Sunday, February 28, 2016


Hobbies have a way of morphing into side-hobbies, those things we collect in support of or as an enhancement of the original hobby. Sewing machine lovers also collect miniature or child sized sewing machines, thimbles, wooden thread spools, even yardsticks with local business imprints. In my case, I have become the owner of two sewing machine music boxes.

The first one came from a co-worker who found it while visiting her parents in Oklahoma. When she spied it she knew she just had to bring it back for me. I was charmed and not at all dismayed that it no longer produced music because my husband and I had already worked on restoring a music box that is his mothers. For her 90th birthday we gave her a music box that played Ave Maria and she told us the story of a music box her husband gave her years ago that no longer worked. I asked to see it and thought we might be able to restore it, having a broken music movement and missing a few of the pieces that would latch the box. As it was dissected, we discovered the spring that winds up to drive the pin drum (the part with the notes for the song) was broken. That is a fatal error so we just bought a new movement that played the same tune. We had it all in pieces so could see how it worked so the new music box was less of a mystery. This new one showed signs of rust so it got a gentle cleaning and a dose of sewing machine oil. Nothing much happened but with Christmas decorations coming out it was pushed into a back corner of a shelf.

As Christmas decorations were put away at the end of January (you read that right: the end of January) I picked up the little sewing machine music box to find the key turning! It was trying to play the tune but not a note came out of it. Only three screws held it together so I opened it up again to find the comb was not in place. I wound it up, moved the comb so it could hit the notes to produce the tune. This took a couple of tried but it finally played and sounded quite nice. It only needed a band to represent the leather belt of a treadle and it was as good as new. I brought it back into work to show my co-worker and she was delighted, as I was, too.

This led to another musical sewing machine, just one I found on Ebay, but a delightful one anyway. Have you even felt the pressure of an auction ending in less than 8 minutes and you just discovered this marvelous item? Quick research showed this music box was worth twice the asking price so I dove in and got it. Just a bit of cleaning up, adding a tiny spool of thread at the top, and she was as good as new.

Maybe you have started collecting some items that relate to your hobbies or maybe those collections are actually the hobby and not the original hobby. Okay, that just got confusing, but you get the idea. I also have some children's sewing machines that are intriguing but just not too practical for use but there's no chance they will become more important than my vintage sewing machines. Yet.

What tune is played on those little music boxes? You haven't guessed yet? It's the 1947 hit recorded by Dinah Shore titled  Buttons & Bows, of course.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Zig Zagging Along

A recent post on a Facebook sewing page showed a zig zag attachment for a Kenmore sewing machine and I became intrigued. So those straight stitch models can zig zag after all? Well, that depends. Singer came out with a zig zag attachment years ago and one came with my own beloved Singer 99 gifted to me by my next door neighbors. I did try it out at the time but memory grows dim over time so maybe it was a good substitute for a full zig zag sewing machine? After all, the buttonhole attachment kits are wonderful so why not the zig zag attachments?

Checking Ebay for said Kenmore zig zag attachments, I found several that were going to be under $15 with S&H included so maybe I should try one! In the listing was also the Chadwick zig zagger and I remembered I had one already, part of a group of supplies that came in a machine this past year. I set up a Singer 99 in crinkle finish and got it installed:

Chadwick model in a pretty small box
It's not too much to look at, installing like a buttonholer or a ruffler (but it's so shiny!)
Back screw adjusts for width, only adjustment available.
As you can see by the sample above and below, it's not a great zig zag stitch:

Widest width and closest stitch
Not too great is it?  The way it works is to move the fabric left and right since the needle cannot move in those directions to form the typical zig zag. This means it's not going to work too well on a variety of fabrics but the firm woven should be ideal. So on to the Singer zig zagger attachment. Here it is in the original box with 4 cams for the different styles of stitches:

Singer Zig Zagger
With this model you have choices, which is nice but still not a great improvement:
Singer Zig zagger in action
Cams lined up with the stitches they made
The gold stitching is brighter in person so I apologize for the faintness of the stitches but they are uneven at best and these were the best it could do with a lot of adjusting. It's a far cry from the Singer 401 models and their fine zig zag and we won't even get into Bernina and its superb stitching. Would I use this with a straight stitch model? Maybe if that was all I had and needed to use a zig zag stitch to do some mending but at one time this probably was all some women had and were excited and grateful to have even this much.

Am I going to order one of those Kenmore zig zag attachments? I don't think so...but if one comes with a sewing machine one day I will give it a whirl to see if it's worth it's salt. Until then, I'll stitch with built in stitches or learn to mend without a zig zag stitch. See how spoiled I am?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Little of This and That

It was the "love weekend" with Valentine's Day and I have a bunch of little things to tell you, not enough for a blog post on each one so here goes:

I got an email through my blog from Brook who reads my posts as a wanna-be vintage sewing machine user. That's how she described herself to me so my quizzical look prompted her to tell me that she thought she would like sewing, bought a nice sewing machine with many bells and whistles, tried to use it, but just didn't take to sewing as she had hoped. Maybe she needed to try a different sewing machine? In the process of looking she came upon a Singer 15-91 in a dumpster. Now, that's not the usual place to look and I don't ask too many questions, but she found out this probably wasn't her dream machine either. Would I like to buy if from her? she brought it over and I looked it over to find it didn't have scary/dangerous electrical connections and the hand wheel moved freely. I thought I could clean it up but it was missing the bobbin case, one of those with the metal "finger" pointing to the left, the 11 o'clock position. I had to order a few of those since I was fresh out of stock but I got her cleaned up:

Singer 15-91: clear coat nearly gone, finish on cabinet, too.
The cabinet needs to be refinished but at least it hasn't been painted and will be an easy strip down job this summer. It was a win-win for Brook and myself but I'm hoping I can interest Brook in the next offering of how-to-use-your-vintage-sewing-machine class at the Fridley Community Center in April. Another listing is going out for a one night session for only $21 so people, please sign up!

Along with sewing machines coming in the door, sometimes I have a revolving door. Ernie was making modified hunting gear and wanted a machine that would pierce some very thick layers of webbing. He brought over some samples of what he was hoping to do and we tried out the Consew industrial and a Singer 15-91 and for his money he went with the 15-91. As always, I guarantee my machines if they do not perform or you find it's just not the machine for you. Yup, that one is coming back mainly because he already had a Kenmore that worked just as hard. Without a compelling reason to have another machine that would do the same thing, he decided it needed to be returned. We were hoping for some bonding with that beautiful machine but, alas, there was no love and I have to sing the old Dean Martin song "Return to Me."

Valentine's Day is a time for a party so why not have a Star Wars theme? You might have read about the Star Wars new movie celebration we had at my work for Study Day in December so my pastor got wind of it and asked if they could use some of the props. Of the 40 people who came there were about a dozen of us in costume Sunday night with robes and capes with light sabers in hand. My husband wore the Obi Wan Kenobi costume I made up for the library display
Star Wars props
 and I looked over photos and decided I could come up with an outfit for Rey:

Rey character from Star Wars
It was pretty easy to find cargo pants, neutral shirt, a couple of brown belts, and brown boots. To make the draping (to keep out the desert sand?) I found a long piece of sheer fabric, probably a swag for a curtain rod, that I could use. It came together pretty easily except for the army bag on her belt but I had some fabric that would work and made my own bag. I liked making the blanket stitch on my Viking 1100:
Cool blanket stitch!

We won't be going to a casting call but it was still a lot of fun:
Obi Wan (Jim) with Rey (Karen)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Petal Power

I own a very nice Singer 66 "Red Eye" treadle sewing machine that I rarely use. This makes me sad. With so many other sewing machines it seems a treadle on another floor of the house is just not convenient enough for me to use on a regular basis but that has temporarily stopped. I've joined the TreadleOn Functional Bag TOBE. TOBE stands for TreadleOn Block Exchange, an event where you make a series of quilt blocks on your treadle or hand-crank sewing machine that you can exchange with others except this time it's not quilt blocks but a bag that you can really use. Functional means one that is big enough to carry things home from shopping or carry things for...whatever! I thought this would be a great project and one way to get me to use my Singer Red Eye.

Looking over my vast amount of fabric, I found a box of five inch squares I had cut for the jar pincushion project that didn't get too far. I made more than a dozen but they didn't sell too well and I haven't made any more. The fabrics seemed like a good choice for a bag so I divided them into color groups, downloaded a pattern, and got cutting and sewing. Here's the first bag in the process of planning:
Random placement of squares isn't always the best idea...
First bag done but not well done
Thank goodness you can't see it close up to see how my piecing ability needs more practice and generally using this pattern so that it turns out respectably. I discovered my treadle doesn't backstitch, not a deal breaker, but still a hindrance at times. I also got sore shoulders while treadling so think I need to watch my posture and possibly get a different chair. Okay, so I can write this off as lesson-to-be-learned and start on the next one. This time I make the 3 inch squares into a defined pattern that is repeated, I add width to the bag by adding two rows of squares, and make the bag taller, too:
Bag 2 planning process is more organized
Bag 2 pieced pocket over actual bag fabric
The sewing of the blocks and joining came out so much better this time so the end product looks much more professional (or at least like I know what I'm doing). As it turns out, wider was better but not taller: the proportions are off. I had to cut off the two inches I added on. Adding the bias tape edge along the pocket and repeating it on the top was a good way to pull the bottom design into the top and then adding the folded triangles was a very nice finishing touch. My husband even suggested matching the triangles with the squares, a bit of inspiration that looked good in the end. Handles out of folded hem facing with self-made bias tape finished it off:

Bag 2 finished!
Inside I added a bottom panel to cover up the raw edge of the seam and thick triangle points that resulted when making it flat on the bottom. I didn't quilt it with batting but used interfacing for both the pocket and bag itself so each part is lined and quilted. I'm happy with the way it turned out but think it might be just a bit too fancy to be considered a functional bag but why can't functional be beautiful. too?

Onto the third bag in green fabric. Several had peach accents but I'm trying to play down the peach and give more attention to the green and brown tones. Green bias tape just didn't match so I found some cocoa brown and then tan for the handles. I am getting better at this and I like the larger size of the green tote:
Bag 3 finished with tan handles and brown trim
It seems I have made small, medium, and large in my experimentation:
Back left is green (large), middle is pink (medium), and front is blue (smallest)
The green tote is 18" wide and 16" tall when laid flat, the pink tote is 13" wide by 15" tall, and the blue tote is 11" wide by 15" tall. The green tote is by far the most functional and will be sent to the coordinator of the TreadleOn Functional Bag TOBE. What about the other two? Here's where you come in: I'm going to give away the pink tote (shades of pink, teal, and blue) to one of my faithful SMMavin readers. Just make a comment or send an email before Feb. 14 and I will count up the responses in the order they were received (by time stamp), divide by half, and the one who falls smack in the middle will get the tote in the mail. Ready for a contest? Just let me know of your interest by commenting on this post or via email. Don't want pink and blue? You might have to join the TreadleOn.

Now how about all of those red, white, and blue fabrics that I've accumulated? Do I see another functional bag tote coming up? You bet!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Getting Fancy

I haven't been too excited about embroidery sewing machines because the end product usually doesn't impress me. Either it's too amateurish or looks too much like mass production. Then a classic Viking Husqvarna #1+ came to me (as if it dropped out of the sky?) and I found out it would embroider with an attachment. I love its predecessor, the Viking 1100 with its interchangeable cassettes, then came the #1 with interchangeable cassettes, but an improved version of the 1100. Hey, if you are named #1 there are high hopes for performance but the #1+ is just that: numero uno with extras. Of course, I had to find the embroidery unit. Here's the one I found, complete with extra cassettes:
Carry case with unit on right, cassettes on left (so many!)
Putting all of it together, I had cassettes A (on machine), B, C, D, E, F, L, M, N and 1. In order to use the unit, I needed a computer card that matched the number card so I was on the hunt for a #1 card. This is not to be confused with a cassette:
Cassette on top and the card on the bottom
After looking for a few weeks I found not only one but two at reasonable prices so I waited with baited breath for the one I ordered from Etsy. It came on a busy day but I found time at 10:30 pm to get things all set up and here's what I tried:
No. 20 and 24 from cassette #1
That is a simple outline design, suggested use for quilt motifs, with a floral spray overlaid. It worked! There were a few lessons along the way (need to slide the hoop onto the arm) and much practice but now I need that shiny embroidery thread. That lead me to a site where I WON $100! That's right, I got an email in December telling me my name was put in a drawing for a free gift  at Sewing Machines Plus because I reviewed one of their products. I did? For $100 you bet I did! Here's what I ordered:

I'm waiting for the thread (back ordered) but I'm very pleased with new scissors. I wanted to get something that I normally wouldn't buy for myself but would be great to have so the thread and scissors fit the bill but my practical side came out with the serger needles. Will I shop at SewingMachinesPlus now that I've spent my gift? I will check there and shop their sales but I don't buy new sewing machines online. I don't buy new sewing machines at all but there are always foot controls and presser feet needed for the vintage sewing machines.

Here's one last look at the Viking Husqvarna #1+ with the embroidery unit installed with hoop, ready to go:
What's next? I think I'm going to read the instructions over and over again and get stitching something fancy!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


A sewing machine blog should only be about sewing, right? I'm going to break my own rule and write about knitting for this one blog post. Although I've been sewing longer than knitting, I did learn to knit when I was ten, getting help from a friends' aunt. A long time ago I knit a sweater for a boyfriend that was by far my biggest project to date that has somewhat stood the test of time:
Green cable-knit sweater 1971
Pattern from McCalls Needlework & Crafts Winter 1971-72
 It was hidden away in a drawer until I saw the exact same sweater on a teenage girl when I was at the checkout counter at JoAnn's Fabrics in DeKalb, Illinois. I remarked that her sweater looked very familiar and she said it was her dad's and her mom let her wear it: she was just loving it! I went home and brought mine out of a bottom drawer and showed it to my own teenage daughter who said she would love to wear it so it went into her drawer. It traveled over the years with her through many jobs and moves and at one point I even re-sewed the seams. Finally it was just too delicate to be worn anymore as it was wool that probably wasn't the best of quality but all I could afford at the time. Fast forward a few decades and I get the itch to knit for my daughter again and we both agree a new sweater from that old pattern would be great. We pick out the yarn online together and find a color that closely matched the original but with less yellow in the green.
Old Sweater on left, new on right
  I've been knitting on that sweater since June 2013, taking the front completely apart since it was turning out too small. Sewing machines and their demand on my spare time pushed this project to the back burner but cold weather and a new-to-us series on PBS, A Place to Call Home, finally got me to sit down and knit. Even when the knitting was done I needed to block each piece:
Sleeve pinned to ironing board for wet cloth steaming

and then the final sewing together of the entire sweater, weaving in the loose ends. But it is done:
2016 edition (sorry about the color: it's really green!)

I sent my daughter a text telling her I had a package for her: when could we meet up? Today she came over to my work and we had lunch together but only after she got a look at the sweater and modeled it for me:
Kelly in her new 1971/2016 sweater
It was everything she wanted it to be and this time it was knit with a better yarn with Cascade 220 Superwash in color 1919 (Turtle). It really was a joy to work with this yarn and nice to have a project that was going to give a loved one so much joy. So this blog post might not be about sewing machines but it is about stitching and a love of the process as well as the product. And, yeah, a love for the girl who will wear it!