Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Sometimes I seek sewing machines out, especially classic models like the Elna 62 or Necchi Julia, and sometimes they are given to me, rescued by those who know I will take in orphan sewing machines. A dear sister-in-law rescued one from the trash (different s-i-l than a previous post) and I brought it home over the weekend. It's a decent Kenmore 158-16801 in a cabinet that was somewhat broken down. It's a good freearm model that doesn't need a cabinet so we unscrewed it from the cabinet and took it inside to see what was what. It sews quite nicely until you get to the "special stitches" for stretch fabrics and then it doesn't feed correctly. It's either staying in place or only moving backwards instead of the forward/backward dance Kenmore's use for stretch stitches:
Kenmore 1680 after adjustments
 I looked inside, underneath, manipulated, moved the handwheel stitch by stitch at various settings but I couldn't figure it out. I went to bed frustrated that I couldn't fix this machine that should be a no-brainer: Kenmore's don't break like that! The next day I'm reading files on this model in a Yahoo group called Vintage & Older Kenmore Sewing Machines and I come across this piece of information:

Are you certain that you have the stitch elongator set properly? When you do a reverse stitch, the elongator in the center of the stitch length dial should be at M. Make sure it isn't at S, or it could stitch backwards. Play with that dial and if M doesn't make it stitch forwards, then move it to L and see what it does.

and this one:

I found that the adjustment from M to S or L is very subtle. Just a little movement makes a big difference. Choosing the S almost always makes it look like you are sewing backward when you are doing the stretch stitches. The L elongates the design and there are pictures of that in the manual. 
Modifier dial for stretch stitches: Long to Short
I tried it and it worked! I was so excited but then it seemed to have other issues such as running very very slow as if something was binding. I walked away and tried it again the next morning. Same thing. Next it got demoted, sitting on the kitchen floor right next to the outside door. I didn't intend that to be a threat but just maybe it got scared, thinking now it was ready for the garbage. I let it sit for three days and finally plugged it back in and voila it ran just fine. A stitch sample was made just to show off all it could do and the box of accessories, including the button hole device (just like the one I used for 35 years), and a manual make this sewing machine a complete package. A portable case was found so now it's ready to be listed as one of my Learn-to-Sew models that are popular.
Kenmore accessories with buttonhole maker
There is something about letting time heal all wounds and this can be true for many sewing machine woes. Once it's been oiled and treated with a hair dryer to soften up the old oil, it takes time for the oil to really soak in and get everything nice and loose. I've learned to walk away and try again the next day. Or the next day. Or the next. Sometimes that doesn't work but many times it does, giving me hope each time. So a sewing machine that was on a fast tract to a landfill is now going to start someone on a new hobby: learning to sew, create with fabric, repair or refashion clothing, giving hours of fun and occasional frustration, but so much learning.

Sunday, April 26, 2015


Yesterday we said goodbye to a cousin of mine that I haven't seen in a decade but still has a pull on my heart. My dad was probably his favorite uncle and they told stories about getting pigs onto a truck to take to market but by the time they were all loaded my cousin was pretty green in the face. Pigs can stink! At the time of my own dad's passing my cousin came to the funeral so I wanted to pay homage to this man and how much he meant to my dad.

It was going to be a three and a half hour drive so I checked ahead to see if there would be any interesting places to stop along the way. Sure enough, about half way there was a small town that listed a thrift shop so I set my GPS for Sauk Centre. It was good to get out and walk for awhile so after the thrift store, where I bought some black fabric for making bias binding, I walked on down into the center of town. Stopping at a bakery that was pretty old fashioned because they only sold baked goods, no coffee or chairs to sit and eat, I treated myself to a cream filled long john and kept walking. There was an antique shop so I figured "why not?" and that's where I found this:
Singer Spartan still in the back of my car
Sitting on the floor with a nice case, I could see it was a smaller 3/4 sized machine and was very please to find a Spartan inside since I haven't had one of them before. They are the same as a Singer 99 but as their name suggests, they are spartan: showing indifference to comfort or luxury. No extra decals or flourishes, they are fairly simple. I also found a nice set of attachments that the shop owner practically gave me so I didn't mind carry this compact but heavy sewing machine a block back to my car (small town!). 

I drove on and reached the memorial service in time to visit many cousins before the service and connected with his daughter who is also into vintage sewing machines. The service was a touching tribute to a man who loved his family, liked to tinker, and really didn't move too far from the farm-life of his birth with jobs that kept him outdoors. There were many stories told by a grandson, brother-in-law, and a daughter about his card playing antics, collection of tractors and other farm machinery, and great generosity. We all mourned the gradual loss of his life as he succumbed to ALS, so this was a celebration of the man we knew before the heartbreak of dealing with such an illness. I think he would have understood my sewing machine collection/repair/business and the fascination of this old machinery and how it cries out for a time-gone-by when machines were well-built and meant to be repaired to last a long time.

I got home just after dark and brought the Spartan inside to clean up because she seemed a bit sticky in the shop. I wiped her down with a damp cloth and then used TR3 automotive polish and the sticky was gone but the inside...it seems they used the wrong kind of oil to clean her because she was pretty grimy and sticky inside, too. Much cleaning with cotton swaps and Triflow sewing machine oil but I had to remove the bobbin mechanism and put it through the sonic cleaner to get it clean. All reassembled with the oil wiped off and ready to run, she was a good buy and a remembrance to a tough day and the bonds of family. It's never easy to say good-bye to those we love, those we have ties to whether through genetics, friendship, neighbors, or just shared interests so it was fitting to close my day tinkering with a piece of machinery. I think my cousin Burl would have understood.
My cousin Burl as I like to remember him

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Phoenix Bound

I have a dear friend in Phoenix, AZ, whom I love to visit (especially when the winters get long in Minnesota) and now I even have a Phoenix Automatic 283 sewing machine. Of course, it's not exactly like the warmth of Phoenix, or my friend, but a girl can pretend, right? This isn't my first Phoenix but I ruined the finish on my first one and it's in the lineup for those waiting for a paint job. When I read the ad for this one, especially in the cute cabinet, I got ahold of the owner right away and it was SOLD. I went to pick it up last night and, as always, I met a nice couple who were ready to tell me stories about this great find. It was bought at a church sale and used many years but now she was given a Husqvarna (Viking) and didn't need two sewing machines. I didn't tell her how many most of you enjoy since I wanted this one and she didn't so it got loaded into my car. Here she is, ready to sew:
Cabinet closed with chair tucked away
Phoenix Automatic 283
Open with Phoenix pulled up
Chair with storage under the seat

 Isn't she a beauty? Phoenix sewing machines were made in Germany and I even have paperwork for the "Lifetime Warranty" showing the date of sale, in Minneapolis, on August 13, 1956. There were letters and offers for cleaning and a tune-up for $1.75 when it was new and $3.50 in 1964. Things sure have changed! There are two manuals, one for  model 282, a straight stitch and zigzag only, and then the 283 manual to be used in conjunction with the 282 manual, but it has information on how to use the cams for decorative stitches. The  accessory box, with the Phoenix name on it, included all sorts of feet and attachments and three were duplicates, to be shared with my other Phoenix. There are 14 cams that can be stacked in sets of four and inserted into the back of the sewing machine. To the left of the stitch length lever on the front is a lever with markings one to four. You choose the number to match the order of the cam disks inserted. It seems a bit odd but if you only have to put in one set of cams and get four design by moving a lever, that is pretty convenient.
Phoenix 283 accessories: feet and cams!

The machine took very little work to get it running as intended. After cleaning and oiling, I tried out some stitches but I needed to adjust the tension disks on the front and noticed they were way, way off. It needed to be turned several rotations and that's not how it is supposed to work but this is a much older sewing machine and when made in another country it's possible there was no stop on zero and nine. It works fine now so I don't need to worry about it. It does not have any extra bobbins so I'll have to check and see if they are special or just a standard class 15 bobbin. The needle size is also imprinted on the needle slide plate so I'll need to compare that, too, but I suspect it has a standard needle in it right now.

In the photos of the Phoenix I have already cleaned and polished it with TR3 Resin Glaze and she shined up nice. I can see that I'll have a bit of work on the cabinet but it is mostly the chair front and top edge of the chair and cabinet. The rest of the cabinet just has surface scratches that should smooth without having to strip off all of the finish. Don't you love a compact cabinet like that with the chair all snug up to it? This is perfect for the occasional sewing job and just look at how much could be stored in the chair base! The removable tray could hold your sewing supplies such as pins, thread, scissors, elastic, buttons, and then the base could hold a box of patterns and folds of fabric. I think this will be a real stunner when it's all back to its original glory. I would love to keep the original vinyl on the seat cover but it needs to have new padding since it's rock hard and not every comfortable. Maybe something that would coordinate with the green and brown of the machine and cabinet? Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Marla's Great Find

When I was at church last night, several people told me I needed to talk to Marla because she had something to tell me. One man kinda spilled the beans when he said she found a sewing machine that was a P-F-A-F-F, not taking a chance on pronouncing it. Marla got the deal of the day when she found a Pfaff 1042:
Pfaff Hobby 1042

Everything seemed to be moving but there was no power cord/foot control with it so she couldn't test it. She asked me to take it home to see if it ran and if it would be worth the money to buy a new set of cords. I was pretty sure I could help her so I took it home to see what was what.

Looking at the pins for the plug end I thought I had a Janome with that cord configuration:

KS-1206, YDK TW
I plug it in and she works but doesn't sound too good. Dry? Probably, so I take off the cover on the left and find LOTS of dust and fluff from the typical process of sewing. After cleaning it out and oiling the moving parts, I now go to the bobbin area. It's a match for the needlebar in how much dust has accumulated but now it's a bit on the oily side. Many more cotton swabs were sacrificed but it's now clean and get oiled, too. With a new needle and all threaded up, I start to sew. With no adjustments here's what I get:

The Pfaff 1042 is a mechanical sewing machine so it doesn't sound particularly melodic but it's smooth and strong. With the nice variety of stitches, including stretch stitches, it's a keeper. The only thing I didn't try was the buttonholer because I think I need to see the instructions on this as it's just a bit different. Marla has already found a free manual and knows the cost of a new set of controls so all I needed to to was confirm it would be worth the additional $25 investment.

Marla's one happy woman and told me she wanted to keep it and see what she could sew. I know she has grandchildren that are about the age where they might like to make a pillowcase or something easy like that and now she has a great little machine she can easily store, transport, and set up. It's not vintage but it's not too bad either. Congratulations, Marla on your thrift store find!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Early Birds

I love Necchi sewing machines! It is true, they are finely made like Italian cars but that's just what someone else says because I don't think I've driven an Italian car. Or even had a fast ride in one. Now I'm just feeling sorry for myself but I have sewn on some of the fine Italian sewing machines. I'm thinking of Julia, Leila, Supernova, and now another BU. By first BU, a sleek black one, needed rewiring but it ended up running just fine. It was sold as a swap: a lovely Singer #42 cabinet but the Singer 306 was swapped out for the Necchi BU. It was a bit hard to see both the cabinet and the Necchi go but the gentleman that purchased them could not get them out the door fast enough. Clearly, he thought he was getting a deal and didn't want me to linger too long and change my mind. I think the first BU is in a happy home now.

On my local Craigslist I saw an ad for a sewing machine at a garage sale and my heart stops: it's another black BU, in pretty good shape, in a small cabinet. I drive by the house on my way home the night before the sale but no one is out working in the garage so I don't think they are ready for an early-bird sale call. The day of the sale I'm there in the first hour but there is no sewing machine. It's an estate sale, run by the children of a 95 year old woman that doesn't appear to have died, just is moving from her home. They are cheerful and helpful so I ask about the sewing machine and they say it's right inside the back door. It was brought up from the basement so the legs still have cobwebs on them and it looks a bit worse for wear. One of the daughters tells me how much their mother used this sewing machine and loved it so, dated 1952. Gulp: that's my birth year. I look it over and think it will clean up but on the floor there are flakes of black...paint?...plastic?...bugs? I pull the head up and look at the wiring and see there are bare wires leading into the motor block. I step back and tell them not to plug it in. She looks, too, and blanches because I think the next step was to plug it in to show me that it still runs. I make an offer, less than the asking price due to the wiring, and one of the sons counter offers because "she can just wrap black tape over the wires and it will be fine." I don't think so but we agree on a price and get it out to my car. The tray inside the door of the cabinet is chock full of pins, buttons, circles of iron on tape, etc., so we scrape all of that into a bag first so it doesn't end up on the floor of my car. Once home I have to go through all of it, including the box of accessories:
Accessories from box but what's that on the right?
Not much is missing, maybe just the larger screwdriver and oiling can. There are only 3 bobbins but I have other Necchi bobbins which are nearly identical to class 15's but I try to only use the vintage bobbins just for this sewing machine model. Once all of that stuff is sorted and put in its many places I can get the machine out onto the table:
Necchi BU
Now I can see the wire that is crumbling leads to the light but the bulb end has been taped shut with black electrical tape. When it's peeled off I see an old broken bulb is stuck in it so, even though I try to get it loose, I'll take to a bulb shop that probably has a tool to remove it. The motor wire is quite good so I carefully remove it from the head, check it over, test it with a multimeter, and then plug it in. She's strong and hearty! Now to tackle cleaning the head: I wipe it down with a cloth rinsed in soapy water to get the grime off the backside and then work on it with sewing machine oil. It comes out pretty clean and I can even remove some of the chrome plates to clean with metal polish. Clean outside and then clean inside with sewing machine oil on cotton swabs. At first I can get the needle position lever to move but after oiling it won't move. The lever for zigzag width isn't moving at all and oil is not helping. Time for the hairdryer treatment!
Needle position lever and zigzag lever
The original manual was included but it's been repaired with masking tape that doesn't age well. This manual is available free online so I might print one off for my own use. I put things back together and thread it up, even without the zigzag working, and she stitches just beautifully. The next morning I try the hair dryer treatment and it helps but there's more to this baby. I'm going to need to look at schematics since it's difficult to see inside that part of the machine. Bat when I look at the photo above I see there are four screws holding that plate on so I can take that off and see much better. Not that I have now found the problem but I can get at things that need attention. This is going to be a project, that I can see. But she's going to sew again and be a real beauty when it's all done, Sometimes it pays to be the early bird on garage sale days!

Thursday, April 16, 2015


I'm no writer even if I was editor of my high school newspaper. As it turns out, I work with a whole group of people who have literature and journalism backgrounds so most of the serious writing tasks go to them. In my private life I find I'm writing all the time when I post ads for my sewing machines and for my sewn items on Etsy. Yet it's always nice to sell a sewing machine without having to take photos, write it all up and keep it posted. Last night was a winner in the let's-keep-it-easy department.

I posted an ad for a copper colored Carlton and got a response by dinner time. She was coming right after work so I set it up and tested it out while making dinner of BLT's and last summer's green beans. This lovely Japanese woman brought her husband along and they both looked closely at the Carlton but were not so happy that it was only straight stitch. Oops. I didn't write that in the ad but it always looks so evident to me when there's no lever for stitch width control. Did I have a zigzag machine? You bet! I brought up, amidst their offers to help me carry it, the Hamilton:
Hamilton in blue
The Hamilton sounds so nice, with a bit of a zit zit zit sound and makes a very nice stitch, plus it has the 4-step buttonhole with one of the best end products I've ever seen: perfect buttonholes! She was sold but then asked if I had others because she had a friend... so we looked at what I had in my showroom living room. The two Kenmore's, fully loaded, were too intimidating, so we went over to the Dressmaker in the Straovarious cabinet I refinished last fall:

Dressmaker SAMB
Straovarious cabinet refinished
She liked it, so much in fact, that this one was going to be hers and the Hamilton was going to her friend who had small children and would be more difficult for her to come and look for herself. The Dressmaker was in an ad that had expired and I knew I was going to have to start all over again so imagine my relief knowing it had now found a new home. She like that it had a manual and a box of specialty feet that the Carlton did not have so after they left I remedied the situation. I dug around in my collection of feet and found a wonderful set of Singer attachments that fit the Carlton:

Extra feet plus needles and bobbins!
I have another post about how to use many of the special feet and it is are fun for the straight stitch models to have extra features like the ruffler and bias binder. I corrected the Carlton ad to say straight stitch but also added the extra feet as a bonus. Whew! One hour after dinner and two sewing machines walked out the door and another got an upgrade. Not bad for an evening at home with my hubby and collection of sewing machines. Here's the Carlton in all her copper colored glory:
Carlton before she took residence in a new case
Isn't she pretty? There's a new home for her yet, just waiting patiently.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Textile Center Garage Sale

Remember when you were a kid and it seemed like you waited all year for Christmas? The Textile Center garage sale is like that for me. Seriously! Although it has been an annual event for 15 years, this is only my third year in attendance but I'm already a huge fan. This year I decided to support them by volunteering in their set-up so I'll start with an explanation of how this starts.

The Textile Center is a center for learning about textile arts and is a non-profit organization of artists. In order to fund many of their projects, such as a summer camp for kids and various programs, this fund raiser was born. It is held in a storage facility/warehouse for reusable good from the U of MN so while we are setting up and selling the textile materials, the warehouse is selling used file cabinets and chairs. Desks and tables are arranged down the aisles, taking up two of the three largest areas. Donations for the sale are brought around to a side door and runners unload the vehicles while others are sorting, bagging, and pricing items not already pre-priced by the donors. I volunteered at the sign-in desk and directed the foot traffic a bit for three hours. It was fun to watch and I could shop when my shift was over but I only bought three books, resisting temptation until Saturday. There is a preview sale on Friday evening but it's a fund-raiser too, with admission at $25-30. I knew I could wait until Saturday.

Saturday dawned with mild temperatures, always iffy on an April day in Minnesota, and I met my daughter Kelly and friend Ann at a nearby parking lot and we drove together because the parking lot charges $4 per car and the off-street parking is very limited. This was a first for Ann and we just couldn't prepare her enough for the size and variety of items. There are patterns, magazines, books, yarn, wool roving, fabric of all types, and then all of the paraphernalia that goes with these crafts. A silent auction is held for the larger items: looms, knitting machines, and sewing machines. Lots of sewing machines. It was fun to look them over and I put bids on the two I was hoping to take home. No, I was outbid but it didn't break my heart. Magazines and patterns are ten for $1 and most of the books were only $1, There was a section of UFO's: unfinished objects. I don't know if I should feel glad that the owners have finally realized they were never going to finish that blouse or knit a sweater on size 2 needles, or should I be sad that they have given up. There were bags of wool roving, cones and  skeins of yarn, and then before us were the tables/desks full of all kinds of fabrics. They ranged from cotton, knits, wool, satin, linings, Lycra, decorator and upholstery. When I was volunteering a woman walked in looking for directions to the unloading dock and said she had thirty boxes; there were many people who must have done the same to amass that many textile goods. So we shopped, putting items we dare not let lay on the table a moment longer:

When those items were safely in the car, we went back, met with other friends, walked around again, and finally got in line for the BAG SALE. Doors would close at 2:45 with everyone out and when they opened again at 3 pm you could put anything in the bag for $2 per bag, larger items going for half of their marked price. We were in line at 2 pm with only about a dozen people ahead of us so our hopes were high. A bright sunny day and friends kept us from boredom but it was still a long wait. They came out and checked our hand-stamps (admission was $1) and the doors were opened. Yes, once I got around the slow movers I ran to the back of the fabric and went right to the woolens and put my choice pieces in a bag, rushing over to the cottons, then the knits, back to the woolens and decorator fabrics, staving off panic (what was next?) over to the yarn to find there was only a little bit left, but the aisles were really filling up as now everyone was inside. All the while, one of the workers is standing on a desk top and yelling encouragement with phrases like "Remember, Mother's Day is coming"and "There's always room for one more bag!" I left the fabric and yarn aisle and went over to the books to pick up a few more, skip the patterns and magazines, and on to the UFO's. You see, I'm always rooting for the underdog and those projects represented someone's unfulfilled dreams. I found a children's sweater only half done, but then I came upon the read find: vintage linens! I found some tablecloths so I stuffed all of this into my bags and admitted I could carry no more. I went up to the checkout and paid for my four bags. I found my traveling companions and we did our own show and tell, proud of our bargains. What was the time? 3:20. It only took fifteen minutes to choose and cram all that stuff into four bags and pay for it. Wow, that was very fast. So here's my stash for the day:
Classic sewing books and magazines on sewing and beading

Woven cottons

Wools on left, knits and heavy woven on right

Patterns: maybe for mother-in-law?
The children's sweater was ripped out (too many mistakes!), washable fabric had the cut edges serged before washing, and everything was examined for possible problems and alerts. I found one of the patterns was a size 16 so that gets donated back, but everything else looks quite good. The vintage linen washed up great and those tablecloths were not all for the table: one zippered bag held a sheet and three pillowcases with beautiful heavy white on white embroidery. They were probably in someone's cedar chest where they were kept for "good" but that day never arrived. Most of us do not want to iron sheets these days so now they end up in a bag sale where I probably only paid 50 cents for them. I hope I can find an extra special good use that will represent the hours of work that went into their work and learn a lesson that we are not to save these items for "good" but to use them and celebrate the good in every day. It was a good day.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

So Many Books, So Little Time

The title of this post is a sentiment I had on a t-shirt from a friend years ago (where is that shirt now?) and it continues to resonate as I grow older. The list gets longer, not shorter with each book I read so how does that happen? While we were in Portland one of the landmarks is Powell's Books, a huge independent bookstore that has remained in business when others have closed their doors. While we can blame that on Amazon, this mega-book dealer has also enabled small dealers to thrive so I don't want to vilify Amazon either. Powell's downtown Portland store is called Powell's City of Books and it does seem to be its own small city, taking up the whole city block with multiple levels that you need a map to navigate. I went right up to the sewing section and found something you don't find at other bookstores: old and new books. They buy used books and include them for your browsing and buying pleasure. It was exciting to see some of the vintage books I've written about in an earlier post as well as those I've only heard about. I restrained myself and only bought two books and made note of a third title I coveted. My husband bought some very good gardening books (as well as a cribbage board so I could finally learn).

On the flight home I read cover to cover The Encyclopedia of Sewing Machine Techniques:
The Serger's Technique Bible by Julia Hincks and  Encyclopedia of Sewing Machine Techniques by Nancy Bednar & JoAnn Pugh-Gannon    
It was a wonderful book from applique to tucks on how to use your sewing machine and special presser feet or needles or thread to create special effects. Lace insertion was not enough: it included how to make your own lace with your sewing machine! It's not often you want to read an encyclopedia, but it was a great ride home with Bednar & Pugh-Gannon's book.

Since I now have five sergers, The Serger's Technique Bible explained the types of stitches and showed how they should look and what they are best used for. As with so many things, I just dove into sergers without much practical experience and this book helped me see what had only been written about in some of my serger manuals. What are all those special feet for and what is a cover stitch? Now I know for sure (but I'm not sure if I have a serger that can do a cover stitch!)

There was one book I ordered from Amazon that I looked at while at Powells but determined it wasn't worth the $25 cost. That's right, I got it for only a dollar plus $4 shipping. You can call me cheap, that's okay, but I had already supported the independent bookstore enough for one trip.
SM Secrets by Nicole Vasbinder
I don't think these are actual secrets but more about how to use your machine to its fullest. There is discussion about pros and cons of vintage and new sewing machines that is fair, which features are essential (adjustable needle position) and those that are considered optional (needle up/needle down).

Although I have had similar books in the past, the quality of the printing, illustrations, and photos are excellent in these newer versions. For a sewer who has been at it for awhile, the Secrets book would be a nice read, and those new to serging could put the Serger's Bible into use, but the advanced sewer could really get lost in the Encyclopedia of SM Techniques. Have you read a novel that was so good you hated to see it come to an end? When you read one of the books reported on in this post it doesn't have to come to an end: now you can go practice on your sewing machine to see if you can master any of the new ideas that have intrigued you. And now I bid you adieu as I move from my computer to my sewing machine to try out "off the edge scallops."

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Converted to Vintage

Within a weeks time I have another convert to vintage sewing machines! Marie came to find a portable Viking last week while hers was in the repair shop. When her remaining computerized Singer stopped working (touch screen that no longer can be touched) a wise friend suggested she come back to see what else I might have that wasn't computerized. Of course, she wanted to look at the Viking 4300 that she passed on last time since it was too heavy to be portable, but maybe something else, too. Little did she know that just opened the door for me to show, run, and praise other members of my cadre. Here's what she got to see:

Elna 62C before cleaning
A newly acquired model, I already had an Elna 62C on my shelf that was fully loaded with accessories, but this one has the low and high switch on the foot control for half and full speed. Wow - that works pretty neat. The Elna 62C is a great model that sews oh so smooth with just a bit of a growl that I think all Elna's have. She loved the blue and white case and was sorely tempted.
Pfaff 4240 in orange!
This Pfaff 4240 was a cheaper version, very portable, and sounded just like the Viking 4300 but we agreed it was just a bit too basic. Pfaff goes back on the shelf, again. I'm starting to feel sorry for it.
Singer 401A
My all-time favorite, the Singer 401A is such a great stitcher with its full metal body and insides (there must be some plastic in there somewhere?) but you do need to learn how to use it. There are free manuals, too, but it takes a bit of practice, as Joyce  can testify to.  It makes the best stitches and can drive through any pile of fabric I give it with the right needle and common sense. That means no heavy leather or pop cans! Marie was concerned about the learning curve and it was the loudest in the group. But that's okay, too, because there is someone else out there just waiting for this cream de la cream.

Right in the next room I had the Kenmore 158-1690 set up and in contrast it was so very different, a nice quiet sewing machine and was free arm, too. As with so many brands, you don't know what you are missing until you have tried one and Kenmore is one of those brands that are undervalued but very good performers. It is simple to use with only two dials and everything built-in and when the top was popped off it was all metal inside.

Kenmore 158-1690
Marie and I had a moment of silence at that point. We went back to the Elna and Viking to look under their hoods to find the Elna was metal but the Viking had quite a bit of plastic. Oh oh, an area of weakness. Marie had more to think about.

While she was thinking I brought up the Elna 62C twin and the green Elna so we could see the past and enjoy a classic Elna. The green machine was a hoot with it's knee lever and the distinctive growl but it's not for sale...yet.
Elna Supermatic
While looking at a model with all of the accessories and metal carrying case, Marie had to admit she liked the blue and white of the Elna but was partial to the Viking, even if it did have a plastic cam unit. There was more discussion about how many do you have room for, how many different kinds and uses for a sewing machine, and how you can own quite a few vintage sewing machines for the price of one computerized model (that becomes too expensive to repair). Marie is an expert quilter and enjoys sewing but needs sewing machines that keep on working so she decided the Viking 4300 was going home with her.
Viking 4300
As a parting comment, she did look longingly at the Elna 62C and said "I might have to come back for that one. I love the blue and white!" and I had to agree. Some sewing machines speak to us and we have to go home and see if they keep up the conversation or if it was just a fleeting fancy. Maybe, Marie, maybe.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Tale of Two (or Three) Singer 237's

It was a Singer 237 kind of a week. I'm not sure what that means but I did have several 237's on the worktable. I a previous post I wrote about picking up a Singer 237 and I got a call from Becky who was interested in two of my "Learn to Sew" machines, a Singer 514 and 237. She talked about buying both but really liked the 237 so asked if I had another one. Sure did, the one in a cabinet I brought home two days earlier. Cabinets can be a problem and for Becky this was a deal breaker: she wanted portable. Feeling confident at that moment, I said I would find a case and she could have the cabinet 237 as a portable. I don't know why I said that because I didn't have a Singer case that would fit and now I needed to find one. If I did get one via Ebay, the shipping would be over my price point so I checked Craigslist and, sure enough, there was a Singer 237 that had languished for a month, just waiting for me! I had to drive 30 minutes to pick it up but there were other errands to run so I didn't mind.

Tackling the Singer 237 in the cabinet first, it gave me all kinds of problems. The bobbin case didn't seem to be right so I tried a spare one but that didn't solve anything. I went back to the original one and tried to adjust the tension by its tiny tension screw but it ended up falling off. When I say tiny, this is almost the smallest screw in sewing machine land. I couldn't find it on the table top, the floor, inside the machine...back to the spare bobbin case but now it was even worse. Upon closer examination it didn't seem to be a tight fit so I opened up the portable Singer 237 I just brought home to see if there was as much play in the race. Not only did it fit tighter, the one I was working on had a different hinge. While I was going back and forth between these two machines, I jostled the one on the table and surprise a tiny screw fell out of the hinge mechanism. That's right, the lost screw from the bobbin case. When it fell out of the case earlier it lodged into the hinge and kept it from closing. Now we were back in business.

It was great to have both machines to work on, compare their parts, speed, and sound. The portable 237 stitched great but the motor was really, really loud. Something had to be wrong. We set both machines on the table and went back and forth:

Twin Singer 237's
As it turned out, the motor casing needed to be tightened down. There were several screws that seemed to be tight but were not, according to my husband who got them REALLY tight. Holding the motor in my hands, it sounded much better. When put back on the machine, though, it needed to be adjusted with the belt so it wasn't too tight (lack of speed) or too loose (loud vibration):
Large screw of left adjusts the height of the motor
Going back to the cabinet model, it didn't seem to have the speed of the portable so the belt was adjusted and she picked right up, sounding just as full of pep as the portable. The cabinet model was put back in it's very nice wood cabinet after one of the hinges was reinforced and the portable got a zip-lock bag of accessories. Becky was notified that her second Singer 237 was ready for pick-up. This was a good exercise that was shortened because I had twin models to compare but it was just fun, too. I have other twins in my collection and have considered selling them as twins: after all, this is the home of the Minnesota Twins.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Pride in Your Work

While I was in Portland (yes, you are going to hear about this way too much), we spent some time in thrift shops and found a few interesting items like books on gardening, napkin folding, and sewing. I tried on several items of clothing and came home with a new-to-me shirt and a pair of wool pants. The pants fit great but were too long but what was on the bottom of the pants?

So this is tailoring?
Tape? Yes, big pieces of tape that even the shop didn't remove. I know this is how some people perform clothing repair and even had a niece who joked about it while toasting her sister, the bride. I looked at this nice pair of wool pants and thought "This is great because I know how to hem pants the right way!" They came home in my suitcase and I vowed to wear them to work today because I was teaching a class and wanted to look professional in these good wool pants. It was so easy to mark the hem with pins, lay them out on the ironing board, re-pin so each leg is the same, cut off the excess so I will only have a hem of about an inch. Now comes the interesting part of using the blind hem stitch on a sewing machine. It's not difficult to do but does take some practice. If you mark, pin, press, and then sew it goes better. Here's a photo of the hem as it is in position for the stitch:
Straight stitch on the hem side
The basic idea is to have a straight line of stitches, maybe a half inch, on the hem side and then one zigzag stitch that catches just a thread in the garment before it goes back to the straight stitch.
Look carefully to see the needle enter a fold of the garment for the one thread it catches

On the outside of the garment you should only see the one thread that got the tip of the zigzag stitch. When all is finished and pressed from the inside and outside it looks very professional. This works best when there is no curve or flare to bring extra fabric into the hem. So here I am after class in my new-to-me pants:
Look, no tape!

The blind hem stitch was an early zigzag addition to some vintage sewing machines and even one of the templates in a Singer zigzag attachment. Imagine the sales pitch when you no longer had to hem by hand but could simply use your sewing machine blind hem stitch! Practice will keep you from making the set of straight stitches and the zigzag on the garment but even small mistakes can be pressed out.

There's no emergency taping of items at my house but with so many sewing machines set up at any given time I really don't have any excuse. Now let's talk about staples...

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Coming Home

After a whirlwind week in Portland, getting over a bad cold that can't decide if it is in my head or my chest, and getting back to work with a holiday coming up, it's no wonder I haven't been writing much. Even though I was gone from my sewing machine business, I still managed to set up appointments and sold two only 12 hours after we landed.

The Learn-to-Sew machines continue to get  a lot of attention and I had three of them set up for Dave who was on his way back from Missouri. I set up a Singer 628, a Touch & Sew that was complete with cams for extra fancy stitches and additional feet with other accessories, a Singer 237, and a Singer 514. I could not get the 514 to work right, with a wonky tension adjustment set-up that I could not get adjusted. The Singer 237 was perfect for Dave but I could not get the bobbin winder to work. That left the Touch & Sew but I was reluctant to have him take this one since it's a bit complex but Dave was sure this one would be fine. Right after he left I looked again at the 237 and found out I was using class 66 bobbins for winding when it took class 15 bobbins: a classic mistake and now you know even a seasoned sewer can make a simple mistake! I worked quite awhile on the 514 and finally sent it to partsmachineland. That's right, it gets stripped down and then the metal carcass goes to a friend who uses the metal for salvage. Here are three on their way out:
White, Kenmore, and Singer Merritt
Next I set up two Viking sewing machines for Marie who wanted a portable machine to take for quilting classes. Her good Viking recently had repairs that she suspected were due to lugging it around and now sought a lighter weight model with the Viking brand she grew to love. It all boiled down to weight since both the 210 and 4300 worked well and had their own different set of features. She gave it the weight test: set both on the floor and lifted each, then reversed with different hands. The Viking 210 walked out the door with Marie and a Singer Merritt walked back in with me. Someone gave it to her and she wondered if I could use it so it wouldn't go into a landfill. It had several problems that were not worth solving since it had plastic gears and is known to be a less reliable model. It's on the floor with the other salvage models in the above photograph.

As happy as I am to have sewing machines walk out the door, I continue to find classic models in my neighborhood with reasonable prices. On my way home from work I picked up a Singer 237 (yes, another one) from a couple who were downsizing and getting ready to sell their lovely lakeside home. It had been his mother's and he complained it would only work with the needle in the left position but I suspect the warmth from a hairdryer will loosen up the position mechanism and a good sewing machine oil will take care of the rest.

After a yoga class I picked up a Kenmore 1690 in a wonderful table with two drawers and a nice multi-position top for the freearm. The gentleman said it had been his mother's and she had been gone ten years so it was time to pass this on.
Kenmore 1690
Doesn't this sound familiar? Two sewing machines on the same day that belonged to mothers of these older men. No one in their families sews and they don't know what to do with them, hating to see them end up in a landfill. I could tell by the former owner of the Kenmore that she was quite skilled, using decorative threads and interesting attachments. These sewing machines were not the first ones the women owned because I found parts from other machines within their drawers and accessory boxes. This always makes me wonder if they had straight stitch models and moved to multi-stitch models for their added stitches or if they had to replace beloved sewing machines with something affordable for their later years. The Singer 237 was a late 1960's model and the Kenmore was early 1980's and even though they work fine, they never were top-of-the-line models but good workers anyway. They will find new homes and be put to use again but I can't help but wonder about their past: who owned them, what did they sew, were they simply a machine or were they beloved. We will never know so you can make up your own story about your vintage sewing machine: make it a good one!