Sunday, June 25, 2017

In The Swim

I love to sew and by this time in my life I'm finally getting good at it. In a previous post about making swim suits for Emma, Getting Prepared, I made up five little suits and last weekend I got to see one in action. We were all together for a family time with my sisters and those who were out-of-town stayed in a nearby hotel with a pool just for the kids or the young at heart. Emma wore her yellow suit and I could watch her in action to see if it really did fit (could be a little longer) and how it held up (the top decorative-only button fell off). There were her older brothers who enjoyed a game of catch with Grandpa Jim, but little Emma had two girl cousins from Michigan, Vivie and Frannie, who were just a tad younger and older so they were quite a three-some. How many times can you jump into the pool and in how many ways? There seemed to have no limit and they sure did have fun. When Emma's family drove home the next afternoon Vivie and Frannie didn't stay in the pool too long that evening because it just wasn't as much fun without their new friends.

Once we got home I found something I needed to mail to Beth, my niece and the mother of Vivie and Frannie, and decided I couldn't mail off just one item so decided matching swimsuits would be fun for the girls. Wouldn't you know it? I still had enough fabric to make two more suits that were the same yellow print as Emma's:
Kwiksew 3785 size small and X-Small
By this time I was on suit numbers six and seven with this KwikSew pattern 3785 so I was getting pretty good at the elastic sewing but each suit takes five loops and each loop gets sewn on twice: once to attach and then folded over and sewn again. That's ten times per suit! But I woke up early one morning and couldn't get back to sleep so I started in on the suits and they were done in no time. You know how much I love to sew on vintage sewing machines but I've been using my Viking Designer 1 and, oh my, there are some features that are really, really nice. For instance, needle up and needle down. Now, a lot of sewing machines have this but the D1 takes it a step further and when it's needle down and you stop, the presser foot raises up a half step, not all the way up, just halfway. This lets you reposition your fabric (and elastic) yet keep your place because the needle is still down in the fabric. Then there is the Fix feature that is automatic at the start of each new seam where it stitches in place for about five ups and downs to secure the stitch. I have this on earlier Vikings, the 1100, 1200 , and 1250, but you have to choose it. The D1 has it at the start by default and I'm not changing it! Finally, when you are done with a seam, select Fix again to lock the last stitch in place, and then you can select the scissor button. What does the scissor button do? It pulls the thread from the top down to the underside and clips both the needle thread and the bobbin thread. It works about 80% of the time but that's fine by me because it snips the thread!!!!!! I didn't know how much that bothered me until I no longer had to do it.
Viking Designer 1 function buttons on left side of the body
I was even feeling adventurous and sewed the buttons on with the sewing machine, something I rarely do, but was willing to try it again since Emma's button came off her swimsuit. This was also easy and no broken needles, either. Oh yea, I'm in love with the D1 right now.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Industrial Strength Singers - part 2

I wrote a month ago about a Singer 31-15 and now it is finally ready to be returned, getting picked up tonight. Sigh. It was so much fun while it lasted and I would encourage you to try an industrial sewing machine without the motor using only a treadle. At least for me, to have a strong motor is pretty scary and the treadle still does the job but not at top speed. In my last report on this sewing machine I hadn't figured out what really needed to be done beyond cleaning and further cleaning showed me the broken or wrong presser foot and feed dogs. I could easily get new ones and even cheaply, so I went ahead and ordered a new set along with the DBx1 needles in size 16 and 18. I was all excited when they arrived but that was before I figured out how to get the feed dogs off. Actually, I ended up not getting them off since I broke the feed dog bar. That's right, it just snapped and I thought "You did it now..." until I found one online for under $20. I had to eat that $20 since I hadn't gotten that approved first and it was my mistake but at least there was one to buy. Here's what it looked like:
Singer 31-15 feed dog bar broken with feed dogs attached and new bar on right
But how to get all of this apart? It turned out to be a bit tricky but not as bad as it could have been. Although there were several ways it might come apart, I ended up taking the whole plate, bobbin, and hook out several times to get it all fitting back together:
Singer 31-15 without feed dog bar in place
When all was said and done and I went to sew with it I found out I had reversed the feed dog timing: instead of the needle coming down into the fabric when the feed dogs were in the furthest back position, they were too far forward. There is a way to adjust it but that screw was not going to move so I walked away to think about it for a day. Or two. And in the end I went back and undid the work to get it together and held the feed dogs in the correct position, not just the easiest one. After some more adjustments to raise the feed dogs I finally got it to sew perfectly. Whew! That was a real learning experience and I don't have to own the machine to enjoy how it works.
Singer 31-15 with new needle plate, feed dogs, and presser foot.
Ellie came to pick it up and to find a place for it while they pack up another shipment for Haiti in September. She also asked for towels and soap for people who stop by the center. Most of the time they come right out of the fields and jungle and are in need of a shower, which they have, but towels and soap would be welcome. She asked the right person since I had recently bought new towels and the linen closet was too full. I also had small bars of soap from various hotels and samples along with new toothbrushes. Before Ellie drove off she commented that she almost put this machine out for a free pick-up since it came to her in such a poor state. I'm sure I wouldn't have recognized it if I hadn't seen Henry's back in January. There is so much to learn but I'm having fun in the meantime!
Singer 31-15 treadle bound for Haiti

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Stormy Weather

While heat and storms were predicted over the weekend, I got busy and posted a few sewing machines and a serger, thinking people might stay inside and think about projects they needed for finish with a sewing machine. That turned out to be a good idea but I only sold one of the items from the actual ad. Here's my story (and I'm sticking to it):

After another hot summer day topping +90 degrees, I figured I would buy plants for a few pots and planters on Sunday afternoon and get them growing but the weather had other ideas. At 8:30 in the morning I got a weather alert that a storm was coming in with hail predicted. I no more than read the alert on my cell phone and it hit. We had golf ball sized hail that continued for about 15 minutes, making it look like we just got an inch of snow. The temperature plummeted, green leaves were littering the sides of the house and covered the ground. It was scary! Here's a chunk of the hail I recovered:
Hail after the storm
While I was checking things over I get a call from Nebraska and it turns out it's Marilyn's daughter who has heard the story of her mom's Viking 1070 and White serger and wants a sewing machine that is more reliable than the one she has.  Her daughters are sewing for 4H and the Husky 145 is sewing only at top speed, not acceptable for those learning how to sew. Marilyn can come over right away and pick out a sewing machine, she trusts her mother. Oh, and do I have a serger that would also be easy to use? I get right on it, setting up 5 sewing machines that would be good for beginners and reliable plus two sergers, one from a current ad on Craigslist. I actually enjoy getting out the machines and testing them out, just to make sure everything is still working: sometimes I have surprises and they go into the repair shop (just my table top) before going back on a shelf.
Kenmore serger

Singer serger
Before Marilyn arrives I get a text from someone else asking about the Kenmore serger: can it sew knits, especially performance knits? I quick grab some four-way stretch knit and sew-up a sample and text the photo to her. Perfect! She will be over when she's off work at 8; this should be good news but what if Marilyn buys it first? I quick stitch up the knit on the other serger to find it works great, too. I have to tell her that it could sell before 8 pm but I still have another one that will also work. Marilyn arrives, looks at the five machines I've set up and says she really wants her daughter to have a good Viking. These machines are too basic because the girls are already putting in zippers and want a good buttonhole feature, a one step not a 4 step of a more basic sewing machine. Of course, I did have some very nice Vikings but they were considerable higher in cost than a beginners sewing machine but Marilyn was prepared to buy a much better one for her daughter and granddaughters and I could hardly blame her. I brought up a lovely Viking 1100:
Husqvarna Viking 1100
We gave it a test run and it was wonderful, similar to the Viking 1070 she already was enjoying at home when purchased from me seven months ago. Now on to a serger: the Singer or the Kenmore? Both were working fine and could handle what she was looking for but they each had strengths and weaknesses. It came down to what I would recommend but remember I already had a buyer for the Kenmore serger. Just to be fair, I pointed out the Kenmore had a more modern look, had a scrap tray and accessories but the Singer's manual was much easier to use. So the better manual won out and the Singer serger is going to Nebraska! We got everything all packed up (the Singer had a box with the original packing foam), extra cones of thread were picked out, and she had to hurry out to get all of this to Red Wing, Minnesota (home of the RW shoes and pottery) where it was going to a mother-in-law before she set off for Nebraska. Whew!

By 8 pm the lone Kenmore serger was set up, samples made with three different knit fabrics and a cotton, when I got a knock on the door. Amy comes in with her mother, a quilter, to check out the serger. She's in love - at first sight - sits down to try it out, and claims it sold. That was fast! And here's a bit of the back story: Amy is working with a theater group, making repairs and parts of costumes and wanted a better way to finish seams, a more professional look. I bought that serger from a woman who originally bought it to make her daughter dance costumes. I thought the purpose was pretty similar so just maybe the Kenmore serger found a forever home.

Will I see Marilyn again? Yes, she confesses she hasn't used her serger, a White 534, since she brought it home and maybe she needs a lesson on setting the tensions. Of course, she's going to come back for a lesson and to practice using her serger. Who knows? Maybe Marilyn has a sister to bring along or even a sewing friend: all are welcome!
White 534 serger

Saturday, June 10, 2017


I just realized my whole business is based on trust: people trust in my ability to make a sewing machine work and work well enough for them to take it home and sew with some amount of success. This week I had an opportunity to buy a sewing machine and the seller operated on her own premise that she could trust me to pay her...if and when I wanted to. What? If? That's right, if it didn't work I could do what I wanted with her sewing machine. Here's the story:

I spotted and ad for an Elna 8000 sewing machine, an early computerized model whose reputation has struggled a bit. I was brought to this series of models through a friend who has an Elna 7000 that could not be fixed, or so the shop told her and we had an adventure trying to get a working model for her. From there I bought a couple Elna 5000's as I wrote about in Ebay Elna 5000, the very basic model, and started to wonder about the later models, the 8000 and the 9000 they called the "Diva". It was on my wish list to work on one some day and it looked like this was going to be it. But the price was so low I feared it was going to be missing  parts or didn't fully function so I asked the seller if it still worked. She was selling it for her mother who used it recently so the answer was "probably". I explained this model suffered from having a step motor where part of it was for the belt and part was for the feed dogs and that was the part that usually failed. Well, she didn't sew and didn't understand but here's what she could do for me: She would leave it at the bottom of the steps by the garage door at her house and I should just come pick it up. If I liked it I could send her the money in the envelope she would provide, if I didn't like it I could do what I wanted with it. Fair enough? I told her it was more than fair and she was too trusting. She LOL's me a few times and said she had been accused of that before but this was what she wanted to do.
Elna 8000: note the top bar with one of the three rows of possible stitches
I stopped on my why home to find a decent looking model sewing machine along with a bag of bobbins and workbook in a bin at the front of her house. It had to wait until my grandson's softball game was over but when I got home and plugged it in it appeared to work and even moved an envelope across the feed dogs so that step motor seemed to be working. The next morning I threaded it up and it sewed great! Here's a sample of what it can do:
Elna 8000 stitch sample
There are three rolling bars across the top of the machine with illustrations of the stitches with their respective numbers. Row 1 holds 1-24 for basic stitches, buttonholes, and a small selection of decorative stitches like scallops. Row 2 holds 25-60 for block letters and numbers and row 3 holds 61-84, some pretty cool decorative stitches as shown in the sample. I really liked the feather stitch of actual feathers, one I have never seen before. Remember, Elna had all those really cool cams with a huge number of decorative stitches that others copied.

Mine came without a plate on the bed that would give you a smooth sewing surface but I actually had one from the Elna 5000 or 7000 as parts:
Gray plate is removable: see accessory tray in place?
It also came with the accessory tray full of goodies, plenty of bobbins and even the original needle threader:
Accessory tray with lid open
When the lid closes, it slips under the free arm and actually stays in place, very handy! There was no manual and I fear I will have to buy one because it just isn't as intuitive as I would like: this is not a beginners sewing machine either and a manual  is necessary. It did come with a workbook
where they will take you through a series of lessons to learn how to use all of the feet and features. Here's a sample page:
Of course, the previous owner did all of the lessons and attached her sample but you could still use it as a self-paced learning module. I've seen a few others that do this and I wish more would consider a workbook approach. Maybe classes were also held and you brought your workbook with you? Someone is going to have to let me know how that worked and if they still have this type of learning because it's pretty neat.

The Elna 8000 is one of the last ones that were actually made in Switzerland and it says right on the front"Swiss Made" whereas now they say "Swiss by Design." Who are they kidding? Janome bought them out so now you are getting a Janome sewing machine, which also has a solid reputation.

We have a heat advisory out for today so I mowed the lawn last night in anticipation of staying indoors today. It's a grand day to stay in the cool basement sewing up things I've cut out and working my stash down. Won't you join me?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Thirty-three and Counting

A few posts ago I wrote about the 32 presser feet and what they can do. This post is about 33, that is model 33-10, a Viking sewing machine that I got my hands on. Every once in awhile a model comes along that I think would be cool to use and it's usually an older model Elna, Bernina, Singer, or Viking. I had been eyeing a Viking 33-10 but thought the price was too high and apparently everyone else did , too, because it did not sell quickly. Finally breaking down, I sent a text and it came up with someone's name: Blake from Duluth who sold a Bernina 530 several months ago to me. Since we already had a working relationship he was more than willing to come down in price and even arranged to deliver it since he was swinging down through the Twin Cities from Duluth. He said it was running slow and showed me the huge globs of grease on the works through the back of the machine. Oh, yuck! The rest of it looked pretty complete with an extension table for the carrying case and all of the parts lying around in the case.
Original Viking case is in good shape

Back of the machine: opening where all the grease was packed in (note that extension table on the case)
Couldn't wait to get my hands on it, to get all of that grease wiped out of there and to get it running again. As it usually turns out, it just needed some TLC. Cleaning, oiling with Triflow, and a generous application of heat with a hairblower got everything moving again. When I went to test the stitches out I discovered there was no bobbin case or bobbin. Mistake? Blake isn't answering texts so I surmise I'm out of luck . I have to be patient in hopes of one coming up on eBay someday or to find another supplier. But it runs! It has zigzag! Now if it would only stitch.
Viking 33-10, heavy duty but not industrial
In the meantime I'm working on the timing of a Pfaff 130. I change needles and bobbin cases (this one also came without a bobbin case but they are not hard to find). In my search for a slightly different bobbin case I pull out a Viking Husqvarna 21 to see what kind of a bobbin case it has and notice it is a zigzag model. I had a text on Memorial Day asking if I had a Husqvarna with zigzag and I had replied no but I had a Singer 237 and 190 with basic zigzag. It was a holiday and interest was waning and there was no follow-up by the requester. Now I remembered this series of texts and my newly retrieved Viking 21 so I text the Memorial Day shopper, Alex, to see if he still was interested in a Viking zigzag. Yes, he certainly was and would be right over.
Viking 19, a very similar model (sorry no photo of the 21)
He loved it! Alex was going over seas in July as part of his military active duty and wanted to take a good strong sewing machine with him along with new sewing skills he hoped to acquire. He was a quick study, having sewn a tiny bit before but never had his own sewing machine. He did confess that on Memorial Day he went to a fabric store and looked at their models and knew he was not going to be able to sew too long on such flimsy models. For the same cost he got a terrific sewing machine that would handle those heavier fabrics without jamming.

Alex walked away with a great sewing machine for his purposes. I reminded him he could call and come back with questions but that YouTube was a great resource. He laughed and said he worked at a large hardware store and always preferred when people took a short video of their problem to show when they came in for help. Maybe I will get that video clip from Alex when he is in another country and needs a bit of assistance. That would be cool, to go international again! Let's see, my sewing machines are presently being enjoyed in Haiti and Scotland so maybe another country is going to be added. Just let me know, Alex!

Friday, June 2, 2017


Innovation is a part of the libraries, always looking for ways to serve our patrons, meeting their needs, and sometimes before they even know they have a need. Our new Makerspace is just that: innovation and experimentation in....we don't know quite "what" because that is up to the user. As part of the equipment we have obtained a 3D printer, photography equipment, a green screen, and a sewing machine. It seems there was an old rarely used Singer 237 in the Art Department hidden in a corner of the sculpture studio. Our digital librarian, Kent, and I went down to look at it and found it just covered in dust even though it was down inside the table. Kent asked if it was going to be of any use to us and I figured I could get it up and running. Over the next few months it appeared in the Makerspace so I spent some time cleaning, oiling, and adjusting it and think it is going to work nicely for their purposes. And what would it be used for? Well, we didn't know just yet but we were getting ready.
Singer 237 set up for free motion embroidery
In anticipation of students who never used a sewing machine we figured they needed some guidance so I printed out the Singer 237 manual. No one reads manuals! Instead, I wrote up some basic instruction on how to thread the sewing machine and get started sewing along with illustrations from the manual. It was only four pages long and that seemed about right so they can be printed, laminated, and posted on the wall behind the sewing machine. Then we got the set of 32 presser feet and our minds started to churn out ideas on how to use this collection. A fringe foot? Where would we put fringe we could make? The free motion foot had intrigued me and I think this is where some really creative sewing could take place. But first we needed to get them sewing and Kent said he needed to learn so he could help anyone who needed help since he was in charge of the Makerspace. So let's get Kent sewing!

I proposed making pillowcases since this was an easy project that could be expanded upon and Kent agreed. Bringing in a stack of precut fabric in the size of pillowcases and a set of instructions, Kent picked one out and tried to remember his only sewing lesson back in 8th grade. He was going to need a refresher so we sat down and went over the basics. As a digital librarian, technology doesn't slow Kent down but a sewing machine? He was more than a little hesitant but was willing. Here's the progress he made:
Sewing in wide hem of the casing
Closer look at the start of the hem
Pinning the seam
Final result: a pillowcase!
We were both happy with this first project and now Kent wanted to try free-motion stitching on the hem to see how creative he could be.  I'm very new to free-motion embroidery but we all agreed this was a skill that was going to be used in this space, but that Singer 237 was not making this easy. The speed of the foot control seemed to lack the fine control that I thought was holding me back. Was it the machine or was it me? I went home and practiced on several sewing machines that could drop their feed dogs with varying results. The Viking #1, model 1200, was okay but maybe an electronic sewing machine was not the best way to go. I went back to the Singer 237 after a practice session at home and found it was better. Now, was the machine better or was I?  Yeah, you are thinking along the same lines as I am when we consider the machine had not changed but I was learning how to move the fabric, how to learn to keep a steady pace, and what designs I could actually produce. Here's a sample of the work I did:
Hooped, swirls, and words
As you can see, this takes practice! I'm sure some sewing machines are better than others for free motion but don't let the machine hold you back: just get in there and do it!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Big Sisters

I have two big sisters and one little sister so that makes me a middle-child. As we grow older together I love my sisters more and more, appreciating our differences and celebrating our milestones. There is a sewing machine that is purported to be the "big sister" and that has always intrigued me but sewing machines are in families, of sorts. There's the Berninas, that Swiss family that lives next door to the Elnas, also from Switzerland. The Pfaff's are down the street and they moved here from Germany and then there are the Vikings, those rather tall ones from Sweden. And, of course, the Necchi's are from Italy, home of great shoes and fast cars. Enough of the stereo types, looking at the above list makes me wonder what sewing machines were made in the United States: Singer is the only name I can come up with and those were from another age. But aren't they all? Most sewing machines are now made by a few big manufactures overseas, to the specifications of the brand, but no longer in all those countries of origin. Okay, off my soap box and onto big and little sister sewing machines.

The Singer 221, a.k.a. the Featherweight, is said to have a big sister, the Singer 301. They might be in the same family but sure are different in my book. Both have bodies made of aluminum so they are lightweight with the same slimline bobbin case. For all practical purposes, that's where the similarities end because the 301 is slant shank, has a built-in handle, can fit into a table with a cradle for easy release. Alright, they both come in black with flip up extension tables but the 301 has a long or short bed extensions whereas the 221 only has a long bed. I would say they are more like cousins but then I wasn't the one who nicknamed them big and little sister. So here's my find earlier this week:
Singer 301 in her found state: a dirty bird
As it happens with so many of these sales, the seller only knew enough to be dangerous. He found it in the basement of his house but couldn't find the power cord but turned the handwheel to see that it wasn't jammed. Someone has sent him a message telling him the bobbin case was pretty expensive so maybe he should be charging more. As always, I chuckled to myself and told him I would need to actually see the machine to determine if it was worth more. I brought along an extra power cord but by the time I got there he found the one it came with as well as the cradle to fit into a cabinet. He had done some more research and knew that black plate of the cradle indicated it came with a cabinet but there wasn't one in his basement so it was what it was. And it was pretty grimy. It did run, the cradle was a plus, and the found power cord kept me from bargaining, so we were both satisfied with the previously posted cost. She came home with me for a real spa treatment.

Because my elbow has flared up and I'm giving it a rest by keeping it in a brace, the cleaning process had to be done over several days with my right arm more engaged than usual and my left only as a helper. This did take a long time but here are the results:
Singer 301A after her spa day
There is some mottling on the bed so I suspect it might have been cleaned with window cleaner at some point but it was smooth with no nicks or dings. With a good cleaning on the inside with Triflow oil and then grease on the metal gears, she ran nice. Stitching was another story so I ended up taking the tension mechanism apart to clean between the disks. I forgot how it went back together and was determined I could do it without looking it up but it took me longer yet I did it! It stitched perfectly now, was clean inside and out, ready for a new home. It's my plan to put it in a trapezoid case I've been saving and keep the cradle for another machine and cabinet/table.

Back a few few posts I reported on my trials and successes of the newly fixed Designer 1 so I'll show you two of the samples from my practice:

Both were free designs and stitched on white fabric that looks cream in the photos. I didn't use stabilizer on the backs, just a firm setting inside the hoop. Each one had about three starts until I could do the above examples. I tried to add my name to the Sewing Center but it ended up being too large and wouldn't start in the spot it said it was starting. I got so frustrated that I went back to the original to see if I could at least do that one and I was fairly successful. On the Song of Solomon verse I ran out of bobbin thread and when I reloaded I didn't have it seated properly and it all came out in white thread from the bobbin. This is just part of the learning so that's okay. What am I going to do with these little gems? Probably put them on my sewing bulletin board for now as early samples to give me inspiration. Some days I need it!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

32 and Counting

What is it about presser feet that makes us want more? Maybe we like to collect things that "should" have come with our sewing machine. Maybe we like the sense of accomplishment in learning a new skill in using the specialized feet to make a job easier. Or maybe we just like a whole box of shiny things. Here's a new box of 32 snap-on presser feet that I've been working with:
32 snap on presser foot set
I really like the box they came in with the foam cutouts to hold them when not in use. But there was a flaw in how they put this all together: the sheet with the labels, all of the identification info, is on the outside of the box where it shows what is inside but once you open the top...which one is which? So, clever me, I made a scan of the page, shrunk it to fit inside the cover so when you open the lid you can identify the name of each foot:
Box cover

Inside of box lid: see the "before" in the first photo
Some names are really helpful, such as blind hem foot: it makes a blind hem. Straight stitch foot is for making straight stitches. But what is a cording foot for? How about a double welting foot? I figured I could work through these babies over the coming months until I went back to the quilt group in September where I've been asked to talk about presser feet and what you can do with the specialized ones. But then I took this set to work to show a friend and somehow I ended up buying another set for the sewing machine in our new "maker space." This set was just a bit different with a molded plastic insert, not the foam in my set. I knew this was going to take some work to get this tool ready for use my those who are less familiar with sewing machines so here's what I did:
Presser foot set with individual labels
Each foot got a label nearest to its spot in the set and a tiny photo of each piece underneath so you can match them up. At least it's an effort to keep things organized but how are they going to know how to use them? I proceeded to watch video clips in how to use each and every foot in this set, putting them in a chart. Not all of the names matched up, such as the lace insertion foot is also known as the picot foot.

Now you are probably asking how you can get your hands on this chart, too, so here's what I can do for you. Here is a link to this chart that you can view and download yourself:

Presser Foot Chart for 32 low shank snap on feet set.

Let me know if this doesn't open for you but I think I've set up the permissions correctly. If the links to the videos become extinct, let me know about that, too, so I can find a new one. I tried to find clips that were the most helpful with the least amount of advertising but I'm sure there are better ones if you only keep looking. Or maybe this will inspire you to make your own chart on how to use the feet on your sewing machine. Oh, the places you'll go, according to a popular Dr. Seuss book. Who knows...

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Now She's Done It

For almost a year I had a broken Viking Designer 1 in my possession. I bought it at a neighborhood garage sale knowing it needed a new touch screen and that it was an expensive repair but I also knew the D1 was a machine to go after. In my quest to clean up my sewing room, I finally took the machine to a certified repair center where they kept it for a few weeks. When I got it back I was relieved to see that the D1 was going to live up to its reputation: a wonderful stitcher with a nice variety of stitches and functions: needle up/down, thread snip (new to me), built-in needle threader, and a host of features I've only started to discover. This model also came fully equipped with the embroidery unit and was I going to have fun with that!
Husqvarna Viking Designer 1 with embroidery unit attached
If I could only get it working. Correction: it worked but I didn't know how to get the designs to load. As part of a Yahoo group for VikingD1's, I read up on what I needed to have but I had a whole big box of manuals, boxes with CD's for upgrades, cables, dongles, more boxes with cords: what was what? Since I'm not the original owner, I'm not going to be able to update anything and figured I would have to circumvent the whole Viking software route but that wasn't a big loss since it did not come with any of the floppy disks with designs, not even one. They are pretty pricey to buy so maybe that was a good thing. What I could do was download SewWhat-Pro, a program that I could try for 30 days before I bought it. This handy tool would enable me to download designs, edit, and send to a 3.5" floppy disk to be read by the D1.

You read that right: floppy disks! I not only didn't have any floppy disks anymore but I didn't even have a computer with a floppy drive. Amazon to the rescue, I ordered a disk drive and floppies, something I never thought I'd see again. But when I went to put all of this together I couldn't get it to work. I finally took the disk drive and box of floppies to work and had our tech guru, Gene, walk me through the steps and we found out one of the disks was bad. He told me I should format them in the program I was using, SewWhat-Pro, so that was my first clue. The SWP manual was 85 pages of steps and I didn't even know what I was looking for so I finally wrote out what I had, what I tried, and where I wanted to go and posted it to the Yahoo group and they helped me solve it. About four women came forward with steps and suggestions until I finally got to the right place in the manual (p.47) where the steps were all laid out. It worked! Here's my first design:
Motif halfway done
The thread broke once and it stopped and waited for me to rethread. Here's the next time I stopped it:
Almost done...
and the final piece, now complete:
and complete!
This was a free design that I thought might be something I would actually like but, since I'm pretty new at machine embroidery, I had no idea how long this would take. An hour! But it only used one color of thread and I had a spool of rayon I figured would turn out nice. The fabric is from a stack of napkins, or maybe hankies, in various colors that I've had floating around and now I'll actually put them to use as I experiment with design and color. A big thank you goes out to Virginia who wrote out the steps from memory so I could get started and then offered to walk me through the steps over the phone. Now that's a helping community!

Will this be my next hobby? Maybe a diversion? I'm hoping it will be another facet in my sewing machine adventures where I can add a bit of embellishment where it would really be an asset. I remember when I started out with sergers "just to see what they are like" and that opened a whole new world of speed sewing and professional finishing. This might also do the same thing for me but I have a hunch the Designer 1 is going to replace the Viking #1+ as my main sewing machine. Oh, I can be so fickle!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Industrial Strength Singers

Ever since I saw a Singer 31-15 as I wrote about in Oh, Brother! last winter, I've been looking for one. I got close a couple times but I don't want to mess around with a heavy duty motor, just a treadle like Henry's would be nice. Imagine my surprise when I get a text from Ellie asking if she should keep a Singer treadle that was dropped off at her house. It looked pretty rough but then I took a look at the treadle irons and noticed the bottom pedal was off to the left. I looked again and could see a rod hanging down just off center. Now it started to fit together so I text back asking Ellie to humor me and check the model number that was on the front. You got it: it was a Singer 31-15. I won't say my heart stood still but I quickly text back that this was one to keep and could I pretty please be the one to work on it, for free? How could she say no? It arrived within a couple hours and was set up in my garage. Over the next few days I cleaned this dirty baby and got it reunited with the irons in the garage:
Singer 31-15 all cleaned up
It was a joy to figure out what was different to make this an industrial sewing machine and it's mainly just bigger. It does take special needles that are the same as one of the sergers I have, DBx1, so I was glad I didn't have to wait for an order to arrive. Bobbin case and bobbins are typical class 15's and I started out using regular polyester thread. It dawned on me that with the size 18 needle maybe I should be using heavier thread so I got out some heavy thread from my stash of serger cones. Winding the bobbin was not too successful but it was purely user error and will take more practice. The leather belt was broken so I used my trusty plastic tubing:
Bobbin winder in front and thread stand at the back with clear tubing in place of a leather belt
I did have to shorten it once but think it will do better with leather and I'll have to send for one since it's about six inches longer than the used ones I had accumulated. Just for practice and testing it was a fine start. Now for the pressure foot lift with the knee lever:
Knee lever right of center
The Bernina's 830's are about the first of the models that seem to have that feature but that was long after little beauty was made. It's fun to give that lever a little push and up goes the foot, keeping your hand free. At first the lever didn't engage so I tipped her back to see what was up with the positioning of the lever. I tried it several ways and then just gave up on it. While sewing this afternoon I gave the lever a nudge and, wow, the presser foot lifted! It worked! I don't know what I did but at least I got it positioned right somewhere in all of that finagling. Prepared with the size 18 needle and heavy thread, I tested her out on six layers of denim with no hesitation:
That's six layer of denim under that needle
I did struggle with the feed dogs moving the fabric along but think there was too much pressure on the presser foot as well as it is not an industrial presser foot. In the meantime I have a zigzag foot on it and it's doing much better. I even made a little video for you:

It's been fun to work on this sewing machine but I know I do not have the room nor a good use for it so it was nice while it lasted. It's absolutely perfect for Ellie to take to Haiti where electricity is not a mainstay of their lives but gainful employment is. Thanks, Ellie, for letting me practice on this one.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


After a long winter of working indoors, the weather has turned warm enough for my woodworking associate to produce some wood boxes for my sewing machines. What would I need wood boxes for? Since so many of the machines I find have no base or it is beyond repair, I want/need to have something to hold them. Sometimes I can do a decent repair job with glue and nails but other times they just need to be tossed:

Wizard base broken in shipment
Through Craigslist Ashley comes to my rescue with her posting about doing woodworking projects. She has some nice photos so I get in touch and when she can get out in her garage again she makes up these gems:
Two sizes in two styles
As requested, she made some out of oak and some out of poplar, both very sturdy woods that will stand up to wear and tear. The corners are rounded and very smooth, have corner wedges to support a base, small indents on the short sides for a handhold (a finger grip?), a cutout for electric cords, and a wood bottom, too. There are two styles: just big enough for the machine to sit on and some with   storage compartment on the side to hold accessories or an electric foot control.
Plain base in front, base with side compartment in back
And then there are two sizes: Singer 99 small base and larger size for all of the Singer 15's, 201's, and 15 type machines and others like the Brother Select-o-Matic that I'm in love with (sorry, not pictured yet):
Singer 99 in front with small size box, Singer 15-91 behind it with the larger size
I haven't done anything but  admire them but will probably stain a few and even paint at least one in black but most of them will be left unadorned for the buyer to finish as they would like. Now I can list a few more sewing machines that were just waiting around for a nice wood box to support them. Not everyone wants a table and with boxes that are decades old and broken this was a necessity but necessary or not, they are just beautiful! Ashley did a very nice job but good work doesn't come cheap. Could I learn to do something like this one day? I sure hope so because there's a woodworking class that is locally taught and I hope to get signed up next winter. It might take a long time to get up to this skill level but it would be a great goal for me.

In the meantime, I'm going to be calling on Ashley!

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Two Steves

I have a cute little aqua Sewmor for sale right now that has gotten some nice attention but, so far, no sale. I get these texts and emails "Is it still available?" and, of course, it is, because I'm usually deleting an ad as the buyer is backing down the driveway. Then I get an email from Steve who, surprise-surprise, wants to use it for heavy vinyl. I write back suggesting he bring what he intends to sew with him to try it out and he agrees it's a good idea. We go back and forth for ten messages trying to get a visit set up...and he drops out of the conversation. Poor little Sewmor is still waiting to find its forever home:
 At the same time I get a series of questions from a different Steve about a Singer 201. Now, I like an informed buyer because they know what to look for and what they want. Besides, I'm not trying to pull a fast one by trying to dump a poor machine off on anyone. Alright, there are a few sewing machines that I'm glad to see walk out the door but I have warned many buyers that what they are purchasing is not a great machine but it can do the job and a great machine is going to cost about four times as much. You get what you pay for!

Steve's conversation goes like this:
I’ll take it. Has the grease been changed and new brushes installed in the motor? 
Are the wicks new or original 50 years old in the machine?
What type of motor is on the machine?
And drive mechanism?

I answer each question truthfully but start to think this guy knows as much as I do and his questions are pretty specific. Not bad questions but if you need to know all of this about a 60 year old machine, you probably have another agenda in mind. Then I get this response:
Good Answer…. Now wires to field coil tend to get brittle, crack and need replacement have you done so?

And now I get a little steamed up, thinking he is questioning my ability to restore a sewing machine but go to bed and try to figure out how to answer this one. The next morning I write back that since he knows quite a bit about motors maybe he should buy the Singer 15-91 that's being offered in the area for only $30 and he could take it apart and get it all cleaned up with the satisfaction in having done the job himself. 

His final reply: 
OK I will no offense your machine is at a good price most listed on Craigslist need work you are the exception.
Nice to converse with someone that actually knows there stuff.

And with that goodbye I can see that he has wasted my time with many questions and no intent to buy this Singer 201:
Singer 201
She is also waiting for her forever home. But that's okay because a great sewing machine like this one will find a home and it's worth waiting for.

I'm really into my big clean-up, trying to sell down my sewing machines so I can actually work in my sewing room. One machine at a time, they are leaving the house and I'm trying very, very hard not to buy any more but this is quite difficult to do. Discipline. Patience (with myself when I backslide). Vision: I have a vision of a cleaner room and that drives me much of the time. Cleaner room equals new carpet! I have a vision alright!

Next up will be a conversation about a Pfaff that finally came home ... but that's another post. Stay tuned!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Getting Prepared

I've been sewing up a storm this last week making swimsuits for my 5 year old granddaughter and having a lot of fun designing each one so it would be a little different. Using a great KwikSew 3785 pattern for a racer-back suit, it was just like one I used to make her mom's swimsuits some 30 years ago. At the stage of getting 4 all sewn up I made a visit to my doctor to complain about a bout with a painful elbow, golfer's elbow to be exact. Fifteen years ago I used a piece of workout equipment improperly and got tennis elbow that took a year of rest with a brace, exercises, and cortisone shots before it went away. This time it was on the underside of my elbow and has been flaring up when I knit and carry anything heavy. It's not all knitting and not every sewing machine but it seems to be the right combination of events that brings it on. After a cortisone shot, I went home with a nifty brace:

It's just me and my brace: ain't she cute?
The brace keeps me from twisting my arm, one of the more painful movements, so it can actually rest. After only a few days of wearing it my arm does feel better but it has put a considerable crimp in my activities. Like sewing.

So Emma was only going to get 4 swimsuits, not six (she loves to wear them every day in the summer). But I just had to try one last suit so I cut it out, sewed up the seams on the serger, and finished up with the elastic on my Viking #1. Cutting, or using scissors of any kind, is difficult, but the sewing was fine until I had to stretch the elastic. All in all, they turned out cute:

Bottoms up!
The pattern called for a fully lined front, a very nice touch. Here they are so you can see the different neckline finishes:
One has buttons, one has rosebud stitches, two have elastic zigzag stitch, and one is straight stretch stitch. My Kenmore never liked sewing elastic, especially on knits, but the Viking #1 was a champ, sewing all of the layers with relative ease. This was a keeper pattern.

Emma came over this afternoon after a trip to Como Zoo and she was a little speechless but did try one swimsuit on and didn't take it off when she went home. See? She loves to wear swimsuits!

I did manage to mow my yard with a break between front and back so by now my arms are tired and typing isn't the best of activities for my elbow. Yup, growing old isn't for sissies but I'm glad I'm feeling results from the inconvenience of wearing a brace. My posts might be shorter but there's still much happening in Sewing Machine Mavin's life: next up, the story of the two Steve's.