Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Plan for a Plana

The Elna Plana is happily back in its cabinet and I hope to get it on the sale BUT (and this is a big one) the timing is off with a lot of skipped stitches. This little lovely was quite upset when I removed the hook to replace the feed dog gear so I brought it along to the TOGA. To make a long story short, I ended up with an entirely replaced hook and gear from a donor machine from Bob. Bill worked and worked to get it in time so I'm pretty disappointed that I will have to finesse the timing again.There is so much promise for this machine with a new motor pulley and new gears but by this time I just want it out of the house.This will be a break-even transaction since so many things were replaced but sometimes you have to consider it the cost of an education.

As I got back to the Elna Plana, I thought about the advice I get and give about skipped stitches: try a new needle. Of course, that did work and I'm glad it doesn't need to be retimed but now that it is stitching I notice I can't change the stitch length. I'm so glad I have another Elna just like this one but portable so I bring it upstairs and set it right next to the ailing Elna. Oh, does it work perfectly! I can see what is not working but don't know just what is preventing the stitch length lever from engaging.
Swivel action isn't happening unless I force it to move

I take the good model apart and look in the hand wheel side to see a small part that springs back.

Small part behind the black rubber motor pulley

I look at the ailing Elna and see there is no springing back. The bottom plate comes off and I can see the difference in the two models action.
As I followed it down to this small lever that wasn't moving

Now the plate comes off to see the feed dog gears (oh no, it's not another gear failure!) and I find a long narrow spring is not engaged. I remember unhooking this spring and then forgot to go back and reassemble it so now it has caught up to me. Although it took hemostat clamps, a small crochet hook, and a pen light, I did get it all back working. The sweet smell of success!
See that small spring?

and the spring continues.
It still wasn't stitching as it should and I almost had to get out the manual. That's right, read the manual. I really do love Elnas but they are not intuitive and you will need to read the manual until you have the process memorized. When there is a cam in the top you have to move the stitch length lever down to "A" for it to read the double sided cams that will move forward and backwards to give the distinctive patterns. How to adjust if the pattern is too close or too far apart? There is a very tiny + and - on the stitch length dial that will rotate to spread the design apart or move it closer together. It worked!

Since I have two of this model, it's a real contrast to see and feel how different they are: the one with all of the repairs works great now but the other one, bought from Sara, is so smooth and even quieter. The end result is the same but it's clear the well-maintained Elna Plana has been truely loved. That begs the question: do you love your sewing machine? Is it well cared for? That doesn't always mean taking it in for a cleaning and tune-up but taking a good look at your sewing machine, using a brush to clean out the link, then using a drop of sewing machine oil on a cotton swab to further clean out any remaining lint. Go ahead and take out the bobbin race, clean out any build up of lint. Look underneath to see if you have any broken pins or needles that could get in the way. Your manual should tell you where to oil but it's basically anywhere you see metal moving against metal. Run it without thread (presser foot in the UP position) to get the oil moving and lubricating all those parts. Wipe off the exterior of your sewing machine to remove finger prints using a good car wax then buff it like you would your expensive car. You can admire it, cover it up with a nice soft cover to keep dirt and dust from harming it. Your sewing machine might not work any better than it already does but it should be at the top of its game. Wouldn't you like a treat like that, too?

Elna Plana in her blong wood cabinet (so very 50's)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Back to Work

Since coming back from the TOGA last weekend it's been a bit difficult to get down to work. I have so many things to get ready for the upcoming garage sale that I feel a bit like a squirrel: easily distracted and running all around! It also doesn't help when I had to be up at 5:30 every morning this week but there were good reasons for all of it. Really.

While we were still in Lake City I was checking the CL ads and trying to get a great looking Singer 15-91. That finally came to fruition on Monday after work. Wow, was this ever a nice machine and I think I enjoyed talking to the owner just as much as buying the sewing machine. As I have heard before, they were downsizing and didn't need this straight stitch machine in a table. The finish was original and in great shape so he told me he had restored the finish in a manner that sounded like the same way I do but he got better results! Then he asked if I wanted to see another sewing machine that wasn't working right. Of course, I had to say yes and he pulls out a Singer 221, the Featherweight. It did have cosmetic issues with a significant amount of aluminum rot with initials scratched on the front of the base but those weren't the issues. It just would not stitch correctly so he shows me the replaced hook and both bobbin cases. Neither of the bobbin cases had numbers on them so that told me they were not authentic and certainly were not original. He needed the bobbin case with serial number 45750, not 45751 which I suspected. Since he changed out the hook he might have been okay but he said he wasn't. Of course, now comes the moaning about spending $35 when he should have popped for the $50-60 original bobbin case. Well, I learned that lesson once, too, and he had my sympathy.

Turning to my raffle prize, I'm working on the Elna Supermatic and find out the left side of a zigzag is too wide with the needle hitting the needle plate. It is centered correctly but the swing is off. I find out where it needs to be adjusted but I cannot get the nut loosened so I can make the adjustment. Now I need a very small crescent wrench so my hubby went out and bought me one.
Near cam, red arrow points to nut that needs to be loosened for needle centering  adjustment with screw
It worked but I found out that it only centered the needle, which was already fine. Oh, how I need to read the manuals better! Upon closer reading I found out I needed to adjust a screw that I had already checked out and it will not go in further to pull the needle to the right but then I get the idea that maybe it needs a washer to make up for the space that cannot be adjusted any further:
Inside red square is screw with washer behind it
It worked! Now it stitches fine so I get out my collection of cams. I check out Needlebar and their history of the Elna to find I have one of the earliest Supermatics with screw-on cams. It came with one flat cam that doesn't look like any of mine and, wouldn't you know it, they are different:
Red arrow points to high inner ring (older), green arrow points to wide outerring (newer)
I'm out checking on Etsy and then Ebay for those cams with the taller ring on the center, not newer single cams with the wide top ring but the older version. Someone just listed eight of them for under $5 each, a real bargain considering the next closest price with S&H is nearly double. I go ahead and put them in my virtual cart so now I'm committed to buying them but want the S&H to reflect the bulk shipment. I sent a note to seller asking for a new total and I'm so blessed when he writes back that I get them for their cost, no S&H. Wow! The green Elna Supermatic now has eight cams for a bargain price of $40 and I'm a happy camper again.

With only a week left to work on the garage sale I better get out there and get cabinets finished. It's a gray, wet day here so not a great atmosphere to be working outdoors but I'll put a book-on-CD in a player and enjoy having someone read to me while I work. That just might be the adult version of "Read me a story, please?" of years gone by. Remember when?

Monday, September 19, 2016


Well, I'm back from the long awaited and much anticipated River Rats TOGA, a convention of sorts for those who love people powered sewing machines. There were so many people from the Treadleon forum that I've only read their comments who attended and now I have a face (and personality) to go with it. Now I can share photos and recap the highlights of this wonderful weekend.

It starts with the accommodations that were unusual in the arrangement. Six weeks ago Sally said she had room for two people in her large motor home so Phyllis and I jumped on that offer only to find out Phyllis has allergies and a weekend with two dogs in a motor home wasn't going to work for her. So it was only me. With Sally and Tom. Whom I have never met (or even talked with on the phone) so now this does sound a little crazy! Here is the BUT in this scenario: we all ended up loving each other and agreed we are new best friends! Sally was a wonderful hostess and when my husbands hunting trip was cancelled he came on down and stayed with us, too. Jim and Tom hit it off with hunting and fishing stories as well as how to haul a toy trailer with a semi. That's right, a semi, in bright red!

I arrived at the Lake City VFW to hear the last half of Sally's talk about using vintage linens in quilts. As I listened and watched, I noticed a woman who looked like Cheri, our friend who bought Judy Jetson (now out in Montana with her niece) and several other sewing machines. Sure enough, when Sally finished and I went up to introduce myself as her house guest I grabbed Cheri in a big hug! We were equally surprised to see each other at the TOGA but the last time we sent messages back and forth was during the summer months before either of us had made these plans. Cheri came down with Carole, a quilting and Featherweight teacher, and we got to know each other over the next days, too. The rest of Friday was spent looking at everyone's machines, the items for the Saturday night raffle, and checking out items to purchase.
Universal feed chain stitch machine
 Most of us went on the Pearl of the Lake paddleboat cruise to watch the stunning sunset and I went off with Sally and Tom for dinner afterwards. We stayed up too late talking because Saturday was going to be another busy day but we had so much to talk about and learn from each other!
As the sun sets over Lake Pepin
Saturday was a mix of demonstrations on cleaning, chain stitcher machines, hemstitchers, quilt block exchange, and individual consultations with the experts on how to fix/heal our personal sewing machines. By late afternoon we were warned to get things cleaned up because the raffle was going to begin!
Quilt assembled from a previous years block exchange now up for raffle
All of the larger/valuable items had lunch bags attached to them for ticket drawings but there were hundreds of items that were in the "free for all" category. After only a few items were drawn I heard my name and when I discovered I had won the Boye needle display/container I almost cried:
Boy of boy, it's a Boye
It was perfect: I told Sally earlier I really didn't need a Boye needle tin since I didn't have the type of older sewing machines that take those older needles but this one came without any of the wooden tubes that hold the needles, perfect for display! My time at the TOGA was now complete as I excitedly brought my prize back to my chair. Jim had arrived by then and was happy for me, too. They kept drawing names for other large items and my name was called again, this time for a terrific Elna Supermatic:
Elna Supermatic (it's okay to be green)
I asked if it was okay to be called a second time and I was informed that I could get up to three items this way. Not to fear, I didn't get called again. All of the leftover tickets were now put into a very large bag and they were drawn one by one for people to come up and choose from things still on the tables. Well, I never did get called and there sure were some nice items but I wasn't too envious when I noted my prizes. Oh wow.

After the raffle we had to take two trips back to the campground to get all of the large items Sally won, such as a White Rotary sewing machine in a lovely table, a sewing stand, and even an Elna Grasshopper sewing machine. Too bad I didn't think to take photos of all she won, but they were her treasures now. We came back in plenty of time for the turkey dinner and time for a last visit with our new friends. We had a bit of a surprise after dinner when Helen Howes, our special guest of honor from the UK, gave a bit of a talk about her own journey into sewing and people powered sewing machines. It was a rare moment to hear her story from her own lips, something I'll always remember. Final goodbyes and we headed back to the campground where we, again, stayed up too late!

On Sunday we enjoyed breakfast in the motor home and treated ourselves to a lunch at the Rail House in Lake City where we ran into the last of the TOGA leaders, Cindy Peters, Bill Holman, Helen Howes, Carol, and a few others I can't remember having coffee before they headed off for a dinner at the casino. Another round of goodbyes and promises to come back next year, we headed off to our own homes, most of us only a few hours away. It was quite a weekend and lived up to its promises: no one is a stranger and everyone helps everyone else. So true. Thank you, Cindy Peters, for all the work you do all year long to see that we can have this get together, to Bill and Marcia  Holman for your expertise and hosting Helen Howes, and to Helen for flying over to our country just to visit and share her vast history and knowledge of the sewing machine. You rock!
Anne, Pastor Dave and Cindy with stole made of members blocks

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Prep Work

I'm a pretty upbeat person and you have probably read about my excitement in regards to anything sewing machine related but I'm so very, very excited about the River Rat TOGA that I'm going to tomorrow. Of course, I'm not ready but I'm heading in the right direction. I have items I'm going to sell, sewing machines that might be of interest to other onions (that's the term they use in referring to each other) that could be for sale, and I'm thinking about which sewing machines to bring for advice. There are so many! But for now, here's what I'm bringing:
Original handcrank


Free Westinghouse in custom made base

Wizard (like the Brother Selectomatic)

Western Electric

Singer 66 with Lotus Decals

There is also a raffle on Saturday night that helps pay for our rental of the VFW hall in Lake City and other expenses as there are no registration fees for this convention. I'm bringing my Singer 75-1, a small but extremely heavy, serger. It is so unique but needs a treadle for successful use and I'm hoping someone will know exactly what to do with it. I'm hoping it's a hit due to its rarity.
Singer 75-1
One of my biggest sellers in my Etsy shop are the bentwood case carriers made out of web strapping and a set of snap buckles. I made some up and have an additional three as kits for other model as they don't have to be used only on bentwood cases but other older carrying cases, too. It's always a fine line between creator and buyer, wanting to keep my original idea to only be available through my shop. But can't anyone else take my idea and just make their own set of carrying straps? Maybe they could buy a set from me and then make up their own. Or make them up and sell them. Wait a minute: isn't that what I do? Well, yes, but if the idea originated with me don't I have the right to keep the product available only through my shop? That's a bit of yes and no but I need to place a statement on my Etsy listing for the carrying straps saying if the consumer uses my design to make their own, it can only be for personal use and they cannot profit by the sale of such items. It's  not copyright or patent law, just an intellectual property issue.
Singer 99 in bentwood case: all strapped in!
So wish me luck as I travel a couple hours south and spend two days steeped in antiques and sewing! I'm excited to stay with Sally and her husband and to meet Phyllis, too. TOGA, TOGA, TOGA!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Viking Mania (and not the Minnesota Vikings)

I'm not a big fan of football and coming from Chicago to the Twin Cities didn't help either. I did go to a couple of seasons of high school football when a son-in-law was coaching. I did find that way too much fun but wrestling with little ones got to be more than my daughter was willing to go through so I was back-on-the-bench. So even though I now live in the land of the Minnesota Vikings, I don't really care but I have to tell you that my fascination for the Husqvarna Viking sewing machines hardly has abated even though I have bought, sold, and used so many models.

It all started with upgrading my Kenmore sewing machine after 35 years of use and I went for a Viking right off, a lovely Fressia 415. I then bought a Viking 1100 that I used for the next three years as my main sewing machine. In the meantime I bought and sold a whole variety of models but was quickly disillusions with the 6000 series. This is a whole big group of models that have not stood the test of time and, yes, I bought several of these in hopes I could repair them. My skills are not at this level yet so I hold on to them in hopes that I can have a serious week of Viking Repair. Yea, right.

But for now, I have several Viking Husqvarna's that are in good shape and I connected with Marilyn yesterday who wanted to look at the model 1070. It had a cabinet. Oh, be still my heart, I might even get one of the cabinets out of the garage! Marilyn had a similar model Viking that gave out so she knew what she was getting and liked how it performed so it was sold. Then we started to talk about sergers and she wanted to see what I had. I brought up a Kenmore and a White but that Kenmore took so much fussing to get it out of the rolled hem mode that we turned to the White 543. This wasn't easy going either as I had to thread it up from scratch yet Marilyn watched every move, all of the tension adjustments, so she really got a lesson in how to use a serger. Sold!
Viking Husqvarna 1070
One last trip via the garage to see if she would take the cabinet and she did. Although Marilyn wasn't sure if she was going to use it, since it was a package deal she might as well. It was a more modern cabinet with the machine getting bolted down, not slid in on pins, but it had a nice extension leaf, maybe for a serger?

It ended up being a surprising afternoon with one sewing machine sold, another serger sold, and a large cabinet walking out the door. Marilyn got a tour of the garage sale items that were waiting patiently for the sale (what choice did they have?) and took down the date and information to share with friends. Ah, she had a sewing daughter, too. Yup, it's getting exciting! October 1 and 2 from 9-5 on Saturday and noon to 6 on Sunday. Come one, come all!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Taking a Chance

Maybe I'm immature or reliving my adolescence because I seem to enjoy risky behavior. I don't go to casinos, or place bets of any kind, and even rarely play cards but I do enjoy winning an online auction. The thrill of winning and the defeat of losing are something I have to carefully watch because it can be addicting! My latest thrill is a Bernina Record 530:

Bernina Record 530 with extension table

I could sing "Ain't she sweet, see her walking down the street, yes I ask you very confidentially, ain't she sweet?" We aren't going to see this sewing machine walking down the street, but she sure is sweet. I had one just a year ago as a cabinet model that was sold to a very happy lady who wrote back and thanked me for her new sewing machine as she was loving sewing again. So I knew I wasn't taking too big of a chance when I bid on another Bernina Record 530. It did not have a power cord so was untested and that was the real problem because if the motor was bad, oh boy, that would have been a nearly impossible expense. So I took the chance and managed to outbid my fellow Bernina lovers. I was pleasantry surprised when I went to pick her up and found out there was a nice suitcase carrier:
Bernina suitcase carrier

Neat and tidy inside!
As I checked everything over, I counted a dozen of their specialized feet along with twin needles and other special Bernina accessories. It was worth the cost for the presser feet alone!
Organizer on the Record series (all those feet!)
  I used the power cord for my own Bernina Record 730 and got her up and running, even if a bit rough. After a spa treatment of cleaning, oiling, and oiling some more, I got her to purr.
Bernina Record 530 stitch selection
 Now I needed a new power cord so I check my stock and find I have the right plug end so only need to attach the electric cord. Only one bobbin was included but I have a few extra that I can include. Wow, oh wow, that was some win! But there's more...

When I went to pick it up at the online auction center, I went next door to the outlet (you must get bored reading about this activity over and over again  but it's the truth!) and they had five sewing machines on their shelves, each one priced at $10. I looked each one over, trying to decide if any were worth the price and settled on a new-ish Brother XL-3100. It might even be worth it if only for the foot control/power cord and the plastic carrying case that it didn't need because it had a built in handle.
Brother XL-3100
Once I get my treasures home and each gets its turn in "rejuvenation junction" that is actually my kitchen table, I see that the Brother is a very basic machine and is a far cry from the Bernina. If fact, I'm sure having them in the same room is a bit of an insult to the Bernina, but they need to share the same space and both will find worthy homes.
Brother XL-3100 with accessories
 As I always say "there's a home for each and every sewing machine" I sell. There are some that don't get sold (remember the Singer "Featherweight" model 132Q on Retro?) and I break them down for parts because if I can't sew on them with a decent outcome how can I expect anyone else to? Yup, that's why you come to me for a vintage sewing machine: the dogs have been winnowed out and not only is every machine running great, you can return it if you are unhappy with its performance. Now that's a guarantee I can live with!

Thursday, September 1, 2016


What is it about those 3/4 sized sewing machines that has many of us so mesmerized? We love the Kenmore 158-1030 to the 1050, Elna Lotus and Stella, Bernina Sport, the Singer 127, 128, 99, and of course, the Singer 221 a.k.a. The Featherweight. Tthere were a few duds made, such as the Singer Genie and the remake of the Featherweight, but Singer certainly found it's market early with the 99 and 221. Today I'll tell you about a 3/4 sized machine that surprised me.

Heading home after our church food distribution program, I usually stop at a local thrift store because on Tuesday it's Senior Day and I want that extra 40% off. I wasn't disappointed when I couldn't find the Riccar someone told me they spied earlier in the day because I did find a Simplicity Lite:
Simplicity Lite
It did not have the power cord/foot control with it so I couldn't test it but it was priced accordingly and I figured I could take a chance. It came with the nice storage compartment in the front that held a few bobbins, extra feet, empty bottle for oil, feed dog cover plate, and a tiny felt circle for the spool pin.
Simplicity Lite accessories
 Once home I found a cord setup that fit, got a little oil into her, and she ran! I couldn't resist taking it all apart to see what the gears looked like and was amazed to find metal gears for the feed dogs and only nylon or plastic parts for the cam assembly. A bit of cleaning, grease on those gears, and more oil and she was ... sounding worse. What had I done? Take a look at the stitch selection: there is no length or width adjustments, just 4 lengths of straight stitch and three widths for zigzag, two utility stitches (elastic and hemmer), plus a four step buttonhole. No dials, just those 9 selections but what more could you want if you are just starting out or only using a sewing machine for occasional mending? When I switched to zigzag it sounded fine, only straight stitch was noisy. Tension started to get worse and since it was getting late I put it all away and called it a day.

The next morning I find the Simplicity Lite staring at me from the table where I left it the night before and now I remembered an old "trick": I go get a new needle and good thread. This makes all the difference as now it stitches much better. There are still some skipped stitches so I might have to get back in and see what else I can do but look how good those stitches look right now:
Simplicity Lite stitch sample (good buttonhole!)
The yellowing on the plastic body parts doesn't faze me either since I know how to use a bleaching agent to get them clean. What? I didn't tell you about this yet? Well, here it is: you can use a solution from the beauty supply store to bleach out those yellowed parts. Having read about this on Facebook, there was a whole recipe that I carefully wrote down but then I read the comments. A hairdresser said when she had leftover developer she used it to clean up a whole list of items. One day she figured out she could try it on plastic parts that yellowed, usually due to exposure to the sun. Sewing in a sunny room? It might brighten your mood but it will also yellow certain plastics on a vintage sewing machine. The hairdresser said all she used was cream developer in 40 volume so that's what I bought. I carefully "painted" it with a foam brush onto some very yellowed parts,

Yellowed parts with blue tape to hide name plates

slipped them into a zippered plastic bag and placed it in the sun for several hours.
Sunning themselves: a little vacation for your sewing machine parts!
 They brightened considerably but those parts that were the most effected needed to have a second dose. Some of the plastic had marks left on it so I buffed them out with a compound used on automobile clear coat finishes. All in all, they looked much better so it was worth the time and effort.
Looks pretty good and already sold!
 For under $5 I have enough of this bleaching agent to whiten anything that comes my way. And that's your fun tip-of-the-day!