Thursday, March 31, 2016


I have not created a monster but I did combine two of the same model to make one working machine, giving me that heady feeling of saved another one!  Linn called and asked if I would look at two of her sewing machines and gave me model numbers that didn't exactly match up with models I could find research on. But, several weeks later I finally did get back to her and said I would look at her Singer Graduate model and a Brother XL-530. She walks in with one machine, goes back for the second one, but wait, she has more, and finally comes in with three Singers and one Brother. Wow, did they multiply since our last conversation? Not exactly, but she was hoping to get at least one machine that would work out of the whole lot of them.

One of the Singer's did stitch but when I took the top cover off we could see a cracked nylon gear as part of the zig zag mechanism. It was still working but could go at any time so I didn't think it was worth putting much time into it.

Next up was a Singer 935, two of them to be exact. The first one would not move the fabric and I suspected a cracked gear in the feed dogs. The next one worked much better but it was missing the bobbin cover plate that was, fortunately, on the first 935. This could be a good situation to combine good parts from a broken machine to get the second 935 functioning again. It sounded fine and under the hood it seemed...well, I could not get the cover off. I did manage to find the screw that was holding it on later but I hesitated to take too much of it apart at this stage when I was pretty sure I could just swap parts.

The final machine was the Brother XL-5130 without a foot control or power cord. I found a donor set and could see that it was going to run fine but it wasn't much of a machine to begin with. It was missing the front storage compartment which makes it awkward to sew without a front surface yet most of the free arm Elnas are like this so it was worth keeping.
Brother XL-5130

Now Linn had some decisions to make: which to keep and which ones to let go? She decided to have the Singer 935 complete and running, to donate the Brother to me since I had the foot control cords, and to let the others go. She was going to donate the first Singer and I was going to strip one of the Singer 935's for parts. Her goal was to end up with one working machine and it appears that's what she is getting.
Singer 935: the Graduate
The 935 did take a bit of cleaning up, replacing the missing slide plate that was missing the spring plate to keep the slide plate on the machine. In taking the bottom covers off for cleaning and oiling, I found half a dozen broken needles in each one but not a broken gear to keep those feed dogs moving. Did I misdiagnose? I worked and worked with it to see why it wasn't moving the fabric (yes, the stitch length was set at 3) but I didn't figure it out. I ended up using different top and side covers to use the best looking pieces but she still looks like she's had a difficult life. I suspect these were school models, hence the name Graduate, due to a couple factors: heavy duty three prong plugs on both machines and this funny little contraption over the needle:

I think it's a finger guard to protect you from running your needle into an unsuspecting finger. It's a fairly simple device that swings to the side so you can access the needle for threading, but provides a barrier or a stopping off point before your hand gets any closer to the needle. I've had a serger with a plexiglass-type shield but this one is just a bit more primitive. I kept the one from the donor machine, just in case.

The Brother XL-5130 got cleaned up, oiled, and adjusted for tension but it's just not a really great sewing machine. Lightweight and portable but not very substantial, it will do some minor repairs but I even hate to sell it for a starter sewing machine: will the new sewer walk away from sewing because of the under-performance of this machine? Be it skill or is it equipment that can lead to discouragement? It might sit on the shelf for quite some time.

I had some fun on a cold afternoon listening to books on CD while puttering with my machines and Linn got one sewing machine that will sew fine even if it's not too memorable. She thought maybe she would give it to a young friend. It kept one out of the landfill and maybe would launch someone into a love for sewing. There's always hope.

Monday, March 28, 2016

I Spy

Remember playing that game on a long car trip or on a rainy afternoon? As all collectors know it's a game of I Spy when we set foot in an antique shop, resale store, garage sale, rummage sale, estate sale, or, let's face it, any sale or curbside. A few weeks ago I just couldn't resist stopping on my lunch hour to an outlet store where I was going to get a discount for being a senior citizen. It was crowded with others of the same ilk as we looked for bargains and there it was, with no one around it, a sewing machine cabinet. I walked around it. Opened the top. Yes, there was a machine inside, a Singer, but not one I was familiar with from the backside. As I lifted it up, I knew it was all metal because it was SO HEAVY. I walked away, really I did. I made another circuit of the store and just like a magnet it drew me back. Wires looked good, it had zigzag, everything moved, the price was right, so I took the tag up to the front. They offered to load it into my car but I knew that would take way too much time so I told them if I could take the head out of the cabinet I wouldn't mind taking it out to my car by myself.

Since I carry multiple portable screwdrivers with me, I just loosened the set screws and pulled that heavy head out and took it to my car, coming back for the wood table. I got some pretty funny looks but I'm used to that. I think I found a gem so was excited to get it home and test it out later. Here's the head out of the cabinet:
Singer 223 made in Japan

No kidding, she worked wonderfully, no problems at all, just needed a cleaning and even that wasn't a very big deal. The biggest problem is how heavy she is but what a workhorse she is going to be and she was put out to pasture. I console myself by making up stories of how this might have happened:

Story 1: She sat in a corner of the dining room, had been Aunt Jody's who was gone nearly a decade, and no one in the family knew how to sew. When the dining room got redecorated poor Singer got dropped off at the donation center along with a dozen tablecloths.

Story 2: Mom gets a new sewing machine for Christmas/birthday/Mother's Day and now she doesn't need two sewing machines so old faithful Singer goes to little Mattie's room. Mattie doesn't want a heavy machine like that (after all she is little Mattie) so she whines until it gets taken to the donation center.

Story 3: The Smiths move into their new home only to find a Singer sewing machine in a corner of the basement/garage/attic and don't know what to do with it. It is heavy and they aren't sure about the safety of plugging it in. Mr. Smith takes it to the donation center on his day off.

These stories are based om those I have heard over the years. The one I have heard the most that is heartbreaking to me is when mom/aunt/grandma goes into a memory care facility and no one knows what to do with a sewing machine that she has loved and spend countless hours of her life using. Sometimes there is a bit of guilt over getting rid of something like this but then there are shrugs of what-are-ya-gonna-do and needing to move on. Then there are people on the other end of the spectrum who are looking for a sewing machine just like mom's and I can sometimes produce one for them, just like Anne's request for a Singer 403 in Out and About. That gives me joy and hope for these great vintage sewing machines.

To catch up with the little girl dresses I made for those cuties in Texas and wrote about in Hope of Spring, Carol said they got the dresses and tried them on right away. Ellen's fit just fine but Ava's had some growing room in it so Carol was going to shorten the straps first. Maybe I could build in button holes on the straps with a button the the back bodice to make then easily adjustable. This is why I sent them out for testing! I'm already getting some good feedback. I will keep you posted on further testing in big ol' Texas.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Organizing (Again)

The need to bring order into my work space is a never ending desire and sometimes a battle but last weekend I must have been up for the job because I dug in and got things in shape. Bringing home all that lace, ribbon, and trim was quite overwhelming so it took several tries to get it sorted, resorted, moved, and a final spot to reside. That meant I needed to move the items that were in the way (my own sewing machines), then the items I just didn't need anymore (portable TV and metal table), more sewing machines up on shelves (to take the place of those sold), and a final vacuum cleaning. Here's the fruit of my labor:
Machines ready and not-so-ready
 Note plastic drawers between my own desks have lace & trims
Serger center on dresser with my machines in front
Now that feels good: I can walk through the room and even when an ironing board is set up there is room to move. I can get at things without having to stand on top of anything (well, almost) and this gives me more reason to sell, sell, sell. The sergers are selling nicely so I wanted to make sure the temperamental ones were even ready for sale. Meet Mr. Temperamental Number 1:
Huskylock 800
 I have so liked my Huskylock 1000L that I bought a Huskylock 800 but it has not been too happy. Sometimes when I walk away from a problem I can get back to it with a new solution. Sometimes they are magically healed. I don't know how it happens but it might be the oil has soaked in and now everything is moving or those little elves are at it again but it does happen! I made the usual tension adjustments by stitching long strips and changing the tensions one step at a time but even that wasn't catching the left needle thread. Here's what I adjusted that did work:
Differential, density, width
When I adjusted the differential on the left down a bit the left needle thread picked up! That was the problem: the left needle thread was a straight line and not integrated with the rest of the stitch pattern. Here's a sample of the stitches:
Huskylock 800 4 thread overlock stitch
It's not perfect but pretty good: I'm getting there, finally. This feels like a great success since I know this is a good serger, it could stitch a 3-thread perfectly, rolled hem was good, but that 4-thread was not. Now it is with just one tiny adjustment. Do you think Mr. Temperamental just wanted a clean room before he was ready to work right? Sometimes I think there are things that happen in my sewing room when I'm gone that just defy description. But I don't need to know as long as everyone plays well with each other.

Let's just all get along for a change. They must have read my mind. Now on to the Juki...

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Hope of Spring

March is a difficult month for me. It's not spring, there is still too much winter left, and I never got to take a spring break trip. That's not exactly true since I did go to Florida on one spring break but that was 1997. The month of March is just a tease with warm days (summer!) and snowfall (still winter!) as we head into April showers and it's just too long until we see those May flowers. What's a girl to do? This March I made little girl dresses in spring colors and styles.

Since I don't have a little girl living in my house I need to find out if the dresses I make stand up to repeated washing and wearing. I do have a niece, several in fact, who have little girls just the right size so I got in touch with Carol in Texas to see if she would be a tester for my creations. Promises were made to let her girls wear them (no saving for Sunday only!) and wash with everything else to determine their durability. She is also going to report how they fit, anything she noticed in their construction or style, and comments from her girls.

Ellen is a size 4 and picked out this lively fabric from a photo I sent via Messenger. Using up my vast quantity of lace was in order so it got lace on the bottom flounce and at the arm opening:

Simplicity 1673 front
It was fun to make since I loved the fabric, and I've made it enough times that I know how to shape the circular yoke to it's a better curve, not "jagged" as can happen if you are not careful. I left the lace edges unattached next to the bodice:
but can just as easily attach them if thinking ahead. The back has only a two button closing so it's fairly easy for Ellen to get dressed by herself:
I know, back looks just like the front!
Here's the little added touch, just for Ellen:
her own little purse to match. Doesn't every little girl need to carry something in her little bag? It would be interesting to see what she puts in it: toys? tissue? lip balm?

With Ellen's dress done so quickly I turned to Ava's dress only to discover I couldn't find my book of dress patterns from a Japanese seamstress. I only had two patterns for a size 6 so I ended up using Simplicity 8029 from 1998. How could I update this pattern from almost 20 years ago? I went to my sewing friend, Ann, who suggested adding a ribbon at the waist, skipping the tie sash in the back, and no little jacket. She approved of the heart cotton lace trim and we discussed where to add it. Here's the result:
Simplicity 8029 in pink for Ava
Here's the detail of the bodice:
Hearts at the top edge with grosgrain ribbon at the waist.
The large repeating pattern of hearts meant I had to adjust the width of the top edge so it would come out even but the bottom edge took no finessing and no half hearts:
Note how the edge is shaped like the heart? I zigzagged the edge of each heart and cut away the fabric. How will it stand up to multiple washings? That's what Carol is going to tell me, I hope! Not to be outdone, my husband said if I made a purse for one I would have to make a purse for both. He's right so here's Ava's purse:
I bet Ava knows exactly what she's going to put in her bag and she's going to tell you all about it! All went in the mail on Friday morning while we had cold temps and a biting kind of rain shower. This morning I woke up to snow on the ground. Yup, I needed to think spring and put my hands on something that would suggest warmer days ahead. For Ava and Ellen, Texas should be much warmer so go ahead and wear those dresses, sending spring up north to Minnesota. I think your warm smiles are all I would need!

Since this is a blog about sewing machines I should tell you which ones I used. When straight and zigzag stitching was needed I relied on my Viking 1100 and for most of the seaming I used my new Bernina 1100DA serger. I like to serge the seams on anything that's going to get laundered repeatedly and the Bernina performed flawlessly. Yes, the Huskylock 1000L is going to be sold as the Bernina is my number one serger. Sorry, Viking, but you were just a little too fussy and your stitches were good but not spectacular. I will miss the electronic display, though, but the Bernina is just easier. Am I fickle? Probably, but isn't that just one of the perks of buying, restoring, and reselling these vintage sewing machines? You bet it is!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

All That Lace

Last week I bought the mother load of lace and trims and told you all about my great find in Getting Trim. Now I had to put all of the lace to a good use so I consulted  Pinterest to find some of my previous ideas on my own boards had to do with little girl clothes, baby girls to be exact. Why not use some of that lace on diaper covers? I had a pattern, way more fabric than I could ever use, so I cut a few out and started to sew. Here's my first attempt:
Hawaiian print with yellow lace ruffles
This was going to be my trial run because I had so much trouble with the elastic in the legs. You see, I got another serger, a Bernina 1100DA and she is remarkable.
Yes, it's a real Bernina serger, model 1100DA

What she has that others only talked about was an special foot where you could feed the elastic into the special foot called "the elasticator" and it would trim and sew the elastic onto your fabric. Great idea! But it only worked on samples, not on the real project. After the above experimental diaper cover, I decided to only use the serger for the side seams and crotch seam. I applied the leg elastic by folding the fabric edge, zigzaging the elastic over this edge, then turning it and zigzagging again. It is really simple and makes the elastic entirely enclosed, so important for a baby's skin. I had fun with this so I made the following:
Diaper covers!
It uses a large amount of ruffled lace, small amounts of fabric, goes pretty quick, and aren't they cute? The back gets the layers of ruffles and then the final layer is around the whole waist. There are a ton like this on Etsy so not sure if I will sell them in my shop or if I will stockpile until the fall craft shows. Here's one last pair I'm really happy with:
Those layers of ruffles were already made and I just matched them to similar fabric
This has been fun and I'm learning about my newest serger. Will she replace my Huskylock 1000L? There is a distinct possibility even if I am a Viking kind of a sewer. Now that makes the Pfaff 4872 serger with coverstitch and the Bernina 1100DA that I just can't let go. Yet.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Getting Trim

The weather is turning into spring so we were out and about on Saturday with sewing adventures.  It started with a possible Kenmore in a cabinet that John "found" in his parent's house. I kept asking and he kept saying Friday or Saturday would be better. Saturday afternoon was going to work out as I also planned to pick up some sewing trims in the same area. At this point my husband joined in the fun and we were going to make an afternoon of pick-ups and dropping off.

But no time or location was forthcoming from John and the Kenmore. A terse email stated he would call me at 11:15 that morning. That's pretty specific! No call. I call John at 12:30 and he sounded a bit confused and finally said it was sold. Okkkkkkaaayyy. Easy come, easy go, but I'm always wondering if there is some kind of etiquette for Craigslist that I'm not aware of. Is it first call first served, first show up first served, or something else? I run my business (and I understand most people on CL aren't running a business but just looking to make money from things they no longer use) with the policy of first call who gives enough information to show serious interest gets first chance. For instance:

Text: Still have the Singer sewing machine?
Me: I have 2 Singer sewing machines listed, one for $80, one for $125.
Text: $80
Me: Yes, the Singer 99 is still available. When would you like to see it?
no more texts

Email: Still have the Singer sewing machine for sale?
Me: Yes, I have 2 currently listed. One is in near perfect condition so it's $125 in a bentwood case and the other one has some nicks along the front edge so it is reduced to $80. Both have manuals and a full set of accessories including a buttonhole attachment.
Email: I think I want the $80 one.
Me: That's fine. When would you like to see it to try it out?
Email: Are you home during the day?
Me:This week I have Tuesday and Thursday evenings open at 6:30 and Saturday morning. Would any of those times work?
no more emails

Neither one of these requests shows a huge amount of interest but when I get a third request should I consider either one of them as contenders? Probably not but my usual practice is to contact the last request (semi-serious) via email so ask if they would still like to see the Singer 99. Most of the time they have simply forgotten to get back with a better time and this gets them back on track. I let that first request go because of the brevity and actual lack of any follow-through on their part. But what about when the day and time is agreed upon as with John and his parent's Kenmore? Okay, not an exact time but Saturday afternoon is specific enough. Before I sold it out from under someone I would at least give them a call.  So now my rant is over. Thank you for listening and I do feel better now.

That made our appointment with Dee all the sweeter when we show up to buy a box of piping in various colors that averaged only 27 cents each.  I noticed she had other ads and said I might be interested in looking at those items, too. We arrive to find this small box of piping that started it all:

90 packages of piping!

then a large flat storage container with trims:
and I thought this was a whole lot of trim

plus this three drawer unit on rollers full of lace trims and it's narrower companion:
The whole kit and caboddle of trims

Dee was seriously downsizing. She also had several sewing machines that I wasn't interested in (but I still liked looking at them) and gave me a good deal on the trims with the rolling storage containers included! My husband and I looked at each other and said "Sold!" She even helped us take them out to the car but I'm thinking she didn't want us to change our minds.

A few more errands and many hours later we bring everything inside and I start to sort. Wow, that's way too much trim but I do manage to sort it into a drawer of white, one of ivory or non-white, colored or printed trims, ribbon, yarn, and weird stuff, Most are in their own zippered plastic bags with the width and/or yardage. My next job is going to be pulling out my bins of trims and deciding what to keep, what to sell. Already I have a bag of trim that's going to go home with a grandmother who is buying a handcrank for her granddaughter to learn to sew on. Why not have some lace to try and sew with?

How much did all of this cost? As it turns out, the money I did not spend on the Kenmore from John and the money I set aside for the piping equaled the asking price for all four containers of trim. Looks like it all worked out in the end after all, huh?

Friday, March 4, 2016

Out and About

I spend a week in Arizona recently, land of sun and much warmer than Minnesota in February, and managed not to buy any sewing machines for a week. BUT before I could even got out of Minnesota I had a whirlwind of activity that almost kept me from going. Almost...

While everything was quiet for a week before I left I worked on catching up with a few sewing and knitting projects. The day before I left I connected with Anne who did not drive so I agreed to make a house call after work, bringing three sewing machines for her perusal. After two dozen emails trying to figure out what Anne wanted, needed, and could afford, I brought a newer (1980's) Elna 1500, older Dressmaker, and older still Singer 403. Just a glance told Anne that the Singer 403 was just like the one her mother used and it-was-the-one, we still tried out all three "just in case." Each machine sounded, felt, and sewed differently:
Elna 1500

Dressmaker SWA 2000 (JA-8)

Singer 403A
Elna 1500: wide range of built-in stitches including stretch, easy to use, drop-in bobbin
Dressmaker: only zigzag and straight stitch built in, cams for decorative stitches, left-needle homing
Singer 403: only straight stitch built-in, cams for all zigzag and all other stitches, gear driven

The Elna was the easiest to use but looked too modern for Anne, the Dressmaker wasn't the one, but the Singer, even though it was perfect for her, she needed lessons. I promised to come back at a later date to see how she was doing and to bring extra bobbins that I forgot and Anne was in heaven with her Singer 403.

On the day I flew out, we were busy picking up a sewing machine I won on the Goodwill auction site:
Kenmore 158-1430
 Next door was the Goodwill Outlet where you can buy by-the-pound and Wednesday is senior days so we got an extra 25% off. Score! What do we find while making our way to the back of the store? A Kenmore 385-17324 without a power cord/foot control. That hasn't stopped me before so we put it in the cart only to find a White Rotary head. It needs a treadle but that hasn't stopped me before either and joins the Kenmore in the cart. A bright green jacket joins the melee with a few other things and we check out with a large clear plastic bin: $20 for all of it!
White Rotary bc (before cleaning)

Kenmore 385-17324

Once we get home I bring up a Singer 15-91 I had been using but it was now going home with John. Just that morning I get a text asking if it was available so we arrange for John to come over on his lunch hour. As it turns out, I have to take the head out of the cabinet so I can bring it up the stairs in two manageable pieces instead of one very heavy one and that means I need to take apart some of the wiring, too. John tells me he's going to use it for an upholstery project and had done some research to find the right model. It was going to be in his garage workshop so its lack of decals and cabinet in rough shape didn't bother him in the least. See: there's a machine for everyone and every machine finds its perfect home.
Singer 15-91
After John left I waited at the window for another person who was delivering a cabinet. I know, I know, I try not to buy cabinets and this one didn't even come with a sewing machine but it was a parlor cabinet that I have loved for some time. This one seemed to be in good shape and the price was low but I worried about getting it back out of my car once I got home. That was settled when the buyer said he could deliver it! He also gave me some good information about how he planned to refinish it with only denatured alcohol so I will try that out, too, once the weather gets warmer. It only needs to have veneer replaced on the front curved surface, a waterfall accent, but that is not expensive and I'm ready for this new challenge.
Parlor cabinet to disguise your treadle

Only an hour until I had to leave, just enough time to shower and finish packing. What's the score? Two sewing machines were sold, three machines and one cabinet were bought. And I got on that jet plane, knowing when I was coming back again. Life is grand.