Friday, July 31, 2015

Company's Coming

I just love having company! I love the anticipation, planning, preparing, shopping, cooking, even the clean-up afterwards. I think about what kinds of food they might enjoy, what we might talk about, what sights they might like to see, who we should visit while they are here, even alternative plans if the weather or health do not cooperate. All of this is stated up front to encourage me to finish the task that is before me: cleaning up my sewing rooms. I have let it get into a state of severe disrepair and I'm a bit ashamed of myself. I thought of the shocked looks on my visitors faces if I didn't do something soon and got busy. The worst of it all were the mounds of fabric that I purchased recently, as you might have read in previous posts. How could I resist a whole large plastic tub of fabric for only $10? But now I need to provide the space and organization of all this fabric. It all got pulled out, dragged upstairs into the porch so I could look at it dispassionately. Once it is out of the messy space and into a new place it can be looked at more objectively: cottons, solid cottons, print cottons, fleece, knits, lining, vintage, UFO's, and then into subcategories. Once in groups, they were organized by color or themes and then a plastic tub, basket, or container was found. I even made labels! Once put back into the space they got a bit reorganized to fit and then I stepped back to see the result:
Sewing room where I actually sew, not repair sewing machines!
Not bad for the first pass. As I took this photo I could see that I have some sewing machines on the floor that are somewhat finished but need a place to be stored while I add the finishing touches, such as a box of accessories or the handcrank. Most of the machines in this room are either mine, sergers, or parts machines but it makes sense to me.
Note plastic bins with labels and stacked baskets to add a touch of organization.
The shelves also share space with my husbands hunting and fishing gear although he occasionally points out that he doesn't get enough space. True, but I don't either so that's just a cross we each must bear. As I went to take a photo of the other side of the room I looked at my main desk with the Viking 1100 and I could see it was a pretty big mess (see first photo) so I cleaned it up for this photo:
Two desk hold my machines and others are on the floor between them.
This is cleaned up so please don't think this is the before. Nope, it's the after clean-up but I'm more than satisfied with the new fabric reorganization and the ease of using this space. It's good to have visitors so we can see our homes through someone else's eyes so I'm very glad for that. Now I need to get those menus planned and find a sewing machine that can make a blanket stitch. Now where is that Elna? On no, I'll have to go into the repair shop room...but that's getting cleaned up tonight!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Pony Express

Although I've been on vacation, it's been a great time in vintage sewing machine land: how could I ever leave all of the lovely ladies behind? I did manage to drive away but came back with many more to fill the garage and elsewhere. Oh boy, where do I start?

The plan was to stop and pick up a machine that wasn't being used and bring it to it's new owner who would love, love, love to use it. So on our way to Chicago we stopped in one of the suburbs and picked up a Bernina Record 831. Wow, is she beautiful:
Bernina Record 831

How was it that she wasn't wanted in Chicago? Sometimes a hand-me-down doesn't end up with the right person and it takes a few years before they wake up one day to the clutter in their lives and say "I think I know who might like that" and that lucky person receives a phone call. On my end, I heard my friend Jane talk about this Bernina and how she might actually get it some day. Then weeks later she very excitedly tells me that she IS GETTING IT but just need to figure out how to get the cabinet from Chicago to Minnesota and maybe she can fly down with frequent flier miles and bring the head back....STOP! I almost have to turn Jane around to get her to hear me say "We are going to Chicago for vacation and could probably pick it up for you." I'm not sure she slept that night in the giddy anticipation of finally having the Bernina she always loved from her husband's aunt who owned the Bernina Record 831 in the first place. She gets the measurements, address, phone number, and we agree on a day and time on our vacation. This is starting to sound like we are matchmakers! It turns out to be hardly out of our way and even though it's a big cabinet it fits easily in our car. This cabinet has great '60's styling and is in excellent shape just like the sewing machine so I wonder if it had been used much or just well cared for?

Along the way we pick up two more machines in cabinets, another portable, many miscellaneous parts that I will share in another post but we not only got it all into the back of our Jeep, we also fit our many suitcases, tote bags, and shopping items we just couldn't leave behind. Now I really do love this Jeep even though it's the largest vehicle I've ever owned and feels very large on the road. It can hold way more than I think it can and this trip proved it.

Once home and the car emptied out, we could once again see the Bernina cabinet so it goes over to Jane's house. Boy, is she going to be happy! I pick up Jane and Bob at church where they are finishing up with the community food distribution program for the week where they work so hard each week. They are so excited they don't even look tired so we pile into my car and we drive the half block to their house. Here they are with their new Bernina:
Bob and Jane frame the Bernina on top of the cabinet
Can't you just see their glow? It's not going into the house just yet because they need to move some things inside and I'm sure get the whole space all cleaned up, but I think it won't be too long. I've even wondered if I'll find Jane out in the garage sewing on her until she comes inside to stay. Heck, I would. I have! Several times I've enjoyed a sewing machine outside in the garage workshop because I couldn't bring it inside but just wanted to sew on it for awhile. Yes, Jane, I understand. It's a gem but you are, too, because you wanted so long for something you treasured. Most of the time life is like that, isn't it?

There's a bit of a post script on this adventure: Jane has an Elna 7000 where she shared her power cord with me so I could find out if the Elna 5000 I bought would work. After having it back to the shop twice in one year she now finds it just doesn't work at all. She really bonded with that Elna and misses it but then the Bernina opportunity blossomed before her. Maybe she won't miss the Elna so much after all? The Bernina probably won't take the place of the Elna in her heart and memories but it will be a good substitute going forward, don't you think? You betcha.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Visiting Julia

It's not too often that I've visited sewing machines from my past. In fact I have never revisited a sold sewing machine but I had the chance this past week. One of the dearest machines I ever bought was a Necchi Julia, so sweet and pink in her dandy 1960's cabinet. She came fully loaded and really needed nothing so I got to sew enough on her to decide I didn't need to keep her but didn't mind owning her for a period of time. About a year ago she went home with a good friend and I was happy to find someone who really did sew and would put her to good use. Once she made it to her new home the cabinet was refinished and she was moved in permanently. I did hear bits of a story about Julia getting dropped but she handed it well and nothing important was lost or broken.

While on vacation for a week, we stopped in to see Julia who moved again but is pretty happy in her new digs. Here's a few photos of her new home:
Nice space for the Necchi Julia
and here she is opened up:
Still looking good after all these years
There was a problem, though: she didn't get used very often and one reason was her somewhat cramped new space. When the leaves of the cabinet were opened up they bumped into a treadle cabinet. It was a pretty basic Singer treadle cabinet so I asked what the machine was like. Machine? Inside the cabinet? She didn't know because it was only bought for the antique look. Since learning about vintage sewing machines the owner said she's now interested in seeing what was hidden inside. We wheeled it out and opened up the top leaf to find a very well used Singer 66. She was never going to use this treadle, having treadled before and knew it really wasn't for her so maybe it should be sold. Would I help get it into shape? Would I! It wouldn't be a fun vacation without a sewing machine adventure so I pulled the head out and the cabinet to come upstairs and out to the garage for a cleaning.

Singer 66 - dated 1925
 After cleaning up and getting a little bit of oil into her, it now worked fine even with the old leather belt that was still intact. The bobbin winder tire broke while cleaning and there was a need for a spool pin but other wise she was looking used but proud. The wood cabinet got some paste wax and she almost glows now:
Singer 66 in treadle: not bad for 90 years old!
We found the missing parts so she is complete and ready for a new home, too.  It's my hope that Julia will have space to be opened up and used as she was meant to be used. These vintage sewing machines sure can be pretty but like so many things they are tools that work best when they are used often.

Now I'm off to pick up two sewing machines in another state as part of my vacation. Will the fun never end? Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Turning Rain Into Sunshine

It has been plenty rainy here in Minnesota so the mosquitoes are thick but the grass looks amazing! Having spent several days sick last week, I'm happy to report my stiff neck is almost gone. On the computer front, mine still has a virus but I'm learning to love my husbands laptop and think my next computer might just be more portable. All of these examples point to making a poor situation into something good. This was my experience last weekend when it was hot and humid after a wild storm that blew down many tree limbs and cut electricity to homes. During this recovery I was at a local college on a panel discussion to talk about my career journey. It was fun to see these new career students and to think back to when I had first begun. Reminiscing on the long walk back to my car, I couldn't find the keys to my husbands car. When switching cars it's usually my practice to double check everything since it's a bit unfamiliar but how could I have lost them? Oh no, I didn't lose them: they were safely on the drivers seat in the locked car. The campus seemed deserted so I found their security office and a campus cop drove me back and spent a fair amount of time in the heat trying to flip the lock. Finally successful, I could drive away in this old car that no longer can run the air conditioning while idling so I spent time at the intersections with the windows down. But it still took me from point A to point B.

I drove by one of my favorite antique shops and figured I had the time so why not stop? I have never bought too much there but I like their various vendors and displays. They asked what I was interested in and I said "sewing machines and things related like attachments" but I was told they really didn't have any. There were three empty cabinets but no machines so I continued to look. I found a vintage dress and as I paid for it they asked did I find what I was looking for and I again mentioned sewing machines and one looked at the other and said "Doesn't Tim have one in his shop? It's in a portable case or something." They took me back downstairs to Tim who said he had one called --gulp--the featherweight and sometimes quilters like them. Sure enough there was the box:
Featherweight case
and it opened up to find a Singer 221 in great shape:
Singer 221 dated January 1957

The price was higher than I wanted to pay so I walked away. I got all the way upstairs when I remembered they had 15% off signs all over so I went back down and asked to see how it ran and if it was included in the sale. We took it upstairs, looked it over, and I got it for the sale price. Now it's still more than I would normally pay, especially without any accessories, but the carrying case was terrific and the bobbin case was present so I thought I just might be ahead on this one. She cleaned up nice and ran pretty good after some of the normal adjustments. When my husband got home and I showed him my latest he said it probably was the best Featherweight yet in terms of decals and general condition. But then he said those words I like to hear but don't like to hear: maybe I should keep this one for myself. Oh so tempting but we shall see.
Is she a keeper?
My day in the heat with no air-conditioning turned out to have quite the silver lining when I found another Featherweight. The car is still dying, the rain and heat keeps coming, and I keep sewing in my cool basement. May you find a bright spot in the midst of the rain, too.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Compact Style

I like efficiency. One tool that can do many jobs, well organized closets, a place for everything and everything in its place kind of thinking. That's part of why I love the compact sewing machine cabinets where you can have a dedicated space for sewing, along with your tools, and it doesn't take up too much space, as you have read in my post about the Phoenix and its cool cabinet. I was surprised when another cabinet with a built in chair came up on Goodwill Online. Because it was a cabinet model it was pick up only so there were only three of us bidding and I won! Here's the cabinet when it's all closed up:

What secrets are hiding within?
The top was pretty well worn but if it would be as easy as the Phoenix to strip, stain, and seal, I'm in! So let's take a look at what this cabinet has to offer:
Two nice drawers for storage
Front pulls out: it's a chair!
All ready to sew.
Don't you agree that is not only efficient but cute? Overall condition is good but I still plan on refinishing the cabinet so it's the best it can be. Those knobs are solid brass, too, and cleaned right up. All of that on the positive side of the scale, now let's look at the sewing machine, a Domestic 725:
Domestic 725
What a cool art deco look with a textured finish so there are no decals to wear down and with a few chrome accents she is complete. The cords and wiring look good with only one spot that I put electrical tape on. Everything moved so I went in to clean and oil. The two ends came off but not the top yet I could reach almost everything, flipping it over the tend to it's underside. It had been used but not too much and certainly not mistreated. There is a built in knee control, something that makes more sense with it's compact size: where would you put a foot control so it could be used at the correct distance? I test drive the Domestic to feels like a tank. I can get her up to speed but even at full throttle and going very fast she just sounds...inelegant? After the initial disappointment wears off I thread it up and test with fabric to find it stitches just fine, no real adjustments are necessary so why am I disappointed? It just is a run-of-the-mill straight stitcher with a deep growl.

Maybe another sewing machine would fit into this rectangular opening. I test out a Kenmore and it fits fine but then I notice the knee control and the whole wiring harness that would need to be switched out. Somehow that just seems like way more work than is necessary. The cool cabinet has a not-as-cool sewing machine in it, everything works fine, I didn't overpay for it so JUST GET OVER IT! I tell myself. I think this is going to be a project I need to finish up very soon or it's going to languish. Sigh.

I'm sorry I've been a bit lax with posting recently but my computer has a virus and after hours and hours of antivirus medication it is still sick. Then I got sick (could I have caught something online, too?) and still have a stiff neck, the result of falling into a dead sleep in a recliner. This too shall pass but thanks for continuing to check in with Sewing Machine Mavin and reading about my adventures in buying, refurbishing, and selling sewing machine (and the things I make with them, too.)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Free Is Always Good

It's been a very busy weekend of babysitting but I managed to squeeze in picking up a sewing machine on Saturday morning for free. That's a pretty good price, don't you think? And I thought I was too late...

Friday afternoon I was very busy at work but while drinking an afternoon coffee before having public desk duty, I checked Craigslist and found a Bernina 530 that had been posted for four hours. AUGH! It was gone for sure but I couldn't resist: I sent an email and said if the other offers fell through, please put me on the waiting list. She wrote right back and said "if you make an appointment and keep it, you can have it for free." After the adrenaline rush subsided I wrote back that if she could hold it until Saturday morning at 9 am, I would definitely be there. I was anxious to hear the back story on this one and why it had been so cheap and now free but figured I would hear a good one when I picked it up. Upon telling my husband he thought it was a great deal and would even come with me so it was a win-win.

It was about a half hour drive from us but traffic was good on a clear but hot Saturday morning and we found the address with no problem. They were very excited to have this piece of furniture move out but pointed out one of the legs had fallen off (was actually sheered off) and maybe I would change my mind when I saw it. It was so clean and shiny, with a mirror finish on the '50's styling, it took my breath away:

Bernina 530 cabinet with seat
When I saw the sewing machine, it, too, looked like it had only been dusted, not used. Her husband plugged it in and ran it, moving just a bit slowly but not much. Oh wow, this was just too good to be true so why was it so unused and why were they giving it away? She was not much of a sewer, making only a few costumes over the years and it was just taking up space now. I just had to tell them what a beautiful machine it was and so pristine but why give it away? They had a few calls about it, asking if it had extra "feet" and she didn't know what they meant. They seemed a bit pushy and she just wanted it gone, not to have to take more photos and keep fussing with it. Because I simply said when I could come pick it up they said SOLD to the lady with no questions. Keeping my mouth shut paid off big time in this instance! Between the four of us we got it loaded into the Jeep and were ready to drive off when they started yelling at us to stop: they forgot the storage seat. Now it is perfect:
Bernina 530 cabinet with bench that has a Necchi label
Once home I only had about twenty minutes before we had to leave to babysit but I still managed to get her plugged in and running again and she sounds smooth. Finally this afternoon I get to play with her a bit and make some sample stitches:
Bernina 530: so sweet
Because she is in a free arm cabinet there is no extension table (another question she couldn't answer earlier callers) but one isn't needed. It takes only minor cleaning but the stitch position lever is stuck and I take the hair dryer to it and get it working again. Here are the stitches I played with:
Look between the printed stars to see the pink stitches
I couldn't help but wonder why someone who only made a few costumes would have twenty spools of thread and a dozen bobbins full of thread but since she must have had it since 1959, there might have been some mending done, too:
Date in upper left corner is 12-11-1959
There is a stamp on the back for a Bernina dealership in Minneapolis on east 38th Street but I'm pretty sure that no longer exists. This is a model 530-2 because of the buttonhole feature. As I read over the manual and check the machine I see that it has been left in buttonhole mode but it changes back with no hint of being frozen in place. I am one happy camper with a new gem like this. But now I need to finish this up and go move cars around because we have golf ball sized hail predicted and we better get the newer car into the garage before it arrives. I wonder if a steel case of the Bernina sewing machine would stand up to hail. We are not going to find out but treat her with care as she has been over the years in her first home.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Finishing Up

What a great feeling to be finished! Here are the results of some long time posts that you might wonder "Does she even finish anything?" Not always, but today I need to show you the end results.

Here's the Pfaff 130 repaint in the refinished cabinet, ready for sale:
Not so glamorous in the garage but she was up on bricks over the winter and I looked at her every time I parked the car in the garage. It was closed up and the top was covered but now she is done, complete with the Pfaff 130, working quite well. I'm missing the knob for the feed dog drop and there are a few tweaks to the repainting (like infinitesimal pieces of blue tape lurking under edges of metal buttons) but those are minor issues that I will keep working on until it is as perfect as it can be. This was a cabinet and machine that were left on a back porch for many years, hense the repainting, but it has been a wonderful journey and a satisfying final destination.

A quiet machine in a demur cabinet that takes up so little space is the Phoenix 283:
I was only going to refinish the back of the chair but it turned out so well and was so easy to strip off the original finish that I went ahead and did the entire outside of the cabinet, too. I had the fabric for the chair cushion already from another chair project (does it look familiar Sarah?) and it was a perfect match for the metallic green tone of the Phoenix. This is one beautiful machine and now is in a cabinet that also is beautiful. It is so compact yet has great storage in the chair seat plus a lift-out caddy for all of the accessories for sewing including thread and bobbins. a wonderful sewing machine with a compact cabinet that anyone would be proud to own.

I'm happily sewing up dresses and hope to have enough done by this weekend to put them in my Etsy shop. It doesn't seem like much of a new item to only have a couple but I should have a dozen ready for photos very soon. I can hardly contain how much fun they are but maybe because they are fairly quick to make, unlike hours of work on sewing machines and cabinets. Oh wait, they do take hours to make and there is ripping out involved and hot irons...but a cute dress in the end and it brings back many happy memories. I'll hold back from posting photos of my own daughters when they were miniature size and wearing my home-made creations. But I remember.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Pretty Dresses All In A Row

The lure of pretty little dresses all in a row never seems to grow old for me. I loved making dresses when my own daughters were under age ten and now I find I still like to make little dresses. It's especially nice when I don't have to worry if they will be liked or even worn when I can put them in my Etsy shop and hope the right person will find one for the little girl in their life. So here's the parade of dresses:

We stared out with printed on dress patterns for the three rainbow dresses, written about in Ain't She Sweet:
Not much skill or imagination but my granddaughter picked this one to try on. Next up is one I featured in Daddy's Little Girl, a blue and white windowpane check with an eyelet overlay:

Then I tried my hand with a gray and yellow print that my daughter, Alison, admired:
This one is just a prototype because of the assembly errors but I did learn and didn't make those errors on the next models from this pattern:

Two dresses were made from the pattern below, being careful to find fabric that would have enough personality and could stand on it's own since there was so little contrast:

One in green (above) and one in pink (below), on right:

The dress on the left is the same pattern as the blue windowpane check with white bodice so a different look with other fabric.  It's been a fun project and still isn't over as I have another blue border eyelet dress cut out and ready to sew tonight. Here they are, sunning themselves on this bright sunny day:

May you find something that brightens your day, too!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

What Was Old Is New Again

An older project is finally coming to a satisfactory conclusion. Remember the Pfaff 130? Not the one I bought earlier this year but the one from 2014? It has been the subject of a repaint job but it got derailed by the cold weather. It languished in my basement over the winter and now it's getting the attention it deserves. I dusted it off and applied the decals:
Pfaff 130 repainted with clear coat

Pfaff 130 with decal placement

Pfaff 130 decals finished ready for the unveiling
It got another couple coats of clear coat (alright, maybe another four or five) and I started to take the tape for masking off the silvery parts. I should do this kind of thing in a shorter window of time because I couldn't remember what I had done but I had a model to look at with the one bought this spring.

Where do all those screws go? There was not only the motor and electrical works to put back, but the bobbin winder, presser foot and needle bar were all in need of cleaning before reassembly. I finally got it all back together and started to test her out. Growling. She is not happy with this and doesn't want to move. Closer inspection finds paper I had stuffed up inside and more little bits of plugs for the numerous holes (see what I mean about doing this with a shorted window of work time?) but even when they were removed it was very slow going. Patience is needed so I would walk away to do something else and every time I passed by I would try it again. By the next morning she was moving much quicker but I noticed a sound that seems like she needs more oil yet time and a little more TLC will find her back in her cabinet:
Pfaff 130 cabinet waiting in the workshop/garage
How sweet is that? This is one patient sewing machine to be gone from her home for almost an entire year but that time is coming to a close. She's quite the beauty now and running so much better. Who will be the next one to get a new paint job? I have two candidates: the Phoenix that I have planned on repainting from the start (but used the Singer 66 as the first one to experiment on and the Pfaff 130 because I need to get the big cabinet out of the garage) and maybe a fun one by repainting a Singer 99. I bought paint to match for the Phoenix, a nice sage green but the Singer 99 could be either a pink or a spring green. I know we voted earlier for a black repainting but I just can't bring myself to paint it black after the last two black repaints. I need more color in my life!

Stay tuned...

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Light as a Feather

It pays to be polite and persistent. This little saying paid off in a big way this holiday weekend (Happy Independence Day, America!) when I got a text from a number that wasn't in my directory. No message but a media download so I clicked to find a Singer sewing machine in two photos. Not just any Singer, but a 221 known as a Featherweight. There was a message with the last photo asking if I was still interested. That was a bit of an understatement but who was this???? Then I remembered someone from the winter of 2014 with a text and machine but it never panned out because her husband didn't get it out of the garage storage area. I guess I didn't really forget since it only took about 20 seconds to recall this transaction. It was now out of deep storage and I could come and get it. We discussed price and I went over the next morning.

It was a longer drive than I like to make but for a Featherweight I would make an exception. They were coming back from breakfast out with a tiny tot in tow so I waited a bit in their newly minted neighborhood. Sure enough, in their immaculate garage as only new home owners can have (white walls?) they produce a box marked "Antique Sewing Machine." There she was, without a case or any accessories and with two foot controls. Oops: one belonged to her own newer sewing machine that she apparently hadn't used since they moved there a couple years ago before baby arrived. Upon inspection I note it's just dirty from storage but it's missing the bobbin casing:

Singer 221 with missing bobbin casing
We get it plugged in and she runs very slow but I would be a bit slow if I had been in storage through several Minnesota winters in a garage. The aluminum inside looks passable, just in need of cleaning and no real disintegration. I asked why she didn't want it, maybe she really did need to keep it as her husband suggested, but she said no, it was her grandmothers passed down through her mother but no, again, she just didn't want it. I didn't press the issue in case there was some long ago baggage she didn't want to open up about her relationship with her family but please note that I did at least ask her to reconsider. Really, I did ask. Then we exchanged cash for the machine and I walked very quickly to my car. You can imagine my excitement!
Singer 221 aka Featherweight: ain't she sweet?
So here she is at home, all cleaned up and waiting for a new bobbin case that was ordered within the hour. I drove straight to my daughter Kelly's and we talked about our recent sewing (me) and home improvement (her) projects. She walked me to my car and I told her she needed to see this little darling and she was too polite to say no. Her eyes got round with the wonder of this darling and commented "Wow, they really are light, and cute, too" while I stifled my I-told-you-so. We might make a vintage sewing machine user out of her yet!

When home and cleaned up (there was much fuzz and thread wound around the bobbin and hook) I ran her again and now the motor sprang to life.  Her decals are very intact, a better specimen than the last Singer 221 I had (and sold) but none of the extras we come to love. I have an extra buttonholer and a box of accessories but will have to order bobbins. No case is very worrisome but there are other solutions, such as a metal box from Harbor Freight but this I will leave to the buyer of this honey. I plan to get in touch with a former customer who said she was looking for a Featherweight to see if she still wants one and from there will rack my brain to see who else mentioned she wanted one.Here's the rest of her lovely looks:
Singer 221 back

Singer 221 birdseye view
I need to see how she runs so I borrow a bobbin case from the Singer 301 that is waiting in the living room (waiting for what?) and find out she sews a perfect stitch. Perfect.

May this holiday weekend find you in good sewing spirits, too!