Friday, May 27, 2016

Look Alikes

A few weeks ago I posted on Oh The Adventure Of It All about a Kenmore that wasn't getting any love. It appeared the owner was just done with it and all I found wrong was a needle inserted backwards. It got cleaned up and is waiting for a new home. In my going out and about I come across another one, or did I?
Kenmore 158-19412
Kenmore 158-1625 (I think)
 The first one was a 158-19412 and the second one had a label of 158-1625. Can you tell them apart? They are identical twins! This was a mystery I needed to solve so I went to the Yahoo group about OldKenmoreSewingMachines where they keep a very detailed spreadsheet of many of the models. It's added to by those who can take measurements, report on needle positions, a wide variety of attachments and their model numbers, edited/updated as needed. There are also links to manuals and wouldn't you know it, 158-1941 &1625 and a whole list of others all share the same manual, models 1430, 1431, 1625, 1641, 1940, and 1941.

In decoding the model numbers, the first three are indicative of the country/city where the machines were manufactured:

(number) (company) (origin)
• 117 – White Sewing Machines (most USA, some W. Germany)
• 119 - unknown
• 120 – New Process Gear (div. Of Chrysler) (USA)
• 516 – Gritzner Kaiser (West Germany)
• 158 – Jaguar/Maruzen (Japan mostly a few in Taiwan)
• 148 – Soryu (Japan)
• 340 – Necchi (Italy)
• 385 – Janome (Taiwan)

My personal favorites are the 158's that were made in Japan as they are almost all metal (translate: heavy) and have stood the test of time.  The numbers after the dash are model numbers with the last numbers variations in color or free arm or flatbed. So why the very different numbers of 1941 and 1625? I would only be guessing but, here goes, it might have been a popular model and was reissued a few years later so it was given a different number.  Of the three basic models numbers for the combined manual, 1430, 1625, and 1940, their counterparts are indeed flatbed vs. freearm, The manual shows two variations of the free arm so that could account for the different numbers. Then I notice in the schematics for these machines there are different buttonhole attachments. This is a bit confusing because the manual notes how to use the attachment as well as the four step process with a buttohole foot. This makes for one confused user but maybe it's just me and my fleet of Kenmores. The bottom line: great sewing machine that can provide a wide variety of utility stitches and make buttonholes.

I still love these sturdy old gals and can't say enough about them, especially in comparison to the Singers of the same era (1970's). Don't pass one up if you get a chance to buy one, even if you need to complete your collection by adding a twin.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Oh So Fickle

Those who have been reading my blog know my main sewing machine is a Viking Husqvarna 1100 that was my second Viking and this one has really stuck with me. I've tried Bernina Records (530, 730, 830), Pfaff 1222, Singer (201, 301, 401's), Necchi's, and oh so many others yet I still go back to my Viking 1100. Until this weekend. Yes, I've been won over by another machine.

Back story: some months ago I got my sister, Jane, to agree to pick up a sewing machine from her Goodwill auction site because it was local pick-up only. If I won would she be willing to pick it up? Of course! And wouldn't you know it, I did win and it was for a pittance. Well, at least it was a bargain. With a sewing machine in hand, they planned to come visit for my husbands upcoming commencement ceremony this past weekend. At long last I was going to see this lovely win: a Viking Husqvarna #1, model 1200. Jane walks in with it soon after arriving in town and reports she kept thinking she was going to get too far away from home only to remember she left it behind. But no, here it was! It was wrapped in quite a bit of wide clear tape and Jane said she didn't open it or even thought to try it out. What? I could hardly keep my hands from it! Here she is, and she's fully loaded:

Viking #1
There's only a little bit of wear and clean-up but I discover a very full set of feet, bobbins, and accessories:
Bobbins and snap-on feet in front storage compartment

Back storage contains walking, S, free motion, and buttonhole sensor feet along with a needle threader that really works!
After I get it all set up and sewing, Jane asks what was so special about this machine and what can it do? Pretty much everything my Viking 1100 can do except omni-motion to produce the following motifs:
Now she is envious. Now she is sold. But this machine is not for sale and not at the price I paid either. I feel a pang of guilt because she was instrumental in getting this machine to me but, but, but... I feel myself weakening. We both agree that she needs to see if another one might come along since her local Goodwill auction seems to have all of their sewing machine local pick-up. It could happen! She will need to be diligent and I will keep an eye out for her, too. She agrees it would be fun to make a tiny airplane or tulip with her granddaughters but that's the big appeal and it might just grow old, too.

In the meantime, I set up the #1 and put my trust 1100 back on the shelf. I feel a little sorrowful that it is put aside but the #1 has more capabilities with additional cassettes. Would another Viking replace this one? If I could find a #1+ that worked great, that would be my next one. And I do have one but parts of it don't work right (no needle up/down, or stop) so I hesitate to sell or keep until I can figure out how to fix it or get it to someone who can. In the meantime I'm pretty happy with my new baby. Yes, I'm fickle, but it's only a machine and there are so many many out there, as you have probably discovered, too.

My husband graduates, I get a sewing machine, we have a great weekend with sightseeing and enjoying family and friends. Sometimes it's not the little things but the big ones as we love on our precious family and tell them how important they are (even if they go home with one less sewing machine).

Thursday, May 19, 2016

In The Blink Of An Eye

How do I end up with so many sewing machines and all of the paraphernalia? I think it has become somewhat of a life-style for me to check local Craigslist, Savers, and Goodwill and I just can't resist a bargain. No, that's not true because I did visit one of my regular thrift stores and saw eight (that's right EIGHT) sewing machines and I wasn't interested in a single one. This reminds me of my summer working in a donut shop: at the beginning of my employment I loved all of the donuts but by the end of the summer I would only consider the freshly made ones with only specific filling or glazes. I had finally had enough and now was picky. It's the same with sewing machines: I have now had enough that I have either had a problem selling (don't buy that one again) or fixing (don't buy that one either) so I can walk away from possible problem machines. This week I didn't walk away from much.

It started with an ad for four of the bench type of seats that come with table model sewing machines. The man who was selling them told the story of his father who used to answer the want ads and ask people if they had any old sewing machines they didn't want. He would buy them and resell but no one wanted the little seats. His dad kept the seats and would use them as extra seating for company dinners. Fast forward several decades and now these extra seats are really "extra" and he wanted them gone. I watched the price fall from $40 to $25 so I gave a call and found out I could have all four for only $20. Only 5 bucks each?

Four stools $5 each!
And he would throw in some other sewing "stuff" if I was interested. That extra box full of stuff turned out to be two full sets of attachments for low shank sewing machines, many packets of sewing machine needles, and a few odd things that I could easily take off his hands:
Stuff: needles, bobbins, attachments (oh my!)

On my way home I stopped at Savers, mainly because it was Tuesday and that's seniors day with 40% off all of our purchases. You might know it, there was a Singer Touch & Sew in a cabinet that I steered clear of (cabinets are not welcome and T&S are not either) but then I saw this cute little green case:
What could be inside?

 that was missing hinges on the cover
APB: hinges gone missing

 but revealed a very usable Singer 285:
Singer 285, a 3/4 sized straight stitch sewing machine

The bobbin cover plate was missing but it ran fine and I thought it would clean up nice. The stitch length lever plate was cracked and I didn't seem to do any better with it so will have to figure out how to fix that:
Stitch length lever: oh oh.
I went home singing, very satisfied with my finds for the day. Then I remembered I was given an invitation to stop by a pre-garage sale to look at the three sewing machines they had for sale. With only manufactures names and no model numbers, I figured it was worth stopping by since it was in my neighborhood.

There were two portable cases on top of a table model so she brought them out to look at in the sun. There was a nice tan Dressmaker, a Singer 522, and the table revealed a Kenmore 117-959. I'm not a fan of the Kenmores that look like bullets and I already have several Dressmakers, but the Singer 522 was a free arm model that I hadn't seen before. Inside the carry case lid was a nice extension table so I was already sold but still looked at the underside to see if it had plastic gears. Yup, it sure did but they looked like they were in fabulous condition. Had they been replaced? Low use? I wasn't asking questions because the price was right and it looked really good. Score!
Singer 522 with extension bed
Singer 522 free arm
It seemed the evening wasn't over because I had been eyeing a Pfaff 130 in a table through Goodwill Auction that would be local pick up only. With nerves of steel, at least it feels like it, I got the final bid! I really like this model and even though it is in a table it was still worthy. My garage is now my outdoor workshop as I've set up a work table and moved the bentwood cases out there to work on restoration. No photo of the Pfaff 130 just yet but you will see it in the weeks to come, I'm sure. It was quite a day, one that would be fun to relive but I think you know that this kind of thing happens to me all the time. Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Footloose in Cambridge

I made my way back to the quilt group in Cambridge, MN on a very cold Saturday morning to talk about all of those attachments you get with your sewing machine but rarely use.
All packed up but only 3 sewing machines
 It was a small group this time so they could just gather their chairs in a semi-circle as I talked about sewing machine feet they might not have used before. But first we had a game:

Name that foot!
Each foot had a number and there were half sheets of paper with 1-12 listed and suggestions at the bottom for the possible names (with extras that didn't get used just to confuse them). As I talked about a foot I gave the answer for the quiz and then we talked about how it could be used. I'm as guilty as anyone for not using my sewing machine feet when they are called for but, in my defense, my trusty Kenmore didn't have many extra feet. Imagine my surprise when my Viking 1100 called for the blind hem foot and it worked so much nicer than just a zigzag foot. There was a purpose behind all those different configurations! I had learned to make a rolled hem just by sheer practice but the rolled hem foot made it so much easier and without clocking 30 hours of practice over the years!

We talked about walking feet attachments and many brought theirs out to show me since this was an extra that wasn't very well understood, plus it looks a bit scary!
Viking 1100 walking foot attachment
The purpose it to place a set of feed dogs on the top of your fabric just like there is already a set of feed dogs under your fabric. Both sets now move the fabric instead of only the bottom single set. What's the big deal? It keeps your fabric even so when you get to the end of the seam the top fabric and bottom fabric are still even instead of the top fabric a tad longer. This is great with a quilt sandwich (layers of fabric with batting between) to keep all layers even but also works great for matching plaids (and keeping them matched).

One of the women had a Pfaff with the IDT system which is an integrated dual feed foot so she had a built in walking foot:
Pfaff IDT (see back hinged part)
She didn't know that's what she had so was very pleased to learn she had one of the best deals around for keeping fabrics together as she sewed. We worked on getting her machine to use the darning/free motion embroidery foot but I'm not very good at it yet so could only get her started and from there is was going to be practice, practice, practice. Some day I'm going to learn this technique!

The last big surprise for the women was using the gathering foot. There are different models with the big older type:
Greist ruffler
and also a shirring foot with a small single hole that will gather fabric as it stitches:
Greist shirring foot
But I had discovered another foot that Bernina has with the gathering capacity as the shirring foot but with a slot to put another piece of fabric or ribbon that does not gather but just gets sewn on top!
Gathers with flat grosgrain ribbon on top
I pointed out that this was the first time I had used this foot and it still looked pretty good so think how it might look with practice! It only sews the ribbon on one edge and I went back to sew down the other edge so it would be secure (didn't want to mislead anyone).

Afterwards I went around and talked with some of the women about their machines and any questions they might have and there were questions. We looked at the free motion foot, where to oil a Featherweight, and how to get a free manual for a Bernina 1130. They continued to work while I packed up and headed back home again, satisfied with teaching about these great machines whether old or new. I learn something new every time and think they did, too, so it was time well spent.

Who won the game? Why, we all did!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Triple Treat

In my last post, where I wrote about doubles in sewing machines, leads right into today's triple pick-up where being the first to respond did pay off. A very brief ad on Craigslist with only one photo showed three bentwood cases. What was inside? I almost didn't care because I could easily use the cases let alone what could be inside. I sent an email immediately and got a text back with photos of what was under those covers: Singer 99, 128, and 15-90. Yes, I responded, I would take all three, no questions asked. Complications arose because they were cleaning out mom's house so did not live there and I was just as iffy on the time since there was the annual  plant sale at the state fairgrounds after work. Could I get through the plant sale and then 30 minutes over to their house before 5 pm? Even Friday rush hour traffic did not stop me as I pulled up to a very pretty house with a For Sale sign out front.

Becky met me at the door and I could see they were in the midst of packing. The open floor plan moved from the living room to a family room where the Singer sewing machines were waiting for me. All three had keys to open them and they had even looked up the dates in ISMACS and had taped them to the sides of the cases. The little Singer 99 was in the worst shape with decals mostly gone and the power cord stiff. It still had the knee control and I could rewire the electrical but the bentwood case top has a rather large one inch hole near the handle. Oh dear.
Singer 99, 1927, in bentwood case
Next was the Singer 15-90 in a rather large bentwood case but the machine is in great shape and was rewired with a foot control. The wires to the light were not wired wrong, using wire screws, but I prefer to solder and use shrink wrap since I have learned this better method. This case should clean up very nice and it would be a beauty as well as a strong machine.
Singer 15-90, 1940, in bentwood case
Becky saved the best for last as she did a bit of unveiling and exclaimed "Isn't it beautiful?" as indeed it was. This little Singer 128 has very good decals and the best shuttle plate covers I've ever seen. This sewing machine has not been used very much and the knee control is also included. I'm thinking about making this a hand crank but with the excellent electric cords and connections I might have to rethink this plan.

Singer 128, 1925, in bentwood case

As were we taking all three of these gems out to my car, Becky tells me the story of the other responses to her ad. Once man only wanted a motor: why buy such a unique vintage machine if you only wanted a motor? I could easily give him one! Someone else only wanted one of them for a learn to sew project, not a bad idea but there are probably easier ways to learn to sew. Becky was very happy that I not only would take all three but that I would bring them back to usefulness and see that they could be used, and possibly cherished.

Singers in bentwood cases: front 99, middle 15-90, back 128
I get the Singers home and my husband and I look them over and decide what needs to be done. We are quickly getting into the season for "open garage." Haven't heard that term before? It's when the weather is finally warm enough for me to get all of my projects out into the garage so I can refinish the cases, cabinets, and repainting of the heads can begin again. My car can now sit outside for the duration, just so I can get it back in again before the snow flies. Those three Singers are going to be the first ones to go outside and then I'm planning on my painting projects since they have to be timed with the weather and warmer temperatures (but not too warm). It will be a long and glorious summer of sewing machine repairs as I anticipate fall and the selling season to begin again.

Sunday, May 8, 2016


Remember that old commercial and tune: "Double your pleasure, double your fun, with Doublemint, Doublemint, Doublemint Gum" where they featured twins? Today I'm going to feature a few of my recent doubles, or twins, of my sewing machines.

When I was a Ray White's Sewing Machine Repair class I brought six sewing machines as examples to work on. Included in that group was a Kenmore 158-17892 that would not zigzag. We checked it out, sprayed it with Triflow, and still no zigzag. There was a spring that didn't seem to be in the right place but could not figure out where one end should be for the resistance that was needed. Maybe this was the problem with the zigzag? Then an answer came in the form of another machine for sale that was the same model, in my neighborhood, at a fair price. I went over right before it got dark and the seller set it up on the back steps (hey, it was over 90 degrees, our first heat wave in Minnesota!) to test it out. It did zigzag so I dug out a screwdriver to look inside. It was pretty dirty with lots of debris from hanging out in the garage, but everything seemed to be working. I offered to tune theirs up for free if I could just borrow it but they were not interested in sewing, just selling. It was his grandpa's and even though they hoped to be able to use it he confessed that with all of their kids under the age of six it just wasn't going to happen. I now am the owner of two Kenmore 158-17892:
Kenmore 158-17892's
 I went home with this gem and started cleaning it up so I could then take it apart. I know, that doesn't seem like it makes much sense but it's my machine and I get to do what I want! It seemed to run very slow so cleaning and oiling was my priority and it helped but it still doesn't seem too speedy or as quiet as I'm used to for a Kenmore. Nevertheless, I took off the top, bottom, and side to see where that spring was located. So simple: the loose end of the spring was just on the internal metal framework. I get the first Kenmore 158-17892 out and get that spring positioned correctly but it still does not zigzag. Two hours later I finally figure it out: when changing the stitch selector dial the cam follower doesn't move along the row of cams.
Kenmore 158-17892 stitches
 Why did it take me two hours? The cam follower was somewhat buried but that still didn't account for two hours of experimentation. While going over the process of zigzagging, I knew there has to be some way the needle connected to the cam but I kept looking at the other end of it and how it moved and changed. I was looking at it from the bottom when I really needed to step back and look at how the whole mechanism worked. When I did that I found the cam follower with a side view of it and looked at both machines to see the difference: I found one machine didn't move like the other one did. Success! I moved it back and forth while turning the dial and it would then work, not every time but most of the time. I'm going to try and clean up some of the yellow gunky grease on the parts and then oil with Triflow to see if I can both of them moving. They should be nice sewing machines.

Another set  of doubles are beloved Elnas: the first one was a Carina that was dead. No power, no light, no response.
Elna Carina
A few weeks later I got another one, this one an Air Electronic 68, and it ran great. I switched power cords, foot controls, experimenting to find there was no problem with power cord or their unique bladder-type foot control. Nice to know I have a good set of controls but it still doesn't work. I took off the side panel and explored what I could easily see and found a lot of black soot and excess thread would around the motor pulley. Next I took out the motor to check the brushes to find they were very worn down and were uneven. That's what all of the black debris was from! I removed the errant thread, replaced the brushes, put it all back together, but still no power or light. There is a very nice service manual available but as I read through it, reading parts of it out loud to my husband, I see we are over our heads in understanding how to test it. We agree we now need to talk to our electrician son-in-law Mark. In the meantime, I used the 68 that is working to make a man-apron for a different son-in-law and just loved how this machine worked. It came without any of the cams or accessories but I just happen to have a spare set of cams and bobbins, hoping I can come up with a set of feet because this machine is a dream to sew with.
Elna Carina in back and Elna Air-Electronic 68 in front
Sometimes having doubles can be a real help but you usually have to be very patient while trying to find a twin. This time is was nearly instantaneous and success was nearby for the Kenmores, or hope for a successful outcome. Not yet, but soon for the Elnas!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Oh, the Adventure Of It All

Collecting and restoring sewing machines, like any hobby, can be so addicting but I'm glad you are here to read this latest adventure. Too many come in and not enough go out but that's another story. Today we have some real gems that I'm glad I have rescued!

It's garage sale season (yea!) and we couldn't resist turning at the signs that said "Block Sale." I love driving down street in parts of town I have never been to before and this sleepy little neighborhood was tucked between businesses and a ravine. At the first house I spy a serger but we passed it by because it was a Singer. After we walked down the block and hit five sales Jim talked me into asking for the serger at a lower price. They said yes mainly due to the lack of knowledge and accessories. It did come with a manual and in the original box so it came home with us:
Singer Merritt Lock 14U354 Serger
It took some real work to get it cleaned up and sewing right, mainly my error after cleaning and getting things out of whack, but it finally would sew on a variety of fabrics and quite nicely.

The next day I had arranged to pick up two Singers way out in St. Francis but we were going to be out that way because of my granddaughter's 4th birthday party. A Singer 401A head only and a Singer 99 in a squared off case were advertised and what I wanted. I currently do not have a 401 and since they are one of my favorite sewing machines it's nice to have one to sell. The Singer 99 was going to be converted to a handcrank and its decals were near perfect. We negotiated a decent price but he wouldn't come down much saying that's what he wanted to sell them for. Okay, okay, I get it but after we exchange money he tells me the 99 was given to him! Yeah, he made money on this deal. It might have been out of guilt but he asked if I wanted a Singer Lotus for free: he would just give us this one:
Singer 66 with Lotus decals
I honestly didn't know what model me was talking about since I had never heard of the Lotus model but then I realized he meant lotus decals. He bought it off of Ebay and when he got it noticed the poor shape of the decals: they had taken photos only of the good parts and disguised the worn away decals. Lesson learned and now I was going to get this one that really wasn't in too bad of shape. What was his goal? He wanted a Singer 201 without the potted motor so he could put it in a treadle and then he wanted the 401 as his zigzag but in the end used something else for zigzag. It took awhile to find the 201 with an external motor he could remove for the treadle but he did find it and now wanted these other machines gone. Yes, I think I can take care of that for you, sir.

Now we are up to Monday when I had arranged to pick up a Kenmore that "had issues." This young mother couldn't seen to get the tension right and complained it kept jamming up. It had been her mother-in-law's sewing machine and with the problems she had, even after a $60 repair bill, she no longer wanted to use it. Although it was very dirty and it had no accessories, I thought I could get it working nicely again and she was willing to let it go for less than the asking price. As I made my way to the door I asked her what machine she bought to replace it and she said "just a cheapo Singer for $125" and I felt like apologizing to her for having to use such a crummy sewing machine. As I put it in the back of my car I looked down at the needle and noticed it was put in backwards. Yes, that would make it jam up. Once home, here she is all cleaned up:

Kenmore 158-19412
It took some time, strategic oiling, and running it full open for about 10 minutes before she quieted down and is now just humming along. This one was a rescue from a young woman with very little patience and a reluctance to read the manual (she confessed) so now I can rehome this lovely sewing machine to someone who will appreciate it. Sometimes it can feel like a real rescue!

All in all, it was a great stretch of days with some good sewing machines and a serger. Now, where am I going to put them?