Wednesday, December 28, 2016

When You Are Popular

It seems I have some popular sewing machines. This kind of thing seems to defy logic. Why are the Featherweight sewing machines, those Singer 221's, so sought after? They have their good points (lightweight, excellent stitch) but other sewing machines have these qualities, too. They are just popular! This takes me back to high school when certain classmates were seen as being the ones you wanted to be around: they were popular. Were they nicer than others, smarter, richer, physically more appealing? Well, yes, usually it was some of those assets. The same can be said for sewing machines: easier to use, pricey, and can do a few things very well. But it also boils down to a hidden factor that is unpredictable: everyone else wants them, too. So I have some popular sewing machines that I could sell over and over again.

One of my popular sewing machines is the Brother Select-O-Matic. I'm still getting calls about it! There are searches that bring up closed ads from Craigslist, Ad Hunt'r is one, so it is possible to get calls from interested parties months after your ad has closed. That means I can get emails from around the country asking if I would ship a sewing machine. No. But there are still interested parties in that gem of a sewing machine:
Brother Select-o-Matic as two tone

and in teal
Next up in popularity are vintage Berninas and there aren't any bad models, it seems. Right now I have three listed locally: 700, 807, and 1001. They are all very different from each other and manufactured decades apart but are beautiful stitchers, not as heavy as some, with a reputation for excellence:
Bernina 700: straight and zigzag stitches
Bernina 807 Minimatic: six stitches 

Bernina 1001: so many, many stitches!
 For my money, I would choose the 1001 because of the stretch and decorative stitches but I'm selling, not hording. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Update on the recipe card tea towels: my daughters got theirs for Christmas and loved them. It took a moment for them to realize it wasn't just a random recipe on a towel (oh, Mom is so weird) but their grandma's recipe card on their very own towel "that I'm never going to wash!"

Kelly and Alison with their towels
 I also just received two more of the printed recipes of my aunt Marcella's that I'm going to hem and send one to my youngest sister, Mindy, and then have one for myself. Mindy, if you are reading this, expect yours in the mail next week. Now I should write a letter to my Aunt Marcella and tell her about her recipe card popularity; I hope she will get a big kick out of it. You see, it's all about popularity.

Monday, December 26, 2016

It Was a Harry Potter Christmas

Recognizing that college students are stressed out during finals week, we have tried to give them a bit of fun in the midst of their all night studying. Last year we created a whole Star Wars theme display with movies running, snacks, crafts, and I got into it by making a set of costumes and characters as posted on A Star Wars Christmas. This year we decided on Harry Potter since there was a new movie coming out and this was a theme our students could relate to having grown up with the books and movies. Once again I got to dress up the dress forms, create a character from scratch, and even entered the world of mannequins.

Harry Potter in the library
So how does all of this start? With a committee, of course. We all put in our ideas and how each could be executed such as floating candles, broomsticks, snitches, finding which house you belong to, and representing the characters themselves. At that point they all turn to look at me so I got busy with images and fabric.

Dressing up the two female dress forms was easy, thinking Hermoine and Dumbledore but couldn't figure out how to make Harry. I needed a mannequin so I was on the hunt. I found a great one but it was in Illinois. Who do I know in Illinois? My sister Sue lives there and, wouldn't you know it, it was right in her hometown, or at least in easy driving distance. They were coming up to Minnesota for a wedding soon and would bring him along. He was big, at least a strapping six foot model of a man so while we were excited to find him it was not going to be Harry. Dumbledore was the next choice but we knew he was quite a bit wider than our slim mannequin but we would just have to face this later.

Most of my adventures these days start with the outlet and thrift stores so I hit them hard over the next month and got Harry's costume of corduroy pants, white shirt, and gray v-neck sweater.  A co-worker donated a graduation gown. Hermoine only needed a white shirt with a gray sweater and skirt. No one wears wool pleated skirts anymore so I made my own with a piece of heavy weight gray knit complete with a zipper and waistband but skipping an actual hem. Both characters needed to reflect their house colors so I added stripes around their sweater necklines with ribbon. Harry got the addition of the dark red wool neckline around his robe plus a tie donated by our library director that was amazingly close to the ones worn in the movies. Both characters needed their house patch and we sent away for them and I brought my Elna Stella to work the day before Thanksgiving to sew on the patches:
Meet Harry Potter

and his friend Hermoine Granger
In the meantime, I get to work on Dumbledore who has arrived from Illinois and is huge:
My new six foot friend as he relaxes on the kitchen table
He came with a pair of black jeans and, I kid you not, black underwear, too. At least he won't be cold. Looking through my patterns I find one for a bathrobe that is generic enough but what about fabric? I remember a huge navy blue damask tablecloth that I couldn't resist from a church sale so I get it out and go to town with it. Despite how big the tablecloth seems I use every last inch of it with barely enough left over for his tiny hat. Various trims get pulled out and I keep going back to images of Dumbledore's many robes. It can't look like a bathrobe so I add rope piping and deep cuffs.  Down each sleeve I get the idea to add decorative stitching using gold and silver thread. This is not always a success but I have some thread that came on bobbins so I give it a try for the top thread and use the "automatic" stitches on my Brother Select-o-Matic. I simply follow the patterns on the damask down each sleeve and try to get them to match but who cares? This isn't a contest and we are just trying to get it to look like a character. His hat gets added and I'm glad he has a small head. I bring all three characters to school early one morning at 6:30 before my yoga class so no one will see them. They get dragged up to the storage closet on the 4th floor where they will stay for several weeks:
My friends in hiding
Facial hair gets added to Dumbledore with the help of a Santa beard, using rubber cement that later just rubs off. Glasses are found, hands are added with a pair of gloves, and he does get black slippers so his feet don't stick out. Now we need to get a Dobby character.
Dobby as a poseable doll
I have a pattern for a child sized doll from a 1979 Simplicity pattern and made my changes from there. Really, I didn't have a clue:
I just cut it all out and started to sew, making the legs skinny with big knees, adding coat hanger wire, marbles in the feet for stability, boots, stuffing as the character looked, adding ears, pinching up eyebrows, sewing on a new nose, and making fingers instead of mitts for hands. He was done but didn't look like Dobby:

Mr. Clean version of Dobby
He still needed a tunic of sorts but, more than that, he needed to look dirty. He's made out of a polyester cotton and was just so clean looking but adding makeup to his face and ears wasn't enough. After reading articles about how they make actors clothing look like they have been in a fight or on the trail for months, I finally get out a container of dirt and just rub it into his neck, elbows, knees, face, and ears. Now he looks like Dobby:
Donated t-shirt for a tunic

Look closely and you can just see his dirty nose
When they are all together in the display everyone stops and says "Oh, it's Dumbledore!" "I just love it!" and one night someone even stopped to give a sock to Dobby, a bit of folklore from the books where Dobby can be free if he's given an item of clothing. Yes, they believe.
The library Harry Potter display
There were two display cases that held memorabilia donated by staff and others. We had just finished a one day office Christmas walk where one of the offices had a huge Harry Potter themed Christmas. We were in awe of how much they did and even borrowed their Hogwarts house banners for the week but all of the rest of our display and activities were our own creation. You just gotta love a job that lets you use your creative juices like this to energize staff and delight our students. Not exactly Christmas at Hogwarts, but the next best thing to it.

Friday, December 23, 2016

To Be Jolly

And jolly we are as the sewing machines are flying off the shelves. You knew there was a reason why I haven't written enough blog posts! I have many of them all in my head but not enough time to write them down when I can barely write out the ads to keep selling. Berninas are popular right now as I've had many calls for a Bernina Record 530 and its already sold, just waiting for a manual. She loved the sewing machine but there was a difference between Bernina 530-1 and 530-2 and the free manual is only for 530-2. So what's the big difference? It's all in the dials:
Bernina 530-1 stitch width dial
Bernina 530-2 stitch width dial
Even if I get it all figured out and explain it to the new owner, she really wants, and deserves, a good manual with all of the correct information. In the meantime...

The Brother Select-O-Matic, twin to my own, has been listed and I get an email from Linda who asks if I would consider shipping it. No. It's got to be 40 pounds! I encourage her to find a friend coming to the Twin Cities since she lives in a neighboring state. Lo and behold, she writes back and asks if I could meet her brother-in-law in New Brighton where he makes frequent deliveries. I look up the address and see it's near where I work so it's a deal. We miss this weeks' run but there are weeks to come and she will send a check in the meantime. But I start to feel guilty about selling it like this, sight unseen, as I say to myself "There must be a sewing machine in her area that would also work to mend jeans and work clothes." I write again and this time try to sell her on a Kenmore listed near her but no, she wants the Brother because it's just like one her mother used. The denim comes out and I practice sewing 2, 4, 6, and then 8 layers. It did fine until I couldn't fit 8 layers under the presser foot. Now I feel better and we are waiting to get scheduled for a pick-up.

Then Kim calls and wants to sew horse blankets, canvas, and other heavy materials on the Brother Select-O-Matic. Further conversation has her interested in the Pfaff 60 that I've had for several years and it's a very hearty, and heavy, sewing machine. She comes over and just loves it, even looks at my collection of cabinets to see what the Pfaff would fit into. It's oh so nice in a yellow table that the Pfaff 230 was waiting in and it all gets sold with the portable case and the cabinet.
Pfaff 230 cabinet for the Pfaff 60
 Whew! It had an interesting situation with the foot control and knee control. There was a male plug end coming from the knee control and it plugged into the Pfaff 230. Now I needed to change the Pfaff 60 to also have a female plug to use the knee control and change out the foot control to also have the male end. Does all of this make sense? I wish I had taken a few photos but it all happened to quickly I didn't have time to think about it. Now she has a cabinet with a knee control and also can switch out the cord to use the foot control: best of both worlds.

Pfaff 60: straight stitch only
Back to the Brother Select-O-Matic. I get an email from Roland who has bought two machines from me before and he wants the Brother also. It's sold but I happen to have another one is a solid teal, just not the cute two-tone. After sending a few photos he's positive this is the one he wants and comes the next day to pick it up. Now, Roland is a collector, too, so he has to show me his latest, just to brag a little and it is well deserved:
Howe in pink and light gray: very handsome!
She sure is pretty in pink. Roland also had a White in that wonderful golden color, known as Judy Jetson to Cheri who bought her, and both Roland's and Cheri's were beautiful.

Cheri's Judy Jetson: White 765

Before he left, I had to warn Roland that the Brother sometimes would have a squeal as it went into the automatic stitches but only slightly the last time so I was hoping it was working out something. I got an email later and Roland said it was the motor so he changed it out. Ah, that's why I need to learn about bearings but that's a whole 'nother lesson.

Brother Select-O-Matic in teal

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Recipe for Success

Sometimes a substitute turns out better than your first choice: this is a story where things turned out better than expected.

In Minnesota, we have a privately funded Textile Center that offers a wide array of classes, a local shop, and hosts the ever popular garage sale each spring. One of the classes offered in September was all about Etsy: how to make your Etsy shop really work for you. I got all signed up but as the day approached I could see that I wasn't going to make it as I got sick. Although I cancelled in advance, hoping they could fill my spot with someone from the waiting list, I heard nothing. Thinking this was going to be just a wasted fee, I bemoaned this to my friend, Ann, who suggested I get back in touch with them. Sure enough (Ann, you are so smart) they would let me substitute another class in the same semester. I got signed up with a class in learning to to take your photos and print them on fabric. I got my laptop all set up with the "PicMonkey" program as suggested. Parking is usually at a premium in their location so I was glad to have been there before and knowing where I could and couldn't park. There were about a dozen women ready to learn with either their own laptop of they could have reserved one from the Center.

We learned all about sizes of photos, pixels, how much we could enlarge something and how to get around things that looked impossible to print. Using the images we were given to work with on a flash drive, we could manipulate them to make a new photograph, sometimes a collage, and even give them special effects in PicMonkey. There were many examples of what we could do with photographs on fabric and then we were introduced to Spoonflower. This is a company that can print your image on various fabrics of your choosing, from cotton to knits, to upholstery. The project that really excited me was to make a tea towel with an image of a recipe card. Now that was something unique to our family yet practical to boot. I was game to try this!

I went home to choose and scan my recipe cards, trying to get those that were more colorful. There weren't any. But there were cards that had "From the kitchen of..." and printed with my Aunt Marcella's name. I was also looking for those with the originators handwriting, especially if they are no longer with us: that did make them precious. My recipe cards were scanned but I wanted them on a cuter background so I also scanned a section of dark blue gingham checks. Using that as the background and centering each card image on it, I then had four images to print on a yard of fabric, a linen canvas that was recommended. I couldn't figure out how to do that so I sent a question into Spoonflower. Although it took almost six emails to get all of the details straight (I'm a slow learner!), I finally had them as one big image to print. I hit "Order" and tried not to wince. What if the writing was too faint? Would they look straight enough? Did I just throw my money away?

The next day I went back in to look at what I ordered and was shocked to see that I missed one of the cards and replicated two. What? That's what happens when you do things in dim light late at night! Oh well, they were ordered and I would take what I would get. It only took about two weeks for my original creation to be printed and get delivered. I opened the package to find:
4 recipes on one yard of 54" wide fabric
They were wonderful, better than anything I could have hoped for! Alright, there were two of Aunt Marcella's but they were good ones. The print was bold and clear, transferring the few stains that were on the original recipe cards. Cute! I brought my yard of fabric to work and showed all of my co-workers what I had learned and how easy it was. There are many of them, maybe most, that have better technology skills than I do so I encouraged them to try this out, too. Now I have to cut them apart and hem to send off for Christmas.

Not perfectly straight with the background causes problems
Pressed and hemmed
As it turned out, I had difficulty getting a good stitch on my Viking +1 so I tried the Bernina 530 so get stitches that were passable. Next I might try different thread and needles because this should not be difficult. Maybe the Singer 201? No, I ended up using a White rotary that was recently rewired to get the best stitches. It just goes to show you that their is never just one sewing machine that is the best at everything.

My sister Sue was the first to get hers and was she ever excited. The first comment was "It's Marcella's handwriting!" This prompted a long phone call where we talked about the meaning behind all of this and how we shared recipes over the years and Aunt Marcella was such a good cook. Here's Sue with her tea towel:
and a day later Jane got hers:
It's such a little thing but a great outcome, so great that on Spoonflower they had a 48 hour offer of buy one fat quarter and get another one free so I ordered two more so my sister Mindy and I can each have one, too. If you are reading this, Mindy, just hold on and you will get yours in January! What about the other two recipe cards from my first yard of fabric? Those are going to each of my daughters so "sshh" to help keep it a secret until then. Next up for this same project will be my mother-in-law's recipes that we can scan for shower presents: there's a wedding in May and Mary is excited about this new idea, too.

Look what I've started...

Monday, December 12, 2016

Little Critters

In this land of cold and snow we have to be careful what we store outside since winter is below freezing for months at a time. Sewing machines are not too happy to be frozen as this can solidify oil and grease and wears on the finish of the older black Singers in particular. This past weekend I bought a Bernette 234 serger that had a little surprise waiting for me.

I arranged to meet with the seller at a half way point and we simply exchanged the serger, cones of thread, and a Bernina walking foot for cash now in her hand. The machine had to sit in my car all day while I worked a Saturday shift. When I got home and plugged it in I could see it was pretty dirty but I pushed the foot control to find it still stitched so it went back in the box until the next day. Sunday afternoon I got it out and looked it over. I had this model before and had trouble with it not going really fast but the new owner, Jane, said she was fine with that as she wasn't into fast these days. My newer Bernette 234 serger would go really fast but I needed to clean it up first. Feeling fearless, I turned it over and took off the bottom plate so I could get to the mess underneath. Here's what I found:
Little nuts saved up by some little creature

My my, someone has been busy! When I mentioned this to my husband he thought it had to be a mouse because there were no marks from gnawing on the plastic, something a squirrel might do. Yuck. The bottom plate actually got washed with Dawn dishwashing detergent and came out very nice but I needed to clean up all of the oil and mess on the rest of it. It does seem a little strange that the usual accumulation of threads and fluff from a serger wasn't present but oil spatter was. I took off the front cover so I could see where oil might be coming from and found this:
Under the front cover there were even more
Now everything was going to get a very thorough cleaning. It sure cleaned up nice and needed very little adjusting. This little lovely is going to Haiti, getting picked up soon so it will be a carry-on on a late flight. It will no longer be subject to freezing temperatures but might need to guard against rust in such a warm and humid climate. When I sent a photo and note to the last owner of the serger she was shocked with the news about all of the nuts and then confessed it had been in the garage last summer. Now she wonders what else was out there and maybe there would be surprises in them, too. Yes, indeed.
Bernette 234 serger all cleaned up

Friday, December 9, 2016

'Tis The Season... be jolly or so goes the song and I'm finding, as usual, the cold weather brings up the sewing machine sales. Take Ramona, for instance.

My lovely Singer 115 was rejected once again and I was feeling very sorry for it but I posted it one more time and Ramona answered the call. Maybe it's a bit of a siren call, something possibly dangerous but oh so alluring. But Ramona was from Iowa yet heading north to pick up a few sewing machines and the Singer 115 was on her list:
Singer 115 with gingerbread decals
She called back and said the plan was to come the next day in the afternoon and there was no way I could get any time off from work so my faithful husband, Jim, came to the rescue. It really was a rescue because they got lost and called for help! They weren't too far away and he stayed on the phone while guiding them through all of the intersections and signs to get to Blaine, MN. Ramona might have thought she was going to pick up a Singer 115 but when she walked in the door she said wow, there are so many and are they all for sale?

That's when Jim called me and we spent the next 20 minutes on speaker phone while they looked at various sewing machines, asking price, do I happen to have a Singer 401, or a handcrank, or what's inside of that bentwood case? We got all of their questions answered and they even had to go into the basement, something I do not encourage. The handcrank was down there and Jim was not about to lift anything since his arm has been in a sling for several months (don't ask). In the end, Ramona and her husband walked out with the Singer 115:
Singer 115 bird's eye view

Singer 301 in a table with the cradle (just bought 3 days before):
Singer 301 (sorry no photo of table that needed to be restored)

and a Singer 99 with a crinkle finish in a bentwood case:
Singer 99 crinkle finish (before bentwood case was restored)

They asked if I ship sewing machines and Jim and I both said NO but I encouraged them to make another road trip, possibly for the handcrank and the Singer 401. Ramona said she had budgeted a certain amount of money and would have to stop when she did so they loaded up the truck (two cabinet models, one had a bench seat, and a portable in bentwood case) and went back to Iowa. Jim and I were both pretty excited but I was working late that evening so we had to wait several hours until I could get home. Yup, I stopped to pick up a pizza as a thank you for all Jim did in my absence plus who wants to cook at 7 pm?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


It has taken several months of selling but I finally have all of the sewing machines with cabinets in the house or sold and I got my car back in the garage. My goal is to get the cars back in the garage before the first snowfall but we had two small snowfalls with no real accumulation but I knew my time was coming to an end soon. A storm and drop in temperature is coming this week and that was where I drew the line in the sand. We had a dishwasher installed yesterday and it had been taking up its share of space so with its removal my car was ready to go in. Here's the happy result:
Both cars in the garage!
Now before you get too excited for me, know that I bought another table model on the same day. I saw an ad for a Singer 301 and, wouldn't you know it, in a school cabinet with matching seat. I asked if it came with the cradle and even explained what it would look like but they weren't sure. Between having the dishwasher installed and picking up the Singer 301 I stopped at the car wash because it was going to be the last chance before real cold stepped in and car washes stopped. I gladly added the Singer 301 in table in the back of my clean car, not sure what I was going to do when I got home. Two sisters were selling it, deciding it was time since the original owner had passed away six years ago. Besides, one of the sisters already had mom's Featherweight and she was happy with it, still using it, too. I demonstrated the cradle before we hauled it upstairs and into my car and they were fascinated, not knowing it would simply lift out with the push of a lever. Yes, it was very clever of the Singer designers!
How the cradle works but with a different cabinet: see lever on left?

Once home, I got it cleaned up and checked out but found I needed to rewire the foot control. One of the sisters told me it just kept running when she plugged it in so I figured it needed new wiring and it certainly did. As the cord entered the foot control the rubber covering was worn away so bare wire was rubbing bare wire so it made a full circuit, keeping the motor running constantly. Once that was corrected with all new wire (same foot control, same plug end), I plugged the machine in and ran it for awhile. Okay, but not great, so I kept cleaning the interior although it wasn't particularly dirty.  What did the trick was cleaning off the old grease on the metal gears, three sets of them with feed dogs, handwheel to motor, and main gears on top. Triflow is a no-no on this type of gear and will slow them down, according to Bill Holman who worked on Singers all of his professional life. It's true: I've had to go back and remove the Triflow grease because it slowed down a Singer 201and replace it with (gulp) petroleum jelly. Yup, that's Vaseline by brand name. Man, she took off! It made all the difference. sometimes simple is better.
My newest Singer 301: ain't she sweet?
And finally, I have the story of an Etsy package that took a long time and the long way to get to its destination. I'm always happy to get a notice when I sell something in my Etsy shop so when a lovely calendar tote was bought by Kim, I packaged it up right away and sent it to Ohio.  On November 24 I get a message from her asking if I had sent it yet. What? I sent it on November 17! From there I sent her the tracking number and we were almost mesmerized as we followed its path. From Des Moines to Cincinnati, back to Des Moines, to St. Paul to Cincinnati to Indianapolis to Minneapolis where it stayed from November 24 until I sent out an inquiry on November 29. I apologized to Kim and she was very good natured about it and even took a photo when it finally arrived on December 2:
Kim's package when it arrived.
She loved the tote bag even if it took over two weeks to arrive. What could either of us say? It did finally arrive. Sometimes you just gotta love it. Finally..