Sunday, August 13, 2017

Going in circles

There's been some talk on Treadleon about circular stitchers. I was intrigued so I looked them up to find it's a pretty cool foot you can easily buy:
Flower Stitcher attachment for low shank sewing machines
This one attaches to most low shank sewing machines and allows you to stitch in a circle. Not real impressive on a straight stitch sewing machine but when you try this on a machine with cams or other built in stitch variations, it can be pretty cool. My Googling of this object also brought me to the Singer Circular Stitcher and then I remembered I already had one. I found it on a shelf with various buttonhole attachments and such but it did not look like the one above:
Singer Circular Stitcher #161847 (note pin on far left side)
The box stated it was for Singer Touch & Sew sewing machines but I found out that only referred to the size of the screw that attaches it to the bed of the sewing machine. Since I had been working on a Kenmore model 54, I tried it out and found the holes sizes were just fine so away I went.

First you have to figure out how wide, or narrow, a circle you can make. I found out the smallest circle was almost four inches due to the adjusting rod hitting the edge of the device:
Rod with measurements at closest mark (note pin is covered)
Since this was just for fun and experimentation, I'm okay with that but it is pretty limiting. I understand the one above that is a foot attachment can only make small circles so maybe there is a combination of these two devices that will really work out nice. For today I got it going with a scallop:
Row one with a scallop
The part that looks like a push pin is the center of the circle so everything pivots around it. The first photo of the circular stitches shows the pin open and the second photo shows it with the cap back on. You don't need to push it along but do need to guide it. It seems the feed dogs aren't fully engaged or something and it needed a bit of help. Next up was an inner circle with a different cam and color of thread and then I discovered it couldn't go any smaller so I finished it off with the outside ring in a third cam and color:

Final round in bight color thread
Where the circle comes around to join is a bit of a crap shoot so there is a definite art to making it come back to the exact point at the right part of the stitch! I popped off my sample, cut around the edge and called it a beginners success:
Ta Da: it's a circle of......stitches?
Now I'm anxious to think up projects that could use this technique and you bet I'm ordering one of those attachment foot style stitchers to see what I can do with it. It's kinda fun and would have a different result with an Elna SU or a Bernina Record, don't you think? It was a nice little project for a Sunday afternoon while it was raining outside. What did you do on a rainy summer afternoon?

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Winning and Losing

As in so many parts of our lives, this sewing machine business falls under the premise of "you win some and lose some" in terms of repair and sales. This past week was a good example of that. Earlier in the week I heard from a woman who was interested in the Viking 12 I had posted for sale. In my questioning her about what kind of sewing she was planning on using the Viking 12 for, she seemed to be a beginner. She agred, she was just learning and didn't know what she needed so I set aside a couple beginners sewing machines and sent photos but life intervened for both of us and she couldn't come until Sunday. As Sunday approached I got back to her but by this time she no longer needed a sewing machine. What happened? Maybe she decided not to tackle that pile of mending, she bought one from someone else, or a friend heard her talking about it and either loaned or gave her a sewing machine. Yes, you lose some.

There was someone earlier in the week who wanted to see the Pfaff Tiptronic 1069 but was visiting nearby and not exactly sure when he would be heading home. A quick text confirmed he would be around late on Sunday afternoon and that worked for me, too. While visiting a daughter on Sunday I get a call from Jack who is interested in a Singer 15-91 that's been sitting in my living room for almost a year. Currently, he's been using his grandmother's 15-91 and loves it but wants a back-up and mine looks great to him. He thought he could be at my house in an hour. So my husband and I say goodbye and while we are driving into the driveway Jack pulls up, too. I grab an extension cord and get it set up while I get a text from my out-of-town buyer, Vern, asking for my address.
Singer 15-91 in table
Jack is a young man who is fairly new to sewing and sewing machines so we have a great time talking about brands and models. Pfaff? Viking? Elna? Who are they? Rotary sewing machines don't have belts? In the midst of all this fun Jack pays for the Singer and when we look outside we see someone else coming up the driveway as it starts to rain. Really rain, like a downpour. Vern, my Pfaff Tiptronic buyer is just running the errand for his wife so they are discussing the Pfaff on the phone.
Pfaff Tiptronic 1069 stitch sample
 Bless his generous heart, Vern doesn't know anything about sewing machines but he tries to describe features to his wife and they finally say it will be fine for one of the kids, at least.
Pfaff Tiptronic 1069
The rain lets up and Jack makes a mad dash to his vehicle but since it's in a small table this is pretty awkward. The table has a nice finish so he can just wipe it down once he gets home. He did ask how I could sell such a fine sewing machine so cheap and still make money and I had to admit sometimes it's just a matter of timing and profit: his lucky timing and my lower profit. I'm hoping to see Jack again when he is ready for a zigzag sewing machine.

Vern is getting his sewing machine wrapped up in a box to withstand the rain and a trip back home when he departs with a final comment "If you get any more like this you can let me know." If only, Vern, if only. So we lost two sales to the beginning sewer but won two sales on Sunday afternoon for Jack and Vern. Yup, you win some and lose some but I hope I sent home two men that are happy with their new-to-them sewing machines with hopes of return visits. Who knows?

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Getting Organized

Craft fair season is approaching and I need to replenish several of my regular items, such as the hot mitts, and then generate a few new items to keep things fresh for my past customers and interesting for me, too. Before I started digging through fabrics I thought I needed to finish up some organization projects. We bought a 48 drawer unit off of Craigslist to store the sewing machine repair parts. This was an older hand-made item that had been painted at least twice, labels taped and re-taped in various positions on the drawers so I decided to start over:
Cabinet framework
This thing took up a whole bunch of space in our garage and we are getting ready for a garage sale so I was on a push to get it done and relocated to my basement workroom. All of the drawers came out, label and knob hardware removed, cleaned, holes filled and sanded. Choosing the paint color and drawer hardware was agonizing because I was only going to do this once so I better like it! Looking online for drawer pulls that would have a place for a label was a bit tricky: too big? too small? too pricey? color? I finally made up a few paper templates to see if they were in proportion to the drawers and then ordered 48 from China. This was supposed to take three weeks but they were here in about 10 days and by then I was done with all of the painting:
48 drawers with new paint
I decided to prime with Kilz so there would be no bleed through of old marks or things that only got sanded down but not off. Then they got three coats of paint because once this was in place it wasn't going to get painted again.

Adding the pulls was going to be tedious and I wanted them to be even so I made up a template to use on each one:
Outline of hardware
Red dots for screw placement
Hardware in place and screwed down
And repeat for all 48 drawers. Yes, it was tedious but the end result was excellent:
Ready for the basement
All of the drawers came back out and we put the framework on a two wheeled cart to carefully move down the steps. We went really slow with only a bit of the paint chipping off the bottom edge that I can just touch up with extra paint. So how was this going to sit on the floor? We decided to put down a cushion so the wood wasn't directly on the floor, cutting up an old bath mat:
Pieces of rubber mat were sewn together
I hope this doesn't turn out to be a nightmare if we get water in the basement, but there's always a downside to any decision. Cabinet in place, drawers were organized and filled over several days, and then I made up the labels:
Labels made in MSWord
I just made up a three column table in MSWord, practiced with font size, and filled in the correct names. I also needed a master list so I don't have to peer at the labels down in the back corner. There were three boxes of things that were too large to fit in the drawers so they are going to sit on top but not until that paint has a few months to cure. All in all, it's been a relief to have gone through everything, throwing out some broken parts, put like items together, and lighten the load on a few other places where I had miscellaneous parts.

This organization isn't going to make me a better technician but it will save me time and money when I don't have to search for items in three places and buy something I already own. At the end of the day I just have to say: anyone want a sewing machine motor? I think I've got a dozen.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Generosity of Strangers

I love the Husqvarna Viking sewing machines and the older the better. Recently I have been playing with a Viking 12 and sold a Viking 21 and 1100. Still old but more up-to-date, I've had a Viking Designer 1 repaired and I've enjoyed learning how to use the embroidery feature of this classic sewing machine. In one of the many Yahoo groups about sewing machines there was a generous offer of a Viking 21 to anyone who thought they could either fix it or use the parts. That got my attention but then I read the poster would prefer someone local so it she wouldn't have to ship it and, TA DA, I lived in her area. I sent a quick reply and Carol called me the next day saying I was the first local person who got in touch with her and was I still interested? Boy, was I ever! My husband picked me up after work and we drove about 20 minutes to West St. Paul to meet Carol and her Viking 21:
Original cabinet for Viking 21
The sewing machine head was out of the cabinet but she showed me how it fit together and I said I would be happy to take the whole thing, including the suitcase that had moisture problems. The machine head itself was good and since she was giving it away I didn't need to plug it in to test.
Viking 21
While we were packing it all into the back of the Jeep, she told the story of her mom sewing on the Viking 21 for many happy hours, making "everything." She even remembers the day they bought it and how she got to go along as they went downtown to pick it up. That must have been a very happy day for her mom. Carol said she doesn't sew and knew the machine had been sitting idle too long so just wanted someone to take it who would either use it or find it a good home. She came to the right woman!

Once home and cleaned up, the Viking 21 was a dream. She still worked great, had all of the original accessories, including two manuals, and all three of the insert cams.
Box of accessories is two layers deep
Here's the stitch sample:
Stitches on cotton from all three of the cams
I had to switch out the bobbin case before I could get those great stitches you see above. As I went to put the machine head into the cabinet, I couldn't figure out how it would lower down. There was a lever but how did it work?
Green circle shows lever that holds and releases the bed
It basically slid over to manually lower the head that was secured with those wood pieces. It didn't seem very sophisticated but it worked!
Head down into the cabinet with wood slid back into place
Everything cleaned up and ready to go, I hesitate to put it up for sale. It's a really nice machine, well cared for and not at all worn out. Someone is going to get a very nice sewing machine that is going to do all it needs to do: sew a good stitch, perform reliably, and give many more years of good use. Maybe not yet?

Viking 21 Sewing Machine in cabinet

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Far Afield

As much fun as I have in tracking down desirable sewing machines, I try not to travel too far for them. Over the years I have learned if you just wait it out another one comes along and it's closer to home and usually a better price. And then there are exceptions.

Even though I missed out on a Singer 12 treadle, the seller said she had a really nice Singer 15-91 with clear decals and it was a Centennial, born in 1951, the year Singer celebrated 100 years of business. The photos looked good and I said it was a GO but then didn't hear anything else. Win some, lose some, I said to my husband. In the meantime I found a Bernina Activa 145S on Craigslist but it was a bit too far away. Oh, just give it a try, I tell myself, so I emailed and asked if she came up to the Twin Cities. She doesn't but we did agree on meeting closer to me and still not far for her. Traffic was heavy and it was raining part of the way but we finally met up at Perkins where she rolled her baby in to keep it out of the rain:
Bernina carrying case
I said baby because the 145 is a 3/4 sized sewing machine, just a little whipper-snapper but comes with all of the features we have come to expect with higher end sewing machines: needle up, needle threader, LDC readout, mirror image (so blind hem can be left or right), etc. Oh, this is going to be fun!
Bernina Activa 145S
As with so many sewing machines, the accessories are part of the draw, too, and in true Bernina fashion, this one had a nifty storage box that fit on the back of the machine for easy transport and storage:
Bernina accessory box snapped into place
and then opened up to hold the extra presser feet, bobbins, needles, oil, etc.
So many goodies in this accessory box!
There's plenty of room for more feet that I'm sure Bernina would love to sell me but, honestly, they are worth it! With fifty different stitches there is plenty to keep me busy just testing them out. But there is more: an extension table AND a large Sew Steady plexiglass table that is perfect to support the weight of large projects, such as a quilt. But I'm still not done trying things out because there is a knee bar in the bag that attaches to the front of the sewing machine so when you press against it the presser foot lifts: look ma, no hands! I have to admit this one might be hanging around for awhile but we shall see.

Now back to the Singer 15-91 Centennial: I did get an email back almost a week later saying if I was still we take a 20 minute trip to pick her up:
Singer 15-91 Centennial
I haven't even cleaned her up yet but just look at those decals:
Singer 15-91 Centennial as a bird's eye view
She's going to have to wait, though, because the wiring is brittle and I'm going to have to work on that. It came in a painted table that had seen better days so I plan on using one of my wooden boxes. Besides, she's going to look so good she might just be on display.

So there are exceptions to traveling too far but I hope I don't get into the habit of this. Here's a bit of a confession: so there's this sewing machine over two hours away and we are looking to see if we can make the trip on Saturday. I tell myself I have so many other things to do but maybe a nice ride on the open road would be good for my car as well as me? There are so many excuses and so many beautiful sewing machines!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Swapping Out

I was given a very nice Kenmore 54 as part of a give away from Marilyn in Stormy Weather. Her daughter got a good Viking sewing machine and a serger and she sent back a Kenmore 54 and a Modern 139 ZigZag sewing machine just to get rid of them. Of course, I cleaned them all up and got them ready for their next home but the Kenmore was really made for a cabinet since it was so heavy and came with a knee control, not a foot control. I seem to be shy of the right foot controls just now so I decided I would see if I could get a cabinet/table for this hefty gal. This is easier said than done because Kenmore doesn't talk Singer: the cut-outs for their machines are usually sharp, squared cornered and Singers are rounded. They are not interchangeable at all! The hunt was on but I had to wait several weeks before I found one that not only would fit but was in my price range (cheap, cheap, cheap!). We took a Sunday drive and came home with:

Kenmore cabinet model #1173101 with set of drawers
Not only a nice table but a working sewing machine and set of drawers, too. Before I left the gentleman's home who was selling it, he removed the head of the Kenmore 117-591 and I slipped in the Kenmore 54 to find out it was going to be a good fit and it was perfect. Once we got home I could see the plug ends better and found out I could use the very nice set of controls that were already in the cabinet. This was turning out better and better! The table was in pretty good condition and was solid hardwood, possibly maple, and only needed to be cleaned up.
Kenmore 54 in place
The set of drawers was another matter but I'm thinking they should clean up pretty good, too, and would be a nice addition to this table but would work in any sewing space. There's a large bottom drawer with metal glides, middle drawer with four compartments, and the top drawer has spool pins in the front half:
But...the top needs some refinishing:
With flat surfaces it should be easy, though. Here's the top of the table next to the drawers:

But what about the Kenmore 117-591 that was pulled out of the table?
Kenmore 117-591
 It's never been one of my favorite sewing machines and this one has sat too long with the motor pulley in the same place so now it has a pretty good flat spot on it. I can replace it, I have the controls and power cords from the Kenmore 54 that aren't being used, so maybe someone would be interested in buying this one for very little investment? Now I feel guilty selling a sewing machine that isn't quite functional without a cabinet yet only has a knee control. Yup, I'm still looking for another Kenmore cabinet! Even though this turned out good for the Kenmore 54, I might just see if I can find an interested buyer for the 117-591. It came with all of the attachments and ven a printed manual. I think I should scan that before I let it leave my house. This is a nice dilemma to have but it's not getting me to the goal of fewer sewing machines is it?

Such is the life of this Sewing Machine Mavin.

Friday, July 14, 2017

More Brotherly Love

I'm just a sucker for the Brother Select-o-Matic sewing machine. I also have a soft spot for the compact cabinets that have a chair that fits into the cabinet so it looks like a large decorative box but hides not only a chair inside but a sewing machine, too. When those two worlds collide we have one very, very happy Sewing Machine Mavin. That's my story for today.

Once again, Goodwill Auction online had a vintage Brother sewing machine that looked a lot like the Select-o-Matic. It does, and it doesn't but it's probably close enough:
My newest Brother: no name
Brother Select-O-Matics
To make it even better, it came in a very cool cabinet so it was local pick-up only and TA DA it was in Minnesota where they know my name at the auction pick-up site. Nichole and I are practically friends I've been there so often. Yes, I won the bid for a disgustingly small price and went to pick it up last week. Beside a bit of cleaning, alright maybe a lot of cleaning, it stitched okay but not great. I had to employ one of my best techniques: walk away and come back later. It's surprising how well that works. Most of the time it just takes time for the oil to sink in and get things moving but it also can keep you from doing something foolish like turning a screw too hard and stripping it. This time overnight worked best as well as letting the machine run continuously for 5-10 minutes.
Brother stitch sample, mostly practice
 Finally ready to put the machine back in the cabinet, I went out to the garage to see what it needed: nothing! It was in great shape so only needed cleaning so I use a cabinet cleaner that gets off the dirt and leaves a nice clean surface with a touch of shine when you buff. Upon closer inspection I could see that the knee control had to have the wiring replaced but I knew I already had several controls with motor blocks that were made for cabinets. Why not just swap them out? That proved to be a good idea even if I did need to replace plugs and mount with new holes inside the cabinet. It looks great, much safer, and used a known product that I was just keeping for future use.
Brother in compact cabinet
Then I looked at the seat and noticed ... it didn't have a seat, just the chair without a top to sit on, cushioned or not. I'm going to have to make a seat myself and that's not easy for me since I'm a wood refinisher, not builder.  Taking a look at other cabinets I find I currently do not have another one to look at so will have to go from memory.
Pull-out chair but no seat (yet)
This isn't going to be cheap, either with a couple pieces of wood, edging, block of foam and then fabric. Okay, so maybe only $20 but that just goes to show you how expensive a bargain can be some times. It also needs a full set of accessories in a box plus a manual. I think I can use the same scanned Brother Select-o-Matic manual but it's not quite the same:
Brother No-Name
Brother Select-o-Matic

The knobs and dials all function the same but are labeled differently. All in all, it's still a very good vintage sewing machine that runs quietly and will be a gem in someone's collection. This is not a model for a newbie because of the whole dial set-up but it is very doable for someone who loves vintage and loves to sew. Be still my heart, I cannot have another one in my collection!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Revised Opinion

If you have been reading my past blog entries you know I have no love for Singer sewing machines made after about 1968. I have bought a few, sold a few, and had to junk too many so I don't go down that road anymore. If you have one and love it that's great but for As it turns out when I have a prejudice like this, something comes along to change my mind and that's what happened this past week.

So there I was on a long holiday weekend, checking out the Craigslist ads, posting ads for a few of my sewing machines when I find a Singer Quantum XL-6000 for sale. This is not just a 2004 sewing machine for sale, but a complete embroidery attachment with all the bells and whistles. It's hardly even for sale because at this price it's being given away. A quick email and then a text and I'm in the car because I was told it would be sold to the first one who gets there. So has anyone else said they were on the road yet I ask? Nope, I am the first so it's pedal to the metal and I'm there in 15 minutes. There was a brief statement in the ad about it needing service so I asked how it was performing and the older gentleman selling it said it made a clunking noise when sewing something heavy. He offered to plug it in but I said no, I would take it as is, hoping he wouldn't find out the might not be anything wrong after all. Here's the sewing machine set up for sewing only:
Singer Quantum XL-6000
It came with manuals, embroidery unit in it's own carrying case, software, converter box, thread exchanger, hoops, knee lever, and other parts I can only gaze at and wonder where they go and what they might do. I do a quick test because I'm needed elsewhere and it does sew but it's loud. Hummm. What's up with that? I get back to it a few days later only to find it has a honking big needle, size 18, so it runs like a tank with that big needle on two layers of cotton. I size the needle down and she sounds and runs just fine. I need to have the manual out because there's a touch screen with icons I'm not familiar with yet but things move right along. I'm ready to sew some aprons for a friend of mine and I start to think maybe I should see if I could add some of this fancy embroidery the machine is capable of. I talk myself into getting it all out and practice making one of the floral motifs but it's harder than I thought. I check out information online and decide to join a Yahoo group for this model to see what might be found for free. I'm all about free! After being accepted into the group I get a very nice email from the moderator who sends along a manual (already have) and a workbook along with encouragement. The workbook did the trick and I got it running. Here's my test:
First shot using the embroidery unit
Okay, I need to learn about color changing but I dive in, add iron-on interfacing to the back of the area I'm planning to add this to, and get stitching. It comes out much better this time with appropriate colors but still not as flat as I would like:
Second try with better colors and firmer fabric

Here's the apron all finished (the buttons and buttonholes are waiting until I have more to make).
Apron done with embroidery (buttons just for show at this point)
I text my friend and post it on Facebook and it's a GO on making another one in a larger size. Here's the fabric I've cut out to make the next one and while I'm at it I might as well make two more to sell.
Fabric for next aprons: the middle green print is a Waverly
There's a variety of ways I can finish these with piping or rick-rack but for now I'm just glad I got them cut out and ready to sew: sometimes that's the hardest part. What is my evaluation of the Singer Quantum XL-6000? So far it has been nice, performing more than adequately, but I've only made one item and haven't really put it to the test. There's much potential there so stay tuned as I continue to learn about it and see if I can get it to embroider without puckering (I know that's a skill I need to learn about stablizers and interfacing).  My revised opinion of later Singer models stands revised: if you buy a high end model (the XL-6000 was $3000 when new) you are probably getting a higher quality sewing machine. If you are buying used for way less, it's a GO!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Photos from You

I get letters, emails actually, with photos of what you have been making with your vintage sewing machines so this post is going to be a photo roundup of your sewing.

LeaRae bought a Kenmore sewing machine last summer, learning about my sewing machines from one of my neighbors. Imagine my surprise when I got the following photos in an email only days after she took her Kenmore home:
LeaRae's first quilt top in blocks

LeaRae's second quilt top with pieced pinwheels
I didn't recognize her name so I wrote back with who-are-you questions but I could hardly believe it was LeaRae since she had just bought the machine! She was a very busy lady and the work is just fine for a first quilt top, explaining she was going to add sashing to each one. Recently I got another email from LeaRae asking how often she needed to bring her sewing machine in for a tune up because her friend told her it needed to be done every year. Well, her friend might have a computerized sewing machine and it might need that kind of attention but not a vintage machine like hers. Just keep it clean, oil in all of the places where metal rubs metal, check your manual for instructions and you should be ready to sew. Yup, vintage can be easy to maintain, too.

Last December I got an email from Sara, a long time sewing machine friend who has been with me almost from the beginning. It all started with a green White sewing machine and there have been too many for me to remember accurately but here's her photo of some of her sewing projects:
Sara's family sewing with p'j's, mittens, and tea towels
Part of her email read:
Just wanted to thank you for all your help with sewing machines. I've had enough time lately to crank out some gifts on my serger, White 675, and the Kenmore free arm. It's so amazing having more than one machine to work with! Construction on the White, reinforcement on the serger, and topstitching on the Kenmore. My Christmas gifts this year include a pair of pajama pants for the husband, a robe for Mimi, pajamas for Ollie, mittens for my mom, and some hand embroidered pillowcases for my grandma.

Now, just to put all of this in perspective, Sara has two small children at home who like to "help Mommy" so finding time alone to sew is at a premium. Yea Sara!

A recent customer was Alex with a Viking 21, a very sweet machine that is rugged in its own way and manly enough to not be embarrassing when left out for your friends to see. Questions have flown back and forth via text and there was a recent problem that was hard to describe but let's just say it was a needle issue that has been resolved. I got a text within a week of his purchase to show me what he made on the Viking 21:
Alex with a new bow tie
That bow tie is pretty neat and he has much to be proud of. No, he doesn't work at Starbuck's but the apron is from his job at a home improvement store where he gets to wear a bow tie. Congratulations, Alex on putting your new skills to work!

There are more photos but I wanted to share these three because they were all from beginners who have really jumped in and learned to sew and are loving it. It's been fun to follow Sara as she grows her skill and practices on her family (little ones can outgrow our mistakes and we learn along the way), LeaRae has kept in touch over this past year (send me new project photos, LeaRae!), and I think I'm going to hear from Alex again, if only because I have more Viking bobbins for him. This is one reason why I love this business of vintage sewing machines: you make new friends as they learn to sew on these vintage treasures.