bernina Record series: I've only have the 730 and 817, the Minimatic, but they produce such fine stitches! They also have a kinda cool look with their two-tone green finish, specialized feet, and those accessory containers that have their own drawer system.

Bernina 730 with storage drawers on right
But (and there's always a but) they sound a bit "off" to me. It's not just the one I'm selling but I've had two of the 730's plus the 817 it is the same: a bit of a growl to my ears. This spoils the experience, the process of making something, on this sewing machine. Then I look at the outcome and I just have to close my complaining mouth when I see what it can produce. It reminds me that sometimes you might wonder if your sewing skills would be even better with an upgrade in tools, like a higher end sewing machine, and with Bernina I think this might be so. Here's the stitch sample (again):

Bernina Record 730: so fine!
What is not to like about this? It is perfection! Even when I've stitched with one color on top and another for the bobbin, the tension adjustment is near perfect with all of the color on each side and I didn't have to experiment with adjusting the tension. Yes, this does improve the grade on your sewing.

So my first Bernina went on Craigslist on Sunday and I got a text in a few hours. In less than 48 hours it was packed into another car to live at someone else's home. Denise said she grew up on a Bernina Record 730, had two of them, and desired for her daughter to start sewing on such a fine sewing machine. I think even if her daughter didn't take up sewing Denise would be happy to have a third at her house. It was fun to discuss all their features with someone who had used one all of her life and that it was almost $500 when it was bought new. Mine is dated 1970 on the manual and I know $500 was a whole lot of money at the time, way more than it is today. I was glad this sewing machine was going to someone who really knew what she was getting and glad to be connected with one.

Leaving already?

Before you start to feel too sorry for me, I have to say that I was willing to sell this one because I still have the other Bernina Record 730, even if it currently has a few problems. The light switch is broken so there is no built-in light but you can easily add your own LED light for better illumination. I have already replaced one of the belts and now it persists in smoking when run at regular, not low, speed. The armature in the motor has already been cleaned but it still puts out a small plume of white smoke. Would it go away if I kept running it? Possibly. I think I should try making a few items with it to keep testing and working out the problems. This model has a walking foot so I can try this out with my quilting projects I'm trying to get done for the next craft fair.Or maybe my mother-in-law needs a new winter outfit? I have a lovely piece of green and cream wool plaid that would make a nice jumper for her along with a piece of cream knit for a top.

Green plaid jumper and cream for top with patterns

I could use one of my sergers for the top and the Bernina with the walking foot for the matching of the plaid. Where there's a will there is a way!

Monday, November 10, 2014


This has been a long and hard weekend with a lot of driving and then getting ready for a coming snowstorm. I was not looking forward to a 2 1/2-3 hour drive on Saturday for a funeral so I consoled myself by looking on Craigslist to see if there might be a sewing machine along the way. As luck would have it, I made contact with someone to look at a Bernette 330 on my way home. I phoned when I was back on the road and she suggested we meet at a fast food parking lot: that meant I wasn't going to be able to plug it in and test drive it but it was too late by then. We met and when I looked at it from the back of her car the hand wheel didn't turn. The presser foot didn't lift up either. It appeared to have the "varnish" syndrome. I asked if she would take less for it and she agreed so Bernette came home with me.

Bernette 330 (after cleaning)
She did seem to be all stuck up with something that oozed down from the following parts:

Red arrows are points on the needle bar where it enters fittings. At these points there were rings of sticky stuff that I dissolved with alcohol, dried with the hair blower, then oiled with Triflow. How does this happen? Does anyone actually paint varnish on the moving parts? Of course not but some oils will do this or products you are not supposed to use, like WD40 (that's a whole other conversation). After much work and application of heat from the hair blower it started to loosen up and stay loose. I tried to sew a bit, more heat, more oil, and it was okay except the zigzag width wasn't too wide. The green arrow in the photo above shows where the needle bar moves left to right for a zig and zag and it was pretty gummed up, too. After a couple hours of this kind of work I called it a night for sewing machine repair and decided I could try a bit of sewing to get caught up on craft show items.

After the last craft show it was decided I should make more of the hot mitts with coordinating towels. I checked towels, hot mitts, and fabric to see what I could match up and one towel that would go so nicely with 2 hot mitts was missing the fabric I would normally use on the towel. How could I put them together without anything to tie them together? How about the bias trim fabric and coordinating stitches? Here's what I came up with:

Aren't those stitches great with the native American symbols? The sewing machine that I used was a vintage Morse:
Morse 6100
and her fancy stitch cams

The cams made those stitches like it was nothing, kind of boring just centering the fabric and watching the stitches. Very cool though. And that new-to-me Bernette? Here's a closeup of her stitch selection:
Bernette 330 stitch selection: typical
Not bad but nothing like that old Morse. So where does the title ingenuity come into play? I think having the right machine for those fancy stitches was a bit ingenious and using heat, alcohol, and oil to unstick the Bernette is a bit ingenious, too. Sometimes it's just a good feeling we get from bringing new life to something that was rejected, a bit of style added to make my little corner of the world a bit brighter even for a moment.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


One of the things that surprises and delights antique hunters is when you find hidden treasure within an item you find. Sewing machine collectors are no different and I hear the comments about finding all the "goodies" hidden in a cabinet or desk model. Meet my newest, a Singer 15-91:
Singer 15-91
The model 15 has the tell-tale tension mechanism on the faceplate (left) instead of on the front like a 66 or 99 (and many others). The 91 denotes the potted motor on the back so it's gear driven with no belt. This makes it better for heavier duty sewing, among other things. There was masking tape on the bed that has left permanent pitting but it's not too noticeable and the rest of it is fine. She runs great and only needed to have the foot control rewired. I did have to bring her home in a cabinet - sigh - and even though it's it terrible shape it's real wood so another furniture refinishing project. BUT she came with a bench:
Bench seating
That was loaded with the goodies:
Stash #1

Stash #2
Of course, it didn't look all sorted like this when I got it but after cleaning up the sewing machine I tackled it, sorting and organizing. Here's the inventory:
Thread: 1 set of 32 small spools with matching bobbins (style 66)
Zippers: 5 new, 11 used
ribbon or bias tape: 4
elastic hanks: 5
pincushions: 2 homemade
Dritz apron clip
sewing machine belts: 2 stretchy type
yellow safety pins: 1 box
Darner set for making buttonholes or darning: small metal hoop but sewing machine foot is missing
Buttoneer for attaching buttons without sewing (will rip holes in your clothes, though)
scissors: 1 working electric pair, one battery pair with corroded batteries so had to be tossed
Singer buttonhole making set: complete
Singer accessory box like above but empty
Monogramming foot: possibly incomplete
plastic rings: set of 10
Hem facing: 2 new packages
screw drivers: 3
bobbins: 4 class 15
Singer attachments: 7 kinds of feet
Stretch & Sew pattern: boys t-shirt
flyers on fabric care
carbon tracing paper (2 pkgs.) with tracking wheel
apron pattern from 1963 Women's Day magazine
bias tape, rick rack, elastic shoulder straps, drapery weights, buckram,  cotton lace, tailors chalk, bobbin winding tire, brush, blue lead pencil, snaps and hooks on cards

Of course, there were miscellaneous pins and scraps of stuff in the bottom that got cleaned out, but this was some haul! The real treasure is the apron pattern with so many variations: I can't wait to see how I can use this little gem. Tracing paper? I now have 5 packages that I rarely use. It's always nice to have more zippers, especially new, and the other bits and trims will be used in time. It's even possible one day someone else will be digging through my stuff and say "Wow, look at all of this junk! She must have save everything!"

Just about.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

House Calls

With advances in technology we no longer have many repair people who come into our homes. We used to have phone, appliance, physician or nurse, pharmacy delivery among many but now we can bring so many things into shops for repair or handle over the phone or even Skype. Some things that have gone away have come back, such as grocery store delivery but that is due to ordering online and capturing the market share. But now I find I make house calls to see about sick sewing machines.

A few weeks ago I sold a Singer 401A, in cabinet, to Joyce who was very happy to get this classic sewing machine home and get sewing.

Singer 401A Joyce bought from me. 
She had many other sewing machines but just had to have this one and I had to agree it's one of the best. A week later I get a phone call and email from Joyce: she can't get the machine to perform the pattern stitches, either built in or cam generated. We agreed to have a phone conference to walk her through the process. It only took about 30 minutes to find out I needed to see her sewing machine and how we might get it to perform the way she expects. A small part of the problem was in reading the language in an old manual: their term embroidery meant free motion with the feed dogs down whereas Joyce thought it meant any of the decorative stitches. I also think the decorative stitches look like embroidery but back when these machines were made those extra stitches were not embroidery. If you want an embroidery sewing machine today you are looking at something that can fill a space the size of a hoop with stitches, not just an edging. So once the feed dogs were in the up position they could work properly. Now those cams: snapping into place and getting them to work takes a bit of learning.
The cams fit into the round opening

Here are 6 that come with most 401's
 With the 401 you need to move the dials for stitch selection so the top dial, that controls A-J, is pushed in and turned and the bottom dial that controls K-S is pulled towards you. If you are going to put a cam in you need to get the little levers that "read," or follow the cam as it turns, out of the way so the cam snaps down in place firmly. The way you get the levers out of the way is to move the red stitch width lever to 0 or left and to pull the bottom stitch selector dial towards you. Keep your left hand on the bottom dial pulled out  and insert the cam with your right hand. Snap! It's in place and you can now move the dial in your left hand to "special" to engage the cam reader. The top stitch dial needs to be turned to B for the cams. It sounds complex but you just have to take a deep breath and think it through. It will become automatic in time.

Along with a quick lesson on her Singer 401, I got to see Joyce's Singer 319, the one with typewriter keys on top! Here's a stock photo of one:

Singer 319 (not Joyce's)
It looks like a 306 and I mentioned it but Joyce corrected me and we had to take a look. Here's what the top looks like with those crazy keys:
Singer 319's "keys"
She said it wasn't working right and by looking at the stitches she was making I could see it needed to be threaded properly. The main problem was to make sure the tension disks were engaged and I demonstrated a little trick I had learned: thread with the presser foot UP, thread as the illustrations show but make sure it almost clicks into the tension disks, before threading the needle test the tension by pulling the thread: it should move easily, then put the presser foot down and pull the thread and it should only pull a little and then stop so now you know it's engaged. Finish threading, check bobbin, pull bobbin thread up to the top and start to sew. Perfect little stitches once one of those keys was in position. Joyce knew more about those keys than I did so she showed me how they worked but, like her, I would need the manual to really know what I was doing.

A lesson for Joyce and a lesson for me: I call that a win-win. It just goes to show you that vintage sewing machine people are just the most interesting people around and I'm glad to be a part of this movement!