Sunday, September 27, 2015


Here it is: the end of the big sewing machine garage sale weekend. That's right, it was the whole weekend! We started out setting up on Friday when I got home at 11 am and rolled into bed at midnight. Up again at 7 am to get it all set up with tables full of fabrics, patterns, various other garage sale items, and husband taking signs out to the nearby intersections. It looked like this:

Please don't comment about the thermal cup on the cabinet: it was set down just to hold the camera!

So many machines, so little time.

All in all, there were 21 cabinets with machines, 2 empty cabinets, and maybe 20 portable sewing machines on the center table and back work area. Honestly, it's pretty easy to lose count of what was advertised and what was actually out for display. Many people stopped because there was a sign and were flabbergasted when they looked into the garage and saw only sewing machines. The questions and comments were:

  • Are you a collector?
  • Is this a business?
  • Wow, you really like to sew.
  • Do people still sew?
  • I've never seen so many before!
My fellow co-workers were needed to answer questions while I discussed features of various sewing machines. I think we could have all just sat around and talked sewing and sewing machines even without the sales. At the end of Saturday we had to pull everything inside, pull up the signs, and head off to dinner with a gift card we were holding on to for far too long. This was a night for no cooking. We decided to reopen on Sunday afternoon since we were all set up and the weather was so beautiful but we were in for a few surprises.

We were not as busy on Sunday but had a delightful conversation with a dog groomer than knew my husband and he remembered bringing his dog to her over 15 years ago. She ended up falling in love with the compact cabinet that housed a wonderful Kenmore:
Kenmore 158-1430
I could hardly blame her but she had to go shopping before she could come back but she did come back, bringing her husband to help. In the meantime, I got a surprise visit from a cousin and her husband as they were heading back up to Moorhead. We had texted late the night before about sergers but mine sold out yet she came anyway! Brenda and Greg had never been to our house so you can imagine the surprise for both of us: me to see her in my driveway and her to see me with a garage full of sewing machines. Somehow words just can't describe what forty sewing machines of all makes and models would look like. SURPRISE! The Bernina 530 in it's pristine cabinet was calling to her but Greg wasn't hearing the music just yet and I could hardly blame him since the cabinet is pretty large:
Bernina 530 cabinet
We said farewells while making another sale but it sure was fun to see them again. We stayed open until almost 6 pm but finally had to close shop, clear out the driveway, retrieve signs, and even mow the front yard that had been neglected because of the garage sale. Dinner was a picked up pizza and man, did it taste good!

The big question still remains: how did we do? My husband accountant is totaling up the sales and I'm walking through which sewing machines sold, the important part:
  • 2 sergers
  • 4 cabinet models
  • 4 portable models
That still leaves 15 cabinets out in the garage (sigh) but for a total of ten sold I think that's a pretty big deal. Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to take a shower and hit the sack before I fall over. Winter is coming and I've got to plan how to get both cars back into the garage but that's for another day.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Sweet Smell of Success

There are far too many projects that don't come to a satisfactory conclusion so it's a breath of fresh air when things finally fit into place. Once such item was the industrial gray Kenmore 158-840:

Kenmore 158-840
I found it in a cabinet at a local thrift shop but the cabinet legs were falling off yet I loved the look of the machine. I've lost tract of the cabinet (did it get tossed? is it the same cabinet the machine is currently in?) but the machine had something weird going on. Straight stitch was fine but the zigzag made a clicking noise that didn't sound like anything I would want to put up with. Looking under the hood (yes, sewing machines can be like automobiles), I could see a screw was loose. At that point I thought it was missing the nut because I could not feel it underneath. Although it sounds like the Kenmore 84 needs psychotherapy, instead it sat for weeks in the garage and I think I was hoping for some kind of healing or inspiration.
Green arrows for stitch width lever and hook, red arrow for screw with loose nut

With the pressure of the garage sale looming, I opened it up again, removed the cam mechanism, exposed the loose screw only to find the specialized nut was there. I got it all tightened up, put everything back...but now the zig zag lever did not engage the mechanism. I had to walk away but managed to intrigue my husband in my plight the next night. I knew he would look at it differently and, sure enough, he could see where the lever should engage. Not only did it come together perfectly, it made a perfect stitch. Cams were ordered (it takes B cams, a bit more scarce than the green C cams that are the norm) and I hope they arrive in time.This is one nice sewing machine with all metal gears, a very quiet and smooth operation, and the shiny dark gray exterior only adds to its handsomeness!

Only last week I reported on a Singer 15-91 that I picked up without a power cord.  I refinished the cabinet, putting the final coat of polyurethane on this morning before I went to work. Only the top needed to be refinished on both sides of the leaves and I was leery of only a partial job. I was also cautious of the large patch that probably had water damage since they don't always turn out as hoped. Well, my fears were put to rest because the cabinet's original finish came right off and did not seem to leave any kind of permanent marks! Wow, this is really nice, especially with a matching bench seat. All in all, it was an excellent find that cleaned up quite well. As I put it back together and started to actually get it to sew there seemed to be a bit of a hitch in its giddy-up. Oiling helped but it still had a spot that was sticking. The hair blower/dryer finally came out and I turned the hand wheel  and blew the heat into the back and bottom openings. It started to loosen up but while I had it turned over I found a tiny hole I hadn't noticed before. Oil was added as well as additional heat: voila! It turned smooth as can be. The electrical was hooked back up and I let it run to disperse the oil and she's happy again. So am I.

Where's the damage now?

Singer 15-91 oh so sweet!

Sewing Machine Garage Sale

This is it: here is the list of the machines that will be on my big sale, along with prices. Are there more? Yes, but I just can't bring everyone one out from the house so will have the best I have with a good variety of features, at a wide price range. What does that mean? Something for everyone!

Cabinet models: all cabinets/tables are in decent shape and some are refinished, some with benches or chairs, too!
Signature UHT-J276 $40
Singer 237 $40
Kenmore 32 (lilac) $60
Singer 185K $60
Elgin Rotary (bronze) $60
White 844 $60
Necchi Mira $75
Kenmore 148-27 $75
Kenmore 158-84 (industrial gray, very cool) $75
Singer 15-90 $100
Kenmore 158-17032 (monogrammer, buttonholer, accessories) $125
Kenmore 158-1430 in compact cabinet $125
Singer 15-91 in Queen Anne cabinet $150
Singer 99 (portable with table) $150
Singer 401A $150
Singer 99 in table with bentwood case $150
Singer 301 tan short bed (includes cradle, full set of accessories, buttonholer) $175
Bernina Record 530 $200
Pfaff 130 in Art Deco cabinet $325

Portable Models: all come in cases unless noted
Singer 347 (aqua) $40
Hamilton Zig Zag (blue) $40
Necchi Alco 500 $50
Singer Spartan $60
Singer 328K $60
Pfaff Hobby $60
Free Westinghouse (custom wood base, no top) $60
MN Round Bobbin (head only) $75
Singer 99 Krinkle finish with black accessories (no lid for case) $60
Singer 306 $75
Kenmore 158-19804 (huge amount of accessories) $80
Singer 99 in bentwood case $100
Singer 404 $100
Singer 403 $100
Singer 99 Handcrank in bentwood case $125
Singer 20`1-2 (head only) $125
Elna 5000 Electronic $175
Bernina 807 $200
Singer 221 (Featherweight) $300
Singer 221 (Featherweight) $325

What? No photos? With a list this long it would take quite some time to attach all of the photos but you can check back in my earlier posts as I recount tales of finding these sewing machines and what it took to bring them back into service. No shipping: you have to come for the experience! Garage is pretty cleaned up and I have sewing volunteers coming to help: Jane (who got her Bernina via pony-express from Chicago this summer), Ellie (buy and giving sewing machines to Haiti for her women's project), and Natalie (who finds great boxes of attachments and vintage fabrics for me) for which I'm already grateful for their generous spirits.

Many are planning on coming and we are going to have a good time, too, with sewing extras for sale (patterns, fabric, magazines, some random accessories), along with a smattering of regular garage sale items for the rest of the crowd. Come to meet my (almost) 90 year old mother-in-law who is coming just to meet all of you. Yup: sewing is social!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

She's the Queen

Apparently, I'm into Queen Anne these days. Let me clarify that: I'm into Queen Anne cabinets along with their matching stools. It all started with a friend finding a Singer 15-90 in a Queen Anne no. 40 cabinet that was almost being given away. It was a pretty nice piece, sewing machine and cabinet, so I decided it would be worthwhile to refinish the cabinet. Although it turned out spectacularly, it didn't have the matching stool. <sigh> It was so near to being complete. I had another Singer 15-91 with the beloved potted motor for gear to gear action but the cabinet didn't get refinished and maybe I was feeling just a little guilty yet I just can't refinish them all!
Singer 15-90 in cabinet #40 Queen Anne (refinished)
Singer 15-91's cabinet #40 (not getting refinished)
Imagine my joy when I found another Singer 15-91 in a Queen Anne cabinet with a matching stool for a give-away price. Why? It was missing the power cord so they didn't know if it worked. I made an appointment and went over after work to check it out with a spare power cord in hand. You bet it worked even though it was a bit dirty and cobwebby underneath. The cabinet's horizontal surfaces need help so I hope to get them refinished but the vertical surfaces are in great shape plus that stool so I don't think it's going to be too big of a job. Nice weather is running out here in Minnesota and that garage sale is closing in so I have to hurry!
Cabinet #40 Queen Anne's top closed

Cabinet #40 top open: she's gonna take some work!

While talking with the sellers (isn't there always a story behind these sewing machines?) I find out it was one of their mother's and she died eleven years ago. They certainly didn't know how many years before then it was idle but it was safe to assume it sat quiet and lonely for a couple decades. They were glad I knew what to do with their mother's sewing machine and it was going to sew again because she made all their clothes and it had seen much use. Well, it was in such good shape I had to wonder about that but maybe she didn't wear a watch to scrape along the bed or use a pin rag on the arm to leave pinpricks. The decals are clear and intact and the bed is in excellent shape. Humm. They also had a piano they couldn't give away so the man of the house spent several hours earlier that day breaking it up into pieces and hauling it out of the basement to the dump. At this I tried not to think too far ahead to when my family would find my possessions so much crap to dispose of, but we have a family piano that I hope never gets busted up for the trash. Vintage sewing machines: trash to some is treasure to another. I'm going to make these beauties priced low because they should be used and used daily. Weekly. Monthly? I'll settle for often.
Singer 15-91 before cleaning
I try not to be too snarky but when you see the initial condition of these marvelous sewing machines and cabinets and then how great they look in the end, it's not without skill and a time investment that gets them to this state. Am I going to sell them for only $20 more than my original cost? Probably not. Am I going to charge an exorbitant cost just because they are antiques? No. They are working vintage machines that need to be used and I've brought them into that usable condition and provided a clean smooth work surface. If you would like to do that work yourself you can easily buy sewing machines on Craigslist as I do and save yourself some money. Don't have the skill or interest in repairing them? Come to me and I can find one for you but they aren't going to be nearly free. Yup, it's your choice. I would love to teach classes on how to do what I do but it's not practical and then who would buy my machines? Ah, we are all in this together, huh?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

New Friends

Saturday was a busy sewing machine day with an invitation to talk at a quilt group meeting about vintage sewing machines. What fun! My favorite topic! It took me some time to figure out what I wanted to say and then to pick the sewing machines to illustrate my points. Here's what the table looked like:

How many can you name?
I talked about metal versus plastic, gears and belts, decals and chrome, longevity and self maintained sewing machines. Of course, I had business cards and fliers about my sewing machine garage sale so it was a bit self-serving but I think we all had fun. Everyone came up afterwards to ask questions about the models, lost foot controls, and would I hold models until the sale. I went around the room to talk with some of the women and found this lovely lady with her vintage sewing machine:

"Can you fix the bobbin winder?"
She confessed the bobbin winder wouldn't work anymore so I asked if I could look inside the front cover. Inside? She never had the cover off before, never serviced, never oiled. Here's what we found:
Bobbin winder tire: flat spot!
There was a flat spot on the bobbin winder tire, probably because it got stuck in one place due to a lack of oil over the years. As it tried to wind, it just got worn down in one place to produce that flat spot. I grabbed one off of my Brother Select-o-Matic and it was a great fit. Voila! It was working again. I forgot my sewing machine oil at home so I showed her where she could oil it herself. One very happy lady at the end of the day (me, too).

It was a great time talking about these vintage sewing machines and everyone seemed more than just polite but interested in what they might use another sewing machine for. The bottom line: every single sewing machine produced an excellent stitch. Of course. I hope to see several of these wonderful quilting women at the garage sale.

After leaving the quilting group, I spent the afternoon with Ellie on her Haiti project. Here's what I found in her garage:
Garage for Haiti?
There were at least six treadle sewing machines (2 White, one Franklin, and the rest Singers), a Singer 457, and a Kenmore 158-16?? (I'm not sure about the exact number anymore). The Kenmore got a good looking over with clean-up, oiling, and adjustment while the treadles were just checked to see if they were good candidates to send. Yup! All were in good working order and just needed cleaning and a new belt. Accessories in the drawers didn't always match the machine but we sorted them all out, matching up the right bobbins and feet for each one. In only a few hours time my work was done although I left behind all of that packing. There are several vehicles in the driveway that will hold all of this and they should be shipped in the next few weeks and received in November. Wow, this is quite a project. Somehow it made me feel better about the sewing machines in my garage but I'm afraid mine are not going to get shipped anywhere.

If you live in the Twin Cities please plan on coming to the extravaganza Sewing Machine Garage Sale on September 26!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Compact and Cute

One of the ways I like to find sewing machines is through Goodwill Online Auction. If I can find one that is to-die-for I can offer more because I don't have to deal with shipping and handling charges. Recently I got a cabinet model because it was local pick-up only and was one I was intrigued by, Another cabinet with a built-in chair:

After the cleanup and refinished top
I'm just a sucker for this type of cabinet and hoped the sewing machine was "worthy" or I could find one that was. Unfortunately, it was a run-of-the-mill straight stitch Domestic 725 that wasn't very appealing to me. Due to the opening being a sharp cornered rectangle, it was only going to fit an older Kenmore and a few other models. Still, I have many Kenmore's and hoped I could find one that was worth such a great set-up. Here she is:
Kenmore 158-1430
Only the top leaf was in poor shape so it was stripped and sanded, given two coats of stain to try and match the deep red of the original finish, with two coats of semi-gloss polyurethane. The rest of the cabinet only needed to be cleaned up, leaving just a quarter sized white mark on the inside where your hand might rest while sewing. I don't want to mess up that slick finish so I decided to leave it as-is: no one is pretending it's a new cabinet. The seat with two drawers for storage is flat wood and probably uncomfortable for long periods of time. I decided to make a new cushion for it using some nice indoor/door cushion fiber and even adding piping for the trim. Did I need to add that? Probably not but it's a skill I need to work on and this was a good example of necessary skill building. True confession: I'm not good at piping!

My love for these compact cabinets started when I found a beloved Phoenix in one that I completely refinished. It languished on Craigslist but it was kept in my kitchen and I learned to walk around it and admire it on a daily basis. I got a call last week and it was sold in just a brief interaction with a very nice couple from one of the Twin Cities suburbs. After looking at the above cabinet and comparing it to the Phoenix, he announced she would now have to make a decision. She liked the look of the Phoenix cabinet the best and it was sold. After we sealed the deal they confessed it was probably going to be used to hold a bird cage. I must have blanched because they said they would have a piece of glass cut to protect the top and she was only an occasional seamstress and this would do nicely.
Phoenix 283 in compact cabinet

Lesson learned: don't get too attached to a project unless you are going to keep it!

Monday, September 7, 2015

In a Line-Up

I finally got my little girl dresses all done, photographed, and posted in my Etsy Shop. Whew! It took almost as long to get the posting done as it had to make each dress but once you get the method down for posting it goes a tad easier. Here's the line-up:
Sweet Pea (first 2), Ava (next 3), Ellen (next 4), to unnamed!
It seems a bit off season to me for all of these summer dresses to finally get posted but I remind myself that it will be summer weather into October somewhere south. I posted the link on Facebook on the Vintage Sewing Machines group and got a lot of views and even a suggestion that my prices are too low. I agree but wonder if my competition is Zulily where this is just an average price. Maybe if they sell I can raise my prices? A lead loss item? Clearly, marketing is not a strong suit of mine. I seem to sell better when people know me and want to make a connection (or just feel sorry for me? I hope not!)

The cabinets in the garage are coming along wonderfully with both complete strip jobs done and machines installed and working. Yea! Here's the Singer 15-91 in the Queen Anne cabinet:
BEFORE Singer cabinet #40 Queen Anne style
AFTER Singer cabinet #40 Queen Anne style

I had to struggle to get the top leaves adjusted but I think they are pretty good by now. One of my goals with the cabinets and why I refinish them is to have a very smooth surface for sewing. When the finish is flaking off I don't like to sew on that kind of a surface and a doubt that anyone does. If I can get it ultra smooth then I think I've accomplished something.

Nice smooth surface!

Singer 15 (blackside) in refinished Queen Anne cabinet

Here's the Combination Table No. 301, not for a Singer 301 but for a Singer 99 in a bentwood case:
Singer 99 in #301 combination table
Bentwood top removed: voila! a Singer 99!
This is a table or you can remove the sewing machine and cart it around as a portable:
See that space it fits into?
It is really pretty clever but I don't think it was too popular. This is a model that uses the knee lever that fits into the hole on the portable base (see right end) but it's a bit odd: there were two levers included:
Portable lever on left, table lever on right
Due to the angle of the lever and the table itself, you need the straighter lever for the table set-up and the curved model when you have it as a portable. I'm so glad this one came with everything, including the box of accessories that fits up into the bentwood case. There's tiny drawer in the table but it is really only for style as it can't hold very much. Maybe that's why women had those sewing baskets and chairs with storage!

For now I can start to clean up the garage and think I have all of the cabinets done, Oh, wait, there's the Necchi cabinet that still needs wood filler and a finish for the top leaves. Oh, well, there's still time before the big Sewing Machine Garage Sale!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Stumbled Upon

Every weekend brings another adventure, it seems. I was all ready to go to a local shop after work and try out a Viking that was only $15 because it was missing the power cord. I had the cord at home but it was a Viking model number that I wasn't very excited about so there was no rush. Before I left home I checked the local Craigslist ads and saw a Singer 401A in what appeared to be an excellent cabinet for a fair price. It had been listed two weeks ago! How did I miss that? I set up an appointment to stop on my way home from work and the Viking was forgotten (opposite end of my journey).

The Singer 401A was in great shape, gently used, but the dials for the stitches A-J and K-S were not moving. Hummmm. Would oil and a hair dryer take care of that? I hoped so but offered less and they were only too happy to get that cabinet out of their garage and into my car.

On the way home, not wanting to wait too long in traffic, I took a back way and ran into several garage sales. I bought some very nice rubber feet to use on portables and caps to use on cabinet legs. They are fairly pricey when paying full price but were only twenty cents for each package at this sale. As I got closer to home I found a garage sale with a cute little old Simplicity Babylock SL800 serger. It's a simple (to live up to the name?) one needle, three thread serger but can do a couple different stitches:

Simplicity Babylock SL800 serger

It did sew but didn't cut and I broke the needle while trying to get it to work. Maybe guilt made me buy it but it was "for a song" so I could hardly resist. Once I got it home and started to figure it out, I decided I needed a manual, DC x 1 needles, upper and lower cutting blades, and the stitch finger I broke. Woe, that all came to $37 so my cheap serger was no longer cheap. Yet these older models are such tanks that it's hard to say no when there are no electronics to go bad and they hardly wear out, just need to have some parts updated. I hope this isn't a mistake.

I'm getting ready for the upcoming garage sale at the end of September where I'm going to aggressively sell those cabinet models so I can get my car into the garage for the winter. That means there will be some great deals! In preparation for this event, I'm refinishing cabinets since the weather is cooperating even when my body is not. It's hard work to strip, sand, stain, and varnish/polyurethane so many pieces. Right now there's a Singer 99 in a Combination Table 301 all ready for the final water based polyurethane:

 a Queen Anne cabinet  number 40 for a Singer 15:

top lid for a Kenmore cabinet in cherry with a built in chair, and the top sections of a Necchi that was painted several times in hopes of covering the poor condition of the wood. I only stripped that one and hope to give it a sanding of it's life! All of this leaves my back tired and my hands sore but I do get to rest up between these jobs since they take several days and coats.The worst part is now done and the coats of polyurethane are fairly simple, just putzy when I need to sand between coats. But the end results are pretty spectacular!

Stay tuned to see the finished pieces and the whole garage sale extravaganza!